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Raid on Souda Bay

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Title: Raid on Souda Bay  
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Raid on Souda Bay

Sinking of HMS York (1941)
Part of the Battle of the Mediterranean of World War II
HMS York's hull boarded by the Italian Torpedo Boat Sirio
Date 26 March 1941
Location Souda Bay, Mediterranean Sea
Result Italian victory
 United Kingdom  Italy
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Capt. Reginald Henry Portal, DSC, RN Kingdom of Italy Lieutenant Luigi Faggioni
Fleet in harbour 2 destroyers
6 motor assault boats
Casualties and losses
1 heavy cruiser
1 tanker
2 killed
6 prisoners

The Raid on Souda Bay was an Italian Navy's small craft assault on Souda Bay, Crete, during the first hours of 26 March 1941. The Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS York and the Norwegian tanker Pericles were disabled by Italian motor launches and eventually lost.


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. [1] Air recce had spotted a number of naval and auxiliary steamers at anchor in Souda Bay, Crete.

On 25 March 1941, the Italian destroyers Crispi and Sella departed from Leros island in the Aegean at night, each one carrying three 2 long tons (2.0 t) motor assault boats of the Decima Flottiglia MAS known as Motoscafo da Turismo (MT).[2] Each MT (nicknamed barchini: "little boats") carried a 300 kg (660 lb) explosive charge inside their bow.[3] The MTs were specially equipped to make their way through obstacles such as torpedo nets. The pilot would steer the assault craft on a collision course at his target ship, and then would jump from his boat before impact and warhead detonation.[4]

The attack

At 23:30, the MT were released by the destroyers 10 mi (8.7 nmi; 16 km) off Souda. Once inside the bay, the six boats, under the command of Lieutenant Luigi Faggioni, identified their targets: the heavy cruiser HMS York, a large tanker (the Norwegian Pericles of 8,300 long tons (8,400 t)), another tanker and a cargo ship.[4] At 4:46, two MTs hit HMS York amidships, flooding her aft boilers and magazines, and the ship was beached by her own crew to avoid capsizing.[5] Two seamen were killed by the explosions.[6] 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.[7] According to British reports, the other barchini apparently missed their intended targets, and one of them ended stranded on the beach.[8] The anti-aircraft guns of the base opened fire randomly, believing that the base was under air attack.[9]

All six of the Italian seamen, Luigi Faggioni, Alessio de Vito, Emilio Barberi, Angelo Cabrini, Tullio Tedeschi and Lino Beccati, were captured.


HMS York was disabled. After a salvage operation involving a submarine dispatched from Alexandria was abandoned, she was wrecked with demolition charges by her crew before the German capture of Crete,[10] while Pericles, taken in tow by destroyers, sank on 14 April 1941 en route to Alexandria during a gale.[11]

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.[12]

After the war, the hull of HMS York was towed to Bari and scrapped there by an Italian shipbreaker in March 1952.[13]



  • "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 1-86176-057-4
  • "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 0-405-13031-7
  • The Italian Navy in World War II by Sadkovich, James, Greenwood Press, Westport, 1994. ISBN 0-313-28797-X

External links

  • "Attack to Suda Bay" - (English)
  • HMS York at
  • HMS York at Naval History.Net

Coordinates: 35°29′0″N 24°08′17″E / 35.48333°N 24.13806°E / 35.48333; 24.13806

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