R. Smg. Guglielmotti

Alberto Guglielmotti was a Brin-class oceanic submarine (displacement of 1,016 tons on the surface and 1,266 submerged). It completed 5 war patrols, covering 16,103 miles on the surface and 426 miles submerged, spending 92 days at sea and sinking a 4,008 GRT tanker.

Brief and Partial Chronology

December 3rd, 1936

Setting up began at the Franco Tosi shipyards in Taranto.

Video of the launch of Guglielmotti
(Istituto Luce)

September 11th, 1938

Guglielmotti was launched at the Franco Tosi shipyard in Taranto.

Guglielmotti soon after the launch

October 12th, 1938

Official entry into active service. Assigned, with the twin boats Brin, Archimede, Torricelli and Galvani as well as the older Galileo Galilei and Galileo Ferraris, to the XLIV Submarine Squadron of the Taranto Submarine Group.

Guglielmotti in 1938
(From Storia Militare)


The XLIV Submarine Squadron, now without Galilei and Ferraris, becomes the XLI Submarine Squadron.

June 21st though 29th, 1939

Guglielmotti completed a training trip from Naples to Lisbon, under the command of Folco Bonamici (one of the most experienced submariners of the Regia Marina) and in war asset, to ascertain the conditions of crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, experimenting with transfer methods to the Atlantic and identifying ways to optimize navigation time and performance of. Navigation took place underwater during the day and on the surface at night, but the crossing of the strait, in order to avoid the passage submerged in the area of greatest traffic, and where the currents are stronger, took place on the surface (from 60 miles east of Gibraltar to 80 miles west of the same city) instead of, as in wartime, submerged, thus nullifying part of the experience.

July 3rd through 8th, 1939

The boat completed the return trip from Lisbon to Naples, still on a training mission. In the following months Guglielmotti underwent intense training and carried out many exercises.

June 10th, 1940

When Italy entered the war, Guglielmotti was based in Massawa (Eritrea, Italian East Africa), in the Red Sea, where it formed the LXXXI Submarine Squadron together with its twin submarine Galvani and the older Galileo Galilei and Galileo Ferraris.

June 21st, 1940

Guglielmotti set sail from Massawa under the command of Lieutenant Commander Carlo Tucci, for his first war patrol (the last to do so among the eight boats of Massawa). A doctor, Dr. Origlia from Turin, was embarked for a rescue mission: recover the crew of the submarine Macallè.

June 22nd, 1940

Guglielmotti reached the islet of Barr Musa Kebir at 12.45 PM and rescued the crew of the Macallè, which had been stranded on the island for a week following the grounding and sinking of the boat, which had taken place on June15th.

The shipwrecked of the Macallè were in very bad shape, especially as a result of methyl chloride poisoning suffered on board their submarine. Many, as soon as they sow Guglielmotti approaching, stopping and putting a boat in the water, threw themselves into the water to swim to it, not being able to wait any longer. With two or three trips of the lifeboat, Guglielmotti recovers all the survivors, then dove (later it resurfaced), just as two British planes return to fly over the island (another aircraft had already done so before). Some of the castaways, mad or delirious from the combined effect of methyl chloride, sunstroke and thirst, were kept tied up for the entire journey back to Massawa.

July 26th through 31st, 1940

Guglielmotti departed from Massawa and was sent, like the destroyers Cesare Battisti and Francesco Nullo, in search of a British merchant ship (according to other sources, two Greek merchant ships) that were reported to be coming from Suez and heading south, but the ships were not found.

August 21st through 25th, 1940

Guglielmotti carries out an unsuccessful mission in the Red Sea.

September 6th, 1940

Guglielmotti (Lieutenant Commander Carlo Tucci), while searching for the British convoy BN 4 south of the Farisan Islands, emerged on the night between the 5th and the 6th to recharge its batteries. Visibility was very poor, so lookouts and hydrophonists were particularly vigilant.

At 04:00 AM on the 6th, having completed the recharging, the submarine returned to the depths, lying on the seabed at a depth of 70 meters, and then resurfacing again at 11:30 AM and starting to patrol the routes that cross the center of the Red Sea. At 03:00 PM, finally Commander Tucci sighted two ships on the periscope: one was too far away, but the other was a loaded tanker in a favorable position for the attack: it was the Greek tanker Atlas of 4,008 GRT, a lost unit of the BN 4convoy. The tanker was sailing alone from Abadan to Suez after being left behind. After recognizing the flag as Greek, Guglielmotti approached to within 700 meters of the Atlas, then ordered two torpedoes to be launched. Both weapons hit the tanker on the starboard side, between the center and the bow, opening a large gash from which unignited oil began to pour into the sea. The whole crew of the Atlas abandons ship (there were no casualties) on the lifeboats and moves away (they will then disembark in Aden). While Guglielmotti was observing through the periscope, since the ship was heeled over but did not appears to be about to sink, Tucci launched a third torpedo that misses the target, then a fourth that hits portside.

The Atlas opened up and broke in two; the forward section sank at 15°50′ N (or 15°10′ N) and 41°50′ E (14 miles north of Jabal al-Tier and 15 miles east of the island of Antufash), while the aft section, which remained floating and adrift (not seen by Guglielmotti, which in the last periscope observation no longer found the target and therefore believed to have sunk it),  was instead taken in tow by the tugboats Hercules and Goliath who try to tow it for 400 miles towards Suez, but it also eventually sank following the breakage of the tow cable (due to wind and the adverse sea conditions), between Berenice and Ras Banas (Egypt).

September 1940

Guglielmotti was attacked by an aircraft during a bombing raid on Massawa but was not hit.

September 20th, 1940

Guglielmotti and Archimede were sent to search for the convoy BN 5, but they did not find anything.

October 20th and 21st, 1940

Guglielmotti and Ferraris were sent to look for convoy BN 7 (31 merchant ships escorted by the light cruiser H.M.S. Leander, the destroyer H.M.S. Kimberley and 5 sloops), but they fail to find it. The convoy was attacked by some destroyers from Massawa, but the battle ended without success and with the loss of the destroyer Francesco Nullo.

January 1941

Moored in Massawa, Guglielmotti was visited by Amedeo of Savoy, viceroy of Ethiopia.

March 4th, 1941

Guglielmotti left Massawa under the command of Commander Gino Spagone (commander of the Massawa Submarine Flotilla), to circumnavigate Africa and reach the Atlantic Italian submarines base of Bordeaux (Betasom) established in the French port, in anticipation of the inevitable fall of Italian East Africa. The Guglielmotti was the last to depart, among the four submarines that sailed from Massawa to Bordeaux (four boats were lost earlier).

The decision was taken on February 28th, and already on March 1st the British commands became aware of it through the decryptions of “ULTRA”. They thus learn of the imminent departure, of the distinctive signs assigned to the various boats to communicate with Bordeaux (for the Guglielmotti it is 29W and N94) and of some details on the route to follow and the days in which the supply ship would be present in the pre-established area for the meeting and refueling (which, however, was not specified).

However, since the information was insufficient, the British were unable to organize an interception of the submarines (the submarine H.M.S. Severn tried, but unsuccessfully).

March-May 1941

After passing the Bab el Mandeb Strait, eluding strong British surveillance, Guglielmotti entered the Indian Ocean. Bad weather and monsoon winds caused more than a few difficulties, in a state of suboptimal efficiency and armed by a crew that has suffered from the long stay in the tropical climate of Eritrea. Off the coast of Madagascar it was be necessary to proceed with the bow to the sea, and nevertheless the violent waves (force 8/9) broke the radio mast, isolating the submarine, and preventing any contact with the base. The damage, however, was promptly repaired thanks to sailors Cuomo and Paolo Costagliola (the latter is a survivor of the Macallè, one of the three men who offered to cross the Red Sea on a modest rowing boat, with very limited supplies of food and water, to raise the alarm and thus allow the rescue of his companions. He embarked on the Guglielmotti on the proposal of his commander,  who went to visit him in the hospital) who, volunteering, crawled along the deck to the extreme stern (being thrown several times against the hull and even into the sea by the waves, but always managing to return on board, being secured with a cable tied to a belt) where the antenna was located, and were be able to repair it despite the various injuries and bruises sustained. They were later decorated with the Bronze Medal for Military Valor with the motivation: “Embarked on a submarine, during a long and difficult ocean navigation through sea areas intensely guarded by the enemy, he volunteered in particularly difficult circumstances to repair a damage produced on board and with calm and exemplary energy he completed the task entrusted to him. Atlantic Ocean, May 1941“.

May 7th, 1941

Guglielmotti reached Bordeaux after 66 days at sea, during which it sailed 12,425 miles (keeping close to the African coast), crossed the Mozambique Channel, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, refueled with fuel oil from the German tanker Nordmark (on April 16th, after 6600 miles of navigation, in position 25° S and 26° W),  thern passed to the west of the Cape Verde Islands and the Azores and crossed the Bay of Biscay.

Guglielmotti arriving in Bordeaux

Another image of Guglielmotti in Bordeaux

June-August 1941

Guglielmotti underwent retrofitting work in Bordeax. It was never assigned to this Command because in this period it was decided to return to the Mediterranean all the submarines unsuitable to satisfactorily continue their activity in the Atlantic. This call was made in regard to Guglielmotti, due to the continuous failures that afflict its electrical control panels, the slow speed and the particular structures of the voluminous conning tower,  which prevent a reduction on the model of those of the German U-boats.

September 22nd, 1941

Guglielmotti set sail from Le Verdon to return to the Mediterranean.

September 30th, 1941

The boat crosses the Strait of Gibraltar, starting the crossing at 04:00 AM with calm seas and good visibility.

October 16th, 1941

Guglielmotti arrived in Messina without encountering any difficulties.

November 1941-February 1942

Guglielmotti underwent modernization works in Taranto. The 100/43 mm Mod. 1927 deck gun was replaced with a more modern 100/47 mm piece Odero Terni Orlando Mod. 1938.

The Sinking

On March 15th, 1942 Guglielmotti, under the command of Lieutenant Federico Tamburini (who had previously been second in command, since the days of the Red Sea), left Taranto for Cagliari (according to other sources, Messina), where it was to be deployed to be used in offensive missions in the western Mediterranean.

At 06:33 AM on March 17th, however, the British submarine H.M.S. Unbeaten (Lieutenant Commander Edward Arthur Woodward), lurking off Cape dell’Armi, heard on the hydrophones the noises produced by a unit moving on a 130° bearing; two minutes later he sighted Guglielmotti at 2,010 meters by 125°.

The Italian submarine did not seem to notice anything as H.M.S. Unbeaten maneuvered to attack. The maneuver included the temporary descent to a greater depth, a 100° turn and then the return to periscope depth, but at that point, with the submarine ready to launch, Woodward no longer found the target. He managed to track it down shortly after, but at an unfavorable launch angle. After manoeuvring to get a better position for the launch, at 06.40 AM. the British boat launched four torpedoes.

One of them hit the target after 1 minute and 40 seconds: Guglielmotti sank rapidly in position 37°42′ N and 15°58′ E (about 15 miles south of Capo Spartivento Calabro and 22 miles south of Capo dell’Armi), taking most of its crew with it.

When H.M.S. Unbeaten resurfaced at 07:20 AM, the crew saw that there were a dozen survivors of Guglielmotti in the water. They were all wearing life jackets. Woodward approached to pick them up, but at that moment he saw a plane approaching to attack, and he had to order the crash dive immediately. Sailor George Dallas Forbes, who had gone on deck to rescue the castaways, had to run back and launch himself through the hatch of the conning tower, closing it behind him. H.M.S. Unbeaten, after diving again, left the area for good.

After about three hours, the torpedo boat Francesco Stocco arrived on the scene and launched 17 depth charges without being able to damage H.M.S. Unbeaten, which was by then far away. Of the twelve castaways Woodward had seen in the water, the torpedo boat Francesco Stocco found and recovered only one corpse.

There were no survivors among the 61 men (7 officers, 16 non-commissioned officers and 38 sub-chiefs and sailors) who made up the crew of the Guglielmotti.

The sinking of the Guglielmotti in the logbook of H.M.S. Unbeaten (from Uboat.net):

“06:33 hours – In position 37°42’N, 15°58’E heard H.E. (Hydrophone Effect) bearing 130°.

06:35 hours – Sighted a submarine bearing 125°, distant 2200 yards, maneuvered into attack position.

06:40 hours – Fired 4 torpedoes. One minute and 40 seconds after firing an explosion was heard, H.E. stopped, and the submarine was heard breaking up.

07:20 hours – Surfaced to pick up survivors. There were about 12 in the water but Unbeaten was forced to dive by an approaching aircraft and clear the area.

10:05 hours – Aircraft and motor torpedo boats were seen in the area of the sinking.

10:10 to 10:20 hours – Distant depth charging was heard. 24 Depth charges were dropped by the three motor torpedo boats present.

Unbeaten was now out of torpedoes so course was set to Malta to take on board new torpedoes.”

And in the mission report

“At 06:34 sighted U Boat bearing 125 degrees distance 2,200 yards turned onto a 130-degree track and increased speed. At 06:40 fired a dispersed salvo of four torpedoes, after one minute forty seconds after firing one explosion was heard – stopped and U Boat was heard breaking up. Surfaced to attempt to pick up survivors of which there were about twelve, but a fighter aircraft forced Unbeaten to dive and clear the area. All survivors appeared to be wearing ‘collar’ life jackets. Aircraft and E Boats were observed in vicinity of survivors: a distant depth charge attack of twenty-four charges was carried out by three E Boats at 08:50 on March 19th, 1942, arrived in Malta.”

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 – Oceanic051610342692 179.66 7.49


9/7/194015:00C.C. Carlo TucciIndian Ocean15°50’N-41°50’ETorpedoSankAtlasMotor Freighter4008Greece

Crew Members Lost

Last NameFirst NameRankItalian RankDate
AcetiBernardinoJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
ArchinaGiuseppeNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
BalbinoPietroNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
BarontiDinoNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
BelliniAdalgisoNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
BurattiLuigiNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
CaraFrancescoJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
CasaMarioJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
CastagnaCarloJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
CastelgranoPasqualeNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
CavigliaAntonioChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe3/17/1942
CeccarelliCarloLieutenant Other BranchesCapitano G.N.3/17/1942
De brunAlessandroChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe3/17/1942
De MartinoGiuseppeNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
De RosaAnielloJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
Di BartolomeoDonatoJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
Di MonacoGennaroChief 3rd ClassCapo di 3a Classe3/17/1942
Di TulcoNicolaJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
DunatovGiovanniNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
ElenaGiovanniEnsign Other BranchesSottotenente Altri Corpi3/17/1942
FasolaGiuseppeChief 1st ClassCapo di 1a Classe3/17/1942
FavaVincenzoJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
FerrariSilvioLieutenantTenente di Vascello3/17/1942
FiorentiniRenatoNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
ForcellaNicolaNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
FratocchiNandoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe3/17/1942
GeminoGiulioJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
GenoveseFrancescoNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
GiacchiniFurioNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
GiacomettiEugenioNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
GiannettiPrimoJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
Lo PaneRaffaeleNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
LuminiAngeloNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
MaddalenaCosimoJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
MancaEnzoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe3/17/1942
MancaNataleChief 3rd ClassCapo di 3a Classe3/17/1942
MandelliVirgilioLieutenantTenente di Vascello3/17/1942
MeliadoVittorioJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
MondaPasqualeEnsign Other BranchesSottotenente Altri Corpi3/17/1942
NemiaAntoninoNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
NoseiDomenicoNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
PapucciAmedeoJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
PastreMarioJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
PileriDomenicoNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
PodestòSilvioNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
PrestigiacomoNataleChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe3/17/1942
RaggiantePiladeJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
RigantiMarioJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
RomitoFoscoloEnsign Other BranchesSottotenente Altri Corpi3/17/1942
ScaglioniFulvioNaval RatingComune3/17/1942
TamburriniFediericoLieutenant CommanderCapitano di Corvetta3/17/1942
TortoraEzioJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
TraettaArmandoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe3/17/1942
VillaRinaldoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe3/17/1942
ViottoEmilioJunior ChiefSottocapo3/17/1942
ZolfanelliMarioChief 3rd ClassCapo di 3a Classe3/17/1942