Honour - MATAPAN 1941
This was a night Fleet action off Cape Matapan between units of the Italian
Fleet under Admiral Iachino and the British Mediterranean Fleet under
Admiral Cunning ham.
Intelligence indicated that the Italians intended to despatch a squadron to intercept British convoys to Greece. In response 4 cruisers and 4 destroyers under Vice-Admiral Pridham-Wippell rendezvoused with another 5 destroyers south of Crete. In addition 3 battleships, the aircraft carrier Formidable plus 9 destroyers sailed from Alexandria.
The Italian force of 1 battleship 9 cruisers and 14 destroyers were found by air reconnaissance on the afternoon of 28-March. Having lost the element of surprise the Italians headed for base. The British flew off three air strikes to slow the battleship Vittorio Veneto the second of which scored a torpedo hit which slowed her to 19kts. The third strike hit the Cruiser Pola, bringing her to a stop. Iachino then detached 2 cruisers and a division of destroyers to stand by the Pola while the remainder of the force continued to the West.
At 2100hrs leading British cruisers reported passing a darkened ship (the Pola) and while the British battleships prepared to open fire, two cruisers appeared crossing their bows. These were the Italian cruisers Fiume and Zara who were unprepared for action with their guns trained fore and aft. The British battleships opened fire with their 15" guns at the point blank range of 3,500 yards and sank the two cruisers. The Italian destroyer Vittorio Alfieri attempted a torpedo attack and was sunk by HMS Barham. A second destroyer the Giosue Carducci was also sunk.
Later the crippled Pola was found and also sunk.
This page last edited -
09 April, 2013.
Copyright © Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.