Force K

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Force K
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Active1939–1942
CountryFlag United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.gif United Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Garrison/HQFreetown, Sierra Leone, Malta
EngagementsBattle of the Atlantic
Battle of the River Plate (1939)
Operation Dervish (1941)
Battle of the Tarigo Convoy (1941)
Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (1941)
First Battle of Sirte (1941)
Second Battle of Sirte (1942)
Operation Stoneage (1942)

Force K was the name of several Royal Navy task forces during the Second World War.

History

Operations in the South Atlantic

In September 1939 Force K was based at Freetown, Sierra Leone and consisted of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (1916), the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (1937) and destroyers HMS Hardy (1936), HMS Hostile (1936), HMS Hereward (1936) and HMS Hasty (1936). Force K was to track and destroy German commerce raiders in the South Atlantic operating in area of Permambuco, Brazil, such as the pocket battleship KMS Admiral Graf Spee (1934). In December 1939, after the Battle of the River Plate, Force K was sent to the coast of Uruguay to prevent any sortie by Graf Spee, whose captain had taken the ship into Montevideo harbour in Uruguay. After Graf Spee was scuttled, Force K was disbanded and Ark Royal escorted the cruiser HMS Exeter (1929), which had been damaged in the battle with Graf Spee, back to Britain.

Operations in the North Sea and Norwegian Sea

In July 1941, Philip Vian was specially promoted at the age of 47 to Rear Admiral by the First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound. He was sent on a visit to Russia to negotiate for naval cooperation between the two countries, but these were unsuccessful at the time. He was then appointed to Force K at Scapa Flow, to prepare for convoys to Russia. As part of the preparations, the force, led by Vian in HMS Nigeria, was sent to Spitsbergen and Bear Island where, in August 1941, they destroyed the coal-mining facilities, withdrew the Norwegian settlers, and evacuated the Russian colony back to Russia. During their return, following reports of a German convoy in the area, Vian attacked the convoy in Hammer Fjord, where due to the nature of the fighting, HMS Nigeria rammed and cut in half the German training cruiser Bremse. A few weeks after this event, the first Russian convoys commenced and Force K was disbanded on 6 August 1941.[1][2]

Operations in the Mediterranean

Force K was reformed on 21 October 1941, with the light cruisers HMS Aurora and HMS Penelope and the L and M class destroyers HMS Lance and HMS Lively, to operate from Malta against Italian ships carrying supplies to the Axis forces in North Africa. On the night of 8/9 November 1941, in the Battle of the Duisburg Convoy, Force K sank the convoy, forcing Comando Supremo, the supreme command of the Italian armed forces, to consider Tripoli "practically blockaded". Convoys to Tripoli were suspended, only Benghazi remaining in use. Soon afterwards, Force K was reinforced at Malta by Force B, with the light cruisers HMS Ajax and HMS Neptune and two J-, K- and N-class destroyers. The combined force was so effective that in November 1941, the Axis supply line suffered 60 per cent losses. On 19 December, at about the time of the First Battle of Sirte, ships from both forces ran into a naval minefield while pursuing an Italian convoy, Neptune being sunk and Aurora damaged. The destroyer HMS Kandahar also struck a mine while attempting to assist Neptune and was scuttled the next day by the destroyer HMS Jaguar. Following this and with a resurgence of the Axis aerial bombardment of Malta, the remaining surface ships were withdrawn, except for Penelope, which was too badly damaged to leave. Frequent air attacks while she remained in harbour earned Penelope the nickname "HMS Pepperpot"; the light cruiser sailed for Gibraltar on 8 April 1942, terminating the third Force K.

Operation Stoneage (16–20 November 1942), a convoy to re-victual Malta, was unloaded in record time. The supplies brought to Malta enabled the third incarnation of Force K to be established on 27 November, with the cruisers HMS Cleopatra, HMS Dido and HMS Euryalus and four ships of the 14th Destroyer Flotilla.

On 1 January 1943 the force was reconstituted after the siege of Malta had been lifted ,[3] and placed under the command of Rear-Admiral Arthur J. Power until September 1943.[4] Force K and took part in the final stage of Operation Quadrangle a British naval undertaking by Admiral Sir Henry Harwood’s Mediterranean Fleet to expedite a series of four convoys into Malta from Egypt (6 December 1942/1 January 1943).

In Command

Rear-Admiral Commanding, Force K (1939)

Rear-Admiral Commanding, Force K
Rank Flag Name Term Notes/Ref
1 Rear-Admiral Rear Admiral command Flag RN from 1864.png Henry Harwood Harwood September - December, 1939

Vice-Admiral Commanding, Force K (1939)

Vice-Admiral Commanding, Force K
Rank Flag Name Term Notes/Ref
1 Vice-Admiral Vice Admiral command Flag RN from 1864.png Lionel Victor Wells 13 - 19 December, 1939 also VA Aircraft Carrier's SAtlant Command.[5]

Rear-Admiral Commanding, Force K (1940-41)

Rear-Admiral Commanding, Force K
Rank Flag Name Term Notes/Ref
2 Rear-Admiral Rear Admiral command Flag RN from 1864.png William Frederic Wake-Walker 15 December, 1940 - 23 January, 1941 [6][7]
3 Rear-Admiral Rear Admiral command Flag RN from 1864.png Philip Louis Vian July, 1941 - August, 1941 [8]

Commanding Officer, Force K (Mediterranean) (1941-42)

Commanding Officer, Force K (Mediterranean)
Rank Flag/Insig Name Term Notes/Ref
1 Captain (D) RN Captain Rank Insignia.png Philip John Mack 16 April 1941
2 Commodore 2nd Class Commodore 2nd class command flag RN from 1864.png William Gladstone Agnew September - December 1941 [9][10][11]
3 Captain RN Captain Rank Insignia.png Angus Dacres Nicholl 22 March 1942

Flag Officer Commanding, Force K (1943)

Flag Officer Commanding, Force K
Rank Flag Name Term Notes/Ref
1 Rear-Admiral Rear Admiral command Flag RN from 1864.png Arthur John Power January, 1943 - 24 September, 1943 [12]

References

  1. "Philip Vian Library and Information Services Information sheet no 023" (PDF). nmrn-portsmouth.org.uk. National Museum of the Royal Navy. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  2. Foot, I. C. B. DearI C. B. DearM R. D. (2003). "Force K". The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780198604464.001.0001/acref-9780198604464-e-626.
  3. Foot, I. C. B. DearI C. B. DearM R. D. (2003). "Force K". The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780198604464.001.0001/acref-9780198604464-e-626.
  4. Heathcote, T. A. (2002). "Power, Sir Arthur John". The British Admirals of the Fleet, 1734–1995: A Biographical Dictionary. Barnsley, England: Pen and Sword. ISBN 978-1-4738-1270-3.
  5. Grove, Eric (2013). "Appendix B1: Battle Summary No 26: South Atlantic Command Forces 13 December 1939". World War II and the German fleet. Oxford: Routledge. p. 38. ISBN 9781135283223.
  6. Houterman, Hans; Koppes, Jeroen. "Royal Navy (RN) Officers 1939-1945 - W". www.unithistories.com. Netherlands: Houterman and Koppes. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  7. Lhoyd-Owen, J. H. (5 January 2012). "Walker, Sir William Frederic Wake- (1888–1945), naval officer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. London and Oxford: A & C Black and Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-36678. Revised by Marc Brodie
  8. National Museum of the Royal Navy
  9. Houterman, Hans; Koppes, Jeroen. "World War II unit histories & RN officers: A". www.unithistories.com. Netherlands: Houterman and Koppes. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  10. Muir, Dan. "Battle of the Duisberg Convoy 9 November 1941". navweps. Tony DiGiulian. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  11. Nicholl, A. D. (6 January 2011). "Agnew, Sir William Gladstone (1898–1960), naval officer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. London and Oxford: A & C Black and Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-30349. Retrieved 21 May 2021. Revised by Marc Brodie
  12. Foot, I. C. B. DearI C. B. DearM R. D. (2003). "Force K". The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford University Press.