phil gollin wrote:Vian believed that the Italians had three viable options ALL of which could be successful, the whole force going around one end being the most dangerous.
What's your source? I can’t trust such claims without quote. Vian wrote 'it was thought unlikely that he [enemy] would attempt a night attack after having his battleship damaged by torpedo.' Seems he belive that such attack will be unsuccessful, even if enemy had 6 cruisers ('enemy disposition ... was 4 cruisers (probably two 8-inch and two 6-inch) ... battleship and 2 cruisers were farther to the eastward...')
My opinion that 2 8” cruisers and 1 6” cruiser with 4 destroyers not enough to deal with 5 light cruises and 11 fleet destroyers even during daytime. They have advantage in the case of long range fire but for decisive result they must to close range where the enemy in turn had advantage. However the question lay in estimation of enemy strength by Parona. He claimed to have followed Iachino's orders in the event he found himself faced by stronger forces. As Italian version says: “In realtа, in questa prima fase del combattimento, non si capisce bene il perchй di questo gioco a rimpiattino dell'Ammiraglio Parona che con i suoi tre incrociatori, di cui due pesanti, aveva una ben decisa superiorità sui quattro incrociatori leggeri che aveva di fronte, superiorità in calibro ed in gittata anche se non in numero di pezzi. Ciò non si spiega se non con una interpretazione limitata dei già restrittivi ordini ricevuti di 'mantenere il contatto con il nemico senza impegnarsi a fondo', ordine dato in precedenza dall'Ammiraglio Jachino, quando ancora non era ben certo dell'entità delle forze inglesi che aveva di fronte.” (Incrociatori pesanty classe Zara by Elio Andó)
“In fact, at this early stage of the battle, it is difficult to understand the sense of hide-and-seek game of Admiral Parona with his three cruisers, two of which are heavy, who had a decisive superiority on the four light cruisers that had faced, superiority in arms and in range though not in number of pieces. This can not be explained except by a narrow interpretation of the already restrictive instructions (maintain contact with [superior] enemy without engaging) in the order given earlier by Admiral Iachino, when he [Parona? Serg] still wasn't quite sure
of the strength of British forces.”
PS Seem the first 'revisionist' version had founded in 1964! Donald Macintyre, former naval officer, wrote that Iachino 'had partially achieved his aim'' (Battle for the Mediterranean).