Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

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Alberto Virtuani
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Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Mon Jul 20, 2015 8:52 am

pgollin wrote: "So none of the officers and fire control personnel had ever worked in destroyers ?
ANY main armament can be manned and fired when a star shell or searchlight illuminates the target.
Did cruisers have star shell to fight against enemy destroyers ? Did cruisers have searchlights to fight against enemy destroyers ?
So, IF what you are saying is about night fighting is correct (which I doubt), then the Italian Admiral was acting against the Fighting Instructions in sending the cruisers out and hence according to the logic expressed on this thread by some should have been court martialled."
I think we need to clarify here which were the Regia Marina readiness and preparation conditions when entering war regarding night actions:
RM had basically the same night fighting readiness as per WWI, meaning that the action of the large calibers was not envisaged at night. On the other side, destroyers and (partially) light cruisers) had (poor) night fight capabilities.
In detail: 100mm (Zara class dual purpose secondary armament), 120 mm and only a few 150mm from some light cruisers were considered usable at night.
No 203 mm (Zara class main batteries), no 320 mm nor any 381 mm gun was supposed to be used at night. The fact that star shells could illuminate an enemy does mean nothing as the turrets were not manned (as per the procedure) and the directors were not trained for night fire. In addition no stabilized projectors were available.
Your question about gunners aboard Zara class being previously used to fight at night on destroyers make no sense as you can't expect to be able to fire a 203 mm if you are able to fire a 120 mm: whoever has been on board a warship knows very well that training is key for being able to do things in a real situation and that improvisation can't be trusted.

The big ships (battleships and heavy cruisers) were instructed to sail in the night with a curtain of destroyers in front of them (spread from left to right) in order to be sure that any encounter would be seen by the destroyers first.
At the "enemy in sight" alarm from the destroyers, the big ships were instructed to turn away from the enemy at maximum speed leaving the battlefield to the destroyers only.
Italians were also underestimating the RN night fighting capabilities, despite some episode with British light cruisers at the beginning of the war should have warned them, ignoring that the RN has trained the British ships for night actions since the 30's.

Coming to your last point, regarding Court Martial for Italian admiral, who do you mean ?
Adm Cattaneo died on Zara and could not have been able to answer why he was sailing with the cruisers ahead and destroyers on a single line, disregarding the instructions.
Regarding Adm. Iachino decision, that is not in contrast anyway with the fighting instructions, he communicated to Supermarina (Italian Admiralty) his intentions. Therefore the Court Martial should have been held against Supermarina chiefs too....
The (wrong, with hindsight) decision to send back the full division was taken because he considered impossible for the destroyers only to tow Pola to Italy defending themselves during the following dayand the 2 heavy cruisers would have guaranteed protection to the towing mission at dawn (when gun action could possibly be resumed).
A Raven wrote: "One very interesting fact re the Matapan episode, is that for one hour after the RN force had retired and re-grouped following the night action, several Italian destroyers continued to engage imaginary enemy ships using their main armament. This was observed from several miles off, with some amusement/puzzlement by the RN commanders.
This comes from the official contemporary RN records. However, Cunningham may have had 'sinister' motives in signing off on these reports."
I honestly find a bit distasteful the British "humor" related to the surviving destroyers (2 of them, Gioberti and Oriani not "several", the former of which heavily damaged, as the other 2 destroyers (Carducci and Alfieri) were immediately sunk together Zara and Fiume) after that more than 2300 Italian sailors were dead (mostly without even being able to defend themselves.....)

However, as you seem to like this "humor", I can tell you that at least nobody was decorated after Matapan in the RM, on the contrary the RN decorated officers that were clearly acting against the Naval Discipline Act at DS.......
A Raven wrote: "Another example of the night fighting abilities of the Italian Navy took place on the 9/11/41....... "
I fully agree the preparation level of Italians was very poor in general and especially for night actions.

However, as a general consideration, radar was the key advantage for British ships during the night actions (including Matapan) as well as Enigma decritted messages.....

Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by pgollin » Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:37 am

.

Sophistry.

The navy had star-shell, searchlights, and look-outs - as everyone did at the beginning of WW2. These were adequate to fight at night. They had a night-fighting capability, no argument, many might fights took place with just that equipment.

(Radar is a "nice to have", but until late on in the Mediterranean sea war it was not capable of actually directing blind-fire - the directors depended on starshell or searchlights - exactly what the RM had.)

What stopped guns larger than 100mm being used at night ? Most guns on the heavier ships would be fired by director and smaller guns would be given fire information from the directors. Why are 6-inch and above somehow incapable of firing ? The truth is that they weren't.

You carefully ignored what I read about previous experience in destroyers. ANY gunnery officer who had worked in destroyers and had found themselves in a director at night would be on approximately equal terms as their opposition on a RN ship - they knew how the director worked and they had starshell and searchlights at their disposal. The gun crew don't care if it is day or night, their only duty is to load and fire the guns.

The lack of stabilised searchlights merely shows the incompetence of the RM pre-war, but as no (?????) night actions were fired in poor weather it is irrelevant.

I simply do not believe you ideas on the night fighting instructions, it would mean that any convoy would have been abandoned by RM heavy forces.

The RN had been training for night fighting since the end of the 19th century. However, I agree that British ships since the 1920s had been designed on the basis of 24-hour fighting in any weather. So should any navy's.

Adm. Iachino cannot duck out of his responsibilities. Either he sent back to Zara ships which incapable of looking after themselves (in which case he should have sent back lots of destroyers as well) or he didn't. Either way, he was wrong. Just signalling your intentions to base doesn't absolve you of blame. He was responsible for sending back an inadequate force which was destroyed - according to your ideas he should have been court martialled and everyone should be up in arms at the "cover-up" (which, by the way, you seem to be relishing).

Re your reply to Mr Raven's comments - you take umbrage at his tone despite your castigating others left, right and centre. You really should learn to take criticism as well as doling it out. What he said was right. AND, I would note, that despite your supposed sensitivity, you still continue to parrot the ridiculous "against the Naval Discipline Act at DS ...." line which everyone else just laughs at your total misunderstanding and STUPIDITY (yes, that word used in the correct context and meaning).

Your last comment yet again is misleading re.radar - the RN depended upon starshell for night fighting - just what the Italians had.

What I find genuinely odd in all this is that with the Denmark Straits action you wilfully mis-read the requirements placed on officers, but when it comes to Cape Matapan, you seek solace in rigid, indeed stupidly rigid, adherence to a set of supposed fighting instructions which are almost akin to a suicide note for any ship adhering to them. Make your mind up.

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Tue Jul 21, 2015 1:36 pm

Your speculation.

First of all, facts:

IF you have any document stating RM had developed any main calibers night fighting capability, please share it. Else your one is just speculation. I have been on board a warship and I can tell you that nobody can replace training with improvisation. RN trained directors, crews etc. to night fight, RM did not.
In any case, according to the RM fighting instructions, the main turrets were NOT EVEN MANNED at night, so I hope the point is closed.....
You say: "many night fights took place with just that equipment." . Please mention one case in which RM used large calibers at night, before Matapan.

Now, based on above, if you want to demonstrate how obsolete and rigid were the RM procedures, then I agree with you 100%, but Italian large ships were not supposed to fight at night with their main armament at the time of Cape Matapan. This is a fact known to everybody (except you).


Re. Iachino responsibilities, he took on himself the full responsibility for the decision to send back 2 heavy cruisers and 4 destroyers after the action. However, differently from the RN admirals, Iachino had to ask permission to Rome to take any initiative even when faced to critical decisions at sea. He could have very well defended himself at a Court Martial saying that if Supermarina was not in agreement with the decision, they could have stopped him, while they did not.

As I explained, Cattaneo suggested to send back only the destroyers and Iachino decided for the 2 Zara because he considered that the destroyers alone would have been unable to tow the Pola and defend themselves the day after, when still far from Italy. For sure the decision was wrong with hindsight and even without hindsight, he could have been blamed for risking other two large ships.
Cattaneo however, despite his right suggestion, was sailing not according to the fighting instructions, without the screen of destroyers in front of him, and this resulted in the massacre, but we will never be able to ask him why.

An inquiry would have been well due after Matapan, I fully agree, but at the end the responsible could have been identified in the Supermarina chiefs with their old fashioned conception of the war at sea, more than with the admiral commanding the fleet. I guess that Supermarina and the fascist propaganda would never have risked to hold such a trial in wartime.



Finally, you say "You really should learn to take criticism........everyone else just laughs at your total misunderstanding and STUPIDITY".
I just tell you once again that you should learn not to insult other people. :stop: Apparently, we have received a different education as you are still unable to moderate your words while I am, even when provoked in such a blatant and vulgar way.

Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by pgollin » Wed Jul 22, 2015 10:20 am

.

Sorry, you don't understand - you made the claim, it is up to you to substantiate it.

Are you saying that no gunnery officers on Italian cruisers and battleships had operated on destroyers ?

In what possible way were Italian directors incapable of operating at night ?

PLEASE quote the wording used about not having the turrets manned at night - for which hours after dusk, and before dawn were they manned ?

Asking permission does NOT absolve him of responsibility - he would be assumed to be one with the full facts - so a court martial would be entirely suitable (exactly why there was NO court martial for Denmark Straits

It was not the lack of a screen in front of him, but a extended screen away from the cruisers.

No, the officers at sea are the people who have to answer - again, why there was no court martial at Denmark Strait. IF it was agreed at the court martial that the procedures were incorrect that "should" be sufficient to instigate an inquiry into the procedures

You seem to not understand that making a (or in your case many) stupid statement means that people will call you out for it. You have no idea of court martial procedures in the RN - the fact that there were some which HAD to be called (for formal reasons) despite their being usually just a formality, and how others were never convened because the authorities agreed with the actions.

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Jul 22, 2015 1:10 pm

@pgollin:
I made the claim because it's a well known fact. If I state that horses don't fly, and you say the opposite, I guess it's you that need to demonstrate your statement...... :negative:

However, here you are with a (randomly picked up, poor "Google Books" quality, I apologize, but I hope I could have it fully understandable) caption in English. Reference is "Clash of Titans. World War II at sea" of Walter J Boyne, chapter 2 , paragraph "Victories in the Mediterranean" where, through a brief but good description, you will even be able to learn something basic about the RM readiness conditions entering the war, including limited admirals independence when at sea, relations with other armies and fuel availability):
Clash1.jpg
Clash1.jpg (40.14 KiB) Viewed 3131 times
Now, please, BEFORE speaking again of things that apparently you totally ignore, post a caption of a serious book (not your personal only speculations and theories) where someone says that Italian ships main turrets were manned at night and don't ask me to waste other time to find out for you at what time breakfast was distributed on RM ships during WWII as I don't know and honestly I don't care much..... :lol:



Coming to a bit more serious topic, I never meant Cattaneo should have sailed with destroyers in front of the heavy cruisers on a line, but with a screen of the 4 available destroyers preceding him and disposed from left to right. He should have sailed at high speed (as per Italian fighting procedures, again) too, to ensure any encounter would have happened with destroyers first. This was not the case at Matapan.
Were destroyed first seen by British forces, perhaps things would have developed differently, knowing that Zara's were capable of 32 knots and could possibly (try to) escape, keeping in mind Cunningham ships were quite slow and they should have possibly be forced to maneuver to avoid destroyers' torpedoes.

I agree in normal conditions an inquiry (or even a Court Martial) for negligence would have been appropriate for Cattaneo, Iachino AND whoever decided not to prepare the RM for night action with main armament.


Finally, I will ignore your offense as usual, and as usual I will not use these words ("stupid") related to other people, but I can assure you that I have read accounts of Court Martials in the RN (while you seem not to have read anything about the WWII RM), so if you want to discuss the possible DS one, there is a very successful thread for that..... :D


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

A Raven

Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by A Raven » Wed Jul 22, 2015 4:29 pm

From The Naval War in The Mediterranean 1940 -1943, by Green and Massignani. Paper back edition, published in 2002, page 195.

"Brivonesi's command sighted the British again and they fired a total of 207 8" shells, ............ "

This quote relates to the destruction of the Italian convoy during the NIGHT of the 9th of November 1941.
I believe it is quite possible that the Italian 8" turrets WERE in fact not manned, but ones of a fully automatic design.

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by Byron Angel » Thu Jul 23, 2015 1:55 am

..... I would suggest that, while standard Italian doctrine may have dictated that cruiser main battery turrets not be manned at night, it does not necessarily follow that they would NEVER be manned at night. That decision would always rest with the captain, the perceived tactical circumstances and his orders.

B

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:15 am

@A Raven
Hi, thanks for your example related to November 1941; as I have said already in another thread , Cape Matapan (March 1941) action was a tough lesson for the RM that was obliged to re-discuss her obsolete conception of war at sea.

After the disaster, Supermarina decided to change the procedures and Italians started to practice night firing with main calibers (for the battleships as well as for the 4 remaining heavy cruisers).

I have to add that due to poor rangefinder optimization for night vision, no radar, no stabilized projectors, poor star shells (projectiles performance together with limited range guns) and slow introduction of reduced balze chages, the results of the fire exercises and actions, still 8 months after and even later, as per your example, were very disappointing...... However, as at Matapan, the main reason for the British success during November 8/9 action was not linked to RN ability to fight at night but to Ultra message decoding and radar availbility.....

I repeat, no main caliber was planned to be used at night at the time of Matapan action and, as a consequence, the turrets were not manned during the night, therefore not practically usable.



@Byron Angel:
Hi Byron, possibly a Captain with a peculiar personal initiative could have decided to ignore the standard procedures, but this was not the case in any situation I'm aware before the "surprise" at Matapan.....

Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by pgollin » Thu Jul 23, 2015 10:52 am

.

Alberto, you claimed that it was in the Italian fighting Instructions that the turrets were not manned, but the only proof you put up is a secondary source which does not even quote the Fighting Instructions.

You keep missing the point that it is you that need to provide the proof

As far as I can see you are quite happy that the two Admirals who "should" have been facing a court martial for the mess at Matapan were not taken to task because of politics, but somehow think that the RN should have ignored the senior commanders and taken Leach to a court martial - that is hypocritical


-------

IF you think the Denmark Straits thread is a successful one for your point of view I suggest you re-read it - it mainly consists of the hopeless repetition of people who make ridiculous claims that a Court Martiald should have been held even when the immediate commanders didn't think so. I.E. people in 2015 trying to double-guess the people who were there.

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Jul 23, 2015 11:15 am

@pgollin:
total nonsense: I provided a solid reference, you provided nothing except insults and I'm sure you will be able to produce nothing....

I could add a lot more supporting the inability of our main guns to be used at night, like this, the site mentioned by Wadinga when this discussion started (it's the Italian Ministry of Defense site dedicated to the Regia Marina history)
http://www.regiamarina.net/detail_text_ ... id=1&cid=5
"......Cattaneo’s behavior, by contrast, can only be justified if the admiral had not considered as likely any possibility of an unpleasant night encounter or in any case he was convinced that, like his own, British capital ships were incapable of fighting at night......"
or this one (from "Naval Policy and Strategy in the Mediterranean: Past - Present and Future" of John B. Hattendorf ("France and Italy" chapter, "World War II and its aftermath" paragraph)
Naval Policy.jpg
Naval Policy.jpg (26.35 KiB) Viewed 3039 times
As you see, everybody, except you, seem to be sure that RM had very limited night fighting capabilities....



As already said, if you are UNABLE to proof in any way your funny personal theory that Italians large caliber guns were manned at night before Matapan, please admit plainly YOU WERE WRONG or.... just shut up !. :quiet:


You have already made people laugh at your lack of knowledge regarding the Regia Marina, avoid to show yourself as unable of admitting an evident error....... even if an error that you chose to accompany with insults ("stupid") is a bit difficult to admit, but this is entirely your fault...... :lol:

Alberto
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"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by A Raven » Thu Jul 23, 2015 3:29 pm

Mr Virtuani's statement of the 23rd, I quote, " However as at Matapan, the main reason for the British success during November 8/9 action was not linked to the RN ability to fight at night, but to Ultra message decoding and radar availability".

This statement is false, and is so typical of those that Italian apologists frequently make.

Force K was sent in the general direction of the convoy, NOT on an intercept course, The C in C Malta hoping that this would be good enough for Force K to make an interception.

RADAR. The convoy was NOT detected by radar, but located visually well outside of radar range.
Radar played a part. I REPEAT A PART, in the destruction of the convoy. It was NOT a deciding factor.

THE REASON why the Italians suffered such a defeat, was the ABILITY OF FORCE K TO FIGHT AT NIGHT!

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by Byron Angel » Fri Jul 24, 2015 2:32 am

Alberto Virtuani wrote:@Byron Angel:
Hi Byron, possibly a Captain with a peculiar personal initiative could have decided to ignore the standard procedures, but this was not the case in any situation I'm aware before the "surprise" at Matapan.....
Alberto,
Interesting misunderstanding, I think. It was not evident to me that what I had written could be interpreted in the way that you did. My intent was actually to suggest that a reported instance of Italian main battery cruiser gunfire does not necessarily disprove that notion that Italian doctrine was to leave cruiser main batteries unmanned at night. If heavy enemy units were physically encountered in the night and a full-scale engagement with them was unavoidable, no sensible captain would in such a situation fail to order all guns manned if for no other reason than simple self-defense.

B

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Fri Jul 24, 2015 8:40 am

@Byron Angel:
Hi Byron, I see my misunderstanding of your statement :oops: . Still, without training, turrets unmanned and with a clear (obsolete) doctrine dictating to run away from enemy at night I would see very unlikely that any major Italian ship could make use of her main guns at night before Matapan.
After Matapan, when the full strategy of RM (including aircraft carriers, radar etc.) was re-discussed, the night usage of main guns was planned and executed (albeit with no great results....),as per A Raven example.



@A Raven
you wrote :"This statement is false, and is so typical of those that Italian apologists frequently make. "
I'm not much interested in identifying "Italian apologists" (I'm not one of them for sure, as the guilty deficiencies of our RM were blatant and not only related to radars or Ultra...) as opposed to "British exalted" (I'm sure you are not one of them as well) and I will only state facts as they are commonly known:

Here the account of the battle in Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of ... urg_Convoy
Duisburg1.jpg
Duisburg1.jpg (78.42 KiB) Viewed 2974 times
and here the article of Vince O'Hara (apologist perhaps but not Italian) from the official site of Italian Navy (Regia Marina historical session)
http://www.regiamarina.net/detail_text.asp?nid=67&lid=1
Duisburg2.jpg
Duisburg2.jpg (199.9 KiB) Viewed 2974 times
From other accounts, I was aware that "The reconnaissance aircraft that was supposed to vector Force K onto the convoy suffered radio and radar failures, and was unable to locate the convoy or communicate with Force K. Nevertheless, Force K reached a point 135 miles east of Syracuse, where Agnew had almost given up hopes of finding them when, at 00.39, the Aurora obtained a radar contact. "


Based on the above, I can still easily say that ",as at Matapan, the main reason for the British success during November 8/9 action was not linked to the RN ability to fight at night, but to Ultra message decoding and radar availability"
I also have no difficulty to admit that , had Italians been equipped with radar and Ultra messages not been decoded, still the British would have possibly won due to their superior fighting capability at night , however this ability was irrelevant due to the advantages they had.

In case you have different information, could you please tell us (posting some reference and possibly links) what is "false" in your opinion in these accounts ?

Thanks in advance

Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Fri Jul 24, 2015 10:15 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by pgollin » Fri Jul 24, 2015 9:40 am

.

Alberto, you seem incapable of recognising that you have NOT provided proper sources, only secondary, or even tertiary ones. It was YOU who claimed that the unmanned turrets were in the Italian "Fighting Instructions" but none of your secondary quotes mention these - so where is you evidence ?

You still have this strange idea that secondary sources are real evidence - PLEASE give your evidence that the turrets were unmanned.

You seem to think that the gunnery crews in the directors and lookouts all were allowed to sleep at night.

NOTHING that you have posted demonstrates that the RM heavy ships were not as well equipped to fight at night as RN ships (with the limited and rare availability of radar which was NOT used in firing).

===================

On a serious note, please don't quote Vincent O'Hara as his books tend to be re-hashes of the Italian revisionist books and are unreliable (read his account of Second Sirte). He is however doing a major book on Operation Torch which is claimed will be good, we will see.

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Fri Jul 24, 2015 10:46 am

@pgollin:
it's honestly curious that you are not ashamed to continue this discussion.....

You seem not to be able (or willing.....) to understand that if everybody knows that main gun turrets were not manned at night at Matapan as per Italian fighting procedures, IT'S YOU THAT NEED TO PROVIDE ANY KIND OF REFERENCE., even a fourth hand one....

You are apparently UNABLE to do so....... Not only I don't see your first hand reference but NO reference at all..... guess why ?

A pity for the reputation of your RM knowledge....... :lol:

I will not loose my time to search for original RM Fighting Instructions to demonstrate what EVERYBODY consider as an historical fact.



However, here you are with another reference form Italian side (A.Petacco is a well know authors of WWII books Naval History WWII books of what I say (in Italian, but with my translation for you.....).....
Arrigo Petacco - Le battaglie navali del Mediterraneo nella seconda guerra mondiale - Capitolo "La notte di Matapan" pag. 107

"Gli incrociatori italiani mandati in soccorso del Pola procedevano tranquilli nella notte senza neppure tenere le armi di bordo in posizione di sparo. I cannoni avevano addirittura le bocche otturate dai tappi metallici come stabiliva il nostro antiquato regolamento per la navigazione notturna"
" The Italian cruisers that were sent rescuing the Pola were proceeding calm in the night, without even having their weapons onboard in fire position. The guns had even the muzzles closed by their tompion covers (not sure about the translation[, the metal caps of the gun when they are not used /i]) as it was established by our obsolete instructions for night sailing"


Re. O'Hara, what and where is your reference ? Just yourself, as for the RM night fighting capabilities ? :lol:
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

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