Times of Malta
28th March 1946 Page 5
British Sweepers for Italian Navy
MAJOR TRANSFER AT MALTA
From a Naval Reporter
The Royal Navy has agreed to hand over 32 minesweeping ships of the Mediterranean Fleet to the Italian Navy. These ships, consisting of 16 minesweeping trawlers and 16 motor minesweepers are on loan, free of charge to the Italian Navy to assist in the vast minesweeping programme which is being carried out in the Mediterranean. The major part of the transfer is being carried out at Malta and it is expected that it will be completed this month.
Among the trawlers being handed over are well-known ships of the "Isles" and "Dance" classes which did excellent work during the invasion periods and they include:
"Dance" - Gavotte, Minuet, Two-Step, Hornpipe
"Isles" - Cumbrae, Burra, Staffa, Unst, Mousa, Foula,
Ensay, Filla, Stroma, Egilsay, Grain
"Shakespeare" - Othello
There were something like a 100,000 enemy mines laid in the Mediterranean between 1940 and the end of the European War. Although not all of these are now dangerous there is still a vast job to be done to clear the waters of the Meduiterranean. About 15,000 mines have so far been swept, about 12,000 of them by British minesweepers and more than half of these have been swept in the Central Mediterranean.
|The trawler "Filla", one of the 32 minesweeping ships on loan to the Italian Navy to assist in the vast mine clearance programme, photographed at Malta, where the transfer is taking place
Cleaning the Way
When the war ended British minesweepers were engaged in clearing and widening the shipping lanes into the Italian ports. At one time the British Navy had 60 to 80 minesweepers of all types working on the west coast of Italy and between 80 and 100 on the eastern seaboard and the Adriatic.
During the last few months it has become necessary to withdraw gradually the assistance of British sweepers from around the coasts of Italy and with the formation of the International Mine Clearance Board the responsibility of clearing mines from Italy's shores has passed to the Italian Navy.
The trawlers are being manned by militarized merchant seaman, comparable to the British Patrol Service. Their officers and crews are all experienced in minesweeping and many of them were engaged in that work during the war. The opportunity is being taken during this transfer to alleviate the employment situation among Italian seamen and the crews for the trawlers are being provided from among the major Italian sea-ports.
The Motor Minesweepers are manned by Italian Navy personnel, and among the complements are large numbers of submariners whose specialized training is very useful in this work.
The transfers are being effected without ceremony. The British crews leave their ships, the White Ensign is struck, and the following day the Italian crews take over and the Italian Ensign is hoisted. THe British crews remain on shore for several days after the transfer and assist the Italians to get acquainted with their new ships and their equipment. Afterwards sea-trials are carried out and the new crews take the ships to Naples where they carry out a working-up programme before being allocated to Minesweeping Flotillas.