- Operation Excess
Operation Excess Part of the Mediterranean Theater of World War II Date January 10–11, 1941 Location South of Sicily Result Indecisive Belligerents United Kingdom Kingdom of Italy
Strength 1 aircraft carrier
Unknown number of Stuka and Fulmar fighters
Casualties and losses 1 cruiser scuttled
1 destroyer moderately damaged
1 destroyer sunk
8 aircraft shot down (British claim)U-boat Campaign – Club Run¹ –- Malta Convoys¹ –- Espero¹² – Mers-el-Kébir – Calabria¹² – Cape Spada – Cape Passero¹ – Taranto – Strait of Otranto² – White¹ – Cape Spartivento¹ – Excess¹ – Abstention – Souda Bay – Matapan – Tarigo² – Crete – Substance¹ – Halberd¹ – Duisburg² – Bon² – December 1941² – 1st Sirte¹² – Alexandria raid – 2nd Sirte¹ – Calendar – Harpoon¹ – Vigorous¹ – Pedestal¹ – Agreement – Torch – Stone Age¹ – Toulon – Portcullis¹ – Skerki² – Algiers¹ – Cigno² – Sicily – Olterra's campaign¹ – Sinking of Roma – Dodecanese Campaign – Cape Bougaroun¹ – Port Cros – La Ciotat
¹ - Involved an Allied convoy • ² - Involved an Axis convoy
On 6 January, convoy Excess (MC 4) left Gibraltar for Malta and Greece, covered by the Gibraltar based Force H. Simultaneously, the Mediterranean Fleet from Alexandria covered more supply ships (convoy MW 5.5) from Alexandria to Malta and then a returning empty convoy (ME 5.5). The cruisers Gloucester and Southampton, detached from the Mediterranean Fleet, carried troop reinforcements to Malta and then continued westwards to meet 'Excess'. Force H then returned to Gibraltar.
The first convoy sailed from Gibraltar on 6 January, taking materiel to the besieged island of Malta. It had a strong naval escort, including the aircraft carrier Illustrious, and became the first action that involved the Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean, after the transfer of X. Fliegerkorps to Sicily to support the Italian Regia Aeronautica.
During an attack on the convoy on 10 January, the Italian torpedo boat Vega was sunk in the Strait of Sicily by the cruiser HMS Bonaventure and the destroyer HMS Hereward. HMS Bonaventure sustained some damage and two of her complement were killed. She spent 75 per cent of her ammunition in the engagement. A second Italian torpedo boat, Circe, slipped away. While returning to station after the engagement, the British destroyer HMS Gallant struck a mine near Pantelleria, with the loss of 65 lives. Although towed to Malta, Gallant was deemed irreparable, and she was finally lost during Axis bombing in April 1942. Illustrious was seriously damaged by bombs, after emergency repairs in Malta, she reached Alexandria on 25 January. Fairey Fulmar fighters and AA gunners of the Royal Navy shot down at least seven aircraft on 10 January 1941, in defence of HMS Illustrious, while one Fulmar was lost.
On 11 January, air attacks sank the cruiser HMS Southampton, while returning to Alexandria with empty ships. Her sister ship, HMS Gloucester was damaged, but survived.
No merchantmen were lost during Excess but the Royal Navy lost one cruiser sunk, another damaged, and a destroyer. The Illustrious was out of action for several months and the British had lost their freedom of action in the Mediterranean, as a result of the German intervention.
- Italian torpedo boats unsuccessfully attack convoy MC 4, Force B, and Force F off Pantelleria
- Italian submarine Settimo unsuccessfully attacks convoy MC 4, Force B, and Force F off Pantelleria
- German and Italian bombers score one hit on RN battleship Warspite causing minor damage
- Convoy MC 4 from Gibraltar and MW 5.5 from Egypt arrive Malta
- Convoy ME 5.5 departs Malta for Alexandria
- Convoy ME 6 departs Malta for Alexandria
Notes and references
- ^ Woodman, Richard (2000). Malta Convoys, 1940-1943, Jack Murray Ltd., London, p. 113. ISBN 0719557534
- ^ HMS Gallant (H 59)
- ^ The Italian Navy in WW2, Sadkovich, p114, states that 5 German and 2 Italian aircraft were shot down,while 2 FAA aircraft were lost.
- ^ The Royal Navy and the Mediterranean Convoys, p. 10, states that Fulmars shot down 5 aircraft while AA shot down 3 more and one Fulmar was lost.
- ^ The Royal Navy and the Mediterranean Convoys
- ^ HMS Warspite
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