|Battle of Skerki Bank|
|Part of the Battle of the Mediterranean of World War II|
Destroyer Nicoloso Da Recco, of the Navigatori class, seriously damaged in the battle of Skerki Bank
|Commanders and leaders|
|C. H. J. Harcourt||Aldo Cocchia|
3 light cruisers|
2 torpedo boats
convoy of 4 ships
|Casualties and losses|
1 destroyer sunk|
3 destroyer and torpedo-boats heavily damaged
entire convoy sunk, 4 ships; 2,033-2,200 losses among crews and troop
1one ship in the convoy was German|
2one destroyer was sunk at dawn by aircraft with the loss of 20 servicemen
The Battle of Skerki Bank was a World War II naval battle which took place near Skerki Bank in the Mediterranean Sea on the early hours of 2 December 1942 between British and Italian forces, as the last naval battle held in Mediterranean during 1942.
The British force consisted of the light cruisersHMS Aurora, Argonaut and Sirius and the destroyers HMS Quentin and HMAS Quiberon. The squadron was under the command of Rear Admiral C. H. J. Harcourt. They attacked an Italian convoy bound for Tunisia and its escort of three destroyers and two torpedo boats.
In the night of 2 December, a troop convoy was heading for Tunisia: the German KT-1 (850 tons), Aventino (3,794 t), Puccini (2,422 t), and Aspromonte (a militarized ferry-boat, 976 tons). The ships were carrying 1,766 troops, 698 tons of cargo (mainly ammunition), four tanks, 32 other vehicles, and 12 artillery pieces. The escort was relatively strong: destroyers Da Recco (flagship), Camicia Nera, Folgore and the torpedo boats Clio and Procione was commanded by Captain Aldo Cocchia.
The British ships hit very hard and destroyed, one after the other, all the cargo and troop ships. The escort ships were hit as well, with Folgore fatally damaged (9 133 mm direct hits) by cruisers, and later sunk with 120 dead (among them, commander Ener Bettica), Da Recco badly damaged (explosion of the forward 120 mm ready ammunition depots, out of commission until June 1943, half crew killed or wounded) with 118 dead. Camicia Nera launched all her 6 torpedoes, but missing the targets (mainly HMS Sirius). At dawn, the savage short-range engagement saw a clear British victory, while Axis lost no less but over 2,000 (probably 2,037 or even 2,200, the total is uncertain) lives and five ships, with the Puccini still afloat, but later sank. This battle was almost forgotten (at least in Italy), but it was a big battle nevertheless, in which HMS Sirius was an absolute protagonist, escaping with no hit aboard despite Camicia Nera fired on her from only 2 km, dodging several torpedoes and cooperating in the sinking of many Axis ships. In the return path Savoias attacked the Q-Force, without results but losing some aircraft (Spitfires claimed four Sparvieros with one loss), while HMS Quentin was sunk by a 500 kg bomb released from Junkers 88s (even if uncertain if the hit scored was actually a torpedo) with 20 dead. On the other side, the human losses were 124 (Folgore), 118 (Da Recco), 39 (Aspromonte), 3 (Procione), 200 (civil/militarized crews), 1,527 troops (all in Aventino and Puccini) 
[edit | edit source]
- Sgarlato, Nico: Lo scontro del banco di Skerki, Eserciti nella Storia magazine, Delta editions, Parma, gen-feb-2012, p.23-25
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