R. Smg. Emo

The R.Smg. Angelo EMO (named after the last Grand Admiral of the Republic of Venice) was one of a series of 11 boats of the Marcello Class. The boat was laid down at the C.R.D.A. shipyard of Monfalcone on February 2nd, 1937, launched on June 29th, 1938, and delivered to the Italian Navy on October 10th of the same year. After a brief period of training and testing, the boat was assigned to the 22nd Squadron, 2nd Submarine Group with its base in Naples along with the Barbarigo, Morosini, Marconi, and Da Vinci. The EMO, which was lost in 1942, was credited with the sinking of two ships for a total of 10,958 t. and completed 20 patrols, including 7 war patrols, 1 emergency transport from Italy to North Africa and several training and transfer missions. It also completed 24 training sorties while assigned to the submarine school of Pula.

The EMO the day of its launch at the C.R.D.A. of Monfalcone
(Photo Tunnini)

In July 1940, a few weeks after Italy’s declaration of war, the Italian Submarine Command organized a large and continuous patrol line east of the Strait of Gibraltar. The area in question was patrolled by a total of 11 boats divided into 3 groups. The EMO, along with the Marcello, Dandolo and Barbarigo, was assigned to the first group (Area B). This patrol started on July 1st and lasted for almost two weeks. The Emo and Marconi were assigned to the westernmost area. The EMO patrolled south of the meridian of Alboran (about halfway between the Moroccan and Spanish coast), while the Marconi was assigned north of this meridian and closer to the Spanish coast.

On July 6th, at 14:50 the boat sighted while submerged a large naval formation at about 12,000 meters which included an aircraft carrier, two battleships and several destroyers heading east and it maneuvered to attack, but a sudden change of course of the presumably British force foiled the attempt. Completed its patrol, the EMO returned to Naples.

At the end of this mission, the boat received orders to transfer to the Atlantic to become part of the new submarine base established in Bordeaux. It departed Naples August 27th, 1940 and, as part of the transfer mission, it began a war patrol in Atlantic. Here, on September 9th, in position 41º 27N, 21º 50W the EMO located the British steamship Saint Agnes (5199 t.), a straggler member of convoy SLS.46 which had left Freetown escorted by merchant cruiser Dunnottar Castle. All 64 crewmembers were later saved. The Saint Agnes, built in 1918 and previously known as the War Briton (1919), Titan (1925) and Cape St. Agnes (1937) belonged to the Saint Line LTD and it was both torpedoes and shelled. Completed the patrol, the EMO reached Bordeaux on October 3rd, 1940.

After a very brief stop, the EMO was again at sea departing on October 31st. A few days later, on the 2nd and 3rd of November, while enduring horrific weather conditions, the boat lost Junior Chief Giuseppe De Giobbi, one of the lookouts, and had Lt. Carlo Liannazza seriously hurt. Despite a lengthy search, the seam was never found. Unable continue its patrol, the EMO returned to base reaching it the 6th. Thereafter, Lt. Carlo Liannazza was transferred to the CAGNI, while Lt. Giuseppe Roselli Lorenzini (who eventually became the head of the Italian Navy from 1970 until 1973) became the new captain.

On December 5th, the EMO left for another patrol reaching the western shores of Scotland on the 14th and remaining in the general area until the 26th. There, it sighted and later attacked a 3 to 4,000 t. tanker, but failing to score a hit due to miserable weather conditions. On the 26th the crew sighted a destroyer which could not be attacked. Completed the patrol, the EMO reached Bordeaux on January 1st, 1941 where it remained for a prolonged period due to extensive maintenance work.

On March 3rd, the EMO was again at sea for a patrol West of Ireland. The boat was part of the Group “Velella” which included the Velella, Argo, Mocenigo, and the Veniero. The units were positioned in a large area between 59°30’N and 53°N and between 13°W and 25°W. Again, the German U-boats would patrol the area closer to the Irish and Scottish coast while the Italians, with their larger submarines, would patrol further west. On March 9th, while en route to intercept a convoy previously sighted by German airplanes, the EMO was attacked by a British aircraft which launched two bombs while the boat was submerged at about 60 feet. The diving planes go stuck and the boat first came to the surface and then plunged down to 330 feet. Later, the EMO began chasing the convoy even thought it had to break away due to the presence of an enemy destroyer.

On the 14th, in the early afternoon, perseverance was rewarded when the EMO attacked the British (indeed an American ship sailing under the Union jack and the authority of the Ministry of War Transport) steamship Western Chief (5759 t.) sinking it at 13:07 (Italian reports indicate the sinking late at night). This ship was a straggler part of convoy SC 24 which had left Halifax on February 28th and scheduled to arrive in Liverpool on the 19th of March and carried 7000 tons of steel. Of the43 crewmembers, 22 lost their lives.

On the 18th, the EMO sighted the Clan Maciver, a 4500 t. merchant ship which attempted to ram it and later hit it with the deck gun, but the submarine averted the peril, despite the proximity of the two vessels during the engagement, seeking refuge in the depths. The 19th of March, completed its patrol, the EMO was once again back in Bordeaux where it underwent regular refitting.

On May 5th, the submarine left base for a new patrol. With the general change of theater of operations for the Italian units from the North Atlantic to Gibraltar and the Azores, the EMO was assigned a patrol area west of Gibraltar lasting from the 22nd of the same month to June 6th. The same patrol included the Marconi, Argo, Mocenigo, Veniero, Brin, and Velella. In the morning of the 7th, the EMO attacked two different ships launching two torpedoes from a distance of 1500 meters and assuming success, but there is no record of these sinking. The two vessels were estimated to be around 1900 t. and 3000 t. After the attack, the submarine was hunted for hours by escort units, but eventually it made it back to base arriving in France on June 20th.

Italy’s adventurous entry into the war along with the Germans began having its catastrophic effects and, in early 1941, the situation in the Mediterranean was nearly desperate. The Italian High Command, following a personal intervention by Benito Mussolini, informed the Germans that the base in Bordeaux would be closed and all boats would return to Italy. Discussion took place at a very high level and eventually Adm. Dönitz was able to convince the Italians to maintain their base and only return a smaller number of submarines to the Mediterranean; the EMO was one of the boats selected for repatriation.

The EMO left La Pallice on August 20th soon after the Brin, completed a patrol off Gibraltar and later reached Naples on September 1st having crossed the Strait of Gibraltar first on the surface, and then submerged. From the Partenpean base it was then transferred to the submarine school in Pula (upper Adriatic, today part of Croatia). At the school, the EMO completed 24 training missions lasting until the end of the year. Between the 8th and 10th of November, the EMO was called back to active duty along with the Mameli for antisubmarine patrol in the upper Adriatic in support of the transfer of a large naval formation from Trieste to Venice.

Subsequently, it was ordered back to Taranto where it arrived on December 16th, 1941. From Taranto, the EMO began it new life as transport submarine ferrying much needed war material to the struggling armies in North Africa. On December 20th, the EMO carried 20 t. of aviation fuel, 32 t. of foodstuff, and 15 t. of ammunitions to Bardia (Bardiya) arriving there on the 25th. From there it returns to Suda for a new load, but upon its return to North Africa it could not enter the small port due to enemy fire from land-based artillery units which, in the meantime, had overtaken the Italian stronghold. Both the captain and helmsman Campisi were wounded in the action. After the failed mission, the EMO returned to Suda and from there to Taranto from which it was then reassigned to Cagliari.

From the Sardinian base, it completed several patrols. From April 17th through May 3rd off Cape Caxine. From May 13th through June 18th off the Algerian coast, and from June 23rd through July 16th south of Ibiza. None of the patrols produced any result. At the end of the last patrol, Lt. Cmdr. Roselli Lorenzini was transferred to the CAGNI, while Lt. Giuseppe Franco assumed command.

The EMO in Taranto in 1942
(Photo Beltrame)

From August 11th to the 17th, the EMO was assigned to a patrol area off Galite. During this mission, on the 12th, it attacked a warship firing 4 torpedoes and detecting explosions (after 1min 47sec, 2min 20 sec and 2 min 30 sec). Soon after, it was made object an intense pursuit. There is no record of any success in that area and on that date, but it was later ascertained that the unit attacked was the British destroyer H.M.S. Tartar. From the 18th through the 29th of October, the EMO was again on patrol off the Algerian coast. With the Allied landing in North Africa in full swing, the EMO was thrown into the fray. On November 7th, it left Cagliari for its last patrol. On the 11th, at around 13:00, off Algiers, it was attacked and hit by ASW Trawler HMS Lord Nuffield (FY 221) in position 36̊̊̊ 50 N, 02̊ 50 E. The captain took the boat to the surface and began fighting with the deck gun. With both diesel engines out of service, the boat was ordered scuttled. Fourteen of the crewmembers were lost in the action, including Ensign Mario Giacchelli, while the remaining crewmembers were rescued and captured by the enemy.

The EMO, built for the ‘guerre de course’ in the oceans performed well in those conditions, but was poorly suited for transport missions or for patrols in the shallow Mediterranean waters where targets were few and perils many.