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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 Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa and on the east by the Levant. Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually identified as a separate body of water. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years, the Messinian salinity crisis, before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.
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.
For the most part, the campaign was fought between the Italian Royal Navy ( Regia Marina ), supported by other Axis naval and air forces, and the British Royal Navy, supported by other Allied naval forces, such as Australia, the Netherlands, Poland and Greece. American naval and air units joined the Allied side in 1942.
The Kingdom of Italy was a state which existed from 1861—when King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia was proclaimed King of Italy—until 1946—when a constitutional referendum led civil discontent to abandon the monarchy and form the modern Italian Republic. The state was founded as a result of the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which can be considered its legal predecessor state.
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.
The United Kingdom, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state—the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.
Each side had three overall objectives in this battle. The first was to attack the supply lines of the other side. The second was to keep open the supply lines to their own armies in North Africa. The third was to destroy the ability of the opposing navy to wage war at sea. Outside of the Pacific theatre, the Mediterranean saw the largest conventional naval warfare actions during the conflict. In particular, Allied forces struggled to supply and retain the key naval and air base of Malta.
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.
The Pacific War, sometimes called the Asia–Pacific War, was the theater of World War II that was fought in the Pacific and Asia. It was fought over a vast area that included the Pacific Ocean and islands, the South West Pacific, South-East Asia, and in China.
Malta, officially known as the Republic of Malta, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. With a population of about 475,000 over an area of 316 km2 (122 sq mi), Malta is the world's tenth smallest and fifth most densely populated country. Its capital is Valletta, which is the smallest national capital in the European Union by area at 0.8 km.2 The official languages are Maltese and English, with Maltese officially recognised as the national language and the only Semitic language in the European Union.
By the time of the September 1943 armistice between Italy and the Allies, Italian ships and aircraft had sunk Allied surface warships totaling 145,800 tons, while the Germans had sunk 169,700 tons, for a total of 315,500 tons. In total the Allies lost 76 warships and 46 submarines. The Allies sank 83 Italian warships totaling 195,100 tons (161,200 by the Commonwealth and 33,900 by the Americans) and 83 submarines.German losses in the Mediterranean from the start of the campaign to the end were 17 warships and 68 submarines.
The Mediterranean was a traditional focus of British maritime power. Outnumbered by the forces of the Regia Marina, the British plan was to hold the three decisive strategic points of Gibraltar, Malta, and the Suez Canal. By holding these points, the Mediterranean Fleet held open vital supply routes. Malta was the lynch-pin of the whole system. It provided a needed stop for Allied convoys and a base from which to attack the Axis supply routes.
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. It has an area of 6.7 km2 (2.6 sq mi) and is bordered to the north by Spain. The landscape is dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar at the foot of which is a densely populated town area, home to over 30,000 people, primarily Gibraltarians. It shares a maritime border with Morocco.
The Suez Canal is a sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. Constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869, it was officially opened on 17 November 1869. The canal offers watercraft a more direct route between the North Atlantic and northern Indian Oceans via the Mediterranean and Red Seas, thus avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian Oceans and thereby reducing the journey distance from the Arabian Sea to, for example, London by approximately 8,900 kilometres (5,500 mi). It extends from the northern terminus of Port Said to the southern terminus of Port Tewfik at the city of Suez. Its length is 193.30 km (120.11 mi), including its northern and southern access channels. In 2012, 17,225 vessels traversed the canal.
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini saw the control of the Mediterranean as an essential prerequisite for expanding his "New Roman Empire" into Nice, Corsica, Tunis and the Balkans. Italian naval building accelerated during his tenure. Mussolini described the Mediterranean Sea as Mare Nostrum "(our sea)".
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician and journalist who was the leader of the National Fascist Party. He ruled Italy as Prime Minister from 1922 to 1943; he constitutionally led the country until 1925, when he dropped the pretense of democracy and established a dictatorship.
Nice is the seventh most populous urban area in France and the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes département. The metropolitan area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits, with a population of about 1 million on an area of 721 km2 (278 sq mi). Located in the French Riviera, on the south east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, at the foot of the Alps, Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast and the second-largest city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region after Marseille. Nice is approximately 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from the principality of Monaco and 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the French-Italian border. Nice's airport serves as a gateway to the region.
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 18 regions of France. It is located southeast of the French mainland and west of the Italian Peninsula, with the nearest land mass being the Italian island of Sardinia to the immediate south. A single chain of mountains makes up two-thirds of the island.
The warships of the Regia Marina (Italian Royal Fleet) had a general reputation as well-designed. Italian small attack craft lived up to expectations and were responsible for many brave and successful actions in the Mediterranean.But some Italian cruiser classes were rather deficient in armour and all Italian warships lacked radar although its lack was partly offset by Italian warships being equipped with good rangefinder and fire-control systems for daylight combat. Only by the spring of 1943, barely five months before the armistice, twelve Italian warships were equipped with Italian-designed EC-3 ter Gufo radar devices. In addition, whereas Allied commanders at sea had discretion to act on their own initiative, the actions of Italian commanders were closely and precisely governed by Italian Naval Headquarters ( Supermarina ).
The Regia Marina also lacked a proper fleet air arm. The aircraft carrier Aquila was never completed and most air support during the Battle of the Mediterranean was supplied by the land-based Regia Aeronautica (Royal Air Force).Another major handicap for the Italians was the shortage of fuel. As early as March 1941, the overall scarcity of fuel oil was critical. Coal, gasoline and lubricants were also locally hard to find. During the Italian war effort, 75% of all the fuel oil available was used by destroyers and torpedo boats carrying out escort missions.
However, the most serious problem for the Axis forces in North Africa was the limited capacity of the Libyan ports. Even under the best conditions, this restricted supplies. Tripoli was the largest port in Libya and it could accommodate a maximum of five large cargo vessels or four troop transports. On a monthly basis, Tripoli had an unloading capacity of 45,000 short ton s (41,000 t ). Tobruk added only another 18,000 short tons (16,000 t). Bardia and other smaller ports added a little more.
In general, the Axis forces in North Africa exceeded the capacity of the ports to supply them. It has been calculated that the average Axis division required 10,000 short tons (9,100 t) of supplies per month. If the Italians had a fault in respect to logistics during the Battle of the Mediterranean, it was that they failed to increase the capacity of Tripoli and the other ports before the war.
In January 1937, France began a programme of modernisation and expansion. This soon elevated the French Fleet to the fourth-largest in the world. However, the French Navy (formally the "National Navy" - Marine Nationale), was still considerably smaller than the navy of its ally, Britain.
By agreement with the British Admiralty, the strongest concentration of French vessels was in the Mediterranean. Here, the Italian Fleet posed a threat to the vitally important French sea routes from metropolitan France to North Africa and to the British sea routes between Gibraltar and the Suez Canal.
In 1940, after France fell to the Germans, the Marine Nationale in the Mediterranean became the navy of the Vichy French government. As the Vichy French Navy, this force was considered a potentially grave threat to the Royal Navy. As such, it was imperative to the British that this threat be neutralised.
As the opening phase of Operation Catapult, the French squadron at Alexandria in Egypt was dealt-with via negotiations. This proved possible primarily because the two commanders—Admirals René-Emile Godfroy and Andrew Cunningham—were on good personal terms. In contrast, a British ultimatum to place the bulk of the remainder of the French fleet out of German reach was refused. The fleet was located at Mers-el-Kebir in Algeria, so on 3 July 1940 it was largely destroyed by bombardment by the British "Force H" from Gibraltar (Admiral James Somerville). The Vichy French government broke off all ties with the British as a result of this attack and the Vichy French Air Force (Armée de l'Air de Vichy) even raided British installations at Gibraltar.
In June and July 1941, a small Vichy French naval force was involved during "Operation Exporter". This was an Allied action launched against Vichy French forces based in Lebanon and Syria. French naval vessels had to be driven off before the Litani River could be crossed.
In 1942, as part of the occupation of Vichy France during "Case Anton", the Germans intended to capture the French fleet at Toulon. This was thwarted by determined action by French commanders; the bulk of the fleet was scuttled at anchor.
The Mediterranean U-boat Campaign lasted approximately from 21 September 1941 to May 1944. Germany's Kriegsmarine aimed at isolating Gibraltar, Malta, and the Suez Canal so as to break Britain's trade route to the far east. More than 60 U-boats were sent to disrupt shipping in the sea, although many were attacked in the Strait of Gibraltar, which was controlled by Britain (nine boats were sunk while attempting the passage and ten more were damaged). The Luftwaffe also played a key part in the Battle of the Mediterranean, especially during 1941. German war strategy, however, viewed the Mediterranean as a secondary theatre of operations.
On 10 June 1940, Italy declared war on Britain and France. On the following day, Italian bombers attacked Malta on what was to be the first of many raids. During this time, the Marine Nationale shelled a number of targets on the northwestern coast of Italy, in particular the port of Genoa. When France surrendered on 24 June, the Axis leaders allowed the new Vichy French regime to retain its naval forces.
The first clash between the rival fleets—the Battle of Calabria—took place on 9 July, just four weeks after the start of hostilities. This was inconclusive, and was followed by a series of small surface actions during the summer, among them the battle of the Espero convoy and the battle of Cape Spada.
To reduce the threat posed by the Italian fleet, which was based in the port of Taranto, to convoys sailing to Malta, Admiral Cunningham organised an attack code-named Operation Judgement. Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers from HMS Illustrious attacked the Italian fleet on 11 November 1940 while it was still at anchor. This was the first time that an attack such as this had been attempted and it was studied by Japanese naval officers in preparation for the later attack on Pearl Harbor. British Fleet Air Arm aircraft badly damaged two Italian battleships and a third was sunk putting half of the Regia Marina's major ships out of action for several months. This attack also forced the Italian fleet to move to Italian ports further north so as to be out of range of carrier-based aircraft. This reduced the threat of Italian sallies attacking Malta-bound convoys.
Cunningham's estimate that Italians would be unwilling to risk their remaining heavy units was quickly proven wrong. Only five days after Taranto, Inigo Campioni sortied with two battleships, six cruisers and 14 destroyers to disrupt a British aircraft delivery operation to Malta.
Furthermore, as early as 27 November, the Italian fleet was able to confront the Mediterranean fleet again in the indecisive battle of Spartivento. 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. Measured against its primary task of disrupting Axis convoys to Africa, the Taranto attack had 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."
The Battle of Cape Matapan was a decisive Allied victory. It was fought off the coast of the Peloponnese in southern Greece from 27–29 March 1941 in which Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy forces—under the command of the British Admiral Andrew Cunningham—intercepted those of the Italian Regia Marina under Admiral Angelo Iachino.
The Allies sank the heavy cruisers Fiume, Zara and Pola and the destroyers Vittorio Alfieri and Giosue Carducci, and damaged the battleship Vittorio Veneto. The British lost one torpedo plane and suffered light splinter damage to some cruisers from Vittorio Veneto's salvoes.
The decisive factors in the Allied victory were the effectiveness of aircraft carriers, the use of Ultra intercepts and the lack of radar on the Italian ships.
The effort to prevent German troops from reaching Crete by sea, and subsequently the partial evacuation of Allied land forces after their defeat by German paratroops in the Battle of Crete during May 1941, cost the Allied navies a number of ships. Attacks by German planes, mainly Junkers Ju 87s and Ju 88s, sank eight British warships: two light cruisers (HMS Gloucester and Fiji) and six destroyers (HMS Kelly, Greyhound, Kashmir, Hereward, Imperial and Juno). Seven other ships were damaged, including the battleships HMS Warspite and Valiant and the light cruiser Orion. Nearly 2,000 British sailors died.
It was a significant victory for the Luftwaffe, as it proved that the Royal Navy could not operate in waters where the German Air Force had air supremacy without suffering severe losses. In the end, however, this had little strategic meaning, since the attention of the German Army was directed toward Russia (in Operation Barbarossa) a few weeks later, and the Mediterranean was to play only a secondary role in German war planning over the following years. The action did, however, extend the Axis reach into the eastern Mediterranean, and prolong the threat to Allied convoys.
Two attempts were carried out to transport German troops by sea in caïques, but both of them were disrupted by Royal Navy intervention. The tiny Italian naval escorts, however, managed to save most of the vessels. Eventually, the Italians landed a force of their own near Sitia on 28 May, when the Allied withdrawal was already ongoing.
During the evacuation, Cunningham was determined that the "Navy must not let the Army down". When army generals stated their fears that he would lose too many ships, Cunningham said that "It takes three years to build a ship, it takes three centuries to build a tradition". Despite advance warning through Ultra intercepts, the Battle of Crete resulted in a decisive defeat for the Allies. The invasion took a fearful toll of the German paratroops, who were dropped without their major weapons, which were delivered separately in containers. So heavy were the losses that General Kurt Student, who commanded the German invasion, would later say, referring to the German decision not to use parachutists in any future invasion attempts:
"Crete was the grave of the German parachutists."
Malta's position between Sicily and North Africa was perfect to interdict Axis supply convoys destined for North Africa. It could thus influence the campaign in North Africa and support Allied actions against Italy. The Axis recognised this and made great efforts to neutralise the island as a British base, either by air attacks or by starving it of its own supplies.
For a time during the Siege of Malta, it looked as if the island would be starved into submission by the use of Axis aircraft and warships based in Sicily, Sardinia, Crete and North Africa. A number of Allied convoys were decimated. The turning point in the siege came in August 1942, when the British sent a very heavily defended convoy under the codename Operation Pedestal. Malta's air defence was repeatedly reinforced by Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighters flown to the island from HMS Furious and other Allied aircraft carriers. The situation eased as Axis forces were forced away from their North African bases and eventually Malta could be resupplied and become an offensive base once again.
The British re-established a substantial air garrison and offensive naval base on the island. With the aid of Ultra, Malta's garrison was able to disrupt Axis supplies to North Africa immediately before the Second Battle of El Alamein. For the fortitude and courage of the Maltese people during the siege, the island was awarded the George Cross.
The Royal Navy sank 3,082 Axis merchantmen in the Mediterranean, amounting to over 4 million tons. The loss of supplies proved fatal to the Axis armies in North Africa.
Following the battle of Crete in the summer of 1941, the Royal Navy regained its ascendancy in the central Mediterranean in a series of successful convoy attacks, (including the Duisburg convoy and Cap Bon), until the events surrounding the First Battle of Sirte and the Raid on Alexandria in December swung the balance of power towards the Axis.
The Regia Marina's most successful attack was when divers attached limpet mines on the hulls of British battleships during the Raid on Alexandria on 19 December 1941. The battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant were sunk at their berths, but they were both later raised and returned to active service.
A series of hard fought convoy battles (such as the Second Battle of Sirte in March, Operations Harpoon and Vigorous in June and Operation Pedestal in August), ensured Malta's survival until the Allies regained the advantage in November 1942.
In September 1943, with the Italian collapse and the surrender of the Italian fleet, naval actions in the Mediterranean became restricted to operations against U-boats and by small craft in the Adriatic and Aegean seas.
On 25 July 1943, the Grand Council of Fascism ousted Mussolini. A new Italian government, led by King Victor Emmanuel III and Marshal Pietro Badoglio, immediately began secret negotiations with the Allies to end the fighting and to come over to the Allied side. On 3 September, a secret armistice was signed with the Allies at Fairfield Camp in Sicily. The armistice was announced on 8 September.
After the armistice, the Italian Navy was split in two. In southern Italy, the "Co-Belligerent Navy of the South" (Marina Cobelligerante del Sud) fought for the King and Badoglio. In the north, a much smaller portion of the Regia Marina joined the Republican National Navy (Marina Nazionale Repubblicana) of Mussolini's new Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana, or RSI) and fought on for the Germans.
The Kriegsmarine was the navy of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It superseded the Imperial German Navy of the German Empire (1871–1918) and the inter-war Reichsmarine (1919–1935) of the Weimar Republic. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches, along with the Heer (Army) and the Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht, the German armed forces from 1933 to 1945.
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.
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.
HMS Manchester was a Town-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy, belonging to the Gloucester subclass. She was laid down by Hawthorn Leslie at Hebburn in March 1936, launched in April the following year and commissioned in August 1938. She had a relatively short but active career.
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.
The Siege of Malta in the Second World War was a military campaign in the Mediterranean Theatre. From 1940–42, the fight for the control of the strategically important island of Malta, then a British colony, pitted the air forces and navies of Italy and Germany against the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy.
The First Battle of Sirte was fought between the British Royal Navy and the Regia Marina during the Mediterranean campaign of the Second World War. The engagement, largely uneventful, took place on 17 December 1941, south-east of Malta, in the Gulf of Sirte.
Operation Stoneage or Operation Stone Age was an Allied convoy operation to the Mediterranean island of Malta in the Second World War. To disguise the destination of the ships, some took on their cargo at Port Sudan in the Red Sea. The four ships of Convoy MW 13 sailed from Alexandria on 16 November, escorted by cruisers, destroyers and round-the-clock air cover, from captured Axis airfields in Egypt and Cyrenaica.
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.
HMS Legion was an L-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. She entered service during the Second World War, and had a short but eventful career, serving in Home waters and the Mediterranean. She was sunk in an air attack on Malta in 1942. The ship had been adopted by the British civil community of the Municipal Borough of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in November 1941.
There was sporadic naval warfare in the Mediterranean during World War I between the Central Powers' navies of Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire and the Allied navies of Italy, France, Greece, Japan, America and the British Empire.
Operation Harpoon was one of two simultaneous Allied convoys sent to supply Malta in the Axis-dominated central Mediterranean Sea in mid-June 1942, during the Second World War. Operation Vigorous was a westward convoy from Alexandria and the convoy of Operation Harpoon travelled east from Gibraltar. Two of the six ships in the Harpoon convoy completed the journey, at the cost of several Allied warships. The Vigorous convoy was driven back by the Italian fleet and attacks by Axis aircraft.
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.
The Adriatic Campaign of World War I was a naval campaign fought between the Central Powers and the Mediterranean squadrons of Great Britain, France, the Kingdom of Italy, Australia and the United States.
The Battle of Cape Passero (1940), was a Second World War naval engagement between the British light cruiser HMS Ajax and seven torpedo boats and destroyers of the Italian Regia Marina, southeast of Sicily, in the early hours of 12 October 1940. It took place in the aftermath of a British supply operation to Malta.
HMS Lightning was an L-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. She was launched on 22 April 1940 and sunk on 12 March 1943 by German Motor Torpedo Boat S-55.
Ascari was one of seventeen Soldati-class destroyers, built for the Italian Royal Navy in the late 1930s and early 1940s.