R. Smg. Fieramosca

This submarine represented a kind of experiment; it was not successful and thus it was not reproduced in series. This submarine was part of the type of boats that, after War World I, all navies of a certain caliber attempted to complete to give their underwater vessels performances similar to the surface units (range, speed, weaponry, etc).

The FIERAMOSCA in late 1940
(Photo courtesy Erminio Bagnasco and Achille Rastelli)

In short, since the submarine had come out of the war showing all of its limitations as a submergible unit, despite having asserted its value as a weapon, it was thought to increase surface performances. In essence, if one had to temporary give up the idea of an ideal “submergible”, then one has to make it a fleet submarine to be employed along with the surface ships. For example, one should think of the French SURCOUF.

But, as already mentioned, the results were not positive, and the idea was soon abandoned by all navies and the evolution of the submarine (at least until the advent of the single propulsion plan for both surface and underwater navigation) focused of the idea of the submergible, a ship capable of submerging, even though for limited periods of time, but nevertheless different from a real surface unit.

In reality, since the beginning the Italian Navy was quite skeptical of the project, and the project was troubled by many alterations and afterthoughts. Even the idea to carry a small hydroplane (eventually never selected) was given up, but the boat was built with a hangar located aft of the conning tower. Later, this was dismantled after the boat was delivered to the Navy.

The submarine FIERAMOSCA was built by the Tosi shipyard of Taranto and laid down on July 17th, 1926. It was launched on April 14th, 1929 and delivered to the Navy on December 5th, 1931.

Operational Life

The operational activity of the FIERAMOSCA was quite modest and marked by several breakdowns and incidents, at times with injuries to personnel,. After a long period of testing and trials, the boat was assigned to the 1st Squadron of the 1st Flotilla based in Taranto. Until 1935, its activity was quite limited. Then, the boat returned to Taranto for a period of refitting by the builder. At the end of this work, it was assigned to the 2nd Squadron in La Spezia. It later was assigned to the 2nd Submarine Group with base in Naples, when, in 1936 and 1937, the boat participated to the Spanish Civil War completing two patrols.

The submarine FIERAMOSCA
(Photo Turrini)

During the first mission, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Mario Bartalesi, the boat completed a patrol off Valencia from December 21st, 1936 to January 5th, 1937 departing Leghorn and returning to La Spezia. It would sight a dozen ships, but on the 27th was able to conduct a night attack on the surface against only one, the cruiser Mendez Nunez, with the release of three torpedoes wich failed to hit the target.

The second mission, also in the waters off Valencia, began in La Spezia on January 28th, 1937 and was interrupted soon after due to a mechanical failure. Repaired the problem, the FIERAMOSCA left again La Spezia on February 2nd, this time to patrol off Barcelona. Despite the numerous sightings, the boat did not complete any attack. Instead, it completed two night bombardments of the port of Barcelona; the first the night of February 8th, firing ten 120mm shots before the weapon jammed, and the second the following night firing in 15 minutes 35 shells, one of which seriously damaged the Spanish tanker Zorrosa. It reentered base on February 16th.
Later on, it completed a cruise to Tunis and in 1939 to Barcelona. The same year, the FIERAMOSCA was assigned to the 1st Submarine Group, as part of the 12th Squadron along with the CALVI, FINZI and TAZZOLI. At the beginning of the war, due to the redistribution of responsibilities implemented by the command of the submarine squadrons (MARICOSOM), this squadron became the 11th. At the beginning of the hostilities, the FIERAMOSCA was already on patrol off the French cost under the command of Lieutenant Commander Giuseppe Mellina. Having failed to locate any traffic, the 14th of June the boat returned to Genoa.

On the 19th the boat was again on patrol off the island of Hyères, near Toulon. A few days later a violent explosion of one of the batteries caused serious damages and the wounding of a few crewmembers forcing the boat to return to La Spezia, where it arrived on the 25th of June.

After this incident, which evidenced the poor reliability of the boat, the FIERAMOSCA was withdrawn from active service. After a period of refitting (during which Captain Mellina was replaced by Lieutenant Commander Beppino Manca, later also replaced by Lieutenant Commander Cristiano Masi), on October 15th 1940 the boat was assigned to the submarine school of Pula where, until March 1941, it completed 28 training sorties for the cadets. On April 10th, 1941 the FIERAMOSCA was removed from service and would later be scrapped in 1946.

Translated from Italian by Cristiano D’Adamo