Reinforcements, Air and Submarine Activities
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BY THE end of July 1940, the Commander-in-Chief felt that he was in a position to assess the Fleet's task with some degree of certainty, as several encounters with the Italians had enabled him to take their measure. Two of the new Littorio battleships were believed to be active,1 and a further two of the Cavour class were nearing completion of their modernisation; these considerations kept alive the chances of a main Fleet action, nevertheless the feeling existed that however impressive their strength appeared on paper - both on and below the surface - yet they would not meet us in open battle Experience had shown their leadership to be faulty and their training inadequate; submarines were sighted time and again on the surface in daylight; except for the 8-inch class cruisers at Calabria, both cruisers and destroyers had shown few signs of skilful handling, and the only two battleships encountered ran for shelter after receiving one hit. So far, Admiral Cavagnari's injunction of an 'offensive to the death' (S.22) had not materialised. The main threat to our command of the sea was from the air. Both the Fleet and the two main bases - Malta and Alexandria, particularly Malta - were endangered, and it was clear that our A/A defences had somehow to be improved.