Regia Marina in the Western Approaches

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driftwood
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Regia Marina in the Western Approaches

Post by driftwood » 11 Jun 2020 00:09

I came across a book which claims that Italian subs from the BETASOM base spent some time hunting in the Western Approaches, in an area from approx. 51° north to 58-20 north latitude, and 17° west to 27° west longitude. I'd like to learn some more details on this, such as how long these patrols would normally last, how successful they were, what subs took part in them, and whether Italian subs continued to hunt in this area up to the armistice.

While I'm here, did any Italian subs venture into the English Chanel or the Irish Sea, either from BETASOM or other locations? I've heard the German Uboats made some forays into those waters despite the tight Allied patrols there.

LColombo
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Re: Regia Marina in the Western Approaches

Post by LColombo » 11 Jun 2020 12:47

driftwood wrote:
11 Jun 2020 00:09
how long these patrols would normally last,
Roughly a month. Some examples: Torelli sailed from Bordeaux on 5 Jan 1941, returned on 4 Feb; then sailed again on 17 April, returned 16 May. Morosini sailed on 22 Jan, returned on 24 Feb; then again from 30 Apr from 20 May. Otaria sailed on 14 Oct 40, returned 15 Nov 40; then again from 6 Feb 41 to 1 Mar 41. Baracca from 24 Oct 40 to 24 Nov 40, then from 18 Jan to 18 Feb 41. Comandante Cappellini from 18 April to 17 May.
driftwood wrote:
11 Jun 2020 00:09
how successful they were,
Not much: this was the early phase of the Italian participation in the battle of the Atlantic, when Italian submarines and crews were still unacquainted with the weather conditions and operational tactics of the Atlantic. There were some exceptions; Torelli sank four merchants totalling 17,498 GRT (Urla, Nemea, Brask, Nicolaos Filinis) in a patrol in January 1941, Bianchi sank three merchants totalling 24,222 GRT (Alnmoor, Huntingdon, Baltistan) in another in February 1941. But overall few ships were sunk in this period. Three submarines (Marcello, Comandante Faà di Bruno, Nani) were lost in this area between late 1940 and early 1941.
driftwood wrote:
11 Jun 2020 00:09
what subs took part in them,
More or less all Italian submarines that were stationed at Betasom in 1940 participated in these patrols.
driftwood wrote:
11 Jun 2020 00:09
and whether Italian subs continued to hunt in this area up to the armistice.
No, from (roughly) mid-1941 onwards Italian submarines mostly operated in the central and southern Atlantic. I don't think any Italian sub operated west of the British Isles after mid-1941.
driftwood wrote:
11 Jun 2020 00:09
While I'm here, did any Italian subs venture into the English Chanel or the Irish Sea, either from BETASOM or other locations? I've heard the German Uboats made some forays into those waters despite the tight Allied patrols there.
No, Betasom boats never operated in these areas.

driftwood
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Re: Regia Marina in the Western Approaches

Post by driftwood » 11 Jun 2020 12:53

Coming through as usual for me Colombo, many thanks.

LColombo
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Re: Regia Marina in the Western Approaches

Post by LColombo » 11 Jun 2020 13:27

Some data from "I sommergibili italiani 1940-1943" by Erminio Bagnasco and Maurizio Brescia:

In 1940 Betasom boats carried out 26 patrols in the northern Atlantic, sinking 46,210 GRT, and 31 in the central Atlantic, sinking 35,959 GRT;

In 1941, 23 patrols in the northern Atlantic (27,368 GRT sunk) and 68 in the central Atlantic (112,618 GRT sunk)

In 1942, 19 patrols in the central Atlantic (211,047 GRT sunk) and 8 off the western coast of Africa (45,880 GRT)

In 1943, 5 patrols in the central-western Atlantic (15,584 GRT) and 4 in the south-eastern Atlantic with forays in the Indian Ocean (74,077 GRT)

Most, if not all, of the northern Atlantic patrols of 1940-1941 took place in the area of the Western Approaches. Note the contrast between the merchant tonnage sunk in those patrols and that sunk in the central and southern Atlantic in 1941-1943, which is even more striking when you consider that the overall number of Betasom boats had dwindled in the meantime (as half of the subs returned to the Mediterranean in the summer of 1941 and others were lost).

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