Rear Admiral Massimo Lovatelli, Italian Naval Attaché at Washington to Rear Admiral Roger T. Welles, Office of Naval Intelligence, United States Navy
R. ADM. M. LOVATELLI
ITALIAN NAVAL ATTACHĖ
1335 HARVARD STREET Prot. No.
November 12, 1918.
Dear Admiral Welles:
I have the pleasure of forwarding to you the following unofficial report on the naval bombardment of Durazzo (Albania) on the 2nd of October, sent to me by my Ministry.
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The naval action of the 2nd of October near Durazzo had the purpose of destroying the usefulness of that locality as a base for the Austrian troops in Albania. Incidentally, the Italian Navy wished to combat the Austrian naval units which, it was thought,would eventually come out from Cattaro to defend Durazzo.
On the morning of October 2nd, the first-class ship “DANTE ALEGHIERI” (flying the flag of Admiral Mola’,1 and carrying also his Excellency Admiral Thaon de Revel, Chief of Staff of the Navy)2 was dislocated, together with seven other ships of the Allied Naval Fleet a little southward of the parallel of Cattaro. The group “AQUILA” “NIBBIO” and “SPARVIERO” (fast scout cruisers) were cruising southwards of Cattaro; another group, the “GLOUCESTER”, “GLASGOW” (English) and “MARSALA” (Italian) – (cruisers)- were cruising southward of the first group. These two groups were a little distance outside of the route Cattaro-Durazzo. The “DANTE” was westward of the group “AQUILA”.
The purpose of this disposition of forces was to try to draw southwards the Austrian ships that might come out of Cattaro, and so give the “DANTE” opportunity to eventually cut off the retreat of these ships and to destroy them. The hope was, however, a vain one inasmuch as the Austrian ships did not come out.
Hydroplanes were flying near Cattaro in order to signal of ships coming out, and to transmit news to the Italian ships.
Durazzo was bombarded by the iron-clad cruisers “SAN GIORGIO” (flying the flag of Rear Admiral Paladini), “SAN MARCO” and “PISA”, and by the English cruisers “LOVESTOFT” (under the flag of Commodore Kelly),3 “DARTMOUTH” and “WEYMOUTH”.
The Italian division defiled off Durazzo at a distance of 12,000 meters, and the English division at about 10,000 meters, routing East, and reversed the course so as to route away from Durazzo to the Southwest.
At the head of the formation were four English destroyers and Italian mine-sweepers, while the flank of the formation was protected by American [submarine] chasers, torpedo boats, trawlers and mine-sweepers, rendering effective escort and patrolling service.
The fire was directed on the inner harbor and against batteries which responded, but without damaging our ships. Italian chasers entered the harbor and launched torpedoes against an enemy destroyer and cargo boats, which were hit.
There were some enemy submarines in the vicinity of the action. The first submarine fired a torpedo against the “WEYMOUTH” but missed the target. The “WEYMOUTH” turned around 360° and was struck by a second torpedo – probably from the same submarine – but the damage was slight and the “WEYMOUTH” took part brilliantly in the bombardment. The submarine was immediately attacked by the American chasers, and very probably sunken. The chasers also attacked another enemy submarine which was probably sunken.4
All preparations for the operation were kept very secret, to avoid having enemy submarines go near Brindisi.*
It had been presumed (and the fact reported) that the spare enemy submarines would be sent near the Albanian coast to protect Durazzo and the traffic with Cattaro, but the presence of the submarines did not diminish the good result of the action.
*Perhaps I should mention that on May 15, 1917, while Italian cruisers were chasing Austrian ships, submarines were sent by the Austrians into the neighborhood of Brindisi to lay mines and to await the return of our cruisers.
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Source Note: DTS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 416. These letters are in an Office of Naval Intelligence folder that bears the title “Operations against Durazzo” and the source is given as “Various/1918-.” At the bottom of this folder is printed: “To be returned to O. N. I. promptly after use./Not to be transferred to other persons/without an understanding with the Director/of Naval Intelligence.” There is a second version of this report in the folder. It is very similar and includes quotation marks around each paragraph but some of the language has been changed slightly. There is a stamp in the top right-hand corner of the first page this report: “DIRECTOR O.N.I./RECEIVED/ 1918 NOV 13 AM 11 30.” There is also a stamp at the top of the second report “ASS’T DIRECTOR O.N.I./RECEIVED/18 NOV 6 AM 11 18.”
Footnote 1: RAdm. Vittorio Mola, commander of the Fourth Squadron, Italian Navy and commander South Adriatic.
Footnote 2: Admiral Paolo Thaon di Revel.
Footnote 3: Commo. William A. H. Kelly, commander of the British Adriatic force.
Footnote 4: For the official report of Cmdr. Charles P. Nelson, commander of the U.S. submarine chasers, see: Nelson to William S. Sims, 7 October 1918. For Kelly’s detailed report, see: Kelly to Admiralty, 5 October 1918. For a far less laudatory analysis of the operation, see: John H. Godfrey to Sir Somerset A. Gough-Calthorpe, 14 October 1918