1 9 4 0
February Paid off and taken in hand for refit by HM Dockyard Chatham.
March Under refit. 19th March, Bob Sharplin drafted to Ajax in Chatham Dockyard.
to Zarebas fitted to 4in Guns. Tripod masts fitted and aircraft warning radar Type 279
July Post refit trials and recommissioning.
Nominated for service in Mediterranean.
August Worked-up for service and transferred to 7th Cruiser Squadron.
Nominated for escort of mercantiles carrying motor transport during passage to
(Note: This convoy was intended to pass through the Mediterranean as part of
Operation HATS but it was later decided to divert it via Cape of Good Hope.
The ships carrying personnel and tanks remained with the warships joining
the Mediterranean Fleet which went direct to Alexandria. For details see
Naval Staff History (2002).)
21st Sailed from UK as part of escort with HM Cruiser York during passage via Cape
Of Good Hope to Middle East.
2nd At Freetown.
13th At Durban
(Note: Italian offensive in western desert began.)
26th Escorted troopships Empress Of Japan, Orion and Oronsay from Aden to Suez.
23rd At Suez.
30th Joined HMS Sydney (RAN) in 7th Cruiser Squadron at Alexandria for deployment
in Eastern Mediterranean.
3rd Sailed from Alexandria with HM Battleships Malaya, Ramillies, HM Aircraft
Carrier Eagle, HM Cruiser Coventry with screen of eight destroyers to
2nd Took part in searched for Italian convoys taking supplies to Libya with Fleet units
8th Deployed with HM Battleships Warspite, Valiant, Malaya and Ramillies, HM
Aircraft Carriers Illustrious and Eagle, HM Cruisers York, Gloucester,
Liverpool, Sydney and Orion with screen of 16 Fleet destroyers to cover passage
of Malta convoy MF3 (Operation MB6)
11th Detached at Malta with HMS Orion for patrol SE of island.
12th Provided cover for Convoy MF4 to Alexandria with Fleet units and deployed with
ships of Squadron east of Fleet
In close range night action with HM Cruisers Orion, Sydney and York screened
by HM Destroyers Nubian and Mohawk against Italian convoy in Gulf of Otranto.
Two destroyers, Airone and Ariel were sunk and destroyer Artigliere damaged.
Hit by 7 shells resulting in 35 casualties including 13 killed.
(Note: Bridge structure and radar items damaged.
For details see ‘Engage The Enemy More Closely’ by Corelli Barnett
and Naval Staff History (HMSO 2002).
Artigliere was sunk later by HMS York when under tow after the action)
14th Under air attacks during which HMS Liverpool was hit by a torpedo and had to be
taken in tow by HMS Orion.
16th Arrived at Alexandria with Fleet units.
29th Embarked advance party of York and Lancaster Regiment for passage to Suda
Note: This was in response to Italian invasion of Greece and first phase of British support for
the defence of Crete.
1st Arrived at Suda Bay, Crete from Alexandria with HM Cruisers Coventry and
Calcutta, HM Netlayer Protector, HM Minesweeper Fareham and for
destroyers to set up forward base.
Under air attack and near missed.
2nd During return to Alexandria with HMS Coventry again under air attack and again
4th Sailed from Alexandria for Suda Bay with HMAS Sydney having embarked
HQ 14th Armoured Brigade, AA Guns and troops for service in Crete (Operation
5th After disembarking troops and equipment sailed from Suda Bay with HMS Orion
for visits to Piraeus and Candida.
(Note: The passage of reinforcements to Crete and of Aegean convoys were
covered by Fleet units including HM Battleships Barham, Valiant and HMS Eagle
with screen of eight destroyers (Operation MB8).
6th Passage to join Fleet units covering the passage of Convoy MW3 to Malta.
10th Joined HMS Warspite, HMS Valiant, HMS Malaya, HMS Ramillies, HMS
Illustrious, HMS Gloucester, HMS York, HMS Orion and destroyer screen
deployed as Force A.
(Part of Operation COAT with ships of Force H to cover transit of convoys to and
from Malta, concurrent with reinforcement of Mediterranean Fleet by ships from
11th Detached from Force A with HMS Orion, HMS Sydney, HM Destroyers
Mohawk and Nubian to carry out offensive sweep in Straits of Otranto during J
(Note: Ships of Force A were deployed for cover of air attacks on Taranto by
HMS Illustrious which had detached with screen of cruisers and destroyers
12th Intercepted Italian 4 ship convoy escorted by auxiliary cruiser Ramb III and
torpedo boat Fabrizi. All mercantiles were sunk but escorts escaped.
Rejoined Force A.
(Note: A second attack on Taranto was planned but cancelled in view of weather
forecast in target area.)
13th Detached from Force A with HMS Malaya, HMS Barham, and five destroyers.
took passage to Suda Bay to refuel before return to Alexandria to resume
For details of these operations see Naval Staff History.
15th Embarked troops at Alexandria with HM Cruisers Gloucester, York, Sydney and
Orion for passage to Piraeus.
20th Disembarked troops and took return passage to Alexandria.
23rd Deployed with HM Battleships Malaya, Ramillies, HM Aircraft Carrier Eagle,
HM Cruisers Berwick, Orion, Sydney, screened by destroyers as Force B to cover
passage of convoy to Crete and carry out air attacks on Tripoli from HMS Eagle.
26th Arrived at Malta with Force C when HMS Malaya, HMS Ramillies and HMS
Berwick detached to join Force D for passage to Gibraltar.
28th Deployed to cover passage of HM Cruisers Manchester and Southampton, four
Corvettes and four mercantiles during passage through Sicilian Narrows.
(Note: These ships had been involved in the action against an Italian Force on 27th
and detached afterwards from ships of Force H.
and detached afterwards from ships of Force H.
Battle of Cape Spartivento, see Naval Staff History.)
On arrival off Malta detached from cover and took passage to Suda Bay with the
30th Arrived at Suda Bay.
December Deployed with HMS Orion and HMAS Sydney for defence of convoys in Aegean.
based at Suda Bay.
16th Returned to Suda Bay with Squadron to refuel and resumed cover for Aegean
17th Joined by HM Cruisers York and Gloucester of CS3 and took passage as Force B
to rejoin Mediterranean Fleet units providing Distant Cover for transit of Convoys
MW5A and B from Egypt to Malta, as well as of Convoy.ME5 from Malta to
(Note: Part of Operations MC2 and MC3. These also included air attacks on
Dodecanese, on Port Skala, Valona, bombardment of Valona and cover of transit
of HMS Malaya, four destroyers and two mercantiles to Gibraltar. All by Force A
ships which comprised HMS Warspite, HMS Valiant and HMS Illustrious screened
by 11 destroyers.
18th Detached with Cruisers HMS Orion and HMAS Sydney and HM Destroyers
Janus, Jervis and Juno as screen during offensive sweep in Otranto Strait.
19th Rejoined Force A to provide cover for transit of ships to Gibraltar after
unsuccessful search (Operation HIDE.)
23rd Remained with Force A to provide escort for passage of Convoy ME5A to
24th Returned to Alexandria with Fleet units.
1 9 4 1
6th Sailed from Alexandria with HMS Orion, HMS York, HM Corvettes Gloxinia,
Peony, Hyacinth, Salvia and RFA Tanker Brambleleaf to Suda Bay.
7th Arrived at Suda Bay with two destroyers and four corvettes for defence of military
convoys to and from Greece.
(Note: Part of Mediterranean Fleet major operation designed to cover the
passage of military convoys to Greece and Malta concurrent with other Malta
(Operation EXCESS - See Naval Staff History and "Engage The Enemy More
11th Detached with HM Battleship Barham, HM Aircraft Carrier Eagle and destroyers
to carry out commando raid on Dodecanese but operation cancelled due to
(Note: Source other than the Naval Staff History records this Operation, MC6 was
to carry out air attacks on Dodecanese from HMS Illustrious but that
cancellation was due to withdrawal of the aircraft carrier because of damage
after air attacks on 10th.)
12th Joined HMS Warspite, HMS Valiant which had been deployed to cover passage
of to Alexandria for convoy ME6 after passage through Sicilian Narrows.
(Note Operation MC4 part of Operation EXCESS transit of military convoy in
Eastern Mediterranean, See Naval Staff History, Battle Summary No.18.)
These major Fleet units had been under sustained and heavy air attacks during
which HM Cruiser Southampton was sunk, HMS Illustrious and
HM Cruiser Gloucester seriously damaged.. See reference and Malta
Convoys by R Woodman.)
16th Arrived at Alexandria after completion of ME6 escort
31st Escorted convoy to Piraeus with HM Cruiser Coventry.
2nd Took passage from Piraeus after arrival of convoy.
19th Embarked troops and stores of Cheshire Regt. and Hampshire Regt. and sailed
From Alexandria with HMS Orion and HMS Gloucester also carrying troops for the
reinforcement of Malta Garrison. HM Destroyers Nubian and Mohawk were
deployed for escort during high speed passage.
(Operation MC8 which also included cover by Fleet units for this transit and that
of two mercantiles from Malta to Egypt.)
21st Disembarked troops in Malta and took return passage to Alexandria with HMS
4th Embarked troops at Suda bay for passage to Greece with HMAS Perth, HMS
Orion and HMS Gloucester screened by four destroyers.
(Operation LUSTRE – Military support of Greece by British personnel).
6th Deployed with same ships to cover passage of troop reinforcements to Greece.
24th Escort of convoy to Piraeus from Alexandria with HMAS Perth, HMS Orion and
27th On arrival ordered to be in position south of Crete off Gavdo Island by 0630 on
28th March to join Mediterranean Fleet units.
28th Ships became Force B of Mediterranean Fleet and took part in Battle of Matapan.
(Full details in "The Battle Of Matapan" by SW Pack, and Naval Staff History,
Battle Summary No 44.)
29th Detached with HMAS Cruiser Perth and Destroyers HMAS Stuart and HMS Griffin
for escort of LUSTRE convoys to Piraeus.
6th At Piraeus with Coventry during air raid when SS Clan Fraser,
discharging 5,000 tons of ammunition into rail trucks alongside was hit and
exploded. Ray Parkin in his autobiography ‘Ray Parkin’s Odyssey’ described it thus ‘the whole port
and almost everything in it became an inferno... HMS Ajax and HMS Calcutta, by some
miracle, got themselves clear of the harbour and out to our (HMAS Perth’s) anchorage’.
10th Covered passage of HM Destroyers Jervis, Janus, Nubian and Mohawk to
Malta for duty as striking force against Italian supply convoys.
12th Carried out offensive sweep off Ras-el-Tin with HMS Orion and HMAS Perth
18th Sailed from Alexandria with HM Battleships Warspite, Barham, Valiant,
HMS Illustrious, HM Cruisers Calcutta, Gloucester, Orion and
Phoebe screened by destroyers to provide cover for passage of HM Supply Ship
Breconshire to Malta from Egypt and Convoy ME7 from Malta (Operation MD2).
19th At Suda Bay with same ships and sailed after destroyers had refuelled as Force C
with HMS Formidable. HMS Orion and HMAS Perth, screened by HM
Destroyers Decoy, Defender, Greyhound and Ilex to provide air cover to
major warships designated Force B during bombardment of Tripoli (Operation
21st Deployed off shore during air operations in defence of Fleet units during
See Naval Staff History, Battle Summary No 19 for details of MD2 and MD3)
24th Assisted in evacuation of allied troops from Greece with HMS Orion, HMS
Phoebe and HMAS Perth (Operation DEMON).
27th Embarked 3,850 men from Rafina and Raftis with HM Destroyers Kingston and
Kimberley for passage to Suda Bay
29th Embarked further 1,700 men including Major-General Sir Bernard Freyburg VC,
the commander of the NZ Division and Rear Admiral HT Baillie-
Grornan at Monemvasia and took them to Suda Bay.
HM Destroyers Griffin, Isis and Hotspur also embarked troops, a total of 4,320.
(Note: Evacuations were made under frequent air attacks, See Naval Staff
6th Covered passage to Malta of convoys MW7A and B with HMS Warspite, HMS
Barham, HMS Malaya, HMS Formidable, Cruisers HMS Orion and HMAS Perth
screened by 19 destroyers and deployed as Force A (Operation MD4)
(Note: MD4 was a joint operation with Force H to provide cover for passage of
Military TIGER convoy carrying tanks from UK to Egypt for the 8th Army. It also
Provided cover for Convoys MA7A and B during passage to Malta and passage
of reinforcement warships to Alexandria, HM Battleship Queen Elizabeth and HM
7th Detached with HM Destroyers Imperial, Havoc and Hotspur for bombardment
of the Benghazi area (Operation MD6)
8th Carried out bombardment.
During passage to rejoin Fleet engaged and sank Italian supply vessels
Tenace and Capitano Cecchi. See Naval Staff History.
Rejoined Force A.
9th Detached with HMS Orion, HMAS Perth, HMS Dido and ships of 5th Destroyer
Flotilla for escort of TIGER convoy.
11th Under air attacks which were repelled by aircraft from HMS Formidable.
12th Arrived at Alexandria with Fleet units.
18th Sailed from Alexandria with HMS Warspite, HMS Valiant and screen of 8
destroyers to relieve HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant on patrol north of
19th Deployed off Crete.
20th Joined HMS Orion, HMS Dido, HM Destroyers Kimberley, Janus, Hasty and
Hereward in Force D.
21st Under air attacks and sustained damage (to both port shafts) from near miss (It
is this event which is the subject of The Painting and this website)
Detached to join HMS Warspite and HMS Valiant escorted by Fleet destroyers for
cover of minelaying by HM Minelaying Cruiser Abdiel off Cephalonia to block
entry to Corinth Canal (Operation MAT1 - See Naval Staff History (MINING)).
Carried out offensive sweep with HMS Dido and Orion escorted by HM
Destroyers Janus, Kimberley, Hasty and Hereward. Intercepted enemy convoy
north of Cannae. Under heavy air attacks during the operation.
Sank ten caiques and damaged Italian destroyer Lupo. See Naval Staff History.
22nd Returned to Alexandria to refuel and replenish ammunition.
Took passage back to Crete on completion.
24th Carried out unsuccessful search for invasion convoys North of Crete with HMS
Dido, HM Destroyers Hotspur, Isis and Imperial.
27th Refuelled and re-ammunitioned at Alexandria.
28th Sailed to assist in evacuation of allied troops from Crete.
Damaged in air attack on passage with HMS Dido, HMS Orion, HM Destroyers
Decoy, Jackal, Imperial, Hotspur, Kimberly and Hereward.
(Note: Withdrew but damage found to be less serious and took passage to
Heraklion to evacuate troops.
29th During return passage under sustained air attacks and sustained further damage
by near misses causing some flooding.
(Note: For full details of the disastrous operations off Greece and Crete see
"The Battle For The Mediterranean" by Donald MacIntyre, "Engage
The Enemy More Closely", "Naval Staff History" and "Military History,
Middle East Vol. 2")
During the evacuations and other operations since April the ship spent less than
10 nights in harbour).
June Deployed In support of military operations against Vichy French in Syria.
7th Sailed from Alexandria with HM Cruiser Phoebe, HM Destroyers Jackal,
Janus, Kandahar and Kimberley deployed as Force B for support of military
operations and to provide cover for commando attack north of Tyre from HM
Special Service Vessel Glengyle escorted by HM Cruiser Coventry.
8th Arrived off coast of Syria.
Operation abandoned due to weather.
Escorted convoy to Sidon with Force B and under torpedo attack by the Vichy
submarine Caiman which was believed damaged during 2 hour anti-submarine
attacks by destroyers.
9th Commando operation to capture bridge over Litani River successful.
On release from cover duty took passage with Force B and HM Destroyers Isis,
Hotspur, Janus and Jackal for patrol off Tyre.
Diverted to intercept Vichy destroyers reported shelling bridge in Litania River but
ships had left the area.
Took passage to Haifa leaving destroyers at the scene.
Returned with HMS Phoebe to assist destroyers which had been in action against
Vichy French destroyers Guepard and Valmy.
On arrival remained with HMS Janus which had been seriously damaged with
Took passage to Haifa with HMS Kandahar as escort for tow of HMS Janus by
(Note: Naval support to military operations and offensive operations against Vichy
warships continued with reliefs from Alexandria for cruisers and destroyers
deployed for DEMON which returned for replenishment.)
4th Bombarded Vichy positions near Beirut with HMS Naiad, HMS Kimberley, HMS
Havoc and HMS Hasty.
Repeated this support operation daily until 7th July.
When released from EXPORTER resumed Fleet duties at Alexandria.
22nd Deployed with HMS Valiant, HMS Queen Elizabeth, HM Cruisers Leander,
Phoebe, Neptune and HMAS Hobart, screened by seven destroyers for
diversionary Operation MD5 west of Crete during passage of Malta relief convoy
(Note: Naval Staff History quotes operation identity as ME3.)
25th Returned to Alexandria with Fleet units.
August Under repair at Alexandria.
(Note: An accumulation of defects required attention.)
8th August 1941. Bob Sharplin drafted out of Ajax to the battleship HMS Warspite in Alexandria.
8th August 1941. Bob Sharplin drafted out of Ajax to the battleship HMS Warspite in Alexandria.
September Resumed Fleet duties with CS7 and deployed for support of military operations.