Friday, February 05, 2010

The Vigorous convoy returns to Alexandria

At 1:45pm on 15 June 1942, the Vigorous convoy and escort were still steaming eastward. At this time, the Italian fleet was still heading in their direction, apparently undamaged. The convoy escort was suffering heavily by this time. The cruiser Birmingham had been damaged by a near miss a couple of hours earlier. The Newcastle had been previously torpedoed by a motor torpedo boat and had a reduced speed. Admiral Harwood gave Admiral Vian discretion to do what he thought best by 2:20pm. The next lost came at about 3:20pm when the Hunt class destroyer Airdale was hit and had to be sunk. Good news came that the Italian fleet had apparently headed back to Taranto at 3pm. The problem was that the ships were running low on AA ammunition. The remaining Hunt class destroyers were reduced to "less than 30% of ammunition left". Admiral Harwood had hoped to send the fastest ships on to Malta, but ordered them back to Alexandria after receiving this status report. During the night, the cruiser Hermione was torpedoed and sunk by U.205. In the morning, the Australian destroyer Nestor had to be sunk after being hit during air attacks. The convoy escort and part of the convoy arrived at Alexandria late on 16 June. Admiral Vian had sent part of the convoy to Port Said. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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