Battle of Taranto

The Battle of Taranto took place on the night of 11–12 November 1940 during the Second World War between British naval forces, under Admiral Andrew Cunningham, and Italian naval forces, under Admiral Inigo Campioni. The Royal Navy launched the first all-aircraft ship-to-ship naval attack in history, employing 21 obsolete Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious in the Mediterranean Sea. The attack struck the battle fleet of the Regia Marina at anchor in the harbour of Taranto, using aerial torpedoes despite the shallowness of the water. The success of this attack augured the ascendancy of naval aviation over the big guns of battleships. According to Admiral Cunningham, "Taranto, and the night of 11–12 November 1940, should be remembered for ever as having shown once and for all that in the Fleet Air Arm the Navy has its most devastating weapon."[2]

Origins

Long before the First World War, the Italian Regia Marina's First Squadron was based at Taranto, a port-city on Italy's south-east coast. In that period, the British Royal Navy developed plans for countering the power of the Regia Marina. Blunting the power of any adversary in the Mediterranean Sea was an ongoing exercise. Plans for the capture of the port at Taranto were considered as early as the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935.[3]

In 1940–41, Italian Army operations in North Africa, based in Libya, required a supply line from Italy. The British Army's North African Campaign, based in Egypt, suffered from much greater supply difficulties. Supply convoys to Egypt had to either cross the Mediterranean via Gibraltar and Malta near the coast of Sicily, or steam around the Cape of Good Hope, up the east coast of Africa, and then through the Suez Canal to reach Alexandria. The latter was a very long and slow route, and the Italian fleet was in an excellent position to interdict British supplies and reinforcements using the direct route through the Mediterranean.

Following the concept of a fleet in being, the Italians usually kept their warships in harbour and were unwilling to seek battle with the Royal Navy on their own, also because any ship lost bigger than a destroyer could not be replaced. The Italian fleet at Taranto was powerful: six battleships (of which one was not yet battleworthy, Andrea Doria having her crew still in training after her reconstruction), seven heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and eight destroyers. This made the threat of a sortie against British shipping a serious problem.

During the Munich Crisis of 1938, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, the commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet, was concerned about the survival of the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious in the face of Italian opposition in the Mediterranean, and ordered his staff to re-examine all plans for attacking Taranto.[3] He was advised by Lumley Lyster, the captain of Glorious, that her Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers were capable of a night attack. Indeed, the Fleet Air Arm was then the only naval aviation arm with such a capability.[3] Pound took Lyster's advice and ordered training to begin. Security was kept so tight there were no written records.[3] Just a month before the war began, Pound advised his replacement, Admiral Andrew Cunningham, to consider the possibility. This came to be known as Operation Judgment.[4]

The fall of France and the consequent loss of the French fleet in the Mediterranean (even before Operation Catapult) made redress essential. The older carrier, HMS Eagle, on Cunningham's strength, was ideal, possessing a very experienced air group composed entirely of the obsolescent Swordfish aircraft. Three Sea Gladiator fighters were added for the operation.[3] Firm plans were drawn up after the Italian Army halted at Sidi Barrani, which freed up the British Mediterranean Fleet.[3]

Operation Judgment was just a small part of the overarching Operation MB8.[3] It was originally scheduled to take place on 21 October 1940, Trafalgar Day, but a fire in an auxiliary fuel tank of one Swordfish led to a delay. 60 imp gal (270 L) auxiliary tanks were fitted in the observer’s position on torpedo bombers - the observer taking the air gunner's position - to extend the operating range of the aircraft enough to reach Taranto.) This minor fire spread into something more serious that destroyed two Swordfish.[3] Eagle then suffered a breakdown in her fuel system,[3] so she was eliminated.

When the brand-new carrier HMS Illustrious, based at Alexandria, became available in the Mediterranean, she took on board five Swordfish from Eagle and launched the strike alone.[5]

The complete naval task force—commanded by Rear Admiral Lyster,[3] who had originated the plan of attack on Taranto—consisted of Illustrious, the heavy cruisers HMS Berwick and York, the light cruisers HMS Gloucester and Glasgow, and the destroyers HMS Hyperion, Ilex, Hasty and Havelock.[6] The 24[3] attack Swordfish came from 813, 815, 819, and 824 Naval Air Squadrons. The small number of attacking warplanes raised concern that Judgment would only alert and enrage the Italian Navy without achieving any significant results.[3] Illustrious also had Fairey Fulmar fighters of 806 Naval Air Squadron aboard to provide air cover for the task force, with radar and fighter control systems.[7]

Half of the Swordfish were armed with torpedoes as the primary strike aircraft, with the other half carrying aerial bombs and flares to carry out diversions.[8][3] These torpedoes were fitted with Duplex magnetic/contact exploders, which were extremely sensitive to rough seas,[3] as the attacks on the German battleship Bismarck later showed. There were also worries the torpedoes would bottom out in the harbour after being dropped.[3] The loss rate for the bombers was expected to be fifty percent.[3]

Several reconnaissance flights by Martin Marylands of the RAF's No. 431 General Reconnaissance Flight[3] flying from Malta confirmed the location of the Italian fleet. These flights produced photos on which the intelligence officer of Illustrious spotted previously unexpected barrage balloons; the attack plan was changed accordingly.[3] To make sure the Italian warships had not sortied, the British also sent over a Short Sunderland flying boat on the night of 11 November, just as the carrier task force was forming up off the Greek island of Cephalonia, about 170 nmi (310 km; 200 mi) from Taranto harbour. This reconnaissance flight alerted the Italian forces in southern Italy, but since they were without any radars, they could do little but wait for whatever came along. The Regia Marina could conceivably have gone to sea in search of any British naval force, but this was distinctly against the naval philosophy of the Italians between January 1940 and September 1943.

The complexity of Operation MB8, with its various forces and convoys, succeeded in deceiving the Italians into thinking only normal convoying was under way. This contributed to the success of Judgment.[3]

The base of Taranto was defended by 101 anti-aircraft guns and 193 machine-guns, and was usually protected against low-flying aircraft by barrage balloons, of which only 27 were in place on 11 November, as strong winds on 6 November had blown away 60 balloons. Capital ships were also supposed to be protected by anti-torpedo nets, but 12,800 m (42,000 ft) of netting was required for full protection, and only one-third of that was rigged before the attack due to a scheduled gunnery exercise. Moreover, these nets did not reach the bottom of the harbour, allowing the British torpedoes to clear them by about 60 cm (24 in).[9]

Attack

Battle of Taranto map-en
Attack directions of the British planes
Italian ship BB LIttorio on November 12, 1940, after Taranto attack (P00090.091)
Littorio surrounded by salvage tugs

The first wave of 12 aircraft, led by Lieutenant Commander M.W. Williamson RN of 815 Squadron, left Illustrious just before 21:00 hours on 11 November 1940, followed by a second wave of nine about 90 minutes later. Of the second wave, one aircraft turned back with a problem with its auxiliary fuel tank, and one launched 20 minutes late, after requiring emergency repairs to damage following a minor taxiing accident, so only eight made it to the target.

The first wave, which consisted of six Swordfish armed with torpedoes, two with flares and four 250 lb (110 kg) bombs, and four with six bombs, was split into two sections when three of the bombers and one torpedo bomber strayed from the main force while flying through thin clouds. The smaller group continued to Taranto independently. The main group approached the harbor at Mar Grande at 22:58. Sixteen flares were dropped east of the harbour, then the flare dropper and another aircraft made a dive bombing attack to set fire to oil tanks. The next three aircraft, led by Lieutenant Commander K Williamson RN of 815 Squadron, attacked over San Pietro Island, and struck the battleship Conte di Cavour with a torpedo that blasted a 27 ft (8.2 m) hole in her side below her waterline. Williamson's plane was immediately shot down by the Italian battleship's anti-aircraft guns.[10] The two remaining aircraft in this sub-flight continued, dodging barrage balloons and receiving heavy anti-aircraft fire from the Italian warships and shore batteries, to press home an unsuccessful attack on the battleship Andrea Doria. The next sub-flight of three attacked from a more northerly direction, attacking the battleship Littorio, hitting it with two torpedoes and launching one torpedo at the flagship, the battleship Vittorio Veneto, which missed. The bomber force, led by Captain O. Patch RM, attacked next. They found the targets difficult to identify, but attacked and hit two cruisers moored at Mar Piccolo hitting both with a single bomb each from 1,500 ft (460 m), followed by another aircraft which straddled four destroyers.[5]

The second wave of eight aircraft - nine were lined up on deck, but number 8 and 9 collided while preparing to launch, one took off but had to abort when an auxiliary fuel tank fell off in flight; meanwhile, the other was repaired and launched late[11] - led by Lieutenant Commander J. W. Hale of 819 Squadron, was now approaching from a northerly direction towards the Mar Grande harbour, with two of the four bombers also carrying flares, the remaining five carrying torpedoes. Flares were dropped shortly before midnight. Two aircraft aimed their torpedoes at Littorio, one of which hit. One aircraft, despite having been hit twice by anti-aircraft fire, aimed a torpedo at Vittorio Veneto but the torpedo missed. Another aircraft hit the battleship Caio Duilio with a torpedo, blowing a large hole in her hull and flooding both of her forward magazines. The aircraft flown by Lieutenant G. W. L. A. Bayly RN was shot down by antiaircraft fire from the heavy cruiser Gorizia[10] following the successful attack on Littorio, the only aircraft lost from the second wave. The final aircraft to arrive on the scene 15 minutes behind the others made an unsuccessful dive bombing attack on one of the Italian cruisers despite heavy anti-aircraft fire, then safely returned to Illustrious, landing at 02:39.[5]

Of the two aircraft shot down, the two crew members of the first were taken prisoner. The other two were killed.[12]

The Italian battleships suffered significant damage:

  • Conte di Cavour had a 12 m × 8 m (39 ft × 26 ft) hole in the hull, and permission to ground her was withheld until it was too late, so her keel touched the bottom at a deeper depth than intended. 27 of the ship's crew were killed and over 100 more wounded. In the end, only her superstructure and main armament remained above water.[13] She was subsequently raised, partially repaired and transferred to Trieste for further repairs and upgrades, but the mutated strategic situation put these works in low priority. She was still undergoing repairs when Italy surrendered, so she never returned to full service;[14]
  • Caio Duilio had only a slightly smaller hole (11 m × 7 m (36 ft × 23 ft)) and was saved by running her aground;[14]
  • Littorio had considerable flooding caused by three torpedo hits. Despite underwater protection (the 'Pugliese' system, standard in all Italian battleships), the damage was extensive, although actual damage to the ship's structures was relatively limited (the machinery was intact). Casualties were 32 crewmen killed and many wounded. She was holed in three places, once on the port side (7 m × 1.5 m (23 ft 0 in × 4 ft 11 in)), and twice on the starboard side (15 m × 10 m (49 ft × 33 ft) and 12 m × 9 m (39 ft × 30 ft)). She too was saved by running her aground. Despite this, in the morning, the ship's bows were totally submerged.[14]

Italian defences fired 13,489 shells from the land batteries, while several thousand were fired from the ships. The anti-aircraft barrage was formidable, having 101 guns and 193 machine-guns. There were also 87 balloons, but strong winds caused the loss of 60 of them. Only 4.2 km (2.3 nmi; 2.6 mi) of anti-torpedo nets were actually fielded around the ships, up to 10 m (33 ft) in depth, while the need was for 12.8 km (6.9 nmi; 8.0 mi). There were also 13 aerophonic stations and 22 searchlights (the ships had two searchlights each).[14] Denis Boyd, Commanding Officer HMS Illustrious, stated in his after-action report, "It is notable that the enemy did not use the searchlights at all during either of the attacks."[15]

Littorio was repaired with all available resources and was fully operational again within four months, while restoration of the older battleships proceeded at a much slower pace (repairs took seven months for Caio Duilio, and the repairs for Conte di Cavour were never completed). In all, the Swordfish attack was made with just 20 aircraft. Two Italian aircraft were destroyed on the ground by the bombing, and two unexploded bombs hit the cruiser Trento and the destroyer Libeccio. Near misses damaged the destroyer Pessagno.[14]

Meanwhile, X-Force cruisers attacked an Italian convoy (Battle of the Strait of Otranto (1940)). This force had three cruisers (HMS Ajax, Orion and HMAS Sydney) and two Tribal-class destroyers (HMS Nubian and Mohawk). Just past midnight, they met and destroyed four Italian merchantmen (Capo Vado, Catalani, Locatelli and Premuda), damaging the torpedo-boat Fabrizi, while the auxiliary cruiser Ramb III fled.[14]

Cunningham and Lyster wanted to strike Taranto again the next night with Swordfish (six torpedo-bombers, seven bombers, and two flare-dispensers) – one wag in the pilots' room remarked, "They only asked the Light Brigade to do it once!"[16] – but bad weather prevented the action.[14]

Aftermath

The Italian fleet lost half of its capital ships in one night; the next day, the Regia Marina transferred its undamaged ships from Taranto to Naples to protect them from similar attacks,[5] until the defenses at Taranto (mainly the anti-torpedo nets) were brought up to adequate levels to protect them from further attacks of the same kind (which happened between March and May 1941).[17] Repairs to Littorio took about four months, to Caio Duilio seven months; Conte di Cavour required extensive salvage work and her repairs were incomplete when Italy changed sides in 1943.[18] Cunningham wrote after the attack: "The Taranto show has freed up our hands considerably & I hope now to shake these damned Itiys up a bit. I don't think their remaining three battleships will face us and if they do I'm quite prepared to take them on with only two." Indeed, the balance of power had swung to the British Mediterranean Fleet which now enjoyed more operational freedom: when previously forced to operate as one unit to match Italian capital ships, they could now split into two battlegroups; each built around one aircraft carrier and two battleships.[19]

Taranto 1940 (4)

Aerial photo of Italian warships moored in Mar Grande harbour at Taranto. Note the 'Y' jetty.

Taranto 1940 (3)

Aftermath of the battle showing an Italian battleship down by the bows and beached (far right)

Nevertheless, Cunningham's estimate that Italians would be unwilling to risk their remaining heavy units was quickly proven wrong. Only five days after Taranto, Campioni sortied with two battleships, six cruisers and 14 destroyers to successfully disrupt a mission to deliver aircraft to Malta. The follow-up to this operation led to the Battle of Cape Spartivento on 27 November 1940. Two of the three damaged battleships were repaired by mid-1941 and control of the Mediterranean continued to swing back and forth until the Italian armistice in 1943.

The attack on Taranto was avenged a year later by the Italian navy in its Raid on Alexandria, when the Mediterranean fleet of the Royal Navy was attacked using midget submarines, severely damaging HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant.

However, measured against its primary task of disrupting Axis convoys to Africa, the Taranto attack had very little effect. In fact, Italian shipping to Libya increased between the months of October 1940 – January 1941 to an average of 49,435 tons per month, up from the 37,204-ton average of the previous four months.[20] Moreover, rather than change the balance of power in the central Mediterranean, British naval authorities had "failed to deliver the true knockout blow that would have changed the context within which the rest of the war in the Mediterranean was fought."[21]

Aerial torpedo experts in all modern navies had previously thought that torpedo attacks against ships must be in water at least 75 ft (23 m) deep.[22] Taranto harbour had a depth of only about 39 ft (12 m); but the Royal Navy had developed a new method of preventing torpedoes from diving too deep. A drum was attached beneath the nose of the aircraft, from which a roll of wire led to the nose of the torpedo. As it dropped, the tension from the wire pulled up the nose of the torpedo, producing a belly-flop rather than a nose dive.[23]

Influence on Pearl Harbor

It is likely the Imperial Japanese Navy's staff carefully studied the Taranto raid during planning for the attack on Pearl Harbor because of the issues with a shallow harbour. Japanese Lieutenant Commander Takeshi Naito, the assistant naval attaché to Berlin, flew to Taranto to investigate the attack firsthand. Naito subsequently had a lengthy conversation with Commander Mitsuo Fuchida about his observations in October 1941.[24] Fuchida led the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941. More significant, perhaps, was a Japanese military mission to Italy in May 1941. A group of IJN officers visited Taranto and had lengthy discussions with their Italian Navy opposite numbers.[25] However, the Japanese had been working on shallow-water solutions since early 1939, with various shallow ports as the notional targets, including Manila, Singapore, Vladivostok, and Pearl Harbor.[26] In the early 1930s, as their Type 91 aerial torpedo entered service, the Japanese used a breakaway wooden nose to soften its impact with the water, as early as 1936, had perfected breakaway wooden fins for added aerial stability.[26][27]

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a considerably larger operation than Taranto. All six Imperial Japanese fleet carriers, each one equipped with an air wing having over twice the number of planes of any British carrier, took part. It resulted in far more devastation: seven American battleships were sunk or disabled, and several other warships were destroyed or damaged. The U.S. Navy thereafter designed its fleet operations in the Pacific Ocean around its carriers instead of its battleships as capital ships. Battleships were found to be less useful in the expanses of the Pacific than in the confines of the Mediterranean; the older ships were too slow to escort the carriers, and were chiefly used as fire support for amphibious operations.[28]

Notes

  1. ^ History of World War II. 1. Marshall Cavendish Corporation. 2004. p. 206. ISBN 0-7614-7483-8.
  2. ^ Simpson, Michael (2004). A life of Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Cunningham. A Twentieth-century Naval Leader. Routledge Ed., p. 74. ISBN 978-0-7146-5197-2
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Stephen, Martin (1988). Grove, Eric, ed. Sea Battles in Close-up: World War 2. Volume 1. Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allanm. pp. 34–38. ISBN 0-7110-1596-1.
  4. ^ "Taranto 1940". Royal Navy. Archived from the original on 24 October 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d Sturtivant, Ray (1990). British naval aviation: the Fleet Air Arm 1917–1990. London: Arms & Armour Press. pp. 48–50. ISBN 0-85368-938-5.
  6. ^ 'The Aeroplane, Vol. LXXIII No. 1887, 8 August 1947, p. 154
  7. ^ Wragg, David, Swordfish, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003, pp. 78–79
  8. ^ These aircraft had an auxiliary fuel tank under the fuselage
  9. ^ Giorgerini, Giorgio (2002). La guerra italiana sul mare : la marina tra vittoria e sconfitta: 1940–1943 (1st Oscar storia. ed.). Milano: Mondadori. pp. 218–9. ISBN 978-88-04-50150-3.
  10. ^ a b La Notte di Taranto [The Taranto night] (PDF) (in Italian), Fabio Siciliano.
  11. ^ O'Connor
  12. ^ Australian Naval Aviation Museum (1998). Flying Stations: a story of Australian naval aviation. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. p. 23. ISBN 1-86448-846-8.
  13. ^ Dent, editor, John Jordan ; assistant editor, Stephen (2010). Warship 2010 (2010 ed.). London: Conway. pp. 81–85. ISBN 9781844861101.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Santoni, Alberto (November 1990), "L'attacco inglese a Taranto" [The English attack on Taranto], Rivista Italiana di Difesa (in Italian): 88–95
  15. ^ Boyd's Report was attached to an Intelligence Report filed with the Office of Naval Intelligence by Lt Commander John N Opie, III, USN. Opie's report is found at the National Archives, Record Group 38, A-1-z/22863D.
  16. ^ Newton, Don & A. Cecil Hampshire, Taranto, London, W Kimber, 1959, p 165.
  17. ^ Giorgerini, Giorgio (2002). La guerra italiana sul mare : la marina tra vittoria e sconfitta : 1940–1943 (1. ed. Oscar storia. ed.). Milano: Mondadori. p. 223. ISBN 9788804501503.
  18. ^ Playfair, Vol I, p. 237.
  19. ^ O'Hara, Vincent (2009). Struggle for the Middle Sea. London. p. 65.
  20. ^ Bragadin, Italian Navy in World War II, p. 356.
  21. ^ Caravaggio, p. 122.
  22. ^ Christopher O'Connor Taranto, The Raid, The Observer, The Aftermath Dog Ear Publishing, 2010, page 79
  23. ^ Lowry, Thomas P; Wellham, JWG (1995), The Attack on Taranto, Stackpole, pp. 38–39
  24. ^ Interview with Mitsuo Fuchida, 25 February 1964, Donald M. Goldstein Papers, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh
  25. ^ Fioravanzo, Giuseppe (January 1956), "The Japanese Military Mission to Italy", USNI Proceedings: 24–32.
  26. ^ a b Peattie, Mark R (2007). Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909–1941. Naval Institute Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-59114664-3.
  27. ^ Peattie 2007, p. 145.
  28. ^ Keegan, John (1993). Battle at Sea. London: Pimlico. pp. 157–211. ISBN 0-7126-5991-9.

References

  • Bragadin, A, Italian Navy in World War II, 1st Ed, US Naval Institute, Annapolis, 1957. ISBN 087021327X
  • Caravaggio, A.N, Lieutenant Colonel, 'The Attack at Taranto: Tactical Success, Operational Failure', Naval War College Review, 1997.
  • Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; with Stitt, Commander G.M.S; Molony, Brigadier C.J.C. & Toomer, Air Vice-Marshal S.E. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO:1954]. Butler, J.R.M, ed. Mediterranean and Middle East Volume I: The Early Successes Against Italy (to May 1941). History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-065-3.
  • Carlo Stasi, Otranto e l'Inghilterra (episodi bellici in Puglia e nel Salento), in Note di Storia e Cultura Salentina, anno XV, pp. 127–159, (Argo, Lecce, 2003),
  • Carlo Stasi, Otranto nel Mondo. Dal "Castello" di Walpole al "Barone" di Voltaire (Editrice Salentina, Galatina 2018) ISBN 978-88-31964-06-7,
  • Thomas P. Lowry, The Attack on Taranto (Stackpoole Books paperbacks, 2000)

Further reading

  • Lamb, Charles To War in a Stringbag. Cassell and Collier Macmillan (1977) ISBN 0-304-29778-X
  • Lowry, Thomas P. & Wellham, John W.G. The Attack on Taranto: Blueprint for Pearl Harbor. Stackpole Books (1995) ISBN 0-8117-1726-7
  • O'Connor, Christopher Patrick Taranto: The Raid, The Observer, The Aftermath. Dog Ear Publishing (2010) ISBN 978-160844-721-3
  • Konstam, Angus Taranto 1940; The Fleet Air Arm's precursor to Pearl Harbor. Osprey Campaign Series #288. Osprey Publishing (2015) ISBN 978-1-4728-0896-7

External links

824 Naval Air Squadron

824 Naval Air Squadron is a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm squadron first formed on 3 April 1933, disbanding and reforming several times before assuming its current role at RNAS Culdrose as a training squadron.

Andrea Doria-class battleship

The Andrea Doria class (usually called Caio Duilio class in Italian sources) was a pair of dreadnought battleships built for the Royal Italian Navy (Regia Marina) between 1912 and 1916. The two ships—Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio—were completed during World War I. The class was an incremental improvement over the preceding Conte di Cavour class. Like the earlier ships, Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio were armed with a main battery of thirteen 305-millimeter (12.0 in) guns.

The two ships were based in southern Italy during World War I to help ensure that the Austro-Hungarian Navy's surface fleet would be contained in the Adriatic. Neither vessel saw any combat during the conflict. After the war, they cruised the Mediterranean and were involved in several international incidents, including at Corfu in 1923. In 1933, both ships were placed in reserve. In 1937 the ships began a lengthy reconstruction. The modifications included removing their center main battery turret and boring out the rest of the guns to 320 mm (12.6 in), strengthening their armor protection, installing new boilers and steam turbines, and lengthening their hulls. The reconstruction work lasted until 1940, by which time Italy was already engaged in World War II.

The two ships were moored in Taranto on the night of 11/12 November 1940 when the British launched a carrier strike on the Italian fleet. In the resulting Battle of Taranto, Caio Duilio was hit by a torpedo and forced to beach to avoid sinking. Andrea Doria was undamaged in the raid; repairs for Caio Duilio lasted until May 1941. Both ships escorted convoys to North Africa in late 1941, including Operation M42, where Andrea Doria saw action at the inconclusive First Battle of Sirte on 17 December. Fuel shortages curtailed further activities in 1942 and 1943, and both ships were interned at Malta following Italy's surrender in September 1943. Italy was permitted to retain both battleships after the war, and they alternated as fleet flagship until the early 1950s, when they were removed from active service. Both ships were scrapped after 1956.

Battle of Taranto (disambiguation)

The Battle of Taranto was a World War II battle in 1940.

Battle of Taranto may also refer to one of the battles between the Carthaginians and the Roman Republic:

Battle of Tarentum (212 BC)

Battle of Tarentum (209 BC)

Battle of the Mediterranean

The Battle of the Mediterranean was the name given to the naval campaign fought in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II, from 10 June 1940 to 2 May 1945.

For the most part, the campaign was fought between the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina), supported by other Axis naval and air forces, and the British Royal Navy, supported by other Allied naval forces, such as Australia, the Netherlands, Poland and Greece. American naval and air units joined the Allied side in 1942.

Each side had three overall objectives in this battle. The first was to attack the supply lines of the other side. The second was to keep open the supply lines to their own armies in North Africa. The third was to destroy the ability of the opposing navy to wage war at sea. Outside of the Pacific theatre, the Mediterranean saw the largest conventional naval warfare actions during the conflict. In particular, Allied forces struggled to supply and retain the key naval and air base of Malta.

By the time of the September 1943 armistice between Italy and the Allies, Italian ships and aircraft had sunk Allied surface warships totaling 145,800 tons, while the Germans had sunk 169,700 tons, for a total of 315,500 tons. In total the Allies lost 76 warships and 46 submarines. The Allies sank 83 Italian warships totaling 195,100 tons (161,200 by the Commonwealth and 33,900 by the Americans) and 83 submarines. German losses in the Mediterranean from the start of the campaign to the end were 17 warships and 68 submarines.

Charles Lamb (Royal Navy officer)

Commander Charles Bentall Lamb DSO DSC Royal Navy (1914–1981) was an officer in the Fleet Air Arm during World War II. He piloted a Fairey Swordfish torpedo strike reconnaissance aircraft at the Battle of Taranto, and later wrote a best selling book on his experiences called To War in a Stringbag.

Domenico Cavagnari

Translated from the corresponding article in the Italian Wikipedia

Domenico Cavagnari (20 July 1876, Genoa – 2 November 1966, Rome) was an Italian admiral and the Chief of Staff of the Regia Marina from 1934 until 1940. He was known in the navy as "Mingo" (the Genoese form of his name).

After taking part to the Italo-Turkish War and World War I, in 1925 he commanded a squadron of Esploratori (the three units of the Leone-class) for a cruise in the North Sea and in the Baltic. Afterwards from 1929 to 1932 he commanded the Italian Naval Academy in Livorno.

As Chief of Staff, he was largely responsible for the expansion and preparation of the Italian Navy in the years before World War II. Cavagnari was a proponent of a large fleet based on battleships (in his tenure, four new Littorio-class battleships were laid down and four older battleships were modernized) and submarines (by 1940, Italy possessed one of the largest submarine fleets of the world); he instead showed little interest in aircraft carriers and new technologies such as radar.

After Italy joined the war on 10 June 1940, the Italian Navy's unpreparedness (highlighted in the indecisive engagement of Punta Stilo and on the Battle of Taranto, in which three battleships were heavily damaged by British torpedo-bombers) led to his dismissal. He was succeeded by Admiral Arturo Riccardi.

Fairey Swordfish

The Fairey Swordfish was a biplane torpedo bomber designed by the Fairey Aviation Company. Originating in the early 1930s, the Swordfish, nicknamed "Stringbag", was operated by the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, in addition to having been equipped by the Royal Air Force (RAF) alongside multiple overseas operators, including the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Royal Netherlands Navy. It was initially operated primarily as a fleet attack aircraft; during its later years, the Swordfish became increasingly used as an anti-submarine and training platform. The type was in frontline service throughout the Second World War, but it was already considered obsolete at the outbreak of the conflict in 1939.

Nonetheless, the Swordfish achieved some spectacular successes during the war; notable events included sinking one battleship and damaging two others of the Regia Marina (the Italian Navy) during the Battle of Taranto, and the famous attack on the Bismarck, which contributed to her eventual demise. By the end of the war, the Swordfish held the distinction of having caused the destruction of a greater tonnage of Axis shipping than any other Allied aircraft. The Swordfish remained in front-line service until V-E Day, having outlived multiple aircraft that had been intended to replace it in service.

Flaming onion

The flaming onion volcano (or tower) is performed at some teppanyaki restaurants.The flaming onion was a 37 mm revolving-barrel anti-aircraft gun used by the German army during World War I, the name referring to both the gun, and especially the flares it fired. The American 'balloon-buster' ace, Frank Luke, was a prominent victim of this device, and it was mentioned in Eddie Rickenbacker's book Fighting the Flying Circus and in many "Biggles" stories. The term could also be applied to any sort of anti-aircraft fire that used a visible tracer, appearing in reports of combat from the Battle of Taranto, for instance.The actual weapon was a Gatling type, smooth bore, short barreled automatic revolver called a 'lichtspucker' (light spitter) that was designed to fire flares at low velocity in rapid sequence across a battle area. This gun had five barrels and could launch a 37 mm artillery shell about five thousand feet (1,500 m). To maximize the chance of a strike, all five rounds were discharged as rapidly as possible, giving the 'string of flaming onions' effect. Because most other rounds were fired slowly due to the nature of anti-aircraft artillery at the time, this gun's rapid rate of fire left many fliers thinking that the rounds were attached to a string and they feared being shredded by it.Because all launchers were located well behind the lines, none were captured until the last days of the war on the Western Front. Because the weapon was not designed for anti-aircraft use, it did not have purpose-designed ammunition, but the flares would have been dangerous to fabric-covered aircraft. It appears that the design of specialist ammunition took place in tandem with design of higher velocity automatic anti-aircraft weapons; which may explain why the standard heavy automatic AA gun used by the Germans in World War II was of 37 mm caliber.

The name "flaming onion" was also used for a number of unrelated military topics. One of these was the mythical German device that exploded in such a way that it resembled a bomber being hit, although these also went by a variety of other names, including "scarecrows". It also included a napalm rocket used by the RAAF during the Korean War, It is also the nickname of a military insigne that depicts an old-fashioned grenade with a lit fuse. The device is in various armies; examples include The Canadian Grenadier Guards, The Princess Louise Fusiliers, the British Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery (displayed on their "collar dogs"), and the U.S. Army's ordnance departments.

HMS Illustrious (87)

HMS Illustrious was the lead ship of her class of aircraft carriers built for the Royal Navy before World War II. Her first assignment after completion and working up was with the Mediterranean Fleet, in which her aircraft's most notable achievement was sinking one Italian battleship and badly damaging two others during the Battle of Taranto in late 1940. Two months later the carrier was crippled by German dive bombers and was repaired in the United States. After sustaining damage on the voyage home in late 1941 by a collision with her sister ship Formidable, Illustrious was sent to the Indian Ocean in early 1942 to support the invasion of Vichy French Madagascar (Operation Ironclad). After returning home in early 1943, the ship was given a lengthy refit and briefly assigned to the Home Fleet. She was transferred to Force H for the Battle of Salerno in mid-1943 and then rejoined the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean at the beginning of 1944. Her aircraft attacked several targets in the Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies over the following year before Illustrious was transferred to the newly formed British Pacific Fleet (BPF). The carrier participated in the early stages of the Battle of Okinawa until mechanical defects arising from accumulated battle damage became so severe that she was ordered home early for repairs in May 1945.

The war ended while she was in the dockyard and the Admiralty decided to modify her for use as the Home Fleet's trials and training carrier. In this role she conducted the deck-landing trials for most of the British postwar naval aircraft in the early 1950s. She was occasionally used to ferry troops and aircraft to and from foreign deployments as well as participating in exercises. In 1951, she helped to transport troops to quell rioting in Cyprus after the collapse of the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936. She was paid off in early 1955 and sold for scrap in late 1956.

Inigo Campioni

Inigo Campioni (14 November 1878 – 24 May 1944) was an Italian naval officer during most of the first half of the 20th century. He served in four wars, and is best known as an admiral in the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) during World War II. He was later executed by the Italian Social Republic for refusing to collaborate.

Italian cruiser Zara

Zara was a heavy cruiser built for the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy), the lead ship of the Zara class. Named after the Italian city of Zara (now Zadar, Croatia), the ship was built at the Odero-Terni-Orlando shipyard beginning with her keel laying in July 1928, launching in April 1930, and commissioning in October 1931. Armed with a main battery of eight 8-inch (200 mm) guns, she was nominally within the 10,000-long-ton (10,000 t) limit imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty, though in reality she significantly exceeded this figure.

Zara saw extensive service during the first two years of Italy's participation in World War II, having taken part in several sorties to catch British convoys in the Mediterranean as the flagship of the 1st Division. She was present during the Battle of Calabria in July 1940, the Battle of Taranto in November 1940, and the Battle of Cape Matapan in March 1941. In the last engagement, Zara and her sister ships Fiume and Pola were sunk in a close-range night engagement with three British battleships. Most of her crew, 783 officers and sailors, including the divisional commander Admiral Carlo Cattaneo, were killed in the sinking.

List of Second World War Victoria Cross recipients

The Victoria Cross (VC) is a military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of armed forces of some Commonwealth countries and previous British Empire territories. It takes precedence over all other Orders, decorations and medals; it may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and to civilians under military command. The award was officially constituted when Queen Victoria issued a warrant under the Royal sign-manual on 29 January 1856 that was gazetted on 5 February 1856. The order was backdated to 1854 to recognise acts of valour during the Crimean War. The first awards ceremony was held on 26 June 1857, where Queen Victoria invested 62 of the 111 Crimean recipients in a ceremony in Hyde Park.The Victoria Cross was awarded 182 times to 181 recipients for action in the Second World War. The war, also known as World War II (WWII), was a global military conflict that involved a majority of the world's nations, including all of the great powers, organised into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. The war involved the mobilisation of more than 100 million military personnel, making it the most widespread war in history. In a state of "total war", the major participants placed their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Throughout the six-year duration of the war, weapons and technology improved rapidly, including the use of jet aircraft, radar and nuclear weapons. More than 70 million people, the majority of whom were civilians, were killed, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.The start of the war is generally held to be 1 September 1939, with the German invasion of Poland and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by most of the Crown Colonies of the British Empire and Commonwealth, and by France. The first Victoria Cross of the war was awarded to Gerard Roope for action whilst in command of HMS Glowworm. The war at sea began immediately after war was declared with the Battle of the Atlantic, in which German U-boats attempted to disrupt and destroy allied convoys. Throughout the war the Royal Navy was tasked with guarding vital shipping lanes and enabling amphibious operations across the globe; the St Nazaire Raid saw five Victoria Crosses awarded. The Battle of the Mediterranean was fought throughout the war and included the Battle of Taranto and Battle of Matapan, as well as protecting convoys including the Malta convoys. In total, 23 servicemen from the Royal Navy were awarded the Victoria Cross including one Royal Marine. Aerial warfare came into its own in World War II with several distinct roles emerging. The role of fighter planes developed during the Battle of Britain, where the Royal Air Force fought for air superiority against the Luftwaffe. The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces. It was the largest and most sustained bombing campaign until that date. Initially, RAF airfields were attacked, however as the battle progressed, operations were extended to the strategic level with The Blitz. Britain also conducted controversial strategic bombing campaigns in Europe and Asia; they involved hundreds of aircraft dropping tens of thousands of tons of munitions over a single city. Tactical strikes were also carried out by the RAF including Operation Chastise, where No. 617 Squadron RAF attacked German dams in the Ruhr valley using "bouncing bombs"; Guy Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross for this action.

The war on the land did not begin until May 1940, as Britain and France were involved in a Phoney War between Germany and the Franco-British alliance. The phoney war ended with the Battle of France where Germany invaded Benelux and subsequently France, which forced British troops to escape from Dunkirk. In 1941, war spread to the Middle East and North Africa as well as the East African Campaign. The United States officially joined the war in December 1941 after the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1942, British forces under Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery defeated the Axis forces of General Erwin Rommel in the Second Battle of El Alamein, which marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign and the North African Campaign. It ended Axis hopes of occupying Egypt, taking control of the Suez Canal, and gaining access to the Middle Eastern oil fields. Nine VCs were awarded for action in the Western Desert Campaign. By 1943, the war was being fought in several theatres, including the Pacific, North Africa and Southeast Asia. The Burma Campaign of the Pacific War took place from 1942 to 1945, and saw 29 Victoria Crosses awarded. By 1944 and the Allied invasion of Normandy, the Allies were making ground in several theatres including advances in the Burma Campaign. In Europe, the unsuccessful raid on Arnhem saw five soldiers awarded the Victoria Cross, four posthumously. In May 1945, the Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of German forces, celebrated with VE Day. Actions after VE Day until the war in the Pacific was ended with the surrender of Japan on board USS Missouri on 2 September 1945. saw seven Commonwealth servicemen awarded the VC.

Charles Upham received the Victoria Cross and Bar; two awards for two acts. Upham was only the third recipient of the Victoria Cross and Bar, and the first for combatant actions; the previous two recipients were medical officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps.Of the 181 recipients 85 were awarded posthumously.

Luigi Sansonetti

Luigi Sansonetti (February 22, 1888 – November 7, 1959) was an Italian admiral during World War II.

Lumley Lyster

Vice Admiral Sir Arthur Lumley St George Lyster (27 April 1888 – 4 August 1957) was a Royal Navy officer during the Second World War.

Operation Judgement

Operation Judgement may refer to:

Operation Judgement (Unternehmen Gericht), a German offensive in the Battle of Verdun in 1916

A British naval attack on the Italian battle fleet at anchor in the harbour of Taranto. Known as the Battle of Taranto in 1940

Operation Judgement, Kilbotn, a British naval attack on a German U-boat base in Norway in 1945

Operation MB8

Operation MB8 was a British Royal Navy operation in the Mediterranean Sea during 4–11 November 1940. It was made up of six forces—totalling two aircraft carriers, five battleships, 10 cruisers and 30 destroyers, including much of Force H—protecting four supply convoys.It consisted of several phases: Operation Coat, Operation Crack, Convoy MW 3, Convoy ME 3, Convoy AN 6 and the main element, Battle of Taranto (Operation Judgement).

Sir Charles Madden, 2nd Baronet

Admiral Sir Charles Edward Madden, 2nd Baronet, GCB (15 June 1906 – 23 April 2001) followed his father in a career with the Royal Navy that culminated in his serving as the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet from 1963 to 1965.

A recognized expert in gunnery, Madden helped in the introduction of radar into the Royal Navy. He participated in the Battle of Calabria, the Battle of Taranto, the Battle of Cape Matapan, and the Battle of Crete during the Second World War. Following the war, Madden introduced the General List for officers which abolished many of the distinctions between the executive and other branches within the Royal Navy. He also served as the Chief of Naval Staff of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Following his retirement from the Royal Navy, Madden served as Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London from 1969 to 1981.

Stanley Orr

Stanley Gordon Orr, (28 September 1916 – 11 August 2003) was the highest scoring fighter ace of the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Flying with the Fleet Air Arm he was credited with the destruction of 17 aircraft. His success was recognised by the awards of the Distinguished Service Cross and Two Bars, an Air Force Cross and a Mention in Despatches.

Orr took part in campaigns over Norway and Dunkirk in 1940 and then moved to the Mediterranean aboard HMS Illustrious. During this time he was involved in the Battle of Taranto, the defence of Malta, the Battle of Cape Matapan, and land based operations in Egypt. Later in the war in 1944, he was involved in the attack on the German battleship Tirpitz. At the end of the Second World War he remained in the navy, becoming a test pilot at the Empire Test Pilots' School. He saw further action during the Korean War, when he served aboard HMS Ocean as Commander (flying). His last job in the navy was in command of the Hovercraft trials unit. Upon leaving the Royal Navy in 1966, he became a marine superintendent at Vospers.

Surface warfare

Modern naval warfare is divided into four operational areas: surface warfare, air warfare, submarine warfare and information warfare. Each area comprises specialized platforms and strategies used to exploit tactical advantages unique and inherent to that area. Surface warfare involves surface ships.

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