Daily Event for September 8, 2009

Small destroyers from all navies served as convoy escorts during the Second World War, this was vital work done on small ships that were tossed about on heavy seas, by brave and tough men young and old. Enough can not be said about those who served in the destroyers of World War II. One such destroyer was HMS Croome L-62 a 1,070 ton Hunt class (Type 2) escort destroyer of the Royal Navy built in 1941. She finished her trials and joined the 12th Escort Group in August of 1942, by September she was out in the Atlantic and found herself in action.

Croome, under the command of Lt. Cdr. John D. Hayes, escorted convoy HG-72, bound from Gibraltar to Liverpool as far as ordered then detached and headed for his next convoy. Hayes was to meet up with OG-73 which was heading to Gibraltar, he expected to join the convoy the morning of Sept. 8, 1942, but before Hayes located the convoy, one of his lookouts located a target.

The Italian submarine Maggiore Baracca, was seen on the surface, but submerged in a hurry after spotting Croome. She was under the command of Tenente di vascello (Lieutenant) Giorgio Viani, and had departed Bordeaux, France only a few days before, he was headed for a patrol off Gibraltar. While the area approaching Gibraltar was a rich area for the right submarine commander, the area was also well defended and posed a great danger to the submarine and its crew.

Hayes changed course and headed for the submarine, when he got to the area he dropped a pattern of depth charges, with no visible result so a second pattern was dropped which caused the submarine to surface. She came up astern of Croome and was immediately taken under fire from the guns on board the destroyer. The Italians opened fire on Croome with their deck gun, but it was soon knocked out of action by the gunners on Croome. There was no option but to abandon ship, and while this was in progress, Hayes lined up and rammed the submarine sending her to the bottom, without question.

The Maggiore Baracca sank about midway between the Azores and Portugal, twenty-eight men were lost in the action, Giorgio Viani and thirty-one of his crew were picked up by Croome and taken POW. Croome was damaged, but made Gibraltar under her own power, she was out of action until October. Lt. Cdr. Hayes was awarded the D.S.O., three others were also decorated, Act./Sub Lt. H. L. Harvey with the D.S.C., Able Seaman A. Skea and Ordinary Seaman W. Brown both received the D.S.M. Croome survived the war and was scrapped in 1957.
© 2009 Michael W. Pocock

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