#OTD 21 May 1941 Royal Navy cruisers intercept German convoy off Crete

HMS Dido, HMS Ajax, and HMS Orion in action off Crete, 21st May 1941. The three cruisers and four destroyers (Janus, Hasty, Hereward, Kimberley) formed “Force D” under Rear-Admiral I.G.Glennie. On the night of 21st May, an Axis convoy of twenty caïques escorted by the Italian destroyer-escort Lupo attempted to land German troops at Maleme.

Interception of enemy convoy off Crete, by Rowland Langmaid, collection of National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

‘Attack on Taranto, 11 November 1940’ by John Alan Hamilton

‘Attack on Taranto, 11 November 1940’ by John Alan Hamilton. Painting in collection of Imperial War Museum.

‘HMS Illustrious, Attack on Taranto’ by Rowland Langmaid

‘HMS Illustrious, Attack on Taranto’ by Rowland Langmaid. Painting in collection of Ministry of Defence.

‘Taranto Harbour, Swordfish from Illustrious Cripple the Italian Fleet, 11 November 1940’ by Charles David Cobb

‘Taranto Harbour, Swordfish from Illustrious Cripple the Italian Fleet, 11 November 1940’ by Charles David Cobb. Painting in collection of National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth.

‘Taranto, Italy’ by Robert Taylor

‘Taranto, Italy’ by Robert Taylor. Painting in collection at Fleet Air Arm Museum.

‘The Raid on Taranto, Italy, 11–12 November 1940’ by Ralph Gillies-Cole


‘The Raid on Taranto, Italy, 11–12 November 1940’ by Ralph Gillies-Cole. Painting in collection of Fleet Air Arm Museum.

Italian tall ship Amerigo Vespucci honours Battle of the Atlantic dead

The Amerigo Vespucci is a fine looking ship. I’m looking forward to seeing her back in Baltimore in 2014 for the “Star-Spangled Spectacular.” Nations without a training ship under full sail must surely be a little jealous of those that do. Hmmm. The Alexander von Humboldt II cost €15 million (£12.9m) in 2011. Resolved: when I win the lottery I’ll finance one of these for the RN.

Italian and Royal Navy honour Atlantic dead during tall ship’s visit to London

Sailors from the Royal and Italian Navies stood side-by-side as they honoured men killed in the battles to keep the nation’s maritime lifelines open in both World Wars.

The ceremony at the Tower Hill Memorial in London was part of a five-day visit to the capital by the magnificent Italian naval cadet training ship ITS Amerigo Vespucci.

Cdr Richard Moss on the Naval Staff and a Royal Marines bugler join members of the Amerigo Vespucci’s ship’s company at the Merchant Navy Memorial in London

IN THE beautifully-kept grounds of the Merchant Navy Memorial in London’s Tower Hill, Royal and Italian Navy sailors salute the seafarers who kept the nation’s sea lanes open in two global conflicts last century – particularly pertinent in this 70th anniversary year of victory in the Battle of the Atlantic.

The ceremony was one of numerous Anglo-Italian events to mark the visit of the Italian Navy’s magnificent sail training ship ITS Amerigo Vespucci, which spent five days in the capital’s docklands as part of her summer tour of north-west Europe.

Berthed in West India Docks – her draft precluded her sailing any further up the Thames – the 80-year-old sailing ship is on a training cruise giving 98 cadets a taste of life as a naval officer.

Amid duties such as leadership and the fundamentals of seafaring, there is the honour of representing your country on foreign soil and working with your allies. So Capt Curzio Pacifici and some of his ship’s company headed to Trinity Gardens in Tower Hill to lay a wreath in company with Royal Navy personnel to the men of the Merchant Marine.

Here are honoured 36,000 men who have no known grave but the sea – 12,000 dead from the first global conflagration of the 20th Century, twice that many from the second.

For three years in WW1, Italians and Britons fought side-by-side for the Allied cause. From 1940-43, however, the Royal Navy and Regia Marina as it was then fought a bitter battle – and not just for mastery of the Mediterranean.

The Vespucci makes a fine sight alongside in London’s rejuvenated docklands

Although the Battle of the Atlantic is typically seen as a struggle against the U-boat, in the early stages of the war around 30 Italian submarines joined in the struggle, operating out of Bordeaux. They sank more than 100 ships – over half a million tons of shipping.

Seven decades on, and Italy is one of the UK’s strongest NATO allies with the RN and Marina Militare working side-by-side not just in the Middle Sea but also frequently east of Suez in the never-ending struggle to keep sea lanes open.

Such co-operation is likely to become even more frequent in the coming years. The San Marco Regiment – Italy’s counterpart to our commandos – are looking to train with the Royal Marines. The Italians will be flying F35 Joint Strike Fighter jump jets from the deck of their carrier Cavour before the decade is out, and next year plan to send one of their Orizzonte-class destroyers – similar to our Type 45s – to take part in the Joint Warrior exercises off Scotland.

You can almost here the strains of Khachaturian… Vespucci in sail

The Vespucci’s visit allowed the cadets the opportunity to see the sights of London while the ship and Capt Pacifici supported a number of Italian defence engagement events and hosted a VIP reception for the Italian Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

The sailing vessel left Livorno in Tuscany in early July and is visiting Hamburg, Antwerp, Lisbon and Malaga before returning to her home port in mid-September.

The ship takes her name from the 15th Century Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci who gave his name to America.

She was launched in 1931 and other than WW2, has been continually active ever since. Her three masts and bowsprit carry 24 sails totalling 2,600 square metres (25,833 square feet, or just under half that carried on HMS Victory), supported by 30 kilometres (18½ miles) of rope. It takes a ship’s company of 280 to sail her – 18 officers, 72 senior ratings and 190 sailors.


OTDIH 20th July 1943

On this day in history…

HM Submarines continued their run of luck in the Mediterranean…

HMS Safari (P221), Lt. R.B. Lakin, DSO, DSC, RN commanding, sunk the Italian vessel F50/Silvo Onorato (208 GRT) between Basita and Maddalena.

A couple of near misses…

Soviet Shchuka-class submarine ShCh-403 made a torpedo attack on a German convoy off Kongsfjord. Four torpedoes were fired against a target identified as a 6000 GRT merchant… and all four torpedoes missed.

USS Pompano (SS-181), Lt. Cdr. W. M. Thomas commanding, torpedoed and damaged the Japanese transport ship Uyo Maru (6376 GRT) east of Honshu, Japan.

Allied ship commissionings…

The Bouge-class escort carrier USS Baffins (CVE-35) was commissioned into Royal Navy service as HMS Ameer (D01), Capt. Gerald Douglas Yates, RN commanding.

USS Scott (DE 214) a Buckley-class destroyer escort was commissioned into the United States Navy, Lt.Cdr. Claude Siceluff Kirkpatrick, USN commanding.

USS Burke (DE 215) a Buckley-class destroyer escort was commissioned into the United States Navy, Lt.Cdr. Edwin K. Winn, USNR commanding.

And unfortunately…

USS PT-106, an US Navy Elco 80’ motor torpedo boat, was mistakenly sunk by USAAF B-25s in Ferguson Passage, Solomon Islands in position 08º15’S, 156º53’E.

OTDIH 18 July 1943 it was a good day for HM Submarines

On this day in history…

18th July 1943 was a good day for HM Submarines, but not such a good day for the Regia Marina.

HMS Safari (Lt. R.B. Lakin, DSO, DSC, RN) sunk the Italian auxiliary minesweeper No. 47/Amalia with gunfire 16 nautical miles of Cape Comino, Sardinia, Italy.

HMS Sickle (Lt. J.R. Drummond, DSC, RN) sunk the Italian auxiliary minesweepers No. 61/Costante Neri and No. 164/Rosa Madre with gunfire 7 miles north of the island of Gorgona, Italy.

HMS Torbay (Lt. R.J. Clutterbuck, RN) sunk the Italian auxiliary patrol vessel V 90/San Girolamo with gunfire south-east of Giglio, Italy.