Operation Hurry, 1-4 August 1940

Operation Hurry (1-4 August 1940) was a Royal Navy operation whose main purpose was to ferry twelve Hawker Hurricane aircraft to Malta, where they were desperately needed to reinforce the beleaguered garrison. The operation involved just about every British warship in the Mediterranean, from both Admiral Andrew Cunningham’s fleet at Alexandria and Admiral Somerville’s Force H at Gibraltar.

Most of this naval activity was designed to prevent the Italians from attacking Force H, which was escorting the carrier HMS Argus and the Hurricanes. Cunningham took a force that included the carrier Eagle and the battleships Malaya and Warspite to a position west of Crete, another force acted as if it was about to attack the Italian held island of Kastellorizo, and a third force made a feint towards the Kithera Channel from the Aegean. The Malaya soon developed a fault which forced Cunningham to return to Alexandria, but the Italians were confused by his movements and decided to stay in port.

Meanwhile Admiral Somerville was approaching Malta from the west with the Argus and the Ark Royal, as well as the battlecruiser Hood and the battleships Valiant and Resolution, two cruisers and ten destroyers. Somerville split this force in two. The Ark Royal and the Hood were sent to launch an attack on Cagliari, and early on 2 August eight Swordfish aircraft attacked the airfield, destroying a number of Italian aircraft, and laid mines in the outer harbour.

At 04.45am on 2 August the Argus was in place south west of Sardinia, and the Hurricanes were launched. All twelve aircraft reached Malta, where they formed part of a new No.261 Squadron (the pilots of the aircraft only discovered that they were to form part of this new squadron when they reached the island!). Somerville’s force then turned back to the west, reaching Gibraltar on 4 August. This was the first of a long series of successful attempts to ferry fighter aircraft to Malta using aircraft carriers, although the next attempt, Operation Coat of November 1940 would end in failure.  

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 July 2008), Operation Hurry, 1-4 August 1940 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/operation_hurry.html

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