7. Italy’s Frogmen Gave the British Royal Navy a Black Eye
The Italian raiders of the Decima Flottigla lurked underwater near the entrance to Alexander harbor, and waited for the right moment. They snuck in when the barrier nets were temporarily removed to allow three British destroyers to enter. Quietly, the frogmen followed the destroyers in. Steering their manned torpedoes, the crews separated to their assigned targets. They were the battleships HMS Valiant and Queen Elizabeth, and an aircraft carrier that turned out not to be present. So the crew assigned to attack the carrier went after the tanker Sagona, instead.
The raiders evaded the harbor’s extensive protections, and carefully maneuvered their vessels above or below torpedo nets. They dove beneath their targets’ ships, removed the warheads from their torpedoes, affixed them to the bottom of the hulls, set timers for the explosives to go off at 6 AM, and withdrew. One crew was spotted and captured as soon as they surfaced inside the harbor, but the other two crews swam ashore and made it into Alexandria. They were captured by Egyptian police within a few days. The explosives went off on time, and both battleships suffered extensive damage that kept them out of action for a year. The tanker Sagona was destroyed, and a destroyer refueling from it at the time suffered significant damage.