Sinking of HMS York

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Sinking of HMS York (1941)

caption=HMS "York"'s hull boarded by the Italian Torpedo Boat "Sirio"
partof=the Mediterranean Theater of World War II
date=26 March 1941
place=Souda Bay, Mediterranean Sea
result=Italian victory
combatant1=flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom
commander1=flagicon|United Kingdom|naval
Capt. Reginald Henry Portal, DSC, RN
Lieutenant Luigi Faggioni
strength1=Fleet in harbour
strength2=2 Destroyers
6 motor assault boats
casualties1=1 heavy cruiser (disabled)
1 tanker (sunk)
1 tanker (heavily damaged)
1 cargo ship (sunk)
2 killed
casualties2=6 POW |

The sinking of HMS "York" was the main consequence of an Italian Navy's small craft assault on Souda Bay, Crete, during the first hours of 26 March 1941.


On March 25, 1941 the Italian destroyers "Crispi" and "Sella"departed Leros island in the Aegean at night, each carrying 3 small (2-ton) MTM ("Motoscafo da turismo modificato") motor assault boats of the Decima Flottiglia MAS.Borghese, page 77]

Air recce had spotted a number of naval and auxiliary steamers at anchor in Souda Bay, Crete. Souda is a naturally protected harbor on the northwest coast of the island. It had been chosen as a target by the Decima months before because of the almost continuous Allied naval activity there.

Each MTM or "Motoscafo da Turismo Modificato" (nicknamed "barchini" or "little boats") carried a convert|300|kg explosive charge inside their bow. [Sadkovich, page 25]

The MTMs were specially equipped to make their way through obstacles such as torpedo nets; the pilot would steer the assault craft in a collision course at his target ship, and then would jump from his boat before impact and warhead detonation.Greene & Massignani, page 141]

The attack

At 23:30, the one-pilot craft were released by the destroyers 10 miles off Souda. Once inside the bay, the six boats, under the command of Lieutenant Luigi Faggioni, pintpointed their targets: the heavy cruiser HMS|York|90|6, a large tanker (the Norwegian "Pericles" of 8,300 tons), another tanker and a cargo ship. At 4:46, two MTMs hit the "York" amidships, flooding her aft boilers and magazines. Two seamen were killed by the explosions. [ [ 26 March entry] ] The oiler "Pericles" was severely damaged and settled on the bottom, while the other tanker and the cargo ship were sunk according to Italian sources. [Borghese, pp. 81-82] According to the British, the other "barchini" apparently missed their intended targets, and one of them ended stranded on the beach. [Borghese, page 80] The antiaircraft defences of the base opened fire randomly, believing that the base was under air attack. [Borghese, page 82]


All six of the Italian sailors, Luigi Faggioni, Alessio de Vito, Emilio Barberi, Angelo Cabrini, Tullio Tedeschi and Lino Beccati, were captured. The disabled "York" was later scuttled with demolition charges by her crew before the German capture of Crete, [Borghese, pp. 83-84] while "Pericles", taken in tow by destroyers, sank on 14 April 1941 enroute to Alexandria amid a storm. [ [] ]

The sinking of HMS "York" was the source of a controversy between the Regia Marina and the Luftwaffe over credit for her sinking.The matter was resolved by British war records and by the ship's own war log, captured by Italian naval officers who boarded the half-sunk cruiser. [The Italians seized the following naval message from Captain Portal to his Chief Engineeering Officer: "Please take statements from all men who were in boiler and engine-rooms when the ship was struck on the 26th, also from any men who can bear witness as to the R.A.s who were lost, being in the engine room. I would like you also to make rough notes now, while events are fresh in your mind, of sequence of damage reports and appreciations as time went on. Also a log of events since we started pumping out. R.P." Borghese, page 83]

After the war, the hull of HMS "York" was towed to Bari and scrapped there by an Italian shipbreaker in March 1952. [ [] ]



*"Frogmen First Battles" by retired U.S Captain William Schofield's book. ISBN 0-8283-2088-8
*"The Naval War in the Mediterranean, 1940-1943" by Jack Greene & Alessandro Massignani, Chatam Publishing, London, 1998. ISBN 1861760574
*"Sea Devils" by J. Valerio Borghese, translated into English by James Cleugh, with introduction by the United States Naval Institute ISBN 1-55750-072-X
*"The Italian Navy in World War II" by Marc'Antonio Bragadin, United States Naval Institute, Annapolis, 1957. ISBN 0405130317
*"The Italian Navy in World War II" by Sadkovich, James, Greenwood Press, Westport, 1994. ISBN 031328797X

External links

* [ "Attack to Suda Bay" - ] en icon
* [ HMS York at]
* [ HMS York at Naval History.Net]

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