27 November 1940: Malta Convoy Attacked off Cape Spartivento

27 Nov

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Reconnaissance from Italian cruiser Bolzano spotted convoy

Reconnaissance from Italian cruiser Bolzano spotted convoy


Malta’s latest convoy was involved in a fierce sea battle in the Mediterranean today. Just before 10 o’clock this morning, the convoy was off Cape Spartivento in Southern Sardinia.  Admiral Somerville, commander of Force H sent to protect the convoy from the north, received a report from air reconnaissance that a significant force of the Italian fleet was in the vicinity.  Shortly afterwards he heard that additional ships of the Mediterranean Fleet had arrived from Alexandria, meaning that he was well equipped to match the Italian threat. 

Italian bombs miss Ark Royal

Italian bombs miss Ark Royal

Somerville immediately ordered his forces into two groups to form a protective shield over the convoy and repel attacks. Swordfish aircraft were prepared for take-off from HMS Ark Royal.  At 12.22 hours the two opposing forces came within range and the Italian cruiser Fiume opened fire, which was quickly returned.  The British naval ships were initially outgunned; HMS Berwick was hit by two shells which killed seven men and wounded nine others.  The British vessels rallied and the Italian destroyer Lanciere was badly damaged by a broadside from HMS Manchester.  The Italians again showed superior fire power before withdrawing from the engagement after just 54 minutes of battle.  Admiral Somerville’s forces set off in pursuit but as they approached Italian shores they were forced to turn back. The convoy was able to continue its safe passage to Malta.


Military personnel have been informed that for security reasons, no notice can be given of the opportunities for despatch of mail from the Island. In future, mail must be submitted to their Headquarters on Sundays and Thursdays.  It will then be censored and forwarded to the administration office on Mondays and Fridays.  Air Mail opportunities will continue to be notified to personnel by signal as previously.


Weather  Cool.

0757-0805 hrs; 0859-0911 hrs; 1147-1203 hrs  Air raid alerts for enemy formations but on each occasion the raiders turn away while still five or more miles from the coast.

2255-2314 hrs  Air raid alert. Air raid alert for two enemy raiders which approach the Island separately, from the north and east.  One crosses the coast near San Rocco, heads south and circles round Benghaisa, dropping several bombs in the sea nearby as well as high explosives on land south of Benghaisa Fort and near Windrock at Hal Far.  The second raider flying in from the east drops all its bombs in the sea off St Thomas’ Bay.


8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Mail arrived from UK.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Strength of Battalion 27 officers, 889 other ranks.

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Posted by on November 27, 2020 in 1940, November 1940


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