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The Bakar Mockery 1918



10th February 1918 The Bakar Mockery 1918  The Bakar mockery (Italian Beffa di Buccari) was an escapade of the Italian Navy (Regia Marina) in the last year of World War I. Whilst it had little material effect on the war at sea, it was a particularly bold venture which had a welcome effect on Italian morale. This was at a low ebb following the defeat at Caporetto a few months previously.

Background

In World War I, Italy was allied to France and Britain against the Central Powers, Austria-Hungary and Germany. Italy’s campaign on land against the Austrian army had been stalemated for two and a half years, with little movement, though at the cost of huge casualties. At sea an equality with the Austro-Hungarian Navy in capital ships had led to a deadlock, with neither side wishing to risk their loss. The war in the Adriatic Sea was a contest between small ships with night raids and patrols leading to losses from mines and submarines. In this arena, the Italian Navy had developed a commando force of fast torpedo boats, the MAS, which attracted men with a buccaneering spirit. In November 1917 the deadlock was upset by an Austrian offensive supported by German forces made available by the collapse of the Russian front. In the battle of Caporetto the Italian army was defeated and in a period of three weeks the front was pushed back 50 miles to within striking distance of Venice.

Action

The Bakar raid was conceived by the Italians as an attack on Austrian shipping in the harbour at Buccari (now Bakar, in Croatia). As it lay 80 km inside a sheltered waterway, it was thought to be beyond attack, so the raid was intended as a psychological, as well as a physical, assault. The operation was led by Capitano di Fregata Costanzo Ciano and comprised three MAS boats, with a total crew of 30 men. One of the boats, MAS 96, was commanded by Lt Luigi Rizzo, who later led the assault on the battleship SMS Szent István off Premuda. Also on board was Gabriele D’Annunzio, the poet. On 10 February 1918 the three MAS boats, under tow by torpedo boats to conserve fuel, escorted by two destroyers and a scout, set out from their base. After 14 hours sailing, at 2200, they entered the Farasina channel, a waterway between Istria and the island of Cherso (now Cres). Several hours later, having evaded Austrian patrols and the shore batteries at Porto Re (now Kraljevica), the flotilla arrived outside the Bay. The MAS boats slipped their tows and entered as their escort withdrew. At about a mile from the target, the MAS switched from petrol engines to silenced electrical engines for the final approach. Closing with their targets the three fired their torpedoes, launching a total of six. However their boldness was not rewarded and the torpedoes scored no hits. Five of them became entangled in nets or otherwise failed to explode, while the sixth exploded harmlessly, slightly damaging a freighter and raising the alarm. Despite the alert, however the MAS boats were able to escape and, making a dash down the channel, regained the open sea where they were re-united with their escort.

Aftermath <> Despite the lack of material success, the raid was a considerable fillip to Italian morale, as well as a psychological blow to the Austrians. In this it resembled the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in the Second World War and was a prelude to the Flight over Vienna, D’Annunzio’s air raid on the Austrian capital. The Bakar Mockery was celebrated in several booklets at the time and was heavily publicized by D’Annunzio, who realised its propaganda value.

John Doran


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The Bakar Mockery 1918

during the Great War 1914-1918.

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