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Boats

by Cristiano D'Adamo


The submarine Glauco was built by CRDA of Monfalcone on behalf of Portugal, as part of a large reorganization and modernization plan of the navy of this Iberian country. The Glauco belonged to a class of construction comprising only two units, the other boat was the Otaria, and was designed by the naval engineer Curio Bernardis based on prior experience with the class Squalo.

Eventually, after the cancellation of the contract by the Portuguese government, the Regia Marina bought the vessels taking over the Glauco on September 20th, 1935. After the early stages of testing and sea trials, the Glauco was assigned, along the sister ship Otaria, the 4th Submarine Group based in Taranto. In the summer of 1936, both boats were moved to Naples. Between 1936 and August 1937, the boat completed two missions off Spain, part of the Italian assistance to Franco's forces during the Spanish Civil War.

At the beginning of the Second World War, the Glauco, at the time under the command of Commander Candido Corvetti, was part of a group of five submarines, which included in addition to the Glauco the Tazzoli, Toti, Marcello and Medusa, assigned to operate along the Algerian and Tunisian coastlines with the task of intercepting French and English traffic due to possible movements from Gibraltar. The Glauco was on patrol June 23rd to 26th in an area spanning from west of Cape Carbon and near Cape Corbellin. Here, on the night of 26th at around 2:50 AM, the crew sighted a ship with armed escort that was first attacked with the torpedo and then with the deck gun. Despite hitting the ship repeatedly, eventually the Glauco had to disengage; it was the Baron Erskine of 3657 t.

In early July, the Glauco was again on a mission part of a group of eight submarines, some of which were assigned to areas off the island of Galite. Here, with the Scirč and Diaspro, the Glauco was on patrol on July 4th and 5th without spotting anything, just like like the rest of the group. A similar mission was repeated between the 9th and 11th after which the boat was reassigned to the new Atlantic base of Bordeaux. Before departure, the Glauco was in Naples for about two months to be adapted to its new roles in the Atlantic. During this period, Commander Corvetti passed the command to Commander Giuseppe Melina.

The Glauco was part of the group of 12 submarines that were added to operation in Atlantic in September to six previously arrived. Left Naples on September 26th, 1940, the boat crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on October 2nd and with many difficulties due to heavy wind on the surface and sudden loss of altitude while submerged. Once it reached Cape Malabata (Tangier), commander Melina continued on the surface taking advantage of darkness.

During the transfer to the assigned patrol area off the Azores, the Glauco attacked three ships, possibly military-type patrols, hitting one. The attack, which occurred at 4:35 am, has no reference in any British documentation. The location given was around 36 N and 6 W in practice halfway between Cape Spartel (south) and Cape Trafalgar (north).

The Glauco reached the area assigned for its patrol on October 6th. The following day, a maneuver approaching a convoy was aborted due to the presence of escort units. But restarted the maneuver, the Glauco sighted a second convoy. In all, about thirty ships were reaching a meeting point that would have provided prey in any circumstance, but this was not the case with the Glauco. The timidity of the first Italian operations in the Atlantic were certainly a disadvantage. After arriving in Bordeaux on October 22nd and following a review of the instructions issued to all vessels prior to their departure, it was assessed that the orders given to the commanders were too vague. More peremptory orders, such as those issued by the German command, they would have ensured greater successes.

It should also be remembered that the Glauco had one of the two diesel engines fail and therefore would have not been able to follow the convoy to the surface at a proper distance. It should be added that before arriving in Bordeaux, the Glauco was assigned to yet another mission along with the Da Vinci with the failed intention to attack another convoy.

After arriving in Bordeaux, the Commander Mellina was disembarked leaving the command to the Lieutenant Luigi Baroni. The first real Atlantic mission did not start until December 23rd when the Glauco was assigned to a patrol area off the coast of Scotland with a group that included the Da Vinci and the Nani. Having reached the assigned area on the 28th, the boat moved about 150 miles SE on January 6th due to the total lack of enemy traffic.
The 9th at night and with good luminescence, the Glauco attacked a ship of 4000 t. with the torpedo. Having missed, the captain continued the attack on the surface with the deck gun. The prompt and accurate enemy fire created a difficult situation which was evaded with the help of machine guns from the bridge and a fast dive. The name of the merchant in question is not known, but considering that the Glauco reported having been hit by at least two rounds greater than 100 mm (the estimate of the ship's officers was 120 or 152 mm), it certainly was a ship of a certain size .

Sadly, during the brief but violent confrontation, the gun officer sub lieutenant Carlo Marenco di Moriondo was fatally struck by shrapnel and disappeared into the sea. The young officer was the son of Admiral Alberto Marenco of Moriondo, commander of the 4th Marine Division. For this act of courage and dedication to the Navy, the sub lieutenant Marenco di Moriondo received the Gold Medal for Military Valor. At the end of the unsuccessful mission, the Glauco returned to base.

The following patrol began on January 27th off to Cabo Silleiro, Oporto and Cabo San Vicente off the Iberian Peninsula. On February 14th, sighted by light enemy units off the estuary of the Tagus river, the boat was the subject of a fierce attack with the launch of to about 130 depth charges which caused serious damage to the hull forcing the sudden return to the base.

After a long period of repairs, on June 18th, 1941, the Glauco left Bordeaux to return home, but even before reaching the Strait of Gibraltar, it was forced to return to base due to a failure with one of the internal combustion engines. After emergency repairs, the boat departed on the 24th of the same month, but it never reached the Mediterranean.

On June 27th, in the early afternoon while submerged off Cape Spartel, the Glauco was detected and attacked by the British destroyer HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper), a destroyer of the W class from the period immediately after the First World War. The same destroyer will be responsible for the sinking of U-74 in the Mediterranean in May 1942. Badly struck, the submarine was forced to the surface before being scuttled by its crew. Eight of the crew members were not able to escape and disappeared with the submarine. The rest of the crew, including the commander, were taken prisoners by the British.

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