Italian submarines in World War Two

Perla (I.33 or I.30)

Perla (USMM)

TypeCoastal / Sea going 
ClassPerla (22) 
Laid down 31 Aug 1935 Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico, Monfalcone
Launched3 May 1936
Commissioned8 Jul 1936
End service
Loss date9 Jul 1942
Loss position33° 50'N, 35° 19'E
History Captured on 9th July 1942 in 33°50'N, 35°19'E (off Beirut) by the British corvette HMS Hyacinth. Commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS P 712 but soon transferred to Greece and served as RHS Matrozos until 1954.


CommanderDate fromDate toCommand notes
T.V. Mario Pouchain13 Feb 194025 Jul 1940
T.V. Mario Franchi25 Jul 194027 Dec 1940
T.V. Bruno Napp27 Dec 194031 Oct 1941
S.T.V. Santo Mannanici1 Nov 19412 Jan 1942
T.V. Giovanni Celeste3 Jan 19429 Jun 1942
S.T.V. Ernesto Mandraffino10 Jun 194212 Jun 1942
T.V. Gioacchino Ventura13 Jun 19429 Jul 1942

Ships hit

No ships hit by this submarine.

Patrols and events

 CommanderDateTimePortArr. dateArr. timeArr. portMilesDescription
1Pouchain, Mario19 Jun 19401430Massawa20 Jul 1940MassawaPatrolled near Ras El Bir in Gulf of Tajura. Suffered heavily from the breakdown of the air-conditioning system and methylene chloride gas and most of her crew were intoxicated. Apparently ran aground 60 miles south of Massawa or 30 miles south of Sciab-Sciach on 26th June, and was sighted by the sloop HMS Shoreham. On 27th June, she was shelled by the light cruiser HMNZS Leander and the destroyers HMS Kingston and HMS Kandahar. Perla replied with her gun but then her commanding officer ordered her crew to abandon ship at about noon on the 27th (fifteen killed), but the intervention of eight S.81 bombers forced the three enemy ships to disengage and Perla was taken in tow and returned to Massawa for docking.
  20 Jun 1940During the day, while proceeding submerged to her patrol area, an electrician, who was at his station in the electric motors, suffered a heat stroke. As the air conditioning system did not appear to function properly, Pouchain ordered its verification. During the same evening, between 2000 and 2400/20, more cases manifested themselves. The crew suffered heavily from the breakdown of the air-conditioning system and methylene chloride gas causing intoxication of most of her crew.

At dawn on 22 June, the submarine dived 3 miles off the coast of Djibouti. As the submarine progressed toward her patrol area, disturbing signs of mental alienation, extreme fatigue, abnormal behaviour appeared.

At dawn on 24 June, the submarine dived 5 miles north of Perim. On 25 June, the temperature inside the submarine had reached 64 degrees. The First Officer had now completely lost his senses. Pouchain was himself in no condition to perform his duties and delegated them to his navigation officer and the midshipman. One crew member had succumbed and his body was committed to the deep.
  26 Jun 1940
1900C (e)
The submarine was returning from her patrol when she was sighted by the destroyer HMS Kingston (Lieutenant Commander P. Somerville) at a range of 5 miles, steering 340° at 12 knots. The destroyer was proceeding independently. The submarine sighted the destroyer at 3,000 metres and crash-dived, as Kingston fired three 4.7" salvoes.

At 1920 hours, the destroyer obtained an ASDIC contact at 1,200 yards. and dropped patterns of depth charges at 1927 (5 DCs set from 50 to 150 feet), 1934 (6 DCs set from 50 to 150 feet) and 2000 hours (6 DCs set from 150 to 250 feet). After the third attack, oil patches were observed. The submarine was believed to have been sunk and HMS Kingston left the scene.

In fact, Perla had escaped serious damage and after two hours closed the coast submerged. She surfaced as she reached the Searched Channel only to run aground.
  27 Jun 19401200+
(e) 14° 26'N, 41° 21'E
At 0641 hours, the torpedo boat Giovanni Acerbi sailed from Massawa to the assistance of Perla. The destroyers Leone and Pantera were to support her but Leone had engine defects and could not sail.

Early in the afternoon of 27th June, three enemy warships arrived. They were the light cruiser HMNZS Leander with the destroyers HMS Kingston and HMS Kandahar which located the submarine aground. Pouchain ordered the gun manned and the destruction of the secret documents but the gun was jammed and resistance was useless. The submarine was evacuated except Pouchain, the midshipman Biagio Gallo and the electrician Arduino Forgiarini. The latter refused to leave and stated his determination to stand by his captain but a shell exploded near him and he was killed outright while Pouchain and Gallo were thrown in the sea. Forgiarini was posthumously awarded the Medaglia d'Oro.

By now, most of the crew had reached the beach. Two Italian aircraft were observed attacking the enemy ships while a RAF aircraft bombed the submarine. According to British sources, HMNZS Leander began shelling her, claiming seven 6" hits. However, eight Savoia S.81 bombers arrived on the scene, forcing the cruiser to withdraw. A Walrus aircraft also joined the fight with a bomb attack, claiming a near-miss.

As the shelling continued, the survivors hid behind the dunes. At dusk, the shelling had stopped and they returned to the beach and some went back on the submarine to collect water and provisions. A group of survivors decided to walk to the Sciab-Sciach light which was about 7 miles away and were rescued at about 0700 hours on the 28th by the destroyer Manin. The remainder of the crew had remained on the beach near the submarine and decided to walk inland. They reached the village of Sereità in the afternoon of the 29th and were rescued the following day by a relief column sent from Massawa. Fifteen crew members had succumbed from heat, gas intoxication or enemy shelling. On 20th July, an unidentified requisitioned tug from Massawa managed to tow away Perla. This was just in time as a British naval force consisting of the light cruisers HMAS Hobart, HMS Ceres and the destroyers HMS Kimberley and HMS Kingston sailed from Aden on the evening of 20 July to complete her destruction.

Franchi, Mario12 Nov 19400700Massawa12 Nov 19400800MassawaExited from dock.

Franchi, Mario18 Dec 19400800Massawa18 Dec 19401150Massawa10,5Trials.

Franchi, Mario6 Jan 1941Massawa6 Jan 1941MassawaAt Massawa.

2Napp, Bruno1 Mar 19410530Dakiliat Bay (Massawa)20 May 19411600Bordeaux13932After considering internment in Madagascar, it was decided to send her to Bordeaux with the assistance of German vessels (Atlantis refuelled her on 29 March 1941 in 34°00'S, 49°00'E and Nordmark (7,750 GRT, built 1930) on 23rd April 1941 in 26°00'S, 18°00'W). According to the subsequent interrogation of one of her survivors, she had a crew of only thirty-five as twelve were left behind when she sailed hurriedly. She also had a German Merchant Navy captain and an Italian Warrant Quarter Master as passengers. British Intelligence knew of both rendezvous and the cruisers HMNZS Leander and HMAS Canberra had sailed from Mauritius on 10 March and had been ordered to cruise the vicinity of 35° S, 50°00'E [yet O.I.C. reports it as 33° S, 50°'E] from 12th to 20th March, while the City of Durban (4,499 GRT, built 1921) would try to pass herself as the German supply ship (Operation SUPPLY). Leander refuelled at Mauritius on 20th March and resumed the search. The Vichy French Charles LD (5,267 GRT, built 1934) was intercepted and captured on 23rd March and the tanker Trocas, which was believed missing, was located on 27th March and escorted to Mauritius. In the South Atlantic, a similar operation was to be carried out by the British submarine HMS Severn, the sloops HMS Bridgewater, HMS Milford and the AMC HMS Alcantara. She reached Bordeaux after 13,100 miles and 81 days at sea. With Malaspina, escorted from Gironde Buoy no.1 to le Verdon by Sperrbrecher III. Then refit until September 1941.
  1 Mar 19410700
(0) South of Massawa.
At 0700 hours, a Blenheim bomber was sighted. Perla dived but was not attacked. She surfaced again at 0745 hours,
  1 Mar 19411315
(0) Off Summa (south of Massawa) or off Dahlak Island.
At 1315 hours, a Blenheim bomber attacked Perla with two depth charges. The submarine crash-dived and suffered no damage.

This was a Blenheim bomber from 14 Squadron. The pilot claimed a direct hit and a near-miss and the submarine was believed sunk.
  2 Mar 19410130
(0) Off Shab Shaka (south of Massawa).
At 0130 hours, two flashing lights were observed, apparently from two warships exchanging signals. Perla steered away on the surface.
  6 Mar 19412310
(0) Off Cape Gardafui.
At 2310 hours, a steamer was observed steering 120°. Perla had instructions to refrain from attacking.
  12 Mar 194110203° 00'S, 50° 00'EAt 1020 hours, an American steamer of the Export Line was sighted going toward Madagascar. Perla steered away.
  29 Mar 19410515-183034° 00'S, 49° 00'EPerla had reached the rendezvous point with the raider Atlantis since 0500 hours on 25th March and cruised for four days in the vicinity.

At 000 hours (GMT) on 28th March, she began emitting a beacon signal.

At 1715 hours, she sighted a smoke on the horizon and proceeded toward it and, at 1800 hours, she stopped her engines at proximity of the German raider. T.V. Napp went aboard Atlantis to confer with Kapitän zur See Rogge. They agreed to select a new position (34°00' S, 49°00' E) for the refuelling, as a measure of precaution.

At 2255 hours, the submarine proceeded to the new rendezvous.

At 0515 hours on 29th March, she had reached the rendezvous and began refuelling and taking provisions from the raider. The process was completed at 1830 hours and Perla steered for the Cape of Good Hope.
  7 Apr 1941144537° 00'S, 26° 00'WAt 1445 hours, a steamer was sighted steering 090°. Perla dived to avoid being seen.
  12 Apr 1941102031° 00'S, 8° 00'EAt 1020 hours, a steamer was sighted steering for the Cape of Good Hope. Perla dived to avoid being seen.
  22 Apr 1941160525° 00'S, 20° 00'WPerla had reached her rendezvous point with the German supply ship Nordmark at 2250 hours on 20th April and was cruising in the area.

At 1605 hours on 22nd April, the supply ship was met and again, as a measure of precaution, instructed Perla to go to a new rendezvous point.
  23 Apr 19410720-165026° 00'S, 18° 00'W0720 hours, Perla reached the new rendezvous point and began taking fuel and provisions from the German supply ship Nordmark.

The operation was completed at 1650 hours and the submarine steered toward her final destination of Bordeaux.
  1 May 194109201° 00'N, 24° 00'WAt 0920 hours, a British steamer was sighted steering 135°. Perla dived to avoid being seen.
  3 May 194113457° 00'N, 25° 00'WAt 1345 hours, an American steamer was sighted steering 140°. Perla dived to avoid being seen.
  13 May 1941172531° 00'N, 25° 00'WAt 1725 hours, a ship was sighted steering toward the Azores. Perla dived to avoid being seen.

Napp, Bruno4 Sep 19410702Bordeaux4 Sep 19411125Le Verdon48Sailed for La Pallice for trials but returned because of defects.

Napp, Bruno4 Sep 19411403Le Verdon4 Sep 19411825Bordeaux48Passage Le Verdon-Bordeaux.

Napp, Bruno6 Sep 19410749Bordeaux6 Sep 19412300La Pallice118Passage Bordeaux-La Pallice for trials.

Napp, Bruno7 Sep 19410800La Pallice7 Sep 19411600La Pallice21Trials.

3Napp, Bruno8 Sep 19412030La Pallice13 Sep 19411430Bordeaux514Sailed for training patrol between 45°00'N and 45°30'N and 06°00'W and 07°50'W.

Napp, Bruno20 Sep 19410700Bordeaux20 Sep 19411245Le VerdonPassage Bordeaux-Le Verdon.

4Napp, Bruno20 Sep 19411900Le Verdon3 Oct 19411100Cagliari2743Passage Le Verdon-Cagliari. Passed Gibraltar on 28th September 1941.
  22 Sep 1941153244° 58'N, 10° 00'WAt 1532 hours, the submarine Argo was sighted. Perla submerged.
  23 Sep 1941103543° 56'N, 13° 00'WAt 1035 hours, the submarine Morosini was sighted. Perla steered away.
  28 Sep 19410345At 0345 hours, a submarine chaser was sighted at a distance of 1,500 metres. Perla steered away.
  28 Sep 1941042035° 58'N, 6° 00'W
(0) Approximately.
At 0420 hours, a fishing vessel was sighted at a distance of 500 metres. It closed to 200 metres making the signal "P". Perla steered away, but the fishing vessel kept on coming until forced to withdraw by the threat of the submarine< gun armament.
  29 Sep 19410448At 0448 hours, a large motor boat was sighted at a distance of 200 metres, making the signal "P". Perla steered away, but the fishing vessel kept on coming. The submarine made as if it was entering Ceuta and the boat finally turned back toward Gibraltar.
  30 Sep 19410218
0200 (e)

(0) Near Cape de Gata.
At 0155 hours, a dark 8,000-ton ship westbound was sighted at 600 metres. Perla followed her to ascertain her direction as it appeared she was proceeding at 12 knots toward Gibraltar.

At 0218 hours, a pair of bow torpedoes (533mm, S.I. type) were fired at a range of 1,800 metres. The second torpedo veered right just after firing. Both missed. Immediately upon firing, Perla turned hard to port to present her stern and fired a third torpedo. The torpedo disappeared from sight shortly after firing and may have sunk or had an erratic run. T.V. Napp intended to continue the action with the gun,but an illuminated vessel, obviously neutral, came in between and thwarted this action, moreover, the target vessel was moving away at high speed. He have up the chase.

The target was the City of Pretoria (8,049 GRT, built 1937) travelling from Malta to Gibraltar. She heard two or three rapid shots followed by a dull explosion. She made smoke and dropped smoke floats, escaping into Spanish territorial waters.

Napp, Bruno15 Oct 19410500Cagliari16 Oct 19410950Naples272,5Passage Cagliari-Naples. Refit until December 1941.

Napp, Bruno17 Oct 19411435Naples17 Oct 19411640NaplesExercises.

Mannanici, Santo29 Dec 19411053Naples29 Dec 19411622Naples22Trials.

Celeste, Giovanni8 Jan 19420855Naples8 Jan 19421435Naples38Trials.

Celeste, Giovanni13 Jan 19420928Naples13 Jan 19421620Naples11Gyrocompass tests.

Celeste, Giovanni14 Jan 19420645Naples14 Jan 19421700Naples62Exercises with the torpedo boat Circe (equipped with S-Gerät).

Celeste, Giovanni17 Jan 19420810Naples17 Jan 19421555Naples42,5Exercises.

Celeste, Giovanni19 Jan 19421400Naples19 Jan 19421855Naples29,5Exercises.

Celeste, Giovanni24 Jan 19421740Naples24 Jan 19422210Naples21Exercises.

Celeste, Giovanni28 Jan 19420910Naples29 Jan 19420955Messina251Passage Naples-Messina.

5Celeste, Giovanni10 Feb 19421656Messina26 Feb 19421050Messina1992Patrolled off Cyrenaica within 8 miles from 34°30'N, 20°30'E, on a patrol line with Topazio, Tricheco and Malachite. On the evening of 15 February, she was shifted to 148° - 58 miles. Uneventful. Heard only hydrophone effect. T.V. Celeste was criticised for his excessive prudence.

6Celeste, Giovanni26 Mar 19421825Messina11 Apr 19420813Messina1942,5Escorted out by MAS 562 for a patrol off Cyrenaica between 34°30'N and 34°40'N, and between 22°10'E and 23°10'E. On 2nd April, was moved to a new area between 33°40'N and 34°20'N, and between 22°00'E and 22°25'E.
  28 Mar 19421510At 1510 hours, an Italian steamer escorted by a destroyer of the FRECCIA class were sighted.

Celeste, Giovanni28 Apr 19421515Naples28 Apr 19421845Naples19Exercises.

Celeste, Giovanni1 May 19421438Naples1 May 19421745Naples17,5Trials.

Celeste, Giovanni3 May 19420825Naples3 May 19421820Naples67Trials, escorted by MAS 547.

Celeste, Giovanni6 May 19420955Messina7 May 19420900Trapani229,5Passage Messina-Trapani.

7Celeste, Giovanni8 May 19422045Trapani25 May 19420720Trapani871,5Patrolled in zone K.2 (between 36°53'N and 36°57'N, and between 11°12'E and the Tunisian coast). On 17th May, was ordered to a new area between 36°20'N and 36°50'N, and between 09°20'E and 09°50'E, east of La Galite and off Cape Kelibia (Tunisia). Several French ships were sighted.
  11 May 19420355
(0) Zone K.2 or off Ras Mustafa near Keliibia (Tunisia).
At 0350 hours, a warship was sighted travelling at a speed just under 25 knots.

At 0355 hours, two torpedoes (533mm) were fired from stern tubes at a distance of 600 metres. They missed.

This was the fast minelayer HMS Welshman. She had sailed from Malta at 2130 hours, on 10th May, after delivering supplies for the beleaguered island and was on her way to Gibraltar.

T.V. Celeste was reprimanded as he had not made an enemy report immediately after his attack on the minelayer. As report was only sent at 0517 hours and, was not received by Rome, the opportunity to sink this warship was lost.

Celeste, Giovanni26 May 19421130Trapani27 May 19420825Messina210,8Passage Trapani-Messina, escorted in by the torpedo boat Abba.

Mandraffino, Ernesto10 Jun 1942Messina12 Jun 1942MessinaAt Messina. Change in command.

Ventura, Gioacchino15 Jun 19420800Messina15 Jun 19421305Messina13Exercises, escorted by the auxiliary Manas, between 38°02'N and 38°10'N, and between 15°35'E and the coast.

Ventura, Gioacchino20 Jun 19421230Messina20 Jun 19421906Messina28,5Exercises between 38°02'N and 38°10'N, and between 15°35'E and the coast.

Ventura, Gioacchino22 Jun 19420850Messina22 Jun 19421255Messina28,5Exercises between 38°02'N and 38°10'N, and between 15°35'E and the coast.

Ventura, Gioacchino24 Jun 19420810Messina24 Jun 19421250Messina29Exercises between 38°02'N and 38°10'N and 15°35'E and the coast.

Ventura, Gioacchino26 Jun 19420805Messina26 Jun 19421300Messina27,3Exercises between 38°02'N and 38°10'N and 15°35'E and the coast.

8Ventura, Gioacchino1 Jul 19421850 or 1923Messina9 Jul 1942CapturedPassage Messina-Leros, patrol in Cyprus area and then patrolled off Beirut, between 33°40'N and 36°00'N and between 32°00'E and the Syrian coast. Captured by HMS Hyacinth 15 miles south of Beirut (one killed, five officers and forty ratings taken PoWs). Became RHN Matrozos.
  2 Jul 1942091536° 52'N, 17° 44'EAt 0915 hours, a wheel of a German aircraft was seen and picked up. It appeared to be the tail wheel.
  2 Jul 19421730
(0) About 100 miles west of Navarino.
At 1730 hours, Perla carried out gunnery practice. Two 100mm and about 140 13.2mm rounds were fired.
  2 Jul 19422145
(0) About 70 miles southwest of Navarino.
At 2145 hours, a friendly submarine (possibly U-375?) was sighted. Perla took avoiding action.
  3 Jul 19420002
(0) West of Crete.
At 0002 hours, a hospital ship was sighted.
  7 Jul 19421602
(0) ?
A large motor launch apparently stopped was sighted bearing 270°. Perla steered away.

At 2000 hours, information was received of a convoy, 10 miles to the southward. The submarine steered 170° to intercept, but nothing was sighted.
  9 Jul 1942
1728C (e)

(e) 33° 50'N, 35° 19'E
At 0309 hours, Sunderland 'X' (W.3987) of 230 Squadron piloted by Flying Officer Howe, obtained a radar contact at a distance of 3 miles in 32°18' N, 34°28' E. This was a submarine and it submerged before an attack could be made.

At 1020C hours, a Blenheim of 13 Hellenic Squadron piloted by Pilot Officer Kipouros, sighted a surfaced submarine in 32°44' N, 34°30' E, steering 270° at 12-14 knots. The submarine crash-dived again, before an attack could be made.

These two sightings possibly referred to HMS Una, on passage from Port Said to Haifa, or U-372. The British submarine did not dive at the aforementioned time, but this is possibly an error somewhere. Check!

At 1728C hours, the corvette HMS Hyacinth (Lieutenant John Ivor Jones, DSC, RNR) was proceeding at 15 knots from Haifa to Beirut, when two torpedo tracks were observed from the port beam. A Walrus of 700 Squadron, piloted by Lieutenant P.C. Chorley, also sighted the tracks and passed a warning to the corvette. The warship turned immediately to port to comb the tracks and an ASDIC contact was obtained at 1,000 yards.

The attack had been made by Perla.

At 1730C hours, a first pattern of depth charges was delivered and oil patches were seen. Two more patterns followed and the submarine surfaced. The corvette immediately engaged Perla with all guns. A white flag was waved and the crew began abandoning ship. Firing was ceased and a boarding party (including the Maltese cook who spoke Italian) was sent under Lieutenant Jack Arthur Pollard, RNVR. After examination, Pollard judged that the submarine could be towed. Shortly after, the corvette HMS Gloxinia and the motor torpedo boats MTB-261 and MTB-265 arrived on the scene. The submarine was towed to Beirut by HMS Hyacinth, covered by the other vessels and by aircraft. At the entrance of the port, the tow was passed to a tug.

One rating of Perla had been killed. T.V. Gioacchino Ventura, four officers and forty ratings were taken as prisoners of war.

61 entries. 37 total patrol entries (8 marked as war patrols) and 30 events.

All Italian submarines