Curtatone, the Italian destroyer, was constructed at the shipyard of Cantiere Navale Fratelli Orlando at Livorno in Italy, from 3 January 1920 until 21 June 1923. It cost 8,100,000 Italian Lira to the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina Italiana) and it was the first ship of the destroyer serie Curtatone.
The general technical characteristics of the ship were:
Type: 1923-1938 destroyer (Italian: Cacciatorpediniere), 1938-1941 torpedo boat (Italian: Torpediniera)
Displacement: 953 tones standard/ 1214 tones foul loaded
Length: 84,7 meters
Width: 7,5 meters
Draught: 2,6 meters standard/ 3,06 meters foul loaded
Impulse: 2 steam turbines Zoelly type, moving by 4 Thornycroft generators, with a power of 22.000-27.500 bhp
Target Speed: 30 knots
Autonomy: 1.395 nautical miles with a speed of 10 knots/ 1.800 n.m with a speed of 15 knots/ 390 n.m with a speed of 28 knots
Initial Armament (1923): 4 Schneider-Armstrong firearms of 102/45 mm and 2 Armstrong firearms of 76/30 mm.
Armament in 1940: 4 Schneider-Armstrong firearms of 102/45 mm, 2 Scotti-Isotta Fraschini firearms of 20/77 mm, 2 firearms of 8/80 mm, 6 torpedo tubes of 450 mm and capacity of transfer 16 mines.
Target Crew: 108 persons (6 officers and 102 sailors)
Immediately after launching it, Curtatone was part of the 3rd Destroyer Division of Regia Marina that had as main establishment the La Spezia. In 1926 and while it was at sea, it underwent a serious damage at one of its turbines and as a result it had to stay at the shipyard for repairing for two years. In 1929, it was part of the 8th Scuadriglia of the 4th Destroyer Fleet of the 2nd Division of Regia Marina that its main establishment was at Taranto, South Italy. Along with Curtatone, the ships Calatafimi, Monzambano and Castelfidardo were also part of that division.
Between 1929 and 1936, Curtatone realizes many trips, participating in the activities of Regia Marina at the navy bases of the Italian colonies of Libya, Dodekanissa and Avissinia (today Ethiopia).
In 1930, some constructive changes also happened at the ship that, in 1937, went again to La Spezia where participated in activities of the Navy Academy of Livorno.
In October 1st 1938, Curtatone, with its sister ships, changed category due to its age and it was downgraded from a destroyer (Italian: Cacciatorpediniere) to a torpedo ship (Italian: Torpediniera). As a result of that change, many repairs of reconstructing Curtatone’s same category ships took place that led to replace the Armstrong firearms of 76/30 mm with Scotti-Isotta Fraschini firearms of 20/77 mm, machine guns of 8/80 mm, torpedo tubes of 450 mm. Also, a system of mine-sweeping was placed.
After Italy entering the Second World War in June 10th 1940, Curtatone with its sister ships, Calatafimi, Monzambano and Castelfidardo, was placed in the 16th Torpedo Ship Division that was escorting convoys at South Adriatic Sea. The ship was escorting convoys, especially between Bari, Italy and Durres, Albania, since June 1940 until April 1941. It is worth to mention that, for the Greek reader, Curtatone escorted a convoy of November 24th 1940 from Bari, Italy to Avlona, Albania, that was constituted by three Italian confiscated steam ships: Citta Di Savona, Citta di Agrigento and Monrosa. It is known that the last one sank due to an attack with torpedoes of the British submarine HMS Triumph in October 1941 at the south of the island Arsida at Saronikos.
In May 5th 1941 and after Greece occupation by Entente, Curtatone, along with the mentioned sister ships, was intergrated in the newly founded Italian Navy Administration of North Aegean Sea (Comando Gruppo Navale dell’ Egeo Settentrionale) that its base was in Athens and participated with the German Kriegsmarine at activites at Aegean Sea. Curtatone, participating in convoy composed by Monzambano and the steam ships Castellon, Maritza, Santa FE, Alicante and Procida that were carrying army materials of Wehrmacht, saied to the port of Patra in May 16th 1941.
According to the diaries of the German Admiralty of Aegean, Curtatone was obliged to participate as escort in the activities of supplying that had to do with the Battle of Crete and the so-called Ermis mission. According to this diary, in May 19th 1941, after the conquering of Maleme airport at Crete by the special parachutist forces, two convoys were organized in order to reinforce with supplies and army the untis that fought at Crete.
These two convoys had the code names Heraklion and Maleme. The Heraklion convoy was to start from Piraeus and the Maleme convoy from Thessaloniki. The route of the latter was to pass from Trikeri at Evia up to Lavrio where the Italian escorts would take it and lead it up to Crete through the Aegean Sea that was still under British forces
The two of the Italian ships that were to participate in that convoy were the torpedo ship Sagittario (its captain was Giuseppe Cigala Fulgosi) and Curtatone (its captain was Serafino Tassara). In May 20th 1941, at 13.00, a small group consisted of ships that were to escort the Maleme convoy, started from Piraeus with next stop Lavrio, since where would continue with this convoy with Crete as terminal destination.
At 13.51 and while this group was near Fleves island, within the frame of the Greek minefield that was located there in October 1940, the torpedo ship Curtatone crashed into a Greek mine and as a result a huge explosion took place that sank Curtatone within few minutes. The Sagittario Captain, Giuseppe Cigala Fulgosi, narrates at the diary of his ship that was sailing almost 2 miles behind Curtatone that the explosion was very strong and as a result the ship sank really fast with great losses. 94 men were lost, including the captain, and 34 men were saved (the German records mention 29 survivors).
Curtatone is considered by many people to be one of the most important historic wrecks of Saronikos bay. Its activity as an escort of the Italian convoys of south Adriatic Sea as well as its role in the war activities of Entente at Greece and especially its participation as an escort to convoys that have to do with the Battle of Crete make it a historic witness of the events that influenced the history of east Mediterrenean Sea during the Second World War.
– Historic record of Museo navale di Francavilla al Mare
– War diaries of the German Admiralty of Aegean Sea and Navy Administration of the South (Dimitris Galon Archive)
– La difesa del traffico con l’Albania, la Grecia e l’Egeo / compilatore Pier Filippo Lupinacci revisore Vittorio E. Tornelli, Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare, 1965
– Pier Paolo Ramoino, La Regia Marina tra le Due Guerre Mondiali, Livorno 2010