R. Smg. Scirè

he Italian submarine Scirè was a vessel of the class “600” series “Adua”. This type of submarine was built for short cruises and was protected by a single hull and a false keel. This class of vessels obtained good results during W.W. II; they were robust and maneuverable, but their surface speed was too slow. Some participated in the Spanish Civil War.

On July 10th, 1940, under the command of Captain Pini, the unit was credited with the sinking of the 1,058 t. French steamer Cheick. The Scirè and her twin boat “Gondar” had different operational lives from the rest of the series. In August 1940, the unit underwent important structural modifications for the installation of cylindrical containers for the transport of sub-attack crafts of the S.L.C. (Siluro a Lenta Corsa), the famous “maiale” , and her command was transferred to Commander Borghese.
Later, the conning tower was modified similarly to the German U-Boots, removing the highly visible enclosed deck and lowering the periscopes’ sleeves. The 100/47 gun was removed and a new A.A. machine gun added. The unit was fitted with three cylinders, one forward and two aft. Each cylinder could carry a single S.L.C. The Scirè and the Gondar were almost identical, but the forward cylinder of the latter did not have reinforcement rings thus allowing for the two units to be properly identified. Despite her notoriety, there actually are very few pictures of the Scirè, and of the few, many were manually retouched.

The Scirè near La Spezia

Between September 24 and October 3, and once again from October 21 to November 3 1940 it operated in two missions against the British naval base of Gibraltar. A new mission took place on May 15th 1941 and it was repeated on September 10th, this time achieving some results. The most important mission was the one of December 19th, 1941 when human torpedoes launched by the Scirè sank the battleships Queen Elisabeth and Valiant, the tanker Sagona and the destroyer Jervis in the shallow waters of the port of Alexandria.

The “U-Boot” style tower.

Later, Borghese relinquished the command of his submarine to Commander Zelich. After having left La Spezia on July 27th, 1942, the Scirè reached Leros from which she then headed towards the British port of Haifa. The unit left Leros on the 6th of August and waited at sea for information from a German reconnaissance unit; communication was lost thereafter. According to British records, the Scirè was lost on August 10th just outside the port of Haifa in Palestine where it was intercepted by the British torpedo-boat Isley and sunk with all men aboard. The bodies of two swimmers, Captain Chersi and P.O. Del Ben were washed ashore and buried in the local cemetery.

A relict of Scirè at the Naval Museum of La Spezia.
(Photo Cristiano D’Adamo)

Between September 2 and 28, 1984 the Italian rescue ship Anteo recovered the remains of 42 of the 49 crew members and 11 operators aboard at the time of her lost. Parts of the hull, previously removed during a recovery attempt, are now displayed at the “Sacrario delle Bandiere” in Rome, and the naval museums in La Spezia and Venezia. The Scirè was one of only three Italian vessels to receive the Gold Medal for Valor.