Operation Rembrandt

'Rembrandt' was a British decoy operation within 'Vigorous' (ii) involving the sailing from Port Said of the MW.11C diversionary group (11/13 June 1942).

Comprising the 6,800-ton Dutch Aagtekirk, 6,100-ton British Bhutan, 8,063-ton British City of Calcutta and 5,560-ton British Rembrandt, light cruiser Coventry and escort destroyers Airedale, Aldenham, Beaufort, Croome, Dulverton, Eridge, Exmoor, Hurworth and Tetcott of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla, the MW.11C convoy was to sail as far to the west as Tobruk before turning back to meet the main convoy.

The convoy departed Port Said during the afternoon of 11 June, the four merchantmen each towing one motor torpedo boat, and headed to the west along the coast of North Africa. 'Rembrandt' had been designed to give the impression of being the whole reinforcement bound for Malta, in the hope that this would draw out the Italian fleet prematurely, exposing it to submarine attack and wasting its precious fuel.

Instead of the Italian fleet, however, the MW.11C convoy was attacked during the evening of 12 June by 15 Junkers Ju 88 bombers of Hauptmann Georg Graf von Platen’s I/Kampfgeschwader 54 from an airfield on Crete. The bombing achieved a near-miss on City of Calcutta, the concussion damaging the ship’s engines and causing the freighter to come to a stop with a list as water entered no. 5 hold. Soon after this, however, the vessel was under way again, though she signalled that her speed was down to 11 kt.

At 23.00 on the same evening further damage reports persuaded Captain R. J. R. Dendy of Coventry to detach City of Calcutta to Tobruk, so she left towing her motor torpedo boat, escorted by Exmoor and Croome. Under cover of the short summer night, the MW.11C convoy then reversed course to make the rendezvous with the remaining two-thirds of the convoy.