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by Cristiano D'Adamo
Laid down in 1925 in the OTO shipyard of Muggiano and delivered to the Regia Marina on September 20th, 1928, by 1940 the Enrico Toti was already a submarine at the end of its practical operational life. Of the four boats of the Balilla class, of which the Toti was part, none made it through the end of the conflict. The Balilla, along with the Toti and Millelire were removed from service, while the Sciesa was lost in the port off Tobruk after an aerial raid.
Soon after the beginning of the conflict, five submarines (Tazzoli, Glauco, Toti, Marcello and Medusa) operated in the western Mediterranean along the Algerian and Tunisian coastlines. From June 20th to the 27th, the Toti was assigned to the Gulf of Philippeville (Skikda, Tunisia) between Cape Bougaroni and Cape de Far, were it did not detect any traffic and thus returned to port.
After the middle of July, five submarines should have replaced the four assigned to the area between the island of Crete and the African coast. Of the five, only three were operational, amongst them the Toti which between the 19th and the 24th of July was deployed between Alexandria and Cape Krio (a promontory in southwest Turkey, on the Aegean Sea) about 70 miles south of the island of Crete. Once again, the unit left the area without having been able to detect any traffic.
In October, the Toti, part of large group of seven boats, failed to reach its patrol area due to a failure detected during the transfer. During its return to Brindisi, on October 15th, and with its electrical motors still inoperable, the Toti was navigating toward the Cape Colonna beacon, from which it would have continued on to Brindisi following the coastline.
At 1:10 AM, at about 50 miles 197° from Cape Colonne, a large submarine was sighted on the surface and the boat moved to attack it. Soon after, the enemy unit opened fire with the deck gun while positioning itself for an attack with the torpedo. On the counterattack, the Toti first opened fire with the machine guns, hitting the enemy’s cunning tower, and later also with the deck gun. The torpedo launched by the enemy unit passed by the Toti’s stern, but one of its shells landed at the base of the Toti’s cunning tower without causing major damages. At 1:40 AM, after 30 minutes of uninterrupted fighting, and while the enemy unit was trying to disengage, it was hit by the Italian’s fire and quickly went down.
In its 1967 edition of “I Sommergibili in Mediterraneo – Tomo I”, the “Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare” credited the Toti with the sinking of the British submarine “Rainbow” of 1,475 t.
During this prolonged exchange, when the aft gun jammed, the electrician Nicola Stagi threw one of his boots at the enemy repeating the heroic gesture performed by the submarine name bearer, Enrico Toti, on August 6th, 1916 in his dying moments on the battlefield of the Carso during World War I.
At the end of this controversial patrol, C.C. Bandini was transferred to the newer submarine “Atropo”, while C.F. Primo Longobardo assumed command and the boat was transferred to the submarine school in Pula. Here, the aging Toti would complete 93 training missions and patrols. Longobardo was then replaced by T.V. Giovanni Celeste.
Due to the desperate situation in North Africa, in 1942 the Toti was once again used to transport war materiel to Tobruk. The first transport mission started on June 30th, 1942 and was completed on July 13th (61 tons of gasoline, 3.7 tons of ammunition, and 1.5 of documents)
The second started on July 31st and was completed on August 6th, after having aborted navigation due to a fire which developed in the battery hold.
The third and last mission began on November 19th and was completed on the 28th of the same month (60 tons of gasoline, 2 tons of lubricants). Thereafter, the Toti was no longer operational and was officially removed from service on April 2nd, 1943.
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