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Sinking of HMS York (1941)
Part of the Mediterranean Theater of World War II
HMS-York-RM-Sirio.jpg
HMS York's hull boarded by the Italian Torpedo Boat Sirio
Date 26 March 1941
Location Souda Bay, Mediterranean Sea
Result Italian victory
Belligerents
United Kingdom United Kingdom Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Italy
Commanders
United Kingdom
Capt. Reginald Henry Portal, DSC, RN
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg
Lieutenant Luigi Faggioni
Strength
Fleet in harbour 2 destroyers
6 motor assault boats
Casualties and losses
1 heavy cruiser and
1 tanker sunk
2 killed
6 prisoners

The sinking of HMS York was the main consequence of an Italian Navy's small craft assault on Souda Bay, Crete, during the first hours of 26 March 1941.

Contents

Background

Souda is a naturally protected harbor on the northwest coast of the island. It had been chosen as a target by the Decima months before because of the almost continuous Allied naval activity there.[1] Air recce had spotted a number of naval and auxiliary steamers at anchor in Souda Bay, Crete.

On March 25, 1941 the Italian destroyers Crispi and Sella departed from Leros island in the Aegean at night, each carrying 3 small (2-ton) Motoscafo da Turismo Modificato (MTM) motor assault boats of the Decima Flottiglia MAS.[1]Each MTM (nicknamed barchini: "little boats") carried a 300 kilograms (660 lb) explosive charge inside their bow.[2] The MTMs were specially equipped to make their way through obstacles such as torpedo nets. The pilot would steer the assault craft on a collision course at his target ship, and then would jump from his boat before impact and warhead detonation.[3]

The attack

At 23:30, the MTM were released by the destroyers 10 miles off Souda. Once inside the bay, the six boats, under the command of Lieutenant Luigi Faggioni, identified their targets: the heavy cruiser HMS York, a large tanker (the Norwegian Pericles of 8,300 tons), another tanker and a cargo ship.[3] At 4:46, two MTMs hit the York amidships, flooding her aft boilers and magazines. Two seamen were killed by the explosions.[4] The oiler Pericles was severely damaged and settled on the bottom, while the other tanker and the cargo ship were sunk, according to Italian sources.[5] According to the British, the other barchini apparently missed their intended targets, and one of them ended stranded on the beach.[6] The antiaircraft defences of the base opened fire randomly, believing that the base was under air attack.[7]

All six of the Italian sailors, Luigi Faggioni, Alessio de Vito, Emilio Barberi, Angelo Cabrini, Tullio Tedeschi and Lino Beccati, were captured.

Aftermath

York was disabled. After a salvage operation, involving a submarine dispatched from Alexandria was abandoned, she was wrecked with demolition charges by her crew before the German capture of Crete,[8] while Pericles, taken in tow by destroyers, sank on 14 April 1941 en route to Alexandria amid a storm.[9]

The sinking of HMS York was the source of a controversy between the Regia Marina and the Luftwaffe over credit for her sinking. The matter was resolved by British war records and by the ship's own war log, captured by Italian naval officers who boarded the half-sunk cruiser.[10]

After the war, the hull of HMS York was towed to Bari and scrapped there by an Italian shipbreaker in March 1952.[11]

Notes

  1. ^ a b Borghese, page 77
  2. ^ Sadkovich, page 25
  3. ^ a b Greene & Massignani, page 141
  4. ^ Naval-History.net: 26 March entry
  5. ^ Borghese, pp. 81-82
  6. ^ Borghese, page 80
  7. ^ Borghese, page 82
  8. ^ Borghese, pp. 83-84
  9. ^ Naval-History.net
  10. ^ The Italians seized the following naval message from Captain Portal to his Chief Engineering Officer: "Please take statements from all men who were in boiler and engine-rooms when the ship was struck on the 26th, also from any men who can bear witness as to the R.A.s who were lost, being in the engine room. I would like you also to make rough notes now, while events are fresh in your mind, of sequence of damage reports and appreciations as time went on. Also a log of events since we started pumping out. R.P." Borghese, page 83
  11. ^ Naval-History.net

References

  • "Frogmen First Battles" by retired U.S Captain William Schofield's book. ISBN 0-8283-2088-8
  • "The Naval War in the Mediterranean, 1940-1943 by Jack Greene & Alessandro Massignani, Chatam Publishing, London, 1998. ISBN 1861760574
  • "Sea Devils" by J. Valerio Borghese, translated into English by James Cleugh, with introduction by the United States Naval Institute ISBN 1-55750-072-X
  • The Italian Navy in World War II by Marc'Antonio Bragadin, United States Naval Institute, Annapolis, 1957. ISBN 0405130317
  • The Italian Navy in World War II by Sadkovich, James, Greenwood Press, Westport, 1994. ISBN 031328797X

External links

Coordinates: 35°29′0″N 24°08′17″E / 35.483333°N 24.13806°E / 35.483333; 24.13806

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