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Battle off Ist
Part of the Adriatic Campaign of World War II
Le contretorpilleur le Terrible.jpg
Free French destroyer Le Terrible in 1941
Date29 February 1944
Locationoff Ist, in the Adriatic Sea
Result French victory
Belligerents
 Free France  Nazi Germany
Commanders and leaders
Free France Pierre Lancelot Nazi Germany Jürgen Von Kleist
Strength
2 Heavy destroyers 2 Torpedo boats
2 Corvettes
3 minesweepers
1 freighter (6,311 tons)
Casualties and losses
None 1 Corevette sunk,
1 Freighter sunk,
1 Torpedo boat severely damaged,
150 killed or wounded[1]

The Battle of Ist was a naval engagement in Adriatic Sea, between the islands of Škarda and Molat off Ist on 29 February 1944. The engagement was fought between Free French navy destroyers and a Kriegsmarine force of two corvettes, two torpedo boats and three minesweepers. The German flotilla had been deployed to escort a freighter. In the ensuing engagement the French managed to destroy the German freighter and a corvette in return for no loss before withdrawing.[2]

In 1944 for operations in the Adriatic Sea, the Royal Navy formed the 24th Destroyer flotilla at Bari; ten ships overall which included three French Heavy or Super Le Fantasque-class destroyers; Le Fantasque, Le Terible and Le Malin. The French under Captain Pierre Lancelot were to operate in the Northern part of the Adriatic, while the British would do the same but further South. The speed of the French destroyers, being the fastest in the world allowed them to react swiftly on intelligence and to strike targets.[1]

Action & aftermath[edit | edit source]

On 29 February the French departed Manfredonia fifty miles North of Bari and headed up the Adriatic. At the same time a German convoy had departed from Pola consisting of a strong escort; two ex Italian Ariete-class torpedo boats, TA36 & TA37, two ex Italian Gabbiano-class corvettes UJ201 and UJ205 and three small minesweepers. They were escorting a freighter of 6,311 tons, the Kapitan Diederichsen.[3] The German escorts had only been recently commissioned and were only on their second operation. The two were heading towards each other in the dark of the night with very little moonlight.[4]

At 2135 hours Le Terrible's radar soon picked up targets further North and sailed towards them. When it was known that the targets were confirmed as non-allied, the French opened fire at roughly 9,000 yards just West off Ist Island surprising the Germans. Le Malin opened fire on the largest of the targets which was the freighter and soon scored a hit. The Germans attempted to lay smoke but the destroyers with their speed soon closed in using their radar. Le Terrible scored more hits on the freighter while Le Malin targeted the closest of the escorts.[1] At 4,500 yards the Le Terrible fired a salvo of torpedoes; the first salvo missed but the first of the second salvo hit the freighter amidships which then caused her to burn fiercely and she soon drifted helplessly.[3]

Meanwhile UJ201 was soon struck by Le Malin's by well directed 90 pound shells; now having found the range, the German corvette was hit six more times and was soon a burning wreck. Le Malin was close enough to launch a salvo of torpedoes; one hit and was enough to detonate the ships magazine causing a tremendous explosion lighting up the sky. She sank immediately and all hands went with her.[4] Both Le Terrible and Le Malin then took on the rest of the German escorts; TA36 suffered near misses and was soon hit right on the end of the bow suffering light damage. TA37 however was hit in the engine room and burst into flames which caused her speed to drop rapidly.[1]

Lancelot was about to finish off the German ship but on seeing low fast moving silhouettes of potential E-boats however decided enough was enough and withdrew.[1] They were in fact the motor minesweepers coming in to help with the crew of the stricken freighter and for survivors of the destroyed UJ201. Lancelot headed south back to port.[4] The Kapitan Diederichsen remained alfoat but only for some time, an attempt to tow failed and the survivors were taken off by the German escorts. The heavily damaged TA37 was towed successfully and made it to Pola.[3]

The French forced remained in the Adriatic for half of the year bombarding Zante, and on 19 March sank two Seibel ferries SF273 and SF274 on their way to Pylos and crippling another two. In August they took part in the Southern Invasion of France.[1]

References[edit | edit source]

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