Sunday 15 June 2014

HMS Nelson, Operation Torch.

HMS NELSON   28-Oct-42   to   8-Nov-43

30-Oct-42        Vice Admiral Syfret raised his flag and Nelson left Scapa in company with battleship Duke of York, battle cruiser Renown, cruiser Argonaut and destroyers Ashanti, Eskimo, Martin, Meteor, Milne and Tartar.
31-Oct-42        Off the NW coast of Ireland they rendezvoused with carriers Formidable and Victorious and destroyers Pathfinder, Partridge, Porcupine, Quality, Quentin and HMAS Quiberon. This force now became known as Force H.
5-Nov-42         Netherlands Navy destroyer Isaac Sweers joins the force. So many ships are in the area that there is a delay for vessels requiring bunkers.
6-Nov-42         When it was Nelson’s turn they appeared to make a mess of getting alongside in Gibralatar as they collided with ‘Empire Gawain and sweepers Brixham and Bude. Only minor damage was done to their stanchions and guard rails. However it must have been a little embarrassing as Admiral Andrew Cunningham was waiting to board and raise his flag as overall Naval Commander of the operation.
7-Nov-42         It would have taken a massive effort to marshal 350 warships and 500 merchant ships and have them all in the right positions for the landings that were to take place on the following day.

Operation Torch Landing Sites.

Operation Torch was undertaken to open up a second front but allow a further build up of arms and men before taking on Fortress Europe. North Africa of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia were mainly under the control of the Vichy French Forces and it was hoped that they would surrender to the Allies. Much political maneuvering was undertaken before the landings but it was still unknown what opposition would be faced on the day of the landings.

8-Nov-42         The landings took place in three places, Western at Casablanca, Central at Oran and Eastern to take Algiers. The Eastern landing was to be mainly British but Americans were to land first and all troops wore a ‘stars and stripes’ badge as it was felt that the Vichy French were less likely to shoot on American forces. The Eastern landings were also on three beaches, two West and one East of Algiers. The western ones were unopposed despite troops being landed on wrong beaches etc. The eastern landings were carried out in fog and confusion occurred. Here they were also landed unopposed except for a few shells from coastal batteries that were soon silenced. The only real fighting took place at the port of Algiers where HMS destroyers Malcolm and Broke tried to land 600 American troops directly in the port to prevent it being put out of action. Malcolm was severely damaged as she tried to breach the boom and was hit by shore fire. She retreated at 4kts. Broke managed to get through the boom and land her troops. She was soon forced to retire though and leave the troops to fend for themselves and they were forced to surrender seven hours later.
However Algiers itself fell to superior forces by the end of the day and the port was captured intact and workable. Nelson supported the landings on the eastern flank, and for the next few days provided cover in case the Italian fleet should intervene or land targets presented.

15-Nov-42       The Vichy French Forces surrender so Admiral Cunningham strikes his flag as commander of the operation and Admiral Syfret raises his as commander of force H. Their job was to continue to cover the threat of the Italian Fleet.
21-Nov-42       Nelson left Mers-El-Kebir, the port of Oran, to cruise south of the Balearic Islands.
22-Nov-42       She returns to Gibraltar.

Admiral Syfret Inspecting HMS Nelson Crew December 1942. He is talking to Dad, 2nd man in the Front Row.

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