OPERATION PEDESTAL

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aurora
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OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by aurora » Fri Dec 19, 2014 3:53 pm

On August 10, a convoy of 14 ships, protected by heavy escort Force Z, which consisted of 2 Battleships (Flagship Nelson and Rodney), 3 aircraft carriers (Indomitable, Victorious and Eagle with 46 Hurricanes, 10 Martlets and 16 Fulmers), passed through the straits of Gibraltar. Their main escort was made up of 3 antiaircraft cruisers (Charybdis, Phoebe and Sirius) and 14 destroyers. A close escort named Force X was provided by the heavy cruiser Nigeria, Kenya and Manchester, antiaircraft cruiser Cairo and 11 destroyers once Force Z turned back.

Operation Pedestal was the most important convoy to set sail for Malta. At this point in time, Malta was on the verge of losing all capability of resisting Axis air attacks. It’s oil supply had run to dangerously low levels and ammunition was scarce. The 14 ship convoy consisted of the Ohio, Santa Elisa, Almeria Lykes, Wairangi, Waimarama, Empire Hope, Brisbane Star, Melbourne Star, Dorset, Rochester Castle, Deucalion, Glenorchy and Clan Ferguson. The Axis knew the importance of this convoy, and they already made plans to ensure that it never reached its intended destination. A total 700 Axis aircraft were stationed in Sardinia and Sicily specifically for this attack, including 18 Italian submarines patrolling the expected route, Italian E-Boats and MBT’s on station and 3 German U-boats.

The initial sighting occurred on August 11 by the Italian submarine Smg. Uarsciek, which attacked it without causing any damage. However, the entire Axis force was alerted to the Convoys location.The U-73 German U-Boat was one of these vessels, which managed to get near the escorting warships and sink the aircraft carrier Eagle. Only 4 aircraft were saved and 200 men were lost with her.

That evening, once the convoy came within reach of land based aircraft, German Junkers 88 and Heinkel Torpedo Planes attacked the convoy, but this time, no damage was instilled.On the afternoon of August 12, 5 waves of Axis planes attacked the convoy, the first wave consisted of Savoia Bombers, escorted by Macchi fighters and fighter bombers. This attack utilized a new weapon known as the Motobomba, an Italian invention in which a highly explosive bomb is dropped with a parachute causing a zig zag descent. The bomb was intended to disrupt the convoy and make them break into separate directions for easier destruction.Unfortunately, this weapon only works in close range and the Savoia bombers dropped it too early and too high. The convoy quickly regained its formation.

The second wave consisted of 40 Torpedo Bombers that were not able to strike the convoy effectively because of the fighter air cover and the immense anti aircraft fire. The third wave included German Dive Bombers which managed to sink the first convoy ship Deucalion. The Fourth wave was another Italian weapon, a remote operated Cant Seaplane loaded with explosives, this was another failure once the remote operations failed and the aircraft eventually exploded over North Africa.

The final wave consisted of 2 Italian Reggiane fighters, which were not met by enemy fire (they resembled the Hurricanes). Each dropped a heavy bomb on the H.M.S. Victorious, one narrowly missing the bow and the other landing square on the flight deck. The crew was relieved and the pilot understandably angered when it failed to explode. Later that evening, the Italian submarine Emo was damaged by depth charges and the Italian submarine Ithuriel was sunk.

The last attack of the evening proved to be the most successful for the Axis. A group of Savoia Torpedo Bombers and Stuka dive-bombers were finally able to get close enough to the ships to attack. It became a chaotic scenario as the Savoia’s dropped their torpedo’s in the water and the Stukas dive bombed the Victorious. Her flight deck was so damaged that her aircraft had to be diverted to the Indomitable, which was already burdened with extra aircraft by the loss of the Eagle. By the end of this raid, the Foresight was also sunk due to heavy damage. When it was all over, Force Z broke from the convoy and returned west. Force X took over.

At 7:45 P.M. that evening, the cruiser Nigeria, under the command of Admiral Burrough, was the first to enter the Skerki Channel, followed shortly by the Cairo. There waiting for them was the Smg. Axum commanded by LT. Renato Ferrini and the Smg. Dessie. At 7:55 P.M. both Italian submarines fired their full load of torpedoes. The Nigeria was hit amidships and the Cairo was hit aft, destroying her screws and then sunk.The tanker Ohio was also hit amidships in this attack. Lt. Puccini, commander of the Smg. Alagi joined the attack and torpedoed the Kenya.

A coordinated aerial attack then followed, possibly hitting the Brisbane Star and sinking the Clan Ferguson (it is unknown if they were hit by submarine or aerial attack). The Empire Hope was then hit by a dive bomber and had to be abandoned. The Nigeria, the flagship of the convoy, was no longer capable of escorting the convoy. Admiral Burrough ordered her back to Gibraltar and he assumed command on board the destroyer Ashanti.

Off of Cape Bon, in the middle of the night, Italian E-Boats launched their angry attack on the convoy. Their first victim was the cruiser Manchester, which was immobilized after a direct hit by 2 torpedoes. She had to be scuttled the next day. The Manchester was soon followed by the Almeria Lykes, the Glenorchy, Santa Elisa and the Wairangi. The moonless night was lit by the burning fuel and glowing metal. Italian E-Boats sank 5 ships that evening.

The next morning, some 200 miles west of Malta, a final attack by Junkers 88 claimed the Waimarama and damaged other ships, including the crippled Ohio, which was already damaged by an Italian submarine attack. The Dorset was hit a few hours later and eventually sunk Finally, on August 13, The Port Chalmers, Rochester Castle and the Melbourne Star, followed behind by the severely damaged and most important merchant ship Ohio, made port in Malta. The Ohio was barely kept afloat by 3 destroyers. Malta was saved once again and this was the last chance the Axis had of defeating her.
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aurora
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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by aurora » Sat Dec 20, 2014 10:39 am

Operation Pedestal was a tactical disaster, of a magnitude comparable to the German attack on Convoy PQ-17. The defeat, however, was turned into a strategic victory in that it served as a great uplift to the besieged island's morale and it delivered thousands of tons of needed food stores and eliminated the possibility of surrender due to famine.

However, for several months after this convoy, Malta was still dependent on essential stores and stocks being delivered by fast minelayers, like HMS Manxman, and of mine-laying submarines. From the moment the shield of Spitfires patrolled over the unloading battered ships, it became obvious that ships could now arrive and be protected, meaning that more ships would come in due course, thus sustaining the will to endure.
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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by pgollin » Sat Dec 20, 2014 11:09 am

.

NO, Pedestal was NOT a tactical defeat (a lazy interweb myth), it was a tactical victory - it achieved exactly what it was meant to. Yes, its losses were huge, but it got enough supplies through to acieve its aims.

Pedestal also formed a basic plan for the defence of ship formations from large aircraft attacks. Its huge operational orders were used by the US in their preparation of their future tactics in the Pacific. The basic Operational Plan was over 60 pages long and had over 30 disposition diagrams for various types of defence measures.

( By the way - the "motobomba" was a pattern-running torpedo, not a high explosive bomb. )

.

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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by aurora » Sat Dec 20, 2014 12:39 pm

Quote pgollin
"NO, Pedestal was NOT a tactical defeat (a lazy interweb myth), it was a tactical victory - it achieved exactly what it was meant to. Yes, its losses were huge, but it got enough supplies through to acieve its aims."

It achieved what it was meant to do=STRATEGICAL VICTORY

It got just enough supplies through despite it's huge losses=TACTICAL DEFEAT

is the way I saw it. I will go further to add that operations from Malta in the second half of 1942, can in no sense, be said to justify on purely strategic grounds; the grievous losses incurred by the Royal and Merchant Navies- in keeping the island going; but it WAS a matter of honour.
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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by aurora » Sat Dec 20, 2014 2:40 pm

Quote self
"Operation Pedestal was a tactical disaster, of a magnitude comparable to the German attack on Convoy PQ-17".

On reflection I have to agree the above statement posted by me -is quite OTT-the losses for PQ17=21 merchantmen sunk and Pedestal merchanymen sunk=9 and therefore the magnitude of loss of merchantmen in Pedestal is NOT comparable to Convoy PQ17-however the Royal Navy lost an aircraft carrier,three cruisers and a destroyer to add to the Pedestal toll.
Last edited by aurora on Sat Dec 20, 2014 3:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by alecsandros » Sat Dec 20, 2014 3:02 pm

pgollin wrote:.

NO, Pedestal was NOT a tactical defeat (a lazy interweb myth), it was a tactical victory - it achieved exactly what it was meant to. Yes, its losses were huge, but it got enough supplies through to acieve its aims.

Pedestal also formed a basic plan for the defence of ship formations from large aircraft attacks. Its huge operational orders were used by the US in their preparation of their future tactics in the Pacific. The basic Operational Plan was over 60 pages long and had over 30 disposition diagrams for various types of defence measures.

( By the way - the "motobomba" was a pattern-running torpedo, not a high explosive bomb. )

.
NO,
Pedestal was NOT a victory in any way.

Their aims were to strengthen Malta , so as to become again a powerfull base of operations in the Eastern Mediteranean.
As it was, the supplies that got through barely ensured survival for several more months. Coupled with the atrocious losses in ships and men from the Royal Navy, only imperial historical revisionistic propaganda can claim any form of "victory" about it.

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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by aurora » Sat Dec 20, 2014 3:17 pm

Quote alecsandros
NO,
Pedestal was NOT a victory in any way.

Their aims were to strengthen Malta , so as to become again a powerful base of operations in the Eastern Mediterannean.
As it was, the supplies that got through barely ensured survival for several more months. Coupled with the atrocious losses in ships and men from the Royal Navy, only imperial historical revisionistic propaganda can claim any form of "victory" about it.

I can see we are very much in tune on this one Alex-I had to admit that the likening of Pedestal to PQ17 was an error.As I said the RN and MN thereafter were just not up to further major convoy runs to Malta; and this predicament was eased but not immediately eradicated by Operation Torch-the opening of a Second Land Front in Morrocco and Algeria in November 1942.
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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by Steve Crandell » Sat Dec 20, 2014 3:54 pm

aurora wrote:Quote alecsandros
NO,
Pedestal was NOT a victory in any way.

Their aims were to strengthen Malta , so as to become again a powerful base of operations in the Eastern Mediterannean.
As it was, the supplies that got through barely ensured survival for several more months. Coupled with the atrocious losses in ships and men from the Royal Navy, only imperial historical revisionistic propaganda can claim any form of "victory" about it.

I can see we are very much in tune on this one Alex-I had to admit that the likening of Pedestal to PQ17 was an error.As I said the RN and MN thereafter were just not up to further major convoy runs to Malta; and this predicament was eased but not immediately eradicated by Operation Torch-the opening of a Second Land Front in Morrocco and Algeria in November 1942.
Yes, the Torch landings took a long time to turn into an offensive that would be really bothersome to the Germans in North Africa.

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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by aurora » Sat Dec 20, 2014 4:24 pm

Yes- the Torch Allied armies took until May 1943 to clear Tunisia and end the Desert War.There were a few "banana skins" along the way; but a contingent from Montgomery's 8th Army were sent across to British 1st Army for the final assault on Tunis. With the Axis out of North Africa this took Malta out of the equation. :ok: :ok:
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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by alecsandros » Sat Dec 20, 2014 6:49 pm

aurora wrote:Quote alecsandros
NO,
Pedestal was NOT a victory in any way.

Their aims were to strengthen Malta , so as to become again a powerful base of operations in the Eastern Mediterannean.
As it was, the supplies that got through barely ensured survival for several more months. Coupled with the atrocious losses in ships and men from the Royal Navy, only imperial historical revisionistic propaganda can claim any form of "victory" about it.

I can see we are very much in tune on this one Alex-I had to admit that the likening of Pedestal to PQ17 was an error.As I said the RN and MN thereafter were just not up to further major convoy runs to Malta; and this predicament was eased but not immediately eradicated by Operation Torch-the opening of a Second Land Front in Morrocco and Algeria in November 1942.
... Clearly so,
Malta was written off as a forward operation base for most of 1942.

Pedestal, Harpoon and Vigorous were extremely complex operations, performed with great courage and skill.
Overall , they managed to help Malta survive, but at a terrible cost - Eagle sunk, Indomitable crippled and out of action for 6 months , 5 cruisers sunk, 6 damaged. About 50 fighters lost in air battles or written off as losses after landing.

The Axis lost several submarines and ~ 100 bombers in the attacks over the 3 operations.

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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by aurora » Sun Dec 21, 2014 11:23 am

POSTSCRIPT

A few words from Vincent O'Hara's excellent book "In Passage Perilous"- slightly edited :

"Overall the Axis response to the mid June operations were competent rather than brilliant-they made fewer mistakes than the British. They persisted and the risks taken by the British fleet and it's air force were rewarded.The Italians' RA,aided by the German Luftwaffe; did what was necessary to win.

However,the failure of Mussolini and Commando Supremo to grasp the opportunity
to completely defeat the British mid August operation by recalling the cruiser strike force in the face of a perceived risk,generated by inaccurate intelligence demonstrated how fragile the margin of victory can be an how quickly a model for success can be disregarded


My thanks to Mr O'Hara for permitting me to use this small passage
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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by pgollin » Sun Dec 21, 2014 12:36 pm

.

IF you think Vincent O'Hara is a balanced commentator, read his account of "Second Sirte" and see if you can understand his reasoning (likewise his attempts at explaining the merchant war in the Mediterranean). A lot of recent (1990s onwards) writing in English on the Mediterranean has taken the revisionist Italian historians' views as somehow "correct" without analysing their somewhat doubtful claims.

(Torch was unnecessary, Alemein had already sealed the Fate of North Africa (and Malta). It did, however give the Allies a bit more experience on amphibious assault and battle experience to the US Army.)

As I said, the idea that Pedestal was a TACTICAL defeat is a total myth - it equates losses to a loss. It ignores the fact that Malta continued. It was ALWAYS known that ships were going to be lost (hardly possible not to due to the problems with the reduction in escort due to minefields).

.

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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by aurora » Sun Dec 21, 2014 1:36 pm

pgollin wrote:.

IF you think Vincent O'Hara is a balanced commentator, read his account of "Second Sirte" and see if you can understand his reasoning (likewise his attempts at explaining the merchant war in the Mediterranean). A lot of recent (1990s onwards) writing in English on the Mediterranean has taken the revisionist Italian historians' views as somehow "correct" without analysing their somewhat doubtful claims.

(Torch was unnecessary, Alemein had already sealed the Fate of North Africa (and Malta). It did, however give the Allies a bit more experience on amphibious assault and battle experience to the US Army.)

As I said, the idea that Pedestal was a TACTICAL defeat is a total myth - it equates losses to a loss. It ignores the fact that Malta continued. It was ALWAYS known that ships were going to be lost (hardly possible not to due to the problems with the reduction in escort due to minefields).

.
I have all of O'Hara's books and found them to be mostly reliable;however I also have
Greene and Massignani's "The Naval War in the Mediterranean" among others- to balance anything that appears to be incorrect or skewed.I do not profess to know everything-that is simply out of the question; but I do read Roskill and Corelli Barnett-I do then get an all round view- whether some operation or other goes right or wrong.
You do make much of Malta and I am far from sure whether you are right in this-it's alright being revisionist but it is not for everybody particularly old stagers such as I- at 83.However I have come round to paying heed to what you have to say; but I do not of necessity- accept all you say
Your statement that Torch was unnecessary, is to me- absolute nonsense, 8th Army were pinned down at Enfidaville and just how they,on their own; would have ended the war in North Africa- is beyond my comprehension. A Second Front is invariably a winner, and so it came to pass; and the Royal Navy was set free from the yoke of Malta.
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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by Steve Crandell » Sun Dec 21, 2014 1:45 pm

It could be argued that all landing operations in the Med were unnecessary after Alamein, but they did give valuable experience, as you mentioned. Fighting up the boot of Italy was probably a bad idea, as was landing in the south of France.

Oops ... posted simultaneously with Aurora. I can't argue about this with much authority because I didn't follow the desert war very well after Alemein.

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Re: OPERATION PEDESTAL

Post by aurora » Sun Dec 21, 2014 2:38 pm

Steve- you can rest assured that Operation Torch was a must ,particularly for the British-it ended the war in North Africa,it took Malta out of the equation and it continued the Second Front up mainland Italy and paved the way for a Third Allied Front in Europe via Southern France. :clap: :clap:
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