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peration Pedestal (Italian: Battaglia di Mezzo Agosto, "Battle of mid-August"), known in Malta as

the Santa Marija Convoy (Maltese: Il-Konvoj ta' Santa Marija), was a British operation to carry
supplies to the island of Malta in August 1942, during the Second World War.[a] Malta was a base
from which British ships, submarines and aircraft attacked Axis convoys to the Axis forces in Libya
and Egypt, during the North African Campaign (1940–1943). From 1940 to 1942, the Axis conducted
the Siege of Malta, with air and naval forces. Despite many losses, enough supplies were delivered
by the British for the population and military forces on Malta to resist, although it ceased to be an
offensive base for much of 1942. The most crucial supply item in Operation Pedestal was fuel,
carried by SS Ohio, an American tanker with a British crew. The convoy sailed from Britain on 3
August 1942 and passed through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean on the night of 9/10
August.[1]
The Axis attempt to prevent the fifty ships of the convoy reaching Malta, using bombers, German E-
boats, Italian MAS and MS boats, minefields and submarine ambushes, was the last Axis
Mediterranean victory. While a costly tactical defeat for the Allies, it was also one of the greatest
British strategic victories of the war. More than 500 Merchant and Royal Navy sailors and airmen
were killed and only five of the 14 merchant ships reached Grand Harbour. The arrival
of Ohio justified the decision to hazard so many warships; its cargo of aviation fuel revitalised the
Maltese air offensive against Axis shipping. Submarines returned to Malta and Supermarine
Spitfires flown from the aircraft carrier HMS Furious enabled a maximum effort to be made against
Axis ships. Italian convoys had to detour further away from the island, lengthening the journey and
increasing the time during which air and naval attacks could be mounted. The Siege of Malta was
broken by the Allied re-conquest of Egypt and Libya after the Second Battle of El Alamein (23
October – 11 November) and by Operation Torch (8–16 November) in the western Mediterranean,
which enabled land-based aircraft to escort merchant ships to the island.

Contents

 1Background
o 1.1Allied operations
o 1.2Malta, 1942
o 1.3Axis command
 2Prelude
o 2.1Allied plans
o 2.2Axis plans
o 2.3Axis preparations
 3Battle
o 3.19/10 August
o 3.211 August
o 3.312 August
o 3.413 August
o 3.514–15 August
 4Aftermath
o 4.1Analysis
o 4.2Casualties
o 4.3Subsequent operations
 5Commemoration
 6Order of battle
o 6.1Allies
o 6.2Axis
 7See also
 8Notes
 9References
 10Bibliography
 11Further reading
 12External links

Background[edit]
Allied operations[edit]
The Allies waged the Western Desert Campaign (1940–43) in North Africa, against the Axis forces
of Italy aided by Germany, which sent the Deutsches Afrika Korps and
substantial Luftwaffe detachments to the Mediterranean in late 1940. Up to the end of the year, 21
ships with 160,000 long tons (160,000 t) of cargo had reached Malta without loss and a reserve of
seven months' supplies had been accumulated. Three convoy operations to Malta in 1941 lost only
one merchant ship. From January 1941 to August 1942, 46 ships had delivered 320,000 long tons
(330,000 t) but 25 ships had been sunk and modern, efficient, merchant ships, naval and air forces
had been diverted from other routes for long periods; 31 supply runs by submarines had been
conducted.[2] Reinforcements for Malta, included 19 costly and dangerous aircraft carrier ferry
operations to deliver fighters.[3] From August 1940 to the end of August 1942, 670 Hawker
Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighters had been flown off carriers in the western
Mediterranean.[4] Many other aircraft used Malta as a staging post for North Africa and the Desert Air
Force.[5]

General map of Malta

Malta was also a base for air, sea and submarine operations against Axis supply convoys and from
1 June to 31 October 1941, British forces sank about 220,000 long tons (220,000 t) of Axis shipping
on the African convoy routes, 94,000 long tons (96,000 t) by the navy and 115,000 long tons
(117,000 t) by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Fleet Air Arm (FAA). Loaded ships sailing to Africa
accounted for 90 percent of the ships sunk and Malta-based squadrons were responsible for about
75 percent of those ships sunk by aircraft.[6] Military operations from Malta and using the island as a
staging post, led to Axis air campaigns against the island in 1941 and 1942. By late July, the 80
fighters on the island averaged wastage of 17 per week and the remaining aviation fuel was only
sufficient for the fighters, making it impractical to send more bombers and torpedo-bombers for
offensive operations.[7]

Malta, 1942[edit]
Operation Julius, a plan to supply Malta by simultaneous convoys from Gibraltar in Operation
Harpoon and Alexandria by Operation Vigorous (12–15/16 June) were costly failures. Only two
merchantmen from Harpoon reached the island, the Vigorous convoy was forced to turn back,
several convoy escorts and many merchantmen, including the only tanker in Harpoon, were
sunk.[8] By August, the fortnightly (two-weekly) ration on Malta for one person was 14 ounces (400 g)
sugar, 7 ounces (200 g) fats, 10.5 ounces (300 g) bread and 14 ounces (400 g) of corned beef. An
adult male worker had a daily intake of 1,690 calories and women and children received 1,500
calories. In August a mass slaughter of livestock began on the island to reduce the need for fodder
imports and to convert grazing land for crop growing; the meat being supplied to the public through
Victory Kitchens.[4][b] Malta would be forced to surrender if fuel, food and ammunition were not
delivered before September and Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, the local air commander since July,
warned that there remained only a few weeks' supply of aviation fuel. The British Admiralty had the
fast minelayer HMS Welshman converted to carry fuel and submarines were pressed into service to
run supplies of aviation fuel, anti-aircraft ammunition and torpedoes through the blockade, to keep
the remaining aircraft operational.[7] The First Lord of the Admiralty A. V. Alexander and Admiral of
the Fleet Dudley Pound, the First Sea Lord (professional head of the Royal Navy), concurred with
the Prime Minister Winston Churchill that the loss of Malta would be
... a disaster of [the] first magnitude to the British Empire, and probably [would be] fatal in the long
run to the defence of the Nile Valley.

— Churchill[10]
and prepared a new convoy operation from Gibraltar, with an unprecedented number of escorts,
using ships taken from the Far East and from the Home Fleet, which had vessels to spare since the
suspension of Arctic convoys, following the Convoy PQ 17 disaster.[11]

Axis command[edit]
The Axis command structure in the Mediterranean was centralised at the top and fragmented at the
lower levels. Benito Mussolini had monopolised authority over the Italian armed forces since 1933 by
taking the offices of Minister of War, Minister of the Navy and Minister of the Air
Force. Feldmarschall Albert Kesselring of the Luftwaffe commanded German ground forces in the
theatre as Commander-in-Chief South (Oberbeehlshaber Süd, OB Süd) but had no authority over
Axis operations in North Africa or the organisation of convoys to
Libya. Fliegerkorps II and Fliegerkorps X were subordinate to the usual Luftwaffe chain of command.
Since November 1941, Kesselring had exercised some influence over the conduct of the German
naval operations in the Mediterranean as the nominal head of Naval Command Italy
(Marinekommando Italien) but this was subordinate to the Kriegsmarine chain of command. German
service rivalries obstructed co-operation and there was little unity of effort between German and the
Italian forces in the Mediterranean. Kesselring had the authority only to co-ordinate plans for
combined operations by German and Italian forces and some influence on the use of the Regia
Aeronautica (Italian Air Force) for the protection of convoys to North Africa. The Italian Navy resisted
all German attempts to integrate its operations; ships in different squadrons never trained together
and Supermarina (Italian Navy High Command) constantly over-ruled subordinate commanders.[12]

Prelude[edit]
Allied plans[edit]
Operation Pedestal[edit]
Rear-Admiral H M Burrough, CB, who commanded the close escort, shaking hands with Captain Dudley Mason
of SS Ohio

Admiralty planning for Operation Pedestal began in late July 1942, under the direction of Vice-
Admiral Neville Syfret, Rear Admirals Lumley Lyster and Harold Burrough and the Naval Staff. Syfret
transferred to HMS Nelson on 27 July when Nelson and HMS 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 at Scapa, to consider the orders for the
operation. Several smaller operations were also planned, to be carried out concurrently with
Pedestal.[13] The convoy comprised 14 merchant vessels, the most important being SS Ohio, the only
large, fast tanker available, an American ship loaned to the British, with a British crew.[14] As
insurance against the loss of Ohio and its 12,000 long tons (12,000 t) of oil, the other ships were to
carry fuel in drums. The convoy was to be protected by two battleships, three aircraft carriers,
seven cruisers, 32 destroyers and seven submarines, the largest escort force yet.[15][16]
The combined group was named Force F; the convoy and escorts from Britain as far as the
rendezvous, became Force P; the aircraft carriers Victorious, Argus and escorts were named Force
M on the voyage to the meeting point. The aircraft carrier Eagle and its escort from Gibraltar to the
rendezvous became Force J and the carrier Indomitable and its escorts from Freetown were
called Force K. During Operation Berserk, all the carriers and escorts became Force G; Force R was
made up of the fleet refuelling vessels RFA Brown Ranger, RFA Dingledale, escorted by four
corvettes and an ocean-going tug, RFA Abbeydale a Dale-class oiler; escorts were named Force
W also for Operation Berserk, Force X formed the close escort to Malta, Force Z was made up of the
heavy ships of Force F, that were to turn back to Gibraltar and Force Y was to conduct Operation
Ascendant, a run from Malta to Gibraltar by the two ships that had reached the island during
Operation Harpoon and escorts, when Pedestal entered the Mediterranean.[17]
Embarked on Victorious were 809 Squadron and 884 Squadron FAA with 16 Fairey
Fulmars and 885 Squadron with six Sea Hurricanes; on Indomitable, 806 Squadron had
ten Grumman Martlets, 800 Squadron and 880 Squadronhad 24 Sea Hurricanes, 827
Squadron and 831 Squadron had 14 Fairey Albacores. On Eagle were 801 Squadron and 813
Squadron with 16 Sea Hurricanes.[15] Based on Malta were five Baltimores, six PRU Spitfires and five
Wellington Mk VIII reconnaissance aircraft. Reinforcements were sent temporarily from Egypt,
raising the maximum number of operational aircraft to 100 Spitfires, 36 Beaufighters, 30 Beauforts, 3
Wellingtons, 2 Liberators, 2 Baltimores and three FAA Albacores and Swordfish.[15] The convoy was
given the bogus title WS.5.21.S (genuine Winston's Specials were convoys from Britain to Suez via
the Cape of Good Hope).[18] After the usual convoy conference just before sailing, Burrough met with
the Convoy Commodore, A. G. Venables and the masters of the merchant ships on board his
flagship, HMS Nigeria to brief them. A similar meeting was held with radio operators of the
merchantmen to explain fleet communications and procedures. Envelopes marked "Not to be
opened until 08:00 hours August 10" were handed to the ships' masters, containing personal
messages signed by the First Lord of the Admiralty wishing the masters "God Speed".[19] The convoy
sailed from the River Clyde on the night of 2/3 August, escorted by Nigeria, HMS Kenya and
destroyers, to rendezvous with the other escorts the following morning.[16]