Second Battle of Sirte, 1942

HMS Euryalus follows HMS Cleopatra as the latter lays a smoke screen at the onset of the Second Battle of Sirte. Photo in the collection of the Imperial War Museums.

Location Gulf of Sidra

When the Royal Navy launched yet another reinforcement convoy to Malta in March, 1942, the Regia Marina made an effort to intercept it with its surface ships. Battleship Littorio, three cruisers, and ten destroyers sortied, and engaged the convoy escorts: four cruisers, eighteen destroyers. When the Italians engaged on the 22nd, the British turned the convoy away and made smoke, preventing the Italians from attacking it. However, during the course of the rearguard action, the Italians managed to cripple two British destroyers. The only damage the Italians received in return was to the Littorio, which was hit by a shell that did only superficial damage. Littorio also set her own floatplane afire, when it was hit by the muzzle blast from her aft main battery. The convoy escaped when the Italians broke off at dusk, securing a tactical victory for the British. However, the convoy's arrival to Malta had been delayed to daylight hours, and the merchant ships and one of the destroyers were picked off by Aixis air attacks over the next few days, even after reaching the island, resulting in the loss of much of the supplies intended for Malta. However, the Italians lost destroyers Scirocco and Lanciere in a storm on the way home, slightly evening the score.