R. Smg. Santarosa

Santorre di Santa Rosa was a medium-cruising submarine of the Bandiera class (displacement of 942 tons on the surface and 1,147 in submergence).

The patriotic name to which it was named after was Santorre di Santa Rosa, so the name of the submarine, Santorre Santarosa, is incorrect but commonly used. According to some sources, the true name of the submarine was Santorre di Santarosa.

Santarosa afte the alterations to the bow, conning tower and saddles

During World War II, the submarine carried out a total of 38 war missions (25 patrols in the Strait of Sicily or off Malta, until June 1942, and the remaining transport missions, from July 1942 to its loss, delivering 339.4 tons of materials, including 72.9 tons of gasoline and lubricating oils, 321.5 tons of ammunition and 5 tons of food) and covering 21,010 nautical miles on the surface and 3,065 submerged, while spending 166 days at sea.

Brief and Partial Chronology

May 1st, 1928

The set-up began at the Odero Terni Orlando shipyard in La Spezia.

October 22nd, 1929

Santarosa was launched at the Odero Terni Orlando shipyard in La Spezia.

The launch of the Santarosa. Note the original bow.
 (from “I sommergibili italiani tra le due guerre” di Alessandro Turrini)

July 29th, 1930

Official entry into active service. Having shown a tendency to pitch, poor stability and a tendency to dip from the bow during surface navigation, the submarines of the Bandiera class were subjected, in the early days, to substantial modification works. The bow the hull structures was raised to insert a floodable (open to the sea) box to mitigate pitching, thus creating a “nose”. Side counter-fairings were installed (to increase stability) and the shape of the conning tower was modified, making enclosing it.

The Santarosa while submerging around 1930

1931

Together with the boat of the same class Fratelli Bandiera, Luciano Manara and Ciro Menotti (and for a period, also the minelayer submarine Filippo Corridoni), Santarosa formed the VI Submarine Squadron of Medium Cruise, based in Taranto.

The Santarosa docked next to the Menotti. Note the name on the bow as S. di Santarosa.
(Photo Giorgio Parodi)

Santarosa, Menotti and Manara made a cruise to Tripoli and the Dodecanese, to check the performance of the class; There was still a tendency to dip by the bow (pitch).

In these years a young officer was embarked on the submarine, Gino Birindelli, future M.O.V.M.  (Gold Medal for Valor) and commander-in-chief of the Italian naval squadron in the 70s.

March 14th, 1932

Santarosa received the combat flag in La Spezia, offered by the mayor of Savigliano, the birthplace of Santorre di Santa Rosa.

May 30th, 1932

During a transfer to Taranto, the torpedo operator Giovanni Albanese fell into the sea near Capo Otranto, losing his life.

1932

The VI Submarine Squadron was renamed VII Submarine Squadron, remaining based in Taranto. Santarosa carries out a training cruise in the Adriatic. During this period, the commander of the Santarosa was the Lieutenant Commander Ignazio Castrogiovanni.

1933

The VII Squadriglia was transferred to Brindisi and Its units were used for training and short cruises in national waters.

1934

The VII Submarine Squadron was again renamed VI Squadriglia and transferred to Naples. Santarosa and Menotti make a cruise to the Balearic Islands and visited Spanish ports. In this period, the second chief Tullio Tedeschi, another future M.O.V.M. (Gold Medal for Valor), served on the Santarosa.

1935

The four boats of the class were transferred to Tobruk and remained there for a year.

August 5th thought 20th, 1937

Assigned to the II Submarine Group of Messina, the Santarosa (Lieutenant Cucherano d’Osasco) left Messina on August 5th to carry out a clandestine mission during the Spanish Civil War, in support of Franco’s forces. Santarosa was sent to the Strait of Sicily, and here, on August 12th, the crew sighted (while submerged) the Spanish Republican tanker Campeador: while maneuvering to get into a favorable position for the attack, the crew heard an explosion on the hydrophone, and the tanker sank. It had been torpedoed by the Italian destroyer Saetta.

During the mission, nine other attack manoeuvres were carried out against merchant ships suspected of carrying supplies for the Republican forces. The Santarosa returned to base on August 20th.

1937

Santarosa, Bandiera, Manara and Menotti formed the XXXII Submarine Squadron (later XXXIV Submarine Squadron) based in Messina.

The Santarosa from Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1938 edition

March 19th, 1939

Santarosa collided with the submarine Squalo, suffering damage to the propeller shaft, and breaking the horizontal plane guard. This was followed by a period of work in dry dock.

June 10th, 1940

Upon Italy’s entry into the war, Santarosa, together with Bandiera, Menotti, and Manara, formed the XXXIII Submarine Squadron, part of the VIII Grupsom and based in Trapani.

June 21st, 1940

Santarosa was sent between Ibiza and Mallorca for the first war patrol, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Guido Coscia.

June 26th, 1940

The boat had to return due to a failure of the exhaust valve of the diesel engines (which causes water infiltration), without having sighted any enemy ship.

July 1940

Santarosa was sent on patrol in the Strait of Sicily.

October 14th, 1940

At 00:14, Santarosa (Lieutenant Commander Guido Coscia), which had set sail from Messina for a patrol south of Crete, sighted a submarine from close range during the transfer navigation and launched a torpedo, missing it. The enemy submarine reacted by launching a torpedo, which also missed the Santarosa, passing it portside. The engagement occurred in position 37°46′ N and 17°35′ E. One possibility is that the enemy submarine involved was the British H.M.S. Triad (Lieutenant Commander George Stevenson Salt), which disappeared in the area the same days (sunk on October 15th by the submarine Enrico Toti), although the clash concerning the Santarosa occurred about fifteen miles outside H.M.S. Triad ambush area. Another possibility is that the missing submarine was the British H.M.S. Rainbow, which also disappeared in the area and at the time in question, rammed by the steamer Antonietta Costa.

Mid-October 1940

Santarosa was sent to lie in wait between Alexandria and Crete, without success.

November 8th and 9th, 1940

During the night Santarosa, sailing towards La Galite for a night ambush and interception of the British Forces “H” and “F”, accidentally rammed, off Augusta, the trabaccolo Giuseppe e Maria, causing it to sink (at 03:30 AM on the 9th, 5 miles by 176° from Cape Passero). Santarosa itself suffered serious damage, which forced the boat to return to Augusta.

January 3rd through 12th, 1941

A patrol west of Malta.

January 8th, 1941

In the evening, Santarosa sighted a British light unit, but had to give up the attack because it could not get into a suitable position.

January 10th, 1941

While Santarosa was patrolling 90 miles southeast of Pantelleria, the British Force H passed through its area, returning to Gibraltar after Operation “Excess” (consisting of sending convoys between Alexandria, Gibraltar, Malta, and Piraeus, escorted by units of the Mediterranean Fleet). Santarosa was unable to attack because between 12:42 AM and 06:06 PM it was repeatedly attacked by British light units, which launched a total of 60 depth charges. However, it did not suffer any damage.

January 10th, 1941

During the evening, Santarosa sighted another enemy light unit, but again failed to get into a suitable launch position.

April 4th through 8th, 1941

Sent on patrol to the area west of Malta, in opposition to the British operation “Winch” (dispatch of aircrafts to Malta, to strengthen the island’s defenses, by Force H in Gibraltar).

The prohibitive conditions of the sea caused a casualty among the crew: on April 5th, Ensign Emanuele Peretti, on guard duty on the cunning tower, was dragged overboard by a swell and disappeared, never to be found again.

April 21st through 28th, 1941

Santarosa, Manara, Mameli, and Ruggero Settimo were sent to patrol the waters around Malta, without success.

June 1941

The command of the Santarosa was taken over by the Lieutenant Commander Pietro Abate, who remained aboard for a year.

June 13th through 15th, 1941

Santarosa, together with the submarine Corallo, was sent south of Sardinia to counter the British operation “Tracer”, a sortie from Gibraltar of Force H  tasked with launching 47 Hawker Hurricane fighters bound for Malta to reinforce its air defenses. No Force H ships are sighted.

December 13th, 1941

Santarosa was sent to patrol the waters south of Malta, together with the submarines Squalo, Narvalo, Topazio and Veniero, to counter a possible exit into the sea of Force K, to protect the operation “M. 41”, a supply convoy bound for Libya (later aborted following the intense British attacks and the related damage and losses suffered).

December 18th, 1941

Santarosa, together with other submarines (Squalo, Ascianghi, Topazio, Galatea and Dagabur) was deployed in the central-eastern Mediterranean with exploratory/offensive tasks, in support of operation “M. 42”, consisting in sending to Libya two convoys with urgent supplies for the Italian-German troops in North Africa (312 vehicles, 3,224 tons of fuel and lubricants, 1,137 tons of ammunition,  10,409 tons of miscellaneous materials) with the escort of a substantial share of the battle fleet. The operation ended happily with the arrival of the convoys in Libyan ports.

June 1942

Following insistent requests from the German Commands, which pressed for the use of submarines in transport missions to bring supplies close to the front lines during the advance of Rommel’s forces. Though, the regular traffic of merchant ships was taking place without problems, with very limited losses (and therefore there was no need to use submarines), and even though a submarine could carry even a tenth of what a small merchant ship could, Grupsom Taranto received orders to use some of its units to transport aviation gasoline for the Luftwaffe. Other German agencies and commands make similar requests.

Santarosa, in consideration of its fairly large size (which allows it to stow a few tens of tons of cargo) and its seniority (which makes it less and less suitable for offensive use), was among the submarines chosen for this service, together with the equally elderly Sciesa, Toti, and Narvalo and the minelayers Atropo, Micca, Bragadin, Corridoni and Zoea.

Commander Abate was replaced by Lieutenant Giuseppe Simonetti.

July 5th, 1942

Santarosa departs Taranto at 11.30 AM, for a transport mission: it had 51 tons of ammunition on board, bound for Tobruk and Ras Hilal.

July 9th, 1942

The boat arrived in Tobruk at 08:30 AM, unloaded its cargo and left the city at 07:45 PM.

July 10th, 1942

Santarosa arrived in Ras Hilal at 9:20 AM, and then left at 11:00 PM for Taranto.

The Santarosa (center) along the Toti (left) and Atropo (right) in Ras Hilal on July 10th, 1942

July 14th, 1942

The boat arrived in Taranto at 03:10 PM.

September 24th, 1942

Santarosa sailed from Taranto to Benghazi, on a mission to transport 75 tons of ammunition.

September 27th, 1942

The boat arrived in Benghazi at 08:00 AM, unloaded its cargo and departed at 05:00 PM

September 30th, 1942

Santarosa arrived in Taranto at 02:30 PM.

October 17th, 1942

At noon, the Santarosa sailed from Taranto for Benghazi, on a transport mission, with 25 tons of supplies and 44.3 tons of ammunition on board.

October 20th, 1942

It arrived in Benghazi at 05:45 AM, unloaded the cargo and left at 04:00 PM for the return journey.

October 23rf, 1942

It arrived in Taranto at 10:40 AM

October 31st, 1942

It departs Taranto for Tobruk at 12:20 PM, on a mission to transport 70 tons of ammunition.

November 4th, 1942

It arrived in Tobruk at 09:30 AM, unloads its ammunition and departs at 03:20 PM

November 7th, 1942

It arrived in Taranto at 04:30 PM

November 18th, 1942

Santarosa left Taranto at 03:00 AM, bound for Buerat (Buerat el Hussoun) with a load of 26 tons of gasoline and 36 tons of ammunition.

November 21st or 23rd, 1942

At 07:27 AM the British submarine H.M.S. P 44 (later H.M.S. United, Lieutenant Thomas Erasmus Barlow) sighted the Santarosa at a bearing 090° (distance 5,500 meters), with high speed and estimated course 265°, in position 31°27′ N and 15°45′ E. At 07.37 AM, H.M.S. P 44 launched four torpedoes from 1,830 meters; Santarosa sighted three of the weapons at 07:45 AM, 2 km from the Buerat buoy, and avoided them with prompt maneuvering.

Santarosa arrived in Buerat at 08:30 AM and departed at 01:00 PM after having grounded the cargo (at 01:40 PM, H.M.S. P 44 sighted the Santarosa again as it was leaving port port, but it was too far away to attempt another attack),

November 26th, 1942

The boat arrived in Taranto at 03:10 pm.

Last Mission

At noon on January 15th, 1943, Santarosa (still under the command of Lieutenant Giuseppe Simonetti), loaded with 35 tons of ammunition and 6 tons of various materials (for another source, 40.8 tons of ammunition, 2.07 – or 20.7 – of gasoline and 1.8 of lubricating oils), left Taranto for a transport mission to Tripoli.

The meaning of such a mission may be elusive, since on January 15th, 1943, the Axis forces were in full retreat from Tripolitania towards Tunisia, having given up all attempts to defend Tripoli. On the contrary, the evacuation of the city had already begun, with the departure of any efficient ships that were in port and the destruction of those unable to move. But orders were orders. Santarosa’s would be the last transport mission to Tripoli by a military unit.

After an uneventful voyage, the submarine reached Tripoli on the morning of January 19th, but at 06:20 AM (or 06:30 AM) that day, just before entering port, Santarosa ran aground due to a navigational error on the northern end of the Kaliuscia shallows (three miles from the mouth of the port of Tripoli), in position 37°10′ N and 03°15′ E (other sources indicate rather different positions:  32°55′ N and 13°11′ E, or 31°10′ N and 15°15′ E). Throughout the day it was tried to free it with the assistance of three tugboats, but to no avail. In the meantime, all the cargo was transferred to barges, which brought it to shore. At 00:11 PM the immobilized submarine was attacked by British motor torpedo boats, which unsuccessfully launched their torpedoes and were repulsed.

At 02:30 AM on January 20th, (another source indicates this second attack as having occurred at 03:30 AM, while the first already mentioned would have taken place at 02:30 AM on the 20th instead of 11:00 PM on the 19th), however, the motor torpedo boats (they were MTB 260, 264 and 267, coming from Malta, which were later joined by the MTB 313) returned to the charge; this time a torpedo, launched by MTB 260 (Lieutenant H. E. Sadds), hit the Santarosa in the center, causing irreparable damage.

Two crew members were killed: the second chief engineer Vito Boccellato, in his thirties, from Palermo, and sailor Gaetano Aprile, in his twenties, from Bari.

On the afternoon of January 21st, 1943 (for another version, the same January 20th), during the evacuation of Tripoli, the wreck of the Santarosa was mined and blown up to prevent it from being recovered by the enemy. Tripoli fell on January 23rd.

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 – Medium Range38210103065166 145.03 6.04

Actions

DateTimeCaptainAreaCoordinatesConvoyWeaponResultShipTypeTonnsFlag

Crew Members Lost

Last NameFirst NameRankItalian RankDate
AprileGaetanoNaval RatingComune1/20/1943
BoccellatoVitoChief 2nd ClassCapo di 2a Classe1/20/1943
PerettiEmanueleEnsignGuardiamarina4/3/1943