The Uebi Scebeli was a costal submarine of the Class Adua, “600” series, Type Bernardis, built by the Tosi shipyard of Taranto and delivered to the Regia Marina on December 21st, 1937.
Taranto, October 3rd, 1937 – the launching of the Uebi Scebeli
At the beginning of the conflict – June 10th, 1940 – it was dispatched to lie in wait off Cerigotto (Antikythera, Greece), but returned to base five days later with no sightings reported. It then carried out a second patrol, in an antisubmarine function, in the Gulf of Taranto along with the Settembrini.
On June 27th, 1940, it left Taranto under the command of Lieutenant Bruno Zani, bound for a point 35 miles northeast of Derna (Libya), as the assigned area of operations. At 6:30 AM on June 29th, while on the surface on the approach route, she sighted three British destroyers: H.M.S. Dainty, H.M.S. Defender, and H.M.S. Ilex. These units were at sea as part of the British operation “MA 3” (to protect British convoy traffic between Egypt, Malta and Greece). Two days earlier, these destroyers had already sunk the submarine Console Liuzzi, after Uebi Scebeli they later attacked and sunk the Argonauta.
The Uebi Scebeli had to make the crash dive – it was in fact not in a suitable position to attack – and then tried, at periscope depth, to go to the attack. Detected by British destroyers, the submarine was heavily bombarded with depth charges which it was unable to avoid despite various evading maneuvers, thus suffering serious damage which caused waterways.
The crew of the Uebi Scebeli taken prisoner by the Royal Navy
(Australian War Memorial)
Forced to the surface, the Uebi Scebeli was targted by cannon and machine-gun fire. It was abandoned by the crew, who in the meantime had started the self-scuttling maneuvers. Part of the secret documents (mostly maps and codes) were thrown into the sea and others locked inside the submarine now irreparably in the process of sinking, but a lifeboat from H.M.S. Defender boarded it before it sank. The submarine sank at 7:00 AM, at 35°29′ N and 20°06′ E finished off by the 4.7 inch guns of H.M.S. Dainty.
However, some of the ciphers thrown into the water did not sink immediately – even though these documents were equipped with weights specifically for this purpose – and thus fell into British hands. The salvage encryption material, including the latest codebook may have been responsible for the sinking of the submarine Argonauta on June 29th as it was returned from Tobruk. The entire crew of the Uebi Shebeli was rescued – and taken prisoner – by the British destroyers.
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