Force K

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Force K was the designation for three British Royal Navy task forces during the Second World War. The first Force K operated from West Africa in 1939. The second and third Force Ks operated out of Malta from 1941–1943.

First Force K[edit]

This task force was based in Freetown, Sierra Leone and consisted of battlecruiser Renown, aircraft carrier Ark Royal and destroyers Hardy, Hostile, Hereward and Hasty. Its mission was to track and destroy German commerce raiders in the South Atlantic, such as the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee. After the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939, Force K was sent to the coast of Uruguay to prevent any sortie by Graf Spee, which was in Montevideo. After Graf Spee was scuttled, Force K was broken up, with Ark Royal escorting the cruiser HMS Exeter (damaged in the battle with Graf Spee) back to Britain.[1]

Second Force K[edit]

The next Force K was created on 21 October 1941, with the light cruisers Aurora and Penelope and L and M class destroyers Lance and Lively to operate out of Malta, against Italian ships carrying supplies to the Axis forces in North Africa.[2] On the night of 8/9 November 1941, in the Battle of the Duisburg Convoy Force K destroyed the convoy, forcing the Italian high command to consider Tripoli "practically blockaded"[3] Soon after, Force K was reinforced at Malta by Force B, with the light cruisers Ajax and Neptune and two J, K and N class destroyers. The combined force was so effective that during November 1941, the Axis supply line suffered 60 percent losses. On 19 December, at about the time of the First Battle of Sirte, ships from both Forces ran into a minefield while pursuing an Italian convoy, which sank Neptune and damaged Aurora.[4] The destroyer Kandahar also struck a mine while attempting to assist Neptune. Kandahar was scuttled the next day by the destroyer Jaguar. Following this, and with a resurgence of the aerial bombardment of Malta, the remaining surface ships were withdrawn, except for Penelope which was too damaged to leave. Frequent air attacks while she remained in harbour earned her the nickname "HMS Pepperpot". She was also withdrawn to Gibraltar on 8 April 1942, ending Force K's deployment.[5]

Third Force K[edit]

Convoy Stone Age was run to Malta from 16–20 November and unloaded in record time.[6][7] Force K was re-established on 27 November 1942 and based at Malta was revictualled by a convoy in Operation Stone Age (20 November). Cruisers Cleopatra, Dido and Euryalus and four ships of the 14th Destroyer Flotilla.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Roskill, 1954, 114–118
  2. ^ Playfair et al. 1956, p. 283
  3. ^ Playfair et al. 1960, p. 107
  4. ^ Playfair et al. 1960, p. 115
  5. ^ Playfair et al. 1960, p. 181
  6. ^ Woodman, 2000, p. 461
  7. ^ Playfair et al. 1966, pp. 196–199
  8. ^ Playfair et al. 1966, p. 205

Bibliography[edit]

  • Groves, Eric (1993). Sea Battles in Close-Up II. London: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-2118-X. 
  • Playfair, Major-General I. S. O.; with Flynn RN, Captain F. C.; Molony, Brigadier C. J. C. & Toomer, Air Vice-Marshal S. E. (2004) [[[HMSO]] 1956]. Butler, J. R. M., ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East: The Germans come to the help of their Ally (1941). History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series II. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-066-1. 
  • Playfair, Major-General I. S. O.; with Flynn RN, Captain F. C.; Molony, Brigadier C. J. C. & Gleave, Group Captain T. P. (2004) [HMSO 1960]. Butler, J. R. M., ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East: British Fortunes reach their Lowest Ebb (September 1941 to September 1942). History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series III. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-067-X. 
  • Playfair, Major-General I. S. O.; and Molony, Brigadier C. J. C.; with Flynn R.N., Captain F. C. & Gleave, Group Captain T. P. (2004) [HMSO 1966]. Butler, J. R. M., ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East: The Destruction of the Axis Forces in Africa. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series IV. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-068-8. 
  • Roskill, Stephen (1954). The Defensive. The War at Sea 1939–1945 I. London: HMSO. OCLC 123708512. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  • Smith, Peter C; Walker, Edwin (1974). The Battles of the Malta Striking Forces. Sea battles in close-up (11). London: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-0528-1. 
  • Woodman, Richard (2000). Malta Convoys 1940–1943. London: John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-6408-5. 

External links[edit]