Adriatic Campaign of World War II

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Adriatic Campaign
Part of Mediterranean and Middle East Theatre of the Second World War
Operation25yu.jpg
Adriatic Sea in 1941, during the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia
Date7 April 1939 – 15 May 1945
Location
Result Allied victory
Belligerents

Allies:
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom

Yugoslav Partisans flag (1942-1945).svg Yugoslav Partisans (from 1941)
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg  Greece
Flag of Free France (1940-1944).svg  Free France
Flag of Albania 1944.svg Albanian partisans
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Italy
(from 8 September 1943)
Flag of Australia.svg  Australia
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand
Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg  South Africa
Flag of Poland (1928-1980).svg Poland
Flag of Yugoslavia (1918-1943).svg  Yugoslavia (in 1941)

Contents

Canadian Red Ensign (1921-1957).svg  Canada
Axis :
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Italy (until 8 September 1943)
Flag of German Reich (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Flag of Italy (1946-2003).svg  Salò Republic (23 September 1943-25 April 1945)
Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria
(until 1944)
Flag of Hungary (1915-1918, 1919-1946).svg  Hungary
(until 1944)
Flag of Independent State of Croatia.svg  NDH (from 1941)
Flag of the Slovene Home Guard.svg Slovene collaborationists
Flag of German occupied Albania.svg Albania
(until 1944)
Flag of German occupied Albania.svg Balli Kombëtar (from 1942)
Commanders and leaders

The Adriatic Campaign of World War II was a minor naval campaign fought during World War II between the Greek, Yugoslavian and Italian navies, the Kriegsmarine , and the Mediterranean squadrons of the United Kingdom, France, and the Yugoslav Partisan naval forces. Considered a somewhat insignificant part of the naval warfare in World War II, it nonetheless saw interesting developments, given the specificity of the Dalmatian coastline.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Regia Marina 1861-1946 maritime warfare branch of Italys military; predecessor of the Italian Navy

The Regia Marina was the navy of the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 to 1946. In 1946, with the birth of the Italian Republic, the Regia Marina changed its name to Marina Militare.

<i>Kriegsmarine</i> 1935-1945 naval warfare branch of Germanys armed forces

The Kriegsmarine was the navy of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It superseded the Imperial German Navy of the German Empire (1871–1918) and the inter-war Reichsmarine (1919–1935) of the Weimar Republic. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches, along with the Heer (Army) and the Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht, the German armed forces from 1933 to 1945.

Prelude — Italian invasion of Albania

On 7 April 1939, Mussolini's troops occupied Albania, overthrew Zog, and annexed the country to the Italian Empire. Naval operations in the Adriatic consisted mostly of transport organisation through the ports of Taranto, as well as coastal bombardment in support of the landings on the Albanian coast. The Italian naval forces involved in the invasion of Albania included the battleships Giulio Cesare and Conte di Cavour, three heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, nine destroyers, fourteen torpedo boats, one minelayer, ten auxiliary ships and nine transport ships. [1] The ships were divided into four groups, that carried out landings in Vlore, Durres, Sarande and Shengjin. [2]

Italian Empire Italy during the era of modern European imperialism

The Italian colonial empire, or the Italian Empire between 1936 and 1943, comprised the colonies, protectorates, concessions, dependencies and trust territories of the Kingdom of Italy. The genesis of the Italian colonial empire was the purchase in 1869 of Assab Bay on the Red Sea by an Italian navigation company which intended to establish a coaling station at the time the Suez Canal was being opened to navigation. This was taken over by the Italian government in 1882, becoming modern Italy's first overseas territory.

Italian battleship <i>Giulio Cesare</i>

Giulio Cesare was one of three Conte di Cavour-class dreadnought battleships built for the Royal Italian Navy in the 1910s. She served in both World Wars, although she was little used and saw no combat during the former. The ship supported operations during the Corfu Incident in 1923 and spent much of the rest of the decade in reserve. She was rebuilt between 1933 and 1937 with more powerful guns, additional armor and considerably more speed than before.

Italian battleship <i>Conte di Cavour</i>

Conte di Cavour was the name ship of the three Conte di Cavour-class battleships built for the Royal Italian Navy in the 1910s. She served during both World War I and World War II, although she was little used and saw no combat during the former. The ship supported operations during the Corfu Incident in 1923 and spent much of the rest of the decade in reserve. She was rebuilt between 1933 and 1937 with more powerful guns, additional armor and considerably more speed than before.

When Italy entered World War II, on 10 June 1940, the Italian Navy's main naval bases in the Adriatic sea were Venice, Brindisi, and Pola. The northern Adriatic was under the jurisdiction of the Northern Adriatic Autonomous Naval Command, headquartered in Venice and commanded by Vice Admiral Ferdinando of Savoy (replaced by Admiral Emilio Brenta shortly before the armistice with the Allies); the southern Adriatic was under the jurisdiction of the Southern Adriatic Naval Command, headquartered in Brindisi and commanded by Admiral Luigi Spalice. Vice Admiral Vittorio Tur was the naval commander of Albania, with headquarters in Durres. Naval commands also existed in Pola (house to the Italian Navy's submarine school) and Lussino.

Venice Comune in Veneto, Italy

Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region.

Brindisi Comune in Apulia, Italy

Brindisi is a city in the region of Apulia in southern Italy, the capital of the province of Brindisi, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Historically, the city has played an important role in trade and culture, due to its strategic position on the Italian Peninsula and its natural port on the Adriatic Sea. The city remains a major port for trade with Greece and the Middle East. Its industries include agriculture, chemical works, and the generation of electricity.

Pula City in Istria County, Croatia

Pula is the largest city in Istria County, Croatia and the eighth largest city in the country, situated at the southern tip of the Istria peninsula, with a population of 57,460 in 2011. It is known for its multitude of ancient Roman buildings, the most famous of which is the Pula Arena, one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters, and its beautiful sea. The city has a long tradition of wine making, fishing, shipbuilding, and tourism. It was the administrative centre of Istria from ancient Roman times until superseded by Pazin in 1991.

Italian naval forces in the Adriatic, at the outbreak of the war, included the destroyers Carlo Mirabello and Augusto Riboty and the 7th Torpedo Boat Squadron (Angelo Bassini, Nicola Fabrizi, Enrico Cosenz, Giacomo Medici) in Brindisi, the 15th Torpedo Boat Squadron (Palestro, Confienza, San Martino and Solferino) in Venice, the gunboat Ernesto Giovannini in Pola, the 2nd MAS Squadron (four boats) in Pola, the 3rd MAS Squadron (two boats) in Brindisi, and several minelayers (the relatively shallow waters of the Adriatic Sea were particularly favourable for mine warfare). Seven submarines were based in Brindisi: the 40th Submarine Squadron with four boats (Balilla, Domenico Millelire, Enrico Toti, Antonio Sciesa), and three more submarines, Brin (belonging to the 42nd Squadron), Anfitrite (44th Squadron) and Ondina (48th Squadron).

Destroyer Type of warship

In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast, maneuverable long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller powerful short-range attackers. They were originally developed in the late 19th century by Fernando Villaamil for the Spanish Navy as a defense against torpedo boats, and by the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, these "torpedo boat destroyers" (TBDs) were "large, swift, and powerfully armed torpedo boats designed to destroy other torpedo boats". Although the term "destroyer" had been used interchangeably with "TBD" and "torpedo boat destroyer" by navies since 1892, the term "torpedo boat destroyer" had been generally shortened to simply "destroyer" by nearly all navies by the First World War.

Gunboat naval watercraft designed for bombardment of coastal targets

A gunboat is a naval watercraft designed for the express purpose of carrying one or more guns to bombard coastal targets, as opposed to those military craft designed for naval warfare, or for ferrying troops or supplies.

MAS (motorboat) motor ship

Motoscafo armato silurante, commonly abbreviated as MAS was a class of fast torpedo armed vessel used by the Regia Marina during World War I and World War II. Originally, "MAS" referred to motobarca armata SVAN, where SVAN stood for Società Veneziana Automobili Navali.

Greco-Italian War

The Greco-Italian War lasted from 28 October 1940 to 30 April 1941 and was part of World War II. Italian forces invaded Greece and made limited gains. At the outbreak of hostilities, the Royal Hellenic Navy was composed of the old cruiser Georgios Averof, 10 destroyers (four old Thiria class, four relatively modern Dardo class and two new Greyhound class), several torpedo boats and six old submarines. Faced with the formidable Regia Marina , its role was primarily limited to patrol and convoy escort duties in the Aegean Sea. This was essential both for the completion of the Army's mobilization, but also for the overall resupply of the country, the convoy routes being threatened by Italian aircraft and submarines operating from the Dodecanese Islands. Nevertheless, the Greek ships also carried out limited offensive operations against Italian shipping in the Strait of Otranto.

Hellenic Navy maritime warfare branch of Greeces military

The Hellenic Navy is the naval force of Greece, part of the Hellenic Armed Forces. The modern Greek navy has its roots in the naval forces of various Aegean Islands, which fought in the Greek War of Independence. During the periods of monarchy it was known as the Royal Navy.

Greek cruiser <i>Georgios Averof</i> Pisa-class cruiser operated by the Hellenic Navy

Georgios Averof is a modified Pisa-class armored cruiser built in Italy for the Royal Hellenic Navy in the first decade of the 20th century. The ship served as the Greek flagship during most of the first half of the century. Although popularly known as a battleship (θωρηκτό) in Greek, she is in fact an armored cruiser, the only ship of this type still in existence.

The Aetos class were four destroyers were originally constructed for the Argentine Navy as the San Luis class. In Greek they are known as the Thiria class, after the ships' names. They were purchased by the Royal Hellenic Navy in October 1912 when the Greek government expanded its navy after losing the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 and in anticipation of the Balkan Wars. In December 1916, during World War I, three of the destroyers were seized by France and served in the French Navy until 1918, all except Panthir. They were returned to Greece in 1918. In 1924–1925, they were extensively rebuilt and continued in service into World War II, where they fought with the Allies. Leon was sunk by German aircraft at Suda Bay, Crete. The other three destroyers survived the war and were used as station ships during the Greek Civil War. They were discarded in 1946.

On the Italian side, convoy operations between Italy and Albania were under the responsibility of the High Command for Traffic with Albania (Comando Superiore Traffico Albania, Maritrafalba), established in Valona on 5 October 1940 and initially held by Captain Romolo Polacchini. [3] Maritrafalba's forces included two elderly Mirabello-class destroyers, eleven equally old torpedo boats (belonging to the Palestro, Curtatone, Sirtori, Generali and La Masa classes), four more modern Spica-class torpedo boats of the 12th Torpedo Boat Squadron (Altair, Antares, Andromeda, Aldebaran), four auxiliary cruisers and four MAS of the 13th MAS Squadron. [4] The main Italian supply routes were from Brindisi to Valona and from Bari to Durres.

Vlorë Municipality in Albania

Vlorë is the third most populous city of the Republic of Albania. It is the capital of the surrounding Vlorë County. Located on the southeastern Adriatic Sea, it is one of the country's southernmost dominant economic and cultural centers.

Romolo Polacchini

Romolo Polacchini was an Italian admiral during World War II.

<i>Mirabello</i>-class destroyer ship class

The Mirabello class were a group of 3 destroyers built for the Regia Marina during World War I.

Greek destroyers carried out three bold but fruitless night-time raids (14–15 November 1940, 15–16 December 1940 and 4–5 January 1941). The main Greek successes came from the submarines, which managed to sink some Italian transports (Greeks also lost a submarine in the process), but the Greek submarine force was too small to be able to seriously hinder the supply lines between Italy and Albania; between 28 October 1940 and 30 April 1941 Italian ships made 3,305 voyages across the Otranto straits, carrying 487,089 military personnel (including 22 field divisions) and 584,392 tons of supplies while losing overall only seven merchant ships and one escort ship. [5] Although the Regia Marina suffered severe losses in capital ships from the British Royal Navy during the Taranto raid, Italian cruisers and destroyers continued to operate covering the convoys between Italy and Albania. Also, on 28 November, an Italian squadron bombarded Corfu, while on 18 December and 4 March, Italian naval units shelled Greek coastal positions in Albania.

The only surface engagement between the Regia Marina and the Royal Navy occurred on the night between 11 and 12 November 1940, when a British squadron of three light cruisers and two destroyers attacked an Italian return convoy, consisting of four merchant ships escorted by the auxiliary cruiser RAMB III and the torpedo boat Nicola Fabrizi, in the Battle of the Strait of Otranto. All four merchants were sunk, and Fabrizi was heavily damaged. In March 1941, Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers of the Fleet Air Arm, based in Paramythia, Greece, raided the harbour of Valona multiple times, sinking one merchant ship, one torpedo boat and the hospital ship Po; the Regia Aeronautica then discovered the air base and bombed it, knocking it out for some weeks. In April the air field became operational again and another raid on Valona was carried out, sinking two additional merchant ships; on the same day, however, as German forces invaded Greece, Paramythia was bombed by the Luftwaffe and permanently destroyed.

Invasion of Yugoslavia

The Invasion of Yugoslavia (also known as Operation 25) began on 6 April 1941 and ended with the unconditional surrender of the Royal Yugoslav Army on 17 April. The invading Axis powers (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Hungary) occupied and dismembered the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

When Germany and Italy attacked Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, the Yugoslav Royal Navy had available three destroyers, two submarines and 10 MTBs as the most effective units of the fleet. One other destroyer, the Ljubljana was in dry-dock at the time of the invasion and she and her anti-aircraft guns were used in defence of the fleet base at Kotor. The remainder of the fleet was useful only for coastal defence and local escort and patrol work.

Kotor (Cattaro) was close to the Albanian border and the Italo-Greek front there, but Zara (Zadar), an Italian enclave, was to the north-west of the coast and to prevent a bridgehead being established, the destroyer Beograd, four of the old torpedo boats and six MTBs were despatched to Šibenik, 80 km to the south of Zara, in preparation for an attack. The attack was to be co-ordinated with the 12th "Jadranska" Infantry Division and two Odred (combined regiments) of the Royal Yugoslav Army attacking from the Benkovac area, supported by air attacks by the 81st Bomber Group of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force.

The Yugoslav forces launched their attack on 9 April, but by 13 April the Italian forces -under the orders of General Vittorio Ambrosio- had counter-attacked and were in Benkovac by 14 April. [6] The naval prong to this attack faltered when Beograd was damaged by near misses from Italian aircraft off Šibenik when her starboard engine was put out of action, after which she limped to Kotor, escorted by the remainder of the force, for repair. [7] Italian air raids on Kotor badly damaged the minelayer Kobac, that was beached to prevent sinking. [8]

The maritime patrol float-planes of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force flew reconnaissance and attack missions during the campaign, as well as providing air cover for mine-laying operations off Zara. Their operations included attacks on the Albanian port of Durrës, as well as strikes against Italian re-supply convoys to Albania. On 9 April, one Dornier Do 22K floatplane notably took on an Italian convoy of 12 steamers with an escort of eight destroyers crossing the Adriatic during the day, attacking single-handed in the face of intense AA fire. [9] No Italian ships, however, were sunk by Yugoslav forces; an Italian tanker was claimed damaged by a near miss off the Italian coast near Bari. Most of the small Yugoslav fleet (the old cruiser Dalmacija, three destroyers, six torpedo boats, three submarines, eleven minelayers, and several auxiliary ships) was seized by Italian ground forces in its bases in Split and Kotor, and later recommissioned under Italian flag. [10] Only four Yugoslav ships escaped capture; the submarine Nebojsa and two motor torpedo boats sailed to Allied-controlled ports, whereas the Zagreb was scuttled to prevent capture. [11]

Italian occupation and Yugoslav resistance

Capitulation of Italy and uprising in occupied Yugoslavia 1943. Kapitulacija Italije i ustanak u okupiranoj Jugoslaviji 1943.png
Capitulation of Italy and uprising in occupied Yugoslavia 1943.

After the invasion, Italy controlled the entire eastern Adriatic coast through the annexation of much of Dalmatia, the Italian occupation zone of the Independent State of Croatia, the Italian governorate of Montenegro, and the Italian puppet regime of the Albanian Kingdom (1939–1943).

Naval forces of the Yugoslav Partisans were formed as early as 19 September 1942, when Partisans in Dalmatia formed their first naval unit made of fishing boats, which gradually evolved (especially after the armistice between Italy and the Allies) into a force able to conduct complex amphibious operations. This event is considered to be the foundation of the Yugoslav Navy. At its peak during World War II, the Yugoslav Partisans' Navy commanded nine or 10 armed ships, 30 patrol boats, close to 200 support ships, six coastal batteries, and several Partisan detachments on the islands, around 3,000 men.

After the Italian capitulation of 8 September 1943, following the Allied invasion of Italy, the Partisans took most of the coast and all of the islands. On 26 October, the Yugoslav Partisans' Navy was organized first into four, and later into six Maritime Coastal Sectors (Pomorsko Obalni Sektor, POS). The task of the naval forces was to secure supremacy at sea, organize defense of coast and islands, and attack enemy sea traffic and forces on the islands and along the coasts.

British submarine activity

After the fall of Greece and Yugoslavia, the complete Italian control of both coasts of the Adriatic, and the distance from British naval and air bases, meant the end of all British air and surface operations in the Adriatic Sea. From the spring of 1941 to September 1943, Royal Navy activity in the Adriatic was thus limited to submarine operations, mainly in the Southern Adriatic; Italian convoys across the Adriatic suffered negligible losses. Between June 1940 and September 1943, only 0,6 % of the personnel and 0,3 % of the supplies shipped from Italy to Albania and Greece were lost; two-thirds of these losses were caused by submarines, mostly British. [12] [13] Four Royal Navy submarines were lost in the Adriatic, most likely to mines. [14] British surface ships re-entered the Adriatic after the September 1943 armistice, when the much weaker Kriegsmarine forces remained the only opponent.

German occupation

As a first move (Operation Wolkenbruch) the Germans rushed to occupy the northern Adriatic ports of Trieste, Fiume and Pula, and established the Operational Zone Adriatic CoastOZAK, with its headquarters in Trieste, on 10 September. It comprised the provinces of Udine, Gorizia, Trieste, Pula (Pola), Rijeka (Fiume) and Ljubljana (Lubiana). Since an Allied landing in the area was anticipated, OZAK also hosted a substantial German military contingent, the Befehlshaber Operationszone Adriatisches Küstenland commanded by General der Gebirgstruppe Ludwig Kübler. On 28 September 1944, these units were redesignated XCVII Armeekorps. Soon also German marine units were formed. Royal Navy engagement was also on the rise.

German navy in the Adriatic

Vizeadmiral Joachim Lietzmann was Commanding Admiral Adriatic (Kommandierender Admiral Adria). [15] Initially, the area of operation ranged from Fiume to Valona, and the area of the Western coast was under the jurisdiction of the German navy for Italy (Deutsches Marinekommando Italien). The line of demarcation between the two naval commands and corresponded between the Armed Group F (Balkans) and the Armed Group E (Italy) as a border between the Italian Social Republic (RSI) and the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). Soon on Lietzmann insistence on the area of operation was extended to include the whole of Istria to the mouth of the Tagliamento, and in correspondence to the boundary line between the Italian Social Republic and the area of the Operational Zone Adriatic Coast (OZAK).

One of the first operations was Operation Herbstgewitter. This consisted of landing German troops on the islands of Krk, Cres and Lošinj in November 1943. The Germans used some old ships such as the cruiser SMS Niobe and the auxiliary cruiser Ramb III. During the action, the islands were cleared of partisan forces and Niobe with two S-boats managed to capture a British military mission on the island of Lošinj.

Gradually the German navy was built up, mostly with former Italian ships found in an advanced phase of construction in the yards of Fiume and Trieste. The strongest naval unit was the 11th Sicherungsflotille. Formed in May 1943 in Triest as the 11. Küstenschutzflottille, in December 1943 it was designated 11. Sicherungsflottille. It was employed in protecting marine communications in the Adriatic, mostly from partisan naval attacks. On 1 March 1944, the Flotilla was extended and re-designated the 11. Sicherungsdivision.

Occupation of Dalmatia

Until the end of 1943, the German forces were advancing into Dalmatia after capitulation of Italy.

Starting in late 1943, the Allies undertook a major evacuation of civilian population from Dalmatia fleeing the German occupation, and in 1944 moved them to the El Shatt refugee camp in Egypt.

Vis island

By 1944, only Vis island remained unoccupied and divisions task become its defense against later cancelled German invasion (Operation Freischütz [16] ). The island is about 14  mi (12  nmi ; 23  km ) long and 8 mi (7.0 nmi; 13 km) wide, with a mainly hilly outline, with a plain in the centre covered with vines, part of which has been removed to make way for an airstrip about 750 yd (690 m) long, from which four Spitfires of the Balkan Air Force were operating. At the west end of the island was the Port of Komiža, while at the other end was the Port of Vis, these were connected by the only good road running across the plain.Vis was organized as a great stronghold, held until the end of World War II.

3.7-inch guns of British 64th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment on the island of Vis off the coast of Yugoslavia, August 1944. The British Army in the Adriatic 1944 NA18246.jpg
3.7-inch guns of British 64th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment on the island of Vis off the coast of Yugoslavia, August 1944.

In 1944, Tito's headquarters moved there and British forces with over 1,000 troops was also included in the defence of Vis. The British forces, already on the island, were called Land Forces Adriatic, and were under the command of Brigadier George Daly, and consisted of the No. 40 (Royal Marine) Commando and No. 43 (Royal Marine) Commando of the 2nd Special Service Brigade, the 2nd Bn. The Highland Light Infantry and other support troops. Operating from the two ports were several Royal Navy craft, Marshal Tito's forces numbered about 2,000. Vis was functioning as the political and military center of the liberated territories, until the liberation of Belgrade in late 1944.

A remarkable figure was the Canadian captain Thomas G. Fuller, son of the Canadian Chief Dominion Architect Thomas William Fuller, who in 1944 took command of the 61st MGB flotilla. Operating from the island of Vis he supplied the partisans by pirating German supply ships. He managed to sink or capture 13 German supply boats, was involved in 105 fire fights and another 30 operations where there was no gunfire. Characteristically for the Yugoslav operations theatre, Fuller attributed a good part of his success to the blood-curdling threats uttered by the Yugoslav partisan who manned the MGB's loud hailer: a 400-ton schooner was captured with its whole cargo and whose crew gave up without a struggle because of the explanation of what would be done to them personally, with knives, if they disobeyed. [17]

Liberation of Dalmatia

British naval forces in the Middle East operating in the Adriatic Sea were under the command of the Flag Officer Taranto and Adriatic & Liaison with the Italians (F.O.T.A.L.I). All the naval forces were controlled from Taranto and operated in close coordination with the Coastal attack operations conducted by the BAF. The Yugoslavs used the units in the British navy to transport materials and men, but especially to make landings on the islands of Dalmatia to liberate them from German occupation.

During the Vis period, Partisans carried out several seaborne landings on Dalmatian islands with help of Royal Navy and Commandos:

The French Navy was involved as well in the first half of 1944, with the 10th Division of Light Cruisers made up of three Fantansque-class destroyers (Le Fantasque, Le Terrible, Le Malin) making high speed sweeps in the Adriatic, destroying German convoys. One notable action was the Battle off Ist on 29 February 1944 where a German convoy force of two corvettes and two torpedo boats escorting a freighter supported by three minesweepers. The French managed to destroy the German freighter and a corvette in return for no loss before withdrawing. [18]

In the second half of 1944 the Royal Navy sent a destroyer flotilla into the Adriatic. The biggest engagement happened on 1 November, when two Hunt class destroyers HMS Avon Vale and Wheatland were patrolling the coastal shipping routes south of Lussino. That evening, two enemy corvettes (UJ-202 and UJ-208) were sighted. The two destroyers opened fire at a range of 4,000 yd (3,700 m). In less than 10 minutes, the enemy ships were reduced to mere scrap, the two British ships were circling the enemy and pouring out a devastating fire of pom-pom and small calibre gunfire. When the first corvette was sunk Avon Vale closed to rescue the Germans while Wheatland continued to shoot up the second corvette which eventually blew up. Ten minutes later, the British came under fire from the German Torpedoboot Ausland destroyer TA20 (ex-Italian destroyer Audace) which suddenly appeared on the scene. When the two British ships directed their fire at her and the enemy destroyer was sunk. But while the Adriatic campaign continued to the end of the war, the Hunts did not again engage large German warships, although the German navy was constantly launching and commissioning light destroyer types from the yards of Trieste and Fiume. On 14 December, HMS Aldenham became the last British destroyer lost in World Warr II when struck a mine around the island of Škrda. [19]

To prevent entrance to the North Adriatic in the last two years of World War II, Germany spread thousands of mines and blocked all ports and canals. Many underwater mine fields were situated in the open sea. Mine sweeping was executed by British ships equipped with special mine-sweeping technology. On 5 May 1945, the Shakespeare-class trawler HMS Coriolanus hit a mine while it was sweeping the sea in front of Novigrad. [20]

Planned allied landings

The Allies, first under a French initiative of general Maxime Weygand, planned landings in the Thessaloniki area. Although discarded by the British, later Winston Churchill advocated for such a landing option. The so-called Ljubljana gap strategy proved ultimately to be little more than a bluff owing to American refusal and skepticism about the whole operation. Nevertheless, the British command planned several landing operations in Dalmatia and Istria codenamed ARMPIT and a more ambitious plan, GELIGNITE. [21] Facing American opposition, the British-made attempts were marked by sending an air force called FAIRFAX to the Zadar area, and an artillery attachment called FLOYD FORCE also to Dalmatia, but due to Yugoslav obstruction, such attempts ceased. Nevertheless, the bluff worked since Hitler eventually awaited an allied landing in the northern Adriatic, and diverted important resources to the area. Instead of landings, the allied agreed to provide Tito's land units with aerial and logistical support by setting up the Balkan Air Force. [22]

The biggest British-led combined operation in the eastern Adriatic codenamed Operation Antagonise in December 1944 was intended to capture the island of Lošinj, where the Germans kept E-boats and (possibly) midget submarines. It was only partially executed since the partisan Navy Commander in Chief, Josip Černi, refused to give his troops for the landing operation. [23] Instead, a group of destroyers and MTBs shelled the German gun positions and 36 South African Air Force Bristol Beaufighters attacked the naval base installations with RP-3 3 in (76 mm) Rocket Projectiles. [24] As the attacks proved ineffective in stopping German activities they were repeated also in the first months of 1945. [25]

Final naval operations

By the end of October 1944, the Germans still had five TA destroyers ( TA20 , TA40, TA41, TA44 and TA45) and three corvettes (UJ205, UJ206 and TA48 ) on the Adriatic. On 1 January 1945, there were four German destroyers operative in the northern Adriatic (TA40, TA41, TA44, and TA45) and three U-Boot Jäger corvettes (UJ205, UJ206, and TA48). Even as late as 1 April TA43, TA45 and UJ206 were in commission and available to fight. Allied aircraft sank four in port (at Fiume and Trieste) in March and April, British MTB torpedoed TA45 in April. [26]

The very last operations of the German navy involved the evacuation of troops and personnel from Istria and Trieste before the advancing Yugoslavs that took place in May 1945. An estimated enemy force of 4,000 was landing from 26 ships of all types at the mouth of the Tagliamento River at Lignano Sabbiadoro. The area is a huge sand spit running out into a big lagoon, and at its southern end the Tagliamento River enters the sea. The Germans had evacuated Trieste to escape the Yugoslav Army. The Germans were protected by naval craft holding off three British MTBs, which could not get in close enough to use their guns effectively. There were about 6,000 of them and their equipment included E-boats, LSTs, a small hospital ship, all types of transport, and a variety of weapons. The 21st Battalion of the New Zealand 2nd Division was outnumbered by 20 to one, but at the end the Germans surrendered on 4 May 1945. [27] Others had already surrendered to the British troops on German ships which arrived from Istria to Ancona on 2 May. British sources wrote there were about 30 boats, but no exact record is mentioned.

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The Malta convoys were Allied supply convoys of the Second World War. The convoys took place during the Siege of Malta in the Mediterranean Theatre. Malta was a base from which British sea and air forces could attack ships carrying supplies from Europe to Italian Libya. Britain fought the Western Desert Campaign against Axis armies in North Africa to keep the Suez Canal and to control Middle Eastern oil. The strategic value of Malta was so great the British risked many merchant vessels and warships to supply the island and the Axis made determined efforts to neutralise the island as an offensive base.

HMS <i>Sirius</i> (82) cruiser

HMS Sirius was a Dido-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy. She was built by Portsmouth Dockyard, with the keel being laid down on 6 April 1938. She was launched on 18 September 1940, and commissioned 6 May 1942.

Naval warfare in the Mediterranean during World War I conflict

There was sporadic naval warfare in the Mediterranean during World War I between the Central Powers' navies of Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire and the Allied navies of Italy, France, Greece, Japan, America and the British Empire.

The Torpedoboot Ausland were small destroyers or large torpedo boats captured by Nazi Germany and incorporated into the Kriegsmarine. They were assigned a number beginning with TA.

Yugoslav destroyer <i>Dubrovnik</i> ship

Dubrovnik was a flotilla leader built for the Royal Yugoslav Navy by Yarrow Shipbuilders in Glasgow in 1930 and 1931. She was one of the largest destroyers of her time. Resembling contemporary British designs, Dubrovnik was a fast ship with a main armament of four Czechoslovak-built Škoda 140 mm (5.5 in) guns in single mounts. She was intended to be the first of three flotilla leaders built for Yugoslavia, but was the only one completed. During her service with the Royal Yugoslav Navy, Dubrovnik undertook several peacetime cruises through the Mediterranean, the Turkish Straits and the Black Sea. In October 1934, she conveyed King Alexander to France for a state visit, and carried his body back to Yugoslavia following his assassination in Marseille.

Adriatic Campaign of World War I

The Adriatic Campaign of World War I was a naval campaign fought between the Central Powers and the Mediterranean squadrons of Great Britain, France, the Kingdom of Italy, Australia and the United States.

Yugoslav torpedo boat <i>T3</i> torpedo boat

The Yugoslav torpedo boat T3 was a sea-going torpedo boat that was operated by the Royal Yugoslav Navy between 1921 and 1941. Originally 78 T, a 250t-class torpedo boat of the Austro-Hungarian Navy built in 1914, she was armed with two 66 mm (2.6 in) guns, four 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes, and could carry 10–12 naval mines. She saw active service during World War I, performing convoy, escort and minesweeping tasks, anti-submarine operations and shore bombardment missions. Following Austria-Hungary's defeat in 1918, she was allocated to the Navy of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which subsequently became the Royal Yugoslav Navy, and was renamed T3. At the time, she and the seven other 250t-class boats were the only modern sea-going vessels of the fledgling maritime force.

Royal Yugoslav Navy navy

The Royal Yugoslav Navy was the navy of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and existed between 1921 and 1945. It was brought into existence as the navy of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and initially consisted of a few former Austro-Hungarian Navy vessels surrendered at the conclusion of World War I and transferred to the new nation state in 1921 under the terms of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The only modern sea-going warships transferred to the new state were twelve steam-powered torpedo boats, although it did receive four capable river monitors for use on the Danube and other large rivers. Significant new acquisitions began in 1926 with a former German light cruiser, followed by the commissioning of two motor torpedo boats (MTBs) and a small submarine flotilla over the next few years. When the name of the state was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929, the name of its navy was changed to reflect this. In the late 1920s, several of the original vessels were discarded.

Battle of the Strait of Otranto (1940)

The Battle of the Strait of Otranto was a minor naval skirmish on 12 November 1940 during the Battle of the Mediterranean in World War II. It took place in the Strait of Otranto in the Adriatic Sea, between Italy and Albania.

SMS <i>Niobe</i> light cruiser

SMS Niobe was the second member of the ten-ship Gazelle class of light cruisers built by the Imperial German Navy. She was built by the AG Weser shipyard in Bremen, laid down in 1898, launched in July 1899, and commissioned into the High Seas Fleet in June 1900. She was named after Niobe, a figure from Greek mythology. Armed with a main battery of ten 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns and two 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, Niobe was capable of a top speed of 21.5 knots. The ship had a long career, serving in all three German navies, along with the Yugoslav and Italian fleets over the span of over 40 years in service.

United States Navy operations during World War I

United States Navy operations during World War I began on April 6, 1917, after the formal declaration of war on the German Empire. The American navy focused on countering enemy U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, while convoying men and supplies to France and Italy. Because of United States' late entry into the war, her capital ships never engaged the German fleet, and few decisive submarine actions occurred.

Action of 1 November 1944

The Action of 1 November 1944 also known as the Ambush off Pag Island was a naval engagement in the Kvarner Gulf of the Adriatic Sea, between the islands of Pag and Lussino on 1 November 1944. It was fought between a British Royal Navy destroyer flotilla and a Kriegsmarine force of two corvettes and a destroyer. The German flotilla was deployed to escort a convoy retreating from Šibenik to Fiume. The British managed to destroy all three German ships in return for no loss.

Yugoslav torpedo boat <i>T1</i> Torpedo boat from the Royal Yugoslav Navy

The Yugoslav torpedo boat T1 was a seagoing torpedo boat that was operated by the Royal Yugoslav Navy between 1921 and 1941. Originally 76 T, a 250t-class torpedo boat of the Austro-Hungarian Navy built in 1914, she was armed with two 66 mm (2.6 in) guns and four 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes, and could carry 10–12 naval mines. She saw active service during World War I, performing convoy, escort and minesweeping tasks, anti-submarine operations and shore bombardment missions. She was part of the escort force for the Austro-Hungarian dreadnought SMS Szent István during the action that resulted in the sinking of that ship by Italian torpedo boats in June 1918. Following Austria-Hungary's defeat later that year, 76 T was allocated to the Navy of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which became the Royal Yugoslav Navy, and was renamed T1. At the time, she and seven other 250t-class boats were the only modern sea-going vessels of the fledgling maritime force.

250t-class torpedo boat torpedo boat from the Austro-Hungarian Navy

The 250t class were high-seas torpedo boats built for the Austro-Hungarian Navy between 1913 and 1916. A total of 27 boats were built by three shipbuilding companies, with the letter after the boat number indicating the manufacturer. There were small variations between manufacturers, mainly in the steam turbines used, and whether they had one or two funnels. The eight boats of the T-group, designated 74 T – 81 T, were built by Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino, located at Trieste. The sixteen boats of the F-group, 82 F – 97 F, were built by Ganz-Danubius at their shipyards at Fiume and Porto Re. The three M-group boats, 98 M – 100 M, were manufactured by Cantiere Navale Triestino at Monfalcone.

Yugoslav torpedo boat <i>T7</i> Sea-going torpedo boat operated by the Royal Yugoslav Navy

T7 was a sea-going torpedo boat operated by the Royal Yugoslav Navy between 1921 and 1941, after spending World War I in Austro-Hungarian Navy service. Originally 96 F, she was a 250t-class torpedo boat, and saw active service during World War I, performing convoy, patrol, escort and minesweeping tasks, and anti-submarine operations. Following Austria-Hungary's defeat in 1918, 96 F was allocated to the Navy of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which later became the Royal Yugoslav Navy, and was renamed T7. At the time, she and the seven other 250t-class boats were the only modern sea-going vessels of the fledgling maritime force.

<i>Novara</i>-class cruiser ship class

The Novara class was a class of three scout cruisers built for the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Named for the Battle of Novara, the class comprised SMS Saida, SMS Helgoland, and SMS Novara. Construction started on the ships shortly before World War I; Saida and Helgoland were both laid down in 1911, Novara followed in 1912. Two of the three warships were built in the Ganz-Danubius shipyard in Fiume; Saida was built in the Cantiere Navale Triestino shipyard in Monfalcone. The Novara-class ships hold the distinction for being the last cruisers constructed by the Austro-Hungarian Navy.

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