Italian submarines in World War Two

Italian Commanders

Franco Tosoni Pittoni

Capitano di Corvetta

Born  2 Dec 1904Trieste
Died  5 Jul 1941(36)Killed in action


  T.V.Tenente di Vascello
21 Jun 1940 C.C.Capitano di Corvetta


  Croce al merito di guerra
  Cavaliere dell'ordine della Corona d'Italia
3 Oct 1941 Medaglia d'argento al valore militare (posthumous)
2 Dec 1941 Medaglia d'argento al valore militare (posthumous)
17 May 1947 Medaglia di bronzo al valore militare (posthumous)
17 May 1947 Medaglia di bronzo al valore militare (posthumous)

Career information

ALPINO ATTILIO BAGNOLINI (T.V. C.O.): from 25.04.1940 to 30.04.1941?
Promoted to C.C. ca. 21.06.1940
MICHELE BIANCHI (C.C. C.O.): From 15.04.1941 to 05.07.1941 (sunk, Tosoni Pittoni was killed).

Commands listed for Franco Tosoni Pittoni

Submarine Type Rank From To
Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)Ocean goingT.V.25 Apr 194030 Apr 1941
Michele Bianchi (BH, I.11)Ocean goingC.C.15 Apr 19415 Jul 1941

Ships hit by Franco Tosoni Pittoni

DateSubmarineShip hitTypeGRTNat.Loss type
1.12 Jun 1940Alpino Attilio BagnoliniHMS CalypsoLight cruiser4,180BritishSunk
2.18 Sep 1940Alpino Attilio BagnoliniCabo TortosaCargo ship3,302SpanishSunk
3.19 Dec 1940Alpino Attilio BagnoliniAmicusCargo ship3,660BritishSunk

War patrols listed for Franco Tosoni Pittoni

 SubmarineDateTimePortArr. dateArr. timeArr. portMilesDescription
1.Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)6 Jun 19400110Taranto21 Jun 19401830Gallipoli1502Sailed with the submarine Tarantini to form, with Giuliani and Salpa, a barrage line 50 miles south of Gavdo, 20 miles apart. Bagnolini scored the first major success of the Italian submarine arm when she sank the light cruiser HMS Calypso on 12th June. On 16 June, T.V. Pittoni was promoted to Capitano di Corvetta.
  12 Jun 19400058
0202 (e)
34° 03'N, 24° 05'EAt 0050 hours, a dark shadow was observed. It was followed, shortly after, by another. T.V.. Franco Tosoni Pittoni believed these may have been escorting vessels and at 0056 hours, he was rewarded by the sighting of two small cruisers of the CALEDON class, proceeding at 20 knots.

At 0058 hours, Alpino Attiglio Bagnolini fired a single torpedo (533mm) from a bow tube aimed at one of the cruisers at 1,500 metres. This was a surface attack. Tosoni Pittoni was about to order the firing of a second torpedo, when the first hit and he withheld his fire and took his submarine down to 60 meters expecting to be depth-charged. He missed the main body of the Mediterranean Fleet, which passed about 2 to 5 miles to the east.

His victim was the light cruiser HMS Calypso proceeding with HMS Caledon. They were steering 310° and stationed about 6 miles on the port wing of HMS Warspite who was in company with HMS Malaya and HMS Eagle. The destroyers of the 2nd Flotilla and 14th Flotilla were screening the battle fleet ahead. They were HMS Nubian (D.14), HMS Mohawk, HMS Dainty, HMS Janus, HMS Juno, HMS Hyperion (D.2), HMS Havock, HMS Hero, HMS Hereward, HMS Hostile, HMS Hasty, HMS Ilex and HMS Imperial.

HMS Calypso was hit on the starboard side and sank at 0335. One officer and thirty-six ratings were missing. Twenty-five officers and 394 ratings were picked up. Six officers and 133 ratings by HMS Caledon, and nineteen officers and 261 ratings by HMS Dainty.

Initially, it was hard to believe the cruiser had been victim of a submarine attack since no torpedo track had been sighted and it was doubted that a submarine could have moved inside the screen undetected. The possibility of sabotage at Port Said was even entertained.

The success of T.V. Franco Tosoni Pittoni's attack had one negative side. It seem to confirm that an economy of torpedoes could be justified and it was not necessary to fire salvoes of torpedoes. Subsequent experiences would not support this view.

Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)21 Jun 19401320Gallipoli21 Jun 19401610Taranto53Passage Gallipoli-Taranto.

Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)5 Jul 19400730Taranto5 Jul 19401703Taranto47Exercises.

Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)9 Jul 19401335Taranto9 Jul 19401900Taranto6Exercises.

Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)10 Jul 19401115Taranto10 Jul 19401610Taranto28Exercises.

Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)11 Jul 19401125Taranto11 Jul 19401535Taranto24Exercises.

2.Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)12 Jul 19400800Taranto27 Jul 19401200Taranto1490Patrolled off Derna on the meridian 24°00' E within 20 miles of 34°00' N, 24°00' E on a barrage line with the submarine Giuliani. On 20th July, she was shifted 60 miles to the east.
  27 Jul 19400215
0157 (e)

(0) Off Cape Santa Maria di Leuca.
At 0215 hours, the smoke from an unidentified submarine was seen. It was believed to be Giuliani, which seems likely, as she also sighted a submarine at that time.

Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)17 Aug 19400645Taranto17 Aug 19401230Taranto24Exercises.

Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)30 Aug 19400700Taranto30 Aug 19401120Taranto6Exercises.

Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)4 Sep 19400635Taranto4 Sep 19401300Taranto22Exercises.

Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)7 Sep 19401120Taranto8 Sep 19401845Trapani415Passage Taranto-Trapani.

3.Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)9 Sep 19401850Trapani30 Sep 19401800Bordeaux2115Passage to Bordeaux. Passed Gibraltar on 13th September 1940 and patrolled between 41°00'N and 42°00'N, and between 10°00'W and the Spanish coast. Met by Sperrbrecher V at her arrival off Le Verdon and Tosoni Pittoni was invited on board for breakfast before proceeding up the Gironde. On 18th September 1940, Signor Boggio from Biella had donated a sum of 10,000 Lire to be awarded to the best submarine of the fleet. MARICOSOM had judged that it would be given to Bagnolini.
  15 Sep 19401542
1230 ? (e)

(0) 276° - Cape St. Vincent - 85 miles.
At 1542 hours, a destroyer was sighted at a distance of 10,000-12,000 metres. This may have been the destroyer ORP Garland who reported carrying out two attacks on a submarine on that day (this was Finzi ), but Bagnolini does not mention being depth-charged.
  18 Sep 19401542At 1410 hours, a steamer was sighted on the starboard beam. Bagnolini closed at full speed to position herself ahead and submerged at 1500 hours, at a distance of 4,000 metres. She was recognised as the Spanish Cabo Tortosa (3,302 GRT, built 1921). C.C. Tosoni Pittoni had considered stopping her to check her papers, but a smoke appeared on the horizon and he elected to sink her.

At 1542 hours, a torpedo (533mm, S.I. type) was fired from a bow tube at a distance of 1,500 metres. It hit after 68 seconds and she sank in an hour and a half. The Spanish Monte Ayala (2,955 GRT, built 1929) rescued the whole crew. There were no casualties.
  24 Sep 1940155541° 00'N, 9° 00'W
(0) Very approximately.
At 1555 hours, a Sunderland aircraft was seen at 2,000 metres. Bagnolini opened fire with her machine guns, emptying four magazines and claimed to have hit it. The aircraft flew away.

4.Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)24 Oct 19401100Bordeaux7 Nov 19401300Bordeaux2160Patrolled between 56°00'N and 57°00'N, and between 15°00'W and 17°00'W [between Grids 9470 and 9402], early return due to defects. Did not sight any ship.

Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)5 Dec 19401135Bordeaux5 Dec 19401615Pauillac24Passage Bordeaux-Pauillac (stopped because of defects).

5.Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)8 Dec 19401345Pauillac5 Jan 19411915St. Jean de Luz3150Sailed through 48°00'N, 17°00 W for an Atlantic patrol between 53°00'N and 54°00'N, and between 17°00'W and 20°00'W. She was depth-charged and seriously damaged when at a depth of 80 meters on 1st January 1941. Attacked by aircraft on 3rd January 1941. Went to St. Jean de Luz when the two minesweepers sent to escort her failed to show up. Actually M-10 and M-2 (from the 2nd Minesweeping Flotilla) had sailed from Royan at 1830 hours on 4th January to escort her back and were a few hours late.
  19 Dec 19402010
1914 (e)
53° 55'N, 16° 37'WAt 1750 hours, a steamer was sighted at a distance of 9,000 metres. Bagnolini closed submerged at full speed.

At 1915 hours, the vessel could no longer be seen seen throught the periscope and the submarine surfaced.

At 2010 hours, a torpedo (533mm) was fired from a bow tube at a distance estimated at 1,400 metres. It hit after 80 seconds, giving a range of 1,650 metres, and the vessel sank after 20 minutes. Due to the delay, C.C. Tosoni Pittoni had assumed that it had missed and ordered the firing of a second torpedo (533mm) 70 seconds after the first one. It missed.

The victim was the British Amicus (3,660 GRT, built 1925) detached from convoy S.C.13. She was also reported, in error, as the British Amiens (1,548 GRT, built 1918).
HMS Westcott was sent to her assistance. There were no survivors of her crew of thirty-six.
  1 Jan 19411940
1812 (e)
54° 13'N, 13° 55'WAt 1920 hours, an aircraft was sighted at a close distance which dissuaded C.C. Tosoni Pittoni from diving. He elected to remain on the surface and fight it out with his machine guns. He made a recognition signal and the aircraft circled from a distance of 3,000 metres without attacking. At 1940 hours, Bagnolini opened fire to keep the aircraft at bay.

This was Whitley 'L' bomber of 502 Squadron (Flight Lieutenant Foster) on escort duty for convoy S.L. 59. Foster reported that the submarine made the correct recognition signal (three star red cartridges) and refrained from attacking. The aircraft dropped a parachute flare and a flame float. This brought the armed trawler Northern Pride.
  1 Jan 19412135
2045 (e)
At 2050 hours, Bagnolini had detected noises with her hydrophones. The sound was picked up again at 2050 hours. It was believed to be an auxiliary cruiser.

At 2135, the ASDIC (described as "Hasting") pings were heard and C.C. Tosoni Pittoni ordered his submarine to go deep to 90 metres. The submarine had reached a depth of 85 meters when she was badly shaken by four depth-charges causing some damage. She escaped by going down to 130 meters. Water was seeping through the conning tower hatch and through the forward torpedo loading hatch. The Calzoni pump had broken down. The main gyrocompass had broken down. The manometer was unreliable and it was difficult to assess the correct depth. When the electric motors were started, flames came out from the starboard motor. Communications by phone to the different compartments was difficult. The end appeared near. Ballasts were blown and Bagnolini managed to come back to the surface after several efforts. Two warships were sighted only 200 meters away using searchlights,. Stern tube no. 8 had been readied to fire but the order had to be done vocally and the delay to execute meant that the attack failed. The submarine was illuminated by searchlights and the two enemy vessels opened fire on the submarine but the shells flew over without hitting anything. Star shells now illuminating the scene. Bagnolini was trying desperately to get away and hide behind a rain squall. One of the enemy vessels was briefly observed to be a small auxiliary cruiser and a torpedo was fired from a stern tube, followed shortly after by another one. The first torpedo appeared to hit and a small fire was observed. After this attack, the submarine managed to loose his pursuers. The following day, a careful examination was made of the submarine for all defects that had followed the depth charging. C.C. Tosoni Pittoni took stock of the situation. He requested permission from BETASOM to abort his patrol and return to Bordeaux.

The vessel was the armed trawler HMT Northern Pride. She had been escorting the convoy SL. 59 with the destroyer HMS Scimitar, the corvette HMS Mallow, and the trawlers HMT Northern Dawn, HMT Man o' War and HMT St. Elstan. A flare had been sighted which must have been the one dropped by the aircraft earlier and Mallow had ordered her to investigate. She had picked up a contact and after two runs over it, dropped six depth charges on the third run.

At 2037 hours, the U-boat was sighted trying to escape on the surface and the trawler opened fire with her 4" gun and oerlikons. She was joined in the chase by the destroyers HMS Scimitar and HMS Skate. The torpedo wakes were not observed and it is not clear which warship had been the target of Bagnolini. At the time she was wrongly attributed the sinking of the Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Derbyshire. However Derbyshire was not damaged or sunk, nor was she escorting this convoy.She survived the war.
  3 Jan 19411900-1950
1745 (e)
45° 45'N, 7° 58'WAt 1900 hours, a camouflaged aircraft , identified as a Blenheim bomber was observed coming from the southwest. At a distance of 2,000 metres, Bagnolini opened fire with her machine guns, followed by the deck gun when the opportunity arose. The aircraft circled and, at 1915 hours, carried out an attack dropping three bombs which fell about 150 metres from the submarine. At 1950 hours, the aircraft flew away.

C.C. Tosoni Pittoni mused that, in this action, he could have used light machine guns ("Fucili mitragliatore") but he had not been supplied with them at Bordeaux.

The attack had actually been carried out by Beaufort 'G' of 217 Squadron, piloted by Flight Lieutenant A.V. Hunter. It had dropped four 250-lb A/S bombs and claimed they missed the submarine by 20 to 100 yards. The bomber had also strafed the submarine, expending 1,000 rounds of machine gun ammunition. Hunter reported that the submarine fired back eight rounds with its 4.7" gun but the aim was very inaccurate. The RAF later reported that a submarine had arrived at St. Jean de Luz and assumed it had been damaged. In fact, Bagnolini had come out unscathed from this engagement and resumed her trip home.

6.Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)6 Jan 19410645St. Jean de Luz6 Jan 19411915Le Verdon140Passage St. Jean de Luz-Le Verdon escorted by German minesweepers M-2 and M-10 , At 1540 hours, they were reinforced by UJ D, UJ E and UJ 128 and later met by Sperrbrecher III. Uneventful.

7.Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)7 Jan 19411200Le Verdon7 Jan 19411630Pauillac22Passage Le Verdon-Pauillac.

8.Alpino Attilio Bagnolini (BI, I.12, UIT.22)8 Jan 19411230Pauillac8 Jan 19411630Bordeaux25Passage Pauillac-Bordeaux.

9.Michele Bianchi (BH, I.11)2 May 19411045Bordeaux28 May 19412050Bordeaux?Sailed escorted by the German minesweepers M-6 and M-21 and Sperrbrecher 16 for patrol between 53°00'N and 55°30'N, and between 20°00'W and 25°00'W. Escorted back by M-26?
  7 May 1941153049° 35'N, 18° 45'WAt 1530 hours, Bianchi, on her way to her patrol area, was informed by BETASOM (1220/7) that a German aircraft had ditched in Italian Grid 6005/41 (48°05' N, 15°35' W), some 200 miles away and she turned back to search.

The submarine arrived in the area at 0630 hours on the 8th. She searched until 1225 hours, without success. Barbarigo also joined in the search, but did not locate the aircraft either.
  9 May 1941111549° 30'N, 19° 40'WAt 1115 hours, Bianchi was informed of a convoy sighted in at 1100 hours in 54°45' N, 17°25' W, steering 250°, 8 knots and altered course to intercept.

The submarine received two further signals from Barbarigo (0315/10), the first reporting a convoy in 52°30' N, 20°40' W and the second (0545/10) in 51°50' N, 20°30' W course 180°, 10 knots, but this was some 200 miles away. At best, the submarine could make a gain of only 4 knots an hour to catch up, meaning she could not reach the area before at least 48 hours and the chase was abandoned.
  12 May 1941104556° 40'N, 24° 40'WAt 1045 hours, two fast vessels with four escort vessels were sighted steering 090°, 14 knots.

Bianchi dived, mistakenly believing that one of the escorts had sighted her and then surfaced at 1135 hours and gave chase.

At 1150 hours, she was forced to submerge again by an escort. Problems with her transmission equipment prevented the submarine from making an enemy report before 1300 hours. It was estimated that the enemy's speed was at least 12 knots, forcing the submarine to increase speed to 14 knots to keep contact.

At 1700 hours, Bianchi was forced again to submerge by an escort and this time lost contact.
  13 May 1941194555° 50'N, 24° 02'WAt 1945 hours, Bianchi altered course at 8 knots, to intercept a steamer reported by Morosini (1815/13) in 54°45' N, 21°05' W, steering 275°, 14 knots and which should have passed between Bianchi and Barbarigo during the night but nothing was sighted.
  15 May 1941073054° 20'N, 18° 30'WAt 1200 hours on 14th March, Bianchi had been ordered by BETASOM (1036/14) to proceed to form a patrol line which was to be as follow:

1. Bianchi in Italian Grid 7626/22 (54°15' N, 18°15' W).
2. Barbarigo in Grid 5828/66 (53°55' N, 17°55' W).
3. Morosini in Grid 5828/33 (53°25' N, 17°25' W).
4. Otaria in Grid 5887/61 (53°05' N, 16°05' W).

At 0730 hours on the 15th, she was forced to dive by an aircraft.

At 0815 hours, she surfaced again and resumed her chase of the convoy.
  15 May 19410915-092154° 15'N, 18° 25'W
(0) Italian Grid 5826/46.
At 0915 hours, the smokes of the convoy were sighted on the horizon. Initially, it appears to be 15 to 20 smokes. At 0921 hours, Bianchi made an enemy report and attempted to close submerged. Later, she could make out some thirty ships in two columns, steering 240°, 270° and then 300°. At 1300 hours, she finally surfaced to make a more detailed report
  15 May 19411535
1545 (e)
54° 10'N, 18° 35'WAt 1535 hours, Bianchi was still trailing the convoy, when a camouflaged aircraft was sighted coming out from the sun.

At 1545 hours, the submarine dived.

The aircraft was Wellington 'J' of 221 Squadron, piloted by Squadron Leader Montague-Smith. It had sighted the submarine as she submerged and released a stick of three depth charges. Curiously, it was only 35 minutes after diving that the depth charges were heard in the submarine.

It is unclear if these were released by the aircraft or by surface vessels as the hydrophones were unreliable, having failed to detect the convoy earlier. On this day, the destroyers HMS Winchelsea and HMS Vanquisher carried out an A/S hunt in 54°11' N, 18°57' W. The corvettes HMS Hibiscus and HMS Rhododendron did the same in 53°40' N, 19°30' W. It is possible that Bianchi was on the receiving end of either of them.
  15 May 19412230At 2230 hours, Bianchi surfaced and received an order from BETASOM (2155/15) to form a new patrol line, which was to be as follow:

1. Bianchi in Italian Grid 1820/51 (50°05' N, 21°45' W).
2. Barbarigo in Grid 1894/61 (50°05' N, 20°55' W).
3. Morosini in Grid 1826/61 (50°05' N, 18°55' W).
4. Otaria in Grid 1835/61 (50°05' N, 19°55' W).
5. Malaspina in Grid 1826/31 (50°05' N, 18°25' W).

She altered course to execute it.
  19 May 1941153054° 35'N, 24° 10'WAt 1530 hours, Bianchi received a signal from Otaria (1000/19) reporting a convoy. She could not catch up, but steered to 105° to be in a position to intercept, should the convoy alter course northward.

At 0130 hours on the 20th, a second signal from Otaria (2200/19) put the convoy in an unattainable position (51°25' N, 20°55' W), steering 090°, 8 knots. Bianchi abandoned her patrol and returned home.

10.Michele Bianchi (BH, I.11)4 Jul 19412200Le Verdon5 Jul 1941(0958)Sunk (with all hands)Sailed for patrol west of Gibraltar, escorted out by Sperrbrecher III. The submarine was to have sailed at 2045 hours on 3rd July, but was delayed (due to defects?). Her route should have taken her through 44°00'N, 15°00'W, and 33°00'N, 15°00'W then to 33°00'N, 13°00'W, where she was to patrol within 30 miles. At 1130 hours on 8th July, she was ordered to Grid 2772/11 and at 0020 hours on the 11th in Grid 85815/56. At 2030 hours on 12th July, the submarine was ordered to Grid 7596/21 (38°05'N, 20°15'W). At 1525 hours on 15th July, she was ordered to Grid 3932/33 (33°25'N, 12°25'W). Believed sunk by HMS Tigris (initially credited to HMS Severn) on 7th August. Tigris reported sinking a SQUALO-class submarine steering 295° at 12 knots at 0958 hours on 5th August in 45°03'N, 04°01'W. Eight officers, fifty-one ratings and two civilian workers killed. There were no survivors. On 13th July, BETASOM requested she acknowledge a signal but received no answer. Her loss was only disclosed by the communiqué no.688 on 20th April 1942.
  5 Jul 1941
0958 (e)
At 0941 hours, the submarine HMS Tigris (Lt. Cdr. H.F. Bone, RN) was patrolling off the Gironde, when Lieutenant Coe sighted what he initially thought to be a surface vessel, escorted by two trawlers. It was then ascertained to be an Italian submarine of the SQUALO class steering 295° at 12 knots.

At 0958 hours, Lt. Cdr. Bone ordered the firing of six torpedoes at 6-second intervals from a distance of about 3,000 yards. Explosions were heard after 168 and 169 seconds (giving a range of 3,800 yards) followed by four more after 6 minutes, which were probably torpedoes exploding on the sea bed.

Bianchi is believed to have been sunk in this attack. Eight officers, fifty-one ratings and two civilian workers perished.

33 entries. 20 total patrol entries (10 marked as war patrols) and 19 events.

Italian Commanders

Italian Submarines