27 July 2009

A capacity for self-delusion

In the aftermath of a devastating British naval assault on an North Africa-bound Italian supply convoy on 9 November 1941, Italian commanders were desperate to put a good light on the disaster:

From North Africa, Rommel complained to Berlin that his supply line had been cut and that, of 60,000 troops promised, only 8,093 had arrived. In the aftermath of the action Mussolini was "depressed and indignant", [Admirals] Brivonesi and Bisciani lost their commands, and [Count Galeazzo] Ciano considered there would be "profound repercussions ... Under the circumstances we have no right to complain if Hitler sends Kesselring as commander in the South". The Italian high command had a capacity for self-delusion, "pulling out their usual inevitable and imaginary sinking of a British cruiser by an Italian torpedo plane; nobody believes it". Italian reconnaisance photographs taken after Force K had returned to Malta showed a cruiser moored near the dry-dock. This, insisted the Regia Aeronautica's chief of staff, Generale Pricolo, was evidence that one British cruiser had been hit. "This," commented Ciano despairingly, "is equivalent to declaring that a man is probably dead because he has gone to live near the cemetery. Clowns, tragic clowns..."

- Richard Woodman, Malta Convoys, London, 2000

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