Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Italian fleet menaces the Vigorous convoy

A Martin Baltimore based on Malta was on a maritime reconnaissance mission when the crew spotted the Italian fleet leaving Taranto at 6:45pm on 14 June 1942. The battleships were misidentified as Cavour class, when they were actually the faster Littorio class. The harbor at Taranto was photographed by a reconnaissance aircraft at 8pm. The photographs showed that the Cavours were still at Taranto, so that meant that the battleships that the Baltimore saw were Littorios. Admiral Vian could see, by 11pm, that he might be intercepted by the Italian fleet in the morning. At Admiral Harwood's orders, they continued west until 2am and then turned east. Right after this, the cruiser Newcastle was torpedoed by a motor torpedo boat, but was able to continue at 24 knots. A bit later, the destroyer Hardy was torpedoed and had to be sunk. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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