World Naval Ships Forums  
VIEW ALL OF OUR CURRENT SPECIAL OFFERS HERE!

Go Back   World Naval Ships Forums > Naval History > Battles and Events
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Battles and Events Topics covering naval battles, actions, fleet reviews and any other naval events.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 14-12-2010, 17:57
emason's Avatar
emason emason is offline
Vice-Admiral
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: North Yorkshire
Posts: 1,890
Default Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

Background

The losses incurred by the Royal Navy in the Eastern Mediterranean during the evacuation of Greece and Crete in April and May, 1941 had forced the withdrawal of the Malta surface strike force. It was not reformed until 21st October when Force K, the light cruisers Aurora and Penelope and the destroyers Lance and Lively under the command of Captain Agnew returned to Malta, from where the British were able to interdict, by sea and air, Axis supplies to Libya.

The Axis forces engaged in the war against the British in North Africa were supplied by convoy from Italy across the Mediterranean. One such convoy was named "Beta" by the Italians, but is generally known as the "Duisburg Convoy" after the German steamer Duisburg which was the largest ship in the convoy.

The Battle of the Duisburg Convoy was fought on the night of 8–9 November 1941 between an Italian convoy sailing to Libya with supplies for both the Italian Army in Libya and the Afrika Korps, and a Royal Navy squadron which intercepted it.
 

Prelude

The convoy left Naples on 7th November bound for Tripoli, and steamed at nine knots in two columns a half-mile apart, with the Duisburg leading San Marco and Conte di Misurata in the starboard column; and Minatitlan leading Maria and Sagitta in the port column, while Rina Corrado brought up the rear between the two columns. The close escort of destroyers effectively surrounded the convoy with Maestrale at the head of the convoy, Euro and Fulmine on the starboard side, Oriani and Libeccio on the port side, and Grecale the rear. The distant cruiser escort brought up the rear zigzagging three to five miles astern.

The British had found out, from Ultra intercepts, about this large convoy. On the afternoon of the 8th November, the convoy was "discovered" by air reconnaissance from Malta, 40 miles east of Cape Spartivento. Force K left Malta at 17.30 steering ENE, in line-ahead with Aurora leading followed by Lance, Penelope and Lively, intending to intercept the convoy at about 02.00.

 
Order of Battle

Italian
The Distant Escort (Rear-Admiral Brivonesi)
3rd Division Heavy Cruisers – Trieste(F), Trento
13th Destroyer Squadron – Granatiere, Fulciliere, Bersagliere, Alpino

The Close Escort (Captain Bisciani)
10th Destroyer Squadron – Maestrale(F), Fulmine, Euro, Grecale, Libeccio, Oriani

The Convoy
Duisburg, San Marco, Maria, Rina Corrado, Sagitta, Minatitlan, Conte di Misurata
[Between them they were carrying 13,290 tons of materiel, 1,579 tons of ammunition, 17,281 tons of fuel, 389 vehicles, 145 Italian and 78 German troops.]

British
Force K (Captain Agnew)
Light cruisers – Aurora(F), Penelope
Destroyers – Lance, Lively
 

Interception

The reconnaissance aircraft that was supposed to vector Force K onto the convoy suffered radio and radar failures, and was unable to locate the convoy or communicate with Force K. Nevertheless, Force K reached a point 135 miles east of Syracuse, where Agnew had almost given up hopes of finding them when, at 00.39, the Aurora obtained a radar contact.

Captain Agnew turned Force K starboard towards the convoy and reduced speed, positioning his ships on the convoy’s starboard quarter with the moon silhouetting the convoy. Aurora approached, followed by Lance, Penelope, and Lively. Aurora’s lookouts spotted the Italian ships of the distant escort to port, but assumed they were more merchant ships following the destroyers, and decided to focus on the ships ahead. During this time, they were sighted by Fulmine who assumed they were Brivonesi’s cruisers.


The First Shots

With the moon silhouetting the target, Aurora opened fire at 00.57 from 5,500 yards, followed seconds later by Penelope and Lance.

Aurora’s first three salvos hit the destroyer Grecale setting her ablaze and leaving her dead in the water. She then switched her fire to Maestrale at which Penelope was already firing; then turned starboard to run down the convoy’s starboard side, firing upon Rina Corrado setting her on fire.

Penelope initially engaged the Maestrale, switching fire to Fulmine when she turned to attack.

Lance initially fired on the Duisburg from 4,000 yards and after hitting, shifted fire to the destroyer Fulmine which was hit repeatedly below the waterline by both Lance and Penelope, and as a result capsized and sank at 01.06.

Lively was the last to open fire at 01.00, hitting Duisburg with her first salvo and followed with five more before shifting fire to the destroyer Euro.

The Euro had closed to nearly 2,000 yards, when Bisciani ordered his destroyers to concentrate around the Maestrale on the convoy’s port side. This caused Euro’s commander to think the enemy must be on the port side and that he was stalking Trieste. Consequently he turned away, realizing his mistake only when Lively and then Aurora and Penelope engaged. They hit Euro six times, but their shells passed through her thin hull, causing only light damage.

 
Later Action

Bisciani’s flagship Maestrale made smoke and rounded the convoy’s head to its port side. At 01.08, Aurora fired on her cutting her radio masts, loosing Bisciani the ability to direct his escorting destroyers. His loss of control was compounded by his mistaken belief that he was being attacked from his port side, thinking that the ships sighted on his starboard side were Brivonesi’s distant escort, refrained from attacking them. As Bisciani’s destroyers Libeccio, Oriani, Maestrale, and Euro turned ahead of the convoy, withdrawing eastwards to regroup, the convoy thinking they were under aerial attack, continued on course virtually abandoned and unprotected.

Meanwhile, Admiral Brivonesi, with the heavy cruisers of the distant escort, was about 5,500 yards on the convoy’s starboard quarter when the action started. On hearing gunfire, he turned his ships south and increased speed to investigate, firing star shell. They passed down the starboard side of the convoy, just in time to see Agnew’s ships turning eastwards across the head of the convoy. They opened fire from 7,800 yards, but "Accuracy of aim was difficult because the English ships, steaming southward in line ahead, were ’end-on’ to the cruisers’ gunfire; also, in a short time the targets disappeared behind the smoke of the burning steamers and their destroyer’s smoke screen." At 01.23 Lance reported a large number of salvos falling around her. Agnew ordered Penelope to engage what was thought to be another destroyer, and she fired seven 4-inch salvos at Trieste. No one in Force K realized that a pair of heavy cruisers was present.

Agnew’s ships turned to port heading eastwards around the head of the convoy, and at 01.25 they turned to the north up the convoy’s port side, while Brivonesi’c cruisers were still heading south on the opposite side of the convoy. This manoeuvre unintentionally kept the convoy between Force K and the heavy cruisers. Brivonesi was now SW of the convoy and with no targets in sight, turned north with the idea of intercepting Agnew’s withdrawal.

After turning north, Force K continued picking off merchant ships with gunfire and torpedoes at ranges down to 2,000 yards, setting one ship after another ablaze. The British were rather surprised at the way the cargo ships continued on course, almost waiting their turn to be attacked. One of Penelope’s crew wrote, "The ships seemed to make no effort to escape, and it was all too easy; they burst into flames as soon as we hit them."

At 01.40, with every ship in sight burning, Force K ceased fire and passed behind the convoy. At 02.05, with no new targets to be seen, and concerned about the shortage of 6-inch ammunition in Malta, Agnew headed home. At 02.30 Force K passed twenty miles astern of Brivonesi’s cruisers, which were still heading north.


Aftermath

Force K had destroyed the entire convoy, sunk one destroyer (Fulmine), damaged two others (Grecale and Euro), and escaped unscathed except for splinter damage to Lively. To add to the Italian’s misery, the British submarine Upholder torpedoed the destroyer Libeccio the next day at 10.48 while she was engaged in rescue work. Euro tried to tow the stricken ship to safety, but Libeccio broke apart and sank shortly after.

This battle was one of the most brilliant victories won by the Royal Navy during the war. They were out numbered and outgunned by the escort, but application of superior doctrine and technology along with luck and surprise gave them the victory.

Supermarina relieved both Admiral Brivonesi and Captain Bisciani. Bisciani, faced a commission of inquiry that eventually dismissed him without charges. Brivonesi was subsequently reinstated.

Raeder, concerned about supplies to the Afrika Korps, reported to Hitler, "Today the enemy has complete naval and air supremacy in the area of the German transport routes.... The Italians are not able to bring about any major improvements in the situation, due to the oil situation and to their own operational and tactical impotence."
 

Fulmine-3.jpg Fulmine-2.jpg
__________________
Regards, Bill

"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?" - Cicero.

Last edited by emason : 14-12-2010 at 18:09.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 14-12-2010, 20:15
dmagro dmagro is offline
Leading Seaman
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 24
Default Re: Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

I love these detailed battle descriptions.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 15-12-2010, 01:51
astraltrader's Avatar
astraltrader astraltrader is offline
Forum Moderator
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Exeter/Devon.
Posts: 13,254
Default Re: Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

Add me to the list of admirers as well.

Another excellent account Bill - well done!!
__________________
Best wishes,
Terry/Exeter. UK



HMS BADSWORTH [HUNT CLASS DESTROYER]
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 15-12-2010, 07:51
Don Boyer's Avatar
Don Boyer Don Boyer is offline
Forum Moderator.
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Haleiwa, Hawaii (North Shore of Oahu)
Posts: 3,805
Default Re: Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

A succinct and interesting record of the battle, Bill, fully up to your usual standards of writing. As a writer and editor for some thirty plus (I ain't saying how plus) years, you have all the earmarks of someone who could do an outstanding book.

Need and editor?

I always enjoy your posts.

Regards, and Merry Christmas.
__________________
Don Boyer, GMT-2,
USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)

"For a successful technology, reality has to take precedence over public relations, because nature cannot be fooled." (Richard Feynman)
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 15-12-2010, 18:00
emason's Avatar
emason emason is offline
Vice-Admiral
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: North Yorkshire
Posts: 1,890
Default Re: Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

Thank you all for your very kind comments.

Don, I wish I had the resources, and access to original documentation that would enable me to write a book on naval battles. But unfortunately I don't, and have to rely on other author's previous efforts from which I try to elicit an accurate account. Hence my signature.
 
__________________
Regards, Bill

"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?" - Cicero.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 28-03-2014, 00:12
blw blw is offline
Sub-Lieutenant
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Posts: 100
Default Re: Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

This description sounds a bit like a video game! Show up at the party unannounced, punch the bouncers in the nose, have a dance with each of the ladies of honor, and be back in barracks in time for curfew!
__________________
Brian
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 09-04-2014, 12:38
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
Banned
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: DONCASTER S.YORKS UK
Posts: 8,747
Default Re: Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

This action was one the most brilliant British naval surface victories of the war-via superior tactics and leadership, combined with surprise and an inept opposition-Supermarina relieved both Italian leaders involved.
The Germans were furious and wanted the RM to accept German officers as advisors,even aboard Italian warships. Raeder's report to Hitler was to effect that the Italian navy was quite impotent against a tactically superior enemy.

jainso31
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 13-04-2014, 04:17
SeidelJ's Avatar
SeidelJ SeidelJ is offline
Sub-Lieutenant
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 152
Default Re: Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

Excellent account of one of those often forgotten "little actions" which helped shape the war as much as the more popular stuff involving bigger ships.

The cruiser war is far undersung.
__________________
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 13-04-2014, 09:48
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
Banned
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: DONCASTER S.YORKS UK
Posts: 8,747
Default Re: Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

Jamie-the light cruisers Aurora and Penelope (Pepperpot) have their own threads in either Royal Navy Ships or here in Battles and Events.

jainso31
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 13-04-2014, 14:46
blw blw is offline
Sub-Lieutenant
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Posts: 100
Default Re: Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

Quote:
Originally Posted by SeidelJ View Post
Excellent account of one of those often forgotten "little actions" which helped shape the war as much as the more popular stuff involving bigger ships.

The cruiser war is far undersung.
I'll admit to a very typically American "bigger must be better" orientation from childhood, and thus a interest fairly biased toward capital ships (BB, CV, CB). But I'm gaining an appreciation for the smaller ships and their "private" battles. What are some good reading material on this, other than the various threads here? I presume that some books address this better than others. (And hopefully not limited to the rare and quite expensive ones... like Parkes' British Battlesships at 100 or so!)
__________________
Brian
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 23-06-2014, 18:01
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
Banned
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: DONCASTER S.YORKS UK
Posts: 8,747
Default Re: Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

The Italian cruisers and Force K changed places, the first ending up south and west of the convoy and the British were north and east of what had been a convoy. Agnew ordered cease-fire at 0140; as the British passed by the rear of the now destroyed convoy. No new targets were seen, and concerned with the shortages of 6" ammunition at Malta, the British shaped course for home at 0205. They sank every one of the cargo ships and tankers and sank one destroyer and damaged three others.

On several occasions the British reported that they avoided torpedoes, Italian accounts deny that any of their destroyers used this weapon. The only injury suffered by the British was splinter damage to Lively. A starshell burst overhead and near misses holed her funnel and steam pipe on the starboard siren. To add to the Italian’s misery, the British submarine Upholder torpedoed Libeccio the next day at 1048 while she was engaged in rescue work. Euro tried to tow the stricken ship to safety, but Libeccio broke in two and sank shortly after.

This battle was one of the most complete victories won by the British during the war. They were out numbered and outgunned by the escort, but application of superior doctrine and technology along with good fortune and surprise gave them the edge. Both Brivonesi and Bisciani were relieved, although Brivonesi was subsequently returned to command.

jainso31
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 29-06-2014, 02:14
Paul C.'s Avatar
Paul C. Paul C. is offline
Lieutenant
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Jamaica
Posts: 285
Default Re: Battle of the Duisburg Convoy (8-9 November 1941)

Well...sometimes it's good when you don't know what you're really facing!

I wonder how Agnew would have conducted his attack if he had known that two Italian heavy cruisers were on the scene. The same brilliant game of hide and seek? Or would he have been more cautious?

In this case ignorance was bliss and the result was indeed stunning!

BTW, not sure if there are any ship model enthusiasts here, but we should have a 1/700 scale model of Aurora available in plastic in the near future. Flyhawk models will be doing one although it may be in her post-war configuration as Chung King.

Well done Bill!
__________________

Paul
Reply With Quote
Reply



Ship Search by Name : Advanced Search
Random Timeline Entry : 25th January 1940 : HMS Hotspur : Sailed Sullom Voe to search for survivors East of Orkney

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
HMS Prince of Wales Battleship 1941-1941 The Sailor Royal Navy Ships and Crews 186 12-12-2016 14:42
Taranto - 11th November 1940 qprdave Battles and Events 40 29-01-2016 12:43
HMS Exeter: Escort to Convoy WS8B 1941 Ken W Member Articles 25 22-11-2012 21:58
Battle of the Tarigo Convoy-April 15th & 16th 1941. astraltrader Battles and Events 23 27-06-2012 21:09
Lazaretto November 1942 Gerard Peels Royal Navy Ships and Crews 8 25-12-2010 12:02


All times are GMT. The time now is 10:46.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.6.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.