Italian Submarine "ASCIANGHI"
She was one of the “ADUA” class – called “l’Africana”
(= “the African”) – 17 boats, which was part of the larger
“600” class of coastal submarines.
These boats, built in several Italian yards in the years between 1936 and 1938, were entitled with names of places and events of the just ended Ethiopian War (1935-36).
Their technical features were:
- displacement: 697 t (surface) - 856 t (dive)
- max. depth: 80 m (safety factor: 3)
- dimensions: 60.18 m (length) – 6.45 m (width) - 4.73 m (draught)
- engine power: 1400 HP (surface) - 800 HP (dive)
- max. speed: 14 kn (surface) - 7.5 kn (dive)
- endurance: on surface: 3180 ml (at 10.5 kn) - 2200 ml (at 14 kn) on dive: 74 ml (at 4 kn) - 7.5 ml (at 7.5 nd)
- weapons: 6 533mm (21”) torpedo tubes (4 ahead and 2 astern) - 1 100mm (4”) gun - 2 13.2mm anti-aircraft
- crew (standard): 44 hands, including 6 officers
Smg. ASCIANGHI was built in the O.T.O. Shipyard in Muggiano (La Spezia): laid down on January 20, 1937; launched on December 5, same year; commissioned on March 25, 1938 and immediately based in Lero (Aegean islands).
Here on, in short, her history.
When Italy enters the 2^WW (June 10, 1940) ASCIANGHI is assigned to the 1st
Submarine Group (GRUPSOM UNO) based in La Spezia, but she is temporarily posted
in Cagliari (Sardinia); and from this base, under command of Lt. Ugo GELLI,
she sails for her first war mission, from 20 to 28 June, in the Balearic waters.
The night on 22, at 01:25, she sights a big armed steam-ship and launches
4 torpedoes, but they fail because of rough sea. Then she continues the attack
with her gun, putting some shots on the target, but the hard and precise reaction
of the ship gunnery forces her to desist.
Then, many other ambush and patrol missions follow, all over the Mediterranean Sea, up to August ’41, but without salient facts.
Passed under Lt. Olinto DI SERIO command, on patrol off Beirut from 20 to 24 September, on the 21 she intercepts and sinks the Polish (at British service) tanker ANTAR (389t), but after the crew is in safe.
Missions follow one another up to July ’42, when the boat goes at first under command of Lt. Rodolfo BOMBIG, for a short while, and then of Lt. Rino ERLER.
Capt. ERLER first mission, early on November ’42, is to carry 20 tons of ammunitions from Messina to Tobruk. During this navigation, on the 3, open sea, he sights and rescues about 20 wrecked people: they are German soldiers, survived at their plane shooting down.
Some days later, from 11 to 16 November, ASCIANGHI lies again in wait along Algerian coasts. On the 15, during a raid inside the Bougie Bay, at 03:39 she sights and attacks a three units formation which is leaving the port; units that Capt. ERLER considers to be a cruiser and two escort destroyers. The first couple of torpedoes fails; of the second one, instead, both the torpedoes hit at the bow and amidships the third unit, which sinks very soon. Later, she will result to be the British fleet fast minesweeper HMS ALGERINE (1040t). As soon as seen the launch result, the submarine dives immediately and manages to escape the other ships hunting.
Some months later, on ambush in the Syrtis Gulf, the night between 2 and 3 March ’43, Smg. ASCIANGHI sights and attacks with three torpedoes a large enemy formation. After the launch, to avoid the ramming by one of the escort units, the boat is forced to dive immediately and, so, she cannot check the launch result. But, after some dozen seconds, the crew heard clearly two blasts, such as to persuade the torpedoes have hit. Nevertheless, no mention of this event will result in the British operation records, opened post-war.
After this mission the boat stops in the dockyard for an overhaul period and in this while Capt. ERLER is replaced by Lt.jg Mario FIORINI. And under the new young C.O., on July 16, ’43, Smg. ASCIANGHI sails from Naples to reach, together with some other boats, the south-east waters of Sicily, in the last attempt to hinder the Allied landing operations, by the time already in progress.
On July 23, early in the afternoon, patrolling on dive about ten miles off Augusta, the boat sights an enemy formation of cruisers and destroyers and, resolutely, she attacks one of the major units. She fires two torpedoes (to whom the English later will ascribe the heavy cruiser HMS NEWFOUNDLAND serious damaging; afterwards, however, a re-examination of the facts will induce to believe the damaging action to be attributed to the German submarine U 407, present in those waters) but at once she is violently attacked by depth charges, which produce heavy damages and large leaks.
Made heavy by the flooding, the boat inexorably goes down, exceeding even the maximum depth. Then, Capt. FIORINI decides to emerge and accept the unequal fight on surface and, at the last, to scuttle the submarine. But, as soon as surfaced, at once she is hit by the concentrated gunnery fire from the British destroyers HMS LAFOREY and HMS ECLIPSE; fire that, at close range, don’t allow any possibility of reaction.
Riddled with gun shots, already abundantly flooded, the boat sinks in a short, bringing with her 23 of 50 crew hands. The survivors are rescued by the British ships.
In her life, Smg. ASCIANGHI carried out 22 war missions, 1 sea freight and 24 transfer missions, running a total of 28,923 miles.
Missing persons with the boat are:
- Asp. G.M. Mario MARINELLI
- C°3^cl. Filomeno LACITIGNOLA
- 2°C° Bruno MOZZACHIODI
- 2°C° Saverio RUSSO
- Sgt. Giovanni NOZZE
- Sc. Alberto CELLONE
- Sc. Filippo FERRARI
- Sc. Vittorio PELLICCIONE
- Sc. Giacinto PETRELLA
- Com. Ottavio BETETTO
- Com. Saverio BRUNO
- Com. Alberto CACACE
- Com. Giovanni CAROZZO
- Com. Giuseppe CARTELLI
- Com. Modesto FALCONI
- Com. Alfonso MICELLINO
- Com. Antonio MODELFINO
- Com. Renzo MORONI
- Com. Camillo MORSELLA
- Com. Celestino MURGIA
- Com. Antonio PIETRINI
- Com. Angelo PIPPA
- Com. Vittorio SIENA
Honour to Them!