27 November 1940: Battle of Cape Teulada

(To Marina Militare)
27/11/15

The battle, also called Capo Spartivento, is one of the first Italian responses to the "night of Taranto" of the previous November 11.

Already on November 17, the Italian Naval Team, led by the Battle of Vittorio Veneto and Julius Caesar, had caused the failure of an English supply operation of the island of Malta, forcing an opposing naval formation consisting of two aircraft carriers a Battle Cruiser, causing, among other things, the loss of exhaustion of 9 fuel British prematurely launched aircraft.

The action of Cape Teulada stems from the subsequent British attempt to supply Malta, with the use of a vast array of forces including an aircraft carrier, two battleships, seven cruisers and twelve escort units. Once again the Italian team takes the sea to intercept the enemy convoy, which is sighted at 09: 45 of November 27 by a reconnaissance launched by the cruiser Bolzano. In addition to the Vittorio Veneto and the Giulio Cesare, there are the heavy cruisers Bolzano, Fiume, Gorizia, Pola, Trento and Trieste, escorted by 14 destroyer.

The clash, started at 12: 22, is resolved in a pursuit action in which the heavy national cruisers, higher for speed and firepower, engage the opponents by pulling starting from 23.500 meters and scoring 2 projectiles from 203 mm on the heavy cruiser Berwick that has a tower out of use and a fire on board that takes over an hour to shut down; it is also damaged, albeit less seriously, the Manchester cruiser. On the Italian side, the destroyer Lanciere returns to the base after collecting 3 bullets from 152 mm, without suffering victims on board.

The British attempt to save the day by tightening distances with the major units is frustrated by the intervention of the big players of Vittorio Veneto who pull seven holes, from 27.000 meters, to the opponent cruisers. The fourth saves the British ships, already perfectly framed, emit smoke and break the contact.

The battle of Cape Teulada, even if concluded without a clear prevalence, shows how the "night of Taranto" has not affected the ability of the Royal Navy to ensure control of the central Mediterranean. It also highlights the fact that the British fleet, even at its most favorable moment, has refused to fight on an equal footing with the Italian Navy.

An interesting notation: the exceptional footage collected by Italian cameramen during the action was used to create the beautiful film "La Nave Bianca", produced by the Centro Cinematografico della Marina with the collaboration, as assistant director, of a young Roberto Rossellini. The film, of enormous success in Italian cinemas, can be fully considered the first act of neorealist cinema.