Italian submarines in World War Two

Guglielmo Marconi (MN, I.7)

TypeOcean going 
ClassMarconi (17) 
Laid down 19 Sep 1938 Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico, Monfalcone
Launched30 Jul 1939
Commissioned20 Feb 1940
End service
Loss date29 Oct 1941
Loss position41° 57'N, 21° 56'W
Fate Sunk on 28th October 1941 by the destroyer HMS Duncan in 41°57'N, 21°56'W. Marconi had just made a weather report at 1150 hours, giving her position as 41°55'N, 21°55'W (Italian Grid 7171/66) when she was sighted and attacked by the British warship. Note: The Italian Official account made an error in translating the grid by stating it was 42°55'N, 21°55'W, about 60 miles north of her true position giving rise to speculation that she could not have been the submarine attacked by HMS Duncan.


CommanderDate fromDate toCommand notes
C.C. Giulio Chialamberto8 Feb 194024 May 1941
T.V. Mario Paolo Pollina24 May 194129 Aug 1941

Ships hit

DateCommanderShip hitTypeGRTNat.Loss type
1.11 Jul 1940C.C. Giulio ChialambertoHMS EscortDestroyer1,350BritishSunk
2.19 Sep 1940C.C. Giulio ChialambertoAlmirante Jose De CarranzaCargo ship330SpanishSunk
3.10 Nov 1940C.C. Giulio ChialambertoVingalandCargo ship2,734SwedishSunk
4.30 May 1941T.V. Mario Paolo PollinaCairndaleTanker8,129BritishSunk
5.1 Jun 1941T.V. Mario Paolo PollinaExportador ITrawler318PortugueseSunk
6.6 Jun 1941T.V. Mario Paolo PollinaBaron LovatCargo ship3,395BritishSunk
7.6 Jun 1941T.V. Mario Paolo PollinaTabergCargo ship1,442SwedishSunk
8.14 Aug 1941T.V. Mario Paolo PollinaSudCargo ship2,520YugoslavianSunk

Shaded lines indicate we don't have a position of attack for the ship.

Patrols and events

 CommanderDateTimePortArr. dateArr. timeArr. portMilesDescription
Chialamberto, Giulio18 Jun 19401025Naples18 Jun 1940NaplesExercises.

Chialamberto, Giulio21 Jun 1940Naples21 Jun 19401600Castellammare di StabiaExercises.

1Chialamberto, Giulio27 Jun 19401000Naples17 Jul 19400800 or 0745Naples2635North of Alboran in 36°20'N, 03°46'W on a patrol line with Emo, which was operating further south, close to the Spanish coast.
  2 Jul 19402330
2237 (e)
36° 25'N, 3° 48'WAt 2330 hours, shortly after Marconi had begun charging her batteries, the Officer of the Watch, S.T.V. Gio-Batta Podestà attracted C.C. Chialamberto's attention to two shadows. As they scrutinised the horizon with their binoculars, four more shadows emerged. They appeared to be destroyers proceeding in single file on an easterly course at 14-16 knots.

The submarine turned and fired a stern shot (533mm) from a distance of 1,000 metres. It missed. In the haste, the torpedo had been fired on the opposite angle. This was rectified by firing a second torpedo shortly after, from 2,000 metres.

The target was the destroyer HMS Vortigern with five other destroyers (part of Force H on its way to Oran). The second torpedo hit her stern but without detonating, sank and then exploded without causing any damage.

The submarine was hunted for 65 minutes by HMS Vortigern and HMS Vidette, but made good her escape.

HMS Vortigern, with HMS Keppel, HMS Active, HMS Wrestler and HMS Vidette, formed the 13th Destroyer Flotilla and with six destroyers of the 8th Flotilla, was screening Force H. They were on their way to Mers El Kebir where, the next day, an ultimatum would be presented to the French Fleet with tragic consequences.
  11 Jul 19400320 or 0330
0215 or 0240 (e)
36° 20'N, 3° 40'WAt 0300 hours, G.M. Giovanni Botti pointed out two shadows astern, to C.C. Chialamberto, . The first could not be identified, but the second appeared to be a large submarine of the British "P" class. Chialamberto had been informed by Italian Intelligence that either HMS Pandora or HMS Proteus was expected in Gibraltar and this may have influenced his thinking. In fact, HMS Pandora had arrived the previous afternoon in Gibraltar, after a patrol off Oran during Operation CATAPULT.

At about 0320 hours, a torpedo (533mm) was fired at the "submarine" from a distance of 2,000 metres and she dived immediately but slowly, as the forward hydroplane was stuck. Marconi had reached a depth of 40 metres, when a loud explosion was heard indicating she had scored a hit.

In fact, the target was the destroyer HMS Escort. She was hit in boiler room no. 1. She was screening Force H returning from a raid on Cagliari. HMS Forester sighted the submarine submerging at short range, opened fire and attempted to ram. Her depth charges could not be released in time as they were set at "safe", but at 0310 hours (0410 hours, Rome Time) she dropped six depth charges, one set at 200 feet and the rest at 300 feet, without result.

HMS Escort did not sink until 1115 hours, after an attempt to tow her away had failed. HMS Forester with HMS Faulknor were standing by to pickup the survivors. There were two killed and thirteen wounded.

Chialamberto, Giulio21 Aug 19400930Naples21 Aug 19401610Naples38Exercises.

Chialamberto, Giulio24 Aug 19400745Naples24 Aug 19401135Naples28,5Exercises.

Chialamberto, Giulio2 Sep 19400720Naples2 Sep 19401200NaplesExercises.

2Chialamberto, Giulio6 Sep 19400920Naples28 Sep 19401820Bordeaux3112Passage Naples to Bordeaux and patrolled northwest off Cape Villano. Passed Gibraltar on 10.09.1940 and was escorted in by M-2, M-9 and M-13. Marconi was expected the previous day and M-2, M-6, M-9, M-10, M-12 and Sperrbrecher V had sailed, but had then turned back.
  19 Sep 19400315
0155 (e)
The submarine was patrolling on the surface in foggy weather, when a light was observed. Shortly after, a large mass emerged from the mist and was initially thought to be a 10,000-ton merchant vessel on a southerly course. It was thus believed to come from Great Britain.

At 0315 hours, Chialamberto took the fateful decision to fire a torpedo (533mm, S.I type) from 700 metres.

The target was the Spanish fishing vessel Almirante Jose De Carranza (330 GRT, built 1918). She was hit and immediately sank. Of the crew of fifteen only one survivor was picked up by the submarine and later transferred to the Spanish fishing vessel Maria Dolores. For this action, C.C. Chialamberto was severely reprimanded by Admiral Parona.

3Chialamberto, Giulio27 Oct 19401620Bordeaux28 Nov 19401814Bordeaux?Sailed, escorted out by M-2 and M-21, for patrol area between 20°00'W and 26°00'W, and between 55°20'N and 56°20'N.
  8 Nov 19401500
1421 (e)
56° 10'N, 17° 50'WAt 1220 hours, Marconi intercepted a signal from the steamer Cornish City. She was commodore of convoy HX.84. This was the very convoy escorted by Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Jervis Bay, attacked by Admiral Scheer three days earlier. She was reporting at 1022 hours an explosion in 55°57' N, 18°20' W (Italian Grid 5570). This was probably Vingaland who was damaged in a bombing attack by a Focke Wulf 200 Kondor of I/K.G.40. She would be sunk two days later by Marconi.

At about 1500 hours, Marconi was attempting to intercept it, when she sighted a destroyer and had to submerge.

At 1530 hours, she was shaken by five explosions above her. She had gone down to 125 metres and this had spared her from serious damage. Propeller sounds of two vessels were heard. These were the destroyers HMS Hesperus and HMS Havelock had been detached to investigate and it was the latter which actually dropped six depth-charges on the submarine. They were set at 200, 250 and 350 feet and a huge air bubble with a large oil patch were observed.

At 1545 hours, a second attack followed with eight depth charges exploding closer than the first one. In fact, HMS Havelock had dropped twelve depth charges set at 150, 250 and 350 feet. HMS Hesperus was keeping ASDIC contact and directing her sister ship.

The A/S hunt lasted until 2230 hours. In fact the two destroyers had searched the area until about 1730 hours.
  10 Nov 19400545+At 2105 hours on 9th November, Marconi was informed of a damaged freighter in Italian Grid 5570 requesting a tug. This was the Swedish steamer Vingaland (see entry of 1500 hours on 8th November). The submarine altered course to intercept.

At 0330 hours on 10th November, she received a signal from Otaria reporting the sighting of an aircraft carrier with three destroyers and, once again, she changed course.

At 0545 hours, Marconi sighted a light and closed. It proved to be the vessel mentioned in the first signal, steering North. A torpedo (533mm, S.I.-H type) was fired from 400 metres, but the sea was rough and it deviated to port. A second torpedo was fired from 300 metres which hit amidship and the vessel sank in ten minutes.

This was the Swedish Vingaland (2,734 GRT, built 1935) from convoy HX.84 carrying steel to Glasgow. She had been damaged by a Focke Wulf 200 Kondor of I/K.G.40.

Six were killed. Nineteen survivors were later rescued by the British Danae II (2,660 GRT, built 1936).
  14 Nov 19401050+55° 05'N, 17° 45'WAt 1020 hours, a vessel was sighted zigzagging at 10,000 metres. Marconi took a parallel course at full speed to intercept.

At 1050 hours, the vessel appeared to change course toward her so Marconi dived. She appeared to be an 8-10,000-ton merchant vessel, steering 270° at 15 knots.

C.C. Chialamberto had intended to fire a pair of torpedoes but his conning tower broke surface. The heavy seas made it difficult to maintain the trim. The attack had to be conducted by using the exploration periscope, as the attack periscope was defective. Finally, only one torpedo (533mm, S.I.-H type) was fired from 2,500 metres. It missed.

4Chialamberto, Giulio16 Jan 19410930Bordeaux18 Feb 19411330Bordeaux?Patrolled between 40°N and 42°N and 17°W and 21°W, off Oporto (Portugal). On 28th January, she was ordered to patrol between the coast and 11°W between Cape St. Vincent and Cape Silleiro. Met on her return by M-6, M-9 and M-21 and Sperrbrecher 16. Later refit in Bordeaux.
  7 Feb 1941110036° 24'N, 10° 24'WAt 1100 hours, Marconi was informed of the departure of a convoy of twenty ships, escorted by a destroyer and a gunboat, from Gibraltar, but with no indication of course and speed. This was H.G.53, which had sailed on 6th February and was later attacked by U-37.

Chialamberto decided to take up a position 60 miles west of Gibraltar, position he reached at 1300 hours on the 8th (38°40' N, 00°34' W). At this time he learned that the convoy's the course was 270° and the speed 12 knots in Italian Grid 5058/31 or German Grid CG 8527 (36°21' N, 09°50' W). This was not far from Marconi's initial position!

At 1600 hours on the 8th, a new signal received indicated the course was now 310°, 7 knots, in Italian Grid 5058/14.

At 2300 hours, another signal (2115/8) gave the position as 5072/61, course 310°, 7 knots.

At midnight, the chase was abandoned as Marconi was short of fuel. This was contested by Admiral Parona when he reviewed the report and Chialamberto reprimanded.
  10 Feb 1941123538° 16'N, 13° 12'WAt 1235 hours, Marconi fired a pair of torpedoes (533mm, S.I. type) from the stern tubes at a distance of 700 metres. It was aimed a steamer steering 255°, 12 knots. Both missed. Chialamberto regretted having set his torpedoes at a depth of 3 metres and believed they might have missed under in the heavy seas. The vessel appeared to have sighted the torpedo wakes and fired a round.

Chialamberto, Giulio22 May 19411725Bordeaux22 May 19412045Le Verdon52Passage Bordeaux-Le Verdon.

Chialamberto, Giulio23 May 19412000Le Verdon23 May 19412230Le Verdon20Exercises.

Pollina, Mario Paolo24 May 19410730Le Verdon24 May 19411955La Pallice56Passage Le Verdon-La Pallice.

5Pollina, Mario Paolo24 May 19412145La Pallice10 Jun 19410800Le Verdon3043Sailed for Atlantic patrol in area between 34°45'N and 35°45'N and 11°15'W and 11°45'W. Carried twelve torpedoes.
  27 May 1941113044° 16'N, 11° 28'WAt 1130 hours, Marconi had just surfaced, when a Sunderland was sighted on opposite course at 3,500 metres. The submarine dived.
  28 May 19412050
1852 (e)
37° 18'N, 10° 27'W
(0) Italian Grid 1362/44.
Following the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck, at 2215 hours on the 27th, BETASOM ordered Marconi to form a patrol line with Argo, Veniero and Mocenigo to intercept a battleship, an aircraft carrier and a cruiser [Force H] discovered proceeding to Gibraltar at 1600 hours in Italian Grid 0326/22.

At 2050 hours, a submarine was sighted proceeding at 12 knots on an undetermined course.

This was HMS Severn (Lt. Cdr. A.N.G. Campbell, RN) which did not answer a recognition signal and did not manage to get into an attacking position.
  29 May 1941193235° 37'N, 9° 35'WAt 1932 hours, Marconi had just surfaced when a Sunderland was sighted at 10,000 metres. The submarine dived to 40 metres.
  29 May 1941205035° 35'N, 8° 30'WAt 2050 hours, Marconi had just surfaced when a Sunderland was sighted at 5,000 metres, flying toward her. The submarine dived to 50 metres.
  30 May 19411015
0818 (e)
35° 20'N, 8° 45'W
(0) Italian Grid 1538/42
At 0805 hours, a merchant ship was sighted.

At 0910 hours, Marconi dived to launch a submerged attack. The ship was identified as a large tanker of the CARELIA class, escorted by a warship of the ENCHANTRESS class.

At 1015 hours, the submarine fired her four torpedoes from the bow tubes (2 x 533mm, 2 x 450mm) from a distance of 900 metres. Upon firing, Marconi went down to 109 metres and at 1027 hours six to eight depth charges exploded near her. The submarine was hunted until 1330 hours. A number of items were damaged, but nothing serious. T.V. Pollina noted with some humour that the shock had internally locked the door to the forward officers' latrine.

The target was the British motor tanker (from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary) Cairndale (8,129 GRT, built 1939), escorted by the corvettes HMS Fleur de Lys and HMS Coreopsis, proceeding from Gibraltar to Curacao. She was hit by one torpedo and sank. Four men were killed and survivors were picked up by the British tug HMRT St. Day.

The destroyers HMS Forester and HMS Faulknor were diverted to hunt the submarine, while the corvettes HMS Woodruff and HMS Azalea and the armed trawler HMS Imperialist were dispatched from Gibraltar to assist the tanker, but arrived too late.
  1 Jun 19411638-1713
1500 (e)
35° 31'N, 10° 30'W
(0) Italian Grid 2572/11.
At 1305 hours, a vessel was sighted steering approximately 340°. Marconi trailed her, gradually increasing speed so as not to make smoke.

At 1452 hours, the submarine submerged but could not close to torpedo range.

At 1638 hours, Marconi surfaced and opened fire as the vessel turned away at full speed. The fourth round hit, silencing the vessel's radio as she began to make an SOS. At 1713 hours, fire was checked after about 50 rounds. The submarine closed to 500 metres, as her victim was sinking and being abandoned. It was identified as the Portuguese Exportador I (318 GRT, built 1917). T.V. Pollina renounced the idea of rescuing her survivors. Two men were killed, twenty survived, including two wounded.
  1 Jun 19411745-224335° 40'N, 11° 00'WAt 1745 hours, a vessel was sighted and Marconi gave chase. She turned out to be Spanish and the attack was aborted.
  5 Jun 1941200736° 00'N, 10° 58'WAt 2007 hours, the submarine Emo was encountered and recognition signals were exchanged.
  6 Jun 1941042235° 05'N, 11° 45'WA signal from BETASOM (1921/5) had informed the submarines that a convoy had been sighted by Velella at 1830 hours in 35°38' N, 11°22' W. The submarines Marconi, Mocenigo, Em and Brin were ordered to converge.

At 2312 hours, Marconi sighted the convoy of sixteen vessels with escorts in 35°17' N, 11°40' W (Italian Grid 8572/51). This was convoy O.G. 63 (Liverpool to Gibraltar).

At 0422 hours, she fired a pair of torpedoes from the bow tubes at a distance of 800 metres, aimed at a large tanker of the DAGHESTAN class and another ship. Although both were claimed to have hit, this has not been confirmed.

At 0425 hours, another pair of torpedoes was fired from stern tubes at a merchant ship. Both hit and the vessel sank.

This was the British Baron Lovat (3,395 GRT, built 1926). All thirty-five crew members were rescued by the sloop HMS Wellington.

At 0427 hours, a third pair of torpedoes was fired from stern tubes at a merchant ship. One hit and the vessel sank.

This was the Swedish Taberg (1,442 GRT, built 1920). Sixteen were killed, only six were saved.

The submarine was hunted until 0930 hours.
  6 Jun 1941200335° 38'N, 11° 22'WAt 2003 hours, the submarine Velella was encountered and exchanged recognition signals.

Pollina, Mario Paolo10 Jun 19411400Le Verdon10 Jun 19411900BordeauxPassage Le Verdon-Bordeaux.

Pollina, Mario Paolo27 Jul 19411030Bordeaux27 Jul 19411335Le Verdon50Passage Bordeaux-Le Verdon.

Pollina, Mario Paolo28 Jul 19410805Le Verdon28 Jul 19411516La Pallice64Passage Le Verdon-La Pallice.

6Pollina, Mario Paolo29 Jul 19412142La Pallice29 Aug 19411345Bordeaux5466Sailed for Atlantic patrol via (a) 43°30'N, 20°30'W (b) 30°00'N, 20°30'W, to 32°00'N, 16°00'W, 200 miles west of Gibraltar. At 1750 hours on 4th August, the submarine was ordered to Grid 3911/34. Throughout the patrol the gyro compass gave much trouble.
  5 Aug 1941055737° 13'N, 18° 13'WAt 0557 hours, a silhouette was sighted at 1,500 metres. It was initially believed to be that of a small submarine chaser, but turned out to be an Italian submarine. Marconi turned away and the other submarine did the same. The next day the submarine was ordered to Grid 1897/24.
  11 Aug 19410342
0245 (e)
37° 32'N, 10° 20'W
(0) Italian Grid 5978/34
On 10th August, Marconi had been ordered to attack a convoy.

At 0335 hours on the 11th, an alarm was sounded which immediately brought T.V. Pollina to the bridge. Two shadows had been sighted, quickly recognised to be destroyers.

At 0342 hours, two torpedoes were fired from the stern tubes at a distance of 1,200 metres. One was claimed to have hit. In fact both had missed.

These were the destroyers HMAS Nestor and HMS Encounter. HMAS Nestor sighted a torpedo track and turned away. She then returned to the attack, dropping twelve depth-charges. HMS Encounter could not get any contact. Later the submarine heard depth-charges, but at a distance.
  12 Aug 1941154739° 02'N, 12° 30'WAt 1547 hours, an aircraft with brown camouflage was seen and Marconi dived.

At 1628 hours, she surfaced only to be forced down by a Sunderland fifteen minutes later.

At 1735 hours, she was forced down again by a Sunderland (the same?).
  12 Aug 1941193538° 50'N, 13° 10'WAt 1905 hours, BETASOM had informed Marconi that convoy of 25 merchant ships and 4 destroyers was located at 1800 hours in Italian Grid 9502/61 steering 300°.

At 1935 hours, a German U-boat was encountered. It was initially mistaken for Finzi.

At 1955, Marconi was forced to dive by a Sunderland.
  13 Aug 1941044639° 17'N, 14° 26'WAt 0446 hours, a convoy was sighted. Marconi trailed it and emitted a beacon signal every 30 minutes to enable other submarines to converge.
  13 Aug 1941111039° 33'N, 14° 54'WAt 1110 hours, a German U-boat was sighted and shortly after a Sunderland forced Marconi to submerge and contact was lost with the convoy.
  13 Aug 1941163540° 14'N, 15° 33'W
(0) Approximately.
At 1635 hours, an Italian submarine was sighted. This was probably Finzi.
  13 Aug 1941170540° 14'N, 15° 33'W
(0) Approximately.
At 1705 hours, a German U-boat was sighted. Marconi tried to follow her in the hope of rejoining the convoy.
  13 Aug 1941191040° 14'N, 15° 33'WAt 1910 hours, the convoy was finally sighted steering 270°. Marconi trailed it and, at 2130 hours, made a beacon signal which appeared to have attracted a Sunderland forcing the submarine to submerge for the seventh time this day.

At 2245 hours, Marconi surfaced but had again lost contact with the convoy.
  14 Aug 1941013840° 50'N, 15° 59'WAt 0138 hours, a destroyer was sighted at 3,000 metres. Marconi turned away and she passed 600 metres astern the submarine.
  14 Aug 19411339
1300 GMT (e)
40° 45'N, 17° 45'WAt 0910 hours, a smoke was sighted on the horizon.

At 1201 hours, Marconi had maneuvered ahead of the vessel and submerged to launch a submerged attack.

At 1339 hours, two torpedoes were fired from the forward tubes at a distance of 600 metres. They both missed.

This was the Yugoslav Sud (2,520 GRT, built 1901) on her way to Halifax after leaving convoy H.G.70.

From 1434 to 1509 hours, the submarine opened fire from a distance of 3,500 to 4,000 metres, damaging the steamer. One lifeboat was observed to have been lowered in the sea. Shortly after, a second one followed. The vessel was on fire and listing to port but remained afloat.

At 1509 hours, a torpedo was fired from a bow tube at a distance of 600 metres. It missed under. At about the same time, more rounds were fired near the waterline, creating ten holes. The freighter began to sink slowly.

U-126 (KL Ernst Bauer) arrived (in 40°48' N, 17°45' W) and also hit her with gunfire claiming the sinking (Rohwer attributes only damage to Marconi and the sinking to U-126). The entire crew of thirty-three was picked up by the Portuguese Alferrarede and landed at Horta.
  24 Aug 1941104040° 00'N, 18° 32'WAt 1040 hours, a steamer was seen at 14,000 metres steering 105°. Marconi closed to attack, and identified her as Spanish, of the "MONTE" class, proceeding to Lisbon. At 1438 hours, the chase was abandoned .

Piomarta, Livio2 Oct 1941Bordeaux2 Oct 1941Le VerdonPassage Bordeaux-Le Verdon.

Piomarta, Livio3 Oct 1941Le Verdon3 Oct 1941La PallicePassage Le Verdon-La Pallice.

7Piomarta, Livio5 Oct 1941La Pallice28 Oct 1941Sunk with all handsShe was sailed for a patrol off the Portuguese coast then to proceed to an area northeast of the Azores. On 16th October, she was ordered to an area between 40°00'N and 41°00'N and between 21°00'W and 22°00'W. On 22nd October, information was received of the departure of a convoy from Gibraltar. This was convoy H.G. 75 proceeding to the UK. Marconi was immediately diverted to attack it. On 28th October, she was trailing the convoy when she was attacked and sunk by HMS Duncan. There were no survivors.

Note: The Italian Official account made an error in translating the grid by stating it was 42°55'N, 21°55'W, about 60 miles north of her true position giving rise to speculation that she could not have been the submarine attacked by HMS Duncan.
  28 Oct 1941
1232 (e)
41° 55'N, 21° 55'E
(e) 41° 57'N, 21° 56'E
Marconi had just made a weather report at 1150 hours, giving her position as 41°55'N, 21°55'W (Italian Grid 7171/66) when she was sighted and attacked by a British warship .This was the destroyer HMS Duncan carrying an A/S sweep astern of convoy H.G. 75 before returning to Gibraltar.

At 1232 hours, she sighted a submarine on the surface. She rushed and dropped five depth-charges before her ASDIC broke down, five more were dropped by eye and another attack was made at 1334 hours with a depth-charge set at 500 feet. HMS Duncan only had five depth charges left and had to abandon the chase.

There is little doubt that this was Marconi and she disappeared with all hands. Five officers and fifty-five ratings were killed.

Note: The Italian Official account made an error in translating the grid by stating it was 42°55'N, 21°55'W, about 60 miles north of her true position giving rise to speculation that she could not have been the submarine attacked by HMS Duncan.

44 entries. 20 total patrol entries (7 marked as war patrols) and 31 events.

All Italian submarines