Operation MB2

This was a British naval gunfire bombardment of Bardia and Fort Capuzzo on the coast of North Africa (16/18 August 1940).

On 11 June the positions had been shelled by three light cruisers, four destroyers and the elderly French battleship Lorraine, but for ‘MB2’ heavier firepower was deemed necessary and the task was entrusted to three battleships and one heavy cruiser. The need for the operation had been suggested by intelligence reports that the Italians were massing men and weapons in the area round Fort Capuzzo, some 11 miles (17.75 km) to the south of Bardia and close to the Libyan/Egyptian frontier, while it was also known that there was a miscellany of ammunition and other dumps in the area round Bardia itself.

The assigned portion of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham’s Mediterranean Fleet which departed Alexandria at 10.30 on 16 August under Cunningham’s leadership comprised the battleships Malaya, Ramillies and Warspite, heavy cruiser Kent, and destroyers Diamond, Hereward, Hero, Hostile, Hyperion, Ilex, Juno, Mohawk, Nubian and Australian Stuart, Vendetta and Waterhen of the 2nd, 10th and 14th Destroyer Flotillas.

After sailing, the ships were organised into two primary forces (Force 'A' centred on Warspite and Kent, and Force 'B' on Malaya and Ramillies), and between 06.58 and 07.20 on the following day these bombarded Bardia and Fort Capuzzo, firing 62 15-in (381-mm), an unspecified number of 8-in (203-mm) and 104 6-in (152-mm) shells into the target area. After achieving useful results, the force then turned back to the east in the direction of Alexandria, and on the following day came under Italian air attack by Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bombers, of which it shot down 12, before reaching Alexandria on 18 August.