Identifying the air attacks of 1941: Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica hit shipping hard in Greece

Interviews, Shipwrecks, WW2 in Greece, WW2 Wrecks

By Pierre Kosmidis

Research and photos by George Karelas 

PART ONE

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George Karelas from Patras, Greece, is a technical scuba diver and historical researcher credited with some of the most impressive WW2 Wrecks ever found, researched or identified in the Greek Seas.

The photo of the "Marburg" from the Italian Archivio Centrale Dello Stato files, reason for the investigation of the ship’s identity – Photo Credit: LUCE/George Karelas
The photo of the “Marburg” from the Italian Archivio Centrale Dello Stato files, reason for the investigation of the ship’s identity – Photo Credit: LUCE/George Karelas

FOUND! The lost Panzer Division and the wreck of “Marburg” full of German tanks and guns

Mr. Karelas thoroughly researched the first fateful days of “Operation Marita”, the German invasion of Greece, which was initiated on April 6th, 1941 and was among the first to have documented one of the less known crimes of the Regia Aeronautica and the Luftwaffe, the air attacks against hospital ships in Greece, April 1941.

unnamedPhoto of the tanker “Thedol” on fire, after the Ju87 “Stuka” air attack

Mr. Karelas, along with other distinguished researchers, has also shed light on the tragedies of the sinking of ships full of Italian prisoners of war, following the capitulation of Italy in 1943, with thousands of Italians drowned, such as the tragedy of the “Marguerite”, when 544 Italian prisoners drowned in 1943.

Another important project Mr. Karelas  participated was the location and eventual identification of a Bristol Beaufighter, shot down on 12 September 1944, which was found nearly intact on the seabed. 

Beaufighter KV930 shot down on 12 September 1944

Beaufighter KV930 shot down on 12 September 1944. Scuba diver and researcher Makis Sotiropoulos is credited with the fieldwork and consequent research. 

The list of identified air attacks of the Regia Aeronautica and the Luftwaffe is regularly being updated on Mr. Karelas’ blog 

This is an indicative list, as prepared by Mr. Karelas. The identification is a painstaking process, as many of the period photos, either do not mention the ships’ names, or are inaccurate in terms of dates and locations.

"Suzanna"
“Suzanna”

Regia Aeronautica (Royal Italian Air Force) attacked the cargo ship “Suzanna” on April 4, 1941, close to Dafnilas in Kerkyra island and was sunk with no casualties. The wreck was salvaged after the war.

"Suzanna"
“Suzanna”

Torpedo Boat “Prousa” – sunk on April 4, 1941 close to Vido in Corfu island, no casualties reported.

Torpedo boat "Prousa"
Torpedo boat “Prousa” in Kerkyra. The ship was salvaged and used by the Italians. The cover photos depict the moment of the air attack. Photo Source: Uficio Archivio Centrale Dello Stato/LUCE

Luftwaffe attacked the steamer “Macedonia” on April 22nd, with a single casualty reported. The ship was salvaged post-war.

The sinking of "macedonia" by Ju 87 "Stuka" bombers
The moment of sinking of “Macedonia”, hit by Ju87 “Stuka” bombers

Another interesting wreck located and identified because of the photo evidence is a barge sunk most probably on April 22nd, 1941 in Arachovitika, Peloponnese with no casualties (see the photos below for comparison, 1941-2017).

forthgida

 

In the area of Antikyra, central Greece, 4 Greek ships were hit and sunk or heavily damaged by Luftwaffe air attacks, including the hospital ship “Socrates”, despite being clearly marked with the Red Cross, which certainly constitutes a war crime, against the Geneva and the Hague Conventions. The other ships identified thanks to research in period photos and archives were the “Theodora” (10 dead), the “Thedol” (4 dead) and “Vary”, which was later salvaged and used by the Italians.

 

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CLICK ON THE LINKS IN RED FOR FURTHER READING:

FOUND! The lost Panzer Division and the wreck of “Marburg” full of German tanks and guns

 

When 544 Italian Prisoners drowned in 1943: The tragedy of the “Marguerite” unveiled

 

Uncovered! Air attacks against hospital ships: War crimes of Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica in Greece, 1941

 

Found and identified: The Beaufighter KV930 shot down on 12 September 1944

 

Then and Now: Stuka attack on Greek steamer “Macedonia”, April 22, 1941

 

Galilea: The 1942 shipwreck that took the lives of over 1,000 Italians