R. Smg. Dagabur

The submarine Dagabur was an Adua-class coastal submarine with a displacement of 698 tons on the surface and 866 tons submerged. During the war, it completed 23 patrols (15 offensive and 8 transfer), covering a total of 17,364 miles on the surface and 3,888 submerged

Brief and Partial Chronology

April 16th, 1936

Setting up at the Franco Tosi shipyards in Taranto.

Dagabur still on the slip in Taranto and nearly ready to be launched.

November 22nd, 1936

Launch at the Franco Tosi shipyard in Taranto.

Dagabur soon after the launch in Taranto at the Tosi shipyard

April 9th, 1937

Entry into service.

Dagabour near Taranto in 1937
(“I sommergibili italiani” by Alessandro Turrini and Ottorino Ottone Miozzi, USMM)

April 25th, 1937

Placed under Maricosom (the Submarine Squadron Command) and deployed in Taranto, within the XLIII Submarine Squadron (IV Submarine Group). Shortly after completion the boat made a training cruise in the waters of the Dodecanese and Libya.

August 1st, 1937

Dagabur received the combat flag, donated by the city of Ortona. The godmother of the ceremony was Emma Sepe, wife of the prefect of Chieti.

August 12th, 1937

Under the command of Lieutenant Gian Maria Uzielli, Dagabur set sail from Leros to carry out a mission in the Aegean Sea as part of the Italian underwater campaign related to the Spanish Civil War.

August 13th, 1937

During the mission, Dagabur sighted a steamer and fired a torpedo, but failed to hit the target.

August 17th, 1937

The boat returned to Leros, having had to interrupt the mission due to the failure of one of the shafts.

August 30th, 1937

Once the damage was repaired, Dagabur left Leros again under the command of Lieutenant Uzielli to carry out a second mission related to the Spanish war, in the same Aegean area as the previous mission.

During this mission, Dagabur initiated several attack maneuvers, but did not complete any of them, due to the impossibility of identifying the targets with certainty.

September 5th, 1937

The boat returned to base, but in the afternoon of the same day left for the third and last “Spanish” mission, still under the command of Lieutenant Uzielli and always in the same sector of operations.

During the mission, the boat began an attack maneuver, but did not complete it, once again, because of the inability to identify the target with certainty.

September 12th, 1937

Dagabur returned to Leros, concluding the mission.


Based in Tobruk.


Dagabur returned to Italy and was deployed first to Taranto and then to Augusta (Sicily).

June 10th, 1940

When Italy entered the war, Dagabur (Lieutenant Domenico Romano) was part of the XLVI Submarine Squadron (IV Grupsom of Taranto), along with the twin boats Dessiè, Uarsciek and Uebi Scebeli.

August 1940

The boat carried out some anti-submarine defensive patrols in the Gulf of Taranto.

Summer 1940 – Early 1941

In the first months of the war, Dagabur carried out mainly defensive missions (mainly anti-submarine patrols) in the Gulf of Taranto, and subsequently offensive patrols along the Libyan and Tunisian coasts, without ever encountering enemy ships. Subsequently, according to a source, Dagabur was assigned to the V Submarine Group of Leros.

December 5th, 1940

The gunnery sailor Tommaso Bellonio, 22 years old, from Ortona, was declared missing in the central Mediterranean.

January 1st though 7th, 1941

Dagabur patrolled the waters of Cyrenaica unsuccessfully.

February 19th, 1941

Sent on patrol south-east of Malta, the crew did not find anything.

March 5th, 1941

Sent in search of a British convoys off Crete, along with other submarines (Ondina, Beilul, Galatea, Malachite, Smeraldo, Nereide, Ascianghi, Ambra, and Onice), in contrast to the British operation “Lustre” (consisting of sending 58,000 men from Egypt to Greece, as reinforcements for Greece, with a series of convoys one every three days, from Alexandria to Piraeus, over the course of a month). The first two convoys of “Lustre” departed on March 6th: cruisers H.M.S. York, H.M.S. Gloucester and H.M.S. Bonaventure with troops from Alexandria to Piraeus (where they arrived on March 7th) and the Sri Lankan and Clan Macauley merchant ships with tanks and supplies, escorted by the destroyers H.M.S. Wryneck, H.M.S. Nubian and H.M.S. Mohawk, also from Alexandria to Piraeus (where they arrived on March 8th). Dagabur did not spot anything.

End of March 1941

Dagabur (Lieutenant Domenico Romano) was sent to lie in wait on the Alexandria-Cape Krio route (southeastern coast of Crete) along with the submarines Ambra (which was to be positioned 60 miles southeast of Dagabur) and Ascianghi (which was to be positioned 60 miles southeast of Ambra), with which it was to form a barrage.

March 29th, 1941

Dagabur reached the assigned area, between Crete and Egypt. The deployment of the submarines in the eastern Mediterranean (not far away there were two others, Nereide and Galatea) was planned as part of Operation “Gaudo”, an incursion into the Aegean by a large part of the Italian fleet, with the aim of attacking British convoys in that sector. The submarines had an exploratory purpose (to report any sightings of enemy naval forces in the Eastern Mediterranean) as well as to support the action of surface forces, but they were not warned of the operation in progress, and of the particular importance of reporting any type of movement detected. The submarines would not obtain the desired result, the British fleet passed through the too wide meshes of the barrage, and of the five boats, only the Ambra would detect some signs of the passage of British ships (engine noises picked up on the hydrophone), but without be able to sight anything.

By the time Dagabur reached its assigned sector, however, Operation Gaudo had already ended in tragedy: the massacre at Cape Matapan had been going on for a few hours.

March 30th, 1941

At 08:27 PM Dagabur sighted at 33°47′ N and 25°24′ E (or 33°30′ N and 25°20′ E), south of Crete (halfway between Crete and Egypt), a unit that was identified – with a certain overestimation in displacement – as a light cruiser of 9,000 tons: it was in fact the British light cruiser H.M.S. Bonaventure (captain H. J. Egerton).  engaged with three destroyers (H.M.S. Hereward, H.M.S. Griffin, and H.M.A.S. Stuart) in escorting a convoy of two merchant ships, “G.A. 8”, sailing from Greece to Alexandria in Egypt.

Being in optimal position and conditions to attack (the beta was quite wide, H.M.S. Bonaventure was sailing at a moderate speed, and its silhouette stood out clearly against the moon near sunset, thus being perfectly distinguishable). At 08.37 Dagabur launched two (or three) torpedoes against the enemy cruiser. Two minutes and 50 seconds after launch, two loud explosions were heard, which lead the commander of the submarine to believe that he had damaged the target. In reality, it does not appear that the Bonaventure was hit (some sources claim that it was “probably” damaged, but there seems to be no evidence to support this thesis). Four hours later (at 2:44 AM on March 31st, in position 33°20′ N and 26°35′ E), H.M.S. Bonaventure was sunk by another Italian submarine, Ambra. On the Italian side, initially, the sinking of the Bonaventure was wrongly attributed to the actions of the Dagabur, rather than to those of the Ambra.

According to a British source, Dagabur also unsuccessfully launched a torpedo against H.M.A.S. Stuart, which was engaged in the hunt with depth charges (the torpedo avoided by the Australian ship, exploded in its wake); however, it seems more likely that this was to be attributed to the Ambra.

June 1941

Dagabur was sent to lie in wait off the Syrian-Palestinian coast, along with Jantina and Ondina, during the British invasion of Syria and Lebanon, controlled by Vichy French forces.

July 1941

towards the end of the month, the boat was sent to the waters of Cyrenaica, to counter the British attempts to resupply the stronghold of Tobruk, besieged by Italian-German troops.

September 7th, 1941

At 01.10 PM Dagabur, sailing on the surface in the Eastern Mediterranean, was sighted in position 32°29′ N and 29°07′ E by the British submarine H.M.S. Torbay (Lieutenant Commander Anthony Cecil Capel Miers), which approached to attack it. The attack maneuver, however, did not go as planned by the British commander (the “trap” planned by Miers after the sighting did not work: perhaps this meant that Dagabur maneuvered differently from what was expected), so that at 01.32 PM H.M.S. Torbay emerged to attack with the gun, opening fire from 1,370 meters away. The first shot fired from the Torbay misfired, and Dagabur disengaged by diving. At 01.37 PM , H.M.S. Torbay also dove, but shortly afterwards lost contact with the Italian submarine.

October 1941

Sent on a mission off the coast of Alexandretta, Turkey.

November 1941

Sent on a mission in the central-eastern Mediterranean, however it did not spot any enemy ships.

December 13th, 1941

Dagabur (Lieutenant Commander Alberto Torri) was sent to patrol the waters south of Crete, along with the submarines Ascianghi and Galatea, to counter a possible exit from Alexandria of the British Force B, to protect the traffic operation “M. 41” (which provided for the dispatch of 3 convoys for a total of 8 merchant ships, with the direct escort of 7 destroyers and a torpedo boat as well as the remote escort of three heavy groups that count in all 4 battleships, 5 cruisers, 18 destroyers and two torpedo boats) for the supply of Libya (later aborted as a result of the intense British attacks and the related damage and losses suffered). At the same time, other submarines (Santarosa, Narvalo, Squalo, Topazio and Veniero) were sent off Malta to counter a possible sortie by Force K based there (light cruisers Aurora, Penelope and Neptune and some destroyers).

Force B (light cruisers H.M.S. Euryalus, H.M.S. Naiad and H.M.S. Galatea and destroyers H.M.S. Jervis, H.M.S. Kingston, H.M.S. Kipling, H.M.S. Kimberley, H.M.S. Griffin, H.M.S. Havock, H.M.S. Hotspur, H.M.A.S. Napier and H.M.A.S. Nizam, the last two Australians), under the command of Admiral Philip L. Vian, actually sailed from Alexandria in opposition to Operation “M. 41”, joining Force K which had left Malta to search for Italian convoys in the Ionian Sea. However, the British ships were unable to intercept anything, since the convoys had been sent back, so after hours of fruitless searches they started the return navigation to Malta (Force K) and Alexandria (Force B).

December 14th, 1941

At 07.55 PM, in position 34°01′ N and 26°02′ E, Dagabur, while on the surface, launched two torpedoes against a silhouette which, due to the poor visibility, was not identified with certainty (Commander Torri would later report that “it could have been a cruiser”), after which it immediately disengaged by diving. After one minute and 45 seconds, the crew heard two detonations, so that the Italians mistakenly believed that they had sunk the target. War bulletin no. 561 of the Italian Supreme Command, on December 15th, stated that “The submarine under the command of Lieutenant Commander Torri attacked and torpedoed a British cruiser in the eastern Mediterranean“, and the subsequent bulletin No. 567, of December 21st, added that “Further information received confirms the sinking of the enemy cruiser whose torpedoing in the eastern Mediterranean, by one of our submarines, was announced in bulletin number 561.”

The target of Dagabur’s attack has long been identified by various sources as the British light cruiser H.M.S. Galatea, part of Force B, which was returning to Alexandria after the fruitless search for Italian convoys. H.M.S. Galatea, missed by the Dagabur’s torpedoes (some secondary sources even go so far as to hypothesize that Dagabur may have damaged the cruiser in this circumstance), would instead be sunk four hours later (around midnight), in position 31°17′ N and 29°13′ E (35 miles west of Alexandria), by the torpedoes of the German submarine U 557.

According to more recent research, however, Dagabur’s attack on was not actually directed against H.M.S. Galatea, but against the British submarine H.M.S. Talisman (Commander Michael Willmott), which was also returning to Alexandria. At 07:52 PM on December 14th, Talisman sighted at position 34°05′ N and 25°39′ E (in the Cerigotto Channel, south of Crete) a dark object believed to be a submarine, 730 meters away, at 205° bearing. At 7:55 PM, exactly at the time when Dagabur would launch two torpedoes at H.M.S. Galatea, some sailors in the forward compartments of the Talisman heard the sound of two torpedoes hurtling through the water not far away. A minute later, H.M.S. Talisman opened fire on the Dagabur with its 102 mm gun, and Willmott estimated that the second shot fired hit the cunning tower of the Italian submarine, at a height of about 90 centimeters above the deck. Meanwhile, Dagabur was diving; the distance between the two submarines was only about ninety yards, and when the Talisman passed by at 07:57 PM, the British commander stated that “it was noticed that the hatches [of the Dagabur] were open” while the boat was diving, which led Willmott to believe that the enemy “was diving towards their end” and to claim that the boat had sunk. (According to one source, probably erroneous, in addition to the cannon shots, the Talisman also fired two torpedoes at the Dagabur, without success.) In fact, the Talisman men must have made a mistake in this regard, since Dagabur came out of the fight with only minor damage to the conning tower.

The unfeasibility that the attack of Dagabur was directed against H.M.S. Galatea was demonstrated by the comparison between the position where the attack of the Italian boat took place and that in which the Galatea was sunk by U 557: the two positions are about 250 miles apart, and to cover that distance in four hours the Galatea would have had to travel at the impossible speed of over 60 knots. The position indicated by H.M.S. Talisman, on the other hand, was only about twenty miles from the one indicated by Dagabur (a discrepancy that can be explained by the aforementioned poor visibility, which in addition to determining the identification error of Commander Torri – who mistakenly believed that he had attacked a unit that could have been a cruiser – could have prevented him from accurately calculating the position based on the stars),  and the time matches practically perfectly: 07.55 PM according to Dagabur time, 07.56 PM according to that of H.M.S. Talisman. From this it is almost absolutely certain that Dagabur attacked H.M.S. Talisman and not H.M.S. Galatea. (Thanks to Platon Alexiades for these remarks.)

December 18th, 1941

Dagabur, along with other submarines (Squalo, Ascianghi, Topazio, Galatea, and Santorre Santarosa) was deployed in the central-eastern Mediterranean with exploratory/offensive tasks, in support of the “M. 42” traffic operation, consisting of sending to Libya two convoys with urgent supplies for the Italian-German troops in North Africa (312 vehicles, 3224 tons of fuel and lubricants, 1137 tons of ammunition,  10,409 tons of miscellaneous materials) with the escort of substantial shares of the battle fleet. The operation ended happily with the arrival of the convoys in Libyan ports.

February 13th through 19th, 1942

The boat was sent to lie in wait off the coasts of Syria and Palestine, with no results.

July 15th or 18th, 1942

Dagabur, along with the submarines Axum, Cobalto, Dessiè, Velella, Bronzo, and Malachite (some of which were already present in the area and others sent specifically on July 15th to the waters between La Galite, the Isle of Dogs, Cape Bon and Cape Kelibia following the news of the imminent passage of a fast unit), forms a barrage line off Cape Bon to intercept the British fast minelayer H.M.S. Welshman,  sent to Malta with a cargo of urgent supplies.

According to a source, the submarines also tried to intercept the British Force H (aircraft carrier H.M.S. Eagle, anti-aircraft cruisers H.M.S. Cairo and H.M.S. Charybdis, destroyers H.M.S. Antelope, H.M.S. Ithuriel, H.M.S. Vansittart, H.M.S. Westcott, and H.M.S. Wrestler) which had gone out to sea for the “Pinpoint” operation, the sending to Malta of Spitfire fighters taking off from the Eagle; but this seems unlikely, since this force went only south of the Balearic Islands, and not as far as Cape Bon.

Despite the dispatch of submarines, H.M.S. Welshman arrived unscathed in Malta on July 16th and returned on the 17th, after delivering her cargo. Of the Italian submarines deployed in the area, only Axum was able to spot it, but its attack was fruitless, also due to the rough seas.


On 4 August 1942 , Dagabur, under the command of Lieutenant Renato Pecori, sailed from Cagliari to reach an ambush area between the meridians 1°40′ E and 2°40′ E, south of the channel between Ibiza and Mallorca and north of Algeria; Initially, the assigned sector was between Menorca and the North African coast, about 50 miles northwest of Bougie, but later on the same day of  August 4th the order came to move further west, north of Algiers and south of the Balearic Islands.

On August 10th, the boat received orders, in case of sighting of enemy ships, to give priority to the signaling of the sighting, and to attack only after having launched the signal of discovery. The battle of Mid-August had begun, and it was necessary that as many submarines as possible could identify and attack the British convoy “Pedestal”, thus it was of paramount importance that any sighting be immediately brought to the attention of all boats who were in the area.

Moreover, since experience had shown that too often reconnaissance planes were intercepted and shot down by fighters on carriers before they could perform their task, the contribution of submarines was particularly important in enabling the commanders to have reliable information on the composition, course and speed of enemy formation, which was essential for coordinating the action of the air and naval forces destined to attack the enemy. convoy, especially air convoys.

The Battle of Mid-August was the consequence of the Royal Navy’s new attempt to supply the island of Malta, besieged by Axis air and naval forces and exhausted after months of bombing and the partial or total failure of the refueling operations attempted in March (convoy “M.W. 10”, culminating in the second battle of Sirte) and June (operations “Harpoon” and “Vigorous”,  culminating in the Battle of Mid-June). The new operation, called “Pedestal”, consisted of a single large convoy which, assembled in the United Kingdom (from where it departed on 3 August 1942), would then cross the Strait of Gibraltar (9/10 August) and then head towards Malta.

All along, as many as 16 Italian submarines and two German U-boats contributed to the formation of a powerful barrage of submarines in the western Mediterranean: seven of them, including Dagabur (the others were Brin, Giada, Uarsciek and Volframio and the German U 73 and U 205), were placed in the waters between Algeria and the Balearic Islands, while the other eleven formed a second group much further east,  north of Tunisia. On August 11th, Allied naval forces were sighted coming from Gibraltar and heading east.

On the night between August 11th and 12th, Dagabur met the British aircraft carrier H.M.S. Furious and the destroyers escorting it south of the Balearic Islands: they were the group assigned to Operation Bellows, a sub-operation of “Pedestal”, whose objective was to send to Malta 39 Supermarine Spitfire fighter planes, which were supposed to reach the island (to replenish the squadrons decimated by continuous air attacks) after taking off from the old aircraft carrier H.M.S. Furious.

Furious had loaded the 39 Spitfires on the Clyde, UK, from where the boat departed on 4 August along with the light cruiser H.M.S. Manchester and the destroyers H.M.S. Sardonyx (which left the group on the night of 5–6 August) and Blyskawica (the latter Polish). On August 7h, H.M.S. Furious and H.M.S. Manchester had joined convoy WS.21S, with which they had crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on 10 August (H.M.S. Furious was to accompany the convoy only for the distance necessary to reach “flight” range from Malta); the following day, H.M.S. Furious, escorted by the destroyers H.M.S. Lookout and H.M.S. Lightning, had separated from the main group and moved to a fixed point south of the Balearic Islands, about 584 (or 550, or 635) miles west of Malta, where the boat launched 38 of the 39 Spitfires.

The operation had taken place in the early afternoon of August 11th: at noon H.M.S. Furious, H.M.S. Lightning and H.M.S. Lookout had detached from the left side of the convoy, and the old aircraft carrier had assumed a favorable position, given the wind conditions, to facilitate the take-off of the planes. The first eight Spitfires took off at 12:29 PM, followed by a second group of eight fighters at 01:09 PM. Six minutes later, however, the German submarine U 73 torpedoed and sunk the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Eagle, and flight operations were suspended until the rescue of her crew was completed, while H.M.S. Furious made emergency approaches to frustrate any further attack attempts. After about an hour and a half, when the rescue was over, H.M.S. Furious had resumed the launches; the last seven planes (in all, the Spitfires had departed into five groups) had taken off at 03:08 PM (or 03:12 PM). One of the fighters had problems with the propeller and had to land shortly afterwards on the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Indomitable, while another disappeared in flight without a trace; the other 36 had all reached Malta, landing at the bases of Luqa and Takali.

At the time of the encounter with Dagabur, the British formation was proceeding at 21 knots on course 262°; It was a dark, moonless night, but with very bright stars. The ships, as always in wartime, proceeded with their lights off.

At 00:54 AM on August 12th, the Type 271 radar of the British destroyer H.M.S. Wolverine (Lieutenant Commander Peter William Gretton), which occupied the “O”/”Orange” position in the formation and was at that moment zigzagging on course 232°, located a submarine that had emerged at a distance of about 4,570 meters, on a 265° bearing: it was Dagabur. According to some sources, the Italian submarine had spotted the force of “Bellows” and was trying to approach on the surface to attack H.M.S. Furious. According to others, the boat was caught on the surface while it was recharging the batteries and could not dive for this reason. Conjecture, in both cases: it is impossible to know the truth.

H.M.S. Wolverine was an Admiralty modified W-class destroyer built in 1918. After being fully refitted, it reentered service in 1939

In any case, H.M.S. Wolverine immediately went on the attack. When distance was reduced to 4,390 meters, the officer on the watch aboard the destroyer ordered it to approach the contact. When Commander Gretton, alerted to what was happening, reached the bridge, distance had been reduced to 4,115 meters. Once distance had been further reduced, to 3,200 meters, Gretton decided to radio H.M.S. Keppel with the conventional message “JOHNNY 284”; when they were close to just 915 meters, H.M.S. Wolverine made the same signal to H.M.S. Malcolm, which was not far back, in a position further back (“P”/”Pudding”). Depth charges were prepared for use on H.M.S. Wolverine, and a cannon (‘B’) was pointed in the direction of the submarine; Gretton’s intention was to ram the enemy, so he did not open fire, but merely held ready to do so if necessary.

H.M.S. Wolverine optically sighted Dagabur at a distance of 640 meters, and when it was at 550 meters Gretton could identify it with certainty as a submarine. He therefore ordered the engines to be brought to maximum speed (an order facilitated by the fact that at that moment three boilers were on and connected) and to pull over to ram it. With the engines propelled at full force, the speed of the destroyer was increased to 26/27 knots, although immediately before the collision it was reduced to 20 knots to mitigate the violence of the impact, which would not have left the ship unscathed either. The signal to prepare for impact (“Crash Stations”) was sounded.

Dagabur, which presumably had not noticed the destroyer that was rushing at it due to the very dark night (not having, like its adversary, a radar that could overcome this problem), was taken completely by surprise. H.M.S. Wolverine rammed it amidships, at the aft end of the conning tower, at a 90° angle to starboard. The impact was terrible, and the Italian submarine capsized and sank instantly in position 37°18′ N and 01°55′ (or 01°58′) E, 40 miles north-northeast of Cape Blanc, south of the Balearic Islands (more precisely, of Formentera) and 50 miles northwest of Algiers.

Commander Gretton later described the impact in a few words: “We climbed onto the conning tower of the submarine and cut it in two.” The commander of H.M.S. Wolverine also recalled that he expected his second in command to compliment the ramming of the enemy unit, and instead he, having sensed the impact but being unaware of what was happening, rushed to the bridge, and asked worriedly “O Lord, what have we hit?”. The roar of the collision was so loud that it could be heard on other ships in the formation: George Amyes, a survivor of H.M.S. Eagle rescued by the destroyer H.M.S. Laforey, recalled that he and other survivors on board the destroyer were trying to sleep when they were suddenly awakened by a tremendous crashing noise, followed by “noises of wild confusion“, so much so that for a moment he thought he had been torpedoed again. The next morning, he saw that the destroyer that should have been on the port side of H.M.S. Laforey was no longer there, while on the starboard side was visible a battered destroyer that was advancing with difficulty: it was H.M.S. Wolverine; Amyes later learned of the ramming of the Dagabur.

The impact had been so violent that H.M.S. Wolverine itself suffered very serious damage to the bow, which came out half-destroyed (the first nine or ten meters no longer existed; fortunately, Gretton later wrote, the bow locker in deformation had bent backwards up to the height of the waterline, so that it had acted as a partial and improvised watertight bulkhead),  and he also had a turbine out of order (the one on the left); At 02:00 AM the destroyer reported that the boat was stationary due to damage sustained in the collision, and Malcolm was detached to assist her.

H.M.S. Wolverine with a temporary repair to the bow

Due to a ruptured steam pipe, the engine room also had to be evacuated. H.M.S. Wolverine then started again, driven only by the starboard turbine, but due to the severity of the damage it had to leave the formation and head on its own to Gibraltar, where it arrived at 12.30 AM on August 13th, escorted by H.M.S. Malcolm (which arrived in port three hours later, while H.M.S. Furious and escort had arrived there since 07.30 PM the previous day). At Gibraltar, H.M.S. Wolverine received a provisional bow for the voyage to the United Kingdom, at Devonport, where the boat was placed in dry dock and underwent more extensive repairs that lasted until December. For the sinking of the Dagabur, Commander Gretton would receive the Distinguished Service Order; For several years after the war, the British commander would remain in the dark about the identity of the submarine he had sunk, which he believed to be a German U-boat.

The crew of H.M.S. Wolverine celebrating the sinking of Dagabur.

According to some accounts, some men from Dagabur initially survived the sinking of the submarine but were not rescued by the British ships. Sub-Lieutenant Robert Michael Crosley, a Fleet Air Arm pilot rescued by Malcolm after the sinking of H.M.S. Eagle (on which he was embarked), described what happened in his memoir “They Gave Me a Seafire“: “That night, August 12th, we tried to sleep a little on deck, but we were so excited by the events of the day that few of us were able to do so. Suddenly, at about one o’clock in the morning, we heard the ship heel from a turn made with the full rudder. Then we saw little blue lights passing us on either side, low on the water. We could hear voices. They looked like they were shouting something as they slipped away. We returned to the previous route almost immediately, without slowing down. Second Lieutenant Godfrey Parish of 801 Squadron went up to the bridge to ask the commander, Commander Campbell, what it was all about. Apparently, the destroyer Wolverine, in front of us and also crowded with survivors of the Eagle, had surprised the Italian submarine Dagabur on the surface and rammed it at full speed, cutting it in two. We had just passed through its wreckage and castaways. Parrish was a little angry that we hadn’t stopped to retrieve them. On the other hand, we were close to the Balearic Islands, and the Spaniards later announced their rescue [this last statement, unfortunately, was not true].”

Sam Moses’ book “At All Costs” also states that Malcolm reported hearing castaways screaming in the water, but did not pick them up, concluding, “They thought it was a German U-boat.”

There were no survivors among the 5 officers and 40 non-commissioned officers and sailors who made up the crew of the Dagabur.

On August 12th, Maricosom informed the submarines at sea of the presence of a large British formation sailing from Gibraltar to Malta, and ordered them to attack it at all costs; That evening, at 07:00 PM, the Submarine Squadron Command ordered Dagabur, Brin, Uarsciek and Volframio to move westwards, informing them at the same time that a part of the British ships (the heavy support force, which was to accompany the convoy only to the mouth of the Strait of Sicily, and then return to Gibraltar) had reversed course. But Dagabur never received these communications: at that moment, Commander Pecori’s submarine was already lying at the bottom of the Mediterranean. On August 17th, still not having heard back from Dagabur, Maricosom repeatedly radioed the submarine, but never received an answer. On September 2nd,1942, the crew of Dagabur was reported missing. It was only after the war that the truth was learned from British sources.

Among the missing was the chief engine engineer second class Federico Ghezzi, from Piacenza. For his family this was the second mourning caused by the war on the sea; less than a year earlier, in September 1941, his younger brother Giacomo, second lieutenant commissioner in the Army, had disappeared in the sinking of the motor ship Andrea Gritti, on which he was serving as a royal commissioner.

Like him, sailor Ugo Di Blasi, from Naples, was declared missing on the Dagabur: in a letter a few months earlier, in May 1942, he had written: “My friends have all disappeared, some hit by enemy bombs, some lost in battles on the sea; I’m amazed I’m not dead yet…”

Original Italian text by Lorenzo Colombo adapted and translated by Cristiano D’Adamo

Operational Records

TypePatrols (Med.)Patrols (Other)NM SurfaceNM Sub.Days at SeaNM/DayAverage Speed
Submarine – Coastal23173643888179 118.73 4.95


3/29/194120:27T.V. Domenico RomanoMediterranean33°47′ N-25°24′ ETorpedoDamaged (?)H.M.S. BonaventureLight Cruiser5440Great Britain

Crew Members Lost

Last NameFirst NameRankItalian RankDate
AlfieriFrancescoNaval RatingComune8/12/1942
BassoPrimoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe8/12/1942
BertazziAlessandroJunior ChiefSottocapo8/12/1942
BrondiBernardoChief 3rd ClassCapo di 3a Classe8/12/1942
CampagnaFilippoJunior ChiefSottocapo8/12/1942
CatalanoDomenicoSublieutenantSottotenente di Vascello8/12/1942
CavallottiGuglielmoNaval RatingComune8/12/1942
CeramiFrancescoJunior ChiefSottocapo8/12/1942
CeresoliMarioJunior ChiefSottocapo8/12/1942
CesarottiErosJunior ChiefSottocapo8/12/1942
De HoffmannGabrieleEnsignGuardiamarina8/12/1942
Di BellaGiacomoNaval RatingComune8/12/1942
Di BlasiUgoNaval RatingComune8/12/1942
Di LuciaGiovanniNaval RatingComune8/12/1942
EllenaArturoNaval RatingComune8/12/1942
FemminoGiuseppeJunior ChiefSottocapo8/12/1942
FilippiniRenatoLieutenant Other BranchesCapitano G.N.8/12/1942
GaggiottVincenzoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe8/12/1942
GalanoAdamoNaval RatingComune8/12/1942
GattiAlfredoLieutenantTenente di Vascello8/12/1942
GhezziFedericoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe8/12/1942
GrapputoEvelinoJunior ChiefSottocapo8/12/1942
LopsDonatoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe8/12/1942
MarciRaffaeleChief 3rd ClassCapo di 3a Classe8/12/1942
MarzocchiGiuseppeChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe8/12/1942
MeleBiagioChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe8/12/1942
MidiliAntoninoJunior ChiefSottocapo8/12/1942
ModicaSalvatoreJunior ChiefSottocapo8/12/1942
NapoleoneAnielloNaval RatingComune8/12/1942
OrlandiGiovanniNaval RatingComune8/12/1942
PasqueroGiustinoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe8/12/1942
PecoriRenatoLieutenantTenente di Vascello8/12/1942
PiledduEnricoNaval RatingComune8/12/1942
RivaAdrianoNaval RatingComune8/12/1942
SoffiettiRenzoNaval RatingComune8/12/1942
StabileSalvatoreJunior ChiefSottocapo8/12/1942
TravainGiuseppeChief 1st ClassCapo di 1a Classe8/12/1942
ValloriniNelloJunior ChiefSottocapo8/12/1942
ZaccariaAgostinoJunior ChiefSottocapo8/12/1942