Early in the morning of the 19th July H.M.S. Sydney with H.M. Destroyers Hyperion, Hew, Havock, Hero and Hasty were engaged in carrying out a sweep between Greece and Crete in search of Italian shipping.
At 0724 two Italian cruisers, the Bartolomeo Colleoni and another of the same class, probably the Giovanni Belle Bande Nere, were sighted by four of the destroyers in the Antikithera Channel, north-west of the western end of Crete. The destroyers retired to the north-eastward while H.M.S. Sydney, with H.M. Destroyer Havock in company, closed to engage the enemy.
As soon as Sydney opened fire on the leading enemy cruiser, the Colleoni, our destroyers closed in support, and the Italian cruisers endeavoured to escape back through the Antikithera Channel. Early in the action a hit by Sydney in Colleoni’s engine room brought her to a standstill, and Sydney, leaving our destroyers to complete her destruction with torpedoes, continued the engagement with the other cruiser. The latter, however, succeeded in escaping after a chase lasting ninety minutes, in the course of which she was hit several times by Sydney.
A force sailed from Alexandria in an attempt to intercept her but was unsuccessful. 545 survivors from the Colleoni were picked up by H.M.S. Havock, which was bombed by enemy aircraft while engaged in their rescue and had one boiler room flooded, but was able to proceed without assistance.
There were no casualties in H.M. ships in this action. The Captain of the Colleoni died of wounds received in the action on the 23rd July at Alexandria.
See TNA cab/66/10/17