November 27, 1940: the battle of Capo Teulada

(To Marina Militare)
27/11/21

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

Already on November 17 the Italian naval team, led by battleships Vittorio Veneto e Julius Caesar, had caused the failure of an English refueling operation on the island of Malta, forcing a hasty retreat of the opposing naval formation consisting of two aircraft carriers and a battlecruiser, causing among other things the loss of 9 aircraft due to exhaustion of fuel. British launched prematurely.

The action of Capo Teulada originates 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 to the sea to intercept the enemy convoy, which is sighted at 09:45 on November 27 by a reconnaissance launched by the cruiser Bolzano. They are present in the sea, in addition to the Vittorio Veneto and Julius Caesar, heavy cruisers Bolzano, River, Gorizia, On, Trento e Trieste, escorted by 14 destroyers.

The clash, which began at 12:22, is resolved in a pursuit action in which the national heavy cruisers, superior in speed and firepower, engage the corresponding opponents by shooting from 23.500 meters and scoring 2 bullets from 203 mm on the heavy cruiser Berwick which has a tower out of order and a fire on board that requires over an hour to be put out; the cruiser is also damaged, albeit less severely Manchester. On the Italian side, the destroyer Lancer returns to base after having collected 3 152 mm bullets, without suffering casualties on board.

The British attempt to save the day by closing the gap with the larger units is frustrated by the intervention of the big guns of the Vittorio Veneto who shoot seven salvoes, from 27.000 meters, on opposing cruisers. At the fourth salvo, the British ships, already perfectly framed, emit smoke and break the contact.

The battle of Capo Teulada, even if concluded without a clear prevalence, demonstrates how the "Taranto night" did not affect 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, refused a fight on equal footing with the Italian Navy.

An interesting notation: the exceptional shots collected by the Italian cameramen during the action were used for the realization of the beautiful film "La Nave Bianca", produced by the Navy Cinematographic Center with the collaboration, as assistant director, of a young Roberto Rossellini. The film, hugely successful in Italian cinemas, can be fully considered the first act of neorealist cinema.

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