Operation Approach

'Approach' was a British operation by ships of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham’s Mediterranean Fleet to move supplies from Alexandria to Tobruk along the North African coast as part of 'Crusader' by Lieutenant General Sir Alan Cunningham’s 8th Army to effect the relief of Tobruk (13/23 November 1941).

The operation was conceived as a successor to 'Treacle', 'Supercharge' (i) and 'Cultivate', and began on 13 November as the destroyers Encounter, Kipling and Jackal departed Alexandria to deliver stores to Tobruk as the first element of the 'Approach' undertaking. Lieutenant General Władysław Sikorsky, the prime minister of the Polish government-in-exile, took passage in Kipling to inspect the Polish troops at Tobruk, and the ships returned to Alexandria on 14 November.

On 14 November the cruiser minelayer Abdiel departed Alexandria with the destroyers Hero, Hotspur and Nizam for Tobruk in the second 'Approach' undertaking, and the ships returned to Alexandria on 15 November with Sikorsky on board Abdiel.

On 16 November the destroyers Decoy, Jackal and Kipling departed Alexandria in the third 'Approach' undertaking. The destroyers returned to Alexandria on 17 November.

On 18 November the fourth 'Approach' undertaking was partially cancelled, only the 811-ton tanker Toneline and 1,009-ton tanker Lesbos departing Alexandria escorted by the Australian sloops Parramatta and Yarra, minesweeping whaler Sotra and two anti-submarine trawlers. When Toneline suffered a mechanical failure, Parramatta aided the tanker to return to Mersa Matruh whence, after repairs, the tanker sailed after dark on 19 November for Tobruk. Lesbos arrived late at Tobruk escorted by the anti-submarine whaler Klo. This vessel and the motor launch ML-1048 were then damaged by shellfire on 20 November, but after the completion of temporary repairs, Klo was able to depart for Alexandria.

On 21 November, the Tobruk garrison broke out to the east to meet the advancing 8th Army, and to delivery much needed supplies to Tobruk the Australian sloops Parramatta and Yarra escorted a slow convoy to Tobruk. To reduce the garrison’s acute shortage of ammunition, Parramatta and the escort destroyer Avon Vale then escorted the 1,360-ton ammunition transport Hanne to Tobruk, Kapitšnleutnant Han Heidtmann’s U-559 torpedoing and sinking Parramatta off Tobruk on 27 November.

To support the operation and at the same time to simulate a supply convoy to Malta, Cunningham’s Mediterranean Fleet also put to sea, escorted by the destroyers Napier, Nizam, Kipling, Jackal, Kimberley and Kingston. On 19 November Kipling and Jackal undertook a gunfire bombardment of Axis targets in the area of the Halfaya Pass. On 21 November Cunningham launched a second diversionary operation of an essentially similar nature.