Report from Commanding Officer, HMS Victorious
to Flag Officer Commanding, Force ‘F’
[ADM 199/ 1242] 15 August 1942
Operation ‘Pedestal’ – escort of convoy to Malta, 10– 12 August 1942
The report on Operation “PEDESTAL” on days one, two and three is submitted, together with my remarks, in the following form.
Appendix I – Narrative and my remarks.
Appendix II – Fighter Squadron Commanders’ narratives and Combat Reports of individual pilots:– [not reproduced] Section I 885 Squadron Section II 809 Squadron Section III 801 Squadron Section IV 884 Squadron
Appendix III – Fighter Direction Report. [not reproduced] Appendix IV – Meteorological Report. [not reproduced]
Appendix V – List of Aircraft Crews. [not reproduced]
Appendix VI – Recommendations for Awards. [not reproduced]
Appendix VII – Report of attacks by enemy aircraft.
Appendix VIII – Photographs. [not reproduced]
ZONE MINUS 2 TIME USED THROUGHOUT.
(a) As photographic section is below water line and dangerous to open to sea, the photographs taken during the operation have not yet been processed, but will be forwarded as soon as possible.
(b) Combat Reports by “INDOMITABLE’S” pilots who landed finally in “VICTORIOUS” are attached to report by Squadron Commander of 885 Squadron. Combat Reports of 801 Squadron have been forwarded through the Commanding Officer, H.M.S. “INDOMITABLE”.
Appendix I – NARRATIVE.
During the night 9th/ 10th August, 1942 the ship passed through the Straits of Gibraltar with Force “F”. Monday 10th August, 1942. D. 1
|2. Four fighters were kept at readiness on deck throughout the day. At 0908 two surplus Albacores and one partly unserviceable Fulmar were flown off to Gibraltar in order to clear space in the hangar.
3. At 1725 four Hurricane aircraft took off to intercept a large unidentified aircraft which was seen from the ship. They were unable to catch up.
4. At 1845 four Hurricanes took off to intercept another unidentified aircraft which was found to be a Hudson on A/ S patrol on the search ordered by Flag Officer Commanding, North Atlantic’s signal timed 1409/ 10th August, 1942.
Tuesday 11th August, 1942. D. 2
5. Four fighters were flown off at first light and a standing patrol of four was kept at 2,000 feet over the convoy throughout the day. These fighters were frequently sent out to intercept “unidentified” aircraft which were subsequently found to be the Sunderlands or Hudsons on A/ S patrol.
6. About 1020 one Fulmar flying near the ship fired a red Verys light and its port wing was seen to be on fire. The aircraft made a good forced landing ahead of H.M.S. “WISHART” and the crew was picked up. (“ WISHART’S” 1030/ 11). The cause of the force landing was probably due to old incendiary ammunition exploding in the port gun.
7. At 1040 a small unidentified raid was detected approaching and was intercepted and broken up by “INDOMITABLE’s” fighters, who found it to be JU. 88s. This was the first certain indication that the force had been sighted.
8. At 1316 “EAGLE” was torpedoed and sank at 1325. It is thought that she was hit by three torpedoes. Speed was increased and maintained at 20 knots or more; position astern of the convoy being maintained thereafter by alterations of course.
9. At 1335 “CHARYBDIS” reported sighting a torpedo and almost immediately a torpedo track was seen crossing the bows of “VICTORIOUS”.
10. Ten minutes later a second torpedo was sighted on the starboard side. A look-out also reported a Submarine periscope and its feather on the starboard side. At 1413 a submarine was also reported by a look-out and again on the starboard side. Altogether 6 Submarines and 2 torpedoes were reported as sighted (in addition to Asdic contacts) on this afternoon. Suitable avoiding action was taken for each.
11. At 1524 “FURIOUS” reported that she had completed flying off 38 Spitfires (Operation “BELLOWS”)
12. Two of “EAGLE’S” Hurricanes who were in the air when she sank were landed on at 1441 and the third at 1419. Two of these were subsequently transferred to “INDOMITABLE” to clear the Flight Deck.
13. At 1530 a Martlet landed in the sea about 23 miles from the convoy. A Fulmar which was sent to the area made a report of a submarine. This was eventually established as the crashed aircraft. “WESTCOTT” was set to the position and picked up the pilot. (Flag Officer Commanding, Force “F”’ s 1548/ 11th August, 1942).
14. At 1533 additional fighters were flown off to intercept an incoming raid (Commanding Officer, 885 Squadron’s report attached) [not reproduced].
15. Paravanes were streamed at 1920 in accordance with S.O.F’s 1621/ 11.
16. At 1951 four fighters were sent to the assistance of the Oiler “BROWN RANGER” which had reported bombing by enemy aircraft (S.O.F.’ s 1951/ 11). The “bombs” were in fact depth charges dropped by an escorting destroyer (“ LAFOREY’S” 2001/ 11).
17. To intercept incoming raids consisting of four separate groups additional fighters were flown off at 2020. In the failing light the aircraft although they intercepted some of the bombers were unable to make attacks. The attack on the force started about 2045. Two Ju. 88 aircraft at about 8,000 feet flew along the port side and dived on the ship from astern. They were well silhouetted against the sunset and were kept under continuous fire. Two bombs fell close to the ship without doing any damage. Both aircraft were seen to crash into the sea, and a third on the starboard side which had not attacked the ship was also seen to dive into the sea. Intermittent fire was continued by the whole force (unfortunately mostly at friendly aircraft) until 2114. About this time a Hurricane landed on in the dark without a hook and crashed into another Hurricane in its proper stowage forward of the Island. At 2130 a Hurricane from “INDOMITABLE” which was out of petrol made a crash-landing on deck when the ship was out of wind and under wheel. He hit a Hurricane stowed abaft the Island, went on to crash into the barrier, and burst into flames. The pilot escaped unhurt. The fire was extinguished in about 6 minutes. When the deck had been cleared, another Hurricane landed on safely. There were then 5 aircraft still missing and flame floats were dropped and the Homing Light switched on in the hope of getting the missing aircraft back. Subsequently the missing aircraft were all reported as having landed on “INDOMITABLE”, after a most anxious time during which they had achieved nothing. (See Commanding Officer, 809 Squadron’s report).
Wednesday, 12th August, 1942. D. 3
18. During this day also there were a large number of reports of submarines and torpedoes being sighted. These were too numerous to record individually. Wind was fortunately favourable for operating aircraft and by steaming at high speed it was possible to fly-off and land-on without becoming separated from the main force.
19. At 0540 a shadowing aircraft was detected.
20. At 0645 a fighter patrol of 4 aircraft was flown off and was maintained throughout the day, being increased when necessary.
21. At 0920 after a long and well-planned manoeuvre two Fulmars, who had been directed up sun of a shadower, sighted and shot down an S. 79. (884 Squadron’s report). Twenty minutes later two other Fulmars chased and damaged another S. 79 but were forced to give up owing to their own damage.
22. At about 0900 a large group was detected bearing 040 degrees, 50 miles. This formation which consisted of about 20 Ju. 88s was first intercepted by “INDOMITABLE’S” fighters 25 miles from the Fleet. The two Hurricanes from “VICTORIOUS” which were flown off also intercepted the raid but were not able to attack until after the bombs had been dropped. They then shot down one and damaged others (885 Squadron report). One pilot reported that while “INDOMITABLE’S” aircraft were attacking, several Ju. 88’ s jettisoned their bombs and fled. This attack developed on the Fleet about 0915 when a large number of Ju. 88’ s dive-bombed ships of the convoy. No hits were observed. Long and short range A.A. fire was kept up on these aircraft before and during their attack but no hits are claimed.
23. Between 1120 and 1345 several large raids were detected and probably all intercepted. The first was an attack by about 15 Ju. 88 dive-bombers which had previously been broken up by our fighters. These aircraft dive-bombed the convoy and one merchant ship (“ DEUCALION”) was seen to be closely straddled twice by two bombs and parted company from the convoy. Long and short range A.A. fire was kept on these aircraft throughout their attack. What appeared to be a piece of long range fuel tank fell burning close to the ship.
24. About 1220 a large number of Cant. Z. 1007 high level bombers were intercepted by our fighters who shot down three and damaged others. Pilots report that aircraft were seen to drop what appeared to be parachute mines. At 1215 an attack by fourteen Cant. Z. 1007 high level bombers in two groups of seven approached the Fleet from opposite directions. Fire was opened on both groups; no hits observed. No bombs were seen at this time, but single bombs from unseen aircraft fell harmlessly between 1215 and 1245.
25. At 1245 a raid by about 35 torpedo carrying Cant. Z. 1007 aircraft started. These aircraft were seen circling the Fleet outside the screen low down at high speed and dropping torpedoes towards the destroyers. At no time were any seen within the screen or closer than about 5 miles.
26. At 1346 two Re. 2001 fighters appeared in a dive close on the port beam. Resembling Hurricanes they achieved complete surprise, dropped one or two bombs each, and were out of range before fire could be opened. One bomb burst in the water close under the port bow, the other hit the Flight Deck on the centre line abreast the after end of the Island, disintegrated without exploding, and fell over the side. No casualties were suffered but the port paravane inhaul was probably carried away by this explosion and the anti-submarine look-out’s binoculars were broken.
27. From 1346 to 1730 there was a welcome lull in the air, but frequent submarine alarms kept interest alive. At 1659 a U.Boat was brought to the surface by depth charges and rammed and sunk by a destroyer.
28. Soon after 1700 the air woke up again and between 1730 and 1900 every available fighter was operating continuously engaging shadowers and intercepting groups of incoming raiders. About 1815 several large groups were detected closing and every fighter was at once put in the air. These groups when intercepted were found to consist of Ju. 88’ s, Ju. 87’ s, Cant.Z. 1007’ s, S. 79’ s, Me. 110’ s, Me. 109’ s and Me. 202’ s. Though at serious disadvantage all our fighters engaged the enemy shooting down and damaging many and generally breaking up the groups.
29. About 1841 the attack on the Fleet started with single Ju. 87’ s attacking various ships while other 87’ s and 88’ s were observed circling the Fleet. A group of about 20 Cant.Z. 1007’ s were also seen about 10 miles to the southward, very low down. At 1847 aircraft, mainly Ju. 87’ s, were sighted overhead starting to dive on “INDOMITABLE”. “INDOMITABLE” was soon hit, heavily on fire and out of action. Long and short range A.A. fire was opened and kept on these aircraft and many others while they were in range, but no hits were observed. The large group of torpedo aircraft were at this time seen flying in towards the ship from the southward and a heavy attack seemed imminent, but the attack came to nought, aircraft breaking up and retiring apparently without dropping torpedoes. They did not come within gun range.
30. It had been intended to fly off 4 Fulmars to escort Force “X” (Operation Orders, paragraph 45) when Force “X” parted company. Due to large raids which developed, these aircraft were flown off at 1820, to assist in intercepting and to clear the deck and fly off all other available fighters. These 4 Fulmars became involved with enemy fighters, of whom they shot down one, losing one of their number shot down and having one damaged in the process. (809 Squadron report paragraph 10). They were therefore short of fuel and ammunition and unable to escort Force “X” after it parted company.
31. Between 1850 and 1930 twelve of “INDOMITABLE’s” aircraft were landed on; nine of them Hurricanes and three Martlets. One Martlet which could not be landed on owing to the number of aircraft on deck ran out of fuel and forced landed. The pilot was picked up by “ZETLAND”. Only the Martlets could be struck down and the deck was so full of aircraft that it was not possible to land on and refuel the Fulmars to escort Force “X”.
32. At 2007 four Hurricanes were got away for patrol over Force “Z” until sunset. They were landed on at 2040 and “VICTORIOUS” then took station on “NELSON”.
STRATEGICAL AND PLANNING.
1. The Carrier Force which formed part of Force “F”, comprising as it did two modern, and one old, carriers, and having available on Day 1 some seventy fighters, was as strong as any that is likely to be available in this war. It had to compete with an enemy force of shore-based aircraft of about:–
87 long range bombers,
101 dive bombers (various types),
152 torpedo aircraft,
yet, despite the disparity of forces, the loss of “Eagle” by submarine attack on Day 2, and the fact that all the British fighters except ten Martlets were obsolete, it succeeded in protecting the convoy and escorting forces until within range of enemy fighters and Ju. 87 dive bombers. Had the Italian torpedo aircraft shown more initiative, it is thought that protection would have failed before the force within the range of enemy fighters. That protection was given successfully for as long as it was, is due to the courage, skill and grim determination of our fighter pilots rather than to other causes. It is not thought that the presence of the 14 Hurricanes lost in “Eagle” would have materially altered the result.
2. The conclusion is that carriers should not be brought within range of heavy attack by shore-based aircraft, particularly if escorted by fighters. This merely confirms pre-war strategical conceptions.
3. It is tempting when planning an operation to try and obtain additional force by loading carriers with more aircraft than they are designed to take. It is emphasized that our carriers are designed and fitted to operate as many aircraft as will stow in the hangars. The addition of a deck cargo slows up operation and this is greatly aggravated if the aircraft forming the deck cargo are too large to go down the lifts. The point is very soon reached where fewer aircraft can be got in the air because there are too many onboard.
4. Throughout this operation the wind was as favourable as possible. On Days 1 and 2 it was easterly, on Day 3 it was mainly easterly but dropped towards sunset, so that aircraft could be operated on any course. We cannot hope for such good fortune on all occasions. Without a favourable wind and especially when protecting a force of a speed approaching that of the carriers, the latter are bound to get widely separated from the fleet. The accelerator was of no assistance (see paragraph 12 below). It is therefore essential for each carrier to have her own screen of three destroyers (and an A.A. cruiser if available) and these destroyers should not be included in the screen of the main force.
LANDING ON FIGHTERS AT DARK.
5. The policy as to when fighters should be landed on is a difficult one, to which careful consideration had been given in advance. It had been decided that in the prevailing conditions they would be of value up to 35 minutes after sunset and should then be landed on. This was attempted on Day 2, but at the time for landing on the dusk attack was still in full swing and fighters had to remain clear of the fleet till long after dark. Even when they attempted to return with navigation lights on, long after the attack was over, they were repeatedly fired at by our own ships. That they all arrived on the deck of a carrier (not necessarily their own) was a miracle only achieved at the expense of several crashed aircraft and the exposure of many lights and flares, which might have helped the enemy. They had done no good, as the enemy held their attack till it was too dark for our pilots to see them clearly. The conclusion is therefore that (with a short twilight) fighters should generally land on at sunset.
TORPEDO STRIKING FORCE.
6. The torpedo striking force was ordered (Operation Orders, paragraph 45) to be available at one hour’s notice. At a time when comparative immunity from air attack could be accepted, this would just have been possible, but (in “Victorious”) it would have been quite impossible to range and fly off the striking force on Days 2 and 3 without jeopardising the protection of the fleet. At no time during these two days was the deck clear of fighters and there was so much congestion in the hangar that other fighters (some unserviceable) would have had to be ranged on deck to get at the Albacores. 7. In addition, the torpedo striking force would, in this area, require a fighter escort by day, and by day we would have had no fighters to spare. 8. No ready-made solution can be proposed; all that can be suggested is either to have a separate carrier for T.S.R. aircraft or to accept the fact that the air striking force is only available after dark or at dawn.
NEGLECT OF I.F.F. BY R.A.F. AIRCRAFT.
9. The fact that no R.A.F. aircraft showed I.F.F. within R.D.F. range of the fleet more than counter-balanced the assistance they might have been by flying A/ S escorts. Fighters were continuously having to be sent to identify (several times being flown off specially). Signals to the aircraft direct and signals to Flag Officer Commanding North Atlantic passed via the R.A.F. aircraft produced no improvement. It cannot be emphasised too strongly that the R.A.F. were (on account of the lack of I.F.F.) a definite hindrance to the operation.
PROCEDURE AND COMMUNICATIONS.
10. Fighter direction is in its infancy and the position of the F.D.O. and the fitting of the gear supplied has all had to be improvised. Moreover, this is the first time that an attempt has been made to control so many fighters simultaneously. On the whole, it is fair to say that, during the operation, fighter direction was remarkably successful. Had it not been for the experience gained in the practices in “Berserk” it would have been quite ineffective. Until more progress has been made, preliminary practice will always be required when two or more carriers are to work together.
11. It is clear that Fulmar aircraft are completely outclassed in every respect and their inclusion in First Line squadrons is unjustified. The same applies to Hurricanes Mark I to almost the same extent, added to which they have fixed wings and a poor endurance. As an immediate measure, it is proposed that “Victorious” be equipped with folding Martlets and “Indomitable” (with a big lift) with Hurricanes Mark II. One of the latter is already operating in “Indomitable” and has been found satisfactory.
12. With a mixture of Fulmars and Hurricanes onboard and with the light winds prevailing, the accelerator was of no value. The time taken to shift from Fulmar to Hurricane trolley legs being unacceptable, as was the obstruction to ordinary take-offs with the trolley in place. Had it not been for the very favourable wind, the accelerator would have been badly needed and no pains should be spared in producing an efficient, universal trolley that can remain shipped and yet not form an obstruction.
13. The number of aircraft shot down by what must have been a vast expenditure of ammunition was disappointing, though a great deterrent to the faint-hearted among the enemy and encouragement to our own ships. The determined among the enemy came on and were even able to obtain some cover from the smoke of the numerous bursts. At the same time, it was the guns in general, and the destroyers’ guns in particular, which seemed to keep off the torpedo aircraft.
14. Considerable improvements in the arrangements for operating aircraft could be made in carriers at the expense of gunnery equipment and, as fighter aircraft are such a much better defence against air attack than guns, it is considered that these improvements should now be incorporated in future design and (as far as possible) in existing carriers.
15. Both lifts gave trouble and the foremost lift was out of action for two or three hours on Day 3. The cause is primarily bad workmanship in running the electric leads too taut, and secondly bad maintenance in not realising the trouble and making sure of the connections. The heavy vibration resulting from prolonged gunfire and high speed resulted in electric leads or connections becoming broken …
Appendix III – FIGHTER DIRECTION REPORT.
The equipment installed in “Victorious”, apart from last minute additions, was designed for a staff of four officers and three ratings, and not intended to deal with more than the ship’s fighters up to say four sections. However, as the general system used was modelled on an R.A.F. Sector Operations Room, there was little difficulty in fitting in most of the extra staff required, and dealing with the extra work entailed in R.D.F. control of the Fleet and the multiple raids which occurred. Room was also found for the Squadron Fighter Direction Officer (S.O.O.)
2. As “Victorious” had had no experience of fine weather conditions, last minute arrangements were made for visual direction. These were, however, found unnecessary, and (except in exercises) never used. The original system of passing visual information by telephone to the filter plot was used … so much more use can be made of such little visual information as is obtained.
3. Much time and effort was wasted on the first two days chasing shadowers which turned out to be friendly, and in shooting down shadowers on the third day. The only method of intercepting shadowers found successful with Fulmars, was a long drawn out manoeuvre to obtain an interception under favourable conditions for a surprise fighter attack. Even then the shadowers exacted their toll of Fulmars and were replaced within an hour. Had shadowers been disregarded, many valuable engine hours might have been saved for the inevitable major engagements.
4. “Victorious” was detailed to maintain low patrols only, until “Indomitable” could no longer maintain sufficient high patrols. In hot weather low patrols should not be maintained below 5,000 ft. as engine temperatures are apt to rise too high and the heat is very wearing to the pilots. With Fulmars it is always desirable to fly at at least 10,000 ft. as their climbing performance is so poor that otherwise they are caught at a disadvantage. Fulmars with a little height to spare (500/ 1,000 ft.) proved a saving factor in the last two high level raids on D. 3 when there is little doubt they substantially broke up both raids 20/ 30 miles from the convoy.
5. There is a reluctance on the part of pilots and F.D.O.s to intercept far away from the fleet, particularly with Hurricanes. On the other hand, the only successful interceptions are those well out, giving the fighters a chance to make a proper attack before the enemy break up into attacking groups. In fact Hurricanes have not sufficient endurance for this sort of interception if they have been on patrol and may also have to wait some time to land on.
6. The chief difficulties encountered in “Victorious” were largely due to the increased magnitude of the problem and changes and additions to personnel. The actual methods which worked in high latitudes and bad weather were found equally successful and “Victorious’” aircraft missed no raid for which they were detailed in time to obtain sufficient height.
7. Five F.D.O.s were carried, all had had courses, but only two had any practical experience and two were on their first operation. This meant that they took some days of experience to shake down into a team which is of the utmost importance. As such jobs as filtering and R.D.F. control are not taught at Yeovilton, one officer had to learn this job from the start under action conditions. One F.D.O. was also continuously employed in the A.D.P. these two also combining the duties of T.I.O. which should in future be done by another officer in the F.D.P.
8. D.R. is kept for all fighters in “Victorious” and has always proved invaluable, as under action conditions the R.D.F. is used to the limit for enemy reports and only asked for friendly reports when the two forces are getting very close. Fighter D.R. is simple and accurate in the hands of an experienced officer and needs few R.D.F. reports to check it but the training of F.D.O.s could well be improved in this respect as D.R. must remain the primary basis of air navigation irrespective of the aids available.
9. A second advantage of working the fighters on D.R. as long as possible is that it allows the R.D.F. to concentrate on the enemy during the early part of the action and obtain really accurate heights from a continuous height plot kept in the R.D.F. office. Height reports were being made to the nearest 500 ft. and provided the enemy had altered range 15/ 20 miles never proved sufficiently wrong to affect an interception being made under the best conditions possible for the fighters. See however paragraph 13 about very high shadowers.
10. R.D.F. reports from other ships were found invaluable at ranges over 20 miles but close in were likely to lead to error. Those from “Sirius” and “Indomitable” proved to be extremely accurate and frequently left “Victorious” Type 279 [radar] free to concentrate on accurate height estimation of one enemy formation without having to break the continuity of the height plot to check up on other enemy formations.
11. A certain amount of visual information from the screen was obtained by R/ T and found extremely helpful; this type of reporting should be developed for future operations.
12. So far as methods and equipment are concerned, the principle embodied in “Victorious” F.D.P. showed promise for operations on an even large scale. The existing gear has all been fitted by ship’s staff in such space as was available. The principles might well be now carried to their logical conclusion by completion; the same general arrangement with minor improvements in a more permanent form and in a longer space than the existing 10 ft. × 9 ft. which is certainly cramped for the staff of eleven which was found essential.
13. There were undoubtedly some shadowers at heights of 30,000 to 40,000 ft whose presence was not detected in “Victorious”. No definite reason can be given for this, but the matter is under investigation. This has once before been experienced, but on that occasion was thought to be due to mischance …
Appendix VII – REPORT OF ATTACKS BY ENEMY AIRCRAFT. D. 2.
Dusk Attack by Ju. 88’ s, Dive-Bombers.
Attack started at 2040 (approx.,) when one formation of aircraft crossed from the starboard to the port bow and were engaged by 4.5” controlled fire by “B” and “Y” Groups. One aircraft was badly rocked but no damage seen. Most of this formation then went away on the port side but two aircraft turned towards to deliver an attack, diving at about 40 degrees. One was shot down by the combined fire of “B” Group and close range weapons, falling into the sea about a mile on the port beam. One bomb was dropped wide on the port beam.
2. At about the same time, a formation of 12 Ju. 88’ s flew down the starboard side and were engaged by “X” group of 4.5” guns. These aircraft split up into sections of 3, “X” group continuing to engage the right hand section. Two of these aircraft carried out a dive bombing attack (about 50 degrees dive) and the third proceeded round the stern. “X” group fired a standard barrage as they started to dive and S. 3 pom pom and no. 7 and 9 Oerlikons joined in. Pieces were seen falling off one aircraft during their dive. One bomb fell about 100 yards away on the starboard beam and a second about 20 yards from “X” director.
3. “X” group checked fire as the third aircraft passed round the stern. Ship was at this time altering course to port and “Y” group, who saw this aircraft coming, were waiting for it and engaged it with barrage fire as it commenced a dive bombing attack about 50 degrees dive. All the port close range weapons joined in and the aircraft crashed in flames just forward of the port beam about half a mile from the ship.
4. Meanwhile a single Ju. 88 had come in on the starboard beam at about 3000– 4000 feet and was engaged by “A” Group and the starboard pom poms. This caused it to turn away towards the starboard bow where, in spite of jinking, it was hit, went into a dive and was seen to fall in the sea on about Green 10 degrees somewhere near the head of the convoy.
5. No further attacks on the ship developed, although there were a number of other Ju. 88’ s flying in the vicinity which were fired at when opportunity offered.
6. In the gathering darkness it was extremely difficult, at times impossible, to distinguish enemy aircraft from our own fighters, which were sometimes fired at in error.
D. 3. Rough Time Table of Attacks.
0915. H.L.B. and D/ B by Ju. 88’ s (30).
1140. D/ B by Ju. 88’ s (15).
1215. H.L.B. by 20 Cant. 1007.
1300. T/ B by 30 Cant. 1007.
1840. H.L.B. and T/ B by 40 Ju. 87’ s and 88’ s and 20 Cant. 1007.
8. Of the many attacks which were delivered on the convoy and escort this day, only one, by two Re. 2001 fighter bombers, was actually carried out on “Victorious”. These two aircraft flew in on the port side, end on at about 300 feet, swooping low over the ship and dropping two bombs, one of which bounced on the Flight Deck and went over the side, exploding under water. Unfortunately these aircraft delivered their attack unfired at as they were mistaken for Hurricanes, a number of which were flying about in the vicinity.
9. Many other attacks, by H.L.B.’ s, D/ B’s and T/ B’s were carried out on the convoy and escort during the day, but none were pressed home on “Victorious”. H.L.B.’ s and D/ B’s were frequently engaged by the 4.5″ guns, and on a number of occasions formations approaching the ship were turned away by gunfire. The T/ B’s (Cant. 1007Z) did not venture inside the destroyer screen and were hardly worth the few salvoes fired at them.
10. The close range weapons did not have much chance, as all aircraft (except the two Re. 2001’ s) kept out of their range. However, the pom poms got in some good bursts at targets out of range, some of which apparently had the effect of turning the aircraft away.
11. No aircraft can be claimed as shot down or damaged from “Victorious” gunfire on this day (D. 3), but on several occasions approaching formations were seen to turn away in the face of 4.5″ and pom pom fire.
Total Ammunition expended on both days.
4.5″ H.E. 1056 rounds.
20m.m. Oerlikon 1553 ″ .
2-pdr pom pom. 5673 ″ .
This expenditure was remarkably evenly divided between all quarters.
12. Apart from minor defects, which were quickly made good, and one bulged pom pom gun, all material worked very well.
13. Good R.D.F. warning was received of all attacks. A small plot in the Air Defence Position, supplied from information on the Fighter Direction plot, was found very useful for keeping track of incoming raids. This would have been very difficult otherwise when two or three attacks were developing simultaneously, as the ship was altering course frequently for A/ S protection and for flying requirements.
14. Ardente Loud Hailing Equipment was very good for keeping all close range weapons informed of the situation as the raids developed. It was not much good, however, once the guns were in action. 15. Interference to Control by shell bursts. Owing to the large number of bursts of all ships and sizes in the sky, 4.5″ Control Officers had considerable difficulty in identifying their own, and their vision and that of the director layers, trainers and rangetakers was often obscured for the same reason. This was particularly so in the dusk attack on D. 2.
Pom Pom Control.
16. Five pom poms were aimed locally using the joysticks, and one was in director control. The joysticks are considered a big improvement on the previous system of divided aiming by the layer and the trainer and are liked. The aiming of all guns appeared to be good.
17. It was unfortunate that the one pom pom (S4) in director control had to be restricted in its arc of training because of Hurricanes being kept on the Flight Deck abaft the Island, and also that most of the pom pom firing took place in the dusk attack on Tuesday, when speed in picking up and shifting target was at a premium. On several occasions targets were picked up by the gun before the director and the Officer at the gun opened fire in local control. Two or three accurate bursts (in director control) were reported by the Officer stationed at this gun, particularly one at a Ju. 88 on the starboard beam on Tuesday evening. This was the aircraft which subsequently crashed on the starboard bow. On Wednesday all targets were outside range and no definite conclusions as to the relative advantages of the director and the local joystick control can be drawn from this action …