View Full Version : 813 Squadron losses on 5 July 1940

23rd October 2005, 10:57
Hello everybody,

According to Italian sources, Swordfishes from 813 Squadron from HMS Eagle attacked Tobruk harbour in the morning on 5 July 1940.
At 10:30 in the morning a group of six (nine according to some sources) Fairey Swordfishes of 813 Squadron took off from HMS Eagle and reached Tobruk harbour at 12:40, taking the Italian defences completely off guard. Nobody discovered HMS Eagle’s aircraft until they arrived over the harbour from a north-western direction. In a copy-book attack, which lasted seven minutes the Swordfishes sank five Italian ships.
At 12:41, the aircraft of Lieutenant P. R. Halloway, Sub Lieutenant A. J. Owen and Sub Lieutenant A. J. Torrence hit Manzoni, which quickly capsized and sank.
At 12:42, the aircraft of Sub Lieutenant G. L. Cooper, Sub Lieutenant A. A. O’Hara and Sub Lieutenant P. R. Swift hit the side of the destroyer Zeffiro, which sank half an hour later.
The aircraft of Petty Officer A. T. Cullinan, Sub Lieutenant S. T. Tracy and Petty Officer Taylor hit the destroyer Euro, which was beached and was used as a stationary flak ship for the rest of the campaign.
The aircraft of Lieutenant D. S. Brent, Sub Lieutenant A. L. Giuliani and Petty Officer A. R. Finney hit the 15000 ton liner Liguria, which was beached.
The aircraft of Sub Lieutenant P. O. Stone, Sub Lieutenant C. G. Blackburn and Midshipman K. M. Flint hit Serenitas, which was beached.
The British formation lost one Swordfish when the aircraft of Sub Lieutenant A. J. Bell, Petty Officer N. C. Grant and Petty Officer F. A. Crowne was shot down by flak before it was able to release its torpedo. The complete lack of aerial opposition helped the British attackers to limit the losses to a minimum.

My problem is that I can’t verify the loss of Bell, Grant and Crowne with the Commonwealth War Grave Commission.

Is there anyone on this forum that can help me with this question?

Best wishes/Håkan Gustavsson

Stig Jarlevik
23rd October 2005, 15:13
Hej Håkan

A bit strange this operation. Made by shorebased Swordfish it seems like the Royal Navy does not acknowledge any losses this day. Knowing they have no or very bad records of their aeroplanes they SHOULD at least have records of their airmen, but no details found.

B Rgds
Stig Jarlevik

23rd October 2005, 18:39
Yes, I must agree with Stig. It seems to be very difficult to find info on these attacks. Found nothing from Roskill’s War at Sea Vol I, same with Sturdivant’s British Carrier Aviation. Brown’s Carrier Operations, Vol I only says that 824 made two successful attacks one against Tobruk and the other against Bomba and gives combined claims. Rohwer’s and Hummelchen’s Chronology of the War at Sea 1939 – 1945 mentions both attacks and sinkings but it says nothing on losses. But my notes from Playfair et al The Med and Middle East Vol I The Early Successes against Italy (1954) p. 150 says that all aircraft returned safely from July 5th attack. Whatever was the reason to pen down my notes it didn’t cover the July 20th attack, sorry.

BTW Your biplane aces pages are very interesting, excellent work. Have You any interest on Finnish combat reports on a combat between 2 FAF Gladiators and 2 Red AF P-40s in Spring 44. No losses on either side. Some damage to Gladiators. Both Finnish pilots wrote a A4 size report besides the usual combat reports. I found those when I was searching for another combat?

23rd October 2005, 19:07
Some more info from the same notes (from the same book). The attacking force incl. 9 Swordfish with torpedoes while No 211 Sqn RAF provided reconnaissance and 11 of it’s a/c attacked the airfield. 12 fighters of No. 33 Sqn RAF maintained patrols over the target. 7 torpedoes dropped inside the harbour. Manzoni was 4000tons and Serenitas 5000tons.


23rd October 2005, 19:56
Hej Stig and Juha,

Thanks for the answers. It seems that the attacks really occured but that they didn't suffer and (at least) fatal losses.
The 33 Squadron's patrols over Tobruk on 5 July is confirmed with the unit's ORB and eight Fiat CR.42s, presumably from the 8o Gruppo, were slightly damaged (RS) during 211 Squadron's attack on Tobruk T2.

The second attack by the 824 Squadron (on Bomba) -I have one on 22 August, is it the same you have in your sources?

Also I would be very interested in the Gladiator material. Please contact me off board.

Best wishes/Håkan

24th October 2005, 20:36
Hello Håkan
0n Bomba, Brown says only that it happened in late August. But because in his combined claimlist for the two attacks by 824th there is a depot ship, he is probably referring the attack on 22nd, because according to Rohwer’s and Hummelchen’s book on that day 3 Swordfish of 824 Sqn sank submarine Iride and the depot ship Monte Gargano (1976tons) in the Gulf of Bomba. BTW Rohwer and Hummelchen say that Iride was prepared for the first operation by Maiali human torpedoes against Alexandria. So again 824 accomplished an important result.

I'll contact You on Gladiator stuff later this week, at next weekend at the latest.


25th October 2005, 21:34

It seems that we have the same raid on 22 August, when three Swordfishes took off from Sidi El Barrani. One of the Swordfishes (flown by Lt. J.W.G. Wellham) returned seriously damaged.

Best wishes/Håkan