I planned to include the italian invasion of Tunis in this update; but you know: you start writing and you can't stop. The invasion of Tunis will feature in the next update: From The New York Times, February 3 1940 …It is true the old adage that says that generals always prepare to fight the past war. Or it used to be, since the first three months in the European war have seen two lighting campaigns that seem to have defeated the ghost of this second great war becoming another muddy nightmare like the first one. In September, Germany showed its might by destroying Poland in less than one month, with help of their unlikely soviet allies; who have since then proved their military ineptitude by being unable to defeat the heroic Republic of Finland. …This commentator must apologize to his readers for his past prediction of the Iberian front’s outcome. The old Tercios that were Europe’s terror for a century must be proud from their godless descendants, for the destruction of the Portuguese Army in only twenty days is no small feat for what used to be one of Europe’s most incompetent armies. The trench nightmare I predicted the Iberian front would become did not materialize thanks to the spaniards’ imaginative use of their French-built tanks. I hope Spain’s new allies have already taken their own conclusions from the Portuguese campaign. The Axis powers surely have. From The Second World War, by Winston Churchill, 1951 …by Mid-February, as the Italian forces started their invasion of French Tunis, the naval stalemate in the western Mediterranean showed no signs of stopping. Iachino’s fleet, docked at La Spezia posed a threat to the allied forces by its mere existence. If the allies wanted to deal a decisive blow to Mussolini before Hitler attacked in the West, we would have to lure their fleet to a trap. That is why I authorized Admiral Cunningham’s carrier groups to leave Malta on February 20. …the Italians had taken measures to make sure none of our ships would make it west of Malta, but most of their remaining fleet based at Taranto was being used escorting their supply convoys towards Libya, and their security net around Malta was not as thick as it used to one month before. …The same day, the powerful French battleship Jean Bart, that had just been finished weeks before, crossed the Gibraltar Straits escorted by more French cruisers and destroyers. …During the night of the 21st, our carriers left Malta and headed towards Tunis together with HMS Valiant and a scort force to get as far as they could from the Italian planes based at Sicily. Unfortunately, they were discovered at dawn by an Italian reconnaissance plane, and during the rest of the day they had to endure constant naval and air attacks, that would be known as the Battle of Cape Bon. …Despite the disgraceful loss of the Australian cruiser Apollo and two destroyers, Cunningham’s group was able to cross the Italian blockade inflicting severe casualties to the enemy, while it sailed west to get out of the reach of Italian planes. …National morale was high after the fall of Portugal, and it could only rise when news of this first main naval battle between the Royal Navy and the Italian fleet. During the past month the First Lord of the Admiralship had received a lot of undeserved criticism for leaving the Spaniards and French alone against the Italians. Now the three allied nations together would force Mussolini to take a decisive step. I have no idea on who he should be. Churchill himself maybe? Suggestions welcome. From The sea campaign in the Mediterranean, 1940. by Antoine Beevorts, Antwerp, 1995 …Between 1st and 2nd Menorca, both main fleets withdrew to their bases, and the only engagements consisted on attacks on Italian convoys heading to Libya, and submarine raids in the waters between Sardinia and Baleares. In these battles, the Spanish submarines proved to be an effective weapon against Italian submarines and destroyers, causing twice as casualties as they suffered. …when news of the british carriers’ advance towards Mallorca reached Rome, Mussolini decided that it was the time of the decisive battle to destroy the allied fleets once and for all. Despite his counselors’ advices of leaving his fleet in port –where its threat was enough to keep the French fleet pinned down at Toulon- , he insisted that the operation had to be done to destroy the three fleets one by one before they made contact. …With the Caio Duilio hastily repaired, Iachino left port again in February 24, while the british fleet made contact with the Jean Bart southeast of Ibiza and the Spanish fleet left Barcelona. …In February 27, both fleets made contact halfway between Sardinia and Menorca, and thus the largest naval battle in these waters since Renaissance times began. …In the end, and after 4 days, it was air power that would decide the outcome. The Italian planes were faster and more maneuverable, but were operating too far from their bases and were outnumbered by the allies. Despite both fleets having engaged at close range, they were too matched in sheer firepower to make a single side prevailing. The Italians even were close by the 28 to separate the allied fleets, and the heavy cruiser Gorizia managed to hit the Illustrious, but in the end, the Italians had to withdraw when the allies gained air superiority. …the Spanish fleet had a good performance at 2nd Menorca despite its secondary role. Its surface ships were obsolete, and only the heavy cruiser Canarias, now the flagship after the sinking of the Baleares, could match the Italian ships. But the Spanish submarines wreaked havoc on the Italian fleet, sinking two cruisers and hitting the battleship Andrea Doria. …The French suffered serious losses, among them the modern battleship Richelieu, that suffered extensive damage in a long duel with the Littorio in February 1. It was able to withdraw to Mallorca, but the damage it suffered prevented it from active service during the rest of the war. … The Royal Navy proved to be decisive to the outcome of the battle, with the planes from the Illustrious and the Eagle providing decisive air support to the allied fleet. In the end, the Illustrious only received mild damage and was able to withdraw to Cartagena. …In March 2, Iachino gave the order to return to La Spezia. His fleet had suffered serious damage, and while only one of his battleships was damaged enough to make her unsuitable for combat, he feared that the allied air superiority could cause him serious losses, now that his attempt to divide the three enemy fleets had failed. The Italian fleet arrived to La Spezia in march 5. Iachino knew that his last possibility to dominate the Mediterranean west of Sardinia had vanished. The Baleares were now as far to him as the British Isles could be. The allies have three carriers (Illustrious, Eagle and Beárn), plus the spanish planes based at Menorca, plus french reinforcements. The Richelieu leaves Toulon, february 1940. And no, it's a single ship, that is an optic effect from the camo painting.