The clash in the Otranto Canal of December 1915

(To Marina Militare)

The 29 December 1915, right in the same waters where the rescue of passengers and crew of the ferry took place Norman Atlantic, a battle is fought involving, on the Austro-Hungarian side, the fast explorer (alias light cruiser) Heligoland and the most modern 5 destroyers of that fleet, allied analogous Italian explorers Bedroom e Bixio, the British Weymouth e Dartmouth, 4 Italian fighter and French 5.

The aim of the Austro-Hungarians is to attack the Italian traffic with Albania and supplies for the Serbian army, during which time it was retreating through the snowy mountains of the Balkans. The Hapsburg units attack the port of Durres, guarded by the Italian Navy, destroying a Greek steamer and two Albanian ships. The reaction of coastal batteries affects, in turn, the destroyer Triglav, forcing that unit and twin Lika to approach outside ending up on a mine barrier laid a few days before by the Italians. The Lika sinks within a minute while the Triglav it is taken in tow.

Meanwhile, the Allied units come out of Brindisi, divided into two groups, and at 13: 00 the first division sighted the enemy. The Austrians give up the trailer abandoning the Triglav in a sinking state and all the units, enemy and allied, force the machines to run at maximum speed. THE'Heligoland is forced, given the presence of the Dartmouth and Bedroom, who had cut off the route, to go back and to head towards Italy hoping to be able to escape, always at full speed, until the onset of darkness.

Il subsequent clash, between the 13: 30 and the 16: 30, is fought by the two parties at the maximum payload of their medium-caliber cannons. THE'Heligoland is centered 4 times from Dartmouth and from Bedroom, which also affects the destroyer It drips. For 18: 15, at sunset, the Austro-Hungarian ships are able to get away from those pursuers, but reach within reach of the second allied group, led by the Bixio. THE'Heligoland manages to score, albeit without appreciable effects, its own project from 100 mm on Bixio, while the Balaton it suffers damage from splinters following the shooting of Italian escort fighters. The Hapsburg ships disappeared into the darkness, arriving the day after in Split.

For the Austro-Hungarians the action proves to be a failure, given the losses suffered and the modest results achieved: the sinking of 2 of the modern destroyers 6 and the knockout of theHeligoland they will be in crisis for a long time the basic naval division in Kotor, so that the two successive episodes carried out by the Hapsburg ships against the traffic with Albania, the 27 January and the 6 February 1916, are both immediately canceled.

The action in the Canale d'Otranto can be considered, therefore, a tactical and strategic success that is more than appreciable and worthy of memory, with a single discordant note: the Viennese journalists in the following days will split the action for an Austrian success and those Italians, traditionally influenced by the foreign press, will end up marrying, then and later, that thesis convinced, as often happens, that the scandals (or presumed such) sell more copies.

It is a pity, but as Winston Churchill warned (not by chance, of two monumental works dedicated to the first and second world conflicts) "Battles must win them, but what counts is knowing how to tell them".