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FIRST SEA LORD REPORTS TO WAR CABINET ON MEDITERRANEAN SITUATION
It has always been the aim of the Admiralty to reinforce the Mediterranean Fleet with the object of striking at Italy. Until recently, other commitments have hindered the execution of this policy, but within the past few weeks it has been possible to spare more ships for the Mediterranean and recent successes against the Italians have shown the soundness of the policy.
As has been publicly stated, the damage to the Italian capital ships [at Taranto] would result in a temporary easing of the position in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, care must be taken to avoid reducing the strength of Admiral Cunningham’s forces below the level at which he would be able with confidence to carry the offensive against the Italians.
As an indication of the state of Italian morale, the First Sea Lord drew attention to the recent naval action off Cape Spartivento in which Force H was engaged. He described the action in some detail, and showed how unfounded were the Italian claims that it was the British units that had run away. He expressed the opinion that it was a chance encounter, since the primary objective of Force H was to protect (i) a large military convoy going through the Mediterranean and (ii) one of the older capital ships which was being withdrawn as a consequence of a success at Taranto.
In his personal view, the Italian forces were probably sweeping to cover a convoy about to leave Palermo for Libya. The convoy which Force H was protecting was carrying RAF drafts for Egypt to replace units sent to Greece, and reinforcements for the anti-aircraft defences and the garrison of Malta. These latter are intended to make Malta reasonably secure for use as an advance base for light forces against Italian communications with North Africa. Plans are afoot for further blows at the Italians.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 DECEMBER TO DAWN 4 DECEMBER 1940
Weather Cold and wet.
1355-1405 hrs Air raid alert. No raid materialises.
OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 3 DECEMBER 1940
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