This was a British naval undertaking to run vital supplies from the UK to Malta in the fast cruiser minelayer Welshman (1/18 November 1942).
This warship had embarked the first load of supplies for Malta on the Clyde and sailed on 1 May 1942 for Gibraltar, which she reached on 4 May. After loading seven tons of smoke generators from the 11,348-ton Llanstephan Castle, she departed on 8 May, disguised as a French ‘Chacal’ class destroyer, and reached Malta on 10 May despite investigation by German aircraft and attacks off Malta by torpedo craft. Her cargo was unloaded during the day and she sailed at nightfall, arriving at Gibraltar on 12 May.
She had brought 123 passengers (principally RAF personnel) to Malta, as well as 340 tons of stores, mainly ammunition and smoke generators. For the return passage she embarked 146 naval personnel and long-range petrol tanks removed from the Supermarine Spitfire fighters previously arrived from the flightdecks of British and US carriers.
For her second resupply passage, Welshman was loaded on the Clyde with 20 crated Rolls-Royce Merlin aero engines, 40 drums of glycol aero engine coolant, 45 tons of 20-mm ammunition, 116 tons of 0.303-in (7.7-mm) ammunition and 92 tons of smoke generators, as well as 114 RAF personnel. The minelayer left the Clyde independently on 28 May and reached Gibraltar on 2 June.
On passing the boom into Gibraltar she collided with the tug Salvonia and had to be dry-docked for the repair of propeller damage. After this the ship transferred half the engines, glycol and 20-mm ammunition to ships of the ‘Harpoon’ convoy for Malta, and sailed with the convoy on 12 June after embarking a further quantity of smoke generators.
Welshman remained with the convoy until a time early on 15 June and then went on ahead at 28 kt to Malta, where she entered harbour and discharged her cargo in under five hours.
The main body of the convoy, now approaching Malta, was still under heavy attack, so Welshman sailed to rejoin and provide additional anti-aircraft protection. The minelayer rejoined the convoy at 17.30 and remained with it to the approaches to Malta before returning to Gibraltar with the covering force.
After repairs on the Clyde, Welshman started to load further stores for Malta on 7 July. These supplies comprised 150 tons of powdered milk, 100 tons of edible oils, 15 tons of soap, 36 tons of minesweeping gear and a quantity of mail. Some 22 more tons of general cargo were loaded on the following day just before the minelayer sailed for Greenock, where another 4 tons of cargo was loaded and 130 passengers (principally RAF and Fleet Air Arm personnel) were embarked. The ship sailed on 9 July and reached Gibraltar at 01.00 on 14 July, fuelling in the harbour and exchanging 4 tons of cargo for aircraft stores and 20-mm ammunition. The ship sailed before dawn on 14 July, and on the following day was attacked from the air but suffered no damage.
Welshman entered harbour on Malta at dawn on 16 July, when the discharge of her cargo was completed in seven hours and a quantity of baggage embarked. The ship did not sail as the weather precluded the high-speed steaming that would have reduced her periof of vulnerability to air attack, and she remained at Malta until 18 July when she fuelled, embarked 174 passengers (principally merchant navy survivors of ‘Harpoon’) and sailed at dusk of that day. Air attacks on 19 July inflicted no damage, and the ship reached Gibraltar in the afternoon of 20 July.
‘Analyst’ was the final passage by Welshman from the UK with stores for Malta. The ship departed Plymouth on 1 November with 110 tons of powdered milk, 25 tons of dried beans, 25 tons of dried peas, 110 tons of corned beef and 15 18-in (457-mm) air-launched torpedoes; 13 officers, 50 RAF airmen and 50 other ranks of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers were also embarked. The ship was routed via Gibraltar and Algiers and, delayed by weather in the Mediterranean: she sailed from Algiers in the afternoon of 17 November and reached Malta in the morning of the following day.
From Malta, Welshman sailed to Haifa on the coast of Palestine. Here she loaded submarine spares, 44 21-in (533-mm) and six 18-in (457-mm) torpedoes before steaming to Alexandria, where she embarked passengers on 2 December. She then departed to overtake the ‘Portcullis’ convoy and steamed with the convoy during the daylight hours of 3 December before detaching after the fall of night to make a fast passage to Malta, which she reached in the morning of 4 December to unload.
The ship was torpedoed by Kapitänleutnant Albrecht Brandi’s U-617 on 1 February 1943 and sank with the loss of 155 lives including two civilians.