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The Royal Navy & El Alamein

Preparing The Battlespace
Preparing The Battlespace

Preparing The Battlespace

"If anyone wishes to know the history of this war I will tell them that it is our maritime superiority, which gives me the power of maintaining the army while the enemy is unable to do so." The Duke of Wellington

Operation "Pedestal"

By August 1942 Malta had been isolated by the retreat in North Africa and was on the verge of starvation. The forces based there were also unable to strike out against the Axis, largely due to lack of fuel. On 10 August the 14 merchant ships of the "Pedestal" Convoy reached Gibraltar and met the largest escort force the Royal Navy would ever mount, including 3 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 7 cruisers, and more than 20 destroyers. Over the next five days the convoy battled against constant attacks by Axis aircraft, E-boats and submarines. Despite heavy losses amongst the escort and merchant ships, 5 vital supply vessels were successfully fought through to Malta.

The 15,000 tons of fuel and 32,000 tons of other supplies delivered underwrote much of the successful campaign against Rommel's supply lines before the Alamein offensive. Operation "Pedestal" allowed the return of Royal Navy submarines to the island, and fuelled Malta's joint RAF/FAA striking forces.

SS MelbourneThe SS Melbourne 








The SS Melbourne Star unloading in Valletta's Grand Harbour

HMS AshantiHMS Ashanti 
Rear Admiral Burnett visits HMS Ashanti, an escort for Operation "Pedestal". Third from the left is Sub Lt. Terrence Lewin. As Chief of the Defence Staff he would use his "Pedestal" experience of heavy losses but ultimate success to reassure the government during the Falklands War.

Captain Dudley Mason GC and the tanker Ohio

The SS Ohio was "Pedestal's" most significant survivor. The 12,000 tons of oil the American tanker supplied amounted to 80% of the fuel delivered. This was achieved despite crippling damage, which required the ship to be handsteered without a compass, and then towed for the final hundred miles of her journey. Vice Admiral Leatham's report described the passage of Ohio as a 'feat of seamanship, courage and endurance of the highest order'. The Ohio's Master, Captain D W Mason, was subsequently awarded the George Cross for his gallant conduct.


Tanker OhioTanker Ohio 
Captain Dudley Mason GC

Captain Dudley
Mason GC