June 28th, 1940
The Destroyer Espero, under the command of Captain Enrico Baroni, was the lead escort of a fast troop convoy which also included the destroyers Ostro and Zaffiro. The three ships were tasked with the transfer of two units of Black Shirts (160 soldiers) from Taranto to bolster the defense of Tobruk.
The Italian Convoy was sighted by Vide-Admiral Tovey’s 7th Cruiser Squadron at around 6:30 PM of June 28th, 100 miles north of Tobruk. H.M.S. Liverpool opened fire at 6:32 PM at a range of 18,000 yards. While the Italian convoy steamed at high speed toward Tobruk in direction South, South-West, the 7th Squadron was organized into pursuit with the 1st Division (H.M.S. Orion, H.M.S. Neptune and H.M.A.S. Sydney) at the starboard and the 2nd Division (H.M.S. Liverpool and H.M.S. Gloucester) to port. The ships of the 2nd Division were newer and larger units.
At 7:20 PM range had decreased to 14,000 yards. With his ship already hit by several salvoes, Captain Baroni continued zigzagging and making smoke while engaging the overwhelmingly more powerful British squadron, thus allowing the escape of the two other ships.
The Espero was sunk by the H.M.A.S. Sydney which then rescued 47 survivors. The British units had expended an unreasonable high number of ammunitions, almost 5000 rounds. Captain Baroni was awarded, posthumously, the “Medaglia d’Oro al Valor Militare”, Italy’s highest recognition.