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Battle of the Strait of Otranto (1940)
Part of the Mediterranean Theater of World War II
HMAS Sydney in 1940
HMAS Sydney in 1940
Date 12 November 1940
Location Strait of Otranto, Adriatic Sea
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Australia Australia
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Italy
Commanders
United Kingdom Henry Pridham-Whippel Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Francesco De Angelis
Strength
3 light cruisers
2 destroyers
1 torpedo boat
1 auxiliary cruiser
4 merchantmen
Casualties and losses
None 4 merchantmen sunk
1 torpedo boat damaged
36 dead and 42 wounded

The 1940 Battle of the Strait of Otranto was a minor naval action during the Battle of the Mediterranean in World War II. It took place on 12 November 1940 in the Strait of Otranto in the Adriatic Sea, between Italy and Albania.

Contents

Origins

The battle occurred when an Allied squadron entered the Adriatic Sea looking for Italian naval targets. Although they did not know it at the time the squadron's real purpose was to help draw enemy attention from a major action against the main Italian fleet base at Taranto.[1] The Allied squadron was commanded by Vice Admiral Henry Pridham-Whippel in the light cruiser HMS Orion and included the light cruisers HMAS Sydney and HMS Ajax together with the destroyers HMS Nubian and HMS Mohawk.

On 12 November an Italian Navy (Regia Marina) convoy of four merchant ships – Antonio Locatelli, Premuda, Capo Vado and Catalani – were on their way back from Valona, Albania to Brindisi, Italy[2] while escorted by the WWI era torpedo boat Fabrizi, commanded by T.V.c. Giovanni Barbini and the auxiliary cruiser Ramb III commanded by C.F. Francesco De Angelis. The ships were travelling darkened without navigational lights.

Battle

The Allied ships proceeded north during the night of 11 November, and upon reaching a notional line between Bari and Durazzo by 0100 without incident they turned to run southward. Twenty minutes later the raiders encountered six darkened enemy ships, including what they thought were two destroyers and four merchantmen. The enemy vessels passed across their front and were making for the Italian mainland. HMS Mohawk opened fire at 0127, and action became general.

In a confused night time action HMAS Sydney attacked the leading freighter at a range of 11 km, setting it on fire. Over the next 23 minutes the other three merchantmen were either sunk or damaged and left burning. The Fabrizi was hit and heavily damaged and retired towards Valona with 11 dead and 17 wounded. The Ramb III after an initial exchange of 19 salvoes broke off the action unscathed. The merchantmen were all sunk in the action.

The Allies suffered no damage or casualties, although a torpedo narrowly missed Sydney's stern at 0140. The Regia Marina suffered casualties totalled 36 dead and 42 wounded.

Aftermath

The Italians retaliated by sending the Regia Aeronautica to locate the British naval squadron, however the CANTs which eventually located the naval squadron were shot down. The Regia Marina sent motor torpedo boats located north of Valona, the Cruiser Squadron 7, consisting of light cruisers Attendolo, Eugenio, Aosta, the 15th Destroyer Division from Brindisi, the Cruiser Squadron 8, consisting of light cruisers Abruzzi and Garibaldi, with the 7th and 8th Destroyer Divisions from Taranto sailed to intercept the British naval squadron in the Otranto Straits but failed to make contact.

The day after the battle two Regia Marina torpedo boats, the Curtatone and Solferino, rescued a total of 140 sailors.

Order of battle

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Kingdom of Italy Regia Marina

  • Unknown
    • Torpedo boat Fabrizi (damaged)
    • Auxiliary cruiser Ramb III
    • 4 merchantmen, Antonio Locatelli (5,691 t.), Premuda (4,427 t.), Capo Vado (4,391 t.) and Catalani (2,429 t.) (all sunk)

Royal Australian Navy Ensign Allies

Notes

  1. ^ Coulthard-Clark 1998, p. 176.
  2. ^ Jordan 2006, p. 226.

References


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