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Prince Philip's obituary and the British ships damaged at Cape Matapan

DrG

Member
I am somewhat surprised to see that apparently nobody in the English-speaking world has noticed that Prince Philip's obituaries (for example https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/ar...bute-highlights-role-Battle-Cape-Matapan.html or https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/...-role-in-battle-of-cape-matapan-40293302.html) have finally given the due credit to the Italian sailors of the Zara who went on firing with their 37 mm weapons, while their cruiser was sinking under the fire of 15" guns, during British attack on the Italian ships in the night action of Cape Matapan. Their fire hit the enemy ships, surely the Valiant, causing damages (especially in the area of the searchlights, where they were aiming, and where Prince Philip was serving), duly reported in the internal reports to the Admiralty but never acknowledged in any publication. Only Enrico Cernuschi has shed some light on this matter, with his article "I sette dello Zara" published on "Lega Navale", ottobre-novembre 2013, and the correct and honest obituary of a gentleman like Prince Philip finally settles this umpteenth exaple of censorship of Italian damages to British units in WW2.

He was a midshipman aboard HMS Valiant off the southern coast of Greece when he earned his honourable citation.

A young naval officer, he was praised for his actions in the decisive Battle of Cape Matapan against the Italian fleet in March 1941.

Philip had been in control of the searchlights as the ship battled an Italian cruiser when he spotted an unexpected second enemy vessel nearby.

He survived unscathed amid his shattered lights as enemy cannon shell ripped into his position.

His commanding officer said: “Thanks to his alertness and appreciation of the situation, we were able to sink in five minutes two 8in gun Italian cruisers.”

Cernuschi provides a detailed report of this matter in his article "Le due navi del Principe Filippo", Rivista Marittima, maggio 2021: https://www.marina.difesa.it/media-cultura/editoria/marivista/Documents/2021/maggio_2021.pdf
 
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1089maul

Member
DrG,
Very interesting. None of my books make mention of this and if I am honest I didn’t read any of Prince Philip’s obituaries as there was plenty on the TV and radio. I have read that the surviving destroyers launched torpedoes which missed. In addition I did read on the internet somewhere that the Zara aimlessly fired a 40mm (???) gun at the British warships.
Unfortunately, truth is one of the first casualties in any war.
I will reload at my books in time to see if I missed anything.
Regards,
Bob
 

DrG

Member
The 15" shells hit the Italian heavy cruisers damaging their fire control systems and their electrical systems, allowing only the use of the 37 mm AA guns, which were aimed at the searchlights (the only clearly distinguisheable targets in the darkness of the night) of the British battleships, hitting them.
 

1089maul

Member
I have looked at all my books that I have on this engagement and none makes mention of the Zara using her 37mm guns against the British warships. Only the Italian destroyers appear to have launched torpedoes which missed. Coincidentally, one of my books has a forward by Prince Philip and he makes no mention of coming under fire!!
You are absolutely right in that the heavy cruisers lost their electrical systems and were unable to reply with their main or secondary armament. Unfortunately it does not end there. The Regia Marina was outdone by lack of early intelligence which the British had, lack of radar, lack of air support and the inability to engage in night actions with their main armament.
Regards to all,
Bob
 

DrG

Member
The Italian inquiry commission about the sinking of the Zara, which based its work on the interrogation of the survivors, established that one 37 mm AA gun fired against the enemy ships. As usual the British did not confirm this, either during or after the war, despite the fact that their own internal documents acknowledged that their ships had received "A few hits by gunfire" (Report of Med. Intelligence Centre, ADM 223/89, 5 February 1945).
 
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