Operation LB (ii)

'LB' (ii) was a British naval undertaking to fly 17 Supermarine Spitfire fighters to Malta (17/20 May 1942).

The critical nature of the island’s air defence capability had been eased by the success of 'Bowery', and the opportunity was now taken to maximise upon that, so the fleet carrier Eagle loaded 17 Spitfire fighters (15 of these remaining from 'Picket II') and six Fairey Albacore naval attack biplanes left at Gibraltar by the old carrier Argus on a previous occasion.

In company with Argus, carrying Fairey Fulmar naval fighters for fleet defence, both carriers departed Gibraltar on 17 May under escort of elements of Rear Admiral E. N. Syfret’s Gibraltar-based Force 'H' comprising the light anti-aircraft cruiser Charybdis and the destroyers Antelope, Ithuriel, Partridge, Westcott, Wishart and Wrestler. The destroyer Vidette, delayed at Gibraltar with defects, joined the force on 18 May but was later obliged to return to Gibraltar with further defects.

The aircraft were flown off on 19 May, but the Albacore machines had to return, and were taken back to Gibraltar for a second time. During this operation, Vichy French fighters attacked a patrolling Consolidated Catalina flying boat and downed it, as did they also a Fulmar sent to protect Ithuriel, which rescued the Catalina’s crew.

The naval force returned to Gibraltar on 20 May.