HMS Illustrious, attacked by the Luftwaffe as she escorted a convoy to Malta on the 10th January had then become a prime target whilst she was in Malta harbour but just managed to avoid further serious damage.
H.M.S. Illustrious, escorted by four destroyers, sailed from Malta P.M. 23rd and arrived at Alexandria on the 25th. On the night before she sailed Malta was again raided, but no damage was caused or casualties suffered. A force of cruisers and destroyers, supported by battleships, covered her passage. On the 24th the cruiser force was attacked when 130 miles north of Benghazi by about 30 enemy aircraft, the larger proportion being dive-bombers. Many near misses were obtained, but no damage was sustained by our ships. Four or five of the enemy aircraft were damaged. The enemy aircraft missed sighting the Illustrious.
From the Naval Situation for the week, see TNA CAB 66/14/42