'This Most Important and Timely Action'
On November 9, two days before the anniversary of the Battle of Taranto, a patrolling force of British naval units annihilated two convoys of enemy supply ships. The first enemy convoy, consisting of eight ships escorted by destroyers, was sighted south of Taranto on the afternoon of November 8 by an R.A.F. Maryland on reconnaissance. A patrolling force, consisting of the cruisers H.M.S. Aurora and H.M.S. Penelope and the destroyers H.M.S. Lance and H.M.S. Lively, were directed to intercept. They made contact with the enemy at about 1 a.m. on November 9, when it was found that the convoy had been joined by another of two supply ships escorted by two destroyers. The operation was being covered by two powerful 10,000-ton 8-inch-gun cruisers of the Trento class.
Despite the disparity of force, Captain Agnew of the Aurora immediately engaged. Nine of the ten enemy supply ships were set on fire and sunk, one being an ammunition ship, which blew up. The tenth, a tanker, was left blazing furiously. Of the Italian warships, it was reported that two escorting destroyers were sunk and one damaged. No casualties or damage were sustained by the British ships. Later the remnant of Italian naval escort was intercepted and attacked by a British submarine. Two enemy destroyers were hit by torpedoes and one was seen to sink. In a message of congratulation to the Admiralty, Mr. Churchill described this engagement as "this most important and timely action". The two Italian cruisers beat a speedy retreat when attacked. Mr. Alexander later disclosed that four Italian destroyers were known to have been sunk in this engagement.