Monday 21 April 2014

HMS Malaya.

HMS MALAYA   16-Aug-41    to    19-Apr-42

I wonder if Dad would have been disappointed with his first ship as Malaya wasn’t in the first flush of youth. She had been completed on 1st Feb- 1916 by Armstrong’s on the Tyne. She took part in the Battle of Jutland 31-May-16 where she fired 215 15” rounds and received 7 12” shell hits with 63 killed and 68 injured.
Length 645’
Beam   104’
Draft    30’
Speed   25kts
Displ.    31100 tons
Crew    1184 to 1300
Armaments; 8 x 15”, 12 x 6”, 4 x 4”AA, 2 x pom poms and 4 aircraft.

She was a Queen Elizabeth Class Battleship but was named Malaya as the Federated Malaya States paid the almost £3 Million costs. The other vessels were HMS Queen Elizabeth, Barham, Valiant and Warspite.

In March 1941 Malaya had been hit by a torpedo when near the Cape Verde Islands but suffered no causalities. She initially went to Port of Spain in Trinidad for temporary repairs and then went to Brooklyn in New York for full repairs. She was the first RN vessel to be repaired in the USA during WWII so assume Lend/Lease was in place at this time.

HMS Malaya in New York

Repairs in America were completed and she left USA 9-Jul-41 where she joined a convoy as escort from Halifax Nova Scotia to Rosyth where she arrived 28-Jul-41 with no losses. Malaya then re-entered the dock yard to have experimental anti aircraft and fire control radar and additional armaments fitted.

As she did not leave Rosyth until September Dad must have joined her there and started to get the ship ready after months in dock. From Rosyth they went to Scapa Flow where they were worked up to war readiness. She was nominated as part of Force H which was the naval task force in the western Mediterranean that was to replace the French navy after their surrender.

Official Recognition Card for HMS Malaya.
20-Oct-41        Malaya left Scapa Flow for the Clyde with destroyers Bedouin, Punjabi, Laforey and Lightning.
21-Oct-41        Arrived on the Clyde.
22-Oct-41        Left Clyde for Gibraltar with destroyer Lightning and later joined by Havelock, Harvester, Sikh and Zulu.
27-Oct-41        Arrived at Gibraltar but on entering the harbour she collided with MV Hoegh Hood (a Norwegian tanker that had suffered damage and was waiting for repair) and Clan Macdonald (sunk later that year) but only suffered slight damage to the bow.
November 41  Malaya became Flagship for Force H when Admiral Sir James Somerville raised his flag. It is said he hated the ship and thought it most unsuitable.
10-Nov-41       Left Gibraltar with cruiser Hermione to cover Operation Perpetual, (the delivery of Hurricanes to Malta from the carriers Ark Royal and Argus). A screen was provided by the destroyers Laforey, Lightning, Sikh, Zulu, Gurkha and Dutch Navy vessel Isaac Sweers.
12-Nov-41       37 Hurricanes flown off and force turn west to return to Gibraltar.
13-Nov-41       At 1541 30’ from Gibraltar the Ark Royal was torpedoed by U18. The spread of 4 torpedoes had been fired at Malaya! Malaya dashed off to the safety of Gibraltar but as the Ark Royal didn’t sink she was turned round at 1622 to cover the rescue mission. At 1830 she was again ordered to return to Gibraltar. Ark Royal sank the next day, 14-Nov-41, whilst under tow of the navy tug HMS Thames.
16-Nov-41       Dad was promoted to the rank of Coder!

HMS Legion taking crew off HMS Ark Royal
December 41   Malaya stayed in Gibraltar to provide cover for Atlantic trade convoys as she was the only battleship in the western Mediterranean at the time.
14-Jan-42        Rear Admiral Edward Neville Syfret raised his flag in Malaya. It seems that Dad would be associated with this Admirals staff for a while as he moved from ship to ship with him. He had been born near Cape Town South Africa and had been Dartmouth Chief Cadet Captain. He played cricket once for the Navy scoring a duck and 30 runs. He appears to have had a reputation as being grumpy.
8-Feb-42          Left Gibraltar for the Clyde, with cruiser Hermione and destroyers Active, Anthony, Blankney, Croome, Exmoor, Laforey and Lightning. Force H was being sent to the UK to cover the possible breakout of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau from Brest.
13-Feb-42        Arrived on the Clyde.
17-Feb-42        Force H sailed from the Clyde in company with carriers Eagle and Formidable (with Admiral Sir James Somerville aboard), cruiser Hermione, destroyers Duncan Laforey and Lightning to join the important Convoy WS16 which had 45000 troops aboard. There were 14 merchant ships and after more destroyers joined (Active, Anthony, Blankney, Croome, Firedrake, Panther, Verity, Walker and Witherington) a huge escort.
21-Feb-42        MV Strathdeen caught up with the convoy having been delayed. She had an escort of cruisers Newcastle and Paladin.
23-Feb-42.       Malaya and Force H arrived back in Gibraltar having detached from Convoy WS16 whose ultimate destination was Bombay.
Dad on Liberty from Malaya in Gibraltar 1942.
27-Feb-42        Left with Force H and carrier Eagle and her 5 destroyer escort to sail east towards Malta for ‘Operation Spotter’, (Delivery of Spitfires to Malta). They were later joined by carrier Argus, crusier Hermione and their escort of four destroyers.
28-Feb-42        The operation was cancelled as there was some difficulty with the aircrafts long range fuel tanks. All vessels returned to Gibraltar.
6-Mar-42         A repeat of Operation Spotter and fifteen aircraft arrived in Malta.
21-Mar-42       Malaya and Force H covered ‘Operation Picket 1’. This was again a plan to get aircraft to Malta and was a partial success as nine Spitfires made Malta, but again problems were found with the long range fuel tanks.
27-Mar-42       ‘Operation Picket II’ and a further seven aircraft made Malta.

HMS Malaya from an escorting destroyer.

30-Mar-42       Malaya returns to Gibraltar and learns that they are nominated to take part in ‘Operation Ironclad’, the invasion of Madagascar.
1-Apr-42         Sailed from Gibraltar with cruiser Hermione and destroyers Active, Anthony, Laforey, Lightning and Duncan.
6-Apr-42         Arrived in Freetown.
9-Apr-42         Left Freetown as ocean escort for Convoy WS17 with additional destroyers Inconstant, Javelin, Lookout and Packenham. The convoy consisted of 32 merchant vessels 19 of which carried troops. Franconia had the Commodore aboard and the ultimate destinations for some of the vessels were Suez/Aden and Bombay.
18-Apr-42       Malaya was detached from the convoy and put it to Cape Town. Once alongside she was ordered to return to Freetown and then back to Gibraltar.
19-Apr-42       Dad signed off the Malaya and was posted to HMS Ramillies but she had just left Kilindini, Mombasa for Durban. Dad had to hitch a ride to get there.

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