A crown representing the Italian royal family is still visible on the wreck of the Italian cruiser – Marina Militare
The ghostly wreck of an Italian warship that was sunk by a British submarine during the Second World War has been located at extreme depth off a volcanic island in the Mediterranean.
More than 370 Italian sailors died after the battle cruiser was torpedoed by HMS Urge on April 1 1942.
Built by Vickers Armstrong in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, the submarine was the only Royal Navy ship to have carried the name Urge.
During 1941 and the early part of 1942, it attacked and sank Axis shipping in the Mediterranean in an attempt to block them supplying Field Marshal Rommel’s forces in North Africa.
The Italian Navy used remote-controlled underwater robots to locate and film the wreck of the ship, which lies at a depth of 5,500ft (1,700m) off the volcanic island of Stromboli near Sicily.
The light cruiser – called the Giovanni Delle Bande Nere – was hit by two torpedoes fired by HMS Urge and sank rapidly, with most of its 507 crew unable to escape.
“The ship broke up rapidly and sank, taking with it the majority of the crew,” the Italian navy said in a statement.
The cruiser was heading from Messina in Sicily to the naval base of La Spezia in the northwest of Italy when it was attacked.
Its remains were discovered by AUVs, or autonomous underwater vehicles, operated by a modern-day Italian minehunter, the Vieste.
The wreck was located 11 nautical miles south of Stromboli, which is part of the Aeolian group of islands.
The Italian cruiser, built in 1931, was armed with 14 cannons and was able to launch, by catapult, reconnaissance aircraft.
The month before it sank it took part in a naval battle off Sirte in Libya, where it engaged the British cruiser HMS Cleopatra.
Just three weeks after attacking the Italian cruiser, HMS Urge was sunk with the loss of her entire crew on April 29, 1942.
The exact cause of the sinking remains disputed, but it is likely that the submarine struck a mine off Malta.