The Battle of Taranto took place on the night of 11–12 November 1940 during the Second World War between British naval forces, under Admiral Andrew Cunningham, and Italian naval forces, under Admiral Inigo Campioni. The Royal Navy launched the first all-aircraft ship-to-ship naval attack in history, employing 21 obsolete Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious in the Mediterranean Sea. The attack struck the battle fleet of the Regia Marina at anchor in the harbour of Taranto, using aerial torpedoes despite the shallowness of the water. The success of this attack augured the ascendancy of naval aviation over the big guns of battleships. According to Admiral Cunningham, "Taranto, and the night of 11–12 November 1940, should be remembered for ever as having shown once and for all that in the Fleet Air Arm the Navy has its most devastating weapon."
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, was a senior officer of the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He was widely known by his nickname, "ABC".
Inigo Campioni was an Italian naval officer during most of the first half of the 20th century. He served in four wars, and is best known as an admiral in the Italian Royal Navy during World War II. He was later executed by the Italian Social Republic for refusing to collaborate.
Long before the First World War, the Italian Regia Marina 's First Squadron was based at Taranto, a port-city on Italy's south-east coast. In that period, the British Royal Navy developed plans for countering the power of the Regia Marina. Blunting the power of any adversary in the Mediterranean Sea was an ongoing exercise. Plans for the capture of the port at Taranto were considered as early as the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935.
The Regia Marina was the navy of the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 to 1946. In 1946, with the birth of the Italian Republic, the Regia Marina changed its name to Marina Militare.
Taranto is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base.
The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.
In 1940–41, Italian Army operations in North Africa, based in Libya, required a supply line from Italy. The British Army's North African Campaign, based in Egypt, suffered from much greater supply difficulties. Supply convoys to Egypt had to either cross the Mediterranean via Gibraltar and Malta near the coast of Sicily, or steam around the Cape of Good Hope, up the east coast of Africa, and then through the Suez Canal to reach Alexandria. The latter was a very long and slow route, and the Italian fleet was in an excellent position to interdict British supplies and reinforcements using the direct route through the Mediterranean.[ citation needed ]
The Italian Army is the land-based component of the Italian Armed Forces of the Italian Republic. The army's history dates back to the unification of Italy in the 1850s and 1860s. The army fought in colonial engagements in China, Libya, Northern Italy against the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I, Abyssinia before World War II and in World War II in Albania, Greece, North Africa, Russia and Italy itself. During the Cold War, the army prepared itself to defend against a Warsaw Pact invasion from the east. Since the end of the Cold War, the army has seen extensive peacekeeping service and combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its best-known combat vehicles are the Dardo infantry fighting vehicle, the Centauro tank destroyer and the Ariete tank and among its aircraft the Mangusta attack helicopter, recently deployed in UN missions. The headquarters of the Army General Staff are located in Rome, at the back of the Presidential Palace. The army is an all-volunteer force of active-duty personnel.
North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Morocco in the west, to Egypt's Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the east. Others have limited it to top North-Western countries like Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, a region that was known by the French during colonial times as “Afrique du Nord” and is known by all Arabs as the Maghreb. The most commonly accepted definition includes Algeria, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, the 6 countries that shape the top North of the African continent. Meanwhile, “North Africa”, particularly when used in the term North Africa and the Middle East, often refers only to the countries of the Maghreb and Libya. Egypt, being also part of the Middle East, is often considered separately, due to being both North African and Middle Eastern at the same time. North Africa includes a number of Spanish and Portuguese possessions, Plazas de soberanía, Ceuta and Melilla and the Canary Islands and Madeira. The countries of North Africa share a common ethnic, cultural and linguistic identity that is unique to this region. Northwest Africa has been inhabited by Berbers since the beginning of recorded history, while the eastern part of North Africa has been home to the Egyptians. Between the A.D. 600s and 1000s, Arabs from the Middle East swept across the region in a wave of Muslim conquest. These peoples, physically quite similar, formed a single population in many areas, as Berbers and Egyptians merged into Arabic and Muslim culture. This process of Arabization and Islamization has defined the cultural landscape of North Africa ever since.
Libya, officially the State of Libya, is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad to the south, Niger to the southwest, Algeria to the west, and Tunisia to the northwest. The sovereign state is made of three historical regions: Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa, and is the 16th largest country in the world. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world. The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over one million of Libya's six million people. The second-largest city is Benghazi, which is located in eastern Libya.
Following the concept of a fleet in being, the Italians usually kept their warships in harbour and were unwilling to seek battle with the Royal Navy on their own, also because any ship lost bigger than a destroyer could not be replaced. The Italian fleet at Taranto was powerful: six battleships (of which one was not yet battleworthy, Andrea Doria having her crew still in training after her reconstruction), seven heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and eight destroyers. This made the threat of a sortie against British shipping a serious problem.[ citation needed ]
In naval warfare, a "fleet in being" is a naval force that extends a controlling influence without ever leaving port. Were the fleet to leave port and face the enemy, it might lose in battle and no longer influence the enemy's actions, but while it remains safely in port, the enemy is forced to continually deploy forces to guard against it. A "fleet in being" can be part of a sea denial doctrine, but not one of sea control.
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of large caliber guns. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the battleship was the most powerful type of warship, and a fleet of battleships was considered vital for any nation that desired to maintain command of the sea.
Andrea Doria was the lead ship of her class of battleships built by the Regia Marina. The class included only one sister ship, Caio Duilio. Andrea Doria was named after the 16th century Genoese admiral of the same name. Laid down in March 1912, the battleship was launched a year later in March 1913, and completed in March 1916. She was armed with a main battery of thirteen 305 mm (12.0 in) guns and had a top speed of 21 knots.
During the Munich Crisis of 1938, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, the commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet, was concerned about the survival of the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious in the face of Italian opposition in the Mediterranean, and ordered his staff to re-examine all plans for attacking Taranto. He was advised by Lumley Lyster, the captain of Glorious, that her Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers were capable of a night attack. Indeed, the Fleet Air Arm was then the only naval aviation arm with such a capability. Pound took Lyster's advice and ordered training to begin. Security was kept so tight there were no written records. Just a month before the war began, Pound advised his replacement, Admiral Andrew Cunningham, to consider the possibility. This came to be known as Operation Judgment.
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Alfred Dudley Pickman Rogers Pound, was a senior officer of the Royal Navy. He served in the First World War as a battleship commander, taking part in the Battle of Jutland with notable success, contributing to the sinking of the German cruiser Wiesbaden. He served as First Sea Lord, the professional head of the Royal Navy, for the first four years of the Second World War. In that role his greatest achievement was his successful campaign against the German U-boats and the winning of the Battle of the Atlantic but his judgment has been questioned over the failed Norwegian Campaign in 1940, his dismissal of Admiral Dudley North in 1940, Japan's sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse in late 1941. His order in July 1942 to disperse Convoy PQ 17 and withdraw its covering forces, to counter a non-existent threat from heavy German surface ships, led to its destruction by submarines and aircraft. His health failed in 1943 and he resigned, dying shortly thereafter.
The British Mediterranean Fleet also known as the Mediterranean Station was part of the Royal Navy. The Fleet was one of the most prestigious commands in the navy for the majority of its history, defending the vital sea link between the United Kingdom and the majority of the British Empire in the Eastern Hemisphere. The first Commander-in-Chief for the Mediterranean Fleet was the appointment of General at Sea Robert Blake in September 1654 the Fleet was in existence until 1967.
An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a seagoing airbase, equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. Typically, it is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for staging aircraft operations. Carriers have evolved since their inception in the early twentieth century from wooden vessels used to deploy balloons to nuclear-powered warships that carry numerous fighters, strike aircraft, helicopters, and other types of aircraft. While heavier aircraft such as fixed-wing gunships and bombers have been launched from aircraft carriers, it is currently not possible to land them. By its diplomatic and tactical power, its mobility, its autonomy and the variety of its means, the aircraft carrier is often the centerpiece of modern combat fleets. Tactically or even strategically, it replaced the battleship in the role of flagship of a fleet. One of its great advantages is that, by sailing in international waters, it does not interfere with any territorial sovereignty and thus obviates the need for overflight authorizations from third party countries, reduce the times and transit distances of aircraft and therefore significantly increase the time of availability on the combat zone.
The fall of France and the consequent loss of the French fleet in the Mediterranean (even before Operation Catapult) made redress essential. The older carrier, HMS Eagle, on Cunningham's strength, was ideal, possessing a very experienced air group composed entirely of the obsolescent Swordfish aircraft. Three Sea Gladiator fighters were added for the operation. Firm plans were drawn up after the Italian Army halted at Sidi Barrani, which freed up the British Mediterranean Fleet.
The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.
The Attack on Mers-el-Kébir also known as the Battle of Mers-el-Kébir, was part of Operation Catapult. The operation was a British naval attack on French Navy ships at the base at Mers El Kébir on the coast of French Algeria. The bombardment killed 1,297 French servicemen, sank a battleship and damaged five ships, for a British loss of five aircraft shot down and two crewmen killed.
HMS Eagle was an early aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy. Ordered by Chile during the South American dreadnought race as the Almirante Latorre-class battleship Almirante Cochrane, she was laid down before World War I. In early 1918 she was purchased by Britain for conversion to an aircraft carrier; this work was finished in 1924. Her completion was delayed by labour troubles and the possibility that she might be repurchased by Chile for reconversion into a battleship, as well as the need for comparative trials to determine the optimum layout for aircraft carriers. The ship was initially assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet and then later to the China Station, spending very little time in home waters other than for periodic refits.
Operation Judgment was just a small part of the overarching Operation MB8. 60 imp gal (270 L) auxiliary tanks were fitted in the observer’s position on torpedo bombers - the observer taking the air gunner's position - to extend the operating range of the aircraft enough to reach Taranto.) This minor fire spread into something more serious that destroyed two Swordfish. Eagle then suffered a breakdown in her fuel system, so she was eliminated.It was originally scheduled to take place on 21 October 1940, Trafalgar Day, but a fire in an auxiliary fuel tank of one Swordfish led to a delay.
When the brand-new carrier HMS Illustrious, based at Alexandria, became available in the Mediterranean, she took on board five Swordfish from Eagle and launched the strike alone.
The complete naval task force—commanded by Rear Admiral Lyster, Berwick and York, the light cruisers HMS Gloucester and Glasgow, and the destroyers HMS Hyperion, Ilex, Hasty and Havelock. The 24 attack Swordfish came from 813, 815, 819, and 824 Naval Air Squadrons. The small number of attacking warplanes raised concern that Judgment would only alert and enrage the Italian Navy without achieving any significant results. Illustrious also had Fairey Fulmar fighters of 806 Naval Air Squadron aboard to provide air cover for the task force, with radar and fighter control systems.who had originated the plan of attack on Taranto—consisted of Illustrious, the heavy cruisers HMS
Half of the Swordfish were armed with torpedoes as the primary strike aircraft, with the other half carrying aerial bombs and flares to carry out diversions.These torpedoes were fitted with Duplex magnetic/contact exploders, which were extremely sensitive to rough seas, as the attacks on the German battleship Bismarck later showed. There were also worries the torpedoes would bottom out in the harbour after being dropped. The loss rate for the bombers was expected to be fifty percent.
Several reconnaissance flights by Martin Marylands of the RAF's No. 431 General Reconnaissance Flight 170 nmi (310 km ; 200 mi ) from Taranto harbour. This reconnaissance flight alerted the Italian forces in southern Italy, but since they were without any radars, they could do little but wait for whatever came along. The Regia Marina could conceivably have gone to sea in search of any British naval force, but this was distinctly against the naval philosophy of the Italians between January 1940 and September 1943.[ citation needed ]flying from Malta confirmed the location of the Italian fleet. These flights produced photos on which the intelligence officer of Illustrious spotted previously unexpected barrage balloons; the attack plan was changed accordingly. To make sure the Italian warships had not sortied, the British also sent over a Short Sunderland flying boat on the night of 11 November, just as the carrier task force was forming up off the Greek island of Cephalonia, about
The complexity of Operation MB8, with its various forces and convoys, succeeded in deceiving the Italians into thinking only normal convoying was under way. This contributed to the success of Judgment.
The base of Taranto was defended by 101 anti-aircraft guns and 193 machine-guns, and was usually protected against low-flying aircraft by barrage balloons, of which only 27 were in place on 11 November, as strong winds on 6 November had blown away 60 balloons. Capital ships were also supposed to be protected by anti-torpedo nets, but 12,800 m (42,000 ft) of netting was required for full protection, and only one-third of that was rigged before the attack due to a scheduled gunnery exercise. Moreover, these nets did not reach the bottom of the harbour, allowing the British torpedoes to clear them by about 60 cm (24 in).
The first wave of 12 aircraft, led by Lieutenant Commander M.W. Williamson RN of 815 Squadron, left Illustrious just before 21:00 hours on 11 November 1940, followed by a second wave of nine about 90 minutes later. Of the second wave, one aircraft turned back with a problem with its auxiliary fuel tank, and one launched 20 minutes late, after requiring emergency repairs to damage following a minor taxiing accident, so only eight made it to the target.
The first wave, which consisted of six Swordfish armed with torpedoes, two with flares and four 250 lb (110 kg) bombs, and four with six bombs, was split into two sections when three of the bombers and one torpedo bomber strayed from the main force while flying through thin clouds. The smaller group continued to Taranto independently. The main group approached the harbor at Mar Grande at 22:58. Sixteen flares were dropped east of the harbour, then the flare dropper and another aircraft made a dive bombing attack to set fire to oil tanks. The next three aircraft, led by Lieutenant Commander K Williamson RN of 815 Squadron, attacked over San Pietro Island, and struck the battleship Conte di Cavour with a torpedo that blasted a 27 ft (8.2 m) hole in her side below her waterline. Williamson's plane was immediately shot down by the Italian battleship's anti-aircraft guns. The two remaining aircraft in this sub-flight continued, dodging barrage balloons and receiving heavy anti-aircraft fire from the Italian warships and shore batteries, to press home an unsuccessful attack on the battleship Andrea Doria. The next sub-flight of three attacked from a more northerly direction, attacking the battleship Littorio, hitting it with two torpedoes and launching one torpedo at the flagship, the battleship Vittorio Veneto, which missed. The bomber force, led by Captain O. Patch RM, attacked next. They found the targets difficult to identify, but attacked and hit two cruisers moored at Mar Piccolo hitting both with a single bomb each from 1,500 ft (460 m), followed by another aircraft which straddled four destroyers.
The second wave of eight aircraft - nine were lined up on deck, but number 8 and 9 collided while preparing to launch, one took off but had to abort when an auxiliary fuel tank fell off in flight; meanwhile, the other was repaired and launched late- led by Lieutenant Commander J. W. Hale of 819 Squadron, was now approaching from a northerly direction towards the Mar Grande harbour, with two of the four bombers also carrying flares, the remaining five carrying torpedoes. Flares were dropped shortly before midnight. Two aircraft aimed their torpedoes at Littorio, one of which hit. One aircraft, despite having been hit twice by anti-aircraft fire, aimed a torpedo at Vittorio Veneto but the torpedo missed. Another aircraft hit the battleship Caio Duilio with a torpedo, blowing a large hole in her hull and flooding both of her forward magazines. The aircraft flown by Lieutenant G. W. L. A. Bayly RN was shot down by antiaircraft fire from the heavy cruiser Gorizia following the successful attack on Littorio, the only aircraft lost from the second wave. The final aircraft to arrive on the scene 15 minutes behind the others made an unsuccessful dive bombing attack on one of the Italian cruisers despite heavy anti-aircraft fire, then safely returned to Illustrious, landing at 02:39.
Of the two aircraft shot down, the two crew members of the first were taken prisoner. The other two were killed.
The Italian battleships suffered significant damage:
Italian defences fired 13,489 shells from the land batteries, while several thousand were fired from the ships. The anti-aircraft barrage was formidable, having 101 guns and 193 machine-guns. There were also 87 balloons, but strong winds caused the loss of 60 of them. Only 4.2 km (2.3 nmi; 2.6 mi) of anti-torpedo nets were actually fielded around the ships, up to 10 m (33 ft) in depth, while the need was for 12.8 km (6.9 nmi; 8.0 mi). There were also 13 aerophonic stations and 22 searchlights (the ships had two searchlights each). Denis Boyd, Commanding Officer HMS Illustrious, stated in his after-action report, "It is notable that the enemy did not use the searchlights at all during either of the attacks."
Littorio was repaired with all available resources and was fully operational again within four months, while restoration of the older battleships proceeded at a much slower pace (repairs took seven months for Caio Duilio, and the repairs for Conte di Cavour were never completed). In all, the Swordfish attack was made with just 20 aircraft. Two Italian aircraft were destroyed on the ground by the bombing, and two unexploded bombs hit the cruiser Trento and the destroyer Libeccio. Near misses damaged the destroyer Pessagno.
Meanwhile, X-Force cruisers attacked an Italian convoy (Battle of the Strait of Otranto (1940)). This force had three cruisers (HMS Ajax, Orion and HMAS Sydney) and two Tribal-class destroyers (HMS Nubian and Mohawk). Just past midnight, they met and destroyed four Italian merchantmen (Capo Vado, Catalani, Locatelli and Premuda), damaging the torpedo-boat Fabrizi, while the auxiliary cruiser Ramb III fled.
Cunningham and Lyster wanted to strike Taranto again the next night with Swordfish (six torpedo-bombers, seven bombers, and two flare-dispensers) – one wag in the pilots' room remarked, "They only asked the Light Brigade to do it once!"– but bad weather prevented the action.
The Italian fleet lost half of its capital ships in one night; the next day, the Regia Marina transferred its undamaged ships from Taranto to Naples to protect them from similar attacks,until the defenses at Taranto (mainly the anti-torpedo nets) were brought up to adequate levels to protect them from further attacks of the same kind (which happened between March and May 1941). Repairs to Littorio took about four months, to Caio Duilio seven months; Conte di Cavour required extensive salvage work and her repairs were incomplete when Italy changed sides in 1943. Cunningham wrote after the attack: "The Taranto show has freed up our hands considerably & I hope now to shake these damned Itiys up a bit. I don't think their remaining three battleships will face us and if they do I'm quite prepared to take them on with only two." Indeed, the balance of power had swung to the British Mediterranean Fleet which now enjoyed more operational freedom: when previously forced to operate as one unit to match Italian capital ships, they could now split into two battlegroups; each built around one aircraft carrier and two battleships.
Nevertheless, Cunningham's estimate that Italians would be unwilling to risk their remaining heavy units was quickly proven wrong. Only five days after Taranto, Campioni sortied with two battleships, six cruisers and 14 destroyers to successfully disrupt a mission to deliver aircraft to Malta. The follow-up to this operation led to the Battle of Cape Spartivento on 27 November 1940. Two of the three damaged battleships were repaired by mid-1941 and control of the Mediterranean continued to swing back and forth until the Italian armistice in 1943.
The attack on Taranto was avenged a year later by the Italian navy in its Raid on Alexandria, when the Mediterranean fleet of the Royal Navy was attacked using midget submarines, severely damaging HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant.
However, measured against its primary task of disrupting Axis convoys to Africa, the Taranto attack had very little effect. In fact, Italian shipping to Libya increased between the months of October 1940 – January 1941 to an average of 49,435 tons per month, up from the 37,204-ton average of the previous four months.Moreover, rather than change the balance of power in the central Mediterranean, British naval authorities had "failed to deliver the true knockout blow that would have changed the context within which the rest of the war in the Mediterranean was fought."
Aerial torpedo experts in all modern navies had previously thought that torpedo attacks against ships must be in water at least 75 ft (23 m) deep. Taranto harbour had a depth of only about 39 ft (12 m); but the Royal Navy had developed a new method of preventing torpedoes from diving too deep. A drum was attached beneath the nose of the aircraft, from which a roll of wire led to the nose of the torpedo. As it dropped, the tension from the wire pulled up the nose of the torpedo, producing a belly-flop rather than a nose dive.
It is likely the Imperial Japanese Navy's staff carefully studied the Taranto raid during planning for the attack on Pearl Harbor because of the issues with a shallow harbour. Japanese Lieutenant Commander Takeshi Naito, the assistant naval attaché to Berlin, flew to Taranto to investigate the attack firsthand. Naito subsequently had a lengthy conversation with Commander Mitsuo Fuchida about his observations in October 1941.Fuchida led the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941. More significant, perhaps, was a Japanese military mission to Italy in May 1941. A group of IJN officers visited Taranto and had lengthy discussions with their Italian Navy opposite numbers. However, the Japanese had been working on shallow-water solutions since early 1939, with various shallow ports as the notional targets, including Manila, Singapore, Vladivostok, and Pearl Harbor. In the early 1930s, as their Type 91 aerial torpedo entered service, the Japanese used a breakaway wooden nose to soften its impact with the water, as early as 1936, had perfected breakaway wooden fins for added aerial stability.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a considerably larger operation than Taranto. All six Imperial Japanese fleet carriers, each one equipped with an air wing having over twice the number of planes of any British carrier, took part. It resulted in far more devastation: seven American battleships were sunk or disabled, and several other warships were destroyed or damaged. The U.S. Navy thereafter designed its fleet operations in the Pacific Ocean around its carriers instead of its battleships as capital ships. Battleships were found to be less useful in the expanses of the Pacific than in the confines of the Mediterranean; the older ships were too slow to escort the carriers, and were chiefly used as fire support for amphibious operations.
A torpedo bomber is a military aircraft designed primarily to attack ships with aerial torpedoes. Torpedo bombers came into existence just before the First World War almost as soon as aircraft were built that were capable of carrying the weight of a torpedo, and remained an important aircraft type until they were rendered obsolete by anti-ship missiles. They were an important element in many famous Second World War battles, notably the British attack at Taranto and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Battle of Cape Matapan was a Second World War naval engagement between British Imperial and Axis forces, fought from 27–29 March 1941. The cape is on the south-west coast of the Peloponnesian peninsula of Greece. Following the interception of Italian signals by the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, ships of the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy, under the command of the Royal Navy's Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, intercepted and sank or severely damaged several ships of the Italian Regia Marina under Squadron-Vice-Admiral Angelo Iachino. The opening actions of the battle are also known in Italy as the Battle of Gaudo.
The Fairey Swordfish was a biplane torpedo bomber designed by the Fairey Aviation Company. Originating in the early 1930s, the Swordfish, nicknamed "Stringbag", was operated by the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, in addition to having been equipped by the Royal Air Force (RAF) alongside multiple overseas operators, including the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Royal Netherlands Navy. It was initially operated primarily as a fleet attack aircraft. During its later years, the Swordfish became increasingly used as an anti-submarine and training platform. The type was in frontline service throughout the Second World War, but it was already considered obsolete at the outbreak of the conflict in 1939.
Force H was a British naval formation during the Second World War. It was formed in 1940, to replace French naval power in the western Mediterranean removed by the French armistice with Nazi Germany. The force occupied an odd place within the naval chain of command. Normal British practice was to have naval stations and fleets around the world, whose commanders reported to the First Sea Lord via a flag officer. Force H was based at Gibraltar but there was already a flag officer at the base, Flag Officer Commanding, North Atlantic. The commanding officer of Force H did not report to the Flag Officer but direct to the First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound.
The Battle of Calabria, was a naval battle during the Battle of the Mediterranean in the Second World War. It was fought between the Italian Royal Navy and the British Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. The battle occurred 30 miles to the east of Punta Stilo, Calabria, on 9 July 1940. It was one of the few pitched battles of the Mediterranean campaign during the Second World War involving large numbers of ships on both sides. Both sides claimed victory, but in fact the battle was a draw and everyone returned to their bases as soon as possible.
Vittorio Veneto was the second member of the Littorio-class battleship that served in the Italian Regia Marina during World War II. The ship's keel was laid down in October 1934, launched in July 1937, and readied for service with the Italian fleet by August 1940. She was named after the Italian victory at Vittorio Veneto during World War I, and she had three sister ships: Littorio, Roma, and Impero, though only Littorio and Roma were completed during the war. She was armed with a main battery of nine 381-millimeter (15.0 in) guns in three triple turrets, and could steam at a speed of 30 knots.
Littorio was the lead ship of her class of battleship; she served in the Italian Regia Marina during World War II. She was named after the Lictor, in ancient times the bearer of the Roman fasces, which was adopted as the symbol of Italian Fascism. Littorio and her sister Vittorio Veneto were built in response to the French battleships Dunkerque and Strasbourg. They were Italy's first modern battleships, and the first 35,000-ton capital ships of any nation to be laid down under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. Littorio was laid down in October 1934, launched in August 1937, and completed in May 1940.
Caio Duilio was an Italian Andrea Doria-class battleship that served in the Regia Marina during World War I and World War II. She was named after the Roman fleet commander Gaius Duilius. Caio Duilio was laid down in February 1912, launched in April 1913, and completed in May 1916. She was initially armed with a main battery of thirteen 305 mm (12.0 in) guns, but a major reconstruction in the late 1930s replaced these with ten 320 mm (13 in) guns. Caio Duilio saw no action during World War I owing to the inactivity of the Austro-Hungarian fleet during the conflict. She cruised the Mediterranean in the 1920s and was involved in the Corfu incident in 1923.
The Littorio class, also known as the Vittorio Veneto class, was a class of battleship of the Regia Marina, the Italian navy. The class was composed of four ships—Littorio, Vittorio Veneto, Roma, and Impero—but only the first three ships of the class were completed. Built between 1934 and 1942, they were the most modern battleships used by Italy during World War II. They were developed in response to the French Dunkerque-class battleships, and were armed with 381-millimeter (15.0 in) guns and had a top speed of 30 knots. The class's design was considered by the Spanish Navy, but the outbreak of World War II interrupted construction plans.
The Battle of the Mediterranean was the name given to the naval campaign fought in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II, from 10 June 1940 to 2 May 1945.
The Malta convoys were Allied supply convoys of the Second World War. The convoys took place during the Siege of Malta in the Mediterranean Theatre. Malta was a base from which British sea and air forces could attack ships carrying supplies from Europe to Italian Libya. Britain fought the Western Desert Campaign against Axis armies in North Africa to keep the Suez Canal and to control Middle Eastern oil. The strategic value of Malta was so great the British risked many merchant vessels and warships to supply the island and the Axis made determined efforts to neutralise the island as an offensive base.
Operation Excess was a series of British supply convoys to Malta, Alexandria and Greece in January 1941. The operation encountered the first presence of Luftwaffe anti-shipping aircraft in the Mediterranean Sea. All the convoyed freighters reached their destinations. The destroyer Gallant was disabled by Italian mines and Axis bombers severely damaged the cruiser Southampton and the aircraft carrier Illustrious.
The Turbine-class destroyer was a class of destroyers built for the Italian Regia Marina in the late 1920s. They were essentially larger versions of the earlier Sella-class destroyer. All the ships of the class were lost during World War II.
Operation Vigorous was a British operation during the Second World War, to escort supply convoy MW11 from the eastern Mediterranean to Malta, which took place from 11–16 June 1942. Vigorous was part of Operation Julius, a simultaneous operation with Operation Harpoon from Gibraltar and supporting operations. Sub-convoy MW11c sailed from Port Said on 11 June, to tempt the Italian battlefleet to sail early, use up fuel and be exposed to submarine and air attack. MW11a and MW11b sailed next day from Haifa, Port Said and Alexandria, one ship being sent back because of defects. Italian and German (Axis) aircraft attacked MW11c on 12 June and a damaged ship was diverted to Tobruk, just east of Gazala. The merchant ships and escorts rendezvoused on 13 June. The British plans were revealed unwittingly to the Axis by the US Military Attaché in Egypt, Colonel Bonner Fellers, who reported to Washington, D.C. in coded wireless messages. The Black Code was later revealed by Ultra to have been broken by the Servizio Informazioni Militare.
Operation Halberd was a British naval operation that took place on 27 September 1941, during the Second World War. The British were attempting to deliver a convoy from Gibraltar to Malta. The convoy was escorted by several battleships and an aircraft carrier, to deter interference from the Italian surface fleet, while a close escort of cruisers and destroyers provided an anti-aircraft screen.
Operation Substance was a British naval operation in July 1941 during the Second World War to escort convoy GM 1, the first of the series from Gibraltar to Malta. The convoy defended by Force H was attacked by Italian submarines, aircraft, and Motoscafo armato silurante.
Captain Frederick Michael Alexander Torrens-Spence, was a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm pilot in the Second World War. Torrens-Spence earned the distinction of holding commissions in the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
818 Naval Air Squadron was a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm carrier based squadron formed in August 1939. It served on a number of the Navy's aircraft carriers during the Second World War, serving in most of the theatres of the war, before decommissioning at the end of the war.
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