Sunday, September 16, 2007
The new Axis convoy strategy
With the weakened state of the Mediterranean Fleet and air force in the theater, the Axis forces changed strategies for convoying supplies to Libya. They had experimented with heavy escorts in December, and starting with a convoy that arrived on 5 January 1942, they started using the heavy Italian warships to provide protection. In company with that, the Luftwaffe flew air cover and heavily bombed Malta. Using that approach, they were able to ship 66,000 tons of supplies to Libya in January. Their losses were very small. The convoy that arrived on 5 January was accompanied by 4 battleships, 6 cruisers, with 24 destroyers and torpedo boats (really small destroyers). From 30 December to 5 January, Malta had been attacked by "over 400 enemy aircraft". The 5 January convoy brought "Fifty four tanks, nineteen armoured cars, forty-two guns and much ammunition, fuel and general stores" to Tripoli. In late January, one convoy was attacked by Bristol Beauforts and Fleet Air Arm Albacores, which succeeded in sinking the 13,000 ton liner Victoria. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.