Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

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pgollin
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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby pgollin » Tue Aug 11, 2015 9:50 am

.

Where did those Italian accounts come from ? They are OBVIOUSLY NOT official reports as they include information not available to the Italian officers at the time - so are they just secondary sources ?

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Antonio Bonomi
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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:03 pm

Hello everybody,

http://conlapelleappesaaunchiodo.blogsp ... fiume.html

Prima ancora che il messaggio dello Stuart fosse ricevuto sulla Warspite, comunque, fu il commodoro John Hereward Edelsten, capo di Stato Maggiore di Cunningham, ad avvistare le navi italiane. Mentre tutte le vedette, i puntatori e gli ufficiali britannici cercavano nel buio a sinistra, dove il radar della Valiant aveva localizzato il relitto del Pola, Edelsten stava tranquillamente controllando l’orizzonte sulla destra, con un binocolo, dalla plancia ammiraglio della Warspite. Alle 22.25 Edelsten disse con calma a Cunningham di aver avvistato due grandi incrociatori, preceduti da uno di dimensioni minori, che stavano attraversando la rotta della formazione britannica a proravia della stessa, ad una distanza di un paio di miglia, sulla dritta. Il comandante della Mediterranean Fleet si accertò egli stesso dell’esattezza dell’avvistamento, ed il capitano di fregata Power, esperto nel riconoscimento delle navi italiane, confermò che fossero due incrociatori classe Zara e (erroneamente) uno da 5000-6000 tonnellate, probabilmente tipo Colleoni. Erano le navi di Cattaneo, in navigazione in linea di fila su rotta 130°.


Translated :

Even before the HMAS Stuart message was received on the Warspite, however, it was the Commodore John Hereward Edelsten, Chief of Cunningham Staff, to sight the Italian ships.

While all the lookouts, pointers and the British officers were looking in the dark to the left, where the radar of the Valiant had located the position of the Pola, Edelsten was quietly checking the horizon on the right, with binoculars, from the Admiral bridge of the Warspite.

At 22.25 Edelsten said quietly to Adm Cunningham that he spotted two large cruisers, preceded by a smaller one, who were crossing the route of the British formation forward of the starboard bow, at a distance of a couple of miles to starboard.

The commander of the Mediterranean Fleet ( Adm Cunningham ) made sure himself of the accuracy of the sighting, and Commander Power, an expert in the recognition of the Italian ship profiles, confirmed that they were two Zara class heavy cruisers and ( incorrectly ) one from 5000-6000 tons, probably type Colleoni ( Alberto da Giussano class light cruiser ).

They were the Adm Cattaneo ships, sailing in line ahead on course 130°.


Now it will be interesting to realize from George Stitt account, ... what happened on the Warspite admiral bridge on those 10 minutes, ... from 22.25 until 22.35 ... and the orders issued from there ... :think:

Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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wadinga
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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby wadinga » Tue Aug 11, 2015 5:53 pm

Hello Antonio,

Phil is absolutely right, these entries from the Web are polluted with new information which may or may not be accurate. We need contemporary accounts. The references to Edelsten's actions have been lifted from British post war accounts, translated into Italian, and now you have retranslated! :shock:

Here is an example of what the British thought immediately after the action in the internal information sent round to various commands:
From the Naval Situation Report for the week, see TNA CAB/66/16/1 -

Air reconnaissance on the 27th March reported a force of enemy warships to the eastward of Sicily steering east. On the morning of the 28th March our light forces sighted one Littorio class battleship, accompanied by cruisers, to the south-west of Crete steering south-east, while air reconnaissance reported two battleships, cruisers and destroyers to the north of this position. On being sighted the enemy turned westward, proceeding at high speed. During the day the Littorio class battleship was repeatedly and successfully attacked with torpedoes by the Fleet air arm which caused serious damage. A successful attack was also made by bombers of the R.A.F. on cruisers and destroyers. The loss of speed resulting from these air attacks enabled our heavier ships to gain contact with the enemy at dusk, and a short but decisive action took place, resulting in the loss of three enemy 8-inch cruisers (Pola, Zara and Fiume) and two destroyers, Vincenzo Gioberti and Maestrale. It is probable that the 6-inch cruiser Giovanni Delle Bancle Nere and one other destroyer were also sunk. Two dive-bombers were shot down during daylight operations. Apart from three Naval aircraft which are missing, no damage or casualties were sustained by any of our ships. On the morning of the 29th nearly a thousand Italian survivors were rescued, which number would have been considerably increased had not German bombers attacked the rescuing ships. The Commander-in-Chief informed the Chief of the Italian Naval Staff of the position of the survivors, which he had been forced to abandon, and suggested that a hospital ship should be sent. A reply of thanks was received indicating that the hospital ship Piscana had already sailed. Greek destroyers which were rushed through the Corinth Canal arrived too late to take part in the action, but assisted to pick up survivors. Opposing forces consisted of British : three battleships, one aircraft carrier, four cruisers and twelve destroyers; Italian : three battleships, eleven cruisers and fourteen destroyers. - See more at: http://ww2today.com/28th-march-1941-ita ... gq7su.dpuf


It is clear that even the number, let alone identities of the Italian ships sunk (or even shot at) were not known and before you start spotting inconsistencies, the two additional Fleet Air Arm aircraft ended up landing ashore due to low fuel. There is no propaganda in this description, this is a secret internal appreciation, no public release at the time, "Apart from three Naval aircraft which are missing, no damage or casualties were sustained by any of our ships" so Mr Enrico Cernuschi's imaginary creation of Barham's damage can be dismissed, just as it should have been when the Doctor's contemporary evidence came to light.

BTW I imagine Barham was well astern of Valiant unlike the artist's impressions, since Formidable had turned away early leaving a gap "In the line of battle". OMG another RN captain having to justify his actions at an imaginary Court Martial. :stubborn:

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Tue Aug 11, 2015 6:34 pm

Hello everybody,

@ Wadinga,

of course those are current accounts polluted by any sort of inputs, ... this is the reason why I am just collecting everything available before trying to make an overall initial analysis, ... I already failed once with Barham and Bahram, ... so I will take my time now, ... there is no hurry.

I am going to get all the official Italian account as soon as possible, ... but this is vacation time in Italy, ... so it will take time, ... and I want to have also all the Royal navy official documents about this, ... like I did for the Denmark Strait, ... so I will take my chance next time in Kew-PRO.

BTW I imagine Barham was well astern of Valiant unlike the artist's impressions, since Formidable had turned away early leaving a gap "In the line of battle". OMG another RN captain having to justify his actions at an imaginary Court Martial. :stubborn:


Do not worry Sean, ... be relaxed, ... this time no battleship Captain run away while engaged in action after 2 minutes, ... and no documents has been intentionally produced to save a superficial RearAdmiral declaration ... at least I have found none up to now ... in this case ... :wink:

Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Wed Aug 26, 2015 2:31 pm

Hello everybody,

... getting some initial documentation ... :wink:

... from the Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare ( USMM ), a very good and complete ( more than 750 pages with original documents both sides ) account by Francesco Mattesini :

Mattesini.jpg
Mattesini.jpg (65.92 KiB) Viewed 633 times


... and of course the George Stitt one too :

Stitt.jpg
Stitt.jpg (36.16 KiB) Viewed 633 times


... but it is still not enough ... even if the confusion about this short engagement seems to surface clearly ... with 3 enemy target cruisers taken under fire ... :think:

Surely the enemy identification, ... enemy ship position and name, ... and the relative target bearing needs to be a lot more investigated ... :wink:

Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby wadinga » Wed Sep 02, 2015 6:58 pm

Hello All,

After enjoying Mr Ceruschi's invention of heroic activities in a propaganda format 70 years too late for the Italian papers, but which was still regrettably published recently, and apparently uncritically endorsed by Antonio above, here is an Australian equivalent from 1941:

From the Northern Star (Australian Newspaper) published Darwin 4th April 1941

OLD DESTROYER TACKLED
MODERN CRUISERS
Alexandria, April 2.
According to the report of Ian Fichert, official war correspondent in the Middle East, one of Australia’s oldest destroyers H.M.A.S. Stuart is the hero of last week’s Ionian Sea action, in which the Italians suffered heavy losses.
This 23-year-old destroyer fought three modern enemy cruisers, each seven times her size and a modern destroyer.
She crippled the destroyer and left the cruisers blazing and helpless.
“One salvo blew away the bridge of the Italian destroyer "Vittorio Alfieri and hit her at the bow and stern.”
Another Australian ship the cruiser, Perth, was also in the action and it is reported, did useful work. The Stuart, was among the first destroyers to contact the enemy cruisers.
“One was burning, the other steaming' slowly. The Stuart sent a" torpedo into the less damaged ship.”
After dealing with the Vittorio Alfieri, the Stuart contacted the two cruisers once more. Though her guns were not big enough to send them to the bottom she left them blazing from stem to stern.
According to the Admiralty, the Italian losses were the" 10,000 ton cruisers Zara, Fiume and Pola, and the destroyers Vincenzo Gioberti (1,729 tons) and Maestrale (1,449 tons). The cruiser Giovanni Della Bande Nera (1,449 tons) and destroyer Vittorio Alfieri were reported as probably sunk, and a battleship of the Littorio class (35,000 tons) as badly damaged.”


Note the complete absence of any reference to "Pommie" battleships' presence (perhaps they had all withdrawn prematurely :shock: ) but particularly the Admiralty's lack of accurate information on Italian losses. Note the internal briefing referenced earlier in the thread and the external public release here are exactly the same, no propaganda distortion. No need really :cool:

This action happened so quickly, remember Barham's doctor wasn't even at his action station when X turret opened fire, that I doubt whether there were any "distribution of fire" orders from ABC (which he would have included in his account, surely). The confusion over which targets were where is probably irresolvable, but the Italian accounts must be correct on squadron order, and since there was a delay before target number 3 (Alfieri) was assaulted with gunfire, I suspect that all three battleships engaged the two cruisers initially.

That the Italian Navy considered main battery operation at night so unlikely as to not be worth even training for, is undoubtedly inexcusable, but for three 35,000 battleships, an aircraft carrier and their escorts to not apparently even be sighted before they opened fire at 3.5 km, is beyond belief! Italian eyeballs and Italian binoculars are no less effective than British. The lookouts were at least supposed to be looking out for Pola during this salvage mission, but without even a radar contact to divert their attention, there can be no excuses. None of the Italian accounts referenced so far suggest there was any indication of British ships being spotted by anybody at all, until the first salvos were fired.

The British shortcomings at night at Jutland, including challenge procedures/ unwillingness to open fire even on crippled German battlecruisers, inability to seize the initiative without a superior's permission, bitter lessons cruelly learned in 1916, had been eradicated. No professionally competent officer class should have allowed these lessons not to be learned within their own Navies in the twenties and thirties. At Guadalcanal, maybe Allied over-reliance on radar gave Japanese lookouts the edge in a similar situation.

Over 2000 Italian sailors killed at Matapan, in what even their opponents were prepared to agree was just a slaughter, would have a different definition of what constituted "shameful" behaviour by those in authority, and some different nominees, than some of those suggested on this site. Those picked up and taken prisoner were lucky men indeed to escape the risks inherent in serving in such a ramshackle disorganisation.

There is no doubting the bravery, patriotism and professionalism of many individuals in the Italian Navy of WWII, but the organisation from top down suffered all the inherant ills of Fascist totalitarian domination, the defeat of which in 1943, liberated a people too civilised to truly believe in such a hateful agenda.

All the best

wadinga
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Thu Sep 03, 2015 7:59 am

Wadinga wrote: ", I suspect that all three battleships engaged the two cruisers initially. "

Hi Sean,
I suspect it too but given the gun bearings (232 for Warspite leading and 230 for Valiant following), I don't think possible that Warspite and Valiant both engaged Fiume..... I agree Alfieri was targetted at the end of the main caliber action (later) but as I said in another thread, there are discrepancies between the Italian and the British batttlemaps and I have not seen yet an explanation for the third cruiser (or destroyer) seen (and reported in ABC official report) by the British at the front of the Italian line..... :think:

I do hope that one day someone will be able to put together the accounts and official reports of all ships involved (including destroyers from both side) to understand what was seen from British side and the exact salvos and targets of the 3 battleships during the action. :think:



Regarding your tough comment on RM preparation for night fighting, I'm afraid I agree on them.
The fact that the Italians were unable to see what the British saw in the night cannot be explained (as you correctly suggest) by Italian negligence as all ships were at action stations, with lookouts manned and even in the compass platforms officers were desperately looking around to see the Pola (Cattaneo ordered doubled surveillance in the bow sectors.... :shock: ).
I can confirm that no witness (several were questioned after their rescue from Nave Gradisca) said the British ships were seen before the Greyhound projector was switched on.....
The only explanation is that possibly the visibility conditions were very different from South-West than they were from North-East. Having been at sea, you know that this can happen due to several factors....

I also agree that Jutland lessons (and early war advise) were not understood by the RM chiefs and that only the tragedy at Matapan was forcing RM to practice night usage of large guns, to start studying the radar and to plan the construction of a carrier (too late of course)...... In this sense I don't know what was the preparation of the "estimated" Italian navy opponent, the French Marine Nationale regarding night fighting. I know they had no radar and no carrier as well.....therefore I suspect that RM was just measuring herself against the French.....as they did for naval constructions specifications.

Bye, Alberto
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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Thu Sep 03, 2015 9:26 am

Hello everybody,

@ Wadinga,

you wrote :

No professionally competent officer class should have allowed these lessons not to be learned within their own Navies in the twenties and thirties.


Reference your above statement, can you define for me the officer class competence level of the Navy that sent the HMS Hood against the Bismarck after the battlecruiser Jutland lesson ?

As an additional help for your evaluation, you may consider also the HMS Glorious sent back home with 2 destroyers escort ... with no airplanes ready to be launched on his main deck, … no crow nest manned at all, .. and with half boilers under pressure, … while sailing in enemy waters, ... knowing there were Kriegsmarine units at sea on the area from several Bletchley park warnings.

Regarding the Matapan night action, ... if it is true that the Italian did not see, ... we still need to realize better what did the Royal Navy ships saw at all, ... because is it out of discussion that they saw what apparently was not there at all ... while we still need to realize what really was that 3rd cruiser ... :think:

This overall situation is becoming really intriguing now ... as I look the battle maps, ... the relative tracks and bearings ... :wink:

Bye Antonio :D
Last edited by Antonio Bonomi on Thu Sep 03, 2015 9:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby pgollin » Thu Sep 03, 2015 9:57 am

.

Your ignorance about Hood being used in battle due to her being classed as a "battlecruiser" is outstanding.

As far as the RN was concerned the Hood was the equal of a Queen Elizabeth battleship in armour - Hood was a new type of battlecruiser where the armour was meant to be the equal of contemporary battleships.

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Thu Sep 03, 2015 12:09 pm

@pgollin:
No, sorry. Hood armor protection was meant to be equivalent to the contemporary battleships of WWI. This protection had already been considered by Admiralty not capable of withstanding the British 15" at relatively long range (20 degrees descent angle) since 1920 (please see also ADM 1/9226 recommendations).....

no21987-1920_Gunnery_trials.jpg
no21987-1920_Gunnery_trials.jpg (39.03 KiB) Viewed 529 times

The horizontal protection of 3 QE class ships (Queen Elizabeth, Warspite and Valiant) had already been radically upgraded by WWII...... Hood lacked several essential modifications when she was sent out against the Bismarck (albeit the fatal hit was possibly penetrating the belt or, more probably, slipping under the belt, as the descent angle of the shell was much lower, around 11 degrees if I remember correctly.....thus any modification would have possibly been insufficient) .


As Italians were unable to learn the lesson of Jutland re. night fight importance, RN was unable to learn and apply the Jutland lesson that ships, whose protection was not coping with the opponent guns, should not be sent against them.
Also, as RM was unable to correctly evaluate the progresses that British had done in their night fighting capabilities, RN was unable to correctly evaluate the progresses of a modern 15", as they estimated (wrongly) that Hood could still be somehow immune vs BS at relatively shorter ranges, possibly based on their own 15" performance.

Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Thu Sep 03, 2015 1:28 pm, edited 11 times in total.
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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Thu Sep 03, 2015 12:13 pm

Hello everybody,

@ Alberto,

... :clap:

In fact the order came from the Home Fleet Commander stating :

Tovey_order_Holland_01.jpg
Tovey_order_Holland_01.jpg (96.53 KiB) Viewed 527 times


No further comments are necessary ...

Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby wadinga » Thu Sep 03, 2015 1:27 pm

Hello Antonio,

Thank you for justifying WW and Ellis' decision to stay out out of range of Bismarck

whose protection was not coping with the opponent guns, should not be sent against them
. :wink:

Sorry,wrong thread. The name of the game of war is "Risk".

So Cunningham should never have contemplated action against Vittorio Veneto (one more 15" than Bismarck) with his old ships? There is no comparison between not planning/training for any night actions and sending possibly inadequate ships when that is all you have. Alberto accepts this.

Glorious is a different case. They were slapdash and sloppy, and they paid with their lives, but they thought they had left the war zone, going home and also their Captain was borderline i*sane. (Too bad they didn't remove him 146 days after they thought about it.) Hinsley's traffic intercepts did not put German ships in the Norwegian sea, but merely indicated "something was brewing". Hindsight is 20/20 vision.

Cattaneo had his destroyer "screen" behind him where they could see and do nothing, as he sailed toward the powerful enemy, the rest of the Italian fleet was retreating from at maximum available speed. That the extra lookouts saw nothing of a battlefleet at 3.5 kms is still unbelievable. The best excuse I have seen for Cunningham's ships being apparently invisible, was because the perfidious British had painted them with camouflage :D Were there no other colours than light grey available in Taranto?

The British will have seen bow waves and little more until the searchlights went on, and the leading ship was on the periphery of illumination. Even so-called flashless cordite would be blinding and afterward they only claimed Alfieri as possibly sunk, even though somebody picked up 35 survivors.

You have answered one question as to why Iachino left behind his other battleships

whose protection was not coping with the opponent guns, should not be sent against them.


A splendid excuse for staying in harbour and doing nothing. If he had decided the same for all his other ships he would have saved a lot of lives.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Thu Sep 03, 2015 1:40 pm

Hi Sean,
I think you have mixed up some of Antonio's statements with some of mine..... :wink:

I have never said Ellis and WW should have attacked before the BC1 ships were engaged. There was no real risk for Norfolk and Suffolk in opening fire after 5:52, as BS could not return fire on them, just 6" possibly. :oops:

You have answered one question as to why Iachino left behind his other battleships
whose protection was not coping with the opponent guns, should not be sent against them.

A splendid excuse for staying in harbour and doing nothing. If he had decided the same for all his other ships he would have saved a lot of lives.

Just joking: would you have enjoyed if, that very night, the RM was going to loose also some battleships, wouldn't you ? :wink:
More seriously: that was one of the reasons why I think the older battleships were left in harbor (see my post in "Prelude to Matapan" thread. The main reason was to give to the whole fleet a speed of 30 knots without limiting it to the slower Cesare and Doria.
Please don't forget, in any case, that Supermarina was not expecting (and for sure not planning) to meet ANY battleship in the sortie.....

Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Thu Sep 03, 2015 1:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Thu Sep 03, 2015 1:51 pm

Hello everybody,

@ Wadinga,

one thing is stay out of range, ... another is find yourself in range and manoeuvre after the " Enemy in Sight ! " signal by your battleships in such a way to go out of range, ... while your enemy is keeping a similar unprotected heavy cruiser ( the Prinz Eugen ) in line opening fire against battleships ( Hood and PoW ), ... so definitively taking the " risk " you are referring to.

I do not justify Wake-Walker and Ellis decisions, ... I simply demonstrated and understood what they really did, ... and I leave to you and everybody else the evaluations about this conduct from a military stand point.

Facts are that by taking that " risk " Adm Lutjens won the battle, ... and that on May 27th, 1941 both Norfolk and Dorsetshire opened fire against the Bismarck while under her guns range.

You were talking about " professionally competent officer class ", and I am asking you to define the competences of who sent HMS Hood against the Bismarck knowing his protection weaknesses even against WW1 15inch guns.

The HMS Glorious case is with no possible discussions, so evident it is the very limited set of " competences " there.

Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Cape Matapan and Italian WWII fighting procedures

Postby wadinga » Thu Sep 03, 2015 9:08 pm

Hello Antonio,

I thought this thread was about Matapan.......................but then again, sometimes something really spooky happens......... :shock:


Commander R L Fisher, Pridham-Wippell's Staff officer said of their rejoining with the rest of Cunningham's force.

It must have been at the end of this retreat" continues Fisher, "that we sighted our Commander-in-Chief, rather unexpectedly, and a discrepancy between Craske's reckoning and Tom Brownrigg's came to light. I can't remember how much it was - 10 or 15 miles perhaps- but it was very troublesome when we came to marry up our track charts with that of the Commander-in-Chief afterwards. Much midnight oil was spent on this and you can take it that in the official track some distortion had been resorted to to make them fit. I recollect that Craske and I were quite certain ours was right and Tom Brownrigg's wrong, but we had to distort ours in deference to the Commander-in-Chief's seniority."


from Night Action off Matapan S W C Pack Ian Allen 1972

Right, :shock: institute immediate investigation, identify those guilty and bring their shameful actions, falsification of records which they must have signed for, sworn, declared whatever. We have the names: starting with Cunningham.

Alberto, change your sign off immediately, you are quoting a shameful person. Not only did he perjure himself by not admitting Barham was damaged, ignoring 100 casualties- dead sailors whose demise he hid, but now we find he was guilty of changing track plots and bullying his subordinates into falsifying records. I expect Churchill was involved too. :stubborn:

Or maybe we should get sensible and forget the whole made-up scandal. :lol: And the other one too.

All the best

wadinga
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