Battle of Durazzo

Battle of Durazzo

Battle of Durazzo The Battle of Durazzo of 1918 was a conflict towards the end of the First World War fought by the Allies, comprising the Royal Navy, the Kingdom of Italy, the United States, and Australia, against Austria-Hungary. 

By September of 1918 the Allies, who were campaigning in Macedonia, had forced a Bulgaria surrender and pushed towards the Austria controlled port at Durazzo, Albania.

The Allied fleet mainly comprised ships from the Royal Navy and Italian warships. 

HMS Weymouth in Greece during the Battle of the Mediterranean

Italy sent a battleship, three armored cruisers, three light cruisers, seven destroyers, 8 torpedo boats, and other supporting vessels including aircraft. The Royal Navy’s fleet had five light cruisers and fourteen destroyers.

Italian battleship Dante Alighieri port view.jpg
Italian battleship Dante Alighieri

The Americans and Australians also participated, with twelve submarine chasers and two destroyers, respectively. The defending Austro-Hungarian fleet was vastly outnumbered. The Austro-Hungarians possessed two destroyers, a torpedo boat, and two submarines.

The Austro-Hungarians decided to withdraw the rest of the fleet from the port, fearing complete annihilation. Austria-Hungary also had three coastal batteries to aid in the defense of the port city.

The Battle

The Battle of Durazzo officially began early on the 2nd of October. American and British ships began to open fire on the Austro-Hungarian surface vessels, while Italian and British cruisers started the bombardment of the coast. Allied aircraft assaulted the Austro-Hungarian troops and artillery on land.

Handly Page O/ 100. Fitted with two 250 h.p Rolls-Royce Eagle II engines, the O/100 could carry sixteen 112 lb (51 kg) bombs or eight 250 lb (113 kg) bombs.

The three defending warships sailed around the harbor and dodged Allied fire, sustaining only minor damage before escaping North towards the Croatian coast. The two Austro-Hungarian submarines, U-29 and U-31 were engaged by the American submarine chasers. Both submarines were able to escape the battle. Despite both submarines being both hit by multiple US depth charges.

Italian cruisers San Giorgio, San Marco, and Pisa were used to shell the port heavily, sinking at least one merchant vessel. Although the coastal batteries fired upon the Allied ships, they had very little effect on the outcome of the battle. American submarine chaser No. 129 reported that the closest shell landed roughly 50 yards from their ship. Shore batteries lightly battered the Royal Navy’s ships. But the shore bombardments did not cause any severe damage to the ships.

However, U-31 hit HMS Weymouth with one of her torpedoes. This caused the British ship to be under repairs for the rest of the war. Weymouth lost a large part of her stern and killed four sailors. 

HMS Weymouth (1910).jpg
HMS Weymouth

Conclusion

Later in the afternoon the battle ended, the heavy bombardment silencing all coastal defenders. For a full week the local citizens fled the city in droves. As a result, the port was empty on the 11th of October. Before being occupied by the Italians on the 16th of October. The Austro-Hungarian troops had marched out six days earlier.

Allied shelling destroyed much of the ancient city. Unfortunately, the shelling also took out the famous Royal Palace of Durrës.

Civilians suffered the most during the battle. There were more casualties among civilans than soldiers. Many of the civilians found themselves in the crossfire during the bombardment of the harbor.

The Battle of Jutland by Hadrian Jeffs.

The aftermath of the Allied victory at the Battle of Durazzo meant another stepping stone in ensuring an Allied Victory of World War One was complete. The port city of Durazzo was an important geographical asset to have uner Allied control. Now, the Allies had the power to land troops quickly into Southeastern Europe. However, the allies did have to rebuild much of the port infrastructure. The bombardment had largely destroyed the port.

Battle of Durazzo Written by Tony Cao

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) WisKy A History of the Iowa Class Last American Battleship with Keith J. Nitka.