- Battle of Cape Bon
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Cape Bon
caption=Cruiser "Da Barbiano", sunk by Allied destroyers near Cape Bon
World War II
13 December 1941
Mediterranean Sea, Cape Bon, Tunisia
strength2=2 light cruisers
1 torpedo boat
casualties2=2 light cruisers sunk
The naval Battle of Cape Bon took place on
December 13 1941during the Second World War, between two Italian light cruisers and an Allied destroyerflotilla off Cape Bon, Tunisia. The loss of the two cruisers was a serious setback for the Regia Marina.
The control of the Mediterranean was disputed between the Italian Regia Marina and the British
Royal Navy, supported by ships of Empire navies and other allied navies. This was critical for the supply of the Italian and German forces in north Africa and for the maintenance of Maltaas a British offensive base. Without Malta, Britain could not intercept Italian convoys and thus prevent the supply of Axis armies. At times, supply was so serious that warships were used as fast transports by both sides.
When Italy declared war in June 1940, it had one of the largest navies in the world but its strength was limited to the Mediterranean, whereas the British could replace most losses by redeploying ships. This led to caution on behalf of the Italian command and a tendency to avoid battle.
The British had advantages in that they possessed
radarand Italian naval codes had been broken.
The Italian 4th Cruiser Division, commanded by Contrammiraglio
Antonino Toscanoand consisting of the two "Da Giussano" class light cruisers "Alberto da Giussano" and "Alberico da Barbiano" and the torpedo boat "Cigno", sailed from Palermobound for Tripoli, carrying an urgent supply of aircraft fuel (nearly 2000 tons) for Libya. The fuel was so important that fuel tanks were even put on the decks of the ships.
In the meantime, the British 4th Destroyer flotilla – four destroyers (HMS "Sikh", HMS "Maori", HMS "Legion" and the Dutch destroyer "Isaac Sweers") commanded by Commander
G. H. Stokes– was bound for Malta.
The British flotilla was spotted by an Italian aircraft but Regia Marina HQ judged that the British would not be able to reach Cape Bon before the 4th Cruiser Division was passed. However, the British, with intercepted signals from "
Ultra", ordered their destroyers to intercept the Axis cruisers.
December 13at 03:25 the forces met. Arriving from astern in the dark and using radar, the Allies achieved surprise, launching torpedoes and opening fire. Both Italian cruisers were sunk – "Alberico da Barbiano" a towering inferno. The action was over quickly and the British flotilla left. "Cigno" rescued 500 survivors, while others reached the coast or were later saved by Italian anti-submarine motorboats (MAS). Over 900 men lost their lives, including Admiral Toscano.
* [http://uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/2855.html Dutch destroyer "Isaac Sweers"]
* [http://www.regiamarina.net/engagements/capebon/capebon_us.htm Italian description]
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