Armored Trains

Throughout World War I, armored trains were one of the principal means of defense against Austrian ships in the upper Adriatic, and were particularly used in the final stages of the conflict. Practically, at least one train was always on the move along the higher risk areas of the coastline. Naturally, these trains served more as spotters and means of first reaction rather than real defense because they were poorly armed, and therefore quite vulnerable. At the end of the conflict, all armored trains were disarmed and converted to civilian use.

An armored traini Breda Mod. 37 with a 47/32 Mod. 1935 gun.

During the arms race of the 1930s, when conflict with France appeared very probable, it was thought that armored trains could be of use and therefore it was ordered the construction of 8 armored trains with two logistical bases: La Spezia and Taranto (the two largest naval bases). In August 1939, two Command Groups Armored Trains were constructed under the authority of two C.C.; one in Liguria, with headquarters in Genoa, and one in Sicily, with headquarters in Palermo. These two regions were the closest to French territories from which could have easily originated both naval and aerials attacks (Tunisia to the south and Provence to the northwest). On April 15th, 1940, assuming Italy’s imminent entry into the war, the trains were placed in full war conditions as dictated by the mobilization act.

A train ready for action had, in addition to the railroad personnel, three officers and a variable number of crewmembers based on the train’s firepower. At the very most, it would include 25 non-commissioned officers, and 101 petty officers and ratings. The makeup of the trains varied over the years, evolving from the experience meantime acquired; the final layout included 1 locomotor (at one of the two ends), 4 to 6 cars for heavy guns, 2 flat cars for the machine guns, 1 car for the fire control equipment, 1 car for ammunitions, 2 cars for additional ammunitions, 1 car for administrative use, 2 cars for housing, 1 car for the kitchen, 1 car for baggage, 1 car for spare parts, and another locomotor (at the other end).

On June 10th, 1940 there were 9 armored trains with naval guns and 3 with antiaircraft guns; the latter, statically placed, assisted with the antiaircraft defenses in the area where they had been located. The other trains used their antiaircraft guns only in self-defense. The two groups of armored trains were organized as follows:

Group based in La Spezia:

T.A. 120/1/S with 4 120/45 mm and 2 13.2 mm machine guns
T.A. 120/2/S with 4 120/45 mm and 2 13.2 mm machine guns
T.A. 120/3/S with 4 120/45 mm and 2 13.2 mm machine guns
T.A. 120/4/S with 4 120/45 mm and 2 13.2 mm machine guns
T.A. 152/5/S with 5 152/40 mm and 2 13.2 mm machine guns
T.A. 76/1/S with 6 76/40 mm and 2 13.2 mm machine guns

Group based in Taranto:

T.A. 152/1/T with 4 152/40 mm, 2 76/40mm and 2 13.2 mm machine guns
T.A. 152/2/T with 4 152/40 mm, 2 76/40mm and 2 13.2 mm machine guns
T.A. 152/3/T with 4 152/40 mm, 2 76/40mm and 2 13.2 mm machine guns
T.A. 152/4/T with 4 152/40 mm, 2 76/40mm and 2 13.2 mm machine guns
T.A. 102/1/T with 6 guns 102/35 and 2 13.2 mm machine guns
T.A. 76/1/T with 4 guns 76/40 and 2 13.2 machine guns

These trains were deployed as follows:

In Liguria 5 T.A. in Vado, Albenga, Albissola, Cogoleto, Recco and an antiaircraft T.A. in Sanpierdarena

In Sicily 4 T.A. in: Carini, Termini Imerese, Crotone, porto Empedocle, and Antiaircraft A.T in Syracuse and Porto Empedocle.

In August 1940, following the armistice with France, two trains with 120/45 guns were transferred from Liguria to Sicily and Calabria, while another one, at the beginning of the campaign against Greece, was sent to Puglie. In November 1941, it was decided to replace the two a.a. (antiaircraft guns) 76/40 guns on each of the T.A. 152 in Taranto with 20 mm machine guns. The eight guns made available were used to arm new trains with 4 76/40 guns and 2 20 mm machine guns each; these new trains were the 76/2/T and T.A. 76/3/T and were assigned to Licata and Mazara del Vallo.

During the conflict, armored trains intervened several times against enemy ships, while during the land offensive against France they were used against bunkers on the Ligurian-French border. These trains had special depots in which they were kept ready to move with the locomotors fired up. In case of alarm, the decision to stop all traffic on the rail line was solely up to the train’s commander, as was the reopening of the line to commercial traffic.

On July 1st, 1943, at the beginning of the Allied landing in Sicily, there were 10 armored trains located as follows:

T.A. 152/1/ T in Termini Imprese
T.A. 152/2/T in Carini
T.A. 102/1/T in Syracuse
T.A. 120/3/S and T.A. 76/1/T in Porto Empedocle
T.A. 76/2/T in Licata
T.A. 76/3/T in Mazara del Vallo
T.A. 120/4/S in Catania
T.A. 120/1/S in Sidereo
T.A. 152/3/T in Crotone.

Practically, all these trains were lost during the Sicilian campaign; only single cars from some of the trains were transported to the mainland where they were used as stationary batteries.

An Italian armored train hit near Licata, Sicily

Only the armored trains left in Liguria were utilized up to the armistice, continuously moving along the coast; at least two were later utilized by the Germans.

Translated by Cristiano D’Adamo and edited by Laura K. Yost

Interview with Emilio Bianchi

Walking into Emilio Bianchi’s home I was excited by the thought of this man, one of the greatest heroes of Italian naval history. I was impressed by his modesty; several times during the interview he spoke of drills and dives as if anyone could do it. I was also touched by his dedication to country and navy.

Mr. Bianchi, how was your training structures?

Training was quite hard, actually very hard. One needs only to consider that in the middle of winter we would dive at 9:00 PM and spend the whole night drilling and diving with our “pigs”. Training was very challenging and exhausting, and only our enthusiasm allowed us to carry on.

Initial training was conducted at Bocca del Serchio (the secret base of the Xa MAS) where we would learn how to govern the assault vehicle, get familiar with it and learn attack techniques. After Italy’s entry into the war, when the date for an attack was becoming closer, we would attack the Italian naval base in La Spezia. We could not alert the sentries of our operation, so the attack was carried out in complete secret and with the risk of getting shot by our own soldiers.

We would leave from the Island of Tino. We had to overcome the double defense lines near Punta Santa Maria, near the entrance to the military port, and then pass two more defense lines near the ship we were attacking. The most difficult aspect was the fact that we had to operate at a depth of 45 feet in a very dark night, and therefore we were practically blind and had to be in perfect sync with our teammate.

To bypass the defenses, we had special tools which would allow us to break the net without too much effort (this was required by the gas combination used by the divers, which did not allow for strenuous activities). We used something like Jaws of Life and pneumatic jacks. Once the charge was attached to the keel of the “friendly” ship, the drill was not quite over. Due to the secrecy of our activities, we had to go back simulating and escape from the base.

So, during your drill you endured the same risks you had in Alexandria?
I would say that the risks during training were greater, mostly because during these drills we simulated circumstances which did not happen once in Alexandria. In Alexandria, thanks to our secret service and scouts, we knew perfectly where the battleships were and how to operate. We just had to repeat what we had done during our drills.
What is the greatest danger you have been in?

The greatest danger took place during the second mission against Gibraltar. After some delays, we were able to reach the military port where some British boats were dropping depth charges all around, but without giving us too much trouble. Suddenly, an internal explosion (probably due to gases formed inside the battery compartment) in the “Maiale” just under my bottom (while saying this, Mr Bianchi started laughing…) caused the motor to seize up and immediately drop down.

I should remind you that our breathing apparatuses did not allow us to descend more than 45 feet, while reaching 90 feet was absolutely forbidden. My vehicle kept going down and, in checking the depth gauge, I noticed that it was stuck at about 90 feet. At this point, the vehicle touched the bottom and stopped. (Durand De La Penne, not being able to govern the “pig”, had abandoned it right away).

At this point, if the depth of the sea had been any greater I would have surely kicked the bucket. After having realized that Durand was not there, I attempted to repair the maiale operating the fast blow valve, but to no avail. I then felt the initial symptoms of dizziness and gave up. Once back to the surface, I found my commander, De la Penne. At that point, a British patrol boat was fast approaching, but fortunately we were not seen and we swam back to the Spanish coast (2 and ½ hours at night, in the cold waters infested by enemy ships is, in Mr. Bianchi’s words, the easiest thing on earth…). Once in Spain, our agents took us back to Italy. Oh yes; that time I was really in a hole…

During your dives wasn’t it cold?
We wore heavy wool clothing, somewhat similar to long johns, from feet to torso, and sweaters on top. We then wore a waterproof diver suit. Well, actually it was waterproof only in theory since often water came pouring in because the suit was very delicate and anything sharp would tear it up. It was made out of rubberized canvas and it had the unpleasant feature of wrinkling up at a depth of 30 feet or more. This action created a pliers-like motion, which would grab your skin and whip it. Once out of the water at the end of a drill, it looked like we had been flagellated. On the head we wore a hood lined in wool, but water seeped in, causing terrible cramps, but then the water inside the hood would warm up and the pain would go away.

After the attack (Alexandria) you were captured. How did the British treat you?

The first British sailors who saw us made fun of us, thinking that we had failed, but as soon as the senior officer realized the situation, they made us remove our clothes and we were brought to shore. Here two officers who spoke Italian (even better than us!) interrogated us one by one. The British offices threatened us and pointed at a pistol lying on the table, but we knew that it was only a trick to scare us and make us talk, but we did not. At this point, we were brought back aboard the Valiant and locked up in a storage room below the water line, in the hope that we would reveal where the bomb was. We knew that very soon the charge would explode and we were awaiting the explosion with some anxiety. When it came, it shook the whole ship and left us in the dark. They came to pick us up and took us ashore; here I noticed, with great pleasure, that the ship was starting to lean over.

I would like to point out that the battleships were not sunk, but just placed out of commission due to the shallow waters. (He is saying it as if he wanted to diminish the accomplishment…) After the attack we were taken to Palestine in an area called Latrum for about 8 months. Then, after Al-Alamein with the fear that the Germans would reach the Suez Canal, the three officers were taken to India, while we were sent to South Africa in the Transvaal. (I would like to note that Bianchi attempted to escape twice. I only found out after having read his memoirs, but during the interview he did not mentioned it, probably for modesty). The three officers and Marino returned to Italy immediately after the armistice; while using some health-related excuses, I decided to stay at the prisoner of war camp until the end of the war. I did not want to go back to Italy because I did not know what to do; we would have had to fight one against the other (he is referring to the civil war).

If you had gone back to Italy, what would you have done?

I think that knowing Borghese and those people, I would have ended up joining the “Repubblica di Salò”, also because one cannot start a war and then at a given point tell the former ally (Germany) that now they are the enemy. It is a matter of ethics, conscience. If I had gone back, I could not have seen the British as my friends and the Germans as my enemy. I would like to mention something Tesei said: “It is not important if a war is won or lost, what matters is fighting well.” The high command did all it could to fight it poorly. After our action in Alexandria, the Navy did not take advantage of her overwhelming supremacy; evidently we did not have good strategists!

What do you think of the occupation of Malta; was it Italy’s greatest mistake?
Let me just say that on June 10th, 1940, just after having listened to the announcement over the radio, Tesei said, “Now the Italian Navy must immediately eliminate Malta at any cost!” I say, is it possible that an officer of naval constructions could have understood the importance of Malta when the great admirals could not care less? Malta had undoubtedly had a very high price; one must only think of our poor solders in Africa who did not even have ammunitions. At a certain point, the island was exhausted, we could have taken it with little risk, but we never got there… What could we have done? It wasn’t our duty (he says it with clear bitterness in his words).

50th anniversary – Cerimony of June 9th, 1991in La Spezia (Birindelli, Barberi, Beccati, de La Penne, Marceglia, Bianchi, Manisco, Arillo, Ferraro, Marcolini, all Gold Medal for Valor)
One last question, Mr. Bianchi. Why do you think that of the six men in Alexandria, your team is the most famous?
Mr. Bianchi does not answer. I don’t understand if it is a matter of modesty, or it is because he does not want to reiterate the accusations of excessive protagonist which have always followed De la Penne)

My infinite thanks to Mr. Emilio Bianchi for his availability and the honor extended to me. I would also like to thank Mr. Enzo Casciani and Mr. Lorenzo Salvestrini who have made this meeting possible.

Translated from Italian by Cristiano D’Adamo

Interview with a stoker of the light cruiser “Bande Nere”

Leghorn, January 18th, 2002

What were your duties aboard ship?

I was called to arms in the early months of 1941 and I was assigned to the naval base of Messina where I completed a relatively short period of training. After two months in charge of a warehouse, I was ordered to Palermo to take service aboard the cruiser “Giovanni dalle Bande Nere”. It was, if I am not mistaken, around June 1941 and I was a stoker. It was not a bad assignment, as one might otherwise think. Differently from my comrades, I had the opportunity to rest quite often since in the proximity of each boiler there was a small room where, during periods of calm, we could take turns resting. Naturally, it was not allowed, but fortunately this rule was never enforced too rigidly.

A stoker is inside the ship and does not know what is happening, right?

Well, rumors were rampant, but of course we could not know everything. We had to simply follow orders, but more than once I went up to the upper deck to see what was taking place.

How was the crew-officer relation?

Well, relation, there was no relation with them. They were a separate caste by themselves, which refused to talk to a simple sailor unless to give orders. Once, while I was smoking a cigarette on deck, an officer walked by and I attempted to engage in a conversation but this person did not reply and stood, in silence, close to me. When I finished my cigarette, I was ready to throw it overboard but the wind tossed it back onto the deck and this officer gave me a “note of demerit” for having soiled the deck!

In the Navy, was food good in those days?

I’m sorry to let you down, but food was really bad and it was one of the main reasons for our complaining. When we were fed up eating that disgusting stuff, two or three representatives would go to the captain to protest. Most of the time, nothing would happen, but twice the protest was more energetic and for two or three days they fed us pasta with tomato sauce or a good soup to then go back to the usual meals. Sleeping was better. Everyone had his own hammock which was attached to two posts with hooks at various heights, specifically installed in various rooms where we could rest. The annoying thing was that each time we got up we had to disassemble the hammock, fold it, and place it in special lockers on the side of the room. The same had to be done in case of alarm because during battle station all the compartments had to be perfectly unobstructed.

Which kind of missions did you do?

The most common missions were mine laying. We would leave at night and the mission would last two days. The scary thing was that we would see six or seven ships of various types navigating next to each other and, every so often, dropping a mine into the sea. Another kind of mission, which in reality we did not complete too often, was the escort to a convoy. These missions were very tiring and we were under constant aerial attack and our anti-aircraft guns (the 100 mm guns) were always in use. The projectiles were brought up from the storage area by hand, and after awhile the people assigned to this task were exhausted, so we stokers had to help them. It was not a pleasant job, especially after four hours in the boiler room. The turns were 4 hours of work and 4 hours of rest, but in reality during the rest periods there was always something to do. Anyway, our missions were short and we spent more time in port than at sea. Fortunately, we never completed transport missions as the “da Giussano” and “da Barbiano” did. If I think about all the friends I lost… Also, we participated in the Second Battle of Sirte.

What do you remember about it?

A bad experience because we lost a destroyer, “Scirocco”, (in reality two were lost), due to the heavy sea; I had many friends aboard. Reckon that the sea was so bad that at a certain point we could no longer fire our guns and withdrew. At that point I was on deck and saw flares from the Littorio’s guns and I realized that there was a battleship with us, but I could not see it, I could only see the flares from the big guns. During the return trip, we experienced many serious breakdowns, thus as soon as we reached Taranto we were ordered to La Spezia for repairs. We were all happy because it would have meant a shore leave. When the ship was in dry-dock, we were housed in nearby buildings and would all go on leave. The only negative aspect of dry-dock works was that all the little extra things on board, meaning what we had set up to improve our lives on board, were taken away and each time we had to readapt the ship to our needs. Unfortunately, we never made it to La Spezia.

Could you tell us about the torpedoing?

It was a tragic experience. It was April 1st and I was on duty in my boiler area when, around 9 AM, we were shocked by a large explosion and the boiler room filled with smoke (note: evidently, he was in the aft boiler room as the forward one was ripped apart by the torpedo). Thus, I told a friend of mine that we had to leave right away and rushed to a ladder to go up on deck. The ladder usually was straight up but I immediately realized that it wasn’t, so I rushed even more, and in the confusion this friend of mine below me took my shoes off! Fortunately, our ship did not have modern watertight bulkheads typical of modern ships, so we could make it to the upper deck (this explains why 5 out of 6 ships of this kind were lost due to torpedoing). I immediately realized that the situation was dramatic and I started looking for a life vest, but then I decided to jump without wearing one because I was afraid of not wearing it properly and making things even worse. While I was jumping, I heard the captain scream, “ viva il duce, viva il re, viva l’Italia “ Long live Mussolini, the King and Italy” and I almost started laughing. Once in the water, I began swimming to get away from the ship which by then, with the stern out of the water, had started sinking: it was a terrible moment. It had been my home for nine months and by then I was attached to it.

I was in the water for a long time until the destroyers in escort, after having thrown some depth charges against the submarine which had torpedoed us, came to pick us up. The Aviere picked me up and immediately, due to the intense cold, I went down to the boiler room and hugged a steam pipe. Someone tried to get me off there, but I resisted and that was probably what saved me. Thereafter, I was taken to the infirmary where they tried to their best to clean off the fuel oil I had all over me and especially in my eyes where it hurt very much.

We were disembarked in Messina, while the other survivors were taken to Palermo. Up to this day, I don’t know who survived, excluding the few with me on the Aviere. After the sinking, I was sent to La Spezia where I served at an artillery station near the Varignano jetty. I tried several times to get back aboard a ship because, after all, life was better than on shore, but it did not work out. The strange thing is that our pay was higher on shore: 180 lira on the “Bande Nere” and 200 lira in La Spezia.

What do you remember of this period?

I remember an event. One day, while I was on watch an enemy airplane dropped many boxes containing flyers. One of these boxes did not open and fell off the jetty, thus the officer in command gave me the assignment, along with another sailor, to go get the box. We got closer using a dingy, but were very fearful it might be a bomb, but the incitement from shore gave us courage and I picked up the box and brought it back to the battery commander. On the flyers it was written, “Tomorrow we are going to bomb the jetty and the port, go away”. The other sailor and I had already read the flyer, despite orders received, thus very soon the news spread across the port. The port commander told us that it was just propaganda. The day after, more than 200 airplanes began bombing La Spezia. It was an unforgettable experience. At our post we were just waiting for our time to come; fortunately, not a single bomb hit our battery, but the shipyard was destroyed, along with the nearby houses, and the (battleship) Littorio was seriously hit by a bomb (it is almost surely the bombing of April 19th).

After September 8th, 1943 what did you do?

I was still in La Spezia and at the news of the armistice our joy lasted very briefly because we all knew that the Germans would now be our enemies. The morning of the 9th, after the fleet had left, we got aboard a mail ship to Leghorn. On this ship there were a few German soldiers who took control of the boat and almost had it run aground on a reef, just before getting there. At night, along with other folks from my town, we attempted to get back to the Island of Elba. Thus, on a dingy eight of us made it toward the island and arrived in the morning, landing despite threats from a few Italian soldiers who did not want any more trouble. A few days later, while we were at the Navy headquarters to find out what to do, there was a German bombing raid which hit several towns and killed many innocent people, especially because around there of “blameworthy” ones there were very few. Then, the Germans arrived and, along with the others, I was forced to hide in the hillside. It was not an easy time. Then the war ended and I began living again, even though hunger went away much later…


I greatly thank this gentleman who, in honor of those who have fallen aboard the “Bande Nere”, has requested not to be named. I also would like to thank my friend Ameris who has made this interview possible.

Italian Obsolete Cruisers

Cruiser Taranto (ex Strassburg)

“Ovunque un raggio della gloria d’Italia”

The Strassburg was launched in Wilhemshave (Germany) in 1911 along with three more units (Magdeburg, Breslau, Stralsund) which made up a class of large explorer. These units were the first in the period to have armor in the form of a vertical belt of 60 mm, a horizontal protection of 50 mm, and a double hull for underwater protection. The power plan included 16 boilers, both coal and fuel oil-fired, and power was distributed over two axles. The original armament included twelve 105/45 mm built by Krupp and four 500-mm torpedo launchers. During World War I, the Kaiserliche Marine altered the ship’s configuration replacing all guns with seven 150/45 mm and two 88/45 mm, but leaving the torpedo launchers. Three of the 150 mm guns were place aft, one forward and one on each side. Four were astern, one to each side of the mast, one immediately astern of the mast and one further down. This layout was, for the time, optimal making for a robust and well-armed ship. The Strassburg was included in the list of ships to be transferred to Italy as part of war reparations, and it was delivered in Cherbourg (France) on July 20th, 1920.

The ship underwent some repair work and alterations; the 88 mm guns were removed and replaced by two 76/40 mm. Later, the torpedo launchers were completely removed. In 1929 the ship, renamed Taranto, was reclassified as a cruiser and began an intense period of activity including several cruises, station duties in the Red Sea, and visits to ports in Spain and Albania. In 1935, the Taranto entered the shipyard for new and more extensive modernization work. The two foremost boilers were removed, along with their corresponding funnel, thus reducing power to 13,000 HP and speed to 21 knots. In addition, the ship was equipped with some antiaircraft guns.
At the beginning of the hostilities, the Taranto already obsolete and heavily worn out, was assigned to the defense of the port of Taranto. After the invasion of Greece, the unit was engaged in numerous bombardment missions along the Adriatic coast, and some mine-laying activities. In 1941, when the invasion of Malta appeared imminent, the unit was to participate to the landing operations, but the mission, for several reasons, never took place. In 1942 the ship war removed from service and on September 9th 1943 was scuttled to avoid capture by the Germans. The Taranto was later salvaged to be utilized as an obstruction near the outer jetty, but after 31 years of service, its carrier was ended by Allied bombing.

Cruiser Bari (ex Pillau)

“Signum victorie victoriam teneat”

The cruiser Bari, part of war reparations from Germany, was delivered to Italy on July 20th, 1920. The ship was originally built for the Russian Navy by the Schichau shipyard of Danzic. At the outbreak of World War I, the ship was incorporated in the German Navy and named Pillau. When delivered to the Regia Marina, the ship was equipped with eight 150/45-mm guns in shielded single mounting and two 88/45-mm guns.
After a few minor changes, the unit was used until 1934 as a training vessel. Later, the Regia Marina decided to transform the ship into a “colonial” cruiser. The six coal-burning boilers were removed along with the foremost funnel. The space was used to build a new oil bunker and more comfortable quarters more suitable for the tropical weather the ship was operate in. Anti-aircraft defenses were augmented with the installation of a few machineguns. At the end of the alterations, the ship was transferred to the Read Sea where it operated until 1937 when the newly built Eritrea replaced it. After her return to Italy, the ship remained under repair until the outbreak of war when it was assigned to the defense of Taranto.

On October 25, 1940, the unit became the flagship for the special naval force engaged in operations against Greece. Here, the Bari was utilized for mine laying and naval bombardment against the Adriatic coast where her German-built guns proved quite effective. In 1941, when the invasion of Malta appeared imminent, the unit was to participate to the landing operations, but the mission, for several reasons, never took place. In 1943, in an attempt of improving convoy escort, the Regia Marina studied a transformation project, which would have equipped the Bari with eight 90-mm guns and several machineguns. While in Livorno to install eight 37/54 mm and eight 20/70-mm guns, the Bari was sunk during an Allied aerial bombardment.

Armored Cruiser San Giorgio

“Tutor et ultor”

Having entered service in 1910, the cruiser San Giorgio saw action in three wars, the Italian-Turkish war, World War I and World War II and, following her sinking, she was awarded the Gold Medal. This ship was the last representative of an older generation of ships, the armored cruisers, the predecessors of the heavy cruisers. She entered service in 1910, and after World War I, was used as a target ship along with her sister ship San Marco. Although when she entered service she was very modern, she was, by World War II, obsolete and no improvement could have made the ship capable of confronting the modern cruisers.

The principal shortcoming, in addition to lack of speed and an antiquated fire control system, was undoubtedly the weak horizontal armor which had been designed to protect the ship against naval guns and could not protect her against aerial bombs. Also missing was any anti-torpedo protection, but the 254 mm and 190 mm guns were still usable, as was her vertical armor.

San Giorgio in 1916

When, in 1937, it was decided to modernize the ship, the Regia Marina opted to transform her into a large monitor for the defense of the African ports. Six boilers were removed, while the remaining eight were modernized, converting them from coal to fuel oil. The two most rear funnels were removed and all guns, excluding the larger 254 mm and 190 mm, were removed. The 76-mm guns were replaced with 100/47 in four twin-shielded mountings installed on specially built platforms near the deckhouse. All minor armaments and the torpedo launchers were also removed.

San Giorgio in Tobruk

When the ship was sent to Tobruk for the defense of the port, an additional twin gun was installed in front of the aft turret of the 254 mm gun, along with several machine guns of both the 37/54 and 20/65 model. Once in Tobruk, the ship’s deck was covered with a layer of sandbags to partially remedy her limited horizontal armor. She also received additional machine guns. After her arrival on May 1940, the ship was fenced in an anti-torpedo netting system. On June 28th 1940, the ship’s antiaircraft guns mistakenly shot down the plane of Italo Balbo, who died in the incident.

The wreckage of Italo Balbo’s plane

From June 12, 1940 the ship remained in a state of full alert 322 times in 212 days. On January 21, after having delayed the incoming British advance into the town rejecting a tank formation using her larger caliber, the ship was condemned to self-destruction. At 4:15 a.m. on January 22, 1941, while British troops had already entered Tobruk, several explosive charges were detonated, thus scuttling the ship. The glorious ship was savaged in 1951 and, while flying the Italian flag on her mast, she was being towed back to Italy when a temporary leak-stopper failed, causing her to sink about 140 miles from Tobruk on July 20th.

The Oil Fuel Issue


Each year Italy, a country of limited natural resources, is forced to import tons of fuel of various grades from multiple sources. This dependency on imports is particularly aggravated during war times when the larger part of these imports ceases. During World War I, when Italy was allied with the “Lords of the Sea” and with the countries controlling most of the world’s natural resources, this problem did not exist. Instead, the Central Empires were tormented by this problem, and being unable to procure what was necessary to keep the war machine running, forced to surrender. When Mussolini declared the “Autarchia” (national self sufficiency), complete self-reliance of the whole Italian industrial complex, one could not but notice the paradox of such a proclamation. Italy, even if she had had the necessary industries to sustain her (a far-fetched assumption considering the backward state of the whole apparatus), would have been unable to obtain the necessary energy to keep it running.

In the 20s and 30s, Italy imported an average of 12 million tons of good quality coal necessary for industrial production, the generation of electricity, locomotion, and winter heating. When Great Britain decided that an Italian intervention along with Germany was preferable to a pro-German neutrality, Italy was informed on January 14th 1940 of an imminent naval blockade of all coal import from Germany ( at that time coming through the then neutral Netherlands). On February 3rd, London informed Rome of the necessary prerequisites for the reinstitution of shipments of the indispensable coal, which, under the plan, would have been shipped from England. Italy was asked to provide London with a large quantity of war materiel. Following the mediation attempts conducted by the Italian Foreign Minister, Count Ciano, Great Britain materialized her threats and on March 1st, when units of the Royal Navy interdicted and captured 13 Italian coal ships taking them to internment and confiscating their cargoes.

On the 10th of the same month, when Italian reserves of coal had already decreased to less than one month, the Germans informed that they were ready to commence transferring coal through the Alpine passes at a rate of about 1 million tons per month. This remedy, which the British thought impossible, was the result of collaboration between the “Reichsbahn” and the “Ferrovie dello Stato” and lasted until late summer 1944. Considering that from June 1940 through September 1943 the Regia Marina had to face an ever increasing crisis with the supplies of oil fuel, which at one point paralyzed the fleet leaving the control of the Mediterranean in the hands of the enemy, how did the Italian war ships fill up to reach Malta, where they surrendered?

After several studies, some well-known historians pointed out several discrepancies between the fuel status reports the Regia Marina was sending to the Germans and the quantity reported by the historical bureau of the Italian Navy. The most evident of these discrepancies was noted in the meeting of Merano, in February 1941, where the head of the Navy, Admiral Riccardi, stated that the Navy had only 610,000 tons left when in fact, reserves amounted to over 1 million tons. One can easily assume that the Navy had created a sort of black fund of oil fuel to be used as a last resource with the double scope of obtaining more of the now available German fuel and, in relative security, to coordinate naval operations.


The Regia Marina, expecting the imminent conflict against Great Britain, had planned in the years preceding the war and had been able to accumulate hefty quantities of oil fuel for her boilers to about 2 million tons. This quantity was thought sufficient for about one and one half years of war without any limitations. The Navy was the only armed force, which was able to accumulate a large quantity of fuel, and in the first week of June the Minister of Corporations withdrew 250,000 tons for the operation of industries and also for the Regia Aeronautica. The Regia Aeronautica had used tanks built of tin, instead of iron, which had caused the gasoline to spoil, so the Navy had to transfer 50,000 tons of gasoline.

Italy entered the war not only with the most complete lack of readiness of her armed forces, but also without much fuel. It was thought that the war would not have last long and that the little fuel reserve would be sufficient. As a matter of fact, until January 1941, there were no limitations on the use of oil fuel, but during this month 671,560 tons had already been burned. Supermarina was forced to reduce training. Up to that moment, no large shipment of oil fuel had been acquired to replace the spent one. The 50,000 tons coming from Rumania were all destined to the Regio Esercito and civilian use, while the Regia Aeronautica benefited from 200,000 tons of very poor quality oil coming from the Albanian oil wells. The Regia Marina even attempted to increase domestic production obtaining annually 10,000 tons of low-grade fuel. The first replenishment was only 15,000 tons and it arrived from Rumania as part of an extraordinary shipment.


To worsen this situation came the attempted coup d’ètat in Rumania, which tried to replace the pro German government. Despite Rome’s denial, it was common opinion that the Italian government had supported this action and therefore all shipments of fuel were immediately ceased. For the Regia Marina this situation meant that in addition to losing any hope of replainge the oil fuel burned, 250,000 tons had to be transferred to the Ministry of Corporations which declared it “intangible” while an additional 34,000 tons had to be transferred to the national industry. During 1941, Italy was only able to import 600,000 tons of fuel and of this 163,000 tons were “donated” to the Navy. At this point the situation became really dramatic and the monthly consumption had to be reduced to 60,000 tons. The total amount of oil fuel available at the end of the year was about 200,000 tons and during this period of crisis it was decided to remove from service the older battleships. To worsen this already negative situation, after the November British attack in Egypt, the high command and Mussolini requested that the fleet defend the Libya-bound convoys. This strain, which eventually paid off, was only possible thanks to the special shipment of 80,000 tons of German oil fuel, which was delivered at the end of the year.


On January 10th, 1942 Admiral Riccardi informed the Germans that the Navy’s supplies of fuel had gone down to 90,000 tons. Admiral De Courten, in his memoirs, affirms that in that month the actual reserves were 200,000 tons. This discrepancy can be explained by the 130,000 tons of “intangible” fuel assigned to the corporation. During these months, the bottom was finally reached with reserves down to 14,000 tons. The situation was further deteriorated by the shipment of 9,000 tons of German oil fuel of quality too low to be of any use.

Fortunately, at the end of April, it was possible to start importing 50,000 tons of oil fuel per month from Rumania. Suspending the escort and mining missions conducted by the cruisers further reduced consumption. These precautions and new shipments allowed for the deployment of the whole fleet in the double operation (east and west) during the battle of mid-June. Despite the new shipment, the situation kept deteriorating because, up to the armistice, the Regia Marina transferred 40,000 tons to other units and only two shipments of German fuel (10,000 tons in July and 23,000 in September) were received. These shipments allowed for the deployment (then cancelled), of some cruisers during the battle of mid-August and the replenishment of the bunkers aboard the two naval squadrons. At the end of November, the oil fuel reserve was about 70,000 tons plus all which was stored aboard the ships; enough for one sortie of the whole fleet. At the end of December, the old battleships Cesare, Duilio and Doria were removed from service, thus allowing for their crews to be redeployed to new escort units which were just entering service.


The allied landing in North Africa and the subsequent doubling in consumption was the new event which, once again, placed the Regia Marina in a state of crisis. In fact, now instead of just refurnishing Libya, the Navy had to supply Tunisia. These new missions were made possible by the shipment of 40,000 tons of excellent German oil fuel. In January 1943, the crisis reached its climax and the three modern battleships had to be removed from service thus eliminating the Italian battle force. The only naval division still operating was the 3rd, based in La Maddalena (Sardinia). The crisis worsened with only 3,000 tons received in February 1943 and in March and April the modern destroyers had to be removed from escort missions. Meanwhile, on the 10th of April, the only major naval force, the 3rd Division, was annihilated when the Trieste was sunk and the Gorizia seriously damaged by an allied air bombardment. Expecting a possible Allied invasion, the remaining destroyers were reactivated along with the battleships which had half their bunkers filled with diesel fuel used by submarines.

In the month of April, the 9th and 7th Divisions were active and the destroyers were used in escort missions. It must be noted that, at this point, there was no reserve of oil fuel left; so, how did the Regia Marina reach Malta? To find the answer, we have to step back. When the Germans unexpectedly occupied the French base of Toulon on November 27, 1942, where most of the French fleet still afloat was kept, they were able to capture 80,000 tons of oil fuel. Having realized that the Regia Marina could not launch any offensive mission, the Germans transferred “on loan” 60,000 tons of “special” oil fuel thus allowing for the three battleships to be reactivated, along with the cruisers of the 7th and 8th Division, the light cruisers based in Taranto, and, at the end of June, the two battleships Doria and Duilio, while the Cesare was in Trieste being rebuilt. This oil fuel allowed for several training missions, event which had not happened in a long time. The final mission was not even compromised by the total cessation of German supplies following Mussolini’s fall. In fact when Italy surrendered on September 8th, the Fleet had enough fuel to reach and surrender in Malta.

Operation Toro

On September 10th, 1941 the Germans allies explicitly requested a naval bombardment of the British stronghold of Tobruk at the time surrounded by the Italo-German army of General Rommel. The operation called for a naval bombardment in coordination with a land offensive against the base, real thorn in the flank of the 5th Italian Army and the Afrika Korps. The targets of the mission would have been the coastal defenses, and the area of the bay used by the British to land reinforcements coming from Egypt.

The Regia Marina, mostly basing her comments on experience acquired in Spain and during the occupation of Greece, was very skeptical of the effectiveness of naval bombardments. This kind of action was believed uneconomical compared to aerial bombardment and of low accuracy. Supermarina noted: “the bombardment will be necessarily of brief duration, about half an hour, and due to the distance to be covered to reach Tobruk departing from bases in Italy, it will be difficult to synchronize it with land-based operations.” Therefore, the operation was thought to be mostly demonstrative and to benefit morale and obtain some political gain, but of minimal military value.

Admiral Iachino

The operational plan, created by Adm. Angelo Iachino himself, did not call for the utilization of battleships. The naval force tasked with the mission would have included the heavy cruisers Trento, Trieste and Bolzano (3rd Division), with the escort of a squadron of destroyer and two modern torpedo boats to provide, during the bombardment, for mine sweeping operations just ahead of the cruisers.

One of the required elements for the mission was surprise, and therefore it was decided to take an approach route divided into two segments, each to be covered during the night. Leaving Messina (Sicily) two days earlier and with at least 72 hours notice, the units would have reached Navarrino the following morning. From here, immediately after dark, the 3rd Division would have reached Tobruk around 10 AM. Iachino decided not to reach Tobruk around daybreak to avoid encountering superior enemy forces. In the final plan, extensive aerial reconnaissance was to be carried out by German aircraft based in Crete and starting at sunrise of action day. The commander at sea, based on the circumstances, would have established the return route.

The actual bombardment would have been executed by a destroyer at a distance of 800 meters (keeping at a minimum depth of 100 meters), while the cruisers would have sailed further out at about 3000 meters utilizing their airplanes to secure accurate range finding. In the final draft, it was also thought of utilizing land-based airplanes with a naval observer aboard so to spare the Ro43 installed aboard the cruisers in case of engagement with the enemy.

Much more ambitious was a different plan, referred to as “Operation #2”. This plan called for the utilization of two fast battleships, the Littorio and Vittorio Veneto, and the 3rd Cruiser Division for an action off Tobruk with the goal of impeding the replenishing of the stronghold during the land offensive. This ambitious plan was nevertheless put aside almost immediately due to the impossibility of keeping the enemy unaware of the redeployment of the major forces of the Regia Marina. As a matter of fact, the two battleships were constantly kept under the eye of British aerial reconnaissance. Furthermore, the elevated consumption of oil fuel was kept under consideration.

Aerial cooperation called for the mobilization of all Italian bombers and torpedo bombers based in North Africa and in the Aegean sector, and the German planes based in Crete. These airplanes would have been used to attack enemy naval formations, while fighters from the Regia Aeronautica’s bases in Cirenaica would have provided for a protective umbrella of over 100 aircraft. The Regia Aeronautica’s inability to provide for such a large involvement caused a postponement of the original date of mid November. Eventually, due to the successes of the land-based forces, Operation Toro was postponed indefinitely

Operation BA

Upon Italy’s entry in the war, the Regia Marina had to immediately concentrate resources on the protection of traffic destined for Libya. This was accomplished better than it is commonly believed, and in almost all of 1940 the Italian Navy did not organize any offensive action. In the summer of 1941, the first study for an offensive action, called “Operation BA”, was started. This plan contemplated an incursion by light forces to surprise British naval units engaged in the surveillance of costal traffic between the Balearic Islands and Cartagena (Spain). Following the German offensive against Russia, destroyers based in Malta intensified patrols in the Spanish waters searching for contraband cargo aboard Spanish, French, Swiss and Turkish ships. It should be noted that the British considered contraband any goods destined for Italy or Germany, including medicines. The study of the operational habits of the enemy, and the British tendency to operate with only two groups of destroyers without the support of cruisers, pushed the operatives within Supermarina to immediately conceive the first plan (on July 15th, Admiral Campioni was replaced by the younger and much respected Admiral Sansonetti).

To overcome the limited range of their destroyers, the Italian Planning Office (operations planning office within Supermarina) decided to concentrate the attack force in La Maddalena (Sardinia). The Italian group would have included two light cruisers of the “Di Giussano” class and four destroyers. The group would have left port at 11:00 AM a day before action day (day X) and, taking advantage of the very limited British aerial reconnaissance in the area, would have reached the zone between Cartagena and the Balearic Islands early morning of the following day. The ships would have traveled 44 hours, covering around 800 miles at about 18 knots, thus leaving the commander at sea with the option of forcing to full speed for about one hour while engaging the enemy. The oil fuel consumed would have totaled 1,650 tons, to which one would have to add the fuel necessary to reach La Maddalena and then return to the original bases.

It was also necessary to obtain further intelligence regarding the patrol schedule followed by the British, thus reducing the quantity of fuel oil necessary to locate the enemy. A failed mission, even though politically useful, was not at the time acceptable. Furthermore, aerial exploration was to be intensified starting from the day before action day and up to a day after. Meantime, the British, starting in June 1941, began to periodically send naval groups composed of two aircraft carriers escorted by a battleship tasked with the delivery of airplanes to Malta. In a later study, it was taken into consideration that it would have been more appropriate to utilize two of the newer cruisers because they were more protected than the faster, but vulnerable, “Di Giussano” class. Up to this point, since 1939, the Regia Marina had realized that the “Di Giussano” class could not match enemy cruisers and therefore should be used in other functions.

Any further study of this operation ceased for various reasons: first, it was not possible to ascertain when the British destroyers would be engage

British Operations Hats and M.B.3

The battle of Punta Stilo (Action off Calabria) had left much dissatisfaction within the high command of the Royal Navy. Admiral Cunningham had realized that two of his battleships, the Royal Sovereign and the Ramillies, were too slow and constituted an obstacle to the operations which the Mediterranean Fleet was conducting. To this point, during the battle of Punta Stilo, the Royal Sovereign had not been able to reach the battle zone in time. Furthermore, the Regia Marina was superior in terms of number of cruisers, and in some cases also in terms of quality; in particular, the Royal Navy did not have any 203mm-equipped vessel in the Mediterranean.

A rare color picture of the R.N. Littorio

Therefore, Admiral Cunningham requested from the Admiralty that the heavy cruiser Kent be transferred from the Indian Ocean to Alexandria. Meantime, Force F with the battleship Valiant and the modern aircraft carrier Illustrious, along with two cruisers, would be also transferred to Alexandria. These two cruisers, the Calcutta and Coventry, were equipped with radar.

A predicted Italian offensive in North Africa prompted the organization of a fast convoy, which would be escorted by the cruisers Ajax and York along the safer route around the Cape of Good Hope. These two cruisers would then be incorporated in the Mediterranean Fleet. Taking advantage of all these movements, the Alexandria-based fleet would escort a convoy of three ships destined for Malta to then pick up a convoy coming from Gibraltar. This complex operation was codenamed “Hats”.

The operation began in the afternoon of August 29th when three cargo ships, escorted by four destroyers, departed for Malta. The following day, Force B strong of the battleship Renown, the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the light cruiser Sheffield, along with 12 destroyers, left Gibraltar in support of Force F. At the same time, the battleships Warspite and Malaya, the heavy cruiser Kent, the cruisers Orion, Sydney, Gloucester and Liverpool, along with 13 destroyers, left Alexandria with the dual task of escorting the Malta-bound convoy and the units arriving from Gibraltar. Also, on the way back to port, the same group would have bombarded some Italian airports. Supermarina, having received news of some British activity on the 30th, the following day at 6:00 ordered the departure of the 9th Division ( battleships Littorio, Vittorio Veneto), the 5th Division (battleships Cavour, Cesare, Duilio), the 1st Division (Heavy Cruisers Pola, Zara, Fiume, Gorizia ), the 8th Division (Light cruisers Duca degli Abruzzi. Garibaldi ) and several destroyer squadrons for a total of 27 units.

This naval force, once outside Taranto, was to move between Malta and Zante to intercept any enemy ship from reaching Italian waters. The Italian command was not aware of the presence of the British convoy. Before departure, the battleship Cesare experienced technical problems with the condensers and was left in port.

No engagement

Doubts about British intentions vanished when, on the 31st, reconnaissance found a convoy of three merchant ships directed to Malta. This convoy was attacked by bombers, which scored a hit on the stern of the steamship Cornwall causing a small fire, locking the rudder and destroying two antiaircraft guns. Even when the intentions of the British fleet were quite clear, and Admiral Iachino’s forces were only 120 miles from the enemy, Supermarina, at 17:00, ordered the Italian fleet back to Taranto. At that moment Italian superiority would have been overwhelming.

During the night, Admiral Campioni, aboard his repaired battleship Cesare, rejoined the fleet and was ordered back south with the order to intercept the enemy on their way back from Malta. This task proved impossible due to the quickly deteriorating weather conditions and the Italian destroyers’ inability to withstand the heavy sea. Once again, the fleet was ordered back to port, and during the return voyage several crew members were lost at sea and the destroyers suffered damages to the superstructures. The cruiser Duca degli Abruzzi was attacked by a submarine, which launched two torpedoes without finding its target.
On the 2nd of September, the British convoy reached Malta almost at the same time with Force F, which unloaded even more supplies. On the way back, the new ships engaged in other operations, including:

The escort of a convoy from Nauplia to Port Said.
The bombardment of the airport of Scarpanto.
An aerial attack on the airport of Rodi

During these operations, which were generally accident-free, four British planes were lost during the attack, which caused the destruction of 2 Savoia Marchetti S.79, and damage to another 7 aircraft. During the bombardment of Scarpanto, the Italians suffered the lost of MAS 537. On the 6th of September, all British ships were back in Alexandria.


Probably, Hats was the most important opportunity for the Regia Marina to inflict a definitive blow to the Royal Navy, but the Supreme Command inexcusably squandered it. The numeric superiority was crushing and for the first time the new modern battleships of the “Vittorio Veneto” class were part of the Fleet. The Regia Marina had twice as many cruisers and destroyers as the British, and the 17 old swordfish would not have influenced the battle too considerably. Instead of returning to base, the Italian Fleet could have waited a day longer at sea, possibly attacking at night with the destroyers and inflicting definitive losses.

The British had been very imprudent, but Malta had been replenished, the Mediterranean Fleet reinforced, and Italian airports bombed. The Regia Marina, instead, had several of her destroyers damaged in the storm along with the loss of several sailors. Worse, tons of precious oil fuel had been wasted and the morale of the crew, who were craving a good fight with the British, inexorably fell. The audacity of Punta Stilo, in which the Regia Marina fought in numerical inferiority, had transformed itself in fear, even in conditions of clear superiority.

Translated from the original Italian version by Cristiano D’Adamo

The Torpedo Boat Lupo

May 22nd, 1941

The German plan for the occupation of Crete was ready since the end of April 1941. The invasion of the island would be the exclusive task of the German air force (Luftwaffe); paratroopers would occupy the enemy airfields where, later on, would land the 5th Alpine Division which would complete the occupation of the island. The plane gave little room to the German army, and even less to the Italian armed forces. A few days before the attack, German generals who depended heavily on surprise, changed the general plan and decided to organize secondary landings of alpine troops along the Cretan coast. The Regia Marina was asked to navigate, not escort, these landings since the Lufwaffe would have provided for the necessary coverage for these small boats full of soldiers, and would have “sunk any ship which dared to adventure itself close to Crete.”

The Torpedo Boat R.N. Lupo

At that time, the Regia Marina had limited resources available in the Aegean theater and only the 1st and 16th Torpedo Boat Squadron, 4 MAS, 13 minesweepers and a few submarines were assigned to this operation. On the 19th of May, one of these convoys left the port of Piraeus. It included 21 small boats, but 7 had to return to port due to technical failures. They were loaded with 2,331 soldiers of the III/100th Gebirgjaeger (alpine troops) and artillery personnel of the Luftwaffe. The torpedo boat Sirio was assigned to the convoy, but when her starboard propeller failed, she was replaced by the torpedo boat Curtatone. Unfortunately, this second unit sank on a mine while she was trying to reach the convoy. Ultimately, the torpedo boat Lupo was ordered to replace the Sirio and escort the convoy to Crete.


The delay caused by the Sirio’s failure and the confusion amongst the boats, none of which was equipped with radio apparatuses or any other equipment needed for such a dangerous crossing, caused the Lupo to fail to locate the convoy until sunrise of the 21st. The commander of the small Italian unit, C.C. Francesco Mimbelli, after having instructed all units by means of voice command and flag signaling, began the final navigation towards Crete, which, at that point, was still 50 miles away. At 7:15, the Italian unit received orders to stop and wait for further orders, which, on the clock, arrived one hour later. The torpedo boat and the convoy were ordered back to Milos. At 11:00 another order took the convoy back towards Crete at full speed (even leaving slower boats behind) for a landing on the morning of the 22nd.

The R.N. Lupo showing some of the British hits

Why so many contradictory orders? In the morning, a reconnaissance plane had discovered a British squadron, which, inadvertently, would have crossed the convoy’s path. Therefore, the decision was made to cancel the convoy, but a later airplane mistakenly signaled that the enemy formation had changed route and the convoy was ordered back to Crete. The British squadron included the cruisers Ajax, Orion, Dido and the destroyers Hereward, Hasty, Janus and Kimberly under the command of Adm. Irvide G. Glennie aboard the Dido. This force was immensely superior to the lonely Italian torpedo boat.

Francesco Mimbelli , here with the rank of Vice-Admiral (2nd Class) Rear Admiral in the British Navy

At 22:33, while the torpedo boat was 5 miles north-north east of Cape Spada, a lookout signaled an enemy destroyer at about 1,200 to 1,500 meters to the right. This was the Janus which had just discovered the convoy and had maneuvered to change course. At 22:34, the Lupo launched two torpedoes from the aft apparatus, but the change of course caused the weapons to miss their target. A minute later, the Lupo sighted an enemy cruiser and immediately after fire was opened. The torpedo boat launched the two remaining torpedoes against the British cruiser, estimating its speed to be 20 knots. The actual speed was 28 knots, but the estimated distance of 700 meters was accurate. Immediately after, the torpedo boat veered left and opened fire while the very precise British fire reached the boat various times. Damage was not too serious, but two sailors (Orazio Indelicato and Nicolò Moccole) were killed and another 26 wounded. While the torpedo boat was dodging to the left, another cruiser passed just a few meters from her stern. At that point, the Lupo, nicknamed “the luckiest ship in the fleet”, took advantage of the confusion amongst the British and ran away.

The torpedoes launched at the Dido had missed their target due to the miscalculated speed, but they were not completely lost because they exploded not too far from the Orion, causing various minor damages and the warping of the hull. The Orion was also repeatedly hit by 40mm shots from the Dido, which, in the maelstrom, ended up shooting at her comrade. After having overcome the great surprise, the British ship, thanks to the radar, localized the convoy and sank 10 ships while the others ran away and made it back to Greece; 800 German soldiers had perished in this failed landing.

Final thoughts

For this action, the commander of the Italian torpedo boat, C.C. Francesco Mimbelli, was awarded the Gold Medal for bravery. On the other hand, Adm. Irvine G. Glenne was highly criticized; this time the British vessels had not fought as usual and despite the fact that they had aborted the landing, many boats and the small Italian torpedo boat had run away. Furthermore, the Orion was damaged by the torpedo and by friendly fire. To the British admiral’s credit, it must be said that the Lupo received 18 hits, but due to malfunctioning ammunitions, only three actually exploded.