R. Smg. Neghelli

Neghelli was an Adwa-class coastal submarine (displacement of 698 tons on the surface and 866 tons submerged). The boat completed 9 war missions (5 patrols and 4 transfers), covering 5,226 miles on the surface and 714 submerged and damaging two ships including the light cruiser H.M.S. Coventry.

Brief and partial chronology

February 25th, 1937

Set-up in the Odero Terni Orlando del Muggiano shipyards (La Spezia).

Neghelli still on the slip

November 7th, 1937

Launched in the Odero Terni Orlando del Muggiano (La Spezia) shipyards.

The launch of Neghelli

February 28th, 1938

Neghelli entered into service.

March 3rd, 1938

Placed under the command of the Submarine Fleet Command (Maricosom). The boat completed an endurance training cruise in the Dodecanese, then was deployed to Leros.

Some crewmembers from the submarine Neghelli in Leros
Photo taken by the militarized worker Oscar Natale Formaro, at the time in service at the naval workshop of San Giorgio in Leros and provided by Giovanni Lanzillotta

May 1940

Transferred to La Spezia.

June 10th, 1940

Upon Italy’s enter the World War II, Neghelli, which with the boatsof the same class  Gondar, Ascianghi and Scirè formed the XV Submarine Squadron of the I Grupsom (La Spezia), was sent on an exploratory mission west of the Gulf of Genoa.

June 14th, 1940

The boat returned to base without spotting any enemy units.

August 1st, 1940

Neghelli (Lieutenant Carlo Ferracuti) was sent north of Cape Bougaroni for an ambush on the British Force H, which had left Gibraltar. The submarines Scirè, Argo, Turchese, Medusa, Axum, Jaspro and Luciano Manara were also sent to the same area and for the same reason.

Lieutenant Carlo Ferracuti

August 5th, 1940

At 6.50 PM, west of Point Asinara (Sardinia), Neghelli was attacked with two torpedoes by an enemy submarine. The boat managed to evade weapons with a prompt maneuver. (TN While reported in the official records of the Italian Navy – Volume XIII “I Sommergibili in Mediterraneo” Tomo I, Page 76 -, there is no report of such an attack in the British records nor it is reported by naval historian and researcher Jürgen Rohwer – “Allied Submarine Attacks of World War Two”)

December 1940

A new mission, still under the command of Lieutenant Ferracuti, 45 miles north of Marsa Matruh, until Christmas. In the same area, the submarines Naiade and Narvalo were on patrol to counter the British naval forces sent to shell the Italian positions on the Cyrenian coasts in support of the advance of the land forces.

December 13th, 1940

At 08:22 PM, Neghelli, while on the surface, sighted the British light cruiser H.M.S. Coventry (Captain David Gilmour), part of the “Stand-by Bombarding Force” engaged in the bombardment of Italian coastal roads and fortifications as part of Operation “Compass”, the British offensive that would lead to the fall of Cyrenaica (Ferracuti, however, mistook his target for a larger and more modern Southampton-class cruiser).

Approaching on the surface, in position 32°37′ N and 26°44′ E (80 miles north-northwest of Marsa Matruh and 40 miles northeast of Sidi el Barrani), at 08:36 PM (or 08:42 PM) the submarine launched a salvo of four torpedoes (three 533 mm and one 450 mm) against the cruiser, then remained on the surface without moving away so that it could observe the result of the launch. One of the four torpedoes hit H.M.S. Coventry forward of the bridge, removing most of the forward hull (but without causing any loss among the crew); the cruiser reacts by opening fire on Neghelli, which however manages to escape without damage (while the next day the Naiade, who was in the same area, will be the unfortunate victim of an attack).

H.M.S. Coventry was a Ceres sub-class of the Royal Navy’s C-type light cruisers

H.M.S. Coventry managed to return to Alexandria, escorted by the destroyers H.M.S. Jervis, H.M.S. Janus, and H.M.S. Hereward, but needed repairs that lasted until January 20th, 1941 (returning to operation in March) and suffered a permanent decrease in speed from 29 knots to 23 knots.

Neghelli’s action was announced in war bulletin no. 191 of December 15th, 1940, which spoke of the sinking, and not damage, of the British cruiser (“The submarine Neghelli, under the command of corvette captain Carlo Ferracuti, torpedoed and sank off the Egyptian coast an enemy cruiser of the Southampton type“). Commander Ferracuti would be decorated with a Silver Medal for Military Valor.

The Last Attack

On January 14th, 1941, Neghelli, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Carlo Ferracuti and with 46 crewmen (5 officers and 41 non-commissioned officers, sub-chiefs and sailors; another officer, Giacomo Gaudino, remained ashore due to a sudden fever), left Leros for a new mission off the Aegean islands, an offensive ambush on the route to Piraeus. The boat, however, was never heard from again after leaving the base.

The tale of Neghelli’s last attack was learned at the end of the war, from the archives of the former enemy. On the morning of January 19th, 1941, Ferracuti’s boat attacked the Greek destroyer Psara without result, and then, at 11:53 AM, the British convoy “AS. 12′, sailing from Piraeus (from where it had departed at eight o’clock that day) to Alexandria as part of the British operation ‘Excess’ with the steamers Clan Cumming, Clan MacDonald and Empire Song escorted by the British anti-aircraft cruiser H.M.S. Calcutta and the destroyers, also British, H.M.S. Defender, H.M.S. Janus and H.M.S. Greyhound. Neghelli hit the Clan Cumming (7,264 GRT) with a torpedo, in position 37°15′ N and 24°04′ E (off the island of Agios Georgios, 20 miles east-north-east of the island of Serifos and 25 miles south of Piraeus), damaging it so badly that it was forced to return to Piraeus escorted by H.M.S. Janus.

S/S Clan Cumming

Immediately afterwards H.M.S. Greyhound (Commander Walter Roger Marshall-A’Deane) counterattacked with depth charges (also assisted by another destroyer, H.M.S. Ilex, which, however, did not drop any depth charges), sinking Neghelli with its entire crew 48 miles by 160.4° from Athens, 40 miles northeast of the island of Falkonera (TN also known as Gerakoulia).

H.M.S. Greyhound’s anti-submarine action was considered to have had “questionable results”, but Neghelli never returned to base, and, although there was no news of it since its departure from Leros on January 14th, there were no other Italian submarines in the area that could have torpedoed the Cumming Clan, nor were there any that were lost during that period. (TN H.M.S. Greyhound obtained an ASDIC contact at 1,800 meters and carried out three attacks with a total of eighteen depth-charges (5 at 11:30 AM, 6 at 11:39 AM and 7 at 11:46 AM) set at 30, 45, 75 and 150 meters, however no result, such as a debris or a oil, could be observed.)

Some Greek sources still attribute the sinking of Neghelli to the Greek submarine Triton (under the command of Lieutenant Dyonisios Zeppos, who was promoted for this alleged success), which at 00.17 AM on  January 9th, 1941, while submerged in the Otranto channel, launched two torpedoes against a submarine sighted in the moonlight and claimed to have seen it explode and sink (the submarine was seen only by Commander Zeppos,  whose account was partially corroborated by the third officer and a sailor, who heard the explosion and saw a column of smoke through the periscope but they were unable to figure out what kind of unit had been hit). This was not possible, given that on January 9th, Neghelli was still in port (which the unit left only five days later). Probably the Triton attacked another unit, mistaken for a submarine, and – since there were no compatible losses in terms of date and place – the sinking was only an erroneous impression like those obtained in countless circumstances by submariners of all navies.

A second Silver Medal for Military Valour was awarded to the memory of Commander Carlo Ferracuti, born in San Pietro di Feletto (TV) on  January 9th, 1906, with the following motivation:

«Commander of a submarine deployed in waters particularly dangerous to the adversary, he carried out numerous war missions, torpedoing, among other things, a cruiser of 9,000 tons. In the midst of dangers and many pitfalls, he showed serene courage, professional skill and contempt for danger. He disappeared at sea fighting for his homeland following the sinking of the Unit under his command.

Mediterranean, 10 June 1940 – 22 January 1941.”

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 – Coastal9522671451 116.47 4.85


12/13/194022:22T.V. Carlo FerracutiMediterranean32°37’N-26°44’E TorpedoDamagedH.M.S. Coventry Anti-Aircraft Cruiser4190Great Britain
1/19/1941T.V. Carlo FerracutiMediterraneanTorpedoFailedPsara DestroyerGreece
1/19/194111:53 T.V. Carlo FerracutiMediterranean37°15’N-24°04’E TorpedoDamagedClan Cumming Steam Freighter7264Great Britain

Crew Members Lost

Last NameFirst NameRankItalian RankDate
BaggioliAlessandroNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
BeccioliniStefanoNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
BegheriniGhinoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe1/19/1941
BlazerFerruccioNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
BrignolaMarioSublieutenantSottotenente di Vascello1/19/1941
CarliEgidioChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe1/19/1941
De benedictisGiacintoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe1/19/1941
DelfinoLorenzoNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
Di MartinoAngeloNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
FerracutiCarloLieutenant CommanderCapitano di Corvetta1/19/1941
FiorinoVitoNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
GaiardelliLuigiJunior ChiefSottocapo1/19/1941
GelliLudovicoNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
GentinoDinoNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
GiacomazzoGiuseppeNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
GuaschiAngeloJunior ChiefSottocapo1/19/1941
IacobellisLuigiNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
LannaPasqualeNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
LuiseGuidoNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
MacchiaEdoardoChief 1st ClassCapo di 1a Classe1/19/1941
ManfriniRinoNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
MarsilioCostantinoJunior ChiefSottocapo1/19/1941
MarzettiRaffaeleNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
MasseraniGiuseppeChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe1/19/1941
MattiazziUgolinoChief 3rd ClassCapo di 3a Classe1/19/1941
MazzaEzioNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
MolaroAdolfoNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
MunafaGiuseppeJunior ChiefSottocapo1/19/1941
NiolaCostantinoJunior ChiefSottocapo1/19/1941
PetrucciGiorgioNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
PucciEzioChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe1/19/1941
RezzaniFrancescoLieutenant Other BranchesCapitano G.N.1/19/1941
RiccaRenatoNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
SanganiGiuseppeJunior ChiefSottocapo1/19/1941
SaverinoGiuseppeJunior ChiefSottocapo1/19/1941
TarantinoEdoardoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe1/19/1941
ValliniAugustoNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
ValsecchiPietroNaval RatingComune1/19/1941
MeneghelliArditoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe6/7/1942