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Armour-piercing shell fired by HMS Malaya, in the nave of Genoa Cathedral

Operation Grog was the name assigned to the British naval and air bombardment of Genoa and La Spezia on the 9th February 1941, by a fleet consisting of HMS Malaya, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Renown and HMS Sheffield, screened by ten fleet destroyers including HMS Foxhound, HMS Foresight, HMS Fury, HMS Firedrake and HMS Jersey.[1][2]

The operation was originally scheduled to start on 31 January 1941, but the ships didn't leave Gibraltar until 6 February.

Four destroyers carried out an anti-submarine sweep while the heavy ships carried out a feint to deceive Italian and German observers into thinking they were supporting a convoy.[3]

Genoa harbour was bombarded on 9 February, with the force sinking four cargo ships and damaging 18.[3] A salvo from HMS Malaya landed between 200 to 50 yards short of the Italian battleship Caio Duilio, undergoing repairs in dry dock north of Molo Ciano; no damage was reported.[4] A targeting error by a gunnery officer on board HMS Malaya led to an armour piercing round hitting Genoa Cathedral, the shell failed to explode and remains on display there.[5]

Ark Royal's aircraft attacked Livorno and mined La Spezia.[3]

An attempt by the Italian fleet to intercept the British force failed, and all ships returned to Gibraltar on 11 February.[3]

There were 144 civilian dead and 272 wounded at Genoa as result of the shelling.[4]


  1. Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd). "SERVICE HISTORIES of ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS in WORLD WAR 2:HMS RENOWN - Renown-class 15in gun Battlecruiser". Naval-History.Net. Retrieved 9-July-2010. 
  2. Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd). "SERVICE HISTORIES of ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS in WORLD WAR 2:HMS Fearless(H67)". Naval-History.Net. Retrieved 9-July-2010. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "UK Battleship of WW1 and WW2:HMS Malaya (BB-6)". Retrieved 10-July-2010. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Brown, David (2002). The Royal Navy and the Mediterranean: September 1939-October 1940. Routledge, p. 51. ISBN 0714652059
  5. "Obituary:Commander Henry Hatfield". Daily Telegraph. 4-July-2010. Retrieved 5-July-2010. 

Coordinates: 44°24′40″N 8°55′58″E / 44.41111°N 8.93278°E / 44.41111; 8.93278

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