Saturday [19 April 1941] quiet.
Sunday we rendezvoused according to plan. Beautiful weather and they gave the ships company roast turkey and trifle for dinner. During the forenoon a Fulmar shot down an Italian reconnaissance plane – at 1300 Air Raid Red – without preliminary warning. The Formidable’s fighters shot down another dago. At tea time scores were announced again. The fighters had intercepted a formation of five JU troop carriers en route to Tripoli and our chaps shot down four of the five. Information tonight reads:
“Tripoli is the only fully equipped supply port for German and Italian forces in Africa. The C in C intends to carry out a night bombardment of the port of Tripoli commencing at 0500 tomorrow Monday 21st April. The bombarding ships will be Warspite, Valiant, Barham, Gloucester, in that order accompanied by nine destroyers. Formidable will be operating aircraft in the vicinity and will be protected by Orion, Ajax, Perth and four destroyers while doing so.
The R.A.F will carry out a high level bombing attack preceded by incendiaries shortly before bombardment is due to commence. When R.A.F are clear F.A.A from Formidable will illuminate the target with flares and provide spotting aircraft for firing ships. They may also drop bombs and incendiary devices. Each battleship has been given a particular part of the port to demolish while Gloucester’s duty is counter battery fire against shore batteries that may try to disturb the proceedings. We will probably not be very close in while securing Formidable but the utmost vigilance is necessary throughout the night as Formidable would be a prize for “E-boats and it is our duty to protect her. We close up at action stations at 0300.
It was dark and cold as we were called to the First Degree of readiness and the dim shapes stole along over a smooth sea with low hung dark clouds blotting out even the glimmer of the stars. All hands were very startled as a sheet of flame shot up suddenly from the Formidable and burned for a quarter of an hour. A box of flares had ignited accidentally.
At 0510 the clouds in the far distance were illuminated as the bombardment commenced and continued for 45 mins during which it is estimated each ship hurled 600 tons of H.E upon Tripoli. It looked like a violent electrical storm in the far distance and after Pireaus I had a lot of sympathy for any inhabitants of the port. We almost ran down one of our own destroyers in the murk much to their consternation. We rendezvoused with the Battle Fleet at 0715 and watched the planes of the F.A.A. return glinting like golden birds in the early morning sunlight as they came out of the sunrise and dropped like bees to the flight deck of the Formidable. All of our ships returned safely but no details have been released except a few hints here and there.
We expected some reprisal but except for an Air Raid Yellow at 1130 we had a very quiet day. Plenty of floating mines have been sighted but no one succeeded in sinking or exploding any of them. They give one an uneasy feeling to watch them float by. Last evening at about 1900 as we were all at supper a couple of destroyers had a party chasing a sub – we were a couple of miles away but the depth charges shook us up sending all hands on the upper deck to watch. They continued their joyful pounding for about an hour so if the sub got through that it was very lucky. The buzz about going home seems to be an accepted fact with the ship’s company now. I hope no one is disappointed.