German Sonar on Italian Vessels – Pt. 3

In the third and, for the moment, final part of this mini series on the use of German S-Geraet sonar on Italian vessels, here is a list of the vessels which had it installed, or were scheduled for installation, as of 28 February 1942. The list excludes Antonio da Mosto, which had been sunk by that date (see this link and this link and this link).

The list is fairly self-explanatory. I am using the Italian abbreviations, so ‘Ct’ stands for Cacciatorpediniere – Destroyer, and ‘Tp’ for Torpediniere, Escort Destroyer or Torpedo Boat. The destroyers listed are an interesting mix, and five were going to be assigned to the Italian fleet following the installation of the S-Geraet. They included the older Navigatori class, of the late 1920s, and the most modern fleet destroyers of the Soldati class.

The Torpediniere are also a bit of a mix, primarily Spica class, but with two older vessels included, the San Martino and the Calatafimi, both of which dated back to WW I destroyer designs and had only recently been downgraded to Torpediniere status. Unlike the destroyers, most of the Torpediniere were going to be assigned to specific stations, Sicily (4), Libya (3), Greece (2), Rhodes (2), Naples (1), and the escort group (1).

A number of destroyers and Torpediniere have no destination allocated to them.

In the table, ‘DC’ stands for depth charge. For Italian depth charges installed, where it reads ‘0 16/50 12/100’, this means ‘no depth charge launcher, 16x50kg depth charges and 12x 100kg depth charges’. For background on the Italian depth charges, please see this link. I am not certain the information in the report is fully correct, but it is given as is.

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Destroyers Usodimare and da Noli in port, late 1930s. The picture shows well the range finder, rounded bridge house, and the twin-turret with its 4.75” (12cm) guns. Courtesy Wikipedia.


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San Martino entering a port. Courtesy Wikipedia

Apart from the naval vessels, some auxiliaries were also equipped with the S-Geraet, for harbour defense in La Spezia and Taranto, and two motor sailing vessels (Motoveliere) for serving with the submarine defense school at La Spezia, to train new personnel. The only vessel where the future port of service isn’t given is the Cyprus.

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Use of German Sonar on Italian vessels – Pt. 2

In a previous post (at this link) I had written about the use of German sonar (S-Geraet) and depth charges by the Italian navy, the Regia Marina. This commenced at the end of 1941, and gave the Regia Marina an important new capability in providing convoy defense on the North Africa route, which led to some quick successes, such as the sinking of HMS P-38 (see also this link). A technical description of the history and functioning of the S-Geraet can be found at this link.

In the post below, I have translated a report of the Special Command of the German navy, the Kriegsmarine, which was charged with the task of overseeing the operation of the German equipment on the Italian vessels. The document is from the war diary of the German Liaison Staff at the Admiralty of the Royal Italian Navy, and can be found in NARA under T-1022 Roll 2481.

Overview of the Activity Carried Out Thus Far by the Special Command for the Installation and Deployment of German S-Geraete on Units of the Royal Italian Navy

(Commenced 17 November 1941)

1.) Introduction followed proposals made by Chief Naval Liaison Command to Italian Navy during July 1941.

2.) Exectution

a) Personnel:

1 Officer (Commander Ahrens)

1 Chief Petty Officer[1]

3 Non-Commissioned Officers from the Submarine Defense School Gotenhafen[2]

Furthermore listening crew (from destroyer Lody, strength 1/4[3] from beginning November to mid-December on Torpedo Boat (Torpediniera) Castore, and
listening crew strength 1/4 on destroyer Da Mosto from beginning November to 1 December. 3 other ranks were killed when the boat was sunk. The NCO and one man remain at the disposal of the Special Command.

b) Activity:

At the start of the activity:

Clearance of specific questions of detail concerning submarine defense with the relevant Italian offices, especially Admirals Strazzari and Da Zara. Determination of equipping Italian vessels with S-Geraet installed with German depth charges and depth charge throwers.

Instruction of Italian crew and shore personnel in various naval stations about installation and maintenance of the German depth charges.

Schooling of listening and depth charge crews on the units with S-Geraet installed. Carried out trials.

Instruction of all captains in all questions relating to submarine defense, especially about the method of attack. Participation in combat missions.

c) Successes of Italian vessels equipped with S-Geraet up to 28 February 1942.

1.) Torpedo boat Castore near Gaeta on 24 November 1941: based on S-Geraet location report evaded two torpedo trails. Carried out attack with 36 depth charges. Destruction of submarine possible.[4]
German listening crew.

2.) Destroyer Da Mosto, southern tip of Sicily, 27 November 1941: location of an unknown minefield.
German listening crew.

3.) Torpedo boat Lince, Gulf of Taranto, early December, attack on located submarine with Italian depth charges. Success questionable.
Italian listening crew and Construction Advisor Morgenstern.[5]

4.) Torpedo Boat Orsa, 115 Degrees, 63 nautical miles off Sfax on 7 January 1942. Attack on located submarine with 30 German depth charges. Success: initially strong aural location ceases; location continues to show in large oil slick. Location of attack had to be left early to ensure protection of the escorted steamer.[6]
Italian and German listening crew, directed by Commander Ahrens.

5.)  Torpedo boat Sagittario at Cape Ducato on 8 February 1942. Evaded torpedo. Enemy submarine rammed, has to be considered destroyed. Torpedo boat heavy damage on the bow.
German and Italian listening crew.[7]

6.) Torpedo boat Circe on 13 February 1942: located enemy submarine was fixed for six hours. Submarine surfaces after 3 attacks with German depth charges; 23 prisoners made. Attempt to bring her in fails, boat sinks. English submarine “Tempest”.
German and Italian listening crew.

7.) Torpedo boat Pallade at Capo dell’Armi on 16 November 1942. Located submarine attacked in three runs with 45 German depth charges. At water depth of 1,600m signal ceases after final attack. Oil slick of 1,000 x 2,000 m.
German and Italian listening crew, directed by Commander Ahrens.

8.) Torpedo boat Circe at Ras Hallab on 23 February 1942. During escort of convoy attacking submarine is located and periscope is sighted. 10 depth charges dropped on diving location. Submarine surfaces briefly, twice, and finally sinks. Bag with flags, parts of interior (door of cupboard, tabletop), cans of biscuits and cigarettes as well as human body parts come up. Large oil slick. Continuous rising of air bubbles.
German and Italian listening crew.

d) Intended equipping of Italian naval and merchant units

Delivered:

1.) 29 S-Geraete of which one fixed in Spezia. One further S-Geraet lost when destroyer da Mosto was sunk.

2.) 40 depth charge throwers, 72 reloading installations, 20 depth charge rails, 60 single depth charge holders.

3.) 4,000 depth charges Type Dora

2,000 depth charges Type Fritz

1,500 stamps and cartridges for depth charges WB D60m and WB F40m.

By 28 February 1942, 10 Italian torpedo boats and 1 destroyer as well as 9 auxiliary vessels have been equipped with the S-Geraet.

For equipping further Italian naval units with S-Geraet, see attached list, Appendix 17.[8]

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R.N. Pallade, a Spica-class, Alcione sub-class Torpedo Boat, photographed pre-war. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

[1] Oberfeldwebel

[2] Ubootabwehrschule (UAS)

[3]1 NCO, 4 other ranks

[4] There is no submarine loss recorded for this day, and no attack in the region of Gaeta either. I used the ASA database at this link for checks.

[5] Baurat, a German civil servant grade. I have not verified this attack.

[6] This was not actually a successful attack – see this link, in particular comments below.

[7] The submarine was HM/Sub Proteus (N29), and while she was damaged, it appears she came off better than Sagittario. Details from the crew of HM/Sub Proteus can be found at this link.

[8] This will follow in another post.

British and US tank deliveries to Egypt July 1941 to January 1942

In previous posts I have provided information on German (at this link) and Italian (at this link) tank deliveries to North Africa. At the request of David, here’s an overview of tank reinforcements sent to Egypt. It is broken down by convoy, except for the US deliveries, for which this information is not available. Here instead I have used the closest report to month end (they were issued weekly to the Prime Minister), taken the ‘in theatre’ number for that report, and substracted the ‘in theatre’ number for the previous month-end report. So e.g. for end July 40 M3 Light are reported ‘in theatre’, while for end August 109 are reported. August deliveries are therefore 69. It’s not perfect, but in the absence of convoy information it’s the best I can do. I hope readers find this useful.

What is clear from the table below is that the allied supply chain outdelivered the Axis chain by a very considerable margin during this period. In fact, it delivered more tanks in these six months than the Germans managed in the more than two years they shipped tanks to North Africa! The convoys that did this were the W.S. series (nicknamed ‘Winston Specials’). You can find detailed information about the movements and arrival times at this link or at this link. I noted in particular the delivery of 60 M3 light tanks on W.S.12, the only ones to come to Egypt via the UK. I wonder who decided on that…

What is shocking however is to compare the number of deliveries with the number of tanks operational on 7 February, in this older post, and that is where it becomes clear why this high level of deliveries was desparately needed to stay in the game in North Africa.  With 1,184 tanks delivered, and another 356 on hand, substracting the 100 that had been sent to Burma with 7 Armoured Brigade, but adding another 66 M3 Medium that had arrived in the interim, leaves a total of 1,506. Yet on 7 February only 350 were operational, i.e. less than had been operational on 2 July 1941, while another 893 were estimated to undergo repairs and maintenance, and 36 M3 Light were with 10 Armoured Division in Palestine, making for an estimated total of 1,279. This implies 227 total losses, but this was quickly revised upwards, to an estimate of 390 (180 Crusader (sic!), 130 M3 Light, 80 I-tanks). I believe to these losses have to be added the losses of 7 Armoured Brigade and 1 R.T.R., which were equipped with older Cruiser marks, and this would increase losses by another up to 150. By 9 February GHQ M.E. had decided that older Cruiser marks were no longer considered for the tank strength return, since they had become obsolete and/or so worn out not to matter anymore on the battlefield. Total losses of about 540 cruiser and I-tanks sounds believable to me.

In terms of types, I would guess about half of the UK I-tank deliveries would have been Matilda II, the other half Valentines. For the British cruisers, most if not all of them would have been Crusaders, I would guess.

Convoy

 

Month of Arrival

M3 Light (Medium)

UK Cruiser

I-Tank

Light Tank Mk. VI

Armoured Cars

W.S.8b 07/41 12 14
W.S.8x 07/41 50 50
W.S.9 07/41 20 20 251
US 07/41 402
W.S.10 08/41 21 30 251
US 08/41 69
W.S.10x 09/41 1663
US 09/41 53
W.S.114 10/41 30 60 35 501
US6 10/41 152(2)
W.S.12 11/41 60 124 52 35 831
US6,7 11/41 9(1)
US6 12/41 97(11)
W.S.12z 01/42 55 381
Totals  By type 480(14) 478 226 65 221
Totals 1,184 tanks
227 Light tanks and ACs

1 Humber Armoured Cars (probably Mk. I), could also include a small number of Daimler Armoured Cars

2 Includes 4 M2A4, mentioned here for completeness.

3 22 Armoured Brigade

4  Remainder 1 Armoured Division

5 AA tanks with Besa Quad MG mounts, belonging to 1 Armoured Division, but lent out on arrival to 1 Army Tank Brigade.

6 Number in brackets are M3 Medium tanks received in theatre during the month.

7 8 M3 Light reported as ‘lost at sea’

On a side note, Churchill was not a happy man about the situation with conflicting tank strength reports, as shown by this rather cranky note of his:

Prime Minister’s Personal Minute – Serial No. D223/1

Colonel Jacob.

Where are the 120 odd [tanks] which were to have arrived on the 8th [July], and where are the rest of the first 60 Americans? Why did the Minister of State say the other day “We have only 100 tanks fit for action” when you show 211? Are these figures telegraphed from Cairo, or do you make them up here, or do the War Office.

W.S.C.

23. 7. 41

Colonel Jacob probably thought ‘Ouch!’ when he read this.’ His reply then explained the matter a bit further, and is quite clear in what probably went on regarding the difference, explaining that the difference probably related to tanks unloaded from W.S.8(b) and (x), but not yet received by a depot in the Delta, tanks undergoing minor repairs, and excluding the tanks in Tobruk. Still, poor Colonel Jacob could probably have done without this…

Armoured Vehicle Arrivals in North Africa in 1942

I have turned a post by member Lupo on the Axis History Forum (at this link) into a more readable table, which readers may find of interest.

To complete deliveries in the CRUSADER period, add 45 German tanks (from convoy operation M.42) and 24 Italian tanks to the January 5 convoy. See also this older entry at this link.

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Italian Naval Vessels in Convoy Escort during CRUSADER

During CRUSADER a range of Italian naval vessels were engaged in protecting traffic across the Mediterranean. The aim of this post is to give a short overview of some selected types were involved and what their capabilities were. The focus is primarily on the smaller escort vessels, but I give some information on the work of the cruisers and battleships as well. One thing that is not well understood is that the Regia Marina made an all-out effort to support the forces in North Africa, even risking battleships in the close escort role.  But all the heroism and dedication of the Italian sailors could not overcome the odds stacked against them by ULTRA interception of their messages, failure to subdue Malta, and a lack of fuel hampering operations throughout.

One area that took me by surprise was how advanced the Regia Marina was compared to the Royal Navy in the area of anti-aircraft (AA) defense of its vessels.  All the small units had multiple light AA guns and AA MGs from 1936 onwards, maybe because of the experience made during the Spanish civil war.  By comparison, even British destroyers planned in the late 1930s had weak close-in AA armament, consisting of a single 4-barrel Pompom gun and a single high-angle gun, but their main armament was able to fire at high angles for AA defense, even though the 4.7″ gun on the L-class was not able to fire at very high elevations above 50 degrees. It appears from this site with information on the Italian 120mm and 100mm destroyer/torpedo boat guns, that these were not able to fire at very high elevations, which made them less useful for AA work.  I suspect a difference in design philosophy here, but would welcome comments on this. It is interesting to note that both navies significantly increased close-in AA capabilities after the start of the war.

In terms of their main armament, the Italian destroyers went for a higher number of guns (six versus four)  than the Royal Navy did at the time, maybe because of their proposed role of chasing around the much more heavily armed French ‘super’-destroyers of the Chacal and Guepard classes (5x 130mm and 5x 138mm, respectively)  which came into service at the same time as the Navigatoris.   But the arrangement in a twin-turret seems not to have been ideal, especially since the Italian 120mm used 2-piece ammunition, while the British guns were QF type with single-piece ammunition. This is easier to handle, and makes a significant difference in rate of fire, especially on smaller vessels subject to being affected significantly by swell.

Spica-class Torpedo Boats (Italian description here)

This was a large class of small escort vessels built from the mid-1930s onwards which served prominently on the convoy route, typical workhorses of any navy, doing lots of the dreary work and being recognised very little for it. They were produced in four sub-classes: Spica (2 vessels, sold to Sweden in 1940 and endearingly named Romulus and Remus); Climene (8); Perseo (8); and Alcione (17).  Their standard displacement was of 650-680 tons, with full load displacement of 1,100 – 1,200 tons, and a crew of 116. Their closest equivalent in the Royal Navy in terms of their role would probably be the Hunt-class destroyer escorts even though these were slightly larger and better armed.  The Spica’s main armament consisted of 3x100mm guns (one forward, two aft), plus AA guns, torpedoes and depth charges. Later in the war they shipped very considerable AA protection. They also had the ability to lay up to 20 mines. Like all Italian vessels, they were built for a relatively high top speed of 34 knots (compare that to the 27 knots of the Hunts).

Notable events with these vessels during CRUSADER include the sinking of the German steamers Maritza and Procida on 24 November, who were escorted by Lupo (under the command of the famous Commander Mimbelli) and Cassiopeia, which engaged in a firefight with the far superior Royal Navy Force K but failed to safe their charges from destruction.  On 11 December Alcione was damaged so severly by torpedoes from HM Submarine Truant off Crete that she had to be beached and was declared a total loss (you can see a picture of Alcione being hit at this link). By the time of CRUSADER these units or at least some of them may have received German active sonar.

Orsa-class Torpedo Boats (Italian description here)

A class of four based on the Spica-class and with a difference in armament. The Orsas lost one of the 100mm guns and made up for this with enhanced anti-submarine capability (four launchers instead of two) and endurance.  Their initial AA armament was weak, with only 4x 13.2mm HMGs, and they carried four torpedo launchers.  The Orsas displaced 1,016/1,600 tons, had a crew of 154 and a top speed of 28 knots, considerably slower than the Spicas.  They participated in convoy protection throughout CRUSADER, and none were lost during this period. Two of the Orsas were lost in 1943, while the other two served to mid-1960s with the Italian navy. They are significant because they were the first Italian vessels to carry active sonar for submarine hunting.

Orsa Class TB side view - from the Italian Navy Website

Orsa Class TB side view - from the Italian Navy Website

Pegaso, Orsa-class TB - from Italian Navy Website

Pegaso, Orsa-class TB - from Italian Navy Website

Navigatori-class Destroyers (Information in Italian)

These were a class of 12 units of relatively large fleet destroyers (in the Royal Navy terminology) of about 2,400 tons standard and 2,700 tons full displacement, named after famous Italian seamen of the past, the Navigators.  Their crew consisted of 173 officers and sailors.  They were at first called light souts (esploratori leggeri) by the Regia Marina, indicating the role they were supposed to serve in while working with the battle fleet.  While designed for very high speeds of 38 knots (with Antonio Pigafetta reaching 41.6 knots during her trial) they were supposed to be very fast, but after rebuilding in the late 1930s they were apparently reduced to 28 knots (with the exception of two smaller ones, still capable of doing 33 knots),  and relabeled later as destroyers. The rebuilt was necessary because as designed the ships had stability problems, and quite radical measures were taken to (successfully) address this.  My guess is from the rebuilt on they were mostly supposed to work as convoy escorts, since they would have struggled to keep up with most cruisers and battleships of the Regia Marina and the change in armament reflects this as well.  They were originally armed with 6x120mm guns in three twin turrets arranged forward/centre/aft, 2x40mm and 8×13.2mm (in four twin-mounts) for AA defense, 6x torpedo tubes in two sets of three (reduced to 2×2 later) and mine-laying gear with an ability to carry 56 mines. They did not have anti-submarine capabilities at first, but received two depth-charge launchers when they were rebuilt for stability reasons. At the time of their construction they had  a relatively strong armament for destroyers, while the later armament was much more of an alround nature.

Notable events involving Navigatori include the sinking of the large tanker Iridio Mantovani on 1 December. This was escorted by Alvise da Mosto. Its captain, Commander dell’Anno decided to fight it out, and had his ship blow up under him.

 

Side view of a Navigatori - from the Italian navy website

Side view of a Navigatori after rebuilding - from the Italian navy website

 

Alvise da Mosto - from the Italian Navy website

Alvise da Mosto - from the Italian Navy website

Dardo-class (2nd) Destroyers (Information in Italian)

This was the second evolution of the first modern destroyers designed as such after the Great War.  The class consisted of four units, armed with 4x120mm in two turrets, 4x40mm AA guns (WW1 designs by Vickers, later replaced by 8x20mm HMGs) and 6x torpedo tubes in two sets of three (after 1940, but probably not by the time of CRUSADER the aft launcher is replaced with 4x37mm AA guns and 2x depth charge launchers, reflecting the increased emphasis on convoy work and the need to provide more AA protection). They were capable of carrying 60 mines and had a crew of 156 with a displacement of 1,650 standard, 1,920 full load, comparable to the Royal Navy’s L-class designed at the end of the 1930s.  The Dardos had problems with stability and sea-keeping.

The most notable event during the CRUSADER period was the sinking of Fulmine by Force K in the battle of the Beta, aka Duisburg convoy during the night 8/9 November.

Dardo 2nd Class Views - from Italian Navy Website

Dardo 2nd Class Views - from Italian Navy Website

Fulmine - from Italian Navy Website

Fulmine - from Italian Navy Website

Maestrale-class Destroyers (Information in Italian)

Another class of fleet destroyers based on the Dardo class, smaller than the Navigatori and built after them in a class of four units.  They displaced about 2,000 tons standard and 2,250 tons full load. As a consequence had weaker armament, of only 4x12cm in two turrets fore and aft, with 2 torpedo launchers in the centre, and from 1936 had very strong AA armament of 8x20mm MGs and a 37mm gun. They were capable of a high speed of 38 knots as well, and carried a crew of 168. Unlike the Navigatori they were apparently not able to lay mines.  They were not very stable, and one of the class, Scirocco, was lost in a storm at the 2nd battle of Sirte in March 42.

The most notable event during the CRUSADER period is the sinking of Libeccio by HM Submarine Upholder after the battle of the Beta convoy, while she was picking up survivors.

Camicia Nera or Soldati-class Destroyers (1st) (Information in Italian)

These were the most modern of the Italian destroyers, relatively large, well-armed, and fast at 39 knots. They displaced 2,140/2,460 tons, had a crew of 187, carried 6x120mm, 8x20mm, 6x torpedo launchers in two sets of three, and could deploy 52 mines. During CRUSADER their primary role was to act as protection for the heavy cruisers and the battle fleet and they sortied only together with these as far as I know.  None were lost during this battle.

Light Cruisers (Information in Italian)

Three light cruisers figured prominently during CRUSADER.  Cadorna ran petrol across the Mediterranean in December 1941 as part of the emergency programme.  The Condottieris were designed as lightly armoured scout cruisers, sacrificing protection for speed, and their appearance begat a race on the part of the French and British navies to develop powerful destroyers to counter them. But in wartime reality it was difficult to find a role for these cruisers with the battle-fleet, and unlike the Royal Navy the Regia Marina did not have many opportunities to employ light cruisers in what amounted to roving commissions or on small stations, so the Condottieri found themselves used to protect convoy traffic or to undertake emergency deliveries of supplies. They were well armed with 8x152mm and 6x100mm, as well as 16x AA (8x37mm, 8×13.2mm) , 4x torpedo launchers, and carried 2 seaplanes. They displaced 6,571/6,950 tons and were capable of 37 knots on paper (although real speed may have been slower), with a crew of 507.

The most notable events involving Condottieris during CRUSADER occured when Da Barbiano and da Giussano were caught by a group of British and a Netherlands destroyer on the night of 13 December while trying to do the same, and were sunk with heavy loss of life.   The more modern and comparatively well-armoured Condottieri-class Duca degli Abruzzi participated in the escort of the convoy on 19 November, and was torpedoed and damaged by aircraft from Malta.

Heavy Cruisers (Information in Italian)

Heavy cruisers played a role in the Beta convoy operation, with both Trento and Trieste part of the distant escort. They had no effect on the battle.  Not even two weeks later, on 19 November they are at sea again in the same role, together with Gorizia. During this operation, Trieste is torpedoed by HM Submarine Upright and heavily damaged, reaching Messina only with difficulty.   Following damage on another cruiser, Duca degli Abruzzi, by an aerial torpedo attack the convoy is ordered to return to Tarento, after Force K and the British battle fleet from Alexandria are also reported to be at sea.

Battleships

All five operational battleships of the Italian navy participated in convoy protection operations during CRUSADER, and the four of them that remained operational at that date participated in the inconclusive 1st Battle of Sirte. This was an operational success of the Regia Marina however, since the Italian convoy went through unscathed, while the British Malta convoy had to turn back.

Refurbished battleships

Caio Dulio was part of the close escort of M.42.  Both Giulio Cesare and Andrea Doria were part of the distant escort during this operation.

Modern battleships

Vittorio Veneto was part of the distant escort of the M.41 convoy on 14 December, during which it was torpedoed and severely damaged by HM Submarine Urge. This led to the breaking off of the operation and rescheduling as M.42 a few days later.  Littorio then was part of the distant escort for the M.42 convoy.