Daily Event for June 28, 2006

On June 28, 1940 a three ship convoy made up of the Italian Turbine Class destroyers Espero, Ostro and Zeffiro were en route to Benghazi, Lybia from Taranto, Italy with troop reinforcements for Tobruk when they were attacked by the Royal Navy. The British ships, HMS Orion, HMS Neptune, HMS Liverpool, HMS Gloucester and HMAS Sydney ambushed the three Italian destroyers west of Crete with overwhelming gunfire. Out numbered and out gunned, but with no lack of courage, the Italian destroyer Espero, commanded by Capt. Enrico Baroni, opened fire on the British ships.

He used his ship to draw the British fire and to allow the other two ships to escape unharmed. In an action not unlike that of HMS Ardent and HMS Acasta (June 8, 1940), Baroni took on all five ships knowing he had no hope of victory and quite possibly of dying. The gunfire and smoke screen put up by Baroni and his crew kept the British ships concentrated on the Espero, pummeling her with shell after shell. His gamble paid off, not for him, but for the other two ships. They both escaped, however Espero, Capt. Baroni and about 300 others died in the action. HMAS Sydney picked up only 47 survivors. The normal crew of the Espero was 145 (unknown how many were on board when sunk) and she was also carrying 160 troops when she was sunk.

Enrico Baroni was posthumously awarded the Medaglia d' Oro al Valor Militare, Italy's highest military decoration.
© 2006 Michael W. Pocock