Battle of Cape Bon

Cruiser Da Barbiano

Cruiser Da Barbiano

This article is about a naval battle between Italy and UK in the Battle of the Mediterranean during World War II.

Battle of Cape Bon was a sea battle. It fought on 13 December, 1941, during the North African Campaign (the Desert War) during World War II , between the two Italian light cruisers and the Allied’s destroyer flotilla in the Mediterranean, near Cape Bon in Tunisia. As a result of the clashes, Italian Regia Marina had lost both cruisers and over 900 killed.

Control of the Mediterranean was the subject of the rivalry between Italy and UK supported by other allied naval forces.  This control was extremely important for German and Italian forces in relation to supplies to troops in North Africa as well as for the maintenance of Malta as a British base of the shock. Excluding Malta, the British would not be able to capture the Italian convoys, and thus preventing the supply for the Axis forces.  Sometimes the needs were so great that both parties had used warships to transport.

When Italy declared war in June 1940, it had one of the largest navies in the world, but its power was limited to the Mediterranean when the British could complement the loss by moving ships from other waters. This caused great care among the Italian commanders and tactics to avoid battles.  The British also had radar and maritime codes Italians knew what further assured them the edge.

Italian 4th Cruiser Division under the command of Rear Admiral Cruiser Antonino Toscano, consisting of two light cruisers type di Giussano : “Alberto di Giussano” and “Alberico da Barbiano” and the torpedo boat “Cigno” left the port of Palermo heading for Tripoli with a valuable cargo of fuel and Italian food for the troops fighting in Libya. Fuel was so important that the tanks were also set on board ships.

Meanwhile, the 4th British Destroyers Flotilla ( HMS “Sikh”, HMS “Maori”, HMS “Legion” and Dutch “Isaac Sweers”) under the command of Captain GH Strokes headed to Malta. The British fleet was spotted by an Italian plane, but the General Staff Regia Marina, estimated from the opponent will not be able to get to Cape Bon before the 4th Cruiser Division. However, using information from the British, Ultry ordered the destroyers to intercept the Italian cruisers.

On December 13 at 3:25 AM, the opponents met. Nadpływając in darkness from the east and the use of radar completely surprised the Italians, the Allies fired torpedoes at close range, then opened artillery fire. Italian cruisers sank instantly, flames engulfed the crew, “Alberico da Barbiano” failed even to respond to the attack.  After a brief skirmish with the destroyer “Isaac Sweers”, torpedo “Cigno” managed to save about 500 survivors, while the others reached the coast and were later rescued by Italian torpedo boats .  The battle killed more than 900 sailors and soldiers carried the team along with the commander Admiral Toscano.

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