~ The Loss of the Light Cruiser ~

The following is a free translation of a part taken from the work of the academic Spyros Melas, "Burning Seas", published by the "Embros" of Athens, in 1940.

Melas begins by describing the bell tower of the church of Panagia, the Megalohari, whose bell he resembles

"... as the bell that tolled the national alarm heard to the ends of the earth, bringing the sad news of the dastardly attack on ELLI to all Greeks"

and resembles the Holy Church of the Virgin Mary as the strategic headquarters of the soul of the Greek nation.

A god-maiden always has guided and advised the Greeks during their great wars. Athena stood by our ancient heroes. Our troops and our ships are guided in this war for freedom.... from this island by the Megalohari of Tinos...from this island flew victory with unbelievable wings, to the snows of Trebesina, to the white-caps of the Ionian Sea and to the blue and white seas.

Standing upon a mountain-side in Tinos, just across from Delos, the other holy ancient island, it must have been about three hours before a beautiful sun-rise. When it finally became light I saw the all-white homes of our city, and began to recognize the silhouettes of the pilgrims who were walking slowly towards the hill... to the church. I could see the golden light coming from the church, from the candles of those who had stay there all night praying along with their sick and the lame and the blind, praying for a curing miracle.

By now the dawn had spread a rose light upon the east and I could see the proud ship approaching Tinos, to take part in the holy celebrations. The ship quickly made a wide gracious arc and came to a stop dropping anchor just outside the harbor, five hundred and fifty meters from the green marker light of the entrance. Every ship has its own destiny...

A gentle livas, the warm wind that comes from the hot sands of North Africa, had began to blow and to caress the silhouettes of the sailors on the deck. The time was 06:30 when a merry bugle's sound was heard. It was the command to begin the deployment of the flags. All at once the ship was covered with a triangle of its grand flag display. It was a happy time upon ELLI. The decision had been made as to what sailors would be taking part in the honorary guard for the procession of the Holy icon, and they had withdrawn in the stern quarters. With them were 8 Petty Officers who had requested permission from their Captain to allow them to carry the Holy Icon taking turns, four at a time. The rest of the crew had began to wash the decks and arrange tools and machinery they had use during the voyage.

The time is 06:45 and the engine noise of a plane is heard to be approaching ELLI. An Italian spotter plane, with its markings painted over so it will not be recognized, approaches from an easternly direction, flying at 1200 meters. Within moments the gun crews are in their battle stations. Gunnery Petty Officer Sigalas and the Warrant Officer in charge of the crew of the Skoda guns receive the order from the bridge to train their gun on the airplane but to hold fire. The plane makes two circles over the harbor of Tinos. The crowds thinking that it is a Greek plane raising their arms and waive them in salutation. The plane continues its flight towards the West reducing its altitude and eventually it disappears in the horizon.

No one ever thought that the spotter plane will be reporting to a submarine that was making ready to begin its deadly attack... on a Holy day... a day dedicated to the Holy Virgin... the 15th of August 1940.

The time is 08:25. On deck is the Officer of the Day, Ensign Hors, the Petty Officer on duty, a sailor standing guard by the ship's ladder, a messenger, the two gun crews and some of the sailors who had been assigned to take part in the honorary guard by the Holy Icon of the Virgin Mary.

On deck also at that time, was Lieutenant jg. Kyriazopoulos, and Petty Officers Katsaitis, Rakkas, Tsirigotis, Papadopoulos, Kokkoris, Syrigos and Papanikolaou. The Petty Officers had approached the Lieutenant to ask him if he could do them a favor...to light a candle for them, if he was to go ashore... He did not have the time to answer because at that moment voices were heard. They were the voices of the Signal-men from the ship's bridge coming loud... On-Coming TORPEDO from Starboard... the last syllables were covered by a tremendous thunder and explosion... 15th of August, 1940.

There were four torpedoe shots fired by the submerged submarine. One found its aim amid-ship. The other two missed their target and hit the harbor barrier rocks, exploding there. The fourth torpedo changed course and headed out to sea.

The torpedo that hit ELLI exploded exactly below one of its boilers, the one that had been maintained active. Due to the proximity of the explosion to the boiler-room, the active boiler exploded and its supply of oil caught fire. This left the vessel without means of propulsion, however its crew with the help of the nearby anchored merchant ships attempted to beach the ship in shallow waters. Unfortunately the spreading fire soon forced the crew and officers to abandon ship which began to sink at about 09:45. About half an hour later, ELLI the proud ship, was covered by the sea in its watery grave.

The ship's skipper, Captain Hatzopoulos RHN, reported to the Ministry of the Navy the following list of victims:

Dead: Missing: Wounded:

The Hellenic Maritime Museum
Akti Themistokleous
185 37 Piraeus