Battle of Skerki Bank
|Battle of Skerki Bank|
|Part of the Battle of the Mediterranean of World War II|
The Navigatori-class destroyer Nicoloso da Recco, seriously damaged in the Battle of Skerki Bank
|Commanders and leaders|
|C. H. J. Harcourt||Aldo Cocchia|
3 light cruisers|
2 torpedo boats
|Casualties and losses|
1 destroyer sunk|
1 destroyer heavily damaged
2 torpedo-boats heavily damaged
4 troopships sunk
2,033 - 2,200 killed
1one ship in the convoy was German|
2one destroyer was sunk at dawn by aircraft with the loss of 20 servicemen
The Battle of Skerki Bank was a World War II naval battle which took place near Skerki Bank in the Mediterranean Sea on the early hours of 2 December 1942 between British and Italian forces, as the last naval battle held in Mediterranean during 1942.
The British force consisted of the light cruisers HMS Aurora, Argonaut and Sirius and the destroyers HMS Quentin and HMAS Quiberon. The squadron was under the command of Rear Admiral C. H. J. Harcourt. They attacked an Italian convoy bound for Tunisia and its escort of three destroyers and two torpedo boats.
In the night of 2 December, a troop convoy was heading for Tunisia: the German KT-1 (850 tons), Aventino (3,794 t), Puccini (2,422 t), and Aspromonte (a militarized ferry-boat, 976 tons). The ships were carrying 1,766 troops, 698 tons of cargo (mainly ammunition), four tanks, 32 other vehicles, and 12 artillery pieces. The escort was relatively strong: destroyers Nicoloso da Recco (flagship), Camicia Nera, Folgore and the torpedo boats Clio and Procione was commanded by Captain Aldo Cocchia.
The British ships hit very hard and destroyed, one after the other, all the cargo and troop ships. The escort ships were hit as well, with Folgore fatally damaged (9 133 mm direct hits) by cruisers, and later sunk with 120 dead (among them, commander Ener Bettica), Nicoloso da Recco badly damaged (explosion of the forward 120 mm ready ammunition depots, out of commission until June 1943, half crew killed or wounded) with 118 dead. Camicia Nera launched all her 6 torpedoes, which missed their targets. Sirius escaped with no damage despite Camicia Nera firing on her from only 2 kilometres (1.2 mi), dodging several torpedoes and cooperating in the sinking of many Axis ships.
At dawn, the short-range engagement saw a clear British victory, while Axis lost no less but over 2,000 (probably 2,037 or even 2,200, the total is uncertain) lives and five ships, with Puccini still afloat, but later sank. In the return path Savoias attacked the Q-Force, without results but losing some aircraft (Spitfires claimed four Sparvieros with one loss), while HMS Quentin was sunk by a 500 kg bomb released from Junkers Ju 88s (even if uncertain if the hit scored was actually a torpedo) with 20 dead. On the other side, the human losses were 124 (Folgore), 118 (Nicoloso da Recco), 39 (Aspromonte), 3 (Procione), 200 (civil/militarized crews), 1,527 troops (all in Aventino and Puccini)