26 March 1941 – today in history…

by on Mar.26, 2018, under Allgemein

Siluri_Umani_MAS_600x600During the winter of 1940-1941 the human torpedo attacks were suspended, at least until the following spring. A detachment of MT explosive boats was based in the Dodecanese, where it trained under the command of Vittorio Moccagatta on the island of Leros with the objective of attacking Souda Bay and the British traffic to Greece.

Vittorio Moccagatta was ordered back to Italy on 23 January 1941, where he became the commander of the 1st MAS Flotilla in La Spezia. His suggestions to the Italian naval commando assumed in the result that the 1st MAS Flotilla became the 10th MAS Flotilla – the Decima MAS – on 15 March 1941, which was divided into two divisions from that time:

Souda_Bay_Sketch_600x600The surface division – Mezzi di Superficie – under the command of Capitano di Corvetta Giorgio Giobbe with a fleet of various explosive boats (category MT, MTM shown by the historic sketches on the left, MTR, MTS, MTMS, SMA, MTL) and motorboats for sabotage operations.

The underwater division – Mezzi Subacquei – under the command of Capitano di Corvetta Junio Valerio Borghese operated the diving School in Livorno, the SLC training base at Bocca di Serchio, the remaining transport submersibles Scirè and Ambra and the frogmen of the “Gruppo Gamma”. On a side note, in early 1941, the two initial transport submersibles for SLC devices, Iride and Gondar, were already lost with the failure of „Operazione G.A.1“ and „Operazione G.A.2“ in August and September 1940.

Souda_Bay_Map_600x600On 26 March 1941, the surface division – Mezzi di Superficie – of the Decima MAS achieved initial successes: six MT-type explosive boats broke through the blockades in Souda Bay (Crete, see historic map on the left) damaging the heavy cruiser York and the tanker Pericles.

During the night, the servicemen Luigi Faggioni (commander), Angelo Cabrini, Tullio Tedeschi, Alessio De Vito, Lino Beccati and Emilio Barberi) were transported to the target area aboard the destroyers Crispi and Sella. These two destroyers were equipped with electrically powered cranes for placement of the MT-type explosive boats on the water, which was carried out in just a few minutes, ten miles from Souda’s entrance, at 2330 hours on 25 March 1941. Unnoticed by the enemy, the MT-type explosive boats managed to cross three barricades and reached their targets in the early hours of the morning of 26 March 1941.

Souda_Bay_MT_600x600Two MT-type explosive boats attacked the York (the pilots abandoned their boats 80 meters before hitting the ship, see historic photos on the left). Another two MT-type explosive boats attacked the Pericles. Commander Faggioni tried to hit the Coventry but his boat missed the cruiser and exploded on the coast. The sixth MT-type explosive boat missed its target too, but remained intact and was captured by the British. All six pilots of the explosive boats survived the attack and became POW.

Read more about the timeline of the missions during the Second World War in chapter II.I on page 106-146. Vittorio Moccagatta is featured on page 112-113, the attack in Souda Bay is featured on page 108-109.

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