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
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