THE WRECK of the Giovanni Delle Bande Nere, has been discovered off Stromboli, near Sicily, writes Allan George. The Italian light cruiser was sunk by HMS Urge on 1 April 1942 when sailing from Messina, Sicily, to La Spezia in northwest Italy. The Marina Militare found the ship using autonomous underwater vehicles launched from the minehunter Vieste – the ghostly wreck lies 5,500ft (1,675m) down, 11nm south of the volcanic island.
Nere was a Condottieri-class cruiser of the Giussano sub-class commissioned in 1931. Her first patrols were in support of Italian intervention in the Spanish Civil War and on Italy’s entry to the Second World War in June 1940 she supported minelaying in the Sicilian Channel and escorted convoys to Libya. She fought alongside sister ship Bartolomeo Colleoni at Cape Spada in July 1940, clashing with the cruiser HMAS Sydney and five destroyers. Nere escaped damaged but her sister was sunk.
In December 1941, with another sister, Alberto Da Giussano, she laid a minefield off Tripoli, sinking a cruiser and a destroyer operated by the Royal Navy’s Force ‘K’which had wreaked havoc on Axis convoys. She then fought at the Second Battle of Sirte in March 1942 and scored a hit on the cruiser HMS Cleopatra.
After sustaining storm damage Nere was ordered to La Spezia for repairs, but soon after sailing she and her escorts were attacked by HMS Urge. Two torpedoes broke her back and she sank quickly taking 381 men with her.
Urge was a U-class submarine serving with the 10th Submarine Flotilla, based in Malta. Although never numbering more than 12 submarines between January 1941 and December 1942 the flotilla sank 412,575 tons of Axis shipping. Urge sailed on 20 war patrols, sinking or damaging numerous Italian ships, including, on 14 December 1941, damaging the battleship Vittorio Veneto.
Having left Malta for Alexandria on 29 April 1942 Urge went overdue on 6 May. Official sources attribute her loss, with all hands, to mining off Malta – a view reaffirmed in 2016.∎