The German submarine U-39 was sunk on 14 Sep 1938, north-west of Ireland by depth charges from the British destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN) and HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN). (see map)
On 6 Feb 1941, Force H (Vice Admiral Somerville) left Gibraltar. The battlecruiser HMS Renown, battleship HMS Malaya, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, light cruiser HMS Sheffield and the destroyers HMS Fearless, HMS Foxhound, HMS Foresight, HMS Fury, HMS Encounter and HMS Jersey left Gibraltar to the west with convoy HG-53. This was done to fool German and Italian observers in Spain. In the meantime 4 destroyers HMS Duncan, HMS Isis, HMS Firedrake and HMS Jupiter left Gibraltar and steamed to the east to conduct a anti-submarine sweep. During the night Force H reversed course and passed Gibraltar on a westerly course back into the Mediterranean. There they were joined by the 4 destroyers that conducted the anti-submarine sweep.
On 8 February the Italian fleet left port and steamed south after they received reports of British carrier aircraft south of the Balearen. The Italians thought that there was another convoy to Malta.
Early in the morning of 9 February Renown, Malaya and Sheffield bombarded the Italian city of Genua. In the harbour 4 ships were sunk and 18 were damaged. Also the city itself was damaged.
The Italian fleet turned around and tried to intercept the British ships but due to the bad weather this failed.
In the meantime Ark Royal's arcraft raided Livorno and mined the harbour of La Spezia.
Force H safely returned to Gibraltar on 11 February.
On 18 Jun 1941, the German submarine U-138 was sunk west of Cadiz, in position 36.04N, 07.29W, by depth charges from the British destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Fearless, HMS Forester, HMS Foresight and HMS Foxhound.