Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Axis side in the Second Battle of Sirte

The Italians had been alerted to the British convoy by two submarines and a German Ju-52 flying overhead on 21 March 1942. The battleship Littorio and four destroyers sortied from Taranto at about 12:30am on 22 March. They met the heavy cruisers Trento and Gorizia, escorted by four destroyers that had sailed from Messina. Two other destroyers from Taranto sailed late and one of the four with the Littorio suffered a breakdown and had to leave the fleet. Both German and Italian air reinforcements were sent to Sicily, in preparation for attacks on the convoy. An Italian aircraft sighted the British at 10am on 22 March. The Italian fleet headed west to block the way to Malta. The battle had lasted until dark, when both Admiral Iachino and the commanders in Rome ordered the fleet to break off the action. The Italian warships encountered a heavy gale on their return courses to Taranto and Messina, causing the destroyers Sirocco and Lanciere to founder. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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