Thursday, October 11, 2007

After 5pm on 22 March 1942

Admiral Vian's ships fired at long range at the Italian ships, and then he turned his ships to get a clear view. About 5:40pm, on 22 March 1942, they fired at the Italian battleship at extreme range. They soon saw the battleship Littorio at a range of 8 miles, heading towards them at high speed. The British fleet destroyers saw the battleship and started firing, but the seas were rough, and they were not able to spot their fall of shot. The Sikh was soon straddled. Her captain fired two torpedoes see if he could cause the Italians to fall back. Admiral Iachino commanded the Italian fleet in the Second Battle of Sirte. He could not see the British convoy and had to depend on aerial reconnaissance reports. By 6pm, he was down to about 10-1/2 miles from the convoy and could have hit the ships with his 15in guns. He had no reports about the convoy's location so the Littorio did not fire at it. At about 6pm, Admiral Vian decided to fire torpedoes at the Italians. At 6:03pm, he saw the Littorio, at 6-1/2 miles, and opened fire. At 6:06pm, the cruiser Cleopatra turned and fired three torpedoes. The Littorio then turned away into smoke. The British First Division closed the action. They saw the Littorio at 6:34pm and closed from six to three miles for a torpedo attack. At 6:41pm, the destroyer Kingston took a large caliber hit, although was able to fire three torpedoes before withdrawing. The other destroyers in the First Division fired another 22 torpedoes. The fighting ended at 6:50pm, when the Italians turned away. The Cleopatra had taken a 6in from the Giovanni della Bande Nere. The destroyer Havock had also taken a large caliber hit. The cruiser Euryalus and destroyer Lively had taken splinter damage. The Littorio had taken only one light shell hit at 6:51pm. No British torpedoes found their mark. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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