January 14 – On this day alone, Malta receives 14 air raid alerts in 19 hours. A total of 262 air raids are sounded in Malta this month.
January 21 – From his base in El Agheila, Rommel’s Axis forces take Agedabia and Beda Fomm.
January 23 – Italian intelligence begin giving Rommel daily British Order of Battle. Italians give the Marcks Group more power by presenting the self propelled Semovente 75/18.
January 29 – Rommel’s Axis forces enter Benghazi and acquire 1,300 trucks.
February 6 – The British are pushed back to Gazala. The British Commonwealth forces lose 40 tanks, 40 field guns and 1,400 troops. This was a disaster for the Allies in more ways than one. Now the Allied convoys to Malta must pass between Axis occupied Crete and Axis airfields in Benghazi.
February 7 – Malta had 17 air raid alerts in a span of 24 hours. By February 25, a span of 80 days had accumulated in which the island has been on continuous alerts. A total of 236 air raids were sounded in Malta this month. Force K, the British naval unit assigned to Malta, had been reduced to the Penelope and 3 destroyers. With this limited protection, Italian convoys were able to supply Rommel’s Axis forces in Africa. On occasion, these convoys were escorted by the Italian battle fleet, but usually by Italian heavy cruisers.
February 13 – Italian torpedo boat Circe sinks British submarine HMS Tempest off Taranto.
February 15 – Ugo Cavallero and most Italian military personnel become worried that Rommel may compromise the planned invasion of Malta. Rommel flies home to Germany to convince Hitler to overrule restraining orders set on him by Ugo Cavallero and Kesselring.
February 25 – British submarine P38 is sunk off the coast of Tunisia by Italian destroyers.
SECOND BATTLE OF SIRTE
March 22 – Admiral Iachino sets sail in his flagship, the Vittorio Veneto, along with 2 heavy cruisers, the Gorizia and Trento, light cruiser Bande Nere and four destroyers to intercept a convoy. The convoy were protected by 3 fast frigates, along with the Clan Campbell, the Pampas the Norwegian Talabot, the Breconshire, the Carlisle and 6 destroyers were then joined by the Penelope and the destroyer Legion.
At 9:30 A.M., Italian torpedo bombers began the attack on the convoy and it’s escorts, causing no damage. The Luftwaffe then appeared and again no damage to the convoy. At 1:30 P.M, most of the Italian and Allied ships made sight of each other. The Allied fleet immediately began making smoke to prevent accurate range finding by the Italian vessels. The Italian heavy cruisers opened fire and began to turn away once the Carlisle and a destroyer began to fire back. The British assumed they were retreating. It was however, a trick to attempt to get the Allied ships within range of the still unseen Battleship Littorio‘s 15″ guns. The Allies did not fall for it.
At 4:30 P.M., the opposing fleets again made sight of each other. The Euryalus and the Cleopatra were both peppered by Italian shells. The winds began to increase to Gail force strength and coupled with the smoke screen, it became difficult for the Italian ships to get into position to fire. Once the Vittorio Veneto found a clearing, it badly damaged two Allied destroyers (one had reduced speed, the other temporary crippled in the water). With the worsening of conditions, and slight damage to the Vittorio Veneto, Admiral Iachino disengaged the attack.
The Lanciere and Scirocco sink from the gail off Sicily.
March – Italian forces inflict heavy losses on British 56th division.
There were 275 air raids in Malta for the month of March. Ninety of them at night.
April – 283 air raids occurred in Malta this month and the island absorbed 6,728 tons of bombs. Thanks to limestone houses, and the ability of the British to defend Malta, the Maltese continued to handle the attacks well.
April 1 – Italian cruiser Giovanni Delle Bande Nere is sunk near Stromboli by British submarine HMS Urge.
April 14 – The most respected British submarine HMS Upholder is sunk by Italian Torpedo Boat Pegaso off the coast of Tripoli, Libya.
April 28 – British submarine HMS Urge is sunk by Italian Torpedo Boat Pegaso off the coast of Libya