Operation MBD1

This was a British naval and air bombardment of villages and roads along the Libyan coast of North Africa (16/17 September 1940).

The operation was only a modest success, and the ships involved were part of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham’s Mediterranean fleet. The main component of the undertaking was the attack on Benghazi by aircraft launched from the fleet carrier Illustrious. Off the west coast of occupied Crete, the two forces which had sortied from Alexandria changed course for Benghazi and divided into three groups. Force ‘A’ comprised Illustrious, light cruiser Orion and destroyers Hasty, Hero, Mohawk and Nubian; Force ‘B’ comprised the battleship Valiant and destroyers Decoy, Hyperion and Australian Waterhen; and Force ‘C’ comprised the heavy cruiser Kent, light cruisers Gloucester and Liverpool, and destroyers Hereward and Jervis.

On 17 September Illustrious launched an attack on Benghazi: nine Fairey Swordfish aircraft of No. 815 Squadron attacked shipping in the harbour, and six Swordfish aircraft of No. 819 Squadron laid mines off the harbour. Aircraft of No. 815 Squadron launched torpedoes which sank the Italian destroyer Borea at Benghazi, and the mines laid by aircraft of No. 815 Squadron sank the Italian destroyer Aquilone off Benghazi. Air-launched torpedoes from No. 815 Squadron also sank two Italian merchant ships (5,490-ton Gloria Stella and 4,702-ton Maria Eugenia) and also damaged the torpedo boats Cigno and Enrico Cosenz, as well as three merchant ships, off Benghazi.