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Battle of the Tarigo Convoy
Part of the Battle of the Mediterranean of World War II
File:RM Lampo at full speed.jpg
Destroyer Lampo, sunk in the battle and later salvaged by the Italian Navy
Date16 April 1941
LocationMediterranean Sea off the Kerkennah Islands, Tunisia
Result British victory
 United Kingdom  Kingdom of Italy
Commanders and leaders
Captain Philip Mack Captain Pietro de Cristofaro
4 destroyers 3 destroyers
Casualties and losses
1 destroyer sunk
43 dead
2 destroyers sunk
1 destroyer heavy damaged
5 cargo ships sunk
350-1,800 dead

The Battle of the Tarigo Convoy (sometimes referred to as the "Action off Sfax") was fought on 16 April 1941, between four British and three Italian destroyers during the Battle of the Mediterranean of World War II. The battle was named after the Italian flagship, the Navigatori class destroyer, Luca Tarigo; it took place near the Kerkennah Islands off the Tunisian coast.

Control of the sea between Italy and Libya was heavily disputed as both sides sought to safeguard their own convoys while interdicting those of their opponent. Axis convoys to North Africa were critical to the resupply and reinforcement of the German and Italian armies and British attacks were based on Malta, itself dependent upon convoys.

The Battle

In mid-April, 1941, a five ship convoy sailed from Naples, en route to Tripoli. It consisted of four German troopships (Adana, Arta, Aegina and Iserlhon) and an Italian ammunition ship, the Sabaudia. The convoy was escorted by a Navigatori class destroyer, Luca Tarigo (flagship) and two Folgore class destroyers, Baleno and Lampo, commanded by Captain Pietro de Cristofaro. They were delayed by bad weather, sailing in the evening of 13 April.

The British had been forewarned of their passage by intercepted messages and, on the 15th, the convoy was sighted and shadowed by a British Maryland reconnaissance plane on the 15th Aptil. Two Italian SM.79s that were ordered to provide air cover did not arrive, due to the continuing bad weather. On the night of the 16th, the convoy was intercepted by the British 14th Destroyer Flotilla - HMS Jervis (flagship), HMS Janus, HMS Nubian and HMS Mohawk - commanded by Captain Philip Mack. At least three of these destroyers were equipped with radar.[1] The encounter took place as the Italian convoy maneuvered around the shallow waters surrounding the Kerkennah Islands.

The Italian convoy was ambushed by the British force after passing off one of the buoys marking the sandbanks nearby. The battle took place at short range, from 2000 to 50 yards between the warships. The British destroyers' radar enabled them to surprise the Italians in a night attack and destroy the convoy, sinking all the transports and the three destroyers (although the Lampo was run aground and later salvaged after a four month effort). The flotilla commander, Captain de Cristofaro, on board the Tarigo, had his leg shot off and later died of his wounds; he was posthumously awarded the Medaglia d'Oro (the highest Italian military decoration). While sinking, the Tarigo, now under the command of the only surviving officer, Ensign Ettore Bisagno, hit HMS Mohawk with two torpedoes. Mohawk was subsequently scuttled by HMS Jervis and settled on the sandy bottom at a depth of 12 mt. The outcome of the battle marked the end of the relatively unopposed Axis transport to Libya, which they had enjoyed since June 1940.[2]


The Italian maritime command in Libya immediately organised a rescue operation which involved the destroyers Malocello, Da Noli, Vivaldi and Dardo; the torpedo boats Centauro, Clio, Partenope, Perseus and Sirtori, seaplane carrier Orlando, the hospital ship Arno and steamers Antonietta Lauro and Capacitas . A total of 1271 Survivors were recovered of about 3000 men on board

During April, May and June 1941, Italian divers, disguised as local fishermen, made two attempts to retrieve whatever they could from the Mohawk. Recent sources[3] assert that documents recovered were essential to the later, successful Italian attack on Alexandria.

The destroyer Lampo was salvaged from the shallow water and repaired by May 1942, she was sunk on 30 April 1943

Axis casualties are variously reported as 350, 700 and 1800 men; British losses were 43.


  1. D'Adamo, citing Derek Howse's Radar at Sea
  2. Greene & Massignani, pp. 163-164
  3. Greene & Massignani, p. 164


  • J Green & A Massignani - The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1940-1943, Chatham Publishing 1998 - ISBN 1-86176-057-4

Coordinates: 35°9′27.13″N 11°30′49.22″E / 35.1575361°N 11.5136722°E / 35.1575361; 11.5136722

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