Sunday, January 01, 2006

The operation to bombard Tripoli in April 1941

The Mediterranean Fleet sailed on 18 April 1941 and headed "through the Kaso Strait". The escorting destroyers refueled in Suda Bay, in northwest Crete. The fleet met Pridham-Whipple's cruisers and destroyers and the convoy for Malta (the Breconshire and her escort). The empty ship convoy from Malta passed them on their way back to Alexandria. In the dark, the Breconshire and one destroyer made their dash to Malta. The bombardment force and the carrier force headed in the general direction of Tripoli. The bombardment was preceded by an air attack by 8 Wellingtons and Swordfish, all from Malta. The bombardment ships passed the submarine Truant, which was acting as a lighthouse. The bombardment of Tripoli commenced at 5:02am. The dust in the air and the AA fire made spotting impossible, so we can imagine that the gunfire was less effective than it could have been. The fleet turned for a second pass and only then did shore batteries fire, and then ineffectively. The firing lasted 40 minutes and then Force B, the bombardment force withdrew, covered by Force C, the carrier group. The fleet arrived back in Alexandria the next morning. The attack had been carried out without loss. The results were paltry, however, due to the firecontrol difficulties. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

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