Operation Ration

This was the British overall designation of a naval programme to effect a maritime blockade of Vichy France through the interception and sinking or capture of Vichy French ships travelling in convoy (January 1941/1942).

Components of ‘Ration’ were ‘Oversight’, ‘Bellringer’, ‘Bedlam’, ‘Ship’ and ‘Kedgeree’.

On 1 January 1941, for example, the light anti-aircraft cruiser Bonaventure and the destroyers Duncan, Firedrake, Foxhound, Hero and Jaguar intercepted a French convoy with the 9,986-ton passenger ship Chantilly, 2,034-ton tanker Octane, 2,318-ton freighter Suroit and 3,252-ton freighter Sally Maersk, escorted by an armed trawler, in the Mediterranean off Oran after passing unmolested through the Strait of Gibraltar. As the British force attempted to halt the convoy, the destroyers Duncan and Jaguar hit Chantilly with machine gun fire, killing one man and one child, and wounding four other persons. The ships were seized and sent toward Gibraltar, but were dispersed in a storm before they arrived.

On 30 March 1941, the light cruiser Sheffield and the destroyers Faulknor, Fearless, Forester and Fury departed Gibraltar to intercept the Vichy French K.42 convoy, which comprised the 8,056-ton Bangkok believed to be carrying 3,000 tons of rubber, 2,998-ton Azrou, 8,009-ton Cap Varella and 6,013-ton San Diego, escorted by the destroyer Simoun. Fearless was unable to board any of the ships after they had taken cover under the guns of the Vichy French coastal battery at Nemours. As Sheffield and Forester were returning to Gibraltar, they were damaged by the near miss of bombs dropped by Vichy French warplanes.

On 20 March 1942 Lockheed Hudson maritime reconnaissance and Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft began daily reconnaissance flights from airfields in the Gold Coast over the ports of neighbouring Ivory Coast, which was controlled by Vichy France, and located three ships in Port Bovet.