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Sustaining The Victory

Admiral Harwood Commander in Chief Mediterranean inspects sunk Axis shipping in Benghazi Harbour
Seafires on the flight deck of HMS Victorious, part of the covering force for the 'Torch' Landings

Operation "Torch"

The Allied landings in French North Africa on 8 November 1942 reinforced the Alamein offensive and constituted the first large-scale amphibious assault of the war. The landing force was predominantly American, but the majority of the Naval force came from Britain and the Commonwealth, manning over 340 vessels.

The Naval forces had to overcome considerable resistance from Vichy ships and Naval Parties were prominent in the direct attacks on French harbours. During the six days of the initial assault 536 Royal Naval personnel were killed as opposed to 526 from the US Army.

Sustaining the Victory

As Montgomery's campaign progressed, the Royal Navy continued to supply the victorious 8th Army, re-opening ports and running coastal convoys, carrying the bulk of Army supplies, to just behind the front line. This involved escort work, as well as harbour and mine clearance and the reconstruction of port facilities. Both Tobruk and Benghazi were open within 4 days of their capture and unloading more essential supplies than had been planned.

Lieutenant (A) B H C Nation RN

Lieutenant Nation of 882 Squadron FAA, HMS Victorious, had the unique experience of accepting the surrender of the Vichy French airfield at Blida. Flying over the airfield in his Martlet fighter he realised that the French gunners had ceased firing at his flight, and so landed while the other aircraft covered him. He then drew his revolver, demanded to see the Station Commandant, and persuaded him to sign a surrender. His log book for the sortie records: 'Fighter patrol over Blida drome. Landed and accepted surrender of same from French general. Then to Maison Blanche and on to Vic.'


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Lieutenant Michael Lumby DSO DSC and HMS Saracen

HMS Saracen conducted successful patrols in the Central Mediterranean in 1942-3. During Operation "Torch" she was part of a picket line of Allied submarines, designed to prevent any intervention by the Italian Navy. On 9 November Saracen sighted the Italian submarine Granito, and then sank her with three torpedoes. Saracen's commander, Michael Lumby, was awarded the DSO for the Granito sinking.

The Saracen continued to operate as part of the maritime blockade of North Africa until the Axis surrender in May 1943. By that date Allied forces were sinking 77% of Axis supplies.


Lieutenant LumbyLieutenant Lumby 
HMS SaracenHMS Saracen   

Sustaining the Victory Pictures