That has to be one of the more hilarious interpretations of Second Sirte, even from the modern day revisionists.Serg wrote:
......... Bagnasco p221: "Things went even worse for the British. Iachino's tactic to delay the arrival of the convoy in Malta by exposing them to air arrack was not without effect and the air attacks throughout the 22nd, although unsuccessful, had caused a high expenditure of ammunition.
Contrary to plans, on the morning of the 23rd the ships were still far from Malta and that morning II Fliegerkorps resumed its attacks: Talbot and Pampas managed to reach Malta without serious problems, but Clan Campbell was sunk and Breconshire badly damaged, and the destroyer Legion suffered damage from bombs exploding close by. Up to this point these were the indirect victims of the Second Battle of Sirte, all damaged or sunk by other than naval gunfire."...............
An Italian squadron formed of a battleship, 2 heavy cruisers, a light cruiser and 10 destroyers faced the remnants of the Mediterranean Fleet (after the losses at Crete, Force K and under-water attacks on Queen Elizabeth and Valiant) formed by 4 light cruisers (3 x Didos and Arethusa class Penelope) and 11 destroyers as escort, with an AA cruiser and 6 escort destroyers acting as convoy screen (not involved in surface battle).
The Italian squadron was poorly handled to say the least. With a small force in front of it which represented the only real RN power in the Eastern Med, it failed to either attack or evade as the RN forceslaid a smokescreen and dodged through it to attack. No sensible explanation has ever been espoused. The Italians could have gone around either end, split their forces and gone both ways, or just "charged" the screen. The RN regarded a single end manoeuvre to have been the most dangerous option (to them).
The inability of the much greater Italian force to destroy the British forces (let alone attack the convoy) represents probably the biggest lost opportunity for the Italian navy. If those cruisers and most of the destroyers had been lost (as they "should" have been) the Mediterranean Fleet would have, essentially, ceased to be.
I use Second Sirte as ONE measure to judge the quality of modern works on the Italian Navy in WW2. IF a full account is given with balance then fine. IF the details are fudged and a feeble excuse given (see quote above) then it is an indication that the author has an agenda.
(Another two useful measures are, the comparison of German and Italian submarine operations in the Med, and the supplying of North Africa. UNFORTUNATELY many recent works fail on these issues.)
USN supporters should think of the Japanese being credited with "winning" the Battle Off Samar.