Saturday, October 06, 2007
The Second Battle of Sirte, continued
In the late afternoon, as Admiral Vian's force closed with the convoy, they spotted the Italians in the distance. There was on modern battleship, two cruisers armed with 8in guns, one light cruiser armed with 6in guns, and four smaller ships. The Italian fleet included the battleship Littorio, the heavy cruisers Gorizia and Trento, the light cruiser Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, and seven destroyers, including the Sirocco and Lanciere. The British were fortunate to be upwind, so their smoke drifted towards the Italians, who were reluctant to enter the smoke for fear of torpedo attack. In fact, at 6:06pm, the cruiser Cleopatra turned and fired three torpedoes. At this point, the Italians put up a smoke screen as an anti-torpedo measure. The four J and K class destroyers came up, presently, as they had received a garbled message from Admiral Vian and saw the Italians on the horizon. The division commander, Captain Poland, led a torpedo attack on the Littorio. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.