Warspite's Very Long Range Shot at Battle of Calabria

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aurora
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Warspite's Very Long Range Shot at Battle of Calabria

Postby aurora » Tue Jul 28, 2015 6:37 pm

Vice Admiral Cunningham's fleet steamed toward Taranto, in order to cut Italian's return route and at noon on 9 July the two fleets were 90 miles apart. Cunningham could not close the distance to engage with the significantly slower Royal Sovereign and Malaya (18 knots vs 28 knots) and took Warspite in on its own. The Italian Supreme Command had planned to keep the action close to Italy and were deliberately moving north in order to draw the Allies closer to their airbases. By 14:00, however, Cunningham's plans to cut off the Italian fleet from Taranto had succeeded.
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The Allied cruiser group was spread out in front of Warspite and at 15:15 they caught sight of the Italian main battle force and the two groups opened fire at 21,500 meters (23,512 yds). Splinters from a 6" (152mm) shell fired by the cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi hit HMS Neptune, damaging her catapult and the reconnaissance aircraft beyond repair. Vice Admiral John Tovey decided to disengage and by 15:30 fire ceased.
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Shortly, the Italian commander decided to take on Warspite, and started moving his two battleships into position. At 15:52 Giulio Cesare opened fire at a range of 26,400 metres (28,871 yds). Conte di Cavour had been assigned to Malaya and Royal Sovereign, which were further back and did not enter the engagement.
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At 15:59 two shells from Giulio Cesare fell very close to Warspite. Almost immediately after one of Warspite's 15" (381 mm) rounds hit the rear deck of Giulio Cesare, setting off the stored ammunition for one of her 37 mm anti-aircraft guns. Two seamen were killed and several wounded. The fumes from the burning ammunition were sucked down into the engine room, which had to evacuate and shut down half of the boilers. Giulio Cesare's speed quickly fell off to 18 knots and Conte di Cavour took over. Giulio Cesare and Warspite were over 24,000 metres (26,000 yards) apart at the time of the hit, which was one of the longest-range naval artillery hits in history.
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At 16:01 the Italian destroyers generated smoke and the battleships got under cover. There is some debate about this point today, the Allied position being that the battleships were leaving battle, the Italian that they were attempting to make a torpedo attack with their destroyers from within the smoke.
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Battle continued whith cruisers firing at each other and long range torpedo attacks with destroyers. The battle ended at 16:50 with both sides withdrawing. Both sides claimed victory, but in fact the battle was a draw and everyone returned to their bases as soon as possible. After the battle the Allies claimed to have achieved some sort of "moral ascendancy" over the Italian Navy; conversely, the Italian propaganda depicted the clash as a victory of their own.

Luck or good Shooting.????

aurora
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Re: Warspite's Very Long Range Shot at Battle of Calabria

Postby tommy303 » Tue Jul 28, 2015 10:32 pm

A bit of both, I would say: good shooting acquired the target, but it was to a measure luck which got the hit as 26000 yards was somewhat in excess of Warspite's most practical range to engage.

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Re: Warspite's Very Long Range Shot at Battle of Calabria

Postby Mostlyharmless » Tue Jul 28, 2015 10:33 pm

Good shooting gets straddles, good luck brings hits.

However, note that the RM had obviously not practised two ships firing at the same target as demonstrated by Hood and Prince of Wales at Denmark Straits (OK, even such superb skill cannot always win). If Giulio Cesare and Conte di Cavour had been firing at Warspite, naturally timing their salvos so that the fall of each ship's shells could be easily distinguished, their chances of hitting first would have roughly doubled.

The other RM weakness may have been that their salvos had a wider spread than British or German salvos.

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Re: Warspite's Very Long Range Shot at Battle of Calabria

Postby aurora » Wed Jul 29, 2015 9:35 am

"At 15:59 two shells from Giulio Cesare fell very close to Warspite. Almost immediately after one of Warspite's 15" (381 mm) rounds hit the rear deck of Giulio Cesare, setting off the stored ammunition for one of her 37 mm anti-aircraft guns."

I agree with "straddling is good shooting" and "a hit is fortunate." However the accuracy of Italian main armament guns did need some attention-their spread of shot was too widely dispersed;,but this action had been decided by the quality of RN gunnery. Warspite's hit may well have been lucky-there was also the effective salvo from Neptune which hit Bolzano thrice-the Italian Fleet retired.

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Re: Warspite's Very Long Range Shot at Battle of Calabria

Postby pgollin » Wed Jul 29, 2015 10:04 am

.

The RN always regarded hits out at that range as "lucky" (However, "lucky hits" were part of its documentation). The RN, however, wanted consistent and heavy hitting, not "lucky" hits. The Fighting Instructions encouraged opening fire on approaching enemy at as long a range as possible as a way of putting pressure on enemy commanders and gun director crew, but they did not expect decisive results except in exceptional circumstances.

As for the result of the engagement, Aurora I think you have been reading the Italian revisionists again

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Re: Warspite's Very Long Range Shot at Battle of Calabria

Postby alecsandros » Wed Jul 29, 2015 11:13 am

aurora wrote:"At 15:59 two shells from Giulio Cesare fell very close to Warspite. Almost immediately after one of Warspite's 15" (381 mm) rounds hit the rear deck of Giulio Cesare, setting off the stored ammunition for one of her 37 mm anti-aircraft guns."

I agree with "straddling is good shooting" and "a hit is fortunate." However the accuracy of Italian main armament guns did need some attention-their spread of shot was too widely dispersed;,but this action had been decided by the quality of RN gunnery. Warspite's hit may well have been lucky-there was also the effective salvo from Neptune which hit Bolzano thrice-the Italian Fleet retired.

aurora

Didn't one of Caesare's salvos cause splinter damage to one RN destroyer ?

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Re: Warspite's Very Long Range Shot at Battle of Calabria

Postby aurora » Wed Jul 29, 2015 12:58 pm

Not that I am aware of alecsandros-the only RN ship damaged in this action was Gloucester-hit by bomb or bombs-she had to retire.

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Re: Warspite's Very Long Range Shot at Battle of Calabria

Postby alecsandros » Thu Jul 30, 2015 5:36 am

aurora wrote:Not that I am aware of alecsandros-the only RN ship damaged in this action was Gloucester-hit by bomb or bombs-she had to retire.

aurora

Found some info , but don't know how good it is:

"At 1552, Italian battleship Giulio Cesare moved within 26,400m to Warspite and commenced firing. Battleship Conte di Cavour was told to hold fire to give Giulio Cesare's spotters an easier time; while that might had been accomplished, it also decreased the Italian fleet's firepower in half. One of Giulio Cesare's shells landed long and exploded near destroyers Hereward and Decoy, damaging them. At 1554, the slower British battleship Malaya caught up and joined the battle. After Giulio Cesare fired two near-misses, she was hit on the rear deck by Warspite's 381mm shell. The hit set off anti-aircraft ammunition, forcing half the boilers to shut down as a precaution, and the speed dropped to 18 knots as a result. "

from here:

http://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=94

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Re: Warspite's Very Long Range Shot at Battle of Calabria

Postby aurora » Thu Jul 30, 2015 7:48 am

Hi alecsandros-it would seem that you may well be right-both ships you mention are shown in a book of mine as having suffered D1 damage-splinter damage presumably. :ok:

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