Sicilian Channel – June 1940

A game report by Paul French

Introduction

Following the successful bombardment on Tripoli and Benghazi, units of the Mediterranean Fleet have been detached to sweep the Sicilian Channel. Warned by air reconnaissance the Italians have sortied two strong cruiser and destroyer groups to intercept.

Order Of Battle

RN Forces

2nd Division, 7th Cruiser Squadron
HMS Gloucester, HMS Liverpool, Town Class (2nd Group) CL.

14th Destroyer Flotilla
HMS Mohawk, HMS Nubian, Tribal Class DDs; HMS Jervis, HMS Juno, J Class DDs

Italian Forces
3rd Cruiser Divison
Pola, Zara Class, CA Trento, Trento Class, CA Bolzano, Bolzano Class CA.

11th Destroyer Division
Artigliere, Camicia Nera, Aviere, Geniere
All Soldati Class, DD

12th Destroyer Division
Lanciere, Carabinieri, Corrazziere, Ascari
All Soldati Class, DD

Contact

Screening destroyers made contact at 02:03, NW of Benghazi, at a range of about 9000 yards, starshells were deployed copiously from both sides but failed to illuminate enemy ships. Closing at a combined speed of 40 knots though meant that the action was fought at close range.

By 02:09 the Britsih commander (Jon) was aware he was in contact with a significant and superior force.

Holding his course he was able to get into a good torpedo position. Whilst the Italians (Paul & Mark), tried to get the 12th Div ahead and bring the cruisers into action.

The initial exchange resulted in minor damage to Nubian, Corrazziere and Trento. The Italian 3rd Division was blocked for a short period by the 12th Division. It was all that the Liverpool and Gloucester needed. Heavy fire came down on Corriziere and Lanciere . Leaving them burning and stationary – in torpedo water.

A few minutes later two torpedoes hit each destroyer – putting the fires out….. Nubian came under concentrated from the 11th Div and was left with overwhelming fires and flooding. The 3rd Divison cruisers landed effective fire on Gloucester.

At this point Jon decided discretion was the better part of valour and withdrew to the SW under smoke. Nubian was finished off by the cruisers and immediate contact was lost.

Outcome

A winning draw for the RN, as the Italians lost one more destroyer. Both sides had a destroyer with light damage and a cruiser (Trento and Gloucester) with minor damage. The RN really needed to retire to the east to join the battlefleet by daylight as being close to Sicilian and North Africa airfield in daylight was likely to be trying.

Rules

The game was played using Command at Sea, Version 4. Which gave a good feel for a night action. The range was down to 5000 yards at one point and attacks were potentially devastating. In fact the bulk of the damage was inflicted in two, three minute bounds which correlates well with historical actions. The smaller RN force was really at less of a disadvantage as the very low visibility meant that the larger Italian force found it difficult to get to grip.

Historical Outcome

The RN force carried out a bombardment of Tobruk, later rejoining the battlefleet. Other units were engaged at Benghazi and units were detached on anti-shipping sweeps. Italian units sortied from Messina and Taranto, covering the Sicilian Channel and sweeping into the Aegean, but failed to make contact.

Author: Brigadier Tony

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