10/6/1918 Austria-Hungary’s failed naval breakout #1918Live

The Allies are blockading the Strait of Otranto to restrict Austro-Hungarian U-boat access to the Mediterranean. Now Admiral Horthy, the commander of the Austro-Hungarian fleet, leads a powerful force out to attack the blockade. However, as the Austro-Hungarians move to their assembly positions at night in advance of their sortie, they find themselves under attack by Italian torpedo boats. This should be a one-sided battle, as one blast from the heavy guns of the Austro-Hungarian capital ships would blow the torpedo boats out of the water, but in the darkness confusion reigns. The Italian MAS 15 manages to hit the battleship Szent István with two torpedoes before making its escape. The Szent István sinks and Horthy, fearing that his attack plan has been rumbled, orders his ships to return to port.

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The sinking of the Szent István (WW2 Weapons: Diary June 10, 1918)

14/5/1917 The Battle of Otranto

On land the Italians are making their tenth attempt to break through the Austro-Hungarian defences at the Isonzo. At sea though it is Austria-Hungary which is attacking. Their target is the Otranto Barrage, the Allied blockade of the mouth of the Adriatic at the Straits of Otranto. Drifters, mostly British, patrol here, trailing nets in which they hope to catch enemy U-boats; larger ships are ready to support the drifters in case of enemy action.

Led by Commander Horthy, an Austro-Hungarian flotilla sails out at night to attack the drifters, sinking 14 of them and damaging another four. An Allied squadron comprising British, French and Italian ships gives chase, trying to prevent Horthy’s ships from escaping back to port. However the Austro-Hungarians also bring up reinforcements. In the fighting that follows, the Austro-Hungarians see one of their cruisers suffer heavy damage (with Horthy himself severely injured) but the Allies have the worst of it, losing two destroyers.

The battle shows the Allies that they cannot be certain of complete control of the Adriatic. However there are no great consequences of the action. The Otranto Barrage remains in operation, but it also continues to be a a rather ineffectual barrier to German and Austro-Hungarian submarines.

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The Castle of Otranto (Echoes form the Vault)

SMS Novara, Horthy’s flagship (Wikipedia)

Horthy, seriously wounded (Wikipedia)