Allied Warships

HMS Latona (M 76)

Minelayer of the Abdiel class

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantM 76 
Built byThornycroft (Southampton, U.K.) 
Ordered23 Dec 1938 
Laid down4 Apr 1939 
Launched20 Aug 1940 
Commissioned4 May 1941 
Lost25 Oct 1941 
Loss position32° 15'N, 24° 14'E

Notes on loss: HMS Latona (Capt. Stuart Latham Bateson, RN) was taking part in Operation "Cultivate", the purpose of which was to replace the 9th Australian Division garrisoning Tobruk with British soldiers. After transporting 150 tons of cargo and 25 men to the fortress, she embarked 450 troops and set out for Alexandria, escorted by British destroyers HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St.J. Morgan,RN) and HMS Hotspur (Lt. T.D. Herrick, DSC, RN)

In the evening of 25 Ocotber she was about 20 nautical miles north of Ras Azzaz, and at 2105 hours Latona sustained a bomb hit in the after engine room, dropped by a plane unseen in the darkness. At that time, the British ship had been taken under attack by a group of 10 German Stuka from I/St,G.1 belonging to the Fliegerführer Afrika and 2 Italian S.79 3-engined bombers belonging to the 279th Torpedo Sqn, 5th Air Fleet. The formation was under the overall command of Italian Air Force Lt. Guglielmo Ranieri and Sub.Lt Aligi Strani. Both Italians and Germans believed to have scored hits, but were unable to ascertain for sure. In reality, as confirmed from British sources, the damage to Latona, was caused by a 500-kg bomb dropped from close range by a Stuka piloted by Major Sorge, who was able to witness the fireball at the stern of his target immediately after releasing. A second bomb, dropped by Sub.Lt Steinhagen, near-missed destroyer Hero, causing her severe damage, while she was alongside Latona, which had gone dead in the water due to destruction of the after engine room. Aboard Latona, which remained afloat for another 2 hours, there was a further heavy explosion, caused by the ammunition on deck, touched by a fire started by the hit. Abandoned by crew and passengers, Latona was scuttled by a torpedo from Encounter, sinking at 2230 hours in position 32º15'N, 25º14'E.

In the sinking of Latona 4 officers, 16 crew and 7 Australian soldiers lost their life. The survivors, including 4 badly wounded, were rescued by Hero and Encounter.


Commands listed for HMS Latona (M 76)

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1Capt. Stuart Latham Bateson, RN15 Jan 194125 Oct 1941

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