Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Attack on the Nino Bixio

Today in history, 17 Aug.1942, 118 NZ prisoners of war died, when the Italian cargo ship MV Nino Bixio was torpedoed by a British submarine in the Mediterranean.
Their deaths, combined with 44 New Zealanders lost earlier aboard Jantzen in Dec.1941, amounted to nearly a third of NZ's POW fatalities during WWII...
Nino Bixio had left Benghazi in Libya for Brindisi, Italy, escorted by two destroyers and two torpedo boats. Crammed aboard were almost 3000 POWs captured in North Africa, including more than 160 Kiwis.
Two days out of Libya, the convoy was attacked by British submarine HMS Turbulent (N98). [This was one of the most successful Royal Navy submarines during its short career 1942-43. It sank a cruiser, a destroyer, a U-boat, 28 supply ships - some 100,000 tons in all - and destroyed three trains by gunfire. It was depth-charged on over 250 occasions by hunting forces.]
Nino Bixio was hit by two torpedoes from Turbulent: one exploded in the tightly-packed forward hold, killing 237 men and wounding another 60. In the ensuing panic and confusion, many men jumped overboard. Some drowned immediately; others reached makeshift rafts and drifted around the Mediterranean for weeks without food or water.
But, despite extensive damage, Nino Bixio did not sink. Survivors were pulled aboard, and the ship was towed by an escorting destroyer to Navarino in southern Greece, where 34 of the dead were buried (203 others are remembered on the memorial at El Alamein).
Nino Bixio was towed to the port of Pylos in Italian-occupied Greece, where it was beached. Later it was towed to Venice and sunk as a 'block ship' to protect the port.
In 1952 Nino Bixio was raised, re-fitted and returned to civilian service. In its peacetime career, it visited a number of NZ ports including Wellington where, on 25 Jan.1955, a wreath-laying ceremony was held aboard the foredeck. It continued in merchant service until 1970, and was scrapped at La Spezia in 1971.
Ironically its attacker did not fare so well. HMS Turbulent was lost with all hands off the coast of Sardinia in March 1943, after probably striking a mine...

No comments: