Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Italian Victory at Castelorizzo
However, the Italian sailors resisted fiercely, immediately radioed for assistance and withdrew to the most easily defended areas of the island and kept up their resistance, continuing to hold out against the British commandos throughout the day of February 25, 1941. They had to hold out alone all day before help arrived after nightfall in the form of a few Italian destroyers and torpedo boats carrying 240 infantry from the Italian garrison at Rhodes. The torpedo boats were under the command of Captain Francesco Mimbelli (who would go on to more fame in action in the Black Sea against the Russians). The Regia Aeronautica preceded the landing, bombing the harbor and British positions, inflicting enough damage that one warship was forced to recall her marines and retreat. This deprived the commandos of their radio link with Alexandria, Egypt. It also prevented additional British troops from landing as the air attacks threw the Royal Navy into a panic, being under attack from the air and unable to locate the small flotilla of Italian warships they knew were closing in on them.
Admiral Cunningham was amazed at how the Italians, whom British propaganda always derided, had, “reacted with utmost vigor and enterprise” and had made a “rotten business” of his attempt to takeover the island. Many of the British commanders had foolishly believed their own propaganda, that the Italians were sub-standard fighters and the action at Castelorizzo shocked them to their senses as they witnessed first-hand the skill and tenacity of Italian troops and the Regia Marina. This sharp battle put a permanent end to any hope of the British to seize control of the Dodecanese Islands from Italy and the islands remained in Italian hands until the 1943 armistice after which the Kingdom of Italy joined the Allies in declaring war on Nazi Germany.