Operation Gelding

'Gelding' was a British small-scale naval operation against an Italian convoy reported to be off Crete on passage to North Africa (30 August/1 September 1942).

The motor torpedo boats MTB-315, MTB-311, MTB-312, MTB-307, MTB-305 and MTB-316 departed Alexandria on 30 August to attack Italian shipping on its way from the Aegean Sea to North Africa. The last three of these boats carried additional fuel to serve as tankers to refuel the first three boats in the area to the north-west of Alexandria.

During the night of 31 August/1 September, the three boats tasked with delivering the attack reached a position to the south of Crete, but were then compelled to turn back as a result of deteriorating weather conditions. On the return passage to Alexandria the three boats came under repeated attack, one of these involving 10 aircraft. All of the air attacks were beaten off, and no damage or casualties were suffered by the boats, which reached Alexandria at 10.40.

The pace and extent of naval operations in the eastern part of the Mediterranean at this time is indicated by a brief account of activities during the first 10 days of August. Several small Axis convoys, each comprising one or two transports, made the passage between Taranto, Brindisi and Greek ports in the north and Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk in the south under escort of the destroyers Quintino Sella, Premuda (ex-Yugoslav Dubrovnik), Alpino, Corazziere, Saetta, Freccia, Turbine, Grecale, Folgore, Legionario, Corsaro, Folgore and Sebenico (ex-Yugoslav Beograd), the torpedo boats Circe, Orsa, Centauro, Pallade, Polluce, Calliope, Partenope, Pegaso, Cantore, Castore, Perseo, Procione, Lupo, Sagittario, Procione, Montanari, Lince and Calatafimi, and the German destroyer ZG 3 (ex-Greek Hermes).

Between 1 and 4 August the transports Rosolino Pilo and Amsterdam, carrying 3,000 and 2,000 prisoners of war respectively, reached Naples without loss, and on 3/5 August two convoys with three transports, escorted by the destroyers Freccia, Turbine, Grecale and Folgore and by the destroyers Legionario and Corsaro and torpedo boats Calliope, Partenope and Pegaso respectively, reached Tobruk and Benghazi without incident.

On 3 August, off the coast of Libya, the British submarine Thorn sank the 5,322-ton transport Monviso, which had been slightly damaged by an air-launched torpedo on 28 July, as it was being escorted by the destroyers Alpino and Corazziere.

After two unsuccessful attacks on a tanker escorted by the destroyers Turbine and Grecale, however, the British submarine Thorn was sunk on 7 August by Pegaso in the area to the south-west of Crete. On 5 August the British submarine Turbulent departed Beirut, on 8 August recovered an agent off the south-western tip of Crete, and during the night 11/12 August landed two other agents near Navarino. On 17 August, off Kythira, the submarine attacked a convoy comprising the 7,137-ton transport Nino Bixio, with about 2,800 prisoners of war on board, and Sestriere, which were on passage from Benghazi to Piraeus under escort of the destroyers Nicoloso da Recco and Saetta and the torpedo boats Castore, Orione and Polluce. Turbulent torpedoed Nino Bixio to the south-west of Navarino, and Saetta then towed the damaged ship into that port, but 336 prisoners of war were killed.

Patrolling to the south-west of Crete, Turbulent sighted but missed a ship on 19 August, and then returned to Beirut.