Royal Navy in the Mediterranean - Reinforcements were sent to the Mediterranean Fleet in Alexandria right through until the end of the year. They were covered from Gibraltar by Adm Somerville’s Force H, then met in the central basin by Adm Cunningham and escorted the rest of the way. The opportunity was usually taken to carry in supplies of men and material to Malta. Early in September new fleet carrier “Illustrious” with its armoured flight deck, battleship “Valiant” and two cruisers were transferred in this way in Operation ‘Hats’. On passage with the new arrivals, aircraft from Force H’s “Ark Royal” attacked Sardinian targets. After joining up with carrier “Eagle” and now in the eastern Mad, “Illustrious” sent aircraft against Rhodes. The Italian Fleet sortied during these operations, but failed to make contact. The arrival of “Illustrious” allowed Adm Cunningham to go ahead with his plans to attack the Italian battlefleet at Taranto.
Vichy France - Three French cruisers with accompanying destroyers sailed from Toulon and, on the 11th, passed through the Strait of Gibraltar bound for French West Africa. All but one of the cruisers arrived at Dakar just as Operation ‘Menace’ was about to get underway. Adm Sir Dudley North, Flag Officer, North Atlantic, at Gibraltar was somewhat unfairly held responsible for allowing their passage. He was relieved of his command and never officially cleared.
North Africa - From bases in Libya, Italy invaded Egypt on the 13th. Sollum just over the border was occupied and Sidi Barrani reached on the 16th. There the Italian advance stopped. Neither side made a move until December.
17th - Units of the Mediterranean Fleet including battleship “Valiant” sailed with “Illustrious” for a raid on Benghazi. Swordfish biplanes torpedoed destroyer “BOREA” and mines laid by them off the port sank another Italian destroyer “AQUILONE”. On the return to Alexandria, heavy cruiser “Kent” was detached to bombard Bardia, but torpedoed and badly damaged by Italian aircraft.
22nd - British submarine “Osiris” on patrol in the southern Adriatic attacked a convoy and sank Italian torpedo boat “PALESTRO”.
30th - As Italian submarine “GONDAR” approached Alexandria carrying human torpedoes for an attack on the base, she was found by a RAF Sunderland of No 230 Squadron and sunk by Australian destroyer “Stuart”.
Monthly Loss Summary
2 ships of 6,000 tons