Operation Begum

'Begum' was a British naval gunfire bombardment of Italian positions at Kismayu and Mogadishu on the Indian Ocean coast of Italian Somaliland before the launch of 'Canvas' (30 January/14 February 1941).

Under the command of Captain J. H. Edelsten, Force 'T' involved in this undertaking was part of Vice Admiral R. Leatham’s Eastern Fleet and comprised the light carrier Hermes with Fairey Swordfish single-engined bombers, the heavy cruisers Shropshire and Hawkins, the light cruisers Capetown and Ceres, and the destroyer Kandahar.

Since the beginning of the same month aircraft of the fleet carrier Formidable had mined the waters off Mogadishu and attacked Italian shipping at Massawa in the Italian colony of Eritrea.

On 31 January the 7,840-ton German supply vessel Tannenfels had departed Kismayu, and on 10/11 February eight Italian and two German merchant vessels attempted to depart Mogadishu for Diego Suárez on the Vichy French island of Madagascar. The crews of three Italian ships (totalling 16,758 tons) scuttled their vessels on 12 February after South African troops approached Kismayu and took the town two days later with gunfire support provided by the heavy cruiser Shropshire. Of the other ships, five Italian vessels (28,055 tons) managed to break out but were spotted by aircraft of the carrier Hermes and heavy cruiser Hawkins. The 7,021-ton German Uckermark was scuttled by her crew on 12 February as Hawkins approached her, while the 509-ton German freighter Askari and 6,861-ton Italian tanker Pensilvania were sunk off Mogadishu by gunfire and bombs. Only 2,315-ton Italian freighter Duca degli Abruzzi and 2,699-ton Italian freighter Somalia reached Diego Suárez.

On 25 February British troops occupied Mogadishu.