Читать онлайн "Torpedo: The Complete History of the World's Most Revolutionary Naval Weapon" автора Branfill-Cook Roger - RuLit - Страница 72

 
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Rizzo making good his escape (from a period postcard).

On the evening of 9 June 1918, MAS 15 and MAS 21 left Ancona under the command of Luigi Rizzo on board MAS 15, towed by two steam torpedo boats to save fuel. Their mission was to search out valuable torpedo targets of opportunity in Dalmatian inshore waters. After finding none, Rizzo led the two boats back to their rendezvous point with the torpedo boats, but at 0315 he spotted smoke, which turned out to be the Austro-Hungarian battleships and their escorts. Avoiding the escort screen, he launched his two torpedoes at 0325 at some 800m (875yds) range. Both hit the Szent István amidships at the point where a bulkhead divided off her forward and aft boiler rooms. MAS 21 launched at Tegetthoff but missed. While the stricken dreadnought came to a stop and began to list, Rizzo accelerated, and escaped the pursuing torpedo boat № 76 by dropping depth charges.

On board Szent István the crew attempted to rig collision mats over the torpedo holes, and began to counter-flood to reduce the list. Gradually, however, the forward boiler room flooded, and she lost power to her pumps. The list inexorably increased and at 0605 she capsized. 1005 men were saved by escorts, but 89 were drowned.

A film crew was on board the Tegetthoff to record the intended successful sortie, and together with Linienschiffsleutnant Josef Meusberger, who was a film enthusiast, they shot two movie films of the disaster. Spliced together, it was later sold in the USA. Along with the newsreel of HMS Barham capsizing, it forms a rare record of the sinking of a dreadnought. Both the Szent István and the Barham movies are often misused in documentaries to represent some other dreadnought disaster.

MAS 15 is still in existence today, preserved as a monument in the Museo del Risorgimento beneath the Victor Emmanuel monument in Rome. By a twist of fate, the two torpedoes used by Rizzo to sink Szent István had been made in 1906 in the Whitehead factory in Fiume just a few kilometres away from the Gantz & Co Danubius shipyard where Szent István was launched eight years later. The two torpedoes had been exported to Italy, and their individual torpedo record sheets included with Rizzo’s action report, preserved in the Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare in Rome under Dossier Ref 1211, give the following details:

№ 1, Batch Number A.90/450 × 4,83m = 150kg = Production Number 9235.

Produced by Whitehead Fiume in 1906. Last check in March 1917 and regulated for 1200m run at a depth of 2m.

№ 2, Batch Number A.90/450 × 4,83m = 150kg = Production Number 9252.

Produced by Whitehead Fiume in 1906. Last check in March 1917 and regulated for 1200m run at a depth of 2m.

[Where ‘450’ is the calibre in mm, ‘4,83m’ the length, and ‘150’ the explosive payload. Details thanks to Erwin F Sieche.]

Two clips from the combined cine films of the capsize.

CHAPTER 22

The Second World War — The North Sea, Mediterranean and Atlantic

BALEARES: A REHEARSAL

The tragic Spanish Civil War was used by the Germans, Italians and Russians as a proving ground for the weapons systems they would use in the coming world war. Compared with the ferocious land and aerial combats, naval engagements were few and far between, due to the small size of the Nationalist fleet. The Nationalists did, however, hold two ace cards, in the heavy cruisers Canarias and Baleares.

Designed as a modified version of the Royal Navy’s ‘County’-class heavy cruisers by Sir Philip Watts, the Canarias class displaced 13,280 tons at full load, were armed with eight 8in and eight 4.7in guns, and were originally designed to carry twelve 21in torpedo tubes. Their 90,000shp turbines drove them at 33 knots.

In an action which in some ways was a rehearsal for the Second World War, Baleares was sunk during the Battle of Cape Palos on 6 March 1938. In a night-time action in company with Canarias, she intercepted a Republican force comprising the cruisers Libertad, Méndez Núñez and five destroyers. Unfortunately, Admiral Vierna on Baleares made the error of firing star-shell which gave away the position of his ship. Republican destroyers launched torpedoes, and at least two, and possibly three, from the Lepanto struck Baleares abreast the forward turrets.

Her forward magazines exploded, Baleares went dead in the water, enveloped in flames from bow to stern, and then sank with the loss of some seven hundred of her crew. Survivors were rescued by two British destroyers on neutrality patrol. The sinking of Baleares foreshadowed the losses the US Navy would experience when their heavy cruisers went up against Japanese destroyers during the Guadalcanal night encounters.

HMS OXLEY: BLUE-ON-BLUE

When snap decisions were taken where the shooter was unable to verify the target’s identity, this would always represent a certain risk. RN submariners relied on staying within their designated patrol area. Any boat then seen was virtually certain to be enemy. But sometimes the system would break down…

On 10 September 1939, just a week after Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, the ‘O’-class submarine HMS Oxley (commanded by Lt Cdr Harold Godfrey Bowerman, RN) was torpedoed in error by submarine HMS Triton (Lt Cdr H P De C Steele, RN) some 28 nautical miles south-southwest of Stavanger. Just two survivors from her crew of fifty-five were picked up by Triton. At the subsequent Board of Enquiry, Lieutenant Commander Steele gave the following testimony:

I surfaced at about 5 minutes to eight on the evening of 10th September and fixed the position of the ship Obrestad Light 067°, Kvassiem Light 110°. That position put me slightly west and south of my patrol billet which was No. 5. My intention for the night was to patrol to the southward on a mean course of 190° and in order to get on that line I steered 170° zigzagging 30°, 15° each side of the mean course at about three to four knots, slow on one engine, charging on the other. The submarine was trimmed down. [….]

Baleares, showing the two boiler uptakes trunked into one, which together with her streamlined tower bridge gave her a much more modern appearance than the three separate funnels and platform bridgework of the British County-class ships.
HMS Oxley seen pre-war. She became the first Royal Navy warship to be lost in the Second World War.

Shortly before nine o’clock I was in the control room and there was a message from the bridge: Captain on the bridge immediately. I went straight up. The night was dark and there was a slight drizzle and I could see nothing except the shore lights. The Officer of the Watch informed me that there was a submarine fine on the port bow which for the moment I could not see. The ship was swinging to starboard and the officer of the watch was in charge. The signalman was sent for. In fact I am not certain whether he followed me up. I then made out through binoculars an object very fine on the port bow and I gave orders for the bow external tubes to stand by — Nos. 7 and 8 tubes.

     

 

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