“The 8th British Army advance towards Tripoli started in the beginning of December 1942. Tripoli was seized on January 21, 1943. The Axis armies retreated to Tunisia.
For that reason, the supply quantities sent in December to the Tripolitis were reduced, around 13,000 tons. From these 52% were lost from enemy actions. An important part of these supplies were transported by submarines, from which 2 were lost while executing these missions.
When Tripoli and Benghazi were being evacuated by the Axis, the port installations were carefully destroyed. Around 20 small ships in Tripoli were sunk by enemy action, but a similar number of small ships succeeded to escape to Tunisia, where they were used.
In the 30 months that elapsed from the declaration of war by Italy until the final evacuation of Libya by the Axis, the fortunes of the land operations of the opponents had depended on the possibilities of their supply by sea. Sea supplies on the other hand depended on the situation prevailing in Malta. Whenever the base disposed sufficient air and naval forces the Italian transport losses towards Libya were reaching a maximum point, while they were practically null in periods when enemy air attacks rendered impossible the use of the base.
During that period a total of 2,245,381 tons of supplies were loaded in Italy for Libya, of which 600,000 tons of fuel. From this quantity 1,929,955 tons reached its destination; sea losses thus reached 14% on average. On the other hand, 211,719 men were transported, of which 197,326 arrived, i.e. with losses of 6.8%. Many of the shipwrecked men were saved and returned to Italy.
For these transports 883 important convoys were formed and in addition a large number of small ship trips. Half of these convoys were attacked, at least once. 220 convoys were attacked by submarines and 294 by air planes. The merchant ships lost during these trips –including those that were executing coastal service between Tripolitis and Cyrinaica – reached 342 of a total displacement of 1,299,777 tons. This displacement, in which are not included the numerous ships that were damaged, represents 60% of the Italian merchant fleet of the Mediterranean in the beginning of the war.
The Italian war ships lost in the execution of supply of Libya missions, or in its ports, were 4 cruisers, 14 destroyers, 12 escort destroyers, 10 submarines and 47 smaller ships or auxiliary units. Personnel losses reached 11,400 men, i.e. 75% of the total losses of the Italian Navy until the end of January 1943. Losses of men of the Merchant Navy reached 1,892. Finally, with hospital ships 90,000 wounded and sick men were sent from Libya to Italy; 2 of these ships were sunk by the enemy air force.
The above Italian official statistics show that the German charges are groundless, that the Italian Navy has not done its duty for the supply of the Axis armies in North Africa. At the same time however, the relatively small percentage of losses shows that, in spite of the indisputable abilities of the British Navy and Air force, the forces that the Allies disposed weren’t sufficient to simultaneously execute satisfactorily the missions to secure friendly transports and to stop the enemy’s.
Whatever is the value of the human forces, their efficiency is necessarily limited when they do not dispose sufficient and suitable means. This was forgotten by those that are complaining in our country because the Hellenic Navy, with vastly poorer means, hadn’t succeeded to interrupt the Italian transports towards Albania.”