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Boats

by Admiral (ret) Attilio Duilio Ranieri


The Submarine Bragadin, previously named Marcatonio Bragadino, was a boat of the same class which included only another unit, the Filippo Corridoni. The class should have had a larger number of units, but the mediocre performances of the first two built persuaded the Italian Navy not to go any further.

In the period between the two world wars, when the Italian submarine force was mostly developed, the Regia Marina decided to build mine-laying submarines with performances higher than those of the three existing boats of the X class. More precisely, the intent was to build a boat of medium displacement, good for operations outside the Mediterranean, and with a good balance between launching torpedoes and laying mines.

The project was assigned to Admiral (E) Curio BERNADIS, a talented designer who authored the plans of various excellent submarines. He was the same engineer who, a few years earlier, had designed the mine-laying submarines of the X2 and X3 class using as a model the X1 class. The X1 was an Italian mine-laying submarine rebuilt from the wreck of the Austrian submarine U24 (previously UCF 12 in the Krigsmarine), sunk by one of the mines it was laying in front of Taranto on March 16th, 1916 and later salvaged by the Italian Navy.

For this project, Bernardins derived his new design from his previous of the Pisani class, compared to which the new class should have been improved and more innovative with the addition of the mine-laying capability.

The boats of the Bragadin class were laid down on the slips before the Pisani had undergone testing at sea and which highlighted some issues, foremost lack of transversal seaworthiness on the surface. Thus, the boat of the Bragadin class had the same issues, but also a tendency to dip the bow underwater in rough seas.

This precarious seaworthiness was remedied, on both classes, by applying counter hulls near the water line. The other issue with the Bragadin class, the tendency to dip the bow into the water, was resolved by augmenting the size of the outside hull, thus creating positive buoyancy; thus, when the bow was going down, this created an opposing force. This alteration changed quite considerably the profile of the bow, thus deserving the class nickname of “big nose”. Later, in 1943, the bow was restored to the original design.

Both remedies (side hull and larger bow) caused a noticeable reduction in surface speed, a characteristic essential to war operations for the submarines of the time.

But the Bragadin class’ problems were mostly related to the same reason that brought about their construction. The apparatus for the handling and launching of the mines never became fully acceptable, despite several alterations, to the point that it was only utilized once, on the Bragadin itself.

The Bragadin was built by the Tosi shipyard of Taranto; laid down on February 3rd, 1927, launched on July 21, 1929 and delivered to the Italian Navy on November 16th, 1931. Despite the aforementioned limitations, it had a long operational life and intense activity, especially during the conflict with transport mission to North Africa.

Upon entering service, the Bragadin was assigned to the 2 Squadron based in La Spezia. Then, in 1934, it was relocated to Taranto where, in 1935, it was involved in a collision, fortunately without serious consequences, with the submarine Tito Speri.

In 1939, the boat operated for a few months at the Submarine School (Pula), but at the beginning of the hostility the boat was already assigned to the 37th Squadron based in Messina.

Its first war patrol, under the command of Bandino Bandini, began on June 24th with the transport of 27 tons of war materiel for the Italian Air Force from Naples to Tobruk. During its patrol, the boat was attacked twice by antisubmarine units and three times by airplanes, and during these encounters four crew members were killed.

After some refitting, the boat began operating again in October 1940 under the command of Mario Vannutelli. On October 24th, the boat laid 24 mines off Navarrino (Greece); this was to be the only mine-laying operation.

Between December 9th and October 1st 1941, the Bragadin was assigned to the Submarine School in Pula where it completed 65 patrols for the training of cadets and 3 war patrols in the Adriatic Sea. Thereafter, it returned to Messina and later Taranto.

Here, under the command of Luigi Andreotti, it departed on December 17th 1941 with 50 tons of various war materials destined to Benghazi, but later it was redirected to Tripoli. Near Point Tagiura, it ran aground on a shallow reef from which it was later freed by the tug boat Ciclope. Returned to Taranto in early 1942 and having repaired the damaged caused by running aground, it resumed service practically to the armistice.

On September 8th, the Bragadin was in the Gulf of Taranto. Following the government decree, it moved to Augusta where it surrendered to the British, later reaching Malta. Here, in 1943, it was sent to Haifa and assigned to the GRUPSOM LEVANTE (Submarine Group East) with six other Italian boats. Their collaboration with the Allied forces consisted of training activity for British antisubmarine units. After awhile, due to a mechanical failure not repairable in Haifa, the boat was towed to Taranto. On February 1st, 1948 the Bragadin was decommissioned and later, in accordance with the peace treaty, demolished.


Translated by Cristiano D'Adamo


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