Operation Train (i)

This was the British final naval delivery of Supermarine Spitfire single-seat fighters to Malta (28/30 October 1942).

After ‘Baritone’ (i), the elderly fleet carrier Furious departed Gibraltar for Scapa Flow, in the Orkney islands group to the north of the British mainland, on 20 August escorted by the battleship Nelson, light cruiser Kenya, destroyers Eskimo, Fury, Keppel, Malcolm, Somali, Tartar and Venomous, and escort destroyer Bicester. The carrier Argus accompanied the convoy, which arrived on 25 August.

After only a short time with the Home Fleet, Furious was named as part of the British naval force to support the 'Torch' landing in French North-West Africa and, in the period immediately before this, to make a final delivery of Spitfire fighters to Malta Gibraltar. After embarking 31 Spitfire fighters in the Clyde, Furious departed the UK for Gibraltar on 20 October escorted by the destroyers Escapade, Marne and Free Dutch Isaac Sweers. At sea the carrier joined forces with the battleship Duke of York to provide cover for the military convoys also making for Gibraltar as part of the build-up for 'Torch'. The carrier reached Gibraltar on 25 October

On 28 October Furious departed Gibraltar once more, on this occasion escorted by the light cruiser Aurora, light anti-aircraft cruiser Charybdis, and destroyers Achates, Bramham, Cowdray, Vanoc, Verity, Westcott, Wishart and Free Polish Błyskawica. At a position to the west of Malta, the carrier flew off 29 Spitfire fighters, two remaining on board with defects, and all of these reached the island safely. Furious and her escorts returned to Gibraltar on 30 October, and there set about final preparations for her involvement in ‘Torch’.

Italian submarine patrols in the area of 'Train' (i) had taken the form of Emo, Brin, Corallo, Turchese, Axum and Topazio to the south of the Balearic islands group, and Porfido, Nichelio, Asteria and Argo off Cape Bon, but none of these made contact with the British operation. U-565, U-605 and U-431 were also in the area, but failed to locate and attack Furious.

In overall terms, during their operations to deliver aircraft to Malta the British had lost the fleet carrier Ark Royal and had transported 756 aircraft, of which 719 (just over 95%) reached Malta. These aircraft were 353 Hawker Hurricane fighters of which 334 arrived, 385 Spitfire fighters of which 367 arrived, eight Fairey Swordfish attack aircraft of which seven arrived, and 17 Fairey Albacore attack aircraft of which 11 arrived.

It is also worth noting that in the period between 28 October and 7 November of the same year, the cruiser minelayer Welshman and the submarines Parthian, Clyde, Traveller and Thrasher made other deliveries of food, fuel, ammunition and other high-priority supplies to Malta, and during the same time the Italian submarines Micca, Sciesa, Bragadin, Narvalo, Atropo and Zoea delivered fuel and ammunition to the Axis forces in North Africa.