Operation Salient (ii)

This was the British naval delivery of Supermarine Spitfire fighters to Malta (8/10 June 1942).

Forced by the imminent threat of starvation on Malta, the decision to run the ‘Harpoon’ eastbound and ‘Vigorous’ westbound convoys to Malta at the same time necessitated a further supply of fighters to provide the level of fighter protection which was required to fend off Axis air attacks. The 5,231-ton British freighter Hopetarn departed Milford Haven on 26 May, escorted by the frigate Rother and corvette Armeria, with 32 crated Spitfire fighters, 13 RAF officers and 106 other ranks to assemble the aircraft at Gibraltar after arrival on 2 June within ‘Maintop’, which was the RAF’s contribution to the undertaking.

The fleet carrier Eagle embarked these aircraft on completion and sailed on 8 June escorted by the light anti-aircraft cruisers Cairo and Charybdis and the destroyers Antelope, Ithuriel, Partridge, Westcott, Wishart and Wrestler. The aircraft were flown off on 9 June in an undertaking also associated with the RAF codename ‘Maintop’, and all reached Malta safely, while the ships returned to Gibraltar to prepare for the ‘Harpoon’ supply convoy.