Battle of Durazzo (1915)

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The First Battle of Durazzo was a naval battle of World War I. It was fought off Durazzo, Albania at the end of December 1915 and involved the navies of Austria-Hungary, the United Kingdom, Italy, and France.


In December 1915, the Austro-Hungarian Navy sent another cruiser squadron into the Adriatic, this time to interfere with the Serbian Campaign. The new light cruiser (nine 4-inch main guns) SMS Helgoland—accompanied by five Tátra-class destroyers—left Cattaro and headed for Durazzo late on 28 December 1915, with the submarine U-15 and two destroyers already off Durazzo on patrol. While on passage, the Austro-Hungarians sighted the French submarine Monge on patrol to the south of Cattaro. The destroyer SMS Balaton opened fire before ramming and sinking Monge. Early the next day, the Austrian squadron arrived off Durazzo and opened fire on the town, with Helgoland sinking a Greek steamer and two schooners. Then the destroyer SMS Lika ran into a minefield and was sunk, then SMS Triglav was crippled by another mine. SMS Csepel attempted to take Triglav in tow, but fouled a propeller, and the job was taken over by SMS Tátra. The Austrian force now returned slowly north. Allied forces in Brindisi were alerted to the Austrian force, and the British light cruiser HMS Dartmouth and the Italian scout cruiser Quarto, escorted by five French destroyers, sortied in an attempt to cut off the Austro-Hungarian ships from their base at Cattaro. These were followed two hours later by the Italian scout cruiser Nino Bixio, the British light cruiser HMS Weymouth and four Italian destroyers. The Austrians also responded and despatched from Cattaro the armoured cruiser Kaiser Karl VI, and the light cruisers Novara and Aspern, to support the returning survivors of the raid, but they did not see action. Early in the afternoon of 29 December, the forward Allied ships came into action with the Austrian squadron which was still only halfway home. The French destroyers headed for the already crippled Austrian destroyer Triglav and sank her before attempting to rejoin the British and Italian cruisers. Meanwhile, the Allied cruisers attempted to cut off and deal with Helgoland and the three remaining destroyers. In a long-range gunnery duel fought throughout the afternoon, Helgoland skillfully avoided the Allied cruisers and reached Cattaro safely but with the loss of the valuable Lika and Triglav. Tatra suffered a damaged engine from several shell hits.
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