Submarine Naming and Meaning

Each class of submarines had a unique naming pattern, though there were a few exceptions.

Adua Class
Boats were named after famous places in Italian East Africa (AOI); Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia. Mostly linked to war events.

Ammiragli and Pisani Classes
Boats named after famous admirals thought Italian history.

Argo
Boats were named after mythological sea monsters.

Argonauta, Foca, and Glouco, and Tritone Classes
Boats were named after sea creatures, real or mythological.

Balilla Class
Boats named after Italian war heroes.

Brin Class
Boats were named after scientists and or historians.

Calvi, Liuzzi, and Mameli Classes
Boats were named after Italian patriots.

Marcello Class
Boats were named after famous Italian noble families.

Marconi Class
Boats named after Italian scientists.

Perla, Platino and Sirena Classes
Boats were named after gems or stones.

R
Boats were named after mythological figures.

Settembrini Class
Boats were named after famous statesman.

BoatClassFull Name (English)Description
AcciaioPlatinoSteelMetal
AduaAduaAdwaThe Battle of Adwa was the climactic battle of the First Italo-Ethiopian War
AlabastroPlatinoAlabasterStone
AlagiAduaAlagiAmba Alagi, a mountain in Ethiopia
Alessandro MalaspinaMarconiAlessandro MalaspinaA Tuscan explorer who spent most of his life as a Spanish naval officer
Alpino BagnoliniLiuzziAlpino Attilio Bagnolini A gold Medal for Valor who died in 1936 in the battle of Mai Ceu (Ethiopia)
AmbraPerlaAmberHard, clear yellowish-brown gum
AmetistaSirenaAmethystPrecious stone
Ammiraglio CagniAmmiragliAdmiral CagniItalian admiral and explorer
Ammiraglio CaraccioloAmmiragliAdmiral CaraccioloAdmiral of the Napolitan navy
Ammiraglio MilloAmmiragliAdmiral MilloAdmiral of the Italian navy
Ammiraglio Saint BonAmmiragliAdmiral Saint BonItalian admiral, he was awarded the gold medal at Lissa
AnfitriteSirenaAmphitritePrecious stone
Antonio SciesaBalillaAntonio SciesaItalian patriot executed by the Austrians
AradamAduaAradamAmba Aradam, a mountain in Ethiopia
ArchimedeArchimedeArchimedesGreek colonist in Sicily, mathematician and physicist
ArgentoPlatinoSilverMetal
ArgoArgoArgonMonster of Greek mythology with one hundred eyes
ArgonautaArgonautaArgonautA pelagic cephalopod
AscianghiAduaAscianghiLake in Ethiopia and site of a battle
AsteriaPlatinoAsteriated CorundumStone
AtropoFocaAtroposOn of the three Fates of the Greek mythology
AvorioPlatinoIvoryWhite substance forming the tusks of elephants
AxumAduaAxumTown in Northen Ethiopia
BalillaBalillaBalillaYoung fascist boy
BarbarigoMarcelloBarbarigoNoble family of Venice
BausanPisaniGiovanni BausanOfficer of the navy
BeilulAduaBeilulA town in Eritrea
BerilloPerlaberylliumMineral based on the chemical element beryllium
BrinBrinBenedetto BrinItalian statesman, minister of the Navy and naval designer
BronzoPlatinoBronzeAlloy
Capitano TarantiniLiuzziCapitano Raffaele Tarantini Engineer and captain of the Italian Army who died in Ethiopia
CerniaTritoneGrouperSea creature
Ciro MenottiBandieraCiro MenottiItalian patriot
CobaltoPlatinoCobaltChemical element
Comandante CappelliniMarcelloCommander Alfredo CappelliniHe was the commander of the warship Palestro at the battle of Lissa
Comandante Faa Di BrunoMarcelloCommander Emilio Faa Di BrunoHe was the commander of the ship Re d’Italia at the battle of Lissa
Console Generale LiuzziLiuzziGeneral Consul Alberto LiuzziA general Consul of the Fascist Black Shirt
CoralloPerlaCoralHard, red, pink or white substance built on the seabed by small creatures
CorridoniBragadinFilippo CorridoniItalian socialist and syndicalism
Da ProcidaMameliGiovanni da ProcidaRuler of Procida in Sicily, follower of Manfredi, against the Angevin
DagaburAduaDagaburLocality between Somalia and Ethiopia
DandoloMarcelloDandoloNoble family of Venice,
DelfinoSqualoDolphinSea creature
DenticeTritoneDentexSea creature
Des GeneysPisaniGiorgio des GeneysAn Italian admiral from Genoa
DessièAduaDessièCity of Ethiopia, capital of the Walla province
DiamanteSirenaDiamondPrecious stone
DiasproPerlaJasperSemi-precious stone, red, yellow or brown
DurboAduaDurboA Somali coastal town on the Gulf of Aden
EmoMarcelloEmoNoble family of Venice,
Enrico TazzoliCalviEnrico TazzoliItalian patriot
Ettore FieramoscaFieramoscaEttore FieramoscaNobleman of Capua, famous for the duel of Barletta
Evangelista TorricelliArchimedeEvangelista TorricelliPhysicist and mathematician, follower of Galilei
FisaliaArgonautaFisaliaA marine floating coelenterate forming the sea plankton
FluttoTritoneWaveSea creature
FocaFocaSealKinds of mammals of the sea with fur and flippers
Fratelli BandieraBandieraFratelli BandieraItalian patriots of Venice
GalateaSirenaGalateaPrecious stone
Galileo FerrarisArchimedeGalileo FerrarisItalian engineer and physicist
Galileo GalileiArchimedeGalileo GalileiPhysicist, astronomer and philosopher
GalvaniBrinLuigi GalvaniItalian scientist
GemmaPerlaGemPrecious stone or jewel
GiadaPlatinoJadeStone
Giuseppe FinziCalviGiuseppe FinziItalian patriot and politician
GlaucoGlaucoGlaucusA character of Greek mythology
GondarAduaGondarTown in Ethiopia, theater of a battle
GorgoTritoneEddySea creature
GranitoPlatinoGraniteStone
GroncoTritoneGruger eelSea creature
Guglielmo MarconiMarconiGuglielmo MarconiItalian scientist and inventor
GuglielmottiBrinAlberto GuglielmottiDominican friar, fan of naval history and author of many writings
IridePerlaIrisKinds of flowering plant
JaleaArgonautaJaleaSea creature
JantinaArgonautaJantinaFamily of small floating gastropod
LafolèAduaLafolèVillage in Somalia, where an Italian expedition force was slain
Leonardo Da VinciMarconiLeonardo Da VinciA genius of Italian Renaissance
Luciano ManaraBandieraLuciano ManaraItalian patriot
Luigi TorelliMarconiLuigi TorelliA member of diverse scientific and economic institutions
MacallèAduaMacallèTown in Ethiopia
Maggiore BaraccaMarconiMajor Francesco BaraccaAce of the Italian Air Force in the First World War
MalachitePerlaMalachiteKind of green stone used for ornaments
MameliMameliGoffredo MameliItalian patriot and poet, author of the lyrics of the Italian national anthem
Marcantonio BragadinBragadinMarcantonio BragadinAdmiral of the Venetian fleet
Marcantonio ColonnaPisaniMarcantonio ColonnaAdmiral of Pope Pius V, was the supreme commander at the battle of Lepanto
MarcelloMarcelloMarcelloNoble family of Venice,
MareaTritoneTideSea creature
MedusaArgonautaJellyfishSea creature
MiccaMiccaPietro MiccaItalian patriot
Michele BianchiMarconiMichele BianchiItalian politician, one of the founders of the Fascist Party in Italy
MillelireBalillaDomenico MillelireCaptain of the Sardinian navy
MocenigoMarcelloMocenigoNoble family of Venice,
MorosiniMarcelloMorosiniNoble family of Venice,
MurenaTritoneMoray eelSea creature
NaiadeSirenaNaiadPrecious stone
NaniMarcelloNaniNoble family of Venice,
NarvaloSqualoNarwhalSea creature
NautiloTritoneNautilusSea creature
NeghelliAduaNeghelliPlace in Ethiopia, theater of a battle
NereideSirenaNereidPrecious stone
NichelioPlatinoNickelMetal
OndinaSirenaUndinePrecious stone
OnicePerlaOnyxSorts of quartz in layers of different
OtariaGlaucoOtaryA sea-animal similar to a seal
PerlaPerlaPearlSilvery-white or bluish-white round deposit found inside some oysters
Pier CapponiMameliPier CapponiStatesman of Florence under the Medici
Pietro CalviCalviPietro CalviItalian patriot
PlatinoPlatinoPlatinumMetal
PorfidoPlatinoPorphyryStone
ProvanaMarcelloProvanaNoble family of Piedmont,
Reginaldo GiulianiLiuzziReginaldo GiulianiMilitary chaplain in Eastern Africa, he died in the battle of Tembien
RemoRRemusA son of Mars
RomoloRRomulusA son of Mars,
RubinoSirenaRubyPrecious stone
Ruggiero SettimoSettembriniRuggiero Settimo Italian statesman, in the Kingdom of the two Sicilies
SalpaArgonautaSalpaSea creature
Santorre SantarosaBandieraSantorre SantarosaItalian patriot
ScirèAduaScirèRegion of northern Ethiopia , theater of a battle
SerpenteArgonautaSnakeAny of numerous limbless scaled reptiles
SettembriniSettembriniSettembriniItalian patriot and writer
SirenaSirenaMermaidPrecious stone
SmeraldoSirenaEmeraldPrecious stone
SparideTritoneSparidesSea creature
SperiMameliHopeItalian patriot
SpigolaTritoneSea bassSea creature
SqualoSqualoSharkSea creature
TembienAduaTembienMountain region in northern Ethiopia , theater of a battle
TopazioSirenaTopazPrecious stone
TotiBalillaEnrico TotiHero of the First World War
TrichecoSqualoWalrusSea creature
TritoneTritoneTritonSea creature
TurchesePerlaTurquoiseGreenish-blue precious stone
UarsciekAduaUarsciekPort of Benadir in Somalia
Uebi ScebeliAduaUebi ShebeliThe main river (Wabi) of East Africa
VelellaArgoVelellaSea animal (similar to the medusa)
VenieroMarcelloVenieroNoble family of Venice,
Vettor PisaniPisaniVettor PisaniVenetian admiral
VolframioPlatinoVolframioMetal
VorticeTritoneVortexSea creature
ZaffiroSirenaSapphirePrecious stone
ZoeaFocaZoeaSea animal, it is the larva of some crustacea

Other Information

Critical Examination of Our readiness and Results

We are glad to present copy of a memorandum probably written by Admiral Legnani or by members of his staff . This document was located by Dr. Achille Rastelli in the archives of USMM (Ufficio Storico marina Militare) in Rome.

Memorandum
CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF OUR READINESS AND RESULTS

OF OUR SUBMARINE WARFARE

(Until early December, 1941)

———–=o=oOo=o————–

In this memorandum are examined in order:

A. The experience acquired by the German, British and Italian Navies in the field of antisubmarine warfare by submarines in the First World War and the lessons each navy might have learned.

B. The deficiencies of our submarine fleet in comparison to the German one, both in regards to equipment and personnel, and the measures implemented to improve the situation.

C. The nature and volume of the British antisubmarine activities and the repercussions [it has had] on the utilization, successes, and losses of our submarines.

D. The fundamental influence exerted by the lack of aerial collaboration on the Italian side, and by the extensive British aerial antisubmarine activity.

A- INTRODUCTION

For a critical examination of the development of the underwater warfare which has been and is [currently] being fought in the current conflict, it is necessary to look back

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at the events and experience of the [First] World War and take into consideration at least three Navies: German, British and Italian.

I THE GERMAN NAVY

The German Navy has come out of the World War with expertise in the use and understanding of the offensive capabilities offered by submarines so vast and profound and so superior to the one collected by other nations making the Germans, even after the war, the only power which has been really capable of taking advantage in this field of the lessons of the Great War.

This can be easily understood if one realizes that Germany during the Great War built at least 344 submarines which, in thousands of war missions, have sunk nine millions tons of enemy shipping. All the nations of the Entend had at the most 100 submarines, and they achieved negligible results due to lack of targets.

The peace terms imposed upon Germany forbade it to build submarines, but they could not take away the precious experience acquired, nor could they impede it from taking advantage of the research and improvements of prototypes (to be mass produced in case of war). Also, the Germans could not be stopped from continuing the study of the best methodologies, and the preparation of the best instrumentation and material adept to solving all the problems which the future war might bring forward.

The capabilities and excellence of the German industry took care of the rest.

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In summary, the link between the two wars could be described as follows:

In 1918 Germany had a submarine fleet far superior in quality (and also in quantity) to those of any other power. Nevertheless, the a.s. mobilization of the Entent caused the submarine campaign to decline, and the German submarines began becoming obsolete.

Between the two wars, Germany dedicated itself to the research and construction of new characteristics and new uses capable of giving back to the submarine units the offensive aptitudes which had been mostly lost. This way, the German submarines made a new leap forward (naturally unknown outside Germany) toward progress.

Thus, Germany reached the new war in conditions somewhat similar to those it had at the beginning of the previous war: a relatively small number of boats (about fifty), but rapidly increasable, and with unknown characteristics, but surely superior to those of all other navies, thus creating a real surprise to the enemy.

This way, the balance between offensive and defensive naval means, which had broken in 1914 and which was gradually reestablished between 1914 and 1918, was again broken in 1939. It could be assumed that this may again be established during the war.

II The British Navy

The British Navy, on the contrary, left the previous war

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with a mature and glorious experience in antisubmarine warfare, to which the other navies of the entente also contributed, but undoubtedly in a comparatively very modest proportion.

The British navy was therefore, since 1918, the only navy which had collected the full experience in the area of antisubmarine defense, research, and antisubmarine warfare (active, passive).

Furthermore, Great Britain had the economic and industrial capabilities to take advantage of this precious experience. Therefore, in the interval between the two wars Great Britain did not crystallize the means and methodologies to her disposal in 1918. To the contrary, the Royal Navy, has depended on and perfectioned for 20 years with generous means and clear vision the complex problem of AS warfare. Thus, it has reached in this field a high degree of perfection, the highest obtainable in relation to today’s technological progress.

Considering also that Germany was not allowed to build submarines, but that other navies were doing so in large numbers, it should be understood that Germany would have not remained completely still and could have made further progress (to which the Royal Navy would have probably not arrived since it dedicated limited attention and resources to submarine warfare).

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III The Italian Navy

The Italian Navy, different from both the German and British ones, did not harvest in the Great War experience in submarine and antisubmarine warfare which could be used as a base for a war in the Mediterranean and in the oceans.

To understand this inferiority in respect to the German submarines, one should only consider that while at the beginning of 1915 the German submarines were capable of missions lasting several weeks and were capable or transferring non-stop from the North Sea to the Adriatic (3000 miles), in 1917 the Regia Marina was conducting the war still using small F class submarines capable of missions of two or three days only crossing the Adriatic (50 miles)!

Therefore, to be perfectly up to par with the hard and enormous assignments of a naval war against Great Britain in both the Mediterranean and the oceans, between the two wars the Italian Navy should have been able not only to overcome the gap with the German and British navies, but also keep up with their progress. All this should have been accomplished based on someone else’s experience, which is never well known, as convincing and as instructive as one’s own. Taking advantage of a domestic industry more or less up to date and powerful, figuring out and understanding the improvements and progress of the other navies which kept their secrets jealously. (The technical collaboration with the allied Navy had the first results only when our submarine fleet was in grand part

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already built, and had already entered the construction phase following the beginning of the wa).

Under these circumstances, the Italian navy had made great progress, but not the much greater one which would have been necessary and started the war with a submarine fleet which could have been very powerful and to be feared under the conditions of the previous war, but resulted in low efficiency under the new conditions of the aero-naval war.

Some of the most visible deficiencies of our submarines had been brought to the surface during the Spanish War. This preceded by only three years our intervention in the current conflict, and anyway the experience in Spain cannot be compared with that of a large aero-naval war against Great Britain, just as the campaign against Ethiopia could not clearly constitute a comprehensive experience of land conflict against a European army.

The real comparison with the more advanced submarine units in the world has therefore taken place only during this conflict through the first contacts between our forces deployed in the Atlantic and the German U-Boot. And the real comparison with a more advanced AS organization could be determined only following the clash with the British naval power.

These comparisons have demonstrated that the gap which separated us from the German and British navies had not been sufficiently reduced.

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The demonstration took place through the limited successes (obtained) and the gravity of the losses. Or better by examining “the quantity of the results obtained and the losses suffered”.

It should be noted that German losses were also very hig;, the difference is therefore in the amount of results obtained, not to mention the much larger German ability to replace units lost.

In the following part of this memo we shall examine in great detail the reasons for the serious losses and the poor results.

B- COMPARISON BETWEEN THE ITALIAN AND GERMAN SUBMARINES – IMPROVEMENTS AND MODIFICATIONS [MADE] TO THE FIRST ONES.

Although the poor results and the high losses are in evident and clear relation, the need for an analytical exposition [of the facts] dictates and artificial distinction between two the topics. This suggests faulting the deficiencies of our boats with the poor results, and [credit] the high losses to the efficiency of the British countermeasures.

After all, this conceptual distinction is quite faithfully reflected by geographical separation. In the Atlantic war, where our submarines found themselves in comparison with the German units, it has been quite obviously revealed the inferiority of their characteristics which translate in a lesser yielding in the fight against enemy merchant traffic. Instead in the Mediterranean war, where the enemy traffic was scarce, and for these reason

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more difficult, the gravity of the losses has particularly highlighted the efficiency and intensity of the countermeasures practices by the enemy.

In comparison with the German units, the Italian have shown the following deficiencies or technical inferiorities:

I. Lower surface speed, and a lesser aptitude to maintaining normal speed in adverse weather conditions, and a less secure operation of the engines. This deficiency makes the reaching or passing (to then attack) of units or convoy impossible, which are instead accessible to attack by German units.

II. Better visibility

The superstructures are more extended, and the outer casing (in surface navigation) is more exposed. Thus our units have a lesser probability of success or a greater risk in night deployments.

III. Greater noise

The machinery for surface navigation and especially those indispensable for submerged navigation, or to level the submarine at a given depth, resulted very noisy compared to the German systems, with serious consequences in regards to detection by the enemy’s hydrophones [systems].

IV. Higher diving time

The diving maneuver (which in the various submarines in service ranged from 60 to 120 seconds, with some even

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exceeding the latter value)resulted being double and four folds of that of the German submarines. Thus derives a much greater vulnerability to daylight aerial attacks and to the reaction of surface units during night actions.

V. Lesser maneuverability

In general, Italian units have turned out to be less handy and maneuverable than the German ones. For example, the surface turning radius for the German units is reduced to only 300 meters, thanks to the installation of a double rudder, where it is about 500 meters on our units.

VI. Inferiority of the weapons and instrumentation for their deployment.

A complex problem relative to the stealthyness of our submarines, effectiveness of their weapons, and their rational and profitable, use resulted to be already resolved and implemented aboard German units, while these issues are still under study and experimentation within the Italian navy. Thus, to limit ourselves to the main questions, it should be noted that German submarines are equipped with:

1) Torpedo launchers which do not generate an air bubble revealing the position of the submarine upon the launch of the torpedo.

2) Electric torpedoes which do not produce a tail and thus do not allow the target to maneuver avoiding the attack, and the enemy light unit to move toward the origin of the tail to search and attack

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the attacking submarine

3) Fire control and launch systems capable of simplifying, automating, and preventing computation errors, and communication relative to the preparation and execution of the launch, both on the surface and under water.

4) Torpedoes with magnetic pistols which have revolutionized naval technique for various reasons, but remarkably because they have a conflagration effectiveness greatly superior, and cause damage to the lower part of the hull which is not provided with any protection (our submarines on the contrary, if they do not want to take the risk to let the torpedo pass below the target without striking it and exploding, are forced to set the run for lower depth, thus hitting the hull on the side where it is better protected. This causes an explosion path which is partially let out into the air outside the target obtaining much lesser destructive power).

Beside the magnetic pistols, and the fundamental advantages they offer, our torpedoes have shown poor effectiveness during conflagration due to the incomplete burning of the explosive and the deformation of the warhead during the explosion, and for other reasons which have induced [us] to begin again the study of the behaviors of these weapons to modify and improve them.

This could explain why the damages inflicted on the

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enemy units have been generally light, to a point that British warship torpedoed by our submarines have almost always been able to return to base and not too rarely we have had no news of long immobilization of the stricken units due to repair work.

It should be kept into consideration that the British units have generally shown considerable structural strength and excellent damage control. Furthermore, the evident statistical documentation of the little results obtained even in those cases in which the submarines were able to launch is contained in addendum I (torpedoing carried out by submarines from the beginning of the war until December 9th, 1941) – without the result of the action becoming apparent.

VII Inferiority of the equipment and outfitting in general.

All the equipment and its general arrangement aboard German submarines have shown to be clearly superior to that of our units under all aspect:

1) Strength and safety of operation.

Our units have had much more frequent failures which, not only have reduced the percentage of submarines on patrol, but at times have placed the submarines in precarious circumstances while facing the enemy. Undoubtedly, these deficiencies have reduced the absolute trust of our submariners in their weapon, condition this indispensable for maximum success.

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[it has also] forced our crew to [perform] arduous repairs during patrol (and even in the period following their return to port from a patrol when they instead should have been resting, but had to [work] due to the deficiencies of the overhauling equipment at the bases).

2) For simplicity of operation or perfect adaptability of the material to the task, deriving from a long and meticulous experience and non-stop studing of even newer improvements.

It is obvious that a single cause of inferiority could by itself be very serious, while the concurrency of all of the factors [cited], and [those also] omitted for the sake of brevity, becomes extremely serious.

Thus defining as 1 the war performance of a German submarine, and estimating only slightly lower the one of an Italian submarine – for instance 0.8 – the performance of an Italian submarine due to the combination of the seven more complex causes of inferiority which have been [previously] listed (if all of the causes are globally considered) reduces the performance to .8 to the 7 factor, or .21.

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This calculation, which serves as guidance, refers more than anything else to the chance one of our submarines has to perform its duties to the end: bring the torpedo to explode upon contact with the enemy hull. But if the weapon is instead, due to built-in defects, incapable of sinking or even seriously damaging the target, then due to this main deficiency, there is no longer any ratio which is worth computing. This one [deficiency] alone is enough to destroy the fruits of all labor, all fervor, and sacrifices of the entire submarine fleet.

The realization of the inferiority of our underwater units, and the examination of the measures adopted in the German constructions, did not allow to immediately begin the alteration and improvements which would have been desirable to do.

In fact, it was necessary to study if and what building criterion could be applied to our units, and which particular device [to improve], since it was not a new construction or a new project, but units already in service. It was necessary to prepare the material required and, if necessary, conduct testing, deepen the [understanding] of specific issues and ask for the consultation [services] or production [facilities] of the Germans, whenever it was not possible provide to with domestic means.

In the meantime, it was necessary to keep on fighting

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the war, continuing to employ our submarines as they were, delaying each [boat] alteration to [when] longer periods of maintenance or repairs [were due].

Amongst these difficulties, which applied to all kind of units, it was added one specific to submarines. This was of such a nature and gravity to complicate any issue and augment any preexisting difficulty. As a matter of fact, the sine qua non condition for the submarine to operate is that with the double tanks flooded its weight be equal to its buoyancy and it position of balance leveled [bubble]. Thus, differently from any other kind of ship, any alteration is restricted to the requirement that the total weight of the ship be kept the same, and the new distribution of weight be such not to cause any variation of the longitudinal trim.

Despite all these difficulties, and in particular this double restriction, numerous and important alterations were made or are being made to the submarines.

Amongst them, it is worth mentioning (see addendum 2):

1- Reduction of the size of the conning tower to make the submarine less visible

2- Increase of the size of the crash dive tank, and other changes meant to increase diving performances.

3- Replacement of the Rovereto stabilizer – noisy and usable only up to 90 meters – with other systems, quieter and usable

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at all depths, and better suited for trimming the submarine while still and submerged.

4- Adoption of gimbals [dampers] for noisy machinery to elude enemy hydrophone searches.

It is understood though that only aboard units of new construction, and particularly those designed when the new war experience had already matured, it was possible to implement improvements in all essential characteristics, including surface speed.

——

All this concerns the equipment. The realization of its inferiority has not however diminished the officers’ and crews’ very aggressive spirit. Nevertheless, the deficiencies detected in the first months of war are not limited to the equipment.

Since the beginning of [our] participation to the Atlantic campaign, it has been evidenced that aboard German submarines great part of the crew (officers, non-commissioned officers, and crews) were in grand part much younger than our personnel, thus much more resilient to the hardship of life aboard submarine units. Meantime, is has been shown in the Mediterranean, as well as in the Atlantic, that our submarine personnel, older and better experienced, did not last under prolonged combat life. In short, it has been necessary to disembark the almost complete role of the most expert captains and the most skilled non-commissioned officers.

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Thus was lost a precious accumulation of experience collected over many years of training, and it was necessary to quickly make room for the younger ones. But for those, experience could not be improvised.

The “Submarine School” was immediately established, and at the moment it has began giving results in the form of a noticeable outpour of trained young personnel; but this is yet to equal demand. In any case, the institution of [the school] has not been able to avoid a shortage of personnel, which has not yet been overcome.

C – BRITISH ANTISUBMARINE ACTIVITIES AND LOSSES OF ITALIAN SUBMARINES

We now move to cover the British A.S. activities and the consequences it has had on our submarine warfare. It behooves us to state that the efficiency of the enemy’s A.S. organization, and its equipment and techniques constituted unknown factors (as for all other matters regarding readiness of the enemy, especially at the beginning of the war).

Nevertheless, according to public statements, the British and French fleets were equipped with ultrasound search apparatuses capable of localizing a submerged submarine with accuracy, even if perfectly silent. The principle used by this echo-sound equipment was well known in Italy and doubts were solely concentrated on the practical construction of [a devise] with a sure range of a few kilometers.

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It is understood that a device capable of locating or detecting with absolute certainty, and capable of estimating range of a submarine underwater would have devalued the underwater weapon and would have made a submerged submarine blind, slow, without defense, and an easy prey to the enemy’s surface fleet.

Under these circumstances, it was clear that the submarine could have not conducted its activity whereas it would have been completely abandoned to itself in face of all the enemy’s offensive means (has it has happened in the past war). [The submarine] would have necessitated support activities by our surface ships, especially our airplanes, to counteract the offensive activity of the enemy’s ships and airplanes.

Practically, the enemy search equipment demonstrated characteristics as to make impossible for a submarine to attack making its loss sure, only if it had encroached within the range of a few kilometers of the enemy’s torpedo boats. Nevertheless, it has made more difficult to conduct an attack to the end, and less easy to avoid the reaction of the enemy.

What was specifically said in regards to the equipment for the search of the submarine underwater should have also applied in general terms to the whole British A.S. organization, both in regards to quality and quantity of their means.

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Basically, this British organization has demonstrated to be equal to its role and could be summed up into two [items].

– Defense: prevent or impede attacks by our submarines against their war and cargo ships.

– Offense: conduct the search and systematic hunt of the enemy submarine carrying on to its destruction.

Naturally, offensive results could be obtained much more easily when longer, more intense, and undisrupted could the activity of the British A.S. vessels be. This [would take place] preferably near British naval bases, thus patrol areas which could have yielded the best results, both in terms of exploration and attack, have to all practical matters caused the greater losses without [producing any] results and have shown to be unsustainable.

Clearly, as the submarine move further away from the enemy bases, the probability of finding good targets diminishes. On the other hand, the enemy A.S. activity should have also decreased and this should have allowed a compromise solution in the selection of the geographical distribution of the patrol areas to balance the two needs; bring the submarine closer to the enemy bases to bring them for sure on the target’s routes; move further away from the enemy bases to spare them from an un-contrasted and perennial hunt and its consequences.

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Thus the British naval and aerial dominance was full and unchallenged in very large areas of the Mediterranean. Sometimes, the aerial and naval defenses lacked even in the proximity of our submarine bases. This, in various circumstances, has allowed the enemy destroyers and airplanes to chase and attack Italian submarines up to the landing channels leading to our ports. [For instance] it has happened during the first months of the war to the submarines assigned to the base of Tobruk; more than one of them has been hunted and sunk by the enemy a few miles from their logistical base.

Beside the action and counteraction extraneous to the submarine fleet, we were left only with using submarines with limitations and difficulties set forth by the above-mentioned situation. The experience of this hardship and limited possibility of use has matured thorough the [experience acquired during the] war fought and the losses suffered.

Evidently, the units which could have provided for the most precise information about the means and methods of the British A.S. effort where precisely the ones which did not return to base (it could be of interest remembering that during the last war the Germans did not have knowledge of the existence of the British Q ships which had already made various kills until the day one of their submarines was able, by miracle, to elude the fire of one of these special and ingenious units.)

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Nevertheless, the nature and efficiency of the enemy A.S. was quickly understood since the first weeks of the war; new orders were immediately issued to adapt the use of the submarine to the real conditions in which they had to operate.

However, due to further and continuous reevaluation of the operational guidelines of our submarine units, and the orders thus were issued [in response] to the incessant search for the best solution between the two opposing compromising needs: reduce the losses to tolerable levels; do not reduce to unacceptable level the probability to meet, discover and attack the enemy and sink it. This problem in additional to the already mentioned problems of the geographical distribution of the patrol areas we were presented with the selection of modality and most of all the depth of the attack.

Low depth patrols (which allow for the use of the periscope and which was the method used in the past) in addition to causing grave losses, has generated minimal results because the submarines are easily detected.

On the other hands, at greater depth and with the [aid] of the hydrophones, it has proven at the most capable of avoiding being located, but not suitable for the timely detection of the enemy units to be attacked.

The daylight use, going back and forth between these two methods, could be in general assessed as a complete failure, especially in the Mediterranean where the targets are very limited in number

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are made up mostly of warships or convoys escorted by a large lumber of aircraft and ships.

Some success with fewer losses was instead obtained during night surface operations, but naturally this kind of use has a much lower yielding because of the limited range (thus low probability) of sighting enemy units.

D- THE ROLE OF THE AIRCRAFT IN THE ITALIAN SUBMARINE WARFARE AND IN THE BRITISH ANTISUBMARINE ACTIVITY

In addition to what has already been presented, it is understood that there are two primary reasons for the poor performances of our submarine warfare: on one hand, the high efficiency of the British aero-naval collaboration in fighting submarines; on the other hand, the complete absence of collaboration of the Italian Air Force in support of the [Italian] submarines.

These two factors, considering their fundamental importance, deserve a dedicated examination, although a generic and schematic one.

On the side of the British exists an air force which is an integral part of the fleet, thus it could be organized, trained, and could operate in perfect harmony with the surface ships commencing before the war and with absolute strategic unity.

Consequentially, in addition to the British naval control of vast parts of the Mediterranean, there was also an unchallenged aerial domination. It is mostly due to this latter [factor] if our submarines have been easily located, monitored,

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and attacked during daylight surface transfers and periscope patrols, and their presence communicated to the surface ships.

Thus, large enemy ships have been able to avoid them, while smaller units have sought them out and attacked them.

To avoid being sighted from the sky, since this made them unable to attack, our submarines have been forced to limit their stay on the surface and at periscope depth with the repercussions, as already said, on their ability to attack.

On the Italian side instead, the hierarchic separation at the technical and organizational level between ships and airplanes in preparation for the war has constituted a serious obstacle to clear collaboration within their tasks. Even under the urgent needs of the current conflict, it has been impossible, despite improvisation, to overcome this problem.

Thus, our few airplanes, not previously trained for operating at sea, and also employed with methods and goals independent from submarines warfare and operated by commands linked but separate, have contributed only minimally to providing information for both offensive and defensive [operations]. Instead, such [collaboration] has been formidable for the British submarines. Thus without considering the number of airplanes available, the Italian air force has fought a parallel, but separate war.

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IN CONCLUSION

1st) The German submarines have obtained great results against Great Britain despite the high efficiency of the British antisubmarine defenses because they have special and excellent characteristics which make them far superior to all other [submarines], and in particular to the Italian and British ones.

2nd) The Italian submarines have achieved limited successes against Great Britain because of inferior [technical] characteristic than the German ones and because opposed by an excellent antisubmarine organization.

3rd) The British submarines have achieved considerable success against Italy even though they are similar to the Italian [boats] and inferior to the German ones because opposed by a poor antisubmarine organization.

4th) The airplane has played a fundamental influence on these results – positive or negative – and in general on the whole progression of the offensive and defensive submarine warfare of the German, British, and Italian navy.

As expected, war and its results have highlighted:

a) The large participation and collaboration of the German airplanes and submarines against British traffic.

b) The large participation and collaboration of the British airplanes and submarines against Italian traffic and the extremely effective

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collaboration between naval and air forces in antisubmarine activity against Italian submarines.

c) The almost absolute absence of aerial collaboration in the deployment of the Italian submarines and in seeking, signaling, and attacking British submarines.

In regards to the real deficiencies of the submarine fleet, measures have been taken and we are still working on eliminating them on units already in service or under construction, and within the limits allowed by each of them and the resources of the nation.

From this action we could expect a better, but not complete change of the situation, because in the meantime it is to be expected that the German submarines would continue improving and the British submarine organization sharpens and increases in power.

In any case, future results will remain strictly linked to the nature and magnitude of the changes implemented assuming a more efficient and direct participation of the Italian Air Force in submarine warfare.

Translated by Cristiano D’Adamo

Carlo Fecia di Cossato

Rome September 25th, 1908 – Naples August 27th, 1944

Of the many heroic Italian submarine commanders of World War II, undoubtedly the name of Carlo Fecia di Cossato is one that immediately comes to mind. This soldier and gentlemen is perhaps remembered not only for his successes at sea, but also for having taken his own life in a sad summer day in 1944. Today, the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) has a submarine named after Commander Fecia di Cossato.

Carlo Fecia di Cossato

Carlo Fecia di Cossato was born to a highly respected Piemontese noble family in Rome, on September 25th, 1908. His father, also named Carlo, had married Maria Luisa Genè. Amongst Carlo’s ancestor figured several generals, and his brother Luigi the recipient of the silver medal for bravery while serving during the landing at Bargal, in Somalia in 1925. The Fecia di Cossato family was a strong supporter of the monarchy and had contributed several successful soldiers. Carlo’s father was also in the Regia Marina where, up to 1912, had served as “Capitano di Vascello” (Captain) loosing the use of an eye while stationed in China.

Carlo attended the renowned Regio Collegio Carlo Alberto in Moncalieri, an educational institute run by the Barnabiti brothers also known for the Quercia in Florence and the Collegio Denza in Naples. He completed his high school studies in 1923 and immediately entered the Accademia Navale (Naval Academy) in Leghorn where, in 1928, he graduated as Acting Sub-Lieutenant. At the very beginning of his career in the Regia Marina, he served aboard the submarine Bausan, the ship Ancona and the destroyer Nicotera. Later, he completed another class at the academy followed by an assignment to the old cruiser Libia in China.

While in China, just like his father several years before, he commanded landing troops in Shanghai and later Peking. The mission concluded in 1933 with the return of the Libia to Italy. After a short stay in Italy, Fecia di Cossato sailed aboard the Bari for Eritrea where he participated to the Italo-Ethiopian war. During this period, he was in charge of the naval defenses of the port of Massawa.

After having returned to Italy aboard the Bari, Fecia di Cossato immediately returned to East Africa as the adjutant of Admiral De Feo, then governor of the Italian Colony. This assignment was brief, and after eight months he left to join the crew of the torpedo boat San Martino, the Polluce, and the Alcione, all based in Lybia.

In 1939 attended the Submarine School in Pola, and at the beginning of the hostilities he was assigned the command of the submarine Menotti operating in the Mediterranean, followed by the Tazzoli, in the Atlantic. He served for almost 4 long years in the confined and unhealthy spaces of submarines and was later transferred to the torpedo boat Aliseo in the Mediterranean due to his precarious health. During his service aboard submarines he was first promoted to Tenente di Vascello (Lieutenant), then capitano di corvetta (lieutenant commander) and finally capitano di fregata (commander). His war record aboard the Tazzoli speaks for itself.

Fecia di Cossato aboard the Tazzoli

On September 8th, 1943 Fecia di Cossato was aboard the Aliseo along the Ligurian coast. Following orders, he engaged and destroyed German naval forces in Bastia (Corsica), and later reached Portoferraio in Tuscany. He continued serving aboard the Aliseo until 1944, mostly escorting convoys in the Jonian, Adriatic and Tyhrrenian Sea. After the Congress of Bari, when some political forces questioned the monarchical institutions, he openly questioned the direction the Regia Marina and the country were taking. When the Regia Marina changed procedure asking for allegiance to the government instead of the king, he promptly requested to be dismissed.

When crewmembers based in Taranto became aware of the situation, they demonstrated very emotionally. During this period of great confusion, Fecia di Cossato was also believed jailed by the government; instead he had been recalled in Rome where he was punished with a six-month suspension.

He later moved to Naples with friends since he could not reach his family in the North, at the time past of the slowly moving frontline. While in Naples, he refused to accept employment from the Allied, mostly on ground of prestige and love for his country. He was abandoned by many, finding himself tormented by a Monarchy, which had betrayed the country and the vivid memories of the man of the Tazzoli who had been lost at sea in May 1943. The pain was enormous and the future appeared so dark. On August 27th, 1944 he took his own life leaving a letter to his mother:

Naples, August 21st, 1944

Mother dearest,

When you receive this letter, some grave events will have taken place and they will pain you very much and I will have been responsible for it. Do not think that I committed what I have committed in a moment of dementia without thinking of the sorrow I would cause you. For the last nine months, I have reflected upon the extremely sad moral position in which I found myself, following the IGNOMINIOUS SURRENDER OF THE NAVY to which I resigned myself only because it was presented to me as a direct order from the king who had asked us to perform THE ENORMOUS SACRIFICE FOR THE SAKE OF OUR MILITARY HONOR to remain a bastion of the monarchic institution during peace. You understand what is happening in Italy and how we HAVE BEEN UNWORTHILY BETRAYED AND WE DISCOVERED TO HAVE COMMITTED AN IGNOMINIOUS ACT WITHOUT ANY RESULT. It is from this gloomy realization that I have developed a deep sadness, a DISGUST FOR WHAT SURROUNDS US, and what matters the most, a profound disgust toward myself. Mother, it has been months since I started thinking about these events and I cannot find a way out, a meaning to my life. For months I have been thinking about my sailors of the Tazzoli who are honorably on the bottom of the sea, and I think that my place is with them.

Mother, I hope that you will understand that even in the enormous grief caused by news of my inglorious death, you will understand the nobility of the reasons which guided me. You believe in God, and if God exists, there is no way that he would not appreciate my sentiments, which have always been pure, and my REVOLT TOWARD THE MEANNESS OF THE PERIOD. It is for this, Mother, that one day we shall meet again.
Hug Father and sisters, and to you, Mother, all of my deep, untouched love. In this moment, I feel very close to you and you all and I am sure that you will not condemn me.

Carlo

Carlo Fecia di Cossato is buried in Bologna’s Certosa.

Fecia di Cossato tombstone.
“non est dolor similis meo mater tua” There is no pain like mine, your mother.

Insignia of the Italian Submariners

In researching the insignia of the Italian submarine force during the Second World War, I was not able to find many references. Under relatively fortuitous circumstances, I was able to procure a copy of a book written by Lieutenant-Commander W. M. Thornton in 1997 and published by Leo Cooper of London and later published in the United States by the Naval Institute Press. The bibliography cited by the author is very limited, and none of the references is known to contain details about the Italian submarine forces. Thus, the information provided is probably the result of assistance provided to the author by Captain Franco D’Agostino, Italian Naval Attaché to Germany in 1988, Captain G. Rondonotti, Italian Naval Attaché to London in 1987, Captain Francesco Ricci, U. Cuzzola, also Naval Attaché to London in 1989, and Captain A. Severi, the Director of the Naval Historical Branch on the Italian Navy in Rome. Also sited in the author’s acknowledgments is Mr. Franco Scadaluzzi of Milan. There is a second reference book targeting collectors of submarine paraphernalia. The book in question is “Submarine Badges and Insignia of the World: An Illustrated Reference for Collectors” by Pete Prichard. Both books are limited, but sufficient in giving a general idea of the badges used by the Italian submarine service

The first official submarine insignia worn by Italian Navy personnel appeared in 1915 and remained in use until 1918; its use was limited to junior rating. It was considered a trade badge, known as a ‘category, or ‘specialization’, similar to the one used by gunners, electricians, torpedo men, etc. The badge was made of white metal and depicted a dolphin leaping from right to left and enclosed in a round band with the word ‘SOMMERGIBILI’ (submarines) all in uppercase etched on top of the band and surmounted by the royal crown. The badge measured 45 mm (1 ¾”) in diameter, and the crown extended another 20 mm above it. It appears that there were several manufacturers, thus the measurements varied slightly. The badge was worn on the left sleeve above the rank and was held in place by two fasteners.

The very first badge used by Italian submariners.
On July 18th, 1918 the insignia was changed; the dolphin was reversed, leaping from left to right, and the royal crown was removed. On September 24th, 1924 officers and non-commissioned officers were authorized to wear the Submarine Duty Badge, a small insignia worn on the left breast 1 cm above or in place of the medals ribbon. This badge, gold in color, was very similar to the one originally worn during World War One and could only be used while serving aboard a submarine.

On November 11th, 1941 the badge was replaced by a new and larger one with a more ornate design. The new badge was 25 mm (1”) in diameter, and the band was made in the shape of a laurel wreath. It could only be worn after three war patrols, or for at least five years of service in the submarine service. Upon its inception, the Regia Marina gave personnel retroactive credit for service provided during the previous war and during the Spanish Civil War.

During the war, ratings were allowed to wear a special cloth insignia depicting the same dolphin of the metal badge but without the band around it. The patch was about 65 mm (2 ½”) in diameter and the dolphin was bright yellow. The patch was worn on the left breast of the working uniform, usually dark-gray green in color.

Personnel assigned to Bordeaux had a special badge, similar to the regular one, but with a large capital letter “A” superimposing the bottom of the band and the dolphin. The A was painted bright red with a white contour. Junior ratings assigned to Bordeaux wore the standard silver badge with the leaping dolphin and the print “SOMMERGIBILI”, but, as for the officers, there was a capital letter A overlapping the dolphin and blue in color with a white border.

After the armistice, on December 11th, 1943 the Navy instituted nine special service badges, one of them for the submarine service. The ‘Distintivo d’onore per lunga navigazione in guerra’ looked like a squashed rhomboid with a small crown on top, an anchor vertically positioned in the middle and a torpedo across it with a shark on top of it from left to right.

As with many surface ships, submarine crews created their own badges and commemorative medallions and kept them even after the end of the conflict. In regards to uniforms, it should be noted that ratings would wear a cap with the name of the submarine printed across the band. The name was preceded by the abbreviation SMG, short for “sommergibile”.

During the war, all caps’ bands were replaced with one simply saying ‘sommergibili’ with a five-point start before and after. It should be noted that the navy of the Italian Social Republic created its own badges.

Italian Transport Submarines

Towards the end of 1942, Germany and Italy felt the necessity to obtain from the Far East essential and rare goods no longer available in Europe at the time. Amongst these materials figured rubber, nickel, copper, cobalt, tin, wolfram, quinine, vegetal fiber and varnish. Moreover, these contacts would have allowed for the exchange of mail, news, weapons, blueprints of weaponry systems, and agents with Japan. These reasons induced both the Regia Marina and the Kriegsmarine to transform a few dozen attack submarines into transport ones.
After the United States entered the war in December 1941, the dispatching of Italian and German cargo ships to Japan, the so called “blockade runners”, became much more dangerous due to the increased naval and aerial surveillance. It is for this specific reason that, beginning in 1942, both Germans and Italians began planning a well-organized connection with the Far East utilizing much safer underwater vessels.

The modification of these ocean-going vessels, or the construction of new ones, did not represent a novelty; during World War I, the Kaiser’s navy had deployed two large submarines, the Deutschland and the Bremen, to break the entente’s blockade and conduct business with the United States. In 1916, taking advantage of the American neutrality, the Deutchland succeeded in completing the long journey from Kiel to Baltimore. During the long mission, the German unit transported paint, dyes), mail and precious stones, returning with a discrete load of silver, zinc, nickel and copper.

Before deciding to utilize the underwater weapons to maintain contact with Japan and its new Indonesian possessions recently taken from the Dutch between January and March 1942, Italy had already successfully employed various submarine units to supply her troops in North Africa. Due to the dangerous presence between the Italian ports and the Libyan coast of British airplanes and ships based in Malta, Supermarina decided to utilize submarines since very early on in the conflict. Without the necessary time to modify the units, and with the intention of maintaining their original characteristics so that they could be easily redeployed offensively, the Italian Navy simply removed the torpedoes replacing them with tons of urgent material destined for the North African front.

On June 18th, 1940 (only eight days after Italy’s entry into the war), the submarine Zoea (1938, 1,318/1,647 tons) sailed from Naples to Tobruk with an urgent load of 60 tons of ammunitions for the army (mostly 20, 37 and 47mm projectiles). A similar mission was completed on June 24th by the submarine Bragadin (1938 981/1167) which, after having left the Parthenopean port, transported over 30 tons of supplies to Tobruk.
Throughout the conflict, various Italian submarines (Toti, Santarosa, Atropo) were utilized along this and other routes. For example, starting in March 1941, the Micca (minelayer 1935 1567/1967) was frequently utilized to transport fuel, spare parts and ammunitions not only to Libya, but also the Italian islands in the Aegean, especially Rhodes and Leros. It should be noted that although these missions provided some limited relief to the Italian forces in Libya and the Aegean, it also left Supermarina without the assistance of these units against British military and commercial traffic in the Mediterranean.

As it is well known, Italy’s shortage of cargo ships and tankers forced the Regia Marina’s command into even greater sacrifices, such as the utilization of destroyers and cruisers as transport ships. Starting in 1941, various units of this kind with their decks loaded with extremely dangerous barrels of fuel and ammunitions boxes attempted to reach the Libyan ports, often with horrendous losses. (See Capo Bon).

But let us go back to the cargo submarines. Toward the end of 1942, Italy started a plan for the transformation of submarines to be utilized as transport for journeys to the Far East. Initially, 10 submarines based in Bordeaux were selected, but eventually only seven (Tazzoli, Finzi, Torelli, Giuliani, Bagnolin, Barbarigo and Cappellini) began the necessary internal and external transformations. Before the Italian armistice, September 8th 1943, only the Cappellini (1938, 1060/1313), the Torelli (1940, 1191/1489) and the Giuliani (1939 1166/1484) had been able to leave port and, after a long and dangerous journey, reach the distant Indonesian ports were they were captured by the Japaneseh just before their return to Bordeaux.

In the fall of 1942, Supermarina ordered from the Tosi shipyard in Taranto, the C.R.D.A. of Monfalcone, and the O.T.O. of La Spezia a group of 12 large new submarines specifically designed for transport missions and belonging to the class “R”. Of this group, only two, the Romolo and Remo, were eventually completed before the armistice. The Romolo and Remo (built by Tosi) displaced 2,210 tons (2,606 submerged) and measured 86.50 meters in length. These units were decisively innovative for both their dimensions and the allocation of internal space. The hull included two large holds, one aft and one fore, for a total of 610 cubic meters and capable of holding about 600 tons of cargo. The propulsion system included two 2,600 HP Tosi diesel engines, and two900 HP Marelli electric motors. The unit was capable of reaching 13 knots emerged and 9 submerged. The vessels of the R class had a range of 12,000 miles at 9 knots and 110 at 3.5 knots submerged. The Romolo and Remo were armed by three retractable 20 mm antiaircraft guns, and they were also equipped with 4 collapsible cranes installed on the main deck and used to facilitate the loading and unloading of cargo.
For the units following these two, engineers had planned the installation of two 450 mm torpedo tubes fore (smaller torpedoes). The crew of the Romolo and Remo included 7 officers, and 56 petty officers and sailors. Besides these two, the only other unit of the class which was actually completed before the end of the war was the R12 which, despite the fact it was not able to contribute to the war effort, was used until the 70 in the port of Ancona as an oil fuel depot under the denomination of GR.523.

The operational life of the two large Italian transport submarines was sad, and also extremely short. On July 15th 1943, the Remo left Taranto for Naples and was later sunk off Punta Alice by the British submarine United. Most of the crew plunged into the abyss, while only four crewmembers were rescued (1).

The Romolo had a very similar fate; on July 18th, 1943, three days after its departure from Taranto for Naples, the units was intercepted by a British airplane of the 221st Group R.A.F. near Cape Spartivento and subjected to heavy bombardment. Two hours later, seriously damaged, the Romolo, her commander T.V. Alberto Crepas and the whole crew were lost.

(1) Admiral Ranieri has informed us that despite various sources give the captain, T.V. Salvatore Vassal, as one of the fallen sailors, in fact he was one amongst the survivors. The admiral adds: “The other survivors of the Remo were the Navigational Officer and a look-out, who were with him on bridge and sergeant. E. Dario CORTOPASSI, still alive, who had time to climb out of the control room. He confirmed it himself to me, thus I corrected my own note cards in which I affirmed that all the survivors were on bridge during the torpedoing.”