Operation MAQ3

This was a British carrierborne air undertaking by Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham’s Mediterranean Fleet against the airfield on the island of Scarpanto (Kárpathos in Greek) currently being used by the Junkers Ju 87 dive-bombers of Hauptmann Hein Brückner’s III/Stukageschwader 2 (25/27 May 1941).

On 25 May Vice Admiral H. A. Pridham-Wippell departed Alexandria with Force ‘A’ (battleships Queen Elizabeth and Barham, fleet carrier Formidable, and destroyers Hasty, Hereward, Janus, Jervis, Kandahar, Nubian and Australian Vendetta and Voyager) against the Axis air base on Scarpanto, some 50 miles (80 km) to the east of Crete. The attack took place on 26 May and achieved surprise, but the four Fairey Albacore bombers, which were escorted by four Fairey Fulmar fighters, which had been launched at 05.30, were too few in number to inflict significant and longer-term damage on Axis air strength.

At 07.00 Force ‘A’ was then joined by the light cruiser Ajax, light anti-aircraft cruiser Dido and destroyers Jackal, Kelvin, Napier and Nubian. The strengthened Force ‘A’ next withdrew to the south before changing course, at 12.00, to the west to cover a northbound convoy. At 13.00 Force ‘A’ was 90 miles (145 km) to the north-east of Bardia when it was attacked by a force of 40 Junkers Ju 87 dive-bombers. In the attack Formidable was seriously damaged and Nubian had her stern damaged by a bomb. At 20.00 hours the destroyer Decoy joined Force ‘A’, and 30 minutes later Formidable, Decoy, Hereward, Nubian, Vendetta and Voyager were detached to Alexandria.

At 06.00 on 27 May, Force ‘A’ was 250 miles (400 km) to the south-east of the Strait of Kásos when Ajax, Dido and Jackal were detached to Alexandria. At 08.58 Force ‘A’ was attacked by 15 Junkers Ju 88 and Heinkel He 111 bombers, Barham being hit on one of her after turrets and damaged by near misses. As a result of the damage to Barham, Force ‘A’ was ordered to return to Alexandria, which it reached at 19.00.