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Boats

By Cristiano D'Adamo


Operational Life

1940

Under the command of C.C. Vittore Raccanelli, the Tazzoli begins its duty by conducting patrols between June 21st and July 2nd, 1940 off Cape Tones ( North African Coast). Between July 30th and August 9th, 1940 the submarine attempts to cross the Strait of Gibraltar and reach Bordeaux, but it is forced to return to base due to technical difficulties with the hydroplanes. From August 9 to September 9th, 1940 the submarine is at the Navy yard of La Spezia for the necessary work to adapt the boat to operations from the new Atlantic base of Bordeaux.

Still under the command of C.C. Raccanelli, the Tazzoli left the submarine base of La Spezia on October 2nd, 1940 for the newly assigned base of Bordeaux. The submarine crossed with minimal difficulties the Strait of Gibraltar on the 7th of October after having avoided the British surveillance. During one of the maneuvers, the boat sank as low as 124 meters. This sudden lost of depth would be an event experienced by most Italian boats, causing some of them to hit bottom resulting in considerable damage.

From October 9th to the 13th, the boat was assigned a patrol off Cape S.Vincenzo where, in the early afternoon of the 12th, it intercepts and sinks the Yugoslavia Stem Ship ORAO of 5,135 tons. The Orao was first shelled and then torpedoed. Of the 35 crew members aboard at the time of the attack, two perished. The submarine gives 35 41N 10 53W as coordinates of the sinking, while the Lloyds of London report 35 34N 10 35W. The Orao was built in the Greenok Shipyard in 1919 and was previously named Beechpark until 1937, and Ger-y-Bryn until 1938. It belonged to the Jugoslavenska Plovidba DD (Yugoslavian navigation Co) of Susak and had both a black hull and black funnel. Despite the fact that Italy was not at war with Yugoslavia, the Orao was attacked after it had radioed its position (along with the one of the submarine) to Gibraltar, thus violating international neutrality laws.

From October 14th to the 19th, the boat was assigned to patrol off Oporto. Having failed to detect any enemy shipping, the boat moved on to Bordeaux where it arrived on the 24th. On the 22nd, while approaching, it was targeted by several shells from a patrolling ship or submarine, which was avoided with a quick dive.

Between the 3rd and 13th of December, Betasom ordered six submarines to the British Isles under an agreement with B.d.U, the German submarine command. The Tazzoli left on the 13th and reached an area west of Scotland on the 19th. After a failed attack on the 25th, commander Roccanelli was able to locate the 4,980 t British merchantman ARDANBAHN on the 27th, which was sunk after a long series of attacks. This ship, built in 1929 by D & W Henderson & Co., had been previously attacked by U38, and it belonged to the Clark & Service Company. It was part of convoy OB263 which had left the port of Liverpool unescorted. The location of the sinking is given at 59 16N 20 27W, and all 40 crewmembers were lost at sea. On the 30th, it conducted another attack, but the escorting ships quickly repelled it. The submarine returned to Le Verdon on the 6th of January.

1941

Between January 20th and March 25th the boat was, once again, at a local shipyard for refitting. On April 5th, C.C. Fecia di Cossato, who was already aboard the Tazzoli for training, was promoted to the command of the submarine. On the 7th, the boat left Bordeaux to patrol an area between Freetown and the Azores, where intense enemy shipping traffic had been reported.

On April 12th, the crew located two warships and the commander launched a torpedo and then dived. A few seconds later, a loud explosion was clearly detected. The crew assumed that one of the two units had been hit because the hydrophones detected only one engine. After a quick immersion, the crew noted a large pool of oil and an enemy ship farther away. Immediately after, the enemy ship turned around, forcing the sub to make another quick dive. Allied war records did not confirm any sinking of warships in this area.

On the 15th of April, the Tazzoli intercepted, and sank with the torpedo, the 4,248 t. (4,733 according to other sources) British merchantman AURILLAC, which was seen blowing up in a terrible explosion. During this action, the crew noticed the presence of another submarine in the area. The Aurillac was a French ship built by William Pickersgill & Sons in 1921 and belonging to the Compagnie Du Chemin de Fer de Paris of Orleans. At the time of her sinking, she was flying the British flag and was under service of the Ministry of War Transport. Of the 41 crew members, one perished. The location of the sinking was 37 09N 18 42W.

On May 7th, the Tazzoli located and sank the 4,310 t. Norwegian motorship FERNLANE in service to the British and transporting ammunitions and possibly airplanes. The ship, built in 1921 by Burmeister & Wain’s Maskin of Copenhagen, belonged to Dampskibsinteressenskabet Garonne . All 35 members of the crew were saved. The coordinates of the sinking were given at 10 02N 20 17W.

On May 10th, the Tazzoli located and sank the 8,817 t. Norwegian tanker ALFRED OLSEN in service to the British. This modern ship was built in 1934 by Wm Hamilton & Co. Ltd. and belonged to the Gjerding, of Bergen, Norway. All 34 crew members were rescued. The coordinates of the attack were given at 2 59N 20 26W and those of the sinking at 03N 20 10W .

On May 23rd, while returning to Bordeaux, the submarine was attacked by a British airplane type Bristol Blenheim, which was shot down. During the engagement, one of the crew members (Capuzzo) was wounded and later would have a leg amputated. Between May 23rd and July 15 the submarine underwent the usual refitting

On July 15th the submarines left Bordeaux for a patrol off Freetown (Liberia). On the 12th of August in a position 50 miles from Greenville, the Tazzoli located and attacked a convoy of two ships. According to the Italian authorities, the vessel ZANGARA was stricken and forced to beach on the African coast. There is no mention of this vessel in “The World’s Merchant Fleets – 1939” and therefore it should be assumed to be an erroneous report. The ship in question could have been the British SANGARA, 4,124 t. belonging to the Elder Dempster Lines, ltd. Which was not indeed hit.

On the night of the 19th, the Norwegian tanker SILDRA of 7,313 t. was located and sunk. This relatively new ship was built in 1929 by Schichau of Danzig and belonged to the Jebsen, Wilh & Paul of Bergen. The ship was in the service of the British Admiralty and the location of the sinking was given at 05 30N 12 50W. All 40 members of the crew were rescued. On September 11th, the boat returned to Bordeaux where the crew were sent on leave and the boat underwent major refitting. From the 7th to the 27th of December 1941 the Tazzoli participated in the rescue of the crewmembers of the German auxiliary cruiser ATLANTIS, returning a large number of sailors to St. Nazaire on the 25th of the same month.

1942

On the second of February 1942, the Tazzoli left Bordeaux with the destination of Florida. This would be the first of the “American” missions. In the afternoon of March 3rd, it located and attacked the British tanker PARANA of 8,017 t., but all torpedoes were deviated by the heavy sea.

On the 6th of March it located and sank the Dutch steamer ASTREA. There is no reference of this ship in “The World’s Merchant Fleets – 1939”. Some authors give the tonnage at 1,406.The night of the same day it located and sank the Norwegian motor ship TONSBERGFIORD of 3,156 t. This modern motor ship was built in 1930 by Gotaverken (Gotheburg) and belonged to the Norske Amerikalinja (Oslo). The position of the sinking was given at 31 22N 68 05W. One member of the crew perished, while the remaining 32 were rescued.

On the 8th, the Tazzoli located and sank the 5,785 t. steamship MONTEVIDEO. This ship was the Italian ADAMELLO, built in 1920 by Northumberland Shipbuilding (UK) and seized by Uruguay in 1941. The location of the sinking was given at 29 13N 69 35 W and 14 crewmembers were lost, while 35 were rescued.

On the 10th of March, the Tazzoli located and sank the 3,628 t. Greek ship CYGNET. This ship, previously named MIRACH (Netherlands), was built in 1917 in Rotterdam by Droogdok Maatschappij and belonged to the Halcyon Steamship Company. The location of the sinking was given at 24 05N 74 20W and all 30 crewmembers were rescued.

On the 13th of March, it located and sank the British steamship DAYTONIAN of 6,434 tons. Built in 1922 by D&W Henderson & Co. Ltd., the ship belonged to the Charente Steamship Co. The location of the sinking was given at 26 33N 74 43W (the location given by the Italian authorities was 26 35N 75 00W). One crewmember perished, while the remaining 58 were rescued. Here is what the Daily News reported.

On the 15th, Commander Fecia di Cossato located and sank the 8,780 t. British tanker ATHELQUEEN. This ship was built in 1928 by Furness Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., and belonged to the Athen Lines. The location of the sinking was given at 26 50N 75 40W. Three crew members were lost, while the remaining 46 were later rescued. During this attack, the Tazzoli ended up colliding with the hard-to-sink Athelqueen, damaging the forward tubes. Due to the damage, Commander Fecia Di Cossato was forced to abandon mission and return to base, which was reached on the 31 of March.

From the end of March to the 1st of June, the Tazzoli underwent maintenance and repair work. The crew, after the very successful cruise, received the much-deserved rest. On June 18th the boat left port after a few tests following the repair work. The destination was, once again, the Caribbean.

On the 2nd August, the submarine intercepted and sank the Greek steamer KASTOR of 5,497 tons. Some sources report the sinking on the 1st of August. The Kastor, previously named PARANA until 1935, was built in 1921 by F. Schiechau GmbH of Danzig, and it belonged to George D Gratsos Co. The location of the sinking was given at 11 06N 59 05W. Of the crewmembers, 4 were lost and the remaining 31 rescued.

Four days later, on August 6th, the Tazzoli intercepted and sank the 6,161 t. Norwegian ship HAVSTEN, which was also being pursued by the German submarine U160, which had attacked her on the 3rd and eventually sunk another ship. The tanker, built in 1930 by Barcley, Curle & Co of Glasgow, belonged to Rafen & Leonnechen and was at the service of the British Admiralty. The location of the sinking was given at 11 18N 54 45W. Of the crewmembers, 2 were lost, the remaining 30 rescued, while 2 were taken prisoner.

Soon after, the Tazzoli began the long journey back to the French base which was reached on the 5th of September. The boat was then taken to the naval yard for two months of refitting necessary after the 71 days and 10,348 miles at sea.

On November 14th, the boat left again for a mission off the cost of Brazil, near Cape S. Rocco. Here the Tazzoli was on patrols from the 12th of December to the 15th of January, 1943.

On December 12th, the submarine intercepted and sank the 5,032 t. British ship EMPIRE HAWK. There is no reference of this ship in “The World’s Merchant Fleets – 1939”. The same day, it intercepted and sank the 5,658t. Dutch ship OMBILIN. Built in 1916 by the Nederlanssche Dok Maatschappij, of Amsterdam, the ship belonged to Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij, a Dutch company based in Java. The location of the sinking was given at 7 25N 39 19W. Of the crewmembers, 79 were rescued, while 2 were taken prisoner.

A few days later, on December 21st, the Tazzoli intercepted and sank the 4,814 t. British ship QUEEN CITY, formerly known as the CRAGNESS. This ship was built in 1924 by J L Thomson & Sons Ltd and belonged to Smith & Son of Cardiff. The location of the sinking is given at. Of the crewmembers, 6 perished, while it is not known how many survived. Some of the wounded were taken aboard the Tazzoli and celebrated Christmas with the Italian crew.

On Christmas day, December 25th, the Tazzoli intercepted and sank the 5,011 t. American ship DOŇA AURORA . Built in 1939 by the Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico in Trieste, Italy, this ship belonged to the De La Rama Steamships, a company based in the Philippines. The location of the sinking was given at 02 02S 35 17W. Of the crew members, 62 were rescued, 7 perished and the remaining 2 were taken prisoner.

1943

After this last sinking, the Tazzoli return to France where it arrived on the 2nd of February. Upon arrival, the commander, C.C. Fecia di Cossato, was transferred to the torpedo boat Aliseo in the Mediterranean. From the 10th of February to the 1st of May the submarines underwent modification to fit the boat for transporting goods to Japan. It would leave Bordeaux on the 16th of May with 165 tons of various goods.

Communication was lost on the 17th and the boat was presumed lost between the 18th and the 24th of May, most probably in the Bay of Biscay. After the war, the Italian Navy conducted an inquiry with the assistance of the British Admiralty and the U.S. Navy, but there was no confirmation of any successful Allied attack. The Royal Navy confirmed that the U.S.N. Mackenzie had conducted two depth charge attacks on May 16th in position 38 53N 20 33W. A similar attack was then repeated on the 22nd. With the boat, all crewmembers were lost.


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