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ITALIAN NAVY AT WAR, including Atlantic Submarine Operations and Italian Air Force in the Mediterranean

Part 2 of 2 - 1942-45

Battleship Roma (Maritime Quest, click to enlarge)

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Each Summary is complete in its own right. The same information may therefore be found in a number of related summaries

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JULY 1942

9th - Two Italian submarines were lost on patrol against Allied shipping off Beirut, Lebanon. On the 9th, "PERLA" was captured by corvette "Hyacinth", the second time an Italian boat had ended up in British hands.

11th - Two days after the capture of "Perla", "ONDINA" was sunk by South African armed trawlers "Protea" and "Southern Maid" working with a Fleet Air Arm Walrus flying boat of 700 Squadron.

Battle of the Atlantic - Damaged in action with the cutter "Lulworth" and other escorts on the 14th, Italian submarine "PIETRO CALVI" was scuttled south of the Azores.


Brazil - The sinking of five Brazilian ships off their own coast in the middle of the month finally drove Brazil to declare war on Germany and Italy on the 22nd August.

6th - Submarine "THORN" attacked a tanker off southwest Crete and was presumed sunk in the counter-attack by Italian escort destroyer "Pegaso".

10th - Italian special forces underwater operations continued to be mounted, and submarine "SCIRE" prepared to launch human torpedoes against Haifa in Palestine. On the 10th armed trawler "Islay" found and sank her.

10th-15th - Malta Convoy: Operation 'Pedestal' - For Malta to survive another convoy had to be fought through. The biggest operation ever was mounted from the Gibraltar end. A total of fourteen merchantmen, including British-manned tanker "Ohio" had a massive escort. Close in were cruisers "Nigeria", "Kenya", "Manchester" and "Cairo" and 12 destroyers. Covering were the three fleet carriers "Eagle", "Indomitable" and "Victorious", battleships "Nelson" and "Rodney", three cruisers, and another 12 destroyers. The convoy passed Gibraltar on the 10th and from the next day was subjected to increasingly intense attacks by submarines, aircraft and later coastal forces. Early on the afternoon of the 11th, accompanying carrier "Furious" sent off her Spitfires and later that day headed back for Gibraltar. On the 12th one of her escorting destroyers "Wolverine", rammed and sank Italian submarine "DAGABUR" off Algiers. Still on the 11th and now north of Algiers, "EAGLE" was torpedoed by German "U-73" and went down. Air attacks took place later that day and early on the 12th, but not until noon, south of Sardinia, did they gain their first success. Italian and German aircraft slightly damaged "Victorious" and hit a merchantman which later sank. More submarines then appearred and the Italian "COBALTO" was rammed by destroyer "Ithuriel". Once the convoy was north of Bizerta, Tunisia, submarine, aircraft and Italian MTB (mas) attacks came fast and furiously. At 18.30, still on the 12th, aircraft badly damaged "Indomitable" putting her out of action and destroyer "FORESIGHT" was torpedoed by an Italian bomber and scuttled next day. The main Royal Navy cover force next turned back at the entrance to the 100 mile wide Strait of Sicily.



Disaster struck soon after 20.00 to the northwest of Cape Bon. Three out of the four cruisers were put out of action by Italian submarines. "Axum" and "Dessie" hit cruisers "Nigeria" and "Cairo" and the vital tanker "Ohio". "Alagi" torpedoed the "Kenya". "CAIRO" was scuttled and "Nigeria" headed back to Gibraltar. Around this time aircraft sank two transports. In the early hours of the 13th, the convoy was hugging the coast south of Cape Bon when Italian MTBs attacked. Four merchantmen were sent to the bottom and the last of the original close escort cruisers "MANCHESTER" was hit and scuttled. Air attacks later that morning accounted for one more merchantman and disabled another which was finished off in the evening. Including tanker "Ohio", just five ships were left. Now into the afternoon of the 13th, three reached Malta. The fourth struggled in next day, but the crippled "Ohio", lashed to destroyer "Penn", only made port on the 15th. Earlier, an Italian cruiser force set out to add to the convoy's miseries, but turned for home. North of Sicily on the 13th it was sighted by submarine "Unbroken" and heavy cruiser "Bolzano" and light cruiser "Attendolo" torpedoed and damaged. Only five out of fourteen transports had got through to Malta for the loss of one aircraft carrier, two cruisers and a destroyer sunk, and a carrier and two cruisers badly damaged.

22nd - Italian torpedo boat "CANTORE" was lost on mines laid by submarine "Porpoise" northeast of Tobruk.

Battle of the Atlantic - Italian submarine "MOROSINI" was lost to unknown causes in the Bay of Biscay, possibly by RAF Bay of Biscay patrols.


13th/I4th - Raid on Tobruk: Operation 'Agreement' - To help relieve the pressure on Eighth Army in the Alamein area, a combined operations raid was planned on Tobruk to destroy installations and shipping. An attack would be launched from the landward side by the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), while simultaneously, destroyers "Sikh" and "Zulu" together with coastal forces craft would land Royal Marine and army units from the sea. AA cruiser "Coventry" and 'Hunts' provided cover. In the night of the 13th/14th, a few troops got ashore but "SIKH" was soon disabled by shore batteries. She went down off Tobruk early in the morning of the 14th. As the other ships withdrew, heavy attacks by German and Italian aircraft sank cruiser "COVENTRY" and destroyer "ZULU" to the northwest of Alexandria. The landward attack also failed.

Mid-September - Submarine "TALISMAN" left Gibraltar on the 10th with stores for Malta. She reported a U-boat off Philippeville, eastern Algeria on the 15th, but was not heard from again - presumed mined in the Strait of Sicily.


19th - South of Pantelleria, submarine "Unbending" attacked an Axis convoy bound for Tripoli, sinking a transport and Italian destroyer "DA VERAZZANO".


North Africa - By the 4th the Second Battle of El Alamein had been won by British Eighth Army. Rommel's losses in men and material were so great he withdrew his remaining German-Italian forces. Gen Montgomery halted Eighth Army after a 600-mile advance in 14 days.

French North African Landings: Operation 'Torch' - In the Mediterranean, British Force H reinforced by Home Fleet covered the Algerian landings on the 8th. Their main task was to hold off any attacks by the Italian fleet. Strength included three capital ships, three fleet carriers, three cruisers and 17 destroyers. 10th - In addition to the Atlantic approaches to Gibraltar, a large number of German and Italian submarines were concentrated in the Western Mediterranean to attack the 'Torch' follow-up convoys. Transports and escorting warships were sunk and damaged, but losses were never great, and five German and two Italian submarines were sunk in exchange. On the 10th, destroyer "MARTIN" was torpedoed by German "U-431" off Algiers and Italian submarine "EMO" scuttled after an attack by armed trawler "Lord Nuffield". 28th - North of Bone the Italian "DESSIE" was sunk by destroyers "Quentin" and the Australian "Quiberon", now part of cruiser Force Q operating out of Bone.

9th - In continuing Royal Navy submarine operations in the Central Mediterranean off northwest Sicily, "Saracen" sank Italian submarine "GRANITO".

24th - Off northwest Sicily, British submarine "UTMOST" was lost to Italian destroyer escort "Groppo".


French North Africa - The Allies lost the race for Tunis. Throughout January 1943 both sides attacked along the line, but without much success. As this happened more and more German and Italian troops were drawn into Tunisia. When the Axis eventually surrendered in May 1943, Sicily and Italy had been drained of some of their best men.

Cruiser Force Q - Based in Bone, Force Q and a new Malta-based cruiser force took turns attacking Axis shipping bound for North Africa. On the 2nd, Force Q with "Aurora", "Argonaut", "Sirius" and two destroyers went into action in the Strait of Sicily. All four transports in a convoy and Italian destroyer "FOLGORE" were sunk by gunfire. As they returned, destroyer "QUENTIN" was lost to Italian torpedo aircraft north of Cape Bon.

4th - In the first USAAF raids on Italy, Italian light cruiser "ATTENDOLO" was sunk and others damaged at Naples.

14th - Two weeks after Force Q's success in the Strait of Sicily, cruiser "Argonaut" was badly damaged by Italian submarine "Mocenigo" northeast of Bone.

Throughout the month, British submarines were on patrol in the Western Mediterranean and lost four of their number. In return they sank several Axis ships including two Italian warships. Early December - "TRAVELLER" left Malta on 28th November for the Gulf of Taranto. Overdue by the 8th December, she was presumed mined in her patrol area. 6th - "Tigris" sank Italian submarine "PORFIDO" north of Bone. 12th - In the Gulf of Naples submarine "P-222" was lost to Italian torpedo boat "Fortunale" while attacking a convoy. 17th - North of Bizerta, "Splendid" sank Italian destroyer "AVIERE" escorting a convoy to North Africa. 25th - As an Axis convoy headed into Tunis, "P-48" attacked and was sunk by Italian destroyer escorts "Ardente" and "Ardito". Late December - At the end of the month submarine "P-311" sailed for Maddalena, Sardinia with Chariot human torpedoes for an attack on the cruisers based there. Her last signal was on the 31st December and she was presumed lost on minefields in the approaches to the port.

13th - Attacks on Allied shipping off Algeria led to more losses in return for the sinking of one Italian submarine. Sloop "Enchantress" sank Italian submarine "CORALLO" off Bougie.

15th - Destroyers "Petard" and Greek "Queen Olga" sank Italian submarine "UARSCIEK" south of Malta.

Russian Front: Battle of Stalingrad - A scratch German force tried to reach Stalingrad from the southwest but was soon driven back. Further north, the Russians resumed their push and annihilated an Italian army.




Casablanca Conference - Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt with their Chiefs of Staff met for this important conference. Major areas for discussion included landings in Sicily and Italy after the Tunisian campaign. At this time the two Allied leaders announced a policy of unconditional surrender of the Axis powers.

Attacks off Algeria - Axis attacks continue against Allied ships in Algerian ports and convoys off the coast. There were losses on both sides. 19th - Canadian corvette "Port Arthur" sank Italian submarine "TRITONE" off Bougie by gunfire. 30th - As corvette "SAMPHIRE" escorted Gibraltar/North African ports convoy TE14 she was torpedoed by Italian submarine "Platino" near Bougie.

Axis Supplies to Tunisia - Attempts by the Italian Navy to supply the Axis armies in Tunisia led to heavy losses, especially on mines laid between Sicily and Tunis by fast minelayers "Abdiel" and "Welshman", and submarine "Rorqual". 9th - Destroyer "CORSARO" hit one of "Abdiel's" mines northeast of Bizerta. 17th - Returning from Tunisia, destroyer "BOMBARDIERE" was sunk off western Sicily by submarine "United". 31st - Torpedo boat "PRESTINARI" and corvette "PROCELLARIA" went down on mines laid by "Welshman" in the Strait of Sicily.

Axis Supplies to Libya - Final supply trips to Tripoli by Italian submarines led to more losses north of the Libyan capital. 14th - "NARVALO" was attacked by a RAF Beaufort and finished off by destroyers "Pakenham" and "Hursley", escorts with Malta/Alexandria convoy ME15. 20th - "SANTAROSA" was torpedoed off Tripoli by MTB-260, one of the growing number of coastal forces operating along the North African coast.


3rd - Italian destroyer "SAETTA" and destroyer escort "URAGANO" supplying Axis forces in Tunisia, sank on cruiser-minelayer "Abdiel's" mines northeast of Bizerta.

Northern Tunisia Campaign - German and Italian operations against Allied shipping off Algeria led to further losses, including: 8th - Royal Canadian Navy corvette "Regina sank Italian submarine "AVORIO" off Philippeville. 17th - A patrol of escort destroyers "Bicester", Easton", Lamerton" and Wheatland" sank Italian submarine "ASTERIA" off Bougie.

MARCH 1943

Royal Navy Submarine Operations - The Royal Navy lost three 'T' class submarines: February/March - "TIGRIS" set out from Malta on 18th February for a patrol off Naples. She failed to return to Algiers on the 10th March, possibly mined off the Gulf of Tunis as she returned. 12th - "TURBULENT" attacked an escorted ship off Maddalena, Sardinia and was presumed sunk in the counter-attack by Italian MTB escorts. 14th - "THUNDERBOLT" was lost off the north entrance to the Strait of Messina to Italian corvette "Cicogna".

Axis Supplies to Tunisia - Continuing attempts by the Italian Navy to supply Axis armies in Tunisia led to more losses on mines laid by fast minelayer "Abdiel": 8th - A field laid north of Cape Bon sank three destroyers in March, starting with destroyer escort "CICIONE" on the 8th. 24th - The same field accounted for "ASCARI" and "MALOCELLO" on the 24th

APRIL 1943

16th - Destroyers "Pakenham" and "Paladin" out of Malta encountered an Italian convoy north of Pantelleria island. In a running gun battle with the four escorting torpedo boats, Italian "CIGNO" was sunk and another damaged, and "PAKENHAM" disabled. She had to be scuttled.

24th - After sinking a transport off northeast Sicily, "SAHIB" was counter-attacked by the escorts including a German Ju88 and finally sunk by Italian corvette "Gabbiano".

28th - "Unshaken" torpedoed and sank Italian torpedo boat "CLIMENE" off Sicily as she escorts a convoy.

Mid/Late April - "REGENT" on patrol in the Strait of Otranto may have attacked a small convoy near Bari, Italy on the 18th, but there was no response from the convoy escorts. She failed to return to Beirut at the end of the month and was presumed lost on mines in her patrol area.

'The Man Who Never Was'- Submarine "Seraph" released the body of a supposed Royal Marine officer into the sea off Spain. His false papers help to persuade the Germans that the next Allied blows would fall on Sardinia and Greece as well as Sicily.

Battle of the Atlantic - Italian submarine "ARCHIMEDE" was sunk by USAAF patrol aircraft in the South Atlantic on the 15th

MAY 1943

North Africa and Tunis: The End for the Axis - Tunis was taken by the British and Bizerta by the Americans on the 7th. The Axis surrender came on the 12th and nearly 250,000 Germans and Italians were taken prisoner.

4th - As the Tunisian campaign ended, destroyers "Nubian", Paladin" and "Petard" sank Italian torpedo boat "PERSEO" and a supply ship near Cape Bon.

Six Axis submarines were lost in the Mediterranean in May - two German to the RAF, two Italian to US forces, and two German to the Royal Navy.

Battle of the Atlantic - 16th - Italian submarine "ENRICO TAZZOLI" may have been sunk on the 16th in the Bay of Biscay by RAF patrols. 23rd - Italian submarine "LEONARDO DA VINCI" returning from a successful patrol off South Africa was detected and sunk northeast of the Azores by destroyer "Active" and frigate "Ness".

JUNE 1943

2nd - Destroyers "Jervis" and Greek "Queen Olga" sank two merchantmen and Italian torpedo boat "CASTORE" off Cape Spartivento, southwest Italy.  

Pantelleria & Lampedusa - After heavy sea and air bombardments the two Italian islands to the north-west and west of Malta surrendered to the Allies on the 11th and 12th June respectively.

Battle of the Atlantic - Italian submarine "BARBARIGO" was sunk in the Atlantic, either by the RAF on the 17th or USAAF on the 19th

JULY 1943

10th - Invasion of Sicily - The grand total of 2,590 US and British warships included a Royal Navy covering force against any interference by the Italian fleet. The main group under Vice-Adm Sir A. U. Willis of Force H included battleships "Nelson", "Rodney", "Warspite" and "Valiant" and fleet carriers "Formidable" and Indomitable".

Italy - As the capture of Sicily progressed, important political developments took place in Italy. On the 25th Mussolini was arrested and stripped of all his powers. Marshal Badoglio formed a new government, which immediately and in secret sought ways to end the war. By August the surrender of Italy was being negotiated with the Allied powers.

Sicily continued - German and Italian aircraft sank and damaged a number of warships and transports in the invasion area including a US destroyer on the 10th. On the 16th carrier "Indomitable" was damaged by Italian torpedo aircraft.

Axis submarines had fewer successes than the attacking aircraft in and around Sicily. Two British cruisers were damaged, but in return 12 of their number were lost over the next four weeks into early August including nine Italian boats: 11th - "FLUTTO" off the southern end of the Strait of Messina in a running battle with MTBs 640, 651 and 670. 12th - "BRONZO" captured off Syracuse by minesweepers "Boston", "Cromarty", "Poole" and "Seaham". 13th - "NEREIDE" lost off Augusta to destroyers "Echo" and "llex"; and north of the Strait of Messina "ACCIAIO" was torpedoed by patrolling submarine "Unruly". 15th - Transport submarine "REMO" on passage through the Gulf of Taranto during the invasion was lost to submarine "United". 16th - Cruiser "Cleopatra" was torpedoed and badly damaged off Sicily by submarine "Dandolo". 18th - "Remo's" sister-boat "ROMOLO" was sunk off Augusta by the RAF. 23rd - As "ASCIANGHI" attacked a cruiser force off the south coast of Sicily she was sunk by destroyers "Eclipse" and "Laforey". 29th - "PIETRO MICCA" was torpedoed by submarine "Trooper" at the entrance to the Adriatic in the Strait of Otranto.


Sicily - As the Germans and Italians prepared to evacuate Sicily across the Strait of Messina, the Allies started their final push. By the 17th, Sicily was in Allied hands but 100,000 Axis troops managed to escape without any serious interference.

3rd - Following on from July, the twelfth Axis submarine loss in four weeks was the Italian "ARGENTO" sunk off the island of Pantelleria by US destroyer "Buck".

Royal Navy Submarine Operations - Patrols in the Mediterranean led to the sinking of numerous Axis ships including two Italian warships, but two boats were lost in August, the first for over three months: 9th - "Simoom" sank Italian destroyer "GIOBERTI" off Spezia, northwest Italy. 11th - "PARTHIAN" was overdue on this date. She left Malta on 22nd July for the southern Adriatic and failed to return to Beirut. 14th - "SARACEN" on patrol off Bastia, Corsica was lost to Italian corvettes "Minerva" and "Euterpe". 28th - "Ultor" torpedoed Italian torpedo boat "LINCE" in the Gulf of Taranto.


7th - Submarine "Shakespeare" on patrol off the Gulf of Salerno sank Italian submarine "VELELLA".

Italy - Surrender and Invasion - The Italian surrender was signed in Sicily on the 3rd, but not announced until the 8th to coincide with the main Allied landing at Salerno, and in the forlorn hope of preventing the Germans from taking over the country. Before long they controlled north and central Italy, were fighting a delaying action in the south, had occupied Rome, regrouped their main forces near Naples, and disarmed - often bloodily - Italian forces in the Dodecanese islands and Greece. Meanwhile the invasion and occupation of southern Italy got underway. A start was made on the 3rd when British and Canadian troops crossed over the Strait of Messina from Sicily in 300 ships and landing craft and pushed north through Calabria to join up with forces landed at Salerno. Early on the 9th, in conjunction with these landings, the British 1st Airborne Division was carried into Taranto by mainly British warships. Shortly afterwards the Adriatic ports of Brindisi and Bari were in Allied hands. Off the west coast of Italy, the Germans decided to evacuate the more southerly island of Sardinia by way of Corsica starting on the 10th. French troops landed in Corsica in mid-month, but by early October the Germans had gone. Both islands were now in Allied hands. Following the announcement of the Italian surrender, the bulk of the Italian fleet sailed for Malta - three battleships, cruisers and destroyers from Spezia and Genoa, and three more battleships and other vessels from Taranto and the Adriatic. As the first group came south, battleship "ROMA" was sunk by a FX1400 radio-controlled bomb (unpropelled unlike the Hs293 rocket-boosted, glider-bomb), but next day the remaining ships were escorted into Malta by battleships "Warspite" and "Valiant". Over 30 submarines headed for Allied ports. On the 12th the arrested Benito Mussolini was rescued from his Italian captors in the Abruzzi Mountains by German Col Otto Skorzeny's paratroops and flown to Germany. Later in the month he proclaimed the establishment of the Italian Social Republic.




14th - On patrol in the Malacca Strait, British submarine "Tally Ho" sank German submarine "UIt-23" (ex-Italian) bound for Europe with cargo from the Far East.

MAY 1944

21st - German U-boats gained their last success of the war in the Mediterranean. East of Sicily "U-453" attacked Taranto/Augusta convoy HA43 and its Italian escort, and sank one merchant ship. Destroyers "Termagant", "Tenacious" and the 'Hunt' "Liddlesdale" were brought up and sent her to the bottom.


7th - Destroyers "Termagant" and "Tuscan" sank torpedo boat "TA-37" (ex-Italian) in the Gulf of Salonika.

19th - Further south it was the turn of "TA-18" (ex-Italian), lost to the same two British destroyers.


1st - Off Zara in the northern Adriatic, British escort destroyers "Avon Vale" and "Wheatland" sank German torpedo boat "TA-20" and two corvettes - all ex-Italian.




17th - Italian battleship "CONTE DI CAVOUR", sunk in the 1940 Fleet Air Arm attack on Taranto and salvaged but not recommissioned, was finally destroyed in RAF raids on Trieste.

MARCH 1945

18th - Two ex-Italian torpedo boats and a destroyer minelaying off the Gulf of Genoa were engaged by destroyers "Meteor" and "Lookout". In the last Royal Navy destroyer action of the Mediterranean, torpedo boats "TA-24" and "TA-29" were sunk.

APRIL 1945

Germans Surrendered in Italy


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