Operation VO

This was a British and French naval operation to intercept and capture or sink six German merchant ships which were known to have departed the neutral Spanish port of Vigo in an effort to break the Allied blockade and reach German ports (10 February/3 March 1940).

To undertake the hunt, a special force under the command of Admiral Sir Martin Dunbar-Nasmith, heading the Western Approaches Command, was created with ships of Admiral Sir Charles Forbes’s Home Fleet (fleet carrier Ark Royal, battle-cruiser Renown, light cruiser Galatea and a number of destroyers including Acasta, Hasty, Vesper and Whitshed), of Dunbar-Nasmith’s own Western Approaches Command, of the Northern Patrol and of Amiral Jean Joseph Jules Noël Comte de Laborde’s French Forces Maritimes de l’Ouest.

On 11 February the French sloop Elan captured the 2,542-ton Rostock and on 12 February the British destroyer Hasty took the 4,709-ton Morea. The 4,709-ton Wahehe was intercepted on 21 February in the area to the south of Iceland by the light cruiser Manchester and destroyer Kimberley of the Northern Patrol, but as a result of adverse weather Kimberley was unable to organise a boarding party until 22 February and take the prize into Kirkwall in the Orkney islands group on 23 February. After breaking through the Allied blockade, the 4,354-ton Orizaba was lost off Skjervøy in northern Norway after going aground. The 7,768-ton Wangoni managed to evade the British submarine Triton off Kristiansand on 28 February and reached Kiel. The last of the German ships, the 3,359-ton Arucas, was scuttled by her own crew on 3 March when she was approached by the British heavy cruiser York in the area to the east of Iceland.