1st – Convoy PQ 12 sailed from Reykjavik with local escort of trawlers ANGLE, CHILTERN, STELLA CAPELLA and whalers SHERA and STEFA. (STELLA CAPELLA and SHERA lost believed overwhelmed by the weather conditions)
2nd – At 1330 hours the battleship DUKE OF YORK, light cruiser KENYA and destroyers FAULKNOR, ESKIMO, PUNJABI and ECLIPSE arrived at Hvalfjord from Scapa.
3rd – At 0600 hours the 2nd Battle Squadron of the Home Fleet comprising RENOWN Flag VA 2ndBS, DUKE OF YORK, KENYA and destroyers FAULKNOR, FURY, ECHO ESKIMO, PUNJABI and ECLIPSE sailed from Hvalfjord northwards around Iceland to provide distant cover for convoy PQ 12.
4th – At 0600 hours the Home Fleet comprising battleship KING GEORGE V, Flag Admiral Sir John Cronyn Tovey DSO RN, CinC Home Fleet, aircraft carrier VICTORIOUS, cruiser BERWICK and destroyers ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, ICARUS, INTREPID, LOOKOUT and ONSLOW sailed from Scapa.
At 0700 hours the 2nd Battle Squadron was off the NW of Iceland, where FAULKNOR and ESKIMO were detached to refuel in Seidisfjord.
At 1600 hours BERWICK detached to return to Scapa with engine trouble and was escorted by BEDOUIN.
At 2300 hours KENYA detached from the Home Fleet and proceeded ahead to join the escort of PQ 12.
At 2300 hours BEDOUIN detached from BERWICK with orders to proceed to the aid of the damaged SHEFFIELD, mined off Seidisfjord.
5th – At 0600 hours A Fw 200 reconnaissance aircraft of Gruppe 1, KG40 from Trondheim-Vaernes airfield, sighted and reported PQ 12 in position 69-22N, 08-27W, 100 miles south of Jan Mayen Island.
(The signal was picked up by the Y service and passed to Bletchley Path who, because they had broken the GAF Enigma, decoded it almost immediately. The information was then passed to Tovey)
At 1200 hours the 2nd Battle Squadron was in position 66-45N, 06-30W about 100 miles south of PQ 12 and steering northerly.
At 1200 hours the Home Fleet was about 100 miles bearing 154¼ from the 2nd Battle Squadron and steering northerly.
At 1900 hours KENYA joined the escort of PQ 12.
At 2000 hours the 2nd Battle Squadron altered course easterly to affect a RV with the Home Fleet.
6th – At 1030 hours In position 71-00N, 4-30E the 2nd battle squadron RVed with the Home Fleet, the two forces joined together, continuing to steer northerly.
The home Fleet now comprised KING GEORGE V, RENOWN, DUKE OF YORK, VICTORIOUS and destroyers ASHANTI, ICARUS, INTREPID, LOOKOUT, ONSLOW, FURY ECHO, PUNJABI and ECLIPSE
At 1100 hours the TIRPITZ sailed from the upper Trondheim Fjord on Operation SPORTPLAST, escorted by destroyers FRIEDRICH IHN, HERMANN SCHOEMANN and Z25 and steered north to intercept the convoy reported by the Fw 200 reconnaissance aircraft
At 1400 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the south.
At 1801 hours the submarine SEAWOLF sighted TIRPITZ off Trondheim, but was forced to dive and therefore unable to report until she surfaced.
At 1945 hours SEAWOLF surfaced and signalled the Admiralty reporting 'a large warship, either a battleship or a heavy cruiser'.
7th – At 0010 hours Tovey received the news of SEAWOLF’s sighting. Tovey now knew that TIRPITZ was out but was unsure if TIRPITZ is intending to attack the convoy or break out into the Atlantic.
(Early in the morning Tovey planned that VICTORIOUS would launch reconnaissance aircraft to search out to 120 miles in the sector 065¼ to 115¼. However due to the severe icing conditions no flying was possible. TIRPITZ who at the time was approximately 90 miles away had planed to launch two Ar 196 aircraft to fly a reconnaissance, but had to abandon the reconnaissance for the same reason)
At 1122 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the south.
At 1200 hours convoys PQ 12 and QP 8 passed each other 200 miles SW of Bear Island
At 1630 hours in approximate position 72-35N, 10-30E, the German destroyer FRIEDRICH IHN, which was detached from TIRPITZ, sank a straggler from QP 8, the Russian MV IJORA 2815grt.
At 1750 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the east. At the same time the destroyers ICARUS and INTREPID detached to Iceland to refuel.
At 2000 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the north. At the same time the destroyers ONSLOW (D17), ASHANTI, ECHO, ECLIPSE, FURY and PUNJABI were detached to sweep north between the Home Fleet and the Lofoten Islands along what Tovey considered to be the enemy’s most likely return route, before returning to Iceland to refuel.
(This deployment was based on intercepted signals from TIRPITZ that were read almost simultaneously by BP and passed to Tovey)
At 2400 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the south so that Tovey could be in position off the Lofoten Islands to launch a strike force at dawn.
8th – At 0400 hours Tovey, who’s Fleet now comprised KING GEORGE V, VICTORIOUS, DUKE OF YORK, RENOWN and the destroyer LOOKOUT, decided that he had missed TIRPITZ and since he was without destroyers in dangerous waters, he turned SW towards Iceland to collect some destroyers.
At 0800 hours the destroyers ONSLOW (D17), ASHANTI, ECHO, ECLIPSE, FURY and PUNJABI having sighted nothing set course for Seidisfjord to refuel.
At 1820 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the north east.
At 1830 hours Tovey broke radio silence with a signal to the Admiralty requesting destroyers and refuelling facilities for his destroyers.
(On receipt of this signal the Admiralty ordered 4 cruisers to positions between Jan Mayer and Bear Islands to refuel destroyers and assembled all available destroyers which were then sailed to the aid of the Home Fleet)
At 2000 hours the TIRPITZ when SE of Bear Island and steering W away from PQ 12, decided to abandoned her search for the convoy. She had passed only 80 miles astern of the convoy at 1200/8/3/42. TIRPITZ then set course to return to Trondheim.
9th – At 0240 hours the Admiralty signalled Tovey that TIRPITZ was heading south.
At 0243 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the south east to close the Lofoten Islands.
At 0640 hours Tovey ordered VICTORIOUS to fly off a reconnaissance force of 6 Albacores on a diverging search between 105 degrees and 155 degrees to a depth of 150 miles to search for the TIRPITZ.
At 0730 hours a strike force of 12 torpedo-carrying Albacores, 5 from 817 Sqd and 7 from 832 Sqd, was flown off VICTORIOUS. At the time of launch TIRPITZ was 115 miles to their east.
At 0802 hours Albacore F of 832 Sqd sighted the TIRPITZ and the destroyer FRIEDRICH IHN sailing south, and made a report. Shortly after being sighted TIRPITZ and FRIEDRICH IHN turned east for Vestfjord and Narvik
At 0917 hours TIRPITZ was attacked by the strike force of 12 torpedo-carrying Albacores. The attack failed although one torpedo only missed TIRPITZ’s stern by 30 feet, 2 Albacores were shot down.
At 0940 hours the Home Fleet turned west then SW
At 1545 hours the Home Fleet was attacked by 3 Ju 88 bombers, one bomb landed close astern of VICTORIOUS but no damaged was caused.
At 1620 hours TIRPITZ and FRIEDRICH IHN arrived at Narvik.
At 1840 hours FAULKNOR, BEDOUIN, ESKIMO and TARTAR joined the Home Fleet.
At various times during the Home Fleets return to Scapa the Fleet was joined by the destroyers that the Admiralty had assembled at Tovey’s request. These were the destroyers JAVELIN, INCONSTANT, VERDUN, LANCASTER, LEDBURY, GROVE, WOOLSTON and WELLS joined the fleet.
10th – At 2300 hours KING GEORGE V, VICTORIOUS, DUKE OF YORK, RENOWN, LOOKOUT, FAULKNOR, BEDOUIN, ESKIMO, TARTAR, JAVELIN, INCONSTANT, VERDUN, LANCASTER, LEDBURY, GROVE, WOOLSTON and WELLS arrived at Scapa.
(So ended what for both sides had been a frustrating operation. The appalling weather affected both sides operations. The Kriegsmarine were poorly served by the Luftwaffe who only sighted PQ 12 once and completely missed QP 8and B-Dienst were completely unaware of the Home Fleets presence until Tovey broke radio silence. Even so TIRPITZ failed by a very narrow margin in finding the convoys. In contrast Tovey was well served by good intelligence from the Admiralty which was based on appreciations by OIC and decoded intercepts from BP. This intelligence led to air strike against TIRPITZ which almost succeeded and was the only time that the FAA were to attack TIRPITZ in the open sea)
MikeBrough wrote:What would life have been like on the open hangar deck of a US CV? Doesn't bear thinking about.
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