Tuesday, October 02, 2007
22 March 1942: the Gulf of Sirte
On the night of 21-22 March 1942, the convoy to Malta had been overflown by German transports and was seen. At 5am on 22 March, the submarine P36 reported seeing the Italian fleet sortie from Taranto. They had actually sailed about 1am. That would mean that the British could expect to see the Italian fleet by the afternoon. The convoy lost its fighter cover by 9am, as they sailed out of range of fighter aircraft based in Cyrenaica. They had experienced a few desultory attacks by SM79 trimotor torpedo bombers but they had not inflicted any damage. The escorts under Admiral Vian's command prepared for surface action against a much stronger Italian force. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.