Operation Bellringer

This was a British sub-operation within ‘Ration’ to intercept a lightly escorted Vichy French convoy in the Atlantic Ocean to the south of the Cape of Good Hope (1/2 November 1941).

The British ships involved in this undertaking were the heavy cruiser Devonshire, light cruiser Colombo, and armed merchant cruisers Carnavon Castle and Carthage.

The operation located the Vichy French convoy, on passage from French Indo-China via Madagascar to France, in a position to the east of the Cape of Good Hope, and captured all five of the merchant vessels. These were the 8,056-ton freighter Bangkok, 5,529-ton freighter Commandant Dorise, 9,986-ton liner Compiègne, 8,009-ton liner Cap Touraine and 8,009-ton liner Cap Padaran. The convoy was escorted only by the sloop D’Iberville, which was able to withdraw unmolested.

Among the cargo items thus seized by the British were 900 tons of graphite and 30,000 tons of rice.

Its crew immobilised Cap Padaran, which was taken in tow by Carthage, escorted by the minesweeping whaler Stellenberg, and taken to Port Elizabeth.

Its crew set Bangkok on fire and abandoned the ship, Colombo and Stellenberg taking off the crew.

The other three Vichy French vessels were taken to South African ports: Devonshire and the minesweeping whaler Steenberg escorted Cap Touraine to Port Elizabeth; Carnarvon Castle and the minesweeping whaler Gun 9 escorted Commandant Dorise to East
London; and Colombo and the minesweeping whaler Nigel escorted Compiègne to East London.

The South African minesweeping whalers Southern Barrier and Terje supported the operation.

In response, the Vichy French admiralty ordered the submarines Glorieux and Héros, which were on passage to Madagascar, to attack British shipping. Héros accordingly sank the 5,757-ton Norwegian freighter Thode Fagelund on 17 November.