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Battle of the Campobasso Convoy
Part of the Battle of the Mediterranean of World War II
HMS Petard 1943 IWM A 21715.jpg
Petard photographed from the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable, December 1943
Date3/4 May 1943
LocationMediterranean off Cape Bon
Result British victory
Belligerents
 United Kingdom  Kingdom of Italy
Commanders and leaders
Commander Deric Holland-Martin Captain Saverio Marotta
Strength
3 destroyers 1 fleet torpedo boat
1 merchant ship
Casualties and losses
Light 1 merchant ship sunk
1 destroyer destroyed
190 killed or captured[1]

The Battle of the Campobasso Convoy was a naval engagement between three British Royal naval destroyers and an Italian Regia Marina torpedo boat which took place off Cape Bon in the Mediterranean sea on the night of 3/4 May 1943. The Italians were escorting the transport ship Compobasso, of 3566 Long tons to Axis forces in Tunisia.[2]

Background[edit | edit source]

As the North Africa campaign neared its conclusion, HMS Petard, HMS Paladin and HMS Nubian were patrolling the waters off Cape Bon. On the night of 29/30 April, they made a sweep along the south coast of Sicily and sank a 2,000 ton merchant ship escorted by German E boats, without damage or casualties to themselves.[3]

A few days later Nubian Petard and Paladin from intelligence signals waited for an Italian convoy to cross their path. The Italian 3566 ton merchant Compobasso had left Pantelleria island loaded with bombs, land-mines, motor transport and other vital supplies to the beleaguered axis force in Tunisia. The merchant was then escorted by the Italian torpedo boat Perseo soon after departure.[1][4]

Action[edit | edit source]

On the night of 3/4 May radar on the British destroyers picked up contacts heading towards the Tunisian coast.[1] The Italian torpedo boat Perseo using the German Metox radar picked up up the emissions from the British destroyers and warned Italian high command that the convoy had been found.[3]

All three British destroyers at once attacked targeting the Italian merchantman Compobasso. Hits were scored with the 4 × 4 inch guns and "pom-pom" fire. The Compobasso was hit numerous times, set alight and within half an hour tremendous and continuous explosions took place as the ammunition and bombs were ignited. The merchant sank quickly but Perseo responded and launched torpedoes but to little effect; the British destroyers found the range and bombarded Perseo.[4] She was soon set on fire and exploded; sinking within sight of the last Axis stronghold.[1] An Italian hospital ship was intercepted and taken to the area of the sinkings the next day to pick up survivors.[3][5]

At dusk on 8 May, as part of Operation Retribution Paladin, with Jervis and Nubian bombarded Kelibia, the most easterly point of the Cape Bon peninsula. This bombardment was repeated at dawn the next day until all Axis forces surrendered in Tunisia.[5]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 O'Hara pg 210-211
  2. Whitley pg 183
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Connell pg 147-148
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ufficio storico della Marina Militare: La Marina italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale, Volume 8. Stato maggiore della Marina Militare, 1958, pp. 245-6 (Italian)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Harper, p. 111.

References[edit | edit source]

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