23rd July 1941 - Convoy located by Italian air reconnaissance and in the subsequent air attacks, MANCHESTER was hit by an aerial torpedo in the Boiler Room sustaining heavy damage. 26 sailors lost their lives. This resulted in the ship returning to Gibraltar on one shaft escorted by the destroyers. AVON VALE, VIDETTE, VIMY and WISHART.
26th July 1941 - MANCHESTER arrived back at Gibraltar. Temporary repairs were carried out prior to the ship sailing to the USA for permanent repairs and a re fit.
17th September 1941 - MANCHESTER sailed from Gibraltar, escorted by the destroyer FIREDRAKE bound for Philadelphia. The destroyer HEYTHROP providing additional escort to a position 25 degrees west.
23rd September 1941 - Commenced repairs and refit in Philadelphia. Equipment changes during this period included the removal of Radar Type 286 and the installation of Radar Types 273, 279, 282, 284 and 285 and the addition of 3 single 20mm guns.
13th January 1942 - Rear Admiral Stuart Bonham-Carter hoisted his flag aboard MANCHESTER.
3rd March 1942 (Source A), 8th March 1942 (Source B) - Post refit sea trials, and on completion MANCHESTER took passage to Bermuda for further trials and shakedown.
18th March 1942 - MANCHESTER arrived at Portsmouth for completion of outstanding repairs.
2nd May 1942 - MANCHESTER rejoined Home Fleet at Scapa Flow for Northern Patrol and convoy defence duties.
1st June 1942 - Detached to cover 1st Minelaying Squadron on operations in Northern Barrage. Returned to Northern Patrol on completion.
25th June 1942 - Detached with destroyer ECLIPSE to take stores and personnel to relieve the garrison at Spitzberger.
3rd July 1942 - On passage to join battleship DUKE of YORK and US battleship USS WASHINGTON, aircraft carrier VICTORIOUS and cruisers CUMBERLAND and NIGERIA for provision of Distant Cover for the ill fated Russian Convoy PQ17.
4th July 1942 (Source A) - MANCHESTER sailed from Sptizbergen.
4th July 1942 (Source B) - After dispersal of Convoy PQ17, MANCHESTER returned to Scapa Flow (whilst Source A states she returned to the Clyde!) At this time Rear Admiral Bonham-Carter left the ship.
During July / early August 1942, MANCHESTER was detailed to join the large naval force that was being assembled to provide the escort for what possibly was the most famous and most important single convoy operation of World War II. The relief of Malta - OPERATION PEDESTAL.
2nd August 1942 - MANCHESTER sailed from the Clyde in company with the cruisers NIGERIA - flying the flag of Rear Admiral Burrough, KENYA and CAIRO and the escorting destroyers ASHANTI, BICESTER, BRAMHAM, DERWENT, FORESIGHT, FURY, ICARUS, INTREPID, LEDBURY, PATHFINDER and PENN together with four of the fourteen convoy merchantmen - SANTA ELISA, ALMERIA LYKES, PORT CHALMERS and the tanker OHIO.
10th August 1942 - The ships that had sailed from the Clyde were joined by the main covering force of the battleships NELSON and RODNEY, the aircraft carriers EAGLE, FURIOUS, INDOMITABLE and VICTORIOUS and the cruisers CHARYBDIS, PHOEBE and SIRIUS in the Straits of Gibraltar and together with the other ten merchantmen BRISBANE STAR, DORSET, CLAN FERGUSON, DEUCALION, EMPIRE HOPE, GLENORCHY, MELBOURNE STAR, ROCHESTER CASTLE, WAIMARAMA and WAIRANGI.
The story of OPERATION PEDESTAL is well documented elsewhere, but suffice to say the Royal Navy lost an aircraft carrier, two cruisers and a destroyer whilst other ships were extensively damaged and only five merchantmen made it to Malta.
13th August 1942 - At 0105 local time when in position 36.50N, 11.10E some 4 miles off Kellibia, Tunisia, MANCHESTER was struck amidships on the starboard side by two torpedoes fired by Italian torpedo boats MAS16 and MAS22 and among the compartments flooded were the engine room, after boiler room and the 4" magazine. The ship was completely disabled with no power and developed a 12 degree list. Casualties were mercifully light at circa 15.
Some 158 members of the ship's company were taken off by the destroyer PATHFINDER whilst others were subsequently rescued from rafts by ESKIMO and SOMALI. However, efforts to control the flooding and enable the ship to return to Gibraltar proved unsuccessful and scuttling charges were placed. After the remainder of the ship's company had abandoned ship the charges were detonated - a torpedo from PATHFINDER is reported to have assisted in the sinking.
HMS MANCHESTER sank at 0400 local time on the 13th August, 1942.
Those members of the ship's company not picked up by the destroyers managed to get ashore in Tunisia where they were interned in appalling conditions by the pro-German Vichy French Authorities.
Primary sources of information -
A. HMS MANCHESTER - Operational history - supplied by Secretary Maurice Broad.
B. Service Histories of RN Warships in World War II by Geoffrey Mason.
C. Malta Convoy - by Peter Shankland and Anthony Hunter 1961.
Note: The website of the MELBOURNE STAR, www.melbournestar.co.uk one of the surviving merchantmen of OPERATION PEDESTAL is well worth a visit.