❤ Sharing Folkworthy Stuffs ❤
1 Comment Vintage
Photo credits, Fam. Fantasia-Fronzuto/https://digilander.libero.it/carandin/tarigo.htm.
The officers are: standing, from left, Lieutenant (E) Luca Balsofiore, Chief Engineer (killed in Tarigo’s sinking on 16 April 1941); Lieutenant Aldo Cecchi (not onboard when she was sunk, survived the war); Sub-Lieutenant (E) Espedito Fantasia, deputy Chief Engineer (killed in the sinking); kneeling, from left, Sub-Lieutenant Luigi Minguzzi (killed in the sinking), Ensign Domenico Balla (survived the sinking and the war), and Ensign (E) Spartaco Admodio (killed on 28 January 1943 in the sinking of the destroyer Bombardiere).
Below, the story of Tarigo’s loss (very long read).
After the first Commonwealth offensive in North Africa, between December 1940 and February 1941, had destroyed the Italian Tenth Army and captured Cyrenaica, the German high command decided to send a motorized/armored force to Libya in order to strengthen the remaining Italian forces, stabilize the situation and, if possible, recapture part of the lost ground. This force, placed under the command of General Erwin Rommel and soon to become known as Afrika Korps, would consist of two divisions: the 5th Light Division and the 15th Panzer Division. The first ships carrying these troops sailed from Naples for Tripoli on 11 February 1941; the transfer of the entire Afrika Korps would require about two months. These troops and their equipment were mostly carried by German freighters (about fifty of them had become “trapped” in the Mediterranean at the outbreak of the war, many of them in Italian ports) that sailed from Naples for Tripoli in convoy of 4-5 ships, escorted by Italian destroyers (usually three or four). The transfer of the Afrika Korps, as well as the Italian "Trento" (motorized) and "Ariete" (armoured) Divisions, was accomplished between February and April 1941 with minimal losses. During these three months, over 60,000 Axis troops and 230,000 tons of supplies and equipment were sent to Tripoli, with losses in personnel amounting to zero in February, less than 4 % in March and less than 5 % in April, and losses in equipment amounting to 2 % in February, 8 % in March and 9 % in April.
Minimal losses, however, does not mean no losses at all. There were some isolated sinkings during this otherwise positive period, but on 16 April 1941 the Italian naval high command was hit by a bolt from the blue when news came of the annihilation of an entire convoy: the Tarigo convoy.
This was scheduled to be a normal Afrika Korps convoy – the twentieth, to be precise. Its five steamers sailed out of Naples in the evening of April 13, 1941. Four of them were German: the 2,452-GRT Arta, the 4,205-GRT Adana, the 2,447-GRT Aegina and the 3,704-GRT Iserlohn. The fifth one, the smallest of them (1,590 GRT), was the Italian Sabaudia. Arta carried 194 German troops, 62 vehicles and 487 tons of supplies; Adana carried 339 troops, 148 vehicles and 409 tons of supplies; Aegina carried 217 troops, 64 vehicles and 493 tons of supplies; Iserlohn carried 292 troops, 118 vehicles and 608 tons of supplies. Sabaudia’s unenviable cargo consisted entirely of ammunition, 1,371 tons. The escort consisted of three Italian destroyers: the larger Navigatori-class Luca Tarigo, commanded by Commander Pietro De Cristofaro, was the escort leader; the other two, Lampo (Lieutenant Commander Enrico Marano) and Baleno (Lieutenant Commander Giovanni Arnaud), both belonged to the smaller Folgore class. In the original plan the escorting destroyers should have been Tarigo, Euro and Strale, but the latter two had been assigned to another convoy – luckily for them – and replaced by Lampo and Baleno. The convoy would follow the western route to Libya: after sailing from Naples, the ships would pass west of Sicily, cross the Sicilian Channel, and then follow the Tunisian and later Libyan coast from Cape Bon to Tripoli.
Already in the afternoon of April 13, before the convoy’s departure, reconnaissance aircraft of the X. Fliegerkorps had reported four destroyers in the harbour of La Valletta, Malta. The report had been sent to Supermarina (the high command of the Italian Navy), but the latter, considering both that the supplies carried by the convoy were urgently requeste by the German command, and that British destroyers had already been sighted in Malta in several instances, but no attack on the convoys had ever materialized, decided to go on with the schedule. This time, however, things were different: the destroyers spotted by the reconnaissance were Captain Philip J. Mack’s 14th Destroyer Flotilla, that Admiral Andrew Browne Cunningham, commander of the Mediterranean Fleet, had deployed to Malta a few days before with the specific task of attacking Axis supply convoys sailing between Italy and Libya. The flotilla consisted of the J-class destroyers Jervis (Mack’s flaghsip) and Janus (Commander John A. W. Tothill) and the Tribal-class destroyers Nubian (Commander Richard W. Ravenhill) and Mohawk (commander John W. M. Eaton). All were more modern and heavily armed than the escorts of the Tarigo convoy (overall, Mack’s destroyers had twenty-eight 120 mm guns, as opposed to the fourteen guns of the same caliber that Tarigo, Lampo and Baleno had), and three of them were equipped with radar, which did not exist on Italian ships. Less than a year into the Mediterranean war, Mack’s ships could already be considered as veterans: Nubian and Mohawk had participated in the raid in the Otranto straits, in November 1940, when an Italian convoy returning from Albania had been destroyed; less than three weeks before, all four of Mack’s ships had participated in the battle of Cape Matapan, where Jervis had torpedoed and sunk the crippled heavy cruisers Zara and Pola. The 14th Destroyer Flotilla had been sent to Malta on April 10, and in the following nights had already sortied twice, but had failed to intercept any convoys, despite co-operation with aerial reconnaissance. This time, however, they would not miss.