Admiral Cunningham flew out on 3 April 1942, heading to Washington. Admiral Pridham-Whippel was temporary commander until Admiral Sir Henry Harwood, the commander in the Battle of the River Plate, could arrive. Admiral Cunningham's replacement was kept secret, he could not visit the men before his departure. He left farewell messages, thanking everyone for their service. He thanked the people of Malta and talked about their offensive successes as being the reason that they were receiving the heavy air attacks.
Malta had become untenable for surface warships and the buildings and installations were being gradually reduced to rubble. One of the last ships to leave was the damaged cruiser Penelope. The Penelope was repaired enough to allow the ship to escape on the evening of 8 April. Penelope arrived at Gibraltar on 10 April, after a perilous journey. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.