Otranto Strait Battle (May, 15, 1917)

Forcing the Barrage


The famous Barrage of Otranto (Authors' map)

The strait of Otranto, between Corfu and Brindisi, which is the passage from the Adriatic to the Mediterranean, was about 100 km wide and "closed" during the war by the famous "Otranto dam". In reality the latter, designed by the British Navy with reduced resources, was not very effective, especially against submersibles. It included about 50 armed trawlers with Wireless radio that were to warn nearby bases, sending on-site ships from Brindisi in the matter of minutes. Austria-Hungary, for its part, never stopped raiding the "dam". The few trawlers available on such a large area made monitoring difficult, leaving large gaps open in the area.



The defense was also helped by channeling ships via minefields laid near the coast, most of them anchored at 20 meters deep. Also trawlers laying large steel nets supposed to warn them of the passage of the submersibles were placed in several nevralgic points. It is estimated, however, that in bad weather and at night the entire Austro-Hungarian fleet could have passed quietly through and seriously threatened the convoys, especially to the Dardanelles. Fortunately for the allies this situation never took place, and only submersibles passed from time to time (the U6 was the only captured).


A Cruiser of the Admiral Spaun class, which resembled Tatra class destroyers, and were maskeraded to look even closer

Austro-Hungarian May sortie

In fact, the few really active Austro-Hungarian units were squadrons usually consisting of a light Admiral Spaun class cruiser and several destroyers or torpedo boats. More than 30 sorties were made in four years of war, most of them without results. They degenerated very rarely, into more than skirmishes with one exception: The battle of May 15, 1917. On the 14th, the Austro-Hungarian flotilla commanded by Captain Miklos Horty, future chief admiral of the fleet and later Hungarian famous statesman, sailed from Cattaro for yet another raid on the dam, in order to attack the lines of surveillance. This flotilla consisted this time of three light cruisers of the Spaun class, repainted and maskeraded as destroyers helped by a silhouette recalling the the Tatra, and expected to play on this resemblance to the full. They were accompanied by two modern destroyers (Czepel and Balaton) and three U-Bootes.


SMS Novara photo when steaming towards Otranto

The two fleets met

In the middle of the night, the squadron was covering out an ammunition transport escorted by an Italian destroyer, and both were sent to the bottom. From then on, they rampaged as planned the line for two hours, from 3:30 to 5:30, destroying or bdly damaging all monitoring trawlers, two of 14 sinking on site, the other being reduced to burning wrecks. The warning was given, and the Anglo-Italian-French Combined Squadron at Brindisi under the command of the Italian Admiral Alfredo Acton, sailed immediately to intercept Horty's ships before their retreat. The meeting took place under the watchful eye of allied surveillance seaplanes in the area. At the head of the allied squadron were the cruisers HMS Dartmouth and Bristol, and four Italian destroyers led by the Aquila. At about 7.45, they were able to see the Austro-Hungarian ships heading north, but the interception of Horty's squadron proved a failure because of the lack of coordination between allied ships. Only Aquila was badly hit by gunfire, while the rest of fleet escaped. A chase began, full spead ahead and engines overheating. For the British this proved was too intense and two destroyers eventually had to break and reduce speed while the HMS Bristol later also broke off, until only the Dartmouth and two destroyers were still in.


Two of the numerous drifters that became sheeps in the wolf's den with the arrival of the Austro-Hungarian fleet
Eventually they catched SMS Novara, which deck was hit, and eventually her bridge too, one hit destroying it and thal the officers including Horty hismelf died or were wounded. The SMS Saida, also hit, approached to take her in tow, and the Dartmouth could have sank them both if a "miracle" never happened: An Italian plane detected at the same time smoke on the horizon coming from Cattaro. Fearing the reinforcement of heavy units, HMS Dartmouth and her escort stopped the pursuit and turned back. The damaged cruisers joined Cattaro soon after. The Dartmouth was torpedoed on her return by the UC25 (a mine-laying type) but survived, while the French destroyer Boutefeu was blown off by one of the mines layed at the entrance of Brindisi by the very same submersible.

Admiral Horty, badly wounded
Captain Horty, badly wounded after the battle.

SMS Novara damaged
SMS Novara, showing her damage after the battle

Aftermath of the action

Horty, although badly wounded, gained from the action a prestige such that when the mutiny of Cattaro broke out and a change of mind prevailed, he was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral and commander-in-chief of the mutineer's fleet until the armistice. Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya will then raised to new heights in the interwar and became regent and statesman of Hungary up to the end of WW2. When the Otranto defense staff were blamed for their inefficiency, no one could claim to be able to reinforce this line without the appropriate means, which did never met the requirements until the end of 1917 with the US entry into the war and Australian reinforcements. This otranto Barrage needed the contribution of 35 destroyers and 52 trawlers almost continuously.

Therefore the record of this naval action was mixed. HMS Dartmouth and Aquila were out of service for months in dry dock, a transport, an Italian destroyer, and two trawlers were sunk while most of the surveillance trawlers had been put out of action, also for very long, while SMS Helgoland had only been slightly affected, the other two more seriously. Despite this, no new sorties were planned immediately by the Austro-Hungarian admiralty. For the records, there has been another battle of Otranto, this time in November 1940, a minor naval action between Italian and Australian ships.

Read More/Sources
http://www.gwpda.org/naval/j0300001.htm
Map: http://www.gwpda.org/naval/otrantol.gif
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Strait_of_Otranto_(1917)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikl%C3%B3s_Horthy

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WW1

☉ Entente Fleets

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HMS Tiger (1913)
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G3 class (1918)

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Edgar class (1890)
Powerful class (1895)
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WW2

✪ Allied ww2 Fleets

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GMT Evarts class (1942)
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Illustrious class (1939)
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Colossus class (1943)
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Centaur class (started 1944)

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HMS Activity (1941)
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Ameer class (1942)
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Vindex class (1943)

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Shakespeare class (1917)
Scott class (1818)
V class (1917)
S class (1918)
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A/B class (1926)
C/D class (1931)
G/H/I class (1935)
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O/P class (1942)
Q/R class (1942)
S/T/U//V/W class (1942)
Z/ca class (1943)
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Battle class (1945)
Weapon class (1945)

WW2 British submarines
L9 class (1918)
HMS X1 (1923)
Oberon class (1926)
Parthian class (1929)
Rainbow class (1930)
Thames class (1932)
Swordfish class (1932)
HMS Porpoise (1932)
Grampus class (1935)
Shark class (1934)
Triton class (1937)
Undine class (1937)
U class (1940)
S class (1941)
T class (1941)
X-Craft midget (1942)
A class (1944)

WW2 British Amphibious Ships and Landing Crafts
LSI(L) class
LSI(M/S) class
LSI(H) class
LSS class
LSG class
LSC class
Boxer class LST

LST(2) class
LST(3) class
LSH(L) class
LSF classes (all)
LCI(S) class
LCS(L2) class
LCT(I) class
LCT(2) class
LCT(R) class
LCT(3) class
LCT(4) class
LCT(8) class
LCT(4) class
LCG(L)(4) class
LCG(M)(1) class

British ww2 Landing Crafts
LCA
LCP
LCM

WW2 British MTB/gunboats.
WW2 British MTBs
MTB-1 class (1936)
MTB-24 class (1939)
MTB-41 class (1940)
MTB-424 class (1944)
MTB-601 class (1942)
MA/SB class (1938)
MTB-412 class (1942)
MGB 6 class (1939)
MGB-47 class (1940)
MGB 321 (1941)
MGB 501 class (1942)
MGB 511 class (1944)
MGB 601 class (1942)
MGB 2001 class (1943)

WW2 British Gunboats

Denny class (1941)
Fairmile A (1940)
Fairmile B (1940)
HDML class (1940)

WW2 British Sloops
Bridgewater class (2090)
Hastings class (1930)
Shoreham class (1930)
Grimsby class (1934)
Bittern class (1937)
Egret class (1938)
Black Swan class (1939)

WW2 British Frigates
River class (1943)
Loch class (1944)
Bay class (1944)

WW2 British Corvettes
Kingfisher class (1935)
Shearwater class (1939)
Flower class (1940)
Mod. Flower class (1942)
Castle class (1943)

WW2 British Misc.
WW2 British Monitors
Roberts class monitors (1941)
Halcyon class minesweepers (1933)
Bangor class minesweepers (1940)
Bathurst class minesweepers (1940)
Algerine class minesweepers (1941)
Motor Minesweepers (1937)
ww2 British ASW trawlers
Basset class trawlers (1935)
Tree class trawlers (1939)
HMS Albatross seaplane carrier
WW2 British river gunboats

HMS Guardian netlayer
HMS Protector netlayer
HMS Plover coastal mines.
Medway class sub depot ships
HMS Resource fleet repair
HMS Woolwhich DD depot ship
HMS Tyne DD depot ship
Maidstone class sub depot ships
HmS Adamant sub depot ship

Athene class aircraft transport
British ww2 AMCs
British ww2 OBVs
British ww2 ABVs
British ww2 Convoy Escorts
British ww2 APVs
British ww2 SSVs
British ww2 SGAVs
British ww2 Auxiliary Mines.
British ww2 CAAAVs
British ww2 Paddle Mines.
British ww2 MDVs
British ww2 Auxiliary Minelayers
British ww2 armed yachts

✙ Axis ww2 Fleets

Japan ww2 Imperial Japanese Navy
WW2 Japanese Battleships
Kongō class Fast Battleships (1912)
Fuso class battleships (1915)
Ise class battleships (1917)
Nagato class Battleships (1919)
Yamato class Battleships (1941)
B41 class Battleships (project)

WW2 Japanese cruisers
Tenryū class cruisers (1918)
Kuma class cruisers (1919)
Nagara class (1920)
Sendai class Cruisers (1923)
IJN Yūbari (1923)
Furutaka class Cruisers (1925)
Aoba class heavy cruisers (1926)
Nachi class Cruisers (1927)
Takao class cruisers (1930)
Mogami class cruisers (1932)
Tone class cruisers (1937)
Katori class cruisers (1939)
Agano class cruisers (1941)
Oyodo (1943)

Seaplane & Aircraft Carriers
Hōshō (1921)
IJN Akagi (1925)
IJN Kaga (1927)
IJN Ryujo (1931)
IJN Soryu (1935)
IJN Hiryu (1937)
Shokaku class (1937)
Zuiho class (1936) comp.40
Ruyho (1933) comp.42
Junyo class (1941)
IJN Taiho (1943)
Chitose class (comp. 1943)
IJN Shinano (1944)
Unryu class (1944)
IJN Ibuki (1942)

Taiyo class (1940)
IJN Kaiyo (1938)
IJN Shinyo (1934)

Notoro (1920)
Kamoi (1922)
Chitose class (1936)
Mizuho (1938)
Nisshin (1939)

IJN Aux. Seaplane tenders
Akistushima (1941)
Shimane Maru class (1944)
Yamashiro Maru class (1944)

Imperial Japanese Navy Aviation

WW2 Japanese Destroyers
Mutsuki class (1925)
Fubuki class (1927)
Akatsuki class (1932)
Hatsuharu class (1932)
Shiratsuyu class (1935)
Asashio class (1936)
Kagero class (1938)
Yugumo class (1941)
Akitsuki class (1941)
IJN Shimakaze (1942)

WW2 Japanese Submarines
KD1 class (1921)
Koryu class
Kaiten class
Kairyu class
IJN Midget subs

WW2 Japanese Amphibious ships/Crafts
Shinshu Maru class (1935)
Akistu Maru class (1941)
Kumano Maru class (1944)
SS class LS (1942)
T1 class LS (1944)
T101 class LS (1944)
T103 class LS (1944)
Shohatsu class LC (1941)
Chuhatsu class LC (1942)
Moku Daihatsu class (1942)
Toku Daihatsu class (1944)

WW2 Japanese minelayers
IJN Armed Merchant Cruisers
WW2 Japanese Escorts
Tomozuru class (1933)
Otori class (1935)
Matsu class (1944)
Tachibana class (1944)
Ioshima class (1944)
WW2 Japanese Sub-chasers
WW2 Japanese MLs
Shinyo class SB

⚑ Neutral

Armada de Argentina Argentinian Navy

Rivadavia class Battleships
Cruiser La Argentina
Veinticinco de Mayo class cruisers
Argentinian Destroyers
Santa Fe class sub. Bouchard class minesweepers King class patrol vessels

Marinha do Brasil Brazilian Navy

Minas Gerais class Battleships (1912)
Cruiser Bahia
Brazilian Destroyers
Humaita class sub.
Tupi class sub.

Armada de Chile Armada de Chile

Almirante Latorre class battleships
Cruiser Esmeralda (1896)
Cruiser Chacabuco (1911)
Chilean DDs
Fresia class subs
Capitan O’Brien class subs

Søværnet Danish Navy

Niels Juel
Danish ww2 Torpedo-Boats Danish ww2 submarines Danish ww2 minelayer/sweepers

Merivoimat Finnish Navy

Coastal BB Ilmarinen
Finnish ww2 submarines
Finnish ww2 minelayers

Nautiko Hellenon Hellenic Navy

Greek ww2 Destroyers
Greek ww2 submarines
Greek ww2 minelayers

Marynarka Vojenna Polish Navy

Polish ww2 Destroyers
Polish ww2 cruisers
Polish ww2 minelayer/sweepers

Portuguese navy ww2 Portuguese Navy

Douro class DDs
Delfim class sub
Velho class gb
Albuquerque class gb
Nunes class sloops

Romanian Navy Romanian Navy

Romanian ww2 Destroyers
Romanian ww2 Submarines

Royal Norwegian Navy Sjøforsvaret

Norwegian ww2 Torpedo-Boats

Spanish Armada Spanish Armada

España class Battleships
Blas de Lezo class cruisers
Canarias class cruisers
Cervera class cruisers
Cruiser Navarra
Spanish Destroyers
Spanish Submarines
Dedalo seaplane tender
Spanish Gunboats
Spanish Minelayers

Svenska Marinen Svenska Marinen

Gustav V class BBs (1918)
Interwar swedish BB projects

Tre Kronor class (1943)
Gotland (1933)
Fylgia (1905)

Ehrernskjold class DDs (1926)
Psilander class DDs (1926)
Klas Horn class DDs (1931)
Romulus class DDs (1934)
Göteborg class DDs (1935)
Mode class DDs (1942)
Visby class DDs (1942)
Öland class DDs (1945)

Swedish ww2 TBs
Swedish ww2 Submarines
Swedish ww2 Minelayers
Swedish ww2 MTBs
Swedish ww2 Patrol Vessels
Swedish ww2 Minesweepers

Türk Donanmasi Turkish Navy

Turkish ww2 Destroyers
Turkish ww2 submarines

Royal Yugoslav Navy Royal Yugoslav Navy

Dubrovnik class DDs
Beograd class DDs
Hrabi class subs

Royal Thai Navy Royal Thai Navy

Taksin class
Ratanakosindra class
Sri Ayuthia class
Puket class
Tachin class
Sinsamudar class sub

minor navies Minor Navies


The Cold War

Royal Navy Royal Navy
Sovietskaya Flota Sovietskiy flot
US Navy USN (1990)


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