Dard destroyers: The Navy ships that faced the Stukas

The Navy’s Dardo destroyers represent a total of four vessels ordered from the Italian shipyards Odero, Sestri Ponente in the early 1930s.

Two of them were sunk in April 1941 in the Saronic Sea by German aircraft and the remaining two continued to fight until the end of the war.

The vessels came from the Italian Dardo class (often referred to as Freccia) which yielded four vessels for the Italian Navy and another four for the Greek Navy.

These were “Kountouriotis” D-98, “Spetsai” D-83, “Hydra” D-97 and “Psara” D-84.

The main difference of the Greek boats, ordered in 1929, was the placement of the four 120 mm guns. in four equal towers instead of the two twins that were on the Italian ships.

Among the Greek ships, the “Hydra” was launched on October 24 (11 according to other sources) of 1931 and joined the Hellenic Navy on Wednesday, November 23, 1932.

The “Hydra”, like the other three ships of course, fought in WWII but had an inglorious end as it was sunk by German bombers on April 22, 1941 after a heavy German air attack near the island of Lagousa in the Saronic.

During the raid and the sinking of the ship, the Governor of the ship, Vice-Captain T. Pezopoulos, the Commander-in-Chief Plotarchis Vlahavas and 2 more Officers, 12 NCOs and 26 Marines were killed. The second vessel “Spetsai” joined the Hellenic Navy on May 12, 1933 and was decommissioned in 1946.

“Spetsai” took part in the operations of 1940-41, which included several convoy escorts and the third raid on the Straits of Otranto (4-5 January 1941).

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When Greece was occupied by the Germans, it escaped to the Middle East from where it was sent for a general inspection and modernization in Calcutta. It was used mainly as an escort throughout the war.

Its use after 1943 was necessarily limited, due to the vulnerability of the material and the difficulty of finding spare parts, as they were Italian vessels.

The third vessel “Psara” joined the Navy in May 1933 as well as the Hydra.

On Easter Sunday, April 20, 15 German Ju-87Cs attack the “Psara” when it was off Varea Megaron. From the attack of the Stukas, the ship receives two critical blows to the bow, as a result of which it is cut off. The boiler room and the forward compartments filled with water with the commander Vice Captain Konstas trying to bring it to the shallows.

At that moment 6 British Hurricane Mk I’s (one of which was flown by the heroic South African pilot Marmaduke “Pat” Pattle and who was to lose his life that afternoon) appear in pursuit of the Stukas shooting down 5 of them.

At 19:00 and having exhausted all possibilities of defense and navigation, the ship is ordered to be abandoned.

From the attack of the German aircraft, 37 people from the ship’s crew will lose their lives, among them a seaman aged only 16 years.

The rest of the crew, after being accommodated at the high school of Megara, manages to leave for Crete on Tuesday, April 22.

The fourth vessel “Kountouriotis” was launched on April 29, 1931 to join the Navy in November 1932. It will also carry out missions together with “Spetsai”.

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On September 13, 1943, the “Kountouriotis” captained by Vice Captain E. Baltatzis, disembarks at Kastellorizo ​​a frigate that raises the Greek flag on the island.

The vessel in late 1943 will be moored at Port Said, due to a lack of spare parts to be decommissioned in 1946. The destroyers were 92.3 meters long, 9.7 meters wide and 3.8 meters draft, with a maximum displacement of 1,350 tons.

The boats were surprisingly fast (like most Italian-made ones…) as they developed a maximum speed of 38 knots, while the total power of the three steam boilers reached 44,000 hp. The armament of the ships when they were delivered to the Navy was 4 120 mm guns, 2 anti-aircraft guns of 40 mm. the well-known “pom-pom” up to 4 machine guns of 13.2 mm. and 2 triple 533 mm torpedo tubes. At the same time they had the ability to point up to 54 mines.

The two boats that managed to escape “Spetsai” and “Kounduriotis” ended up in Calcutta, India, as reported, in order to undergo a partial modernization.

There the one 120 mm cannon was removed. to mount an additional 40mm A/A gun. as well as 2 Oerlikon 20mm, while the torpedo tubes were tripled.

Two bomb launchers, a depth charge launcher were also installed, while finally the two boats were equipped with an A/Y 127 anti-submarine tracking device.

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