R. Smg. Veniero

The submarine VENIERO (second Italian boat with this name) was one of oceanic submariners of the class “MARCELLO”, a successful class built by the C.R.D.A. shipyard of Monfalcone, Gorizia (9 units), and O.T.O. of Muggiano, La Spezia (2 units), between 1937 and 1939.

The VENIERO on the slip.
(Photo Turrini)

The VENIERO was built in Monfalcone: laid down on January 23rd, 1937, it was launched on February 14th, 1938 and delivered to the Regia Marina on June 6th of the same year.

Operational Life

At the beginning of the war (June 10th, 1940), the VENIERO was assigned to the 1st Submarine Group, 12th Squadron based in La Spezia.

After a patrol off the southern part of Cape Artibes (from June 10th to June 21st, 1940), on July 2nd the boat, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Folco Bonamici, left La Spezia bound to Bordeaux. It crossed the Strait of Gibraltar, submerged, the night of the 7th; it was the first Italian boat to accomplish this task made difficult both by tight British surveillance and the navigational difficulties due to the strong underwater currents. These conditions were little known the Italians, and the observations made by Captain Bonamici helped the Submarine Command formulate orders for future crossing of the strait. After a fruitless patrol off the Canary Islands, the night of the 27th the VENIERO crossed again submerged the strait to return to the Mediterranean. It reached La Spezia on August 1st.

After a stop at the shipyard to complete some alterations made necessary by the specific operational conditions of the war in Atlantic, on the 28th, under the command of the new skipper Lieutenant Mario Petrani, the boat departed to reach BETASOM, the new Atlantic base in Bordeaux. During the transfer, it remained on patrol off the southern part of the Azores Islands for about a month, but without sighting any target. Later, after having reached Bordeaux, it avoided by very little two torpedoes launched by a British submarine on patrol near the estuary of the Gironde. The VENIERO arrived in Bordeaux on November 2nd, 1940.

In Atlantic, in completed 6 patrols:

On December 18th, it torpedoed and then sank with the deck gun the Greek ship ANASTASSIA of 2,883 t., but picked up 9 shipwrecked sailors.

On March 24th, 1941 it sank with the deck gun the British ship “AGNETE MAERSK” of 2,104 t. because the three torpedoes launched, perhaps due to the shallow draft of the ship, failed to explode.

When it was decided to bring back to the Mediterranean 11 of the oceanic submarines, where the situation required an increase in the number of boats, the VENIERO was included in the list. Thus, on August 8th 1941, under the command of the new skipper Lieutenant Elio Zappetta, the boat departed for Italy arriving in La Spezia on the 2nd, remaining there three months for repairs. In Mediterranean, the boat completed 7 patrols, of which one on December 19th, 1941 to transport 50 t. of foodstuff from Taranto to Bardia, in Cirenaica (Libya).

The VENIERO at sea with the new camouflage.
(Photo courtesy Erminio Bagnasco and Achille Rastelli)

The VENIERO’s last mission started May 17th, 1942 when it left Cagliari (Sardinia) to go on patrol off the Balearic Islands. On the 29th, at 16:25, it sent a discovery signal. At 23:30 sent another signal that resulted unrecognizable. From this time on, all contacts were lost. The boat was probably sunk on the 7th of June between the Balearic Island and Sardinia.

After the war, from British sources it was learned that an airplane type “Catalina” attacked an Italian submarine in the early hours of the 7th of June 1942. The same day, just before 12:00 noon, the same submarine underwent another attack while navigating on the surface, visibly damaged. Since in the positions, dates, and times the two attacks had taken place there weren’t any other Italian submariners, it is reasonable to assume that the submarine attacked by the British planes was indeed the VENIERO.

Anastassia

Ship-owner: John Livanos & Sons Ltd, manager for C. Choremis
Year Constructed: 1905
Shipyard: Bartam & Sons, Sunderland.
Previous names: King City 1927, Quarrrydene 1919
Convoy: Convoy SC15
Date lost: Sunk 20.12.40
Position: 54 24N, 19 4W
Casualties: 18 + 10 POW

Agnete Maersk

Ship-owner: MØLLER, A P Copenhagen
Year Built: 1921
Shipyard: Yarrow and Co., Scotstoun
Previous names: ex Aabenraa 1924
Change of ownership: 5.40 transferred to MoWT
Date lost: 24.3.41 Shelled at 4:09 PM
Convoy: OG56 From UK to Gibraltar
Position: 49 N 22 55 W
Casualties: 28, no survivors

R. Smg. Velella

The VELELLA was one of the two submarines originally designed and built for the Portuguese Navy by the C.R.D.A. shipyard of Monfalcone.

Monfalcone December 18th, 1936 the launch of the Velella
(Istituto Luce B101906)

In that period, 1920s and 1930s, several foreign navies ordered submarines from Italian shipyards. These boats were already in an advanced state of completion when, due to financial difficulties, Portugal had to renounce their construction.

The VELELLA in 1937 just before delivery to the Navy.
(Photo Turrini)

Thus, in 1935, these boats were acquired by the Regia Marina, which completed their construction making some alterations to the original design. The two boats, named VELELLA and ARGO, made up the class ARGO of coastal submarines. They turned out to be a good purchase, since their design, slightly altered, would be utilized to build the famous class TRITONE from 1941 to 1943. The VELELLA, although laid down since the early 1930s, was officially laid down in September 1935, when the Regia Marina took over the project. It was launched on December 18th, 1936 and delivered to the Navy on September 1st, 1937.

Upon entering service, the VELELLA, under the command of Lieutenant Pasquale Terra, was part of the 42nd Squadron of the 4th Submarine Group based in Taranto. In October 1938, it was first sent to Leros (Aegean), then Tobruk (Libya), and finally in December to Massawa (Eritrea) as part of the Submarine Flotilla of Italian East Africa. Here it remained until spring of 1940 and then it was sent back to the motherland, assigned to the 14th squadron of the 1st Submarine Group based in La Spezia.

Upon the commencement of the hostilities, June 10th 1940, the VELELLA was one of the many boats already on patrol in the Mediterranean. It was assigned to an area between Rhodos and the Turkish coast. On the 19th of June, due to engine troubles, it interrupted its patrol, first reaching Leros and later Taranto, where it remained two months for repairs.

Selected for redeployment in the Atlantic, despite the boat classification as a “coastal” submarine, after a brief period of refitting to adapt the vessel to the new operational environment, the VELELLA left La Spezia on November 25th destined for BETASOM, the new Italian submarine base in Bordeaux. On December 1st, the boat faced the crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar, always difficult due to the strict British surveillance and the strong underwater marine currents. Hence, the boat was forced to submerge and ended up under the bombs of two British destroyers which caused some damage; then, due to difficulties navigating underwater, it sank to 130 meters, well over the maximum depth of 100 meters. Dragged by the current, the boat often hit the bottom of the African coastline. At night, it attempted to reach the surface to recharge the batteries, but two destroyers, which subjected it to a strenuous hunt, immediately attacked it. Later, navigating along the Spanish coastline, it reached the Atlantic. From the 4th to the 20th of December it remained on patrol off Lisbon, and finally on Christmas day it reached Bordeaux.

The VELELLA in Bordeaux on December 15th, 1940.
(Photo courtesy Erminio Bagnasco and Achille Rastelli)

In the Atlantic, the VELELLA completed four patrols. The most important would be the one of June 1941, west of Gibraltar, in which it sank a 7,000 t. tanker and a 3,200 t. merchant ship. The VELELLA was sure of the sinking, but there is no confirmation in the British documentation. In August, the VELELLA was part of a group of submarines which had to return to the Mediterranean where the situation demanded more boats. After a few days of patrol west of Gibraltar, on the night of the 24th of August the boat crossed the strait on the surface, reaching Cagliari (Sardinia) on the 29th for a long period of refitting.

Thereafter, it began the wearing activity in the Mediterranean. With command transferred to Lieutenant Giovanni Febbraro, from the 3rd to the 17th of March 1942 the VELELLA was in Pula in support of training activity for the Submarine School. Here, it completed a few patrols: south of Cape Palos (Spain) in April 1942, south of the Balearic Islands in June, along the Tunisian coast in July, and west of the Island of Galite in August. With command transferred to Lieutenant Mario Patanè, the VELELLA continued the patrol activity: south of the Balearic in September 1942, in the Gulf of Philippeville and the Bay of Bona in November, north of Cape de Fer in April 1943.

When, on July 10th 1943, the Allies began landing in Sicily, the VELELLA was one of the boats already on alert and ready to move to the Sicilian waters. Soon after its departure from La Maddalena, the boat was attacked by an airplane which it fought back, and perhaps damaged by the boat’s machine guns. Once in the waters of eastern Sicily, the VELELLA had to abandon the patrol due to breakdowns and on the 12th it sailed on to Taranto. Along the way, near Cape Colonne, it rescued five shipwrecked from an Italian torpedo bomber shot down. On the 23rd, it was again on patrol between Syracuse and Augusta.

In the attempt to oppose the Allied landing, in July 1943 five submarines were lost. The last and fatal mission of the VELELLA began on September 7th when, along with 10 other boats, it made up a screen of submarines in the lower Tyrrenhian Sea to contrast the landing in Salerno. After the war, and from British documentation, it was possible to ascertain that the VELELLA was torpedoed by the British submarine SHAKESPEARE around 20:00 on the 7th off Punta Licosa, south of Salerno, in position 40°15’N, 14°30’E. There were no survivors.

The armistice, declared the following day, had already been signed since the 3rd of September, but the Regia Marina was not aware of it.

Translated by Cristiano D’Adamo

Operational Records

Patrols (Med.)Patrols (Other)NM SurfaceNM Sub.Days at SeaNM/DayAverage Speed
304348443052276 137.30 5.72

Actions

DateTimeCaptainAreaCoordinatesConvoyWeaponResultShipTypeTonnsFlag

Crew Members Lost

Last NameFirst NameRankItalian Rank
AlunniGiuseppeChief 3rd ClassCapo di 3a Classe
AntoniniAchilleNaval RatingComune
BandiniIldebrandoEnsign Other BranchesSottotenente Altri Corpi
BazzaniEnzoEnsignGuardiamarina
BiondiniGiuseppeNaval RatingComune
CaielliCarloNaval RatingComune
CampitoGiovanniChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe
CarusoGiuseppeSergeantSergente
CastellanoVittorioChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe
CazzorlaSaverioNaval RatingComune
CerettoFrancescoNaval RatingComune
ChiavegatoGiovanniSergeantSergente
CilioRenzoNaval RatingComune
CioniLorisJunior ChiefSottocapo
D’astaGiovanniNaval RatingComune
FabrisAurelioNaval RatingComune
FacchinettiErmenegildoJunior ChiefSottocapo
FeleppaEudecchioChief 3rd ClassCapo di 3a Classe
FestaSaverioJunior ChiefSottocapo
FulmisiCristoforoNaval RatingComune
FurlanDuilioNaval RatingComune
GiacaloneAntoninoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe
GualcoCarloJunior ChiefSottocapo
IngrassiaSalvatoreNaval RatingComune
LeonciniSmilaceNaval RatingComune
MaffeiArmandoJunior ChiefSottocapo
MeninLuigiChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe
MeoniMarioChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe
NovelliniRaffaeleEnsignAspirante G.M.
PardettiUgoNaval RatingComune
PiroddiOrlandoJunior ChiefSottocapo
RenzoniCarmeloSergeantSergente
RizzaAntonioNaval RatingComune
RizziPietroNaval RatingComune
SchiavonePietroJunior ChiefSottocapo
SerratiPietroSublieutenant G.N.Tenente G.N.
SessaAndreaChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe
SestaGiuseppeNaval RatingComune
SeveriniAngeloJunior ChiefSottocapo
SimonettiEoloNaval RatingComune
SirugoGiuseppeNaval RatingComune
SorrentinoGiorgioChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe
SpinaAldoSergeantSergente
SpisaniDoroteoNaval RatingComune
TrapaniSalvatoreNaval RatingComune
VenutoLuigiNaval RatingComune
VespucciAldoNaval RatingComune
VittoriRobertoSublieutenantSottotenente di Vascello
ZambriniGianninoJunior ChiefSottocapo

R. Smg. Topazio

The submarine TOPAZIO was one of the 12 boats of the series “SIRENA” of the class “600” of coastal submarines. The boats of the series “SIRENA” derived from the previous one, the “ARGONAUTA”, with some improvements. They were built by the C.R.D.A. shipyard of Monfalcone, near Gorizia (6 boats), Tosi of Taranto (2 boats), Quarnaro of Fiume (2 boats), OTO of Muggiano, near La Spezia (2 boats) between 1931 and 1934.

The TOPAZIO during a torpedo drill in La Spezia.
(Photo courtesy Erminio Bagnasco and Achille Rastelli)

The TOPAZIO was one of the two boats built in Fiume (Rijeka). Laid down on September 26th, 1931, it was launched on May 15th 1933, and delivered to the Regia Marina on April 28th, 1934.

Operational Life

Upon Italy’s entry into the war, the TOPAZIO was part of the 62nd Squadron, 6th Submarine Group, based in Tobruk (Libya). At the beginning of the hostilities (June 10th, 1940), the boat was under the command of Lieutenant Commander Emilio Berengan and already assigned to a patrol off Solum, Egypt along with three other boats. After four days without having picked up anything, the boat returned to base.

From the 29th of June to July 9th and still off Solum, the boat completed a second patrol but failed to detect any activity. On the night of the 9th, the boat left the patrol area for Taranto to complete a minor refitting. On the 12th, while on the surface, the submarine found a Charlie with six shipwrecked sailors from the destroyer ESPERO, sunk two weeks earlier 120 miles southwest of Cape Matapan. The six shipwrecked rescued were the last of a group of 35, which had sought refuge aboard the Charlie. From the 16th to the 21st of October, the TOPAZIO was again on patrol northeast of Marsa Matruh (Egypt).

During the following patrol, between the 8th and 12th of November, the boat discovered in the waters south of Malta a convoy of four ships heavily escorted. Navigating full ahead on the surface, the boat was able to move on a position for the attack and, at 01:33, launched two torpedoes against the ships. After about three minutes, the crew heard two strong explosions, a sign that the weapons had hit. Nevertheless, as in many similar situations, in the British documentation there is no reference to this action. It is known though that after the attack the TOPAZIO underwent one and one half hours of intense hunt by two of the escorts, a sign that the attack had been detected.

In 1941, the TOPAZIO completed several patrols in the Aegean Sea and along the North African coast. On September 10th, 1941 around 21:00 off the port of Beirut, the TOPAZIO sank the British ship MUFERTE of 691 t. The vessel had been stopped with the deck gun and then finished with the torpedo, but only after the crew was allowed to escape.

Another picture of the TOPAZIO.
(Photo Turrini)

In January 1942, the boat’s command was transferred to Lieutenant Bruno Zelick who conducted a long patrol in the waters between Benghazi and Alexandria. After this mission, the TOPAZIO was sent to the shipyard of Leros for major maintenance, which lasted until October 10th. During this period, Lieutenant Zelick was replaced by Lieutenant Mario Patanè. Zelick was transferred to the R. Smg. Scirè aboard which he lost his life on August 10th, 1942. After the refitting, the boat returned to Taranto where it resumed operational activity.

From October 27th to November 9th 1942, the TOPAZIO was on patrol south of the Balearic Islands where, on the 7th, it sighted a convoy bound for Algeria. The boat launched one torpedo against one of the escort but without any result. A few weeks later, while south of Malta, the TOPAZIO launched three torpedoes against a group of British destroyers, missing the target; it was the 14th of December.

In March 1943, after 10 days of patrol in the Gulf of Sirte, the TOPAZIO returned to La Maddalena where, from May 1st to September 1st, it completed a period of refitting. During this time, Lieutenant Patanè left command and was replaced by Lieutenant Pier Vittorio Casarini, who would be lost with the boat.

On September 7th, nearing the Italian armistice, the TOPAZIO left La Maddalena to form, along with 9 other boats, a barrier in the southern Tyrrenhian (Operation Zeta) to oppose the now expected Allied moves.

On September 8th, the boat was caught in those waters. On the same day the submarine command (MARICOSOM) issued orders to the boats to cease hostilities, dive to 80 meters, and surface at 08:00 of the 9th, to then stay on the surface flying the colors and with a black signaling pendant attached to the periscope while waiting further orders. These orders instructed the boats to go to Bona (Algeria) keeping the signals quite visible.

Thus, along with three other submarines (DIASPRO, TURCHESE and MAREA), the TOPAZIO followed orders to the letter on the 9th and 10th, as proved by the testimony of the other submarine commanders. Then, on the night of the 10th, the boat disappears.

After the war, British documentation indicated that on the 12th, about 28 miles southwest of Cape Carbonara (Sardinia), a British airplane attacked, hit, and witnessed sink rapidly a submarine navigating on the surface without any recognition sign and not on route to Bona (38°39’N, 09°22’E). There wasn’t any survivor, even though the British report indicated that there were a few shipwrecked sailors in the water.

The fate of the TOPAZIO is uncertain. The most probable explanation is that the British airplane did not see the signals, although they were properly placed, and made a tragic mistake. If the British report were accurate, why would the boat lower the signals and change course? And why, from the night of the 10th, for two days, would it interrupt all contacts with the other boats? Even if the boat had decided not to obey MARICOSOM’s orders, why would the crew let themselves be found on the surface? The doubt remains.

During its operational life, the TOPAZIO completed 41 patrols for a total of almost 26,000 miles.

Translated from Italian by Cristiano D’Adamo

R. Smg. Capitano Tarantini

Operational Life

This submarine (more commonly known as the TARANTINI), was one of the four boats of the “LIUZZI” class, all built by the TOSI shipyard of Taranto between 1938 and 1940. The TARANTINI was laid down on April 5th, 1939, launched on January 7th, 1940 and delivered to the Regia Marina on January 16th of the same year.

At the beginning of the hostilities (for Italy June 10th, 1940), the TARANTINI, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Alfred0 Iashi, was already on patrol of Gavdos (Crete). On June 11th, it attacked a large tanker (around 7,000 t.), but failed due to malfunctioning torpedoes.

The Submarine CAPITANO TARANTINI.
(Photo courtesy Erminio Bagnasco and Achille Rastelli)

The boat’s second patrol, between the 27th of June and the 12th of July, called for a patrol off Haifa. During the transfer, it was attacked on the 28th in the Ionian Sea by an airplane, but without consequences. The day after, at around 5:00 AM, while on the surface south west of Cape Matapan, it sighted a British destroyers, probably H.M.S. DAINTY, which avoided the torpedoes and immediately retaliated, but without any success. Toward the end of the patrol, at 23:00 on the 11th of July, the TARANTINI launched torpedoes against a merchant ship departing Haifa, but missed the target. The, it continued on with the deck gun immobilizing the ship, and after having rescued the crew, sank the ship with a second torpedo. This was the Panamanian BEME of 3,040 t. in service to the British. Thereafter, it returned to base.

After two more patrols in the Mediterranean, the TARANTINI was assigned to BETASOM to operate in Atlantic. Thus, on August 31st, 1940 it left Trapani (Sicily) bound for Bordeaux. On September 10th, it crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and then moved on to patrol north of the Azores Islands where it remained, without any results, until the 29th. Thereafter, it moved on to Bordeaux where it arrived on October 5th.

On November 11th, 1940, the TARANTINI left Bordeaux for its first Atlantic mission: a patrol from November 18th to December 8th north west of Ireland. During the winter season the ocean was yet another enemy claiming victims; as soon as in open sea, at the estuary of the Gironde, exceptionally rough sea causes serious wounds to the second in command who was left immobilized for the remain of the mission. A few days later, on the 5th of December, another unusual wave ripped from the conning tower the 2nd Chief helm-man Sergio CIOTTI who, despite the long search, was never found.

During the patrol, on the 2nd of December, the TARANTINI sighted a large convoy and, while the boat was preparing for the launch, it was discovered and underwent a bombardment, which lasted 24 hours. A total of 106 depth charges were heard, but fortunately without serious damages. Another attack, lasting 12 hours, was also avoided on the 5th of December.

The British submarine H.M.S. Thunderbolt, which was nothing else that the famous H.M.S. Thetis re-floated after a tragic sinking. The Thunderbolt would be later sank by the Italian corvette CICOGNA on March 14th, 1943.


On the 9th, the boat began the return voyage. The 15th it arrived at the estuary of the Gironde, to be navigated all the way to Bordeaux, and was already under the escort of German units sent, as usual, to protect the return of submarines. At 10:17, the TARANTINI was torpedoed by the British submarine Thunderbolt and sank almost immediately. Only 5 crewmembers are rescued: the second in command, Lieutenant Attilio Frattura, and other four people.

R. Smg. Smeraldo

The SMERALDO was one of the 12 boats of the series “SIRENA”, class “600”. This series was built between 1931 and 1934 by four shipyards: C.R.D.A. of Monfalcone, Gorizia (6 units), TOSI of Taranto (2 units), QUARNARO of Fiume (2 units) and OTO of Muggianiano, near La Spezia (2 units).

Operational Life

Upon entering service in December 1933, the SMERALDO left the shipyard TOSI remaining in Taranto assigned to the “Inspectorate Submarines” which took care of the initial training. As part of this activity, in 1934 the boat completed a cruise in the eastern Mediterranean.

The SMERALDO
(Photo courtesy Erminio Bagnasco and Achille Rastelli)

In 1935, the boat was deployed in Messina, first assigned to the 7th Squadron, then in 1936, to the 9th. But in 1937, it was reassigned to the 45th Squadron, 4th Submarine Group, based in Taranto. During the Spanish Civil War, the boat completed a patrol under the command of Lieutenant Commander Mario Canò from August 25th to September 6th, 1937 off Cape Palos, but without obtaining any result.

When Italy entered World War II (June 10th, 1940), the SMERALDO was assigned to the 61st Squadron, 6th Submarine Group based in Tobruk, Libya. From here, under the command of Leiutenant Carlo Todaro (brother of Captain Salvatore Todaro, Gold Medal), the boat left the same day to patrol off Alexandria, 60 miles to the east. In the early hours of the 11th, the SMERALDO sighted a large ship against which it launched a torpedo, failing due to the heavy sea. It is the first torpedo launched by an Italian submarine in World War II. It returned to Tobruk on the 20th.

On July 3rd, the SMERALDO left for the subsequent patrol and on the 7th and 8th was, unwillingly the protagonist for another record; discovered by British antisubmarine units, it underwent the most dramatic bombardment in the whole war with about 200 depth charges. Despite some damage, it escaped, returning to base in Tobruk.

Nevertheless, the damage received (water infiltration through the resistant hull’s rivets, a broken electric motor, just to mention the main ones) was not repairable with the means available in Tobruk, so the boat was sent to Augusta where, from July 15th to December 2nd it remained in the shipyard. It began operating again on December 15th, for a patrol off the Egyptian coast, and since there wasn’t any enemy shipping, on the 22nd it returned to Augusta. The subsequent mission in the waters off Malta began on January 16th, 1941 and it was interrupted soon after when, on the 18th, a serious failure with the batteries forced the boat back to Augusta. During refitting, Lieutenant Carlo Todaro transferred command to Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Commander) Vincenzo D’Amato.

Activity started again on March 15th, this time in the Cerigotto Channel, between mainland Greece and the Island of Crete. On the 16th, the SMERALDO sighted a seven-ship convoy, escorted by a cruiser and several destroyers, but the position was not favorable and could not conduct an attack. It tried again two days later, on the 18th, when it was able to attack a fast enemy unit, but this one, having sighted the submarine, attacked it and was almost able to ram it, forcing it to dive. On the 22nd, the boat returned to Leros where it remained on a temporary assignment.

From this base the SMERALDO left for two more patrols in the area: the fist south of Crete from the 8th to the 16th of April, 1941. The second from May 29th to June 4th, south west of Cape Crios (Crete). Neither patrols produced any results. Anyway, differently from the Atlantic, in the Mediterranean traffic was scant and always heavily escorted. It was hard life for the submarines forced to strenuous patrols and rewarded by very modest results. Later, the boat returned to Augusta for refitting until September 1st. During this period, Lieutenant Commander D’Amato transferred command to the last skipper, Lieutenant Bartolomeo La Penna.

The patrol of the SMERALDO began on September 15th, 1942 when, along with other boats, it was positioned in the Strait of Sicily to form a naval screen against British naval forces. These forces had left Gibraltar between the 8th and the 14th, directed to the western Mediterranean. Specifically, the SMERALDO was assigned a patrol area off the Tunisian coast where the safety routes bypassing the minefields were located. The boat’s return was scheduled for the 26th, but after the departure from Augusta all contacts were lost.

Since in those days and places, after having verified the British documentation, there is no report of any antisubmarine activity, it should be assumed that the submarine was lost following contact with a mine between the 16th and 26th of September, 1941. Up to then, the SMERALDO had completed 15 missions (8 patrols and 7 transfers), for a total of 10,345 miles.

Translated from Italian by Cristiano D’Adamo

R. Smg. Ammiraglio Saint Bon

The submarine SAINT BON, as it was more simply called, was one of the four boats of the “Ammiragli” (Admirals) class, named after famous personalities of the Italian Navy: Saint Bon, Millo, Caracciolo, and Cagni. Of the four boats, only the last one would survive the war.

Designed for the “guerre de course” in far away oceans, these boats offered very high performances in range, weaponry, and dependability, performances today still exceptional for the diesel type submarine. This class was certainly the best built up to that time, and the fact that war needs force their use as transport submarines was a real squander.

The SAINT BON on the construction slip.
(Photo Turrini)

The SAINT BON was built by the C.R.D.A. shipyard of Monfalcone, near Gorizia and was laid down on September 16th, 1939. Launched on June 6th, 1940, it was officially delivered on March 1st, 1941, but it remained at the shipyard for alterations, including the replacement of the conning tower, too visible (as early war experience had demonstrated), with a smaller one of the type called “German”. It effectively did not enter service until June 12th, 1941.

Operational Life

After a brief period of training, the SAINT BON, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Gustavo Miniero, was employed, as the other boats of the same class, in transport missions to North Africa where ammunitions and fuel were desperately needed. For these missions, the four submarines were fitted for the stowage of small fuel canisters.

The first mission called for the transport of 153 tons of gasoline to Bardia (Libya). Having left Taranto the night of the 10th of October, the night of the 12th at about 100 miles from Bardia and on the surface, the boat was attacked by an airplane, which was repulsed (and perhaps hit) by the sub’s weapons. After having disembarked the load and left for Taranto, on the 14th, the SAINT BON was again attacked at about 75 miles from Crete with another drop of bombs. Fortunately, this was also avoided. Between the 16 of November and the 21st of December, the boat completed other missions to Bardia, Derna and Benghazi.

The SAINT BON on May 3rd, 1941.
(Photo courtesy Erminio Bagnasco and Achille Rastelli)

During its last mission, the boat left Taranto on January 1942 with destination Tripoli with route north of Sicily and a load of over 155 tons of gasoline and ammunitions. The morning of the 5th, at 5:42, the SAINT BON was hit off Point Milazzo by one of the torpedoes launched by the British submarine UPHOLDER; one of the most active in the Mediterranean. The torpedo hit midship on the starboard side and caused the gasoline to explode. The boat sank rapidly taking along the whole crew but three men: Sub Lieutenant Luigi Cuomo, Sergeant Valentino Ceccon and Chief Torpedoman Ernesto Fiore, later picked up by the British submarine.

During its brief operational life, the SAINT BON completed five missions transporting a total of 700 tons of materiel.

Translated from Italian by Cristiano D’Adamo

R. Smg. Romolo

Of the 12 planned, the submarine ROMOLO was one of the only two boats of the class “R” to be completed (the other one was the REMO).

These large submarines, the largest ever built by the Regia Marina, were capable of transporting 600 tons of material, and were specifically built for covert transport of goods of strategic interest (especially rubber) to the Far East. The need for this task surfaced during the war, and caused some of existing oceanic boats to be adapted for this purpose.

The submarine ROMOLO.
(Photo courtesy Erminio Bagnasco and Achille Rastelli)

The construction of the 12 boats was assigned to three shipyards: 6 boats to TOSI of Taranto (they had developed the project), 3 to the C.R.D.A. of Monfalcone, near Gorizia, and 3 to the O.T.O of Muggiano, near La Spezia. Due to the urgent need for their use, the first two boats were completed in less than one year, while the other 10 were surprised by the armistice of September 8th, 1943 while they were still on the slips in advanced stage of completion. The Germans, who were in great need for such boats, captured the ones in Monfalcone and Muggiano and attempted to complete them, but none of these boats was actually completed.

The ROMOLO was built by the TOSI shipyard of Taranto and was laid down on July 21st, 1942, launched on March 21 1943, and delivered to the Regia Marina, along with the REMO, on June 19th of the same year.

Operational Life

Its operational life was, unfortunately, very brief. After a period of testing and training, reduced to the minimum for the already mention urgency, on July 15th 1943 (after less than a month after it had entered service), the ROMOLO under the command of Lieutenant Commander Alberto Crepas – a veteran of the Battle of the Atlantic with the ARGO – left Taranto for Naples. Thereafter, all contacts were lost.

Lieutenant Alberto Crepas
(Photo from “Cento sommergibili non sono tornati” by Teucle Meneghini)

From British records, made available after the war, it appears that an aircraft of the R.A.F. probably attacked the boat in the early hours of the 18th of July, at 03:20 while the vessel was on the surface south east of Cape Spartivento, 15 miles of the Calabrese cost. The boat defended itself quite tenaciously with the on board machine guns, but it was hit, possibly by one of the five bombs dropped by the plane. Half-hour later, the boat was seen heading for the coastline on a 010° course and at low speed, while leaving behind a streak of diesel fuel. It later sank at around 05:50 without any survivor.

The submarine ROMOLO
(Photo Turrini)

According to the Italian commission of enquiry which reviewed the event just described, the fact that none of the crewmembers survived, despite being so close to land, made them believe that the boat was not just lost due the damages caused by the bomb, but by the explosion of the batteries – which, maybe at the time of the attack were under charge, thus producing hydrogen, and also explaining why the boat was on the surface – or the ammunitions.

From information regarding spying activities, it appears that the Allies were aware of the departure from Taranto of the ROMOLO (as well as the twin boat the REMO, also lost three days earlier off Cape Alice victim of the British submarine UNITED), and had organized ambushes with submarines from Malta and airplanes based in Sicily (Comiso and Pachino).

All this because these Italian boats worried the Allies quite a bit, as much as to consider them a primary target because of what was being develop in Germany in the area of special projects (the so-called secret weapons), and their possible transfer to Japan following the Allies bombing of Peenemunde. Nevertheless, this possibility, although credible, is not reflected in the official Italian documentation.

It is sure, however, that at a crucial junction in the war, when the situation was collapsing (Italy was close to the fall of Fascism and less than two months from the armistice), there was great urgency to immediately utilize these boats. The Germans, who still did not have boats capable of long cruises (but were building them), pushed for having Italian boats in the Atlantic used between Bordeaux and Singapore, offering in exchange U-boats. The Italian could not comply because these submarines were needed to guarantee the traffic with Sardinia (led, copper, antimony) at the time when the Allied offensive in the Tyrrhenian was on the increase. This explains the haste in which these boats, following delivery to the Navy, were sent to Naples.

Translated from Italian by Cristiano D’Adamo

R. Smg. Remo

Of the 12 planned, the submarine REMO was one of the only two boats of the class “R” to be completed and which entered service; the other one was the ROMOLO. All the other boats were still on the slip when Italy signed the armistice (September 8th, 1943).

The submarine REMO on the slip
(Photo Turrini)

These large submarines, the largest ever built by the Regia Marina, were capable of transporting 600 tons of material, and were specifically built for covert transport of goods of strategic interest (especially rubber) to the Far East. The need for this task surfaced during the war, and caused some of the existing oceanic boats to be adapted for this purpose.

The construction of the 12 boats was assigned to three shipyards: 6 boats to TOSI of Taranto (they had developed the project), 3 to the C.R.D.A. of Monfalcone, near Gorizia, and 3 to the O.T.O of Muggiano, near La Spezia. Due to the urgent need for their use, the first two boats were completed in less than one year, while the other 10 were surprised by the armistice of September 8th, 1943 while they were still on the slips in an advanced stage of completion. The Germans, who were in great need of such boats, captured the ones in Monfalcone and Muggiano and attempted to complete them, but none of these boats was actually completed.

The REMO was built by the TOSI shipyard of Taranto and was laid down on September 5th, 1942, launched on March 28 1943, and delivered to the Regia Marina, along with the ROMOLO, on June 19th of the same year.


Operational Life


Its operational life was, unfortunately, very brief as the boat completed only a few hours of navigation. After a period of testing and training, reduced to the minimum for the already mentioned urgency, on July 15th, 1943 (less than a month after it had entered service), the REMO under the command of Lieutenant Commander Salvatore Vassallo left Taranto for Naples.

The submarine REMO in port.
(Photo courtesy Erminio Bagnasco and Achille Rastelli)

At around 18:30, while the submarine was on the surface off Point Alice, it was hit by one of four torpedoes launched by the British submarine UNITED. Hit midship, the REMO sank in a few minutes in position 39°19’N, 17°30’E , 25 miles from the coast. Only four people survived, the three who were on the conning tower (amongst them Captain Vassallo), and Sergeant Dario Cortopassi who was able to come up from the control room.

From information regarding spying activities, it appears that the Allies were aware of the departure from Taranto of the REMO (as well as the twin boat the ROMOLO, also lost three days later off Cape Spartivento, hit by bombs of a RAF aircraft), and had organized ambushes with submarines from Malta and airplanes based in Sicily (Comiso and Pachino).

All this because these Italian boats worried the Allies quite a bit, as much as to consider them a primary target because of what was being developed in Germany in the area of special projects (the so-called secret weapons), and their possible transfer to Japan following the Allied bombing of Peenemunde. Nevertheless, this possibility, although credible, is not reflected in the official Italian documentation.

It is sure, however, that at a crucial junction in the war, when the situation was collapsing (Italy was close to the fall of Fascism and less than two months from the armistice), there was great urgency to immediately utilize these boats. The Germans, who still did not have boats capable of long cruises (but were building them), pushed for having Italian boats in the Atlantic used between Bordeaux and Singapore, offering in exchange U-boats. The Italians could not comply because these submarines were needed to guarantee the traffic with Sardinia (lead, copper, antimony) at the time when the Allied offensive in the Tyrrenhian was on the increase. This explains the haste in which these boats, following delivery to the Navy, were sent to Naples.

Translated from Italian by Cristiano D’Adamo

R. Smg. Ammiraglio Millo

Operational Life

The submarine Millo, as it was commonly known, was the third or four boats (Saint Bon, Cagni, Millo, Caracciolo) which made up the class called “Ammiragli” (Admirals). These boats were built by the C.R.D.A. shipyard of Monfalcone (Gorizia) between 1939 and 1941, and thus entered service after the beginning of the hostilities.

The Millo outside Molfalcone in 1941
(Photo Turrini)

These were undoubtedly the best Italian submarines of World War II. Designed for operations on distant oceans, they had performances of a very high level, hard to achieve in a conventional submarine. In particular, their range (up to six continuous months, or about 20,000 miles) was exceptional. Even a few days before its loss, SUPERMARINA was planning for the MILLO and CAGNI to be assigned to the Indian Ocean, with a base in Singapore, facility already under Japanese control.

The MILLO was laid down on October 16th, 1939, launched on July 31st, 1940 and delivered to the Regia Marina on May 1st, 1941. Its operational life was very brief:

After a training period, the MILLO under the command of Lieutenant Commander Vincenzo D’Amato entered full service on September 15th, 1941 with its base in Taranto. Initially, as with the other boats of the same class, the MILLO was used to ferry fuel and ammunitions to North Africa, where at this point the state of affairs of the German-Italian forces was critical.

It first patrol began on November 21st, 1941 destined for Derna with a load of 138 tons of gasoline in small tanks and 6.8 tons of anti-tank ammunitions. This took place without incidents, and on the 26th the boat was already back in Taranto.

Other transport missions followed: on November 30th to Bardia and Benghazi, on December 23rd 1941, and January 26th 1942 to Tripoli. During this last patrol, the MILLO was attacked by an airplane along the Libyan coast, but did not suffer any damage.

The MILLO in 1942 outside Taranto
(Photo courtesy Erminio Bagnasco and Achille Rastelli)

From March 6th to the 12th, the MILLO was on patrol south-east of Malta; however, it did not sight anything. The return to Taranto was fatal: while zigzagging on the surface along the safety route in front of the Calabrian Coast, at 1:23 PM on March 14th just off Punta Stilo in position 38° 27” N, 16° 37” E, the MILLO was hit by two of the four torpedoes launched by the British submarine HMS ULTIMATUM (Lt. P.R.H. Harrison, DSC, RN). Hit aft and amid ship, the boat sank almost immediately taking along 55 crewmembers. There were only 15 survivors, 14 of whom (4 officers, 2 petty officers and 8 sailors) were rescued by the British submarine, while Sergeant Lingua was rescued a few hours later by a boat from the coastal patrol.

Translated from Italian by Cristiano D’Adamo

R. Smg. Pietro Micca

The submarine MICCA (second boat with this name) was the first and only of a class which would not be pursued. It was a large submarine of the oceanic type designed in the early 30ies when the refurbishing and expansion of the Italian submarine fleet had already begun. At the time, this boat was part of an ambitious plan to build a submarine with high performances (speed, range, weaponry, etc) which would be both an attack and mine laying unit.

The submarine MICCA, the day of its launch
(Photo Turrini)

The idea was to have a multiuse boat, adaptable to both the “guerre de course” and the laying of mine, but also capable of transporting in secret. The boat was a success and fully matched the initial requirements, but turned out to be very expensive, and due to the limited resources available, the Regia Marina had to forgo the project and turn to less elaborate projects. The MICCA was built by the shipyard Tosi of Taranto. Laid down on October 15th, 1931, it was launched on March 31st, 1935 and delivered to the Navy on October 1st of the same year.

Operational Life

Upon entering service (10/1/1935), the MICAA was assigned to the 4th submarine group based in Taranto. In early 1937, in participated to the Spanish civil was under the command of Lieutenant Commander Ernesto Sforza, completing two missions. The first, from January 23 to February 2, originated from Naples with a patrol in the waters off Valecia, but the boat did not encounter any traffic. The second, started February 13th, along with 5 other boats, was immediately interrupted the following day due to the international situation which was developing: the Italian government had realized that it could no longer conduct a clandestine war in support of Franco. Contrary to what is commonly believed, neither the MICCA, nor any other Italian ship laid any mine.

During the famous naval parade of Naples for in honor of Hitler (May 5th, 1938), the MICCA was the leading unit of the Italian submarine fleet. At the beginning of the war, the boat was assigned to the 16th Squadron of the 1st Submarine Group based in La Spezia. On June 10th, 1940 the boat was under the command of Commander Vittorio Meneghini and already at sea by 7 days in waters off Egypt where, the night of the 12th, it laid a mine field of 40 devices in front of Alexandria.

The Micca
(Photo courtesy Erminio Bagnasco and Achille Rastelli)

With the command transferred to Commander Alberto Ginocchio, the night of August 12th the boat was again north west of Alexandria to lay another 40 mines. Two days later, while on patrol in the same area, it sighted two enemy destroyers and went on promptly the attack. It launched an aft torpedo against one of the two to then dive deep. After 40 seconds, the sound of an explosion was heard, but British documentation does not confirm the results of this action. Back to Taranto, the boat began a period of refitting and alterations in preparation for the transport of material to overseas bases. During this pause, Commander Ginocchio disembarked passing the command to Lieutenant Commander Guido D’Alterio.

It is during this period that Admiral Doenitz, the commander of the U-boats, become interested in the MICAA for a mission in the Atlantic which can only be carried out by a long range submarine (at the time the Germans did not have any long range boats): mine the waters off Freetown (Sierra Leon), an important port for the British economy. The MICCA would be capable of doing it, but due to logistical difficulties at Bordeaux (where BETASOM, the Italian submarine base is located), where the base is not equipped for the handling of mines, and also for the needs of the Regia Marina to complete urgent transports in the Mediterranean, the German request is not accepted. From BETASOM, the MICCA would be again considered in 1942 in relation to plans for long distance patrols (South Africa and Madagascar), but for the same reasons nothing happens.

At the end of 1941, the boat began transport runs (foodstuff, gasoline, ammunitions) to the Aegean and North Africa. From then on, these mission made up the primary activity of the boat making the MICCA a special and indefatigable protagonist for what for the surface ships was called “the battle of the convoys”. During one of these missions, on March 13th 19411, the boat sighted a group of enemy destroyers, but the torpedo launched did not reach its target. Soon after, in April, during the transport from Taranto to Leros, it sighted a convoy south of the Island of Crete. Having gotten closer, at about 1,500 meters it launched two torpedoes and then dived. After the prescribed time, aboard the boat are heard two explosion, but again there is no record of such attach in the British documentation.

Arriving in Leros, near the mouth of the port the MICCA is victim of a curious incident: a torpedo accidentally exited one of the aft torpedo tubes and exploded, not too far from the boat which was seriously damaged. Towed to port, the boat was somewhat repaired, enough to allow it to return to Taranto where, from June through November 1941, if was returned to full efficiency.

At the end of November, the MICCA restarted the transport missions, this time to North Africa. Just before Christmas, Lieutenant Commander Alberto Galeazzi replaced Captain D’Alterio. In 1942, the boat completed an unsuccessful patrol off Malta, while the transport runs continued unabated. The situation in Africa was ever so difficult and required the maximum effort by the MICCA. Before sinking it would complete 14 missions, transporting a total of 2,163 tons of material. During a mission from Taranto to Benghazi in October 1941, the boat was couth by a violent squall, which caused such damages to force a return to base, and also caused the loss of Giuseppe Canta, a lookout who was ripped away by a wave.

The last mission of the MICCA, by then under the command of Lieutenant Paolo Scobrona since June 15th 1943, began on July 24th with departure from Taranto for Naples. The transfer calls for the circumnavigation of Sicily to avoid the Strait of Messina by then controlled by the enemy air force engaged in opposing the German retreat. However, the night of the 28th, off Cape Spartivento Calabro, the boat had to change course and return to Taranto due to a breakdown. The security routes call for a landing near Cape S. Maria di Leuca where the boat would meet an antisubmarine unit. Instead, it found the British submarine TROOPER, one of the boats that in summer 1943 infested the Italian coastline and that up to September 8th, 1943 caused painful losses to the Italian submarine fleet.

The Allies are particularly interested in the large transport submarines. A few days earlier, along the Calabrese coast were lost, surely ambushed, the submarine REMO (the 15th) and ROMOLO (the 18th). Two brand new boats on their maiden voyage to Naples and specifically designed for the transport over long distances. The reasons behind such interest is the fear that these boats could be used by the Germans to transfer special material to Japan (the so called secret weapons), under construction in Peenemunde and at the time already discovered and bombed.

Thus, at 06:05 of July 29th, in the waters south west of Cape S. Maria di Leuca the TROOPER launched six torpedoes, one of which hit the MICCA midship causing it to quickly sink 270˚ from the lighthouse. Only 18 people service, including the Captain Scobrogna, all rescued by the ship BORMIO in charge of the escort but which had arrived too late.

Up to then, the MICCA had completed 24 sorties:

4 patrols
14 transport missions
2 mine laying missions
4 transfer and drill missions

all for a total of 23,140 miles.

In addition to the list of the deceased available through “Onorcaduti” (the Italian list of the casualties of war) another source, which could not be verified, lists the following names:

2°C° Alfonso PISTARÀ, 2°C° Antonio SCIOPPO, Com. Romolo BALZI, Com. Vincenzo BOFFO, Com. Armando CECCHETTI, Com. Domenico LOZZI, Com. Carlo MARIANI, Com. Mattia SCALZA, Com. Adriano ZARRI, Op. Angelo FIUMI

Translated from Italian by Cristiano D’Adamo