Emilio Bianchi – Alexandria Frogman, died at 103 years old

Emilio Bianchi, who on 19 Dec 41 placed a mine under HMS Valiant together with Durant de la Penne, disabling her for eight months, died on August 15th. He and his comrades who carried out the attack on the British battleships in Alexandria achieved an amazing feat, putting the final act in place in a drama which had played out since mid-November, and which saw a sudden changing of the balance of naval power in the Mediterranean in just four weeks.

On 14 November, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal is sunk by German submarine U-81 in the western Mediterranean.

On 25 November, battleship HMS Barham was sunk by German submarine U-331 while returning to Alexandria, with a dramatic video showing her demise, which caused substantial loss of life:

On the night 14/15 December, light cruiser HMS Galatea is sunk by German submarine U-557 on her return to Alexandria.

On the night 18/19 November Force K, consisting of light cruisers HMS Neptune, HMS Aurora, and HMS Penelope, supported by destroyers Havock, Kandahar, Lance, and Lively, runs into a deep sea minefield off Tripoli. HMS Neptune capsizes, again with substantial loss of life, leaving only one survivor. HMS Kandahar also strikes a mine and is sunk the next day by destroyer HMS Jaguar. HMS Aurora and HMS Penelope both strike mines, with HMS Aurora damaged so badly that she has to return to the UK where she is repaired until the end of August 1942, while HMS Penelope can be repaired in Malta and re-enters battle after one month.

The attack by Bianchi and its colleagues was the final chapter of this chain of events, disabling two battleships and one destroyer.

Together they removed one carrier, three battleships, and four light cruisers, as well as several destroyers from the order of battle of the British navy in the Mediterranean, at the height of the battle for supremacy in the central Mediterranean.

Daily Telegraph Obituary

Interview with Emilio Bianchi

History of HMS Valiant

May this very brave man rest in peace.

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