Italian Submarine "CAGNI"


The submarine CAGNI, as she was currently called, belonged to the class “Admirals”, a class of boats made of four units named after high profile personalities in the history of the Italian Navy: Saint Bon, Millo, Caracciolo and Cagni. Out of the four, only this last one will survive the Second World War.

These boats, conceived to go privateering also in remote seas, had so high operational features - as far as endurance (up to 6 months in a row and nearly 20.000 miles), armaments and reliability - that they would be difficult to obtain even on a conventional submarine in modern times. They were, undoubtedly, the best Italian boats ever built up to that moment.


The CAGNI, built in the C.R.D.A. yard of Monfalcone (GO), was laid down on the 16th of September 1939, launched on the 20th of July1940, and commissioned in the Navy on the 1st of April 1941, when the war was already underway.

Her technical characteristics were:

- hull shape : Bernardis type, single hull with blisters
- displacement: 1,703 t (surface) - 2,185 t (dive)
- dimensions: 87.9 m (length) – 7.97 m (width) – 5.86 m (draft)
- max. depth: 100 m - safety factor: 3
- engine power: 4,370 HP (surface) - 1,280 HP (dive)
- max. speed: 17 knt (surface) - 8.5 knt (dive)
- endurance: surface (in extra fueling): 19,500 ml at 7.5 knt - 10,700 ml at 12 knt - dive: 107 ml at 3.5 knt - 10 ml at 8.5 knt
- weaponry: 14 torpedo tubes 450 mm (8 ahead – 6 astern) - 38 torpedoes (22 ahead – 16 astern) - 2 guns 100 mm/47 - 2 antiaircraft machineguns 13.2 mm
- crew: 78 hands, including 7 officers

From the moment she started operating until February 1942 the CAGNI, led by Lt.Cdr. Carlo LIANNAZZA, because her capacity she is used especially in missions to carry supplies of munitions and fuel to North Africa, where they are urgently needed.

Then it is decided to fully take advantage of her exceptional autonomy, sending her to far-off seas. Hence, after a period of works in Taranto to adjust her for the war in the Atlantic, on the 6th of October 1942 she leaves from La Maddalena to go to the South-African coast and, if possible, to the Indian Ocean also, to intercept the traffic in transit between the two oceans.


Once crossed the Gibraltar Strait without problems, on the 3rd of November, in close proximity to Freetown, she sinks the British motorship DAGOMBA (3,845 tons). A few days later, on the 29th, off the coast of Cape of Good Hope she sinks the Greek steamer ARGO (1,995 tons). Because the traffic had been dispersed on farther routes by the enemy and having reached the end of her autonomy to return to base (in spite of an expected supply by a German submarine), on the 8th of December the CAGNI has to leave the area to return to BETASOM, the Atlantic base in Bordeaux for our submarines.

During this navigation, on the 15th of February 1943, in the Bay of Biscay, a “Sunderland” aircraft attacks her, but she defends herself well with machine-guns. She then manages to escape, but she has to suffer the loss of Sergeant Gunlayer Michelangelo CANISTRARI.

On the 20th February 1943 the CAGNI arrives in Bordeaux, after 136 days at sea: the longest continuous mission of an Italian unit during the 2ndWW.

In that base the submarine undertakes conversion works to be used, together with other boats, in hidden transport of precious resources to and from Japan.

Hence, led by L.Cdr. Giuseppe ROSELLI LORENZINI, on the 29th June 1943 she leaves, for her second mission, from Le Verdon to Singapore, from where she should come back with a cargo of rubber and tin.

During this mission, on the night of the 25th of July, off the coast of Freetown, she attacks and damages the British aux. cruiser AUSTURIAS (22,048 tons), which doesn’t sink but won’t be able to fight for the rest of the war.


On the day of the armistice, on the 8th of September 1943, the CAGNI is in Indian Ocean. Getting contrasting orders from BETASOM (to go as soon as possible to Singapore) and from SUPERMARINA (to go to the Southern African port of Durban), Comdr. ROSELLI LORENZINI decides to follow the second orders, obeying to the will of the King.

So, on the 20th of September 1943, after 85 days of navigation, she enters Durban with the Italian ensign flying and the crew on the deck, while the enemy presents arms.

She returns to Taranto on the 2nd of January 1944, then she is sent to Palermo to perform training activities for the Allied Forces.

She will be decommissioned on the 1st of February 1948 and demolished shortly after, in compliance with the clauses of the peace treaty.

The turret, however, will be spared to become an undying memorial to the 3000 and more submariners fallen on duty between 1940 and 1945, on board of the 87 boats lost in battle.