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Action off Calabria

by Cristiano D'Adamo

At 15:55, when the battleships were exchanging salvos, 9 Swordfish from the Eagle flew over the battleground and attacked two of the Pola class cruisers, believing them to be battleships. The attacks, despite the close distance reached by the aircrafts, failed and at 17:05 the planes were already back on the Eagle. Starting at 15:58 the Italian cruiser Fiume, followed two minutes later by the Zara, Bolzano and Pola had opened fire. The Gorizia and Trento followed soon after. Between 16:01 and 16:05 the guns of the Alfieri’s group had also joined the fight. The Fiume, under the command of C.V. Giorgio Giorgis, was engaging the Liverpool, which was later to receive the attentions of the Gorizia as well. The British cruisers quickly changed course causing some confusion amongst the British squadron and realigning the line. At the end of the shuffle the Sidney was the last of the line. This change made accurate firing almost impossible, and not much became of it even if at 16:07 the destroyer Afieri received a near miss which caused some minor damages. It is during this phase that the Bolzano received three direct hits, one of which temporarily locked her rudder, causing the ship to complete a full revolution. Repair work was quickly completed and the unit was back on line. At 16:41 the destroyers’ action continued until 16:50 when the battle came to an end. The actions conducted by the Italian destroyers were many, therefor we will limit ourselves to a brief summary.
Time Group Commander Leader Units
16:06 9th Sq. C.V. Lorenzo Daretti Alfieri 4
16:18 7th Sq. C.F. Amleto Baldo Freccia 2
16:20 11th Sq. C.V. Carlo Margottini Artigliere 4
16:22 12th Sq. C.V. Carmine D’Arienzo Lanciere 4
16:28 14th Sq. C.V. Giovanni Galati Vivaldi 2
16:45 12th Sq. C.V. Carmine D’Arienzo Lanciere 4

At 21:40 on the 10th, despite the warning already sent by Supermarina advising the Sicilian bases of possible air attacks, and thanks to a bright lunar glow, a formation of British bombers was able to launch four torpedoes in the harbor of Augusta. Three of the weapons failed their target, but the last one hit the destroyer Pancaldom (1), under the command of C.F. Luigi Merini, causing it to sink. The ship suffered 16 casualties and was later recovered and lost again of April 30th, 1943 near Cape Bon. The Bolzano and Cesare, the only two Italian units which had received direct hits, were transferred to la Spezia under the escort of 5 destroyers. Repair work commenced immediately and was soon completed. The Cesare’s damage was fully repaired in less than 30 days.

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