Operation Pedestal

Operation Pedestal

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{{Campaignbox Mediterranean Campaign}} '''Operation Pedestal''' was a [[United Kingdom|British]] operation to get desperately needed supplies to the island of [[Malta]] in August 1942, during the [[Second World War]]. Malta was the base from which surface ships, [[submarines]] and aircraft attacked [[Axis powers|Axis]] convoys carrying essential supplies to the [[North African Campaign|Italian and German armies in North Africa]]. In 1941–42, Malta was effectively [[Siege of Malta (1940)|under siege]], blockaded by Axis air and naval forces. To sustain Malta, the United Kingdom had to get convoys through at all costs. Despite serious losses, just enough supplies were delivered for Malta to survive, although it ceased to be an effective offensive base for much of 1942. The most crucial supply was fuel delivered by the {{SS|Ohio}}, an American-built tanker with a British crew. The operation started on 9 August 1942, when the convoy sailed through the [[Strait of Gibraltar]]. The convoy is also known as the "Battle of Mid-August" in Italy and as the ''Konvoj ta' Santa Marija'' in Malta. The arrival of the last ships of the convoy on August 15, 1942, coincided with the [[Feast of the Assumption]] (Santa Marija) and the name ''Santa Marija Convoy'' or ''Sta Marija Convoy'' is still used. That day's public holiday and celebrations, in part, celebrate the arrival of the convoy. The attempt to run some fifty ships past [[bombers]], [[E-boat]]s, [[minefield]]s, and submarines has gone down in military history as one of the most important British strategic victories of the Second World War. However, it was at a cost of more than 400 lives, with only five of the original 14 merchant ships reaching the [[Grand Harbour]]. ==Background== In 1942, the United Kingdom was waging a land war against [[Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)|Italian]] forces in [[North Africa]] and their allies, [[Afrika Korps|Rommel's Afrika Korps]]. Malta was a critical component to this campaign, as the island could be used as a base to interdict efforts to resupply Axis forces operating in North Africa. During this stage of the war, Malta was critically short on munitions, food, and fuel for both military operations and civil use. Attempts to run the blockade and resupply Malta proved to be costly and often ended in failure; the two-pronged effort to resupply Malta during June 1942—known as Operations [[Operation Harpoon (1942)|''Harpoon'']] (from [[Gibraltar]]) and [[Operation Vigorous|''Vigorous'']] (from [[Alexandria]], [[Egypt]])—were unsuccessful, only two merchantmen from ''Harpoon'' and none from ''Vigorous'' reached Malta, while many others (including the only tanker included in ''Harpoon'') were sunk, and the escorting warships also suffered heavy casualties. Military planners knew Malta would be forced to surrender if fuel, food, and ammunition did not get through before the end of August. The [[Keith Park|local air commander]] had warned the planners that there remained only a few weeks' supply of aviation fuel. The Admiralty drew up plans for another convoy to sail at the earliest practical date, mid-August. ==Planning== The [[Admiralty]] started to plan Operation ''Pedestal'' in the early weeks of July 1942, and it was soon recognized that this was to be the main effort to relieve Malta, and would employ the largest escort force yet deployed for a single convoy, including two [[battleships]] and three [[aircraft carriers]]. At the same time, there would be several minor but important operations carried out under the cover of ''Pedestal'': Operation ''Berserk'' would be an aircraft carrier exercise to improve coordination between the various carriers in the convoy, Operation ''Bellows'' would be a reinforcement of Malta's air defences by [[Supermarine Spitfire|Spitfires]] flown from an aircraft carrier, and Operation ''Ascendant'' would be an effort to return the two surviving merchantmen from the ''Harpoon'' convoy from Malta to [[Gibraltar]]. The main participants during these discussions were [[Rear Admiral]] [[Lumley Lyster|A. L. St. G. Lyster]], [[Order of the Bath|CB]], [[Royal Victorian Order|CVO]], [[Distinguished Service Order|DSO]], Rear-Admiral [[Harold Burrough|H. M. Burrough]], [[Order of the Bath|CB]], [[Distinguished Service Order|DSO]], Vice-Admiral [[Edward Neville Syfret|E. N. Syfret]], [[Order of the Bath|CB]] and the Naval Staff. [[Image:SS-Ohio-Meeting.jpg|thumb|right|Rear-Admiral H M Burrough, CB, who commanded the close escort, shaking hands with Captain Dudley Mason of SS ''Ohio'']] The supplies were to be carried by 14 [[merchant ship]]s, the most important being [[SS Ohio|''Ohio'']], the only large, fast tanker available, an American ship with a British crew.{{Ref_label|A|a|none}} As partial insurance against ''Ohio''{{'}}s loss, the others would carry some fuel supplies in drums. The convoy was to be protected by two large forces of warships, one as distant cover (Force Z), and the other as close support all the way to Malta (Force X). Between the two forces there were two [[battleship]]s, three [[aircraft carrier]]s, seven [[cruiser]]s and 32 [[destroyer]]s. Once they reached the [[Sicilian Strait|Sicilian channel]], ''Force Z'' (the battleships, the aircraft carriers, and three cruisers) was to return to [[Gibraltar]], leaving the convoy to continue to Malta escorted by the remaining four cruisers and destroyer flotilla of ''Force X''. The Italian [[Regia Marina]] was hampered by a lack of fuel oil, which compelled it to keep its largest vessels in port. When the British convoy was detected, Axis commanders decided to attack with German and Italian aircraft based in [[Sardinia]] and send 10 [[submarine]]s into the Sicilian Channel. An Italian cruiser division was to deliver the final attack, which required oil to be transferred from inactive battleships to the cruisers. ==Preliminary movements== The overall operational commander, Vice-Admiral E. N. Syfret, transferred to [[HMS Nelson (1925)|HMS ''Nelson'']] on 27 July when ''Nelson'' and [[HMS Rodney (29)|''Rodney'']] returned to [[Scapa Flow]] from [[Freetown]], West Africa. Syfret convened a conference on 29 July, for Flag and Commanding Officers of the naval forces for ''Pedestal'' currently assembled at Scapa, to consider the orders for the operation. On 31 July, ''Nelson'', ''Rodney'', [[HMS Victorious (R38)|''Victorious'']], [[HMS Argus (I49)|''Argus'']], [[HMS Sirius (82)|''Sirius'']] and destroyers sailed from Scapa to rendezvous with [[HMS Eagle (1918)|''Eagle'']] and [[HMS Charybdis (88)|''Charybdis'']] from [[Gibraltar]] and [[HMS Indomitable (92)|HMS ''Indomitable'']] and [[HMS Phoebe (43)|''Phoebe'']], from Freetown, for Operation ''Berserk''. ''Berserk'' successfully exercised fighter direction and co-operation between the three carriers, in preparation for the impending convoy. The convoy, named with a bogus "[[List of convoy codes|WS]]"{{Ref_label|B|b|none}} prefix, escorted by [[HMS Nigeria (60)|HMS ''Nigeria'']], [[HMS Kenya (C14)|''Kenya'']] and destroyers sailed from the [[River Clyde|Clyde]] overnight on August 2 and joined the other escorts during the following morning. Just prior to sailing, but after the "normal" convoy conference, Rear-Admiral Burrough met with the Convoy Commodore, A.G. Venables, and the Masters of the individual merchant ships on board his flagship, HMS ''Nigeria'', and the whole plan was explained in detail. A similar meeting was held with radio operators of the merchantmen to explain fleet communications and procedures. Personal messages signed by the [[First Lord of the Admiralty]] wishing the Masters "''God Speed''" and contained in envelopes marked "''Not to be opened until 0800 hours August 10''" were handed to the ships' masters. Shortly before the departure from Scapa, the Admiralty decided that [[HMS Furious (47)|HMS ''Furious'']] should carry out Operation ''Bellows'' to reinforce Malta with Spitfires at the same time as ''Pedestal''. This made alterations to the Operation Orders necessary, which were then distributed to all concerned. Technical difficulties{{Ref_label|C|c|none}} delayed the carrier's departure but, with [[HMS Manchester (C15)|HMS ''Manchester'']], she joined ''Nelson'' and the convoy three days before the start of the operation. The passage of the convoy from the UK to the rendezvous with the aircraft carriers west of the [[Strait of Gibraltar|Straits]] was successful, though there were many alarms over U-Boat contacts en route and a Coastal Command [[Short Sunderland|Sunderland]] flying boat was shot down by friendly fire. The convoy was exercised in anti-aircraft gunnery, in emergency turns and in changing from one cruising disposition to another, using both signal flags and short range W/T. The risk to security in breaking W/T silence was accepted and as a result of these exercises the convoy attained an efficiency in manoeuvring "comparable to that of a fleet unit." ===Past the Straits=== The force's aircraft performed dummy air attacks in the afternoon of 8 August, followed by a fly past. These were done to exercise the radar reporting and fighter direction organisation and to give ships' gun crews an opportunity to recognise the markings of friendly aircraft. The resulting volume of radio traffic must have been very apparent to hostile listening stations, but this risk to security was worth the benefit gained from the rehearsals.{{Ref_label|D|d|none}} The passage of the Straits and August 10 were uneventful. Fishing boats and one merchant vessel were passed at close quarters, but due to a moonless night and indifferent visibility, it was thought improbable that the force had been sighted from the shore. Reports received later, however, showed that the enemy was fully aware of the convoy's passage of the Straits. ===August 11=== [[Image:Operation Pedestal Carriers.jpg|thumb|right|Seen from the flight deck of HMS ''Victorious'', a [[Fairey Albacore]] takes off from HMS ''Indomitable'', while HMS ''Eagle'' brings up the rear. ''Eagle'' was lost during this operation.]] The convoy completed refuelling by dawn on August 11, from the tankers ''[[RFA Dingledale (A144)|Dingledale]]'' and ''[[RFA Brown Ranger (A169)|Brown Ranger]]''. Previous Malta convoys had refueled at Malta but now the island had no oil to spare. The refuelling of three cruisers and 26 destroyers at sea, under enemy observation and in U-Boat infested waters, was an anxious one; failure could have seriously upset the whole operation. The main coup for the Axis during the day happened early in the morning. The aircraft carrier {{HMS|Eagle|1918|6}} was hit by four torpedoes from {{GS|U-73|1940|2}}{{Ref_label|E|e|none}} and sank seventy nautical miles south of [[Cape Salinas]]. Most of the crew survived (160 lost out of 927), rescued by her escorts. The sinking of ''Eagle'' deprived the force of 25% of its fighter strength. While ''Eagle'' was being torpedoed, ''Furious'' successfully finished Operation ''Bellows'', flying off 37 much needed Spitfires to [[Malta]]. The flying distance between ''Furious'' and Malta was {{convert|555|nmi|mi km|abbr=on}} to {{convert|584|nmi|mi km|abbr=on}}. Her part of the mission complete, ''Furious'' returned to Gibraltar with her escorts. A destroyer escorting ''Furious'', [[HMS Wolverine (D78)|HMS ''Wolverine'']], rammed and sank the Italian submarine ''[[Italian submarine Dagabur|Dagabur]]''. ''Wolverine''{{'}}s bow was seriously damaged, but she reached Gibraltar for repairs. A large number of sightings of torpedoes, air and U-Boat attacks were reported throughout the whole convoy. The Axis made every form of air attack, including minelaying ahead of the fleet. Up to 19:00 on 11 August, there were four heavy air attacks on the fleet. Despite the weight of these attacks, the only casualties were one merchant ship with her speed reduced by a near miss, a destroyer torpedoed but afloat (though later scuttled) and [[HMS Indomitable (92)|HMS ''Indomitable'']] put out of flying action but capable of steaming at {{convert|28|kn|mph km/h|abbr=on}}. At 2000, an Italian air attack (using [[Savoia-Marchetti S.84|S.84]], [[Fiat CR.42|CR.42]], [[Macchi C.202|C.202]], and [[Reggiane Re.2001|Re.2001]] fighters and bombers) against the aircraft carriers caused minor damage to the flight deck of [[HMS Victorious (R38)|HMS ''Victorious'']]. ===August 12=== [[Image:Pedestal Indomitable Count.jpg|thumb|right|The score-board for the successes of HMS ''Indomitable''{{'}}s air group painted on the island. ''Indomitable''{{'}}s fighters claimed to have shot down 38 Axis aircraft.]] As the convoy moved eastwards towards the enemy's bases in Sardinia and Sicily, it was expected that the U-Boat and air threat would increase and a U-Boat concentration was expected near the [[Galite Islands]]. Anti-submarine measures were stepped up to meet this threat. Later in the day, [[HMS Ithuriel (H05)|HMS ''Ithuriel'']] rammed and sank the Italian submarine [[Italian submarine Cobalto|''Cobalto'']].{{Ref_label|F|f|none}} This tactic was discouraged by the Admiralty, due to the damage that often resulted. In ''Ithuriel''{{'}}s case, she badly damaged herself, put her [[Asdic]] gear out of action, and was missing from the escort screen during the next air attack. She also lost two of her crew who boarded and attempted to keep the sinking submarine afloat. Only two Italian seamen were lost, the rest becoming prisoners of war. The carriers launched [[Fairey Fulmar]]s and [[Hawker_Hurricane#Aircraft_Carrier_Operations|Hawker Sea Hurricanes]] as air cover. The first air attack by nineteen [[Junkers Ju 88|Ju 88s]] was met by both anti-aircraft fire and the fighters. Four bombers were claimed for the loss of a fighter and two more were shot down by the escorting ships. The Italian cruiser division, consisting of three [[heavy cruisers]] ([[Zara class cruiser|''Gorizia'']], [[Trento class cruiser#Bolzano|''Bolzano'']], and [[Trento class cruiser#Trieste|''Trieste'']]), three [[light cruisers]] ([[Italian cruiser Eugenio di Savoia|''Eugenio di Savoia'']], [[Italian cruiser Raimondo Montecuccoli|''Raimondo Montecuccoli'']], and [[Italian cruiser Muzio Attendolo|''Muzio Attendolo'']]) and 17 destroyers sailed to meet the British convoy. Throughout the day, the force was under continual observation by Italian aircraft and later in the day there were three more heavy air attacks. Force X, after parting company, was attacked at dusk by bombers and torpedo-bombers. During daylight, British fighters were active; they provided early warning of raids and destroyed enemy aircraft, although frequently outnumbered. The convoy's anti-aircraft guns also proved successful as deterrents. Submarines, however, remained a potent threat. The Italian submarine ''Brin'' was driven off by destroyers. A [[Short Sunderland|Sunderland]] flying boat attacked another submarine, ''Giada'', which was waiting for the convoy off [[Algiers]], damaging it and a subsequent air attack by another flying boat caused more damage. Before heading for shelter to the Spanish port of [[Valencia, Spain|Valencia]], where she remained until the 14th, ''Giada'' shot down the Sunderland with her own guns. To prevent any further submarine attack the destroyers dropped depth charges every 10 minutes, between 14:00 and 19:00. At noon, another air attack developed, by Italian and German bombers and Italian fighters. The Axis planes did not attack in continuous waves as planned, and the convoy enjoyed brief respites. Even so, the attack wrecked the flight deck of ''Indomitable'', leaving ''Victorious'' as the only working carrier. ''Indomitable'''s aircraft had to be landed on ''Victorious'' and several fighters had to be ditched overboard to make space for further landings. It had been intended that Force Z should return to Gibraltar when the [[Skerki Banks|Skerki Channel]] was reached at 1915. ''Indomitable'' was on fire forward and aft, so Syfret brought the manoeuvre forward by twenty minutes, and at 1855, Force Z was ordered to return to Gibraltar, leaving ''Force X'' to continue to Malta. This separation went unnoticed by the Axis and was not discovered by them until about 20:30. In view of the weight of the Axis air attack between 18:30 and 18:50, it seemed improbable that a further significant air attack on Force X could be possible before dark, and having reached the [[Skerki Banks|Skerki Bank]], it was hoped that the submarine threat would subside. The main threat to the convoy appeared to be [[E Boats|E Boat]] attacks during the night and by aircraft the following morning. Thus, the successful submarine attack by the Italian submarine [[Italian submarine Axum|''Axum'']] at 20:00, when [[HMS Nigeria (60)|HMS ''Nigeria'']], [[HMS Cairo (D87)|HMS ''Cairo'']] and [[SS Ohio|''Ohio'']] were torpedoed was unexpected and its effect far reaching. The timing was critical, for the convoy was at that moment changing its setup from four to two columns. For this manoeuvre the cruisers were needed as column leaders. The torpedoing of HMS ''Nigeria'' and ''Cairo'', the diversion of HMS ''Ashanti'', and the detachment of four [[Hunt class destroyer|"Hunt" class destroyers]] to stand by the damaged cruisers, temporarily deprived Force X of its Commander, deprived two columns of their leaders, lost the convoy nearly half its escort, and the entire force its two Fighter Direction ships. On hearing that ''Nigeria'' and ''Cairo'' had been torpedoed, Syfret ordered [[HMS Charybdis (88)|HMS ''Charybdis'']], [[HMS Eskimo (F75)|''Eskimo'']] and [[HMS Somali (F33)|''Somali'']] to reinforce Force X. From about 20:35-21:00, the convoy was subjected to a severe dusk air attack by dive-bombers and torpedo-bombers. [[Image:MV Brisbane Star Front.jpg|thumb|right|The shattered bows of SS ''Brisbane Star'', possibly torpedoed in this encounter. The ship reached Malta under its own steam.]] ''Ashanti'' and [[HMS Penn|''Penn'']] laid a smokescreen to cover the light western horizon, but this did not prevent the attack from being effective. The merchantman ''Empire Hope'' was bombed and sunk. A separate torpedo-bomber attack was thought to have sunk ''Deucalion'' at 21:30 near the [[Cani Rocks]] when under escort of [[HMS Bramham (L51)|HMS ''Bramham'']]. The commanding officer, [[HMS Kenya (C14)|HMS ''Kenya'']] described the state of the convoy after these attacks as 'chaotic', and in fact there are different versions of what really happened during these confusing hours. However, though the convoy was in a confused state, all of the ships in the convoy were steaming in their correct direction. Most of the convoy got safely as far as Kelibia{{Ref_label|G|g|none}}, though some were damaged, by early morning. The destroyer [[HMS Foresight (H68)|HMS ''Foresight'']] was sunk in the same attack. Roughly around 21:00, the Italian submarine [[Italian submarine Alagi|''Alagi'']] reported that it had sunk the merchant ship ''Empire Hope'' and damaged the cruiser ''Kenya''; in fact two freighters sank at this moment, while ''Kenya'' turned to avoid a torpedo. Another submarine, [[Italian submarine Bronzo|''Bronzo'']], stated that it had sunk the merchant ship ''Deucalion''. It is possible that the unknown second freighter sunk by the Italian submarine ''Alagi'' or the damage to ''Kenya'' was not directed to either ship but to the freighter [[MV Brisbane Star|MV ''Brisbane Star'']], that supposedly had its bows torn off during this encounter. HMS ''Nigeria'' and the other damaged ships turned back to Gibraltar with HMS ''Wilton'' and [[HMS Bicester (L34)|HMS ''Bicester'']] as escorts. Other submarines, ''Emo'', ''Avorio'', and ''Dandolo'' among them, were driven off by depth charges. ===August 13=== Passing through minefields between [[Africa]] and [[Sicily]] around midnight, the convoy met eight Italian and seven German torpedo-boats which made 15 attacks. The long line of merchant ships and the reduced number of escort ships provided easy opportunities for attacks by the torpedo-boats which were lying in wait off Kelibia. Here three of the merchant ships which failed to reach Malta were torpedoed. Of these, ''Wairangi'' was hit in the engine room and was permanently disabled, while the American {{SS|Almeria Lykes|1940|2}} was hit at the joint of No. 1 bulkhead hold and could not continue steaming to Malta. At 01:00, the cruiser [[HMS Manchester (C15)|HMS ''Manchester'']] was torpedoed by two Italian E-Boats (''MS-16'' and ''MS-22''), leaving her dead in the water and listing. She restored power and some of her crew (156 men) were transferred to HMS ''Pathfinder'' in the ship's boats and [[Carley float]]s, but she was later scuttled off Cape Bon by order of her Commanding Officer. She was the largest ship sunk by motor torpedo boats during World War II.{{Ref_label|H|h|none}} Several hundred of her complement landed in [[Vichy France|Vichy]]-controlled [[Tunisia]] and were interned. According to most sources, a dozen of her crew died from the torpedo explosions, while at least another one-hundred and fifty went missing at sea during her evacuation. The merchantman {{SS|Santa Elisa||2}} was hit by torpedo, the entire ship catching fire and being abandoned by the crew. ''Glenorchy'' was torpedoed and on fire although most of her crew survived her eventual sinking; another merchantman, ''Rochester Castle'', was torpedoed but kept going. Fighters from Malta were fired upon by the convoy in the confusion because communications between the convoy and the RAF were still out. [[Image:SS Port Chalmers Paravane.jpg|thumb|right|The [[aerial torpedo]] caught in SS ''Port Chalmers's'' paravane.]] Twelve [[Junkers 88]]s attacked, hitting ''Waimarama''. The aviation fuel on deck burst into flame and the ship exploded and sank, with 80 of the 107 crew killed. The destroyer [[HMS Ledbury (L90)|HMS ''Ledbury'']] passed through the flames to save what few survivors there were. The wreckage of ''Waimarama'' started fires on the merchantman ''Melbourne Star'', and several of her crew abandoned ship prematurely, some of whom were later rescued by ''Ledbury''. Soon afterwards, 60 ''Stukas'' attacked, this time concentrating on the damaged ''Ohio''. Near-misses buckled the tanker's hull plates and the forward tank filled with water. A downed Ju 88 crashed onto the deck of ''Ohio''. Another plane, an Italian dive bomber, bounced off the water, and crashed onto ''Ohio''. Although the tanker had avoided mines, torpedoes and [[Motobomba|circling torpedoes]], she was eventually straddled by two bombs and with her boilers ruptured, was left dead in the water at 10:50. ''Dorset'' was disabled by three near-miss bombs, and the engine room was flooded. The high octane fuel caught fire and the merchantman was abandoned. Twelve Italian torpedo bombers attacked, and the ''Port Chalmers'' caught an [[aerial torpedo]] in its paravane.{{Ref_label|I|i|none}} A bomb nearby set ''Kenya''{{'}}s forward engine room on fire, but the fire was quickly put out. Fighters from Malta provided some air cover to the blitzed convoy. ''Rochester Castle'', ''Port Chalmers'' and ''Melbourne Star'' steamed on to meet escort from Malta, reaching [[Grand Harbour]] in [[Valletta]] at 18:00. Another aerial attack on ''Ohio'' ensued. ''Penn'' tried to tow ''Ohio'', but the tanker was listing to its side and snapped the tow line. During another attack, ''Ohio'' eventually broke its back when a bomb hit the same area as a previous torpedo hit. The crew, led by [[Dudley William Mason|Master D. W. Mason]], abandoned the ship, while Italian torpedo bombers were about to dive in for yet another attack. Field Marshal [[Albert Kesselring]], commander of the German Air Command based in Sicily, denied air coverage to the Italian cruiser division, having little regard for the fighting capability of the ''Regia Marina'', and preferred to use his aircraft for direct attacks on the British convoy. Without air cover and given the closeness of the air base at Malta, the ''Supermarina'' (''Regia Marina'' High Command) withdrew its cruisers to [[Messina]]. They passed through the area patrolled by the British submarines [[HMS Safari (P211)|HMS ''Safari'']] and [[HMS Unbroken (P42)|''Unbroken'']] and were attacked. ''Unbroken'' torpedoed the ''Bolzano'', which was hit in her oil tank and ran aground; ''Attendolo'' lost {{convert|60|ft|m|abbr=on}} of her bow. Neither ship returned to action during the war. [[Image:SS-Ohio supported.jpg|thumb|right|Operation Pedestal, SS ''Ohio'' entering Grand Harbour, Malta.]] ===August 14=== ''Brisbane Star'' arrived in Malta, its bow torn off by a torpedo, but it successfully discharged its supplies in the harbour. ''Ohio'' was surrounded by a flotilla of ships, aiming to nurse the stricken tanker to Grand Harbour. Several American volunteers, themselves survivors from the sunken American freighter ''Santa Eliza'', manned anti-aircraft guns on ''Ohio'' during the tow. The weight of the tanker kept breaking the tow lines, while constant air attacks were made by 20 bombers. An attack destroyed the rudder, making a hole in her stern. The decks of the ship were now awash. Finally, the tanker was successfully towed while it was supported by the two destroyers ''Ledbury'' and ''Penn'' on each side, with a minesweeper H.M.S. Rye to act as a stabilizer at the stern. The remainder of the convoy was either sunk or falling back on Gibraltar. Several further air attacks disrupted the towing formation, until it was re-established with ''Bramham'' replacing ''Ledbury'' on ''Ohio''{{'}}s port side for the remainder of the journey. ===August 15=== ''Ohio'' was towed into Grand Harbour by the two destroyers and a set of tugs at 09:30 to cheering crowds and a band playing ''[[Rule Britannia]].'' The tanker discharged its cargo into two tankers and settled on the bottom just as the last of the fuel it transported left her holds.{{Ref_label|J|j|none}} ==Aftermath== The arrival of the four merchant ships, and the survival of the tanker ''Ohio'' ensured the arrival of enough materials to maintain the island, but it did not mean its siege was at an end. The ultimate result of Operation Pedestal was that it ensured that Malta stayed in the war. For the high price of nine merchantmen sunk, one aircraft carrier (''Eagle''), two cruisers (''Manchester'' and ''Cairo''), and a destroyer (''Foresight'') sunk, the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy had saved Malta, as roughly {{convert|32000|ST|t|abbr=on}} of general cargo had reached the Grand Harbour, together with petrol, oil fuel, kerosene and diesel fuel, enough to give the island about 10 weeks more life beyond the existing stocks of only a few weeks. Royal Navy gunners and Fleet Air Arm fighters shot down 42 of the approximately 330 attacking Axis aircraft. 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. Indeed, for several months after this convoy, Malta was still dependent on essential stores and stocks being delivered by fast minelayers, like [[HMS Manxman (M70)|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. German reports on August 17 stated that all the tankers in the recent Mediterranean convoy were sunk and not one of the transports reached their assumed destination in [[Egypt]]. A revived Malta led to a shift in the North African balance immediately preceding the [[Second Battle of El Alamein]]. In August 1942, with Malta still besieged, 35% of Axis convoys to [[North Africa]] did not get through. In September, with Malta resupplied, Allied forces sank {{convert|100000|LT|t|lk=on|abbr=on}} of Axis shipping, including 24,000 tons of fuel destined for Rommel, leaving him desperately short of supplies during his assault at [[El Alamein]] on 23 October 1942. Hence, it was no longer a question of "How many days to Cairo?" for the Axis armies, but of whether Rommel could hold the Allied attack back when it would materialise. Submarines and torpedo-carrying [[Bristol Beaufort]]s escorted by their variants the [[Bristol Beaufighter]]s, regularly attacked Axis supply ships known to the Allies through [[Ultra]] intercepts received from Bletchley Park. This interdiction of sea-lanes from Malta, significantly contributed to the Axis’ worsening state of supply and lead to their eventual inability to compete with the British build-up for an offensive towards the end of the year.{{Ref_label|K|k|none}} For the Axis powers in general, and for the Italians in particular, the inability of the fleet to fully display its power and especially the inability of Axis air forces to provide for cover clearly demonstrated that the tide in this campaign had turned. Ultimately, Malta was still alive while any hope to maintain North Africa was quickly fading away, with the now looming possibility of having the Allies opening up a Third Front on the Italian mainland. Operation Pedestal was the subject of a 1953 black and white British film, [[Malta Story]], which interspersed archive footage of the SS ''Ohio'' with scripted studio scenes. ===Awards and recognition=== In recognition of their fortitude during the siege and air attacks during all of the Mediterranean campaign, [[George Cross (Malta)|Malta was awarded]] the [[George Cross]] in the months immediately preceding this operation. Vice-Admiral Syfret was knighted ([[Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath|KCB]]) for his "bravery and dauntless resolution in fighting an important Convoy through to Malta in the face of relentless attacks by day and night from enemy submarines, aircraft, and surface forces." The Master of the tanker ''Ohio'', [[Dudley William Mason]] was awarded the George Cross for showing "skill and courage of the highest order and it was due to his determination that, in spite of the most persistent enemy opposition, the vessel, with her valuable cargo, eventually reached Malta and was safely berthed." Several other officers, crew members and commanders of both the Royal and Merchant Navies, including the commander of [[HMS Ledbury (L90)|HMS ''Ledbury'']], [[Roger P. Hill (Royal Navy officer)|Roger Hill]], received military awards ranging from the [[Distinguished Service Order]] and [[Conspicuous Gallantry Medal]] down to [[Mentioned in Despatches|Mentions in Despatches]] for the bravery and intrepidity shown in ferrying the merchantmen to Malta. The [[Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal]] was awarded to Frederick August Larsen, Jr., Junior [[Third Officer]] and to [[Francis A. Dales]], Cadet-Midshipman, [[U.S. Merchant Marine Academy]], for "Heroism beyond the call of duty." ===Allied=== Allied ships that took part in this operation included: {{col-begin}} {{col-break}} *'''Battleships:''' } } *'''Aircraft Carriers:''' } (''sunk'')(16 Sea Hurricanes) } (6 Sea Hurricanes, 16 Fulmars and 12 Albacores) } (''damaged'') (10 Martlets, 24 Sea Hurricanes and 16 Albacores) } (carrying land-operating [[Supermarine Spitfire|Spitfires]] as reinforcements for the island.) *'''Cruisers:''' } } } } (''damaged'') } (''damaged'') } (''severely damaged and scuttled'') } (''sunk'') {{col-break}} *'''Destroyers:''' } } } } } } } (''severely damaged and scuttled'') } } } } } } } } } } } } } {{col-end}} [[Image:MV Brisbane Star.jpg|200px|right|thumb|The {{MV|Brisbane Star}} entering Grand Harbour, Valletta.]] *'''Merchant Ships:''' } {{SS|Almeria Lykes|1940|6}} (''sunk'') } [[MV Brisbane Star|MV ''Brisbane Star'']] (''damaged'', arrived 14 August) } MV ''Clan Ferguson'' (''sunk'') } MV ''Deucalion'' (''sunk'') } MV ''Dorset'' (''sunk'') } MV ''Empire Hope'' (''sunk'') } {{MV|Glenorchy}} (''sunk'') } MV ''Melbourne Star'' (arrived 13 August) } {{SS|Ohio}} (fuel tanker, ''damaged beyond repair'', arrived 15 August) } MV ''Port Chalmers'' (arrived 13 August) } MV ''Rochester Castle'' (''damaged'', arrived 13 August) } {{SS|Santa Elisa}} (freighter, drums of fuel, ''sunk'') } SS ''Waimarama'' (freighter, drums of fuel, ''sunk'') } MV ''Wairangi'' (freighter, ammo and drums of fuel, ''sunk'') ===Axis=== Axis ships that took part in this operation included: {{col-begin}} {{col-break}} *'''Cruisers:''' } } (''severely damaged'') } (''severely damaged'') } } } {{col-break}} *'''Submarines:''' } **''Avorio'' **''Axum'' **''Brin'' **''Bronzo'' **''Cobalto'' (''sunk'') **''Dagabur'' (''sunk'') **''Dandolo'' **''Emo'' **''Giada'' (''damaged'') } {{col-end}} ==See also== {{Commonscat-inline|Operation Pedestal}} *[[Battle of the Mediterranean]] *[[Malta Convoys]] *[[Operation Harpoon (1942)|Operation Harpoon]] *[[Operation Vigorous]] ==External links== * Admiral Sir Andrew B. Cunningham, Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Station and the Force Commanders, [http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/LondonGazette/38377.pdf ''Despatches on Mediterranean Convoy operations 1941 Jan.-1942 Aug''.] *[http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http://www.geocities.com/mike_buhagiar/war/war.html&date=2009-10-26+02:38:02 Website about the proceedings of Operation Pedestal] *[http://www.usmm.org/malta.html Operation Pedestal and SS Ohio save Malta] *Times of Malta [http://www.usmm.org/maltatimes.html Sta Marija Convoy Surviving Crewmen for Malta Reunion] by Fiona Galea Debono, July 15, 2002. *Times of Malta [http://www.timesofmalta.com/core/article.php?id=233804 Survivor from Sta Marija Convoy tells his experience] by Fiona Galea Debono, August 13, 2006 *[http://digilander.libero.it/planciacomando/WW2/mezzoagosto1.htm Battaglia di Mezzo Agosto] - Plancia di Commando. {{it icon}} *[http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/displaycataloguedetails.asp?CATID=5053626&CATLN=6&Highlight=%2CPEDESTAL&accessmethod=0 ADM 199/1242] and [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/displaycataloguedetails.asp?CATID=5053627&CATLN=6&Highlight=%2CPEDESTAL&accessmethod=0 ADM 199/1243] catalogue entries for the official reports on the operation, held by [[The National Archives]] *[http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=22541 Newsreel: ''The Battle of the Convoys''] *[http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=23061 Newsreel: ''Malta Convoy - Further Pictures''] *[http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=23051 Newsreel: ''Malta Convoy Battle''] {{coord missing|Mediterranean}} {{DEFAULTSORT:Operation Pedestal}}