Challenge to 'Mare Nostrum'
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Minelaying off Italian ports, in the Straits of Otranto, off the Albanian coast and the Aegean, was reported from various sources and summarised in a message to the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, from the Admiralty (1154/4/6/40 Appendix E.20), and the Naval Attache, Rome, reported on the 5th that though there was no general change in the situation yet the steady flow of Italian troops and air personnel to Libya should be noted, that 80 per cent, of reservists of the Italian Force would have been recalled by 10th June, and lastly that the Italian commercial air service Ala Littorio had suspended its services to Malta, Athens and Rhodes. Obviously the decks were being cleared for action, and as a consequence our attitude towards Italy underwent a change. The Admiralty directed the Commander-in-Chief to ensure that certain Italian ships were brought in for contraband control and detained, cargoes being reported and no 'holdback' undertakings1 accepted (1723/5/6/40 from D.E.W.D.). A further signal (1739/6/6/40 from First Sea Lord) added that, in the event of Italy attempting to prevent the exercise of belligerent rights by escorting or convoying their merchant ships, the Commander-in-Chief was to act in accordance with the Naval Prize Manual. We had passed the stage of avoiding incidents which might provoke Italy.