Operation Result (i)

This was a British naval undertaking to attack the north-west coast of the Italian mainland and undertake a gunfire bombardment of Genoa after 'Picket' (i) (31 January/4 February and 6/11 February 1941).

The reason for the planning and execution of 'Picket' (i) and 'Result' (i) was that in the aftermath of the successful 'Judgement' (i) British carrierborne air attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto on 11/12 November 1940, the Italian fleet had been pulled back northward to Naples. On 10 January 1941 Vickers Wellington medium bombers operating from Malta then attacked the Italian fleet anchorage at Naples, damaging the battleship Giulio Cesare. The Italian navy withdrew its remaining battleships to Genoa, still farther to the north. The resulting 'Result' (i) operation to bombard Genoa was therefore planned with the triple objectives of lowering Italian morale, causing damage to the port and local manufacturing capacity, and damaging the battleships Littorio and Giulio Cesare, which were believed to be undergoing repairs in local yards. Even after it had been ascertained that the battleships were not in Genoa but were being refitted in La Spezia, Genoa was retained as the primary target.

'Result' (i) was to have been launched immediately after 'Picket' (i), but was called off as a result of adverse weather conditions. Vice Sir James Somerville, commander of the Gibraltar-based Force H, then decided to make another attempt to complete the operation from 6 February, and divided his ships into three groups: Group 1 comprised the battleship Malaya, battle-cruiser Renown, fleet carrier Ark Royal and light cruiser Sheffield; Group 2 the destroyers Fearless, Firedrake, Foresight, Foxhound, Fury and Jersey; and Group 3 the destroyers Duncan, Encounter, Isis and Jupiter.

At 14.00 on 6 February the HG.53 convoy of 21 merchant vessels, escorted by the destroyer Velox and sloop Deptford departed from Gibraltar. The warships of Group 1 and Group 2 attached themselves to this convoy and headed westward into the Atlantic. At 18.00 the ships of Group 3 sailed from Gibraltar and carried out an anti-submarine sweep in the Strait of Gibraltar. The, at 21.00, the ships of Group 1 and Group 2 reversed course and steered east back into the Mediterranean, and at 02.00 on 7 February all three groups rendezvoused and set course to pass between the Spanish mainland and Ibiza in the Balearic islands group. Previously, at 19.00, Firedrake and Jersey had detached and remained off Majorca simulating Force 'H' radio traffic in an effort to deceive the Italians about the location of Force 'H'.

The subterfuges failed, so the Supermarina was aware from various sources that Force 'H' had sailed and rightly estimated that Genoa was the target. On 8 February a major part of the Italian fleet therefore sailed to intercept Force 'H': the battleships Vittorio Veneto, Giulio Cesare and Andrea Doria departed La Spezia at 19.00 escorted by eight destroyers, and the heavy cruisers Trento, Trieste and Bolzano of the 8a Divisione Incrociatori, together with two destroyers, departed Messina. The two forces linked at 08.00 on 9 February at a location about 40 miles (65 km) to the west of the Strait of Bonifacio.

At a time one hour later, Force 'H' was between Majorca and Barcelona. At 04.00 on 9 February Ark Royal and four destroyers detached to carry out a carrierborne air attack on the Azienda oil refinery at Livorno. Between 07.15 and 07.45, some 10 miles (16 km) off the Italian coast and steaming from east to west, Malaya, Renown and Sheffield carried out the planned gunfire bombardment of Genoa, aided by the spotting of two Supermarine Walrus aircraft from Sheffield and Fairey Swordfish aircraft from Ark Royal. The three major warships fired 273 15-in (381-mm) rounds (125 of them from Renown), 782 6-in (152-mm) rounds and 400 4.5-in (114-mm) rounds. The Italians suffered 144 casualties, 28 civilian vessels sunk or damaged, and several harbour installations destroyed or damaged.

At 07.54 the bombardment force set course to the south. At 08.45 Ark Royal rejoined, and Force 'H' made at best speed, which at one point was only 17 kt as this was the best which Malaya could manage, for Gibraltar, which they reached at 14.30 on 11 February.

Somerville expected a major response by the Italian air force, but no such effort materialised.

At 07.45 on 9 February the Italian fleet was off Punta Scorno on the island of Sardinia, 210 miles (340 km) to the south of Force 'H' and in an excellent position to cut off the withdrawal of the British ships as they headed back to Gibraltar. As Force 'H' was steaming out of the Ligurian Sea, the ships of Ammiraglio di Squadra Angelo Iachino, commanding the Forze Navali da Battalgia, were on a heading to intercept at about 15.00. Then, as a result of a a scarcely credible series of misunderstandings and poor communications with the Supermarina, the Italian force changed direction toward Italy on a course just to the east of north. Thus the Italians lost a great opportunity and Force 'H' was completely unaware that at 15.15 the Italian fleet was only 30 miles (50 km) distant from it.