Italian submarine fates

Ships hit by Italian submarines


TypeCargo ship
CountryBritish British

Date of attack14 Jan 1941Time1009
FateSunk by submarine Comandante Alfredo Cappellini (C.C. Salvatore Todaro)
Position of attack9° 00'N, 15° 19'W
Complement356 (23 dead and 333 survivors)
Notes At 0830 hours, a large steamer was sighted. After 0900 hours, the submarine had closed to 700 metres and fired a pair of torpedoes (533mm, S.I. type) from the bow tubes. They had a normal run and one appeared to be about to hit near the mast aft, but there was no explosion. The target turned away and opened fire with two guns. Cappellini followed at full speed but the enemy was maintaining a distance of about 2,500 metres. The submarine opened fire with her guns but several of the enemy's shells were falling near her. As the range began to close, Cappellini's machine guns were beginning to take a toll of the freighter's gunners.

At 0930 hours, the submarine had to briefly suspend fire as the ammunition' s hoist broke down. Shells had to be passed through the conning tower hatch.

At 0940 hours, it was now Cappellini's aft gun that broke down. Gunfire was maintained with the gun forward.

At 0950 and 0955 hours, the conning tower was hit by two shells. Tenente G.N. D.M.c. Danilo Stiepovich had just replaced a wounded gunner, when a shell fragment took off his left leg. He remained at his station, fighting to the last. He died of his wounds at 1600 hours. His dying wish had been to watch the enemy vessel sink. He was posthumously awarded the Gold Medal for his sacrifice.

This was the British Eumaeus (7,735 GRT, built 1921) proceeding independently at 13 knots from Birkenhead to Shanghai via Capetown with a crew of 91 and about 265 passengers (with 100 servicemen on board for the Far East). She was actually proceeding to Freetown to coal. She fought valiantly for two hours but ran out of ammunition and was finally brought to a halt. Survivors would report that she had been hit by at least 44 rounds.

At 1009 hours, Cappellini closed to 700 metres and fired a torpedo (450mm, A 200 type) from a bow tube. It hit under the forward mast and the vessel sank. Twenty-three were killed (eight crew members and fifteen passengers), sixty-three survivors were picked up by the trawlers HMT Bengali and HMT Spaniard who arrived at the scene at 1315 hours. Walrus P.5667 (Lt. V.B.G. Cheesman, RM) of 710 Squadron, which was searching for the U-boat (this was not the Walrus which later attacked Cappellini), alighted and helped out the survivors. At 2000 hours, the destroyers HMS Isis and HMS Encounter and the A/S trawler HMT Pict arrived and picked up more survivors. In all, 305 survivors were picked up.

It had been a gruelling fight. Cappellini had one officer killed and nine ratings wounded.

Position of attack

Ships hit by Italian submarines