Matapan

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Matapan

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Jun 20, 2019 11:06 am

Hello everybody,

I have to partially correct the timing of the "long" message (download/file.php?id=3532) and to add some info that I got from my friend F.Mattesini (who has written the most complete book on Matapan in Italy, edited by the USMM, Ufficio Storico Marina Militare).


The "long message" was the repetition (see words: "Ripeto teleavio 05521 del 25 marzo" where "ripeto" means "I repeat") of a written message sent by plane (the word "teleavio") to Rhodes on March 25 and never arrived due to an air accident to the plane.
The CinC Rhodes (Egeomil, Generale Bastico) was asked to acknowledge the arrival of the plane, Bastico however (at 20:00 on March 27) answered to Rome that he had never received the message. Thus, immediately, the message was encoded via Enigma and transmitted via radio to Rhodes (this is the origin of the "long message").

Thus I was in error saying that (due to an approximate classification of the messages from Supermarina in my hands) the "long" message was sent at around 18:00. It was sent just after 20:00, thus when Cunningham was surely at sea.

If, as I think, Ultra messages were never sent via radio to the ships, then, even if the message was decritted quite quickly, in no way it could help Cunningham in his decisions. If, instead it was decritted in a kind of record time and these info were distributed via radio, then it could came to him before the encounter with the Italian cruiser at Gaudo (8AM on March 28), but this is highly unprobable due to its lenght an complexity.


In any case, Mavis Batey is wrong in his interview when she says that Cunningham went to sea with the whole Mediterranean Fleet only after he had known that Vittorio Veneto was at sea: he had decided to sail with the whole battlefleet already based only on the short fatal message ("today is day X-3" download/file.php?id=3529).


In case anyone can confirm whether ULTRA messages were sent only via cable line or also via radio, and in case anyone has the decoded long message text and the time it was sent to Cunningham (I was unable to locate it as well as Mattesini was not aware of it), please let us know, as in any case the info was very important to better understand the tactical decisions of Cunningham on March 28 morning. Of course, after 11 AM on March 28, everything was clear to Cunningham (Vittorio Veneto had engaged the British cruisers) and whether the message was decoded or not makes no difference.


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

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Re: Matapan

Post by wadinga » Sun Jun 23, 2019 1:25 am

Fellow Contributors,

Hinsley British Intelligence in the Second World War Vol 1 1979 is quite specific. The indicators were German Air Force messages for co-ordinated attacks on British airfields combined with the 25th March Italian "X-3"showing that a major fleet movement "a thrust into the eastern Mediterranean or Aegean" would take place. Budiansky says details of this were sent to Cunningham at 08:20 on the 26th. Hinsley says as late as 12:30 on 27th March there was debate whether it was an attack on Alexandria-Greece convoys or a landing operation in Libya. Only then when air recon found 3 Italian cruisers and a destroyer heading for Crete did the picture become clear, but Cunningham was already at sea.

GC and CS also deciphered an incorrect Italian appraisal that Cunningham was still in harbour at 19:00 on the 27th. Budiansky says the unsteckered (ie no plugboard) Italian Enigma was relatively easy to break. Cunningham had got the warning "something" was underway and got the jump on the opposition who thought he was still in harbour.

Hinsley says " The battle of Matapan followed on March 28th. It was the first important operation in the Mediterranean to be based on Sigint. It is true no further Sigint came to hand after the Italian ships had been encountered on 27th March and that the battle manoeuvres were decided on the strength of sightings, those provided by HMS Warspite's Walrus reconnaissance aircraft being especially valuable.


The Cynthia story was the subject of a major libel case in Italy in 1970 brought by relatives of the supposed traitor Admiral Alberto Lais. Their Supreme Court in Milan concluded it was all a pack of lies. Hmmm.
Bragadin wrote that especially Cunningham’s uncanny ability to sidestep the Italian submarine pickets indicated he had special intel.
Why would anybody trust Bragadin's writings? He promulgated the story of the hit on Warspite by Guilio Cesare, and the supposed Royal Navy cover-up, he promulgated the story of Barham being hit at Matapan and having casualties. Also the subject of a supposed British cover-up, both unbelievably maintained even to this day. He promulgated the idea Cunningham knew where the submarines were and thus could avoid them. None of these things actually happened. Hmmm anything sound familiar here?

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Matapan

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Jun 23, 2019 5:24 am

We may not be too sure of Hinsley's "specifics" here. This is a return to the Luftwaffe Enigma was the leak theory disproved by Divita. The short X-3 message with the Luftwaffe message (assumed) details is way too vague and lacking in information to explain Cunningham's moves. The fatal message is described as a long, detailed, message.

Again Mavis Batey, this time from the NOVA documentary transcripts ( https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcrip ... oding.html ):
Then a very, very, long message came in which was the battle orders, how many cruisers there were and how many submarines were to be there and where they were to be at such and such a time. Absolutely incredible that they should spell it all out.

This is certainly not the x-3 message.
Moreover, the time that they had solved this message is given at about "11:00 o'clock at night" on what has to be the 26th.

This timing was corroborated by Cunningham's Flag Lt. Hugh Lee in a 2001 interview. According to Lee the message was given to him (and he had to give it back under pain of death so it could be destroyed after perusal) aboard the Warspite by the Fleet Intelligence Officer and Lee placed the detailed information on the strategic chart board before a meeting in the ward room was convened by Cunningham at 11:00 AM on the 27th.

Is this a different message from the either X-3 message or the Rhodes message? Did the British intercept the March 26th Rhodes message?
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Matapan

Post by wadinga » Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:22 am

Fellow Contributors,

If Cunningham had really had such specific detail about Italian strength and location, he put Pridham-Wippell's force into the Lion's Den as a sacrificial lamb without any accessible support, and prematurely launched his TBR attack disclosing his carrier's presence before his battleships could realistically intervene. The Italian battleship was hit, stopped for repairs and was still long gone before he got anywhere near.

Surely what we have here are memories from many, many years later not recording the precise sequence of events, and muddling hindsight with what was actually known, at the time. Alberto is correct, there can be no likelihood Ultra intelligence was sent to Cunningham whilst at sea, the secret was far too valuable to risk interception.

In 1941 it was quite sufficient to know a major Italian fleet operation would occur in 3 days' time. Given the vulnerability of the LUSTRE convoys to Greece, it was a strong likelihood they were the target. There seems to have been considerable surprise when Vittorio Veneto was encountered and not just Italian cruisers.

This is similar to Wake-Walker again in an "interview" many years afterwards saying he knew smoke on the horizon at 05:15 was the BCF at Denmark Straits, when he could not possibly have thought so, at the time, especially since he had intercepted a message from Icarus, part of the BCF screen, saying she was many, many miles astern. Recollections without detailed preparation and study of notes made at the time to refer to are extremely unreliable.

Cunningham reputedly bet his operations officer 10 shillings they would not see the enemy at sea, would he really have thrown his money away?

All the best

wadinga
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Matapan

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:01 am

Hello everybody,

while I'm still struggling to find any hint about the possibly decrypted "long" message sent to Rhodes at 20:00 on March 27 and possibly retransmitted by Ultra to Alexandria, and while someone else (in his anger) insists on mentioning DS related matters (e.g. Wake-Walker very incautios and quite comical BBC interview), where they have no link whatsoever here...
Wadinga wrote: "Budiansky says details of this were sent to Cunningham at 08:20 on the 26th. Hinsley says as late as 12:30 on 27th March there was debate whether it was an attack on Alexandria-Greece convoys or a landing operation in Libya...."
Budiansky is only partially correct. The air reconnaissance flights were requested to Rhodes on March 25 (same date as the fatal message) for days X-2 and X-1 over Alexandria and Suda Bay. Also air reconnaissance was ordered on the routes between Alexandria and Pyraeus, both sides of Crete. On day X the air reconnaissancewas was to happen between Crete and Pyraeus. Another message requested bombing over Crete aerodromes for day X. Both message were transmitted in the afternoon of March 25 but were decrypted by Ultra with a certain delay and sent to Cunningham only at 8:20 on March 26. The information was still so generic that it could still be any kind of operation (including an amphibious operation against Crete or North Africa. No other message was sent to any Italian or German command through the Enigma machine containing any information about the mission, after March 25, before the "long" message (download/file.php?id=3532) on March 27 evening, while some messages were sent (on March 26) and intercepted (on 26 and 27) regarding the estimated British fleet movements/availability.

Hinsley is right, as no info could be gathered about the scope of the mission from the "fatal" message (and not even from the following ones). Even after the Sunderland sighting (12:25 on March 27) the target of the mission could still have been Lybia (the fleet was still close to Sicily and the 3 cruisers sighted were steaming 120°, thus still toward a possible Cyrenaica approach.

Cunnningham chose the most probable alternative (an operation against traffic in the Eastern Med) and he was right.

One more proof that the "long" message was not transmitted in time to Cunningham is the fact that the message was still based on the original mission orders that were planning an operation South of Crete (Vittorio Veneto + 3rd Division) and an operation in the Aegean Sea North of Crete (1st Division).

The Sunderland sighting convinced the Italian command to change the plans and to order the 1st Division to join the VV South of Crete (order transmitted to the ships at 22:24 on March 27), because it was clear that all British traffic in Aegean Sea would have been immediately stopped but still the German Ally could not be deceived cancelling the whole operation and the raid South of Crete was confirmed (the Aegean was considered too risky due to British Air Superiority there...).

Had the "long" message been intercepted and decypted in time, Cunningham would have sent something in the Aegean too, to counter the 1st Division (at least he would have ordered air attacks): afaik, he did not.


What is incredible is that, close to Sicily (80 miles) the Sunderland was able to flight over the operation theatre and to sight the Italian Fleet without being intercepted by the Axis Air Forces that "should" have covered the battlefleet operation, at least on March 27, while close to Italy.


Dave Saxton wrote: "the time that they had solved this message is given at about "11:00 o'clock at night" on what has to be the 26th"
Hi Dave, I think this is not possible. As said the "long" mesage was sent to Rhodes on March 27 at 20:00, thus, if ever decrypted it must have been sent to Cunningham at best at 11 o'clock at night (and the timing is not credible due to the length of the message) on March 27, not 26, when Cunningham was surely at sea (but still I have found no evidence that this "long" message was actually ever intercepted and decrypted (at least before day X): I hope to have details from friends in the next days, because this would quite significantly change the history of Matapan).


Wadinga wrote: "In 1941 it was quite sufficient to know a major Italian fleet operation would occur in 3 days' time."
I do agree.
The X-3 message gave Cunningham plenty of time to prepare the counter-action, sailing on 27 evening with the whole fleet, while the Sunderland sighting (a decoy) could have had as effect the sailing of some cruisers only, keeping in mind that Formidable sailed 3 hours later, at 15:30 to embark the airplanes.
The "fatal" message interception (download/file.php?id=3530) gave already a huge advantage to the British in order to plan, prepare and execute the counter-measures (that the simple sighting of the Sunderland would have bever given them), being the actual prime cause of the Matapan disaster.

However, we must recognize that Cunningham was able to interpret correctly the information at his disposal (while Italians were not, with the available info about the British Fleet force and movements).

Wadinga wrote: "Alberto is correct, there can be no likelihood Ultra intelligence was sent to Cunningham whilst at sea"
Is there an evidence for these messages to be sent only via "safe" lines and not via radio ? I must admit that I'm not an expert of Ultra secrecy procedures for sending out these messages.



Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:35 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Matapan

Post by paul.mercer » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:15 am

Gentlemen,
A quick question, I thought that QE herself was part of the Mediterranean fleet, where was she when Cunningham set sail?

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Re: Matapan

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:33 am

Hi Paul,

no she was not yet. Apparently she was at Scapa at the time of Matapan, just after her second modernization (https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chron ... zabeth.htm). She was transferred to Med only later in the war.


Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
"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: Matapan

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:37 am

Hello everybody,
"Wadinga wrote: "Why would anybody trust Bragadin's writings? He promulgated the story of the hit on Warspite by Guilio Cesare, and the supposed Royal Navy cover-up, he promulgated the story of Barham being hit at Matapan and having casualties."
...and now even the poor Bragadin joins the "revisionists" side in the distorted perception of the RN irreducible fans... Possibly he was approximately confused with Cernuschi, due to the blinding anger for the well proven "cover-up" (= approval of intentionally false reports in order to embellish a story and to provide solid justifications) happened after the DS...

Please, give a reference for these alleged accusations against Bragadin !

In both the good books I have from Bragadin ("La Marina Italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale" e "Il dramma della Marina Italiana"), he has not even mentioned the Alfieri fire reaction against both Stuart and Havock at Matapan (he just mentioned the torpedoes launch against Stuart) and he just reported (denying the fact) the account from Giulio Cesare, whose observers "got the impression" ("sembrò" in Italian) to have hit Warspite aft.


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: Matapan

Post by wadinga » Mon Jun 24, 2019 1:09 pm

Fellow Contributors,

Cernuschi merely re-recycled the old stories Bragadin made up when he wrote propaganda articles for Il Duce during WWII. Or did he use stories he made up himself to get published in Storia Militare? Then Bonomi recycled some again. Here. Remember?

Try going to the Board Index and putting Bragadin in the search box.

Maybe we should read his "Che ha fatto la Marina? 1940–45"?

All the best

wadinga
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Matapan

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Mon Jun 24, 2019 1:23 pm

Hello everybody,
"Cernuschi merely re-recycled the old stories Bragadin made up when he wrote propaganda articles for Il Duce during WWII. Or did he use stories he made up himself to get published in Storia Militare?..."
Instead of freely provoking, can Mr.Wadinga post a reference for these statement of him ?
When Bragadin wrote propaganda for the Duce ?
When "Storia Militare" published the Barham story ?
Answers please.
These invented statements deserve a tough warning, that I hope the "moderator" will issue against this member for providing false information....


In the official reports on Matapan, written by Iachino, there is nothing about this (Iachino was even criticized by the Alfieri survivors for having said that Italians did not react at all and had to correct his statement in the books he wrote...). Bragadin was working in Supermarina at the time and I'm not aware of any "propaganda report" he wrote... Possibly Mr.Wadinga has done a great discovery !

Bragadin was an officer in the RM, as Tovey was in the RN when he wrote a well proven propaganda story for Churchill and the Admiralty in his point 19, inventing 13 minutes fight for PoW alone against Bismarck and Y turret jamming before the Captain decision to retreat (intentionally incorrect because he had already written May 30 report saying another, more correct, story).

The difference is that I can prove what I say about Tovey's intentional lies, while Mr.Wadinga has not yet proven anything re. Bragadin, just his void words. I wait his admission to have been wrong once again or an evidence of what he tries to tell us.


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: Matapan

Post by wadinga » Tue Jun 25, 2019 4:31 pm

Fellow contributors,

It has been endlessly asserted that trivial inconsistencies in Tovey's report (not written for public consumption), represent unmistakable signs of an otherwise-hidden gigantic propaganda-driven conspiracy and cover-up, this accusation based on the flimsiest of "evidence", and that they represent:
"intentional lies"
Marc'antonio Bragadin wrote magazine articles ie fully intended for public consumption
He wrote Il problema del Mediterraneo e le vie dell'Impero. (The problem of the Mediterranean and the ways of the Empire). in 1936
He wrote Il Siluro (The torpedo) in 1941.
He wrote Vita segreta dei MAS. (The secret life of the MAS.) in 1941.
He wrote Vittoria sui mari di Roma. (Victory over the seas of Rome.) in 1942.

I for one can't imagine these works were not fully approved by the Fascist regime and designed to bolster public morale. That is propaganda.

After the war he acted as a screenwriter for a number of Italian war films, generally concentrating on presenting their armed services activities' in the best possible light (Fairy Tales or Romantic Novels as similar works from British sources are described ?). I sette dell'Orsa maggiore (The Seven of the Greater Bear ) describes the attack on the battleships at Alexandria. He was also involved in Siluri Umani (Human Torpedoes) about the attack on HMS York at Suda Bay.

He was screenwriter for Divisione Folgore in which despite the heroic efforts of Italian paratroopers, the Germans manage to lose the Battle of El-Alamein.

he was also screenwriter for La Grande Speranza (The Big Hope) Wikipedia describes thus:
An Italian submarine captain conducts successful attacks on enemy merchant shipping in the eastern Atlantic Ocean during World War II, and then rescues the survivors of his victims, including a member of the Canadian Women's Army Corps (and a dog). The captain's compulsion to save his victims culminates in his taking aboard 24 additional Danish merchant seamen; with no space down below, they are accommodated under the walkway outside the hull, at risk of drowning if the submarine is forced to submerge. He then sails the survivors hundreds of miles across the open ocean on the surface to put them ashore in the Azores.
The nearest this flight of fantasy comes to reality is a mission of the real submarine Commandante Cappellini which did pick up lots of survivors, because they were Italian POWs from the Laconia incident. Not quite as humanitarian as depicted in Marc'antonio Bragadin's screenplay.

He has of course written quite a few factual books on the Italian Navy, but after the slurs of bias and dishonesty alleged against Ludovic Kennedy, one might raise an eyebrow.

But a fascinating fact: the nubile Canadian female officer rescued by the dashing commander was played by Lois Maxwell, (in her first screen role) who went on to be Miss Moneypenny in many early Bond films.

Could we just get back to Matapan please?

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Matapan

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Tue Jun 25, 2019 4:50 pm

Hello everybody,

I owe an apology to Mr.Wadinga because my question, due to the distaste caused by his statements regarding Cernuschi/Bragadin, caused an incorrect phrasing.

During the war Bragadin wrote surely "propaganda" accounts as anybody who wanted to write about the war under fascism. Therefore Mr.Wadinga is right: he wrote "propaganda for the Duce".
After the war he wrote screeplays about great Italian successes (Alexandria and Suda were such) and his writings might have been more or less as "celebratory" as Kennedy's account of the DS battle (I have never checked their correctness in terms of facts, tough).

Surely his books on the Regia Marina, written after the war, were serious and not surely "propagandistic". I have them both and they are surely not "celebratory", even the opposite.

My question was thus not well posed. I should have asked (as we speak about Matapan only):
Wadinga wrote: "Cernuschi merely re-recycled the old stories Bragadin made up when he wrote propaganda articles for Il Duce during WWII. Or did he use stories he made up himself to get published in Storia Militare?..."
1) Can Mr.Wadinga post a reference for these statement of him regarding Cernuschi recycling from Bragadin anything about Matapan ?
2) When did Bragadin write (for the Duce, regarding Matapan) any propaganda novel from which Cernuschi could "copy" ?
3) When "Storia Militare" published the Matapan story re. Barham from Cernuschi ?

I hope the questions are more clear now...


Answers please, before "we just get back to Matapan" (or the excuses for having provided incorrect information re, Bragadin and Cernuschi: it's so easy to say: "I was exasperated and I wrote these three incorrect statements": this will suffice.



Bye, 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: Matapan

Post by wadinga » Wed Jun 26, 2019 12:39 am

Fellow Contributors,

I accept the apologies offered, we now accept Bragadin had a career as a propagandist before he went into the movie business, where fact and fantasy are interchangeable. I am glad to hear the opinion proffered although

I have them both and they are surely not "celebratory", even the opposite.
Is a single opinion. Nothing about whether they are correct or unbiased.
and his writings might have been more or less as "celebratory" as Kennedy's account of the DS battle
Kennedy does not "celebrate" the Denmark Straits battle, he does not even "celebrate" the death of Bismarck's crew, writing with great sympathy for men who would have tried to kill him if Tartar had been within range. His book is universally well regarded for its balance and fair dealing.

The range of propaganda articles written by Marc'antonio Bragadin during the war is what I found in a short period on the web. If I had access to all the works referenced by Dr Cernuschi I would know whether there are more.

What Dr Enrico Cernuschi derives, exaggerates or copies from Bragadin would be difficult to define without a very precise knowledge of the subtleties of the Italian language and a complete Bragadin bibliography. Whether Dr Cernuschi published allegations about a Royal Navy cover-up regarding Barham as well as Warspite in a particular journal would require having access to all copies of that journal. Maybe a fellow Storia Militare author and self admitted friend of the proprietor, could investigate and particularly explain why exactly Dr Cernuschi and Storia Militare have parted company? Maybe he could find and read "Vittoria sui mari di Roma" and see if Cernuschi got it from there.

I'm going back to Matapan, fabrication of RN Conspiracy theories belongs on a different thread, hypothetical scenarios

All the best

wadinga.
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Re: Matapan

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Jun 26, 2019 8:02 am

Hello everybody,

therefore we can assume that Mr.Wadinga is unable to provide any answer to my simple questions and thus that he had intentionally provided incorrect information to this forum when he said:
Wadinga wrote: "Cernuschi merely re-recycled the old stories Bragadin made up when he wrote propaganda articles for Il Duce during WWII. Or did he use stories he made up himself to get published in Storia Militare?...
I will provide the correct answesr to my own question, as he is unwilling to admit his "error"... Answers in red.

1) Can Mr.Wadinga post a reference for these statement of him regarding Cernuschi recycling from Bragadin anything about Matapan ? No, he can't, because Cernuschi based his theory on survivors accounts, not on Bragadin.
2) When did Bragadin write (for the Duce, regarding Matapan) any propaganda novel from which Cernuschi could "copy" ? Never, Bragadin never wrote "celebratory" stories about Matapan.
3) When "Storia Militare" published the Matapan story re. Barham from Cernuschi ? Never, the theory was published on-line on an Italian site "Lega Navale Italiana"


While Mr.Wadinga is unwilling to present his excuses for all these invented information, he is even able to state:
"I'm going back to Matapan, fabrication of RN Conspiracy theories belongs on a different thread, hypothetical scenarios"
when it was himself to start this discussion about "cover-up" theories, to vent his anger for the actual British DS "cover-up" here (viewtopic.php?f=9&t=8567&p=84138#p84063), while we were discussing Matapan ina serious way... Unbelievable...


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: Matapan

Post by wadinga » Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:33 pm

Fellow Contributors,

It has been said:

Wadinga wrote:
"Budiansky says details of this were sent to Cunningham at 08:20 on the 26th. Hinsley says as late as 12:30 on 27th March there was debate whether it was an attack on Alexandria-Greece convoys or a landing operation in Libya...."
Response:
Budiansky is only partially correct.
No, he was wholly correct. In his book Battle of Wits exclusively devoted to WWII codebreaking, he goes further with more information. Because there was no secure land line to Alexandria the significance of X-3 was sent 08:20 on the 26th by radio to Cunningham in Alexandria using the British naval officers' code, enciphered with the special flag officers' additive table for extra security. Where he is wrong is that he says it gave no doubt that the target was the LUSTRE convoys.

Sebag-Montefiore in "Enigma" says that in the early hours of the 27th, Cunningham was sent indications from the Admiralty that the planned operation could be an amphibious landing, not a convoy attack at all. He convened all his staff together, later that morning, and laid out the possibilities based the "reliable" information sources and got them to consider and report back. Luckily they concurred with his own conclusion, that it would be a convoy attack, and so his interception plans went ahead on that basis.

The Sunderland aircraft sighting is unlikely to have been one of those "decoy" excuses for Ultra information, as the Italian X-3 message had said nothing about location and strength. It was just lucky reconnaissance, and Cunningham was already gearing up to go rather than having to start from scratch with some ships undergoing maintenance etc.

When Formidable's recon aircraft spotted "enemy" cruisers and destroyers where Pridham-Wippell's force might be expected to be found, Cunningham thought immediately the sighting was of the latter, and was surprised in his bath (admirals only aboard ship) by his Flag Lieutenant Hugh Lee with PW's report of Enemy in sight. The quote mentioned earlier suggesting Hugh Lee was in a meeting where all the Long Message details were laid out must therefore be misremembering.

There was complete surprise in P-W's force when Vittorio Veneto appeared.

The Supermarina messages to Iachino were normally sent via secure landline and were thus not intercepted. The Italians used the Hegelin C-38 encoding machine which had rotors but no plugboard (stecker) for additional encoding. Radio messages were sent locations without secure teleprinter land lines. This was infrequent enough that bored operators sent through dummy messages to make the traffic look busy to disguise actual increases in traffic. These dummys involved procedural mistakes, like sending all "L"s which gave Dilly Knox and Mavis Lever clues and the testing the heading of the X-3 message with "Supermarina" assisted in decryption.

I did not start the discussion on cover up theories, merely pointed out that just as Wake-Walker may have misremembered himself in what has been described as a "comical" interview, so have the memories quoted earlier, of Mrs Lever and Hugh Lee to be qualified. Those quick to suggest W-W accidentally told a "truth", must accept that unprepared interviews and oral history in general sometimes include errors of fact. BTW since W-W died, possibly of overwork and wartime stress in September 1945, his interview was not many years after, but obviously long enough to misremember. Missed that point.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

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