Monday, May 18, 2015

Liberation of Dalmatia

Tito coming out of his HQ, Vis island,1944.

British naval forces in the Middle East operating in the Adriatic Sea were under the command of the Flag Officer Taranto and Adriatic & Liaison with the Italians (F.O.T.A.L.I). All the naval forces were controlled from Taranto and operated in close coordination with the Coastal attack operations conducted by the BAF. The Yugoslavs used the units in the British navy to transport materials and men, but especially to make landings on the islands of Dalmatia to liberate them from German occupation.

During the Vis period, Partisans carried out several seaborne landings on Dalmatian islands with help of Royal Navy and Commandos:

    Šolta - Operation DETAINED
    Hvar - Operation ENDOWMENT
    Mljet - Operation FARRIER
    Brač - Operation FLOUNCED

The French Navy was involved as well in the first half of 1944, with the 10th Division of Light Cruisers made up of three Fantansque-class destroyers (Le Fantasque, Le Terrible, Le Malin) making high speed sweeps in the Adriatic, destroying German convoys.

In the second half of 1944 the Royal Navy sent a destroyer flotilla in the Adriatic. The biggest engagement happened on 1 November, when two Hunt-class destroyers HMS Avon Vale and Wheatland were patrolling the coastal shipping routes south of Lussino in the Adriatic. That evening, two enemy corvettes were sighted; UJ-202 and UJ-208. The two destroyers opened fire at a range of 4,000 yd (3,700 m). In less than 10 minutes, the enemy ships were reduced to mere scrap, the two British ships were circling the enemy and pouring out a devastating fire of pom-pom and small calibre gunfire. When the first corvette was sunk Avon Vale closed to rescue the Germans while Wheatland continued to shoot up the second corvette which eventually blew up. Ten minutes later, the British came under fire from the German Torpedoboot Ausland destroyer TA-20 (ex-Italian destroyer Audace) which suddenly appeared on the scene. When the two British ships directed their fire at her and the enemy destroyer was sunk. But while the Adriatic campaign continued to the end of the war, the Hunts did not again engage large German warships, although the German Navy was constantly launching and commissioning light destroyer types from the yards of Trieste and Fiume. Moreover, on 14 December, HMS Aldenham struck a mine around the island of Škrda and it was the last British destroyer lost in World War II.

To prevent entrance to North Adriatic in last two years of Second World War, Germans spread thousands mines and blocked all ports and canals, Many of underwater mine fields has been situated at the open sea. Mine sweeping was executed by Britain ships equipped with special mine-sweep technology. On 5 May 1945, the Shakespeare-class trawler HMS Coriolanus hit a mine while it was sweeping the sea in front of Novigrad.

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