Our Pipers Chosen For Santa Marija Convoy Commemoration
Three of our pipers were chosen to accompany the ceremony that was held at the Old Customs House in Valletta to commemorate the arrival of the Convoy of Santa Maria 15th August 1942.
Photos of this event can be seen by clicking here
Additional information can be found below
Operation Pedestal – The Santa Marija Convoy
By August 7,1942, the situation in Malta was so bad that official calculations showed that food and fuel would be completely exhausted within three to four weeks if help were not received by the end of that time there would be no alternative but surrender.
The last big attempt to replenish the island had been made in June. Two convoys had then sailed – one westward from Alexandria, code-named ‘Vigorous’ and one eastward from Gibraltar, code-named ‘Harpoon’ Altogether in the two convoys, there had been 17 merchant ships, with an escort of 82 warships, but of the merchant ships only two had reached Malta. Six had been sunk and the rest driven back.
It had been hoped to make another attempt during the following month- it was essential to wait for dark, moonless nights – but the demand of the battle of the Atlantic, the Russian convoys, and the wars in the Pacific and in South-East Asia had proved too great: there had not been enough ships to spare. However, by August 10 another fleet had been gathered in the Straits of Gibraltar. There were 59 warships to act as close or distant support for the 14 merchant ships whose safe arrival at Malta was the object of the enterprise.
Enemy aircraft, submarines, and surface ships were prepared to deny this convoy, called ‘Pedestal’, its safe passage.
The 14 merchant ships were the biggest and fastest of their types that could be found; 11 were British and two American, while the fourteenth was American built and British manned. This was the Ohio, the only tanker in the convoy, which was to make for herself one of the great names in the history of the sea. She had been specially selected for this operation for her speed and carrying capacity and obtained from the Americans, as there was no equivalent British ship available. For this voyage, which was to be her last, she carried 11,500 tons of kerosene and fuel oil. This cargo was vital for, quite apart from the needs of the RAF and the Navy, Malta depended on fuel oil for every type of mechanical operation, of which the most essential was the well-head pumping, without which there would be no drinking water.
The ships of ‘Pedestal’ entered the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar during the night of August 10/11. Eighteen Italian and three German submarines were waiting for them, spread out along the route to Malta, and in addition to these submarines there were 784 Axis aircraft, 23 Italian and German motor torpedo-boats, and the heavy ships of the Italian fleet.
It was one of the U-boats, U-73, which struck the first blow: coming into the convoy underneath the escorting destroyers, she fired four torpedoes at the aircraft carrier Eagle and hit with all of them. The Eagle capsized and sank within a few minutes, but happily some 900 of the 1,100 men on board were saved.
Three other merchant ships were also badly damaged – including the Ohio, now struck by a crashing Ju-88 which lay athwart her forecastle; shortly afterwards she collected a Stuka on the poop as well. A little later the tanker’s engines finally broke down and she lay dead in the water.
At this stage the formed body of the convoy now reduced to three ships, one on fire – was some 90 miles west of Malta, while two other damaged ships were making their way independently towards their goal. As for the Ohio, she awaited a rescue, which seemed very improbable.
News now came that Italian surface warships were at sea, making for the convoy. But after a great muscle-flexing display by some 150 RAF planes, sending messages in clear suggesting that a great air sweep was about to be made between Malta and Sicily, the Italian ships turned back.
The Ohio was still 70 miles away with her all-important load, petrol for planes and motor transport, kerosene for cooking and lighting, diesel oil for the pumps at the wells, fuel oil for ships. – All this cargo was in a sinking ship, unable to move under her own steam. On August 15th 1942 on the feast of Santa Marija, the Ohio towed by two destroyers, Perm and Ledbry, and one minesweeper Rye, entered Grand Harbour. She discharged her cargo and then lay there, too badly damaged to go to sea again until she was expended as a gunnery target.History Article Source: malteseculturemovement
Photos source: Unknown