Italian submarines in World War Two

Michele Bianchi (BH, I.11)

TypeOcean going 
ClassMarconi (17) 
Laid down 15 Feb 1939 Odero-Terni-Orlando, Muggiano
Launched3 Dec 1939
Commissioned15 Apr 1940
End service
Loss date5 Jul 1941
Loss position45° 03'N, 4° 01'W
Fate Torpedoed and sunk on 5th July 1941 in the Bay of Biscay in position 45°03'N, 04°01'W by the British submarine HMS Tigris.


CommanderDate fromDate toCommand notes
C.C. Vittorio Carminati26 Apr 194016 Jun 1940
C.C. Adalberto Giovannini19 Jun 19407 Apr 1941
T.V. Mario Tei8 Apr 194130 Apr 1941
C.C. Franco Tosoni Pittoni15 Apr 19415 Jul 1941

Ships hit

DateCommanderShip hitTypeGRTNat.Loss type
1.14 Feb 1941C.C. Adalberto GiovanniniAlnmoorCargo ship6,573BritishSunk
2.24 Feb 1941C.C. Adalberto GiovanniniHuntingdonCargo ship10,946BritishSunk
3.27 Feb 1941C.C. Adalberto GiovanniniBaltistanCargo ship6,803BritishSunk

Patrols and events

 CommanderDateTimePortArr. dateArr. timeArr. portMilesDescription
Carminati, Vittorio9 Jun 19400740La Spezia9 Jun 19400950La Spezia2Exercises.

Carminati, Vittorio12 Jun 19400830La Spezia12 Jun 19401740La Spezia53,2Exercises.

Carminati, Vittorio13 Jun 19400905La Spezia13 Jun 19401720La Spezia50,3Exercises.

Carminati, Vittorio15 Jun 19400735La Spezia15 Jun 19401309La Spezia50,4Exercises.

Carminati, Vittorio17 Jun 19400950La Spezia17 Jun 19401255La Spezia48,2Exercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto25 Jun 19401655La Spezia26 Jun 19401920Naples347,5Passage La Spezia-Naples.

Giovannini, Adalberto2 Jul 19400915Naples2 Jul 19401655Naples48Exercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto4 Jul 19400920Naples4 Jul 19401602Naples40Exercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto6 Jul 19400910Naples6 Jul 19401635Naples40Exercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto8 Jul 19401340Naples9 Jul 19401505La Spezia347Passage Naples-La Spezia.

Giovannini, Adalberto15 Jul 19400800La Spezia15 Jul 19401748La Spezia81Exercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto24 Jul 19400800La Spezia24 Jul 19401650La Spezia43Exercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto26 Jul 19400755La Spezia26 Jul 19401821La Spezia76Exercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto28 Jul 19400800La Spezia28 Jul 19401558La Spezia7,5Exercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto30 Jul 19400550La Spezia30 Jul 19401226La Spezia7,3Exercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto31 Jul 19401330La Spezia31 Jul 19401646La Spezia4Exercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto3 Aug 19400800La Spezia3 Aug 19401811La Spezia6Exercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto6 Aug 19400450La Spezia6 Aug 19401907La Spezia15Exercises.

1Giovannini, Adalberto13 Aug 19402100La Spezia7 Sep 19400907La Spezia2027Patrolled off Gibraltar, between Gibraltar meridian, Spanish coast, Cape de Gata, Alboran Island and Cape Tres Forcas. The submarine had problems caused by leaks of methylene chloride fumes, emanating from her air conditioning unit.
  25 Aug 19400603
(0) Off Europa Point (Gibraltar) and Cape de Gata.
In the receding daylight, Michele Bianchi had made several sightings, mostly of presumed Spanish merchant and fishing vessels.

At 0558 hours, a small warship, of the BARRICADE class or sloop, was sighted and T.V. Giovannini ordered a single torpedo fired. Due to a misunderstanding, two were fired (533mm, G.I.H. type) from a distance of 500 metres. Two explosions were heard in the torpedo room, but nowhere else.
  2 Sep 19401230-1301
(0) Near Alboran and Tre Forcas.
At 1230 hours, two ACASTA class destroyers were sighted. C.C. Giovannini had intended to fire two torpedoes from the stern tubes, but the submarine was detected. Bianchi was taken down to 80 metres and was shaken by five depth charges at 1301 hours. At 1308 hours, six depth charges exploded at a distance, followed by four more at 1314 hours. The submarine escaped by going down to 124 metres.

These were actually the destroyers HMS Wishart and HMS Velox. The latter attacked the submarine. Bianchi had been sighted at 1020 hours by an aircraft and the destroyers were sent to investigate.

At 2307 hours, the submarine surfaced to an empty horizon.

Giovannini, Adalberto16 Oct 19400900La Spezia16 Oct 19401718La SpeziaExercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto18 Oct 19400725La Spezia18 Oct 19401905La SpeziaExercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto19 Oct 19400705La Spezia19 Oct 19401731La Spezia56Exercises with submarine H.6 in position 273° - Bonassola steeple - 5' [mileage reported by H.6 as 56 miles].

Giovannini, Adalberto25 Oct 19401330La Spezia25 Oct 19401815La SpeziaExercises.

2Giovannini, Adalberto27 Oct 19401900La Spezia3 Nov 19401912 (1810 local time)Tangiers927Passage to Bordeaux, Damaged near Gibraltar by strong current on the bottom (went down to 150+ meters), she took refuge in Tangiers. Passed Gibraltar on 3rd November 1940.
  3 Nov 19400220-0423
(0) Straits of Gibraltar.
At 0105 hours, Bianchi entered the Straits of Gibraltar at a depth of 90 metres.

At 0220 hours, an enemy destroyer was hunting her.

At 0355 hours, the enemy vessel appeared to be using a towing mine (British destroyers did not use them) and dropped five depth charges but left the area at 0423 hours.

Encountering very strong currents, Bianchi had gone down to various depths, reaching 118 metres, 142 metres and a little over 150 metres. The submarine was short of air and had difficulty in steering manually, as the Calzoni system had to be shut down because of its noises.

On surfacing, a destroyer was sighted at 6,000 metres and with little time to renew its air supply, Bianchi proceeded to enter Tangier.

3Giovannini, Adalberto13 Dec 19400248Tangiers19 Dec 19401303Le Verdon1150Sailed for Bordeaux with submarine Benedetto Brin. Both submarines eluded the only British trawler in surveillance, as the destroyers had all been sent on Operation RATION. At the dawn of the 15th, sighted the submarine Velella and exchanged signals.

Giovannini, Adalberto19 Dec 19401925Le Verdon19 Dec 19401920Pauillac27Passage Le Verdon-Pauillac.

Giovannini, Adalberto20 Dec 19400954Pauillac20 Dec 19401456Pauillac50Exercises.

Giovannini, Adalberto22 Dec 19401057Pauillac22 Dec 19401405Bordeaux25Passage Pauillac-Bordeaux.

Giovannini, Adalberto1 Feb 19410945Bordeaux1 Feb 19411554Le Verdon53Passage Bordeaux-Le Verdon.

Giovannini, Adalberto2 Feb 19410855Le Verdon2 Feb 19411620La Pallice55Passage Le Verdon-La Pallice.

4Giovannini, Adalberto5 Feb 19411750La Pallice4 Mar 19411430Pauillac4436Patrolled off Ireland (1) in zone E between 54°00'N and 55°00'N, and between 18°00'W and 20°00'W (2) from 14th February, in zone C between 56°00'N and 57°00'N, and between 15°00'W and 23°00'W (3) from 19th February, in zone A between 58°45'N and 59°30'N, and between 15°00'W and 25°00'W and then chasing convoys.
  14 Feb 1941032255° 16'N, 19° 07'W
(0) Approximately.
At 0145 hours, Bianchi had just entered zone C, when a dark vessel was sighted steering on a NE course.

At 0322 hours, a single torpedo (450mm) was fired from a bow tube at a distance of 600 metres. It appeared to miss closely ahead or perhaps to have passed under. The submarine maneuvered to gain a more favourable position ahead.

This was the British Alnmoor (6,573 GRT, built 1922). She had sailed from Halifax on 31st January 1941 for Glasgow. She disappeared during that period, she was last heard of on 10th February in 51°26' N, 29°03' W.

At 0436 hours, a pair of torpedoes (533mm) were fired from bow tubes at a distance of 700 metres. The vessel was hit and sank, stern first, in 65 seconds.

Forty were killed, there were no survivors.

It has been suggested that it was the British Belcrest (4,517 GRT, built 1939), a straggler of convoy S.C.21, which sailed from Halifax on 31st January for Newport (UK) and would have likely passed south of Ireland. Belcrest was probably sunk by U-101 on 15th February 1941 and Holystone (5,462 GRT, 1927) by U-123. The latter had sailed from Oban for Halifax. (Special thanks to David Sibley for solving this case)
  14 Feb 1941045255° 16'N, 19° 07'W
(0) Approximately.
At 0452 hours, a dark ship was sighted steering NW. It must have witnessed the sinking of Alnmoor and escaped in a rain squall.
  21 Feb 1941130058° 55'N, 16° 15'WAt 1300 hours, Bianchi altered course to intercept a convoy reported by BETASOM some 70 miles away.

On her way, an Italian submarine was sighted at 1945 hours (perhaps Marcello?) Bianchi then crossed the presumed course of the convoy, first at 2245 hours and again at 0045 hours on 22nd February without sighting anything.
  22 Feb 1941111657° 46'N, 17° 41'W
(0) Approximately.
At 1116 hours, a periscope was sighted. Bianchi took altered course to avoid it. Later in the afternoon, she heard some 40 depth-charges in the distance.
  23 Feb 19412256
2346 (e)
59° 29'N, 20° 43'W
(e) 58° 13'N, 21° 33'E
At 1745 hours, a steamer was sighted on the horizon. Five minutes, later a 750-ton German submarine was seen at 1,500 metres, apparently maneuvering to attack the same target.

At 2245 hours, the German boat (this was U-107 under KK Günter Hessler ), had succeeded in torpedoing the vessel but she did not sink.

This was the Ocean Boarding Vessel HMS Manistee (5,360 GRT, built 1920) from O.B. 288. She signalled to the Admiralty: "HAVE BEEN STRUCK BY TORPEDO ON PORT SIDE POSN. IS 058°13' NORTH 021°33' WEST 2145/23".

At 2256 hours, Bianchi fired a torpedo (533mm) from a distance of 600 metres. Giovannini claimed it hit the stern and she was abandoned although this appears to be doubtful. Manistee made another signal: "MAKING WATER IN MAIN BUNKER, COURSE 060° SPEED 6 KNOTS. DAMAGE AT PRESENT UNDER CONTROL. 2245/23".

The next morning, Manistee was finished off by U-107. There were no survivors (141 missing).
  24 Feb 19410437
0235 GMT (e)
59° 55'N, 21° 03'WAt 0345 hours, a large vessel was sighted zigzagging, steering 230°. Bianchi took a parallel course to intercept. The vessel was described as very similar to the British Adrastus (7,936 GRT, built 1923).

At 0437 hours, a pair torpedoes (450mm, W 200 type) were fired from the stern tubes at 6-700 metres. Nothing was heard or observed, but she was in fact hit and the crew was abandoning ship.

Most likely this was the British Huntingdon (11,509 GRT, 1922) zigzagging on mean course 200° bound from Glasgow to Freetown after convoy O.B. 288 had dispersed. She reported torpedoed at about 0235 hours GMT and abandoned ten minutes later. There were no casualties. The survivors were picked up by the Greek Papalemos and landed at Horta (Azores).

At 0529 hours, a third torpedo (450mm, W 200 type) was fired from a bow tube from a distance of 400 metres. It hit in the forward hold. At 0545 hours, the vessel sank bow first.

At 1011 hours, the submarine went deep to reload and heard 28 depth charges (1119-1416 hours) followed by another 17 (2000-2149 hours).

It has been suggested that her victim may have been Waynegate later sunk by U.-73 in 58°01' N, 21°47' W. All forty-four of her crew were rescued (thirty-nine by the French destroyer Léopard at 0900 hours on the 24th. Or perhaps, Linaria later sunk by U-96 in 61°25' N, 25°00' W at 0116 hours (GST).
  26 Feb 19410200At 0200 hours, Bianchi received a signal from BETASOM reporting a convoy. This was followed by six more signals, the last one at 2308 hours. She altered course to intercept.
  27 Feb 1941033253° 54'N, 14° 30'WAt 0145 hours, a large vessel was sighted proceeding at high speed without zigzagging.

At 0332 hours, a pair of torpedoes (450mm, W 200 type) from the bow tubes at 1,500-1,600 metres. They missed. C.C. Giovannini did not see nor hear an explosion but was under the impression that the target had slowed down. The vessel reportedly dropped three depth-charges and was lost in the mist.

This may have been British Empire Ability (7,603 GRT, built 1931).
  27 Feb 19410516
0315 (e)
53° 50'N, 14° 35'WAt 0447 hours, a dark vessel was sighted zigzagging.

At 0516 hours, a torpedo (533mm, S.I. type) was fired from a stern tube at 600 metres. It hit the vessel with a loud explosion under the aft mast and she sank.

This was the British Baltistan (6,803 GRT, built 1937) who was identified by the submarine from her SOS. She had been with convoy O.B. 290, but her position gave her as 90 miles ahead of the convoy.

Fifty-one were killed. Eighteen of the twenty survivors were rescued by the destroyer HMS Brighton and landed on 4th March 1941 at Plymouth, but two had died and were buried at sea.
  27 Feb 19410540At 0540 hours, a dark vessel was sighted at 2,000 metres. Bianchi maneuvered for a stern attack as she had only one torpedo in the forward tubes. However, the vessel was acting suspiciously and C.C. Giovannini decided to take his submarine deep to reload. She had now one 533mm torpedo in a bow tube, one 450mm and two 533mm torpedoes in the stern tubes and one 533mm reserve torpedo aft.

Giovannini, Adalberto5 Mar 19410833Pauillac5 Mar 19411030 or 1204Bordeaux24Passage Pauillac-Bordeaux.

Tei, Mario8 Apr 1941Bordeaux30 Apr 1941BordeauxRefit.

5Tosoni Pittoni, Franco2 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.

6Tosoni Pittoni, Franco4 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.

53 entries. 35 total patrol entries (6 marked as war patrols) and 23 events.

All Italian submarines