I’m thinking of my Taid today, my grandfather, Jim Honeybill who, seventy years ago, will have spent the day getting ready to leave Malta with MV Ajax, in the company of the Sydney Star, Cty of Calcutta and Clan Ferguson, accompanied by Force K and heading for Egypt.
I expect he will have been relieved to get back to sea. They been on Malta since the end of September and had been bombed for most of the time. The Ajax was hit by a bomb on Christmas Eve and sailed with a hole in her stern.
And on board the Sydney Star was Tom Neil of 249 squadron who was very happy to be on his way. He writes in Onward to Malta
Everywhere was a hive of industry, there was a vibrant air of tension and preparation, a new experience for me, as, although I had been to Valetta many times before, I had never been in the centre in the Naval dockyard and so close to the business end of Grand Harbour. All the vessels looked worn and tiredly travel stained with peeling paintwork and rust streaks everywhere, their guns starkly in evidence and already elevated skywards like a thicket of grey sticks…..
We learned that four merchantmen, one of which would be our home for the immediate future [the Sydney Star], were refrigerator ships normally employed on the London-New Zealand run. There would form the nucleus of a convoy and, accompanied by at least the bulk if Force ‘K’ would be making a swift and desperate dash for Egypt….
Within minutes, several of the destroyers [Arrow, Lance, Lively, Gurkha, Foxhound and Nestor] alongside us began to glide slowly towards the entrance of Grand Harbour and tremors beneath the deck indicated that we were abut to follow. We were off. After seven months in Malta. Of my route and what lay ahead of me, I had not the slightest idea, nor did I care very much. I was going home… Nothing else mattered.