Hydra Destroyer D-97
Dimensions: 92,3/9,7/3,8 meters
Displacement: 1350 tones
Impulsion: Steam turbines of 52000hp
Speed: 40 knots
Armament: 4 firearms of 120mm, 3 A/A firearms of 40mm and 2 triple torpedo tubes of 21 inches.
It could carry and throw up to 40 mines. After its modernization, its armament was: 3 firearms of 120mm, 3 A/A firearms of 40mm, 2 oerlikon of 20mm, 3 torpedo tubes of 21 inches, an A/S type 127 device, a depth bomb release unit and 2 grenade launcher.
Crew: 166 members. It was one of the four destroyers (the other three were: Kountouriotis, Spetse & Psara) that were ordered by the Greek Government to the Italian shipyards in 1930 and were delivered in 1933. It participated in the operations during 1940-1941, when many convoys were included, as well as in the first invasion at the Strait of Otranto (14-15/11/1940). It sank in April 22nd 1941 after a German air attack near the island of Lagousa at the Saronic Gulf. During this invasion and wreck, the captain Sub-Lieutenant Th. Pezopoulos, the Staff Captain of Vlachava and 4 officers, 11 non-commissioned officers and 26 sailors from the total 156 crew members were killed.
The sinking chronicle of HYDRA in April 22nd 1941
Since the night of April 6th 1941, the war was in a new phase. The Hellenic Navy faced a very strong enemy and had to get attacked without the necessary defense means. It was fated to stay pathetic and have huge losses but also had the chance to do heroic actions.
The first fierce bombing of Piraeus by the German air forces on the night of 6th to 7th April revealed our air defense deficiency. Our anti-air blockhouses at the area of the Naval Base and Elefsina that proved to be able to fight back the light attacks of the Italian airplanes, even though they had been enforced by a British artillery battery at Elefsina, the blockhouse of Averof and few British fighters, unfortunately were completely deficient to fight back the incomparable bigger German air forces. The armaments of our destroyers were deficient and they did not have, as the British did, special firearms that are the only effective ones against the diving aircrafts. Even more serious was the lack of ammunition; because of that, the destroyers were ordered to fight against the hostile airplanes only if they were threatened.
The usual air attacks made the stay of the ships at the anchorages of the Naval Base, Elefsina and Megara unsafe. In April 13th, the destroyers were ordered to spread around two by two in the Saronic Gulf. The destroyer “King George”, in which the captain Mr. Mezeviris was on board as the Superior Officer of the destroyers, was attacked by a diving aircraft and was then led to the Naval Base for dry docking.
The destroyer “King George”, after few days, was taken by the Germans who repaired it and used it for their own benefit!After the temporary disabling of “King George”, captain Mezeviris in April 18th started to serve at “Aetos” and then on Monday after Easter in April 21st, at “Hydra”. During April 21st 1941, due to the continuous air alarms, “Hydra” and the other destroyers were at sea in the Saronic Gulf all the time trying to hide behind the islands located at the west side of Egina. Only were they had to refill they stayed at Megara Skala. From the first morning hours in April 22nd, the operations of the hostile air forces were stronger than ever. After the departure to Souda of the biggest part of the fleet, four big destroyers stayed at the area: “Vassilisa Olga”, where the Captain of the Fleet was on board, “Hydra”, “Panthir” and “Ierax”. They were at sea all the time trying to hide behind the islets. “Hydra” was ordered to be at Fleves at 19.00pm of the same day where it would meet with the commercial “Marimesque” loaded with ammunition and the submarine “Papanikolis” in order to escort them to Souda. Then from Souda, “Hydra” would depart to Alexandria. From the early afternoon of that day, “Hydra” was close to the shores of Peloponissos at the area of the Isthmus of Koninthos when it was notified by “Vassilisa Olga” that the hostile air forces were possible to arrive there. The change of position was obligatory for one more time.
Grigoris Mezeviris narrates:
On that day, we changed position many times but we could not stay invisible anywhere. I then asked the captain of Hydra, the Commander Th. Pezopoulos, if he could propose any other alternative until the time that would go to the defined meeting point. He, with the special spirit that he had, he replied to me: “Mr. Commander, whatever is to happen, will happen. I suggest we sail to Fleves with a low speed”. I accepted his opinion as I could not find any other solution.
At around 17.30pm, while we were traveling at the north of Egina near the island of Lagosa, a hostile identification airplane appeared. In order to mislead it, I ordered to change route to Methana. When it disappeared, we continued on our initial route. After approximately twenty minutes, many aircrafts appear at the north side, almost 70 of them, heading south with a route of meeting our ship in a small distance of miles. When they arrived near Hydra, almost 35 of them left the others and headed towards it.
Being on the upper bridge, I ordered to speed up to the maximum, continue with maneuvers and then start firing against the first ships that were within a shot distance. The airplanes were attacking in a diving way, they were throwing bombs from a short height and at the same time they were shooting mainly against the bridge. At that moment the Captain of the ship came to the upper bridge from the bottom one bareheaded, as he used to, and took his position by the bow curtain of the bridge. Almost at the same time, I saw him sliding down and sitting on the floor. His eyes were closed, a light smile was on his lips and his face had that calmness of a man who up to the last minute was fulfilling his duty. I was absolutely sure that the Commander Th. Pezopoulos, this brave soldier and valuable partner to me, was the first who had paid the death toll on this ship. A firearm bullet had crucially hit his head. The bombs were throwing all around and water fountains were covering the ship up to the upper bridge. The shootings of the two firearms almost immediately went off the battle while the third one stopped working. Few minutes after the beginning of the attack, only the light mobile firearms Hotchkiss of the down bridge could still shoot. At the beginning, the ship engines had a speed of 30 miles however after a while the one engine stopped working and then the other as well. The ship, unarmed and immobile, was at the entire disposal of the enemy. Pursued airplanes did not appear from anywhere even though the partners from Athens had informed us that a while before the attack two of them were flying over Athens!No bomb fell on the ship, however many of them fell very close it causing many cracks on its bottom. The ship started filling with waters from everywhere and the ship was sinking very quickly, especially at the stern. Many panels of the deck had a wave shape. The deck, the floors and the bridges were full of dead bodies and heavily injured people that were injured by the shootings and especially by the breakages of the bombs that fell near the ship. The staff captain, Plotarchis Vlachavas, was very seriously mutilated and so were the lieutenant Mr. Arliotis and the Doctor Mr. Maniarezis. I was injured by the breakages as well. When the aircrafts made sure that the ship was sinking, they stopped the attacks and they were flying over the ship for a while. When I realized that there was no hope to be rescued, I ordered my deputy Lieutenant Mr. Neofitos to abandon the ship. The lifeboats were destroyed except for one small that was used to carry the mutilated ones. The rest of us swam some hundreds of meters up to the island of Lagosa. The Officers of the ship made sure that the heavily injured wore their lifejackets and fell into the sea. Walking on the deck was difficult because in every step there were mutilated dead bodies. Some men stayed at the stern even though the deck was only few meters above the sea level maybe because they did not understand the given order or hesitate to abandon the ship. I ordered them to fell into the sea and then I walked down from the right side of the ladder whose upper step was already on the sea level. Thirty hours earlier I had climbed the exact same ladder in order to take over the administration of my new position.
Few minutes after the last one of the survivors had abandoned the ship, its bow sank, took a vertical inclination and disappeared in the water, taking with it all the dead heroes. From the beginning of the attack until its sinking, there had only been 14 minutes. When the waters were covering the ship, a voice from the sea was heard saying “For Hydra”. This phrase was repeated by many other voices. The Navy Officer of Milos mentioned that a German aviator from those who participated in the attack told him that he was impressed by the heroic attitude of the crew members of Hydra that were waiving their hats and cheering while their ship was bombing and sinking. We stayed at the small rock island of Lagosa for almost an hour waiting for the rescue mission. During that time I had the opportunity to realize even better the inner virtues of the men. During the attack I had already appreciated their excellent behavior and absolute calmness. Around me there were many heavily injured men and every so often you could hear them screaming from pain. However, no one ever complained. Those who had their senses were asking anxiously about their Captain who literally adore and called “our Theodore”. A sailor with a cut leg lying by me kept asking me how I was feeling. The submersion of Hydra was observed by many people from Athens, Salamina and Egina and many floating means arrived there to collect the castaways. The injured were transferred to the hospitals of Egina and Athens. The same evening, “Vassilisa Olga”, carrying members of the government, the “Ierax” and the “Panthir” departed to Souda. The submarine “Papanikolis” did not meet “Hydra” at Fleves and continued its route such as “Marimesque” that finally reached Souda. These were the last ships that abandoned the waters of the Saronic gulf to continue their efforts outside of the Greek frontiers.
THE HUMAN LOSSES DURING THE SINKING OF DESTOYER HYDRA AT THE SARONIC GULF IN APRIL 22ND 1941
COMMANDER MAXIMOS TH. PEZOPOULOS CAPTAIN
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER MAXIMOS L. VLACHAVAS STAFF CAPTAIN
LIEUTENANT MAXIMOS G. ARLIOTIS STAFF
SUB- LIEUTENANT DOCTOR S. MANIAZIRIS STAFF
PETTY OFFICIER ENGINNER G. POLIMENAKOS
PETTY OFFICIER A. NIKOLAIDIS
SUB PETTY OFFICIER ENGINNER A N. BASTAS
SUB PETTY OFFICIER G. LIKISSAS
SUB PETTY OFFICIER CH. ASLANOGLOU
SUB PETTY OFFICIER A. NTINOU
SUB PETTY OFFICIER CH. DALAKOS
SUB PETTY OFFICIER E. DERDIMAS
SUB PETTY OFFICIER K. KOKKORIS
LEADING RATE ELECTRICIAN P. KARIDIS
SAILOR I. ATHANASATOS
SAILOR G. ARAPATZOGLOU
SAILOR S. GRIGOROPOULOS
SAILOR S. ZISIS
SAILOR V. KALOGERAS
SAILOR V. KONTOUDIS
SAILOR G. KOUNIDAKIS
SAILOR TH. KATSAGAS
SAILOR N. KOUROUMTZIDIS
SAILOR I. LAIOS
SAILOR D. VOLAS
SAILOR I. LOURIDAS
SAILOR K. MAVROMATIS
SAILOR N. BOUROUTIS
SAILOR N. METOS
SAILOR S. PETRIDIS
SAILOR A. ZERVOS
SAILOR I. TZILIANOS
SAILOR I. TSOUNIS
SAILOR I. CHORTIS
SAILOR V. VASILIADIS
SAILOR I. MAILIS
Christos Ntounis, “The Wrecks in the Greek Seas”, 1900-1950, Volume A
The Hellenic Navy Ships, 1829-1999, Vice Admiral of the Hellenic Navy, K. Pezi- Paradeli.