Italian submarines in World War Two

Italian Commanders

Mario Leoni

Born  18 Feb 1901Trieste
Died  19 Nov 1991(90)Modena


  C.F.Capitano di Fregata


  Croce al merito di guerra
  Commendatore dell'ordine della Corona d'Italia
8 Apr 1939 Medaglia d'argento al valore militare
31 Oct 1941 Medaglia d'argento al valore militare
18 Jul 1942 Croce di guerra al valore militare
7 Nov 1942 Medaglia d'argento al valore militare
31 Dec 1942 Medaglia di bronzo al valore militare
  Croce di guerra al valore militare
13 May 1943 Medaglia di bronzo al valore militare
16 Aug 1943 Medaglia d'argento al valore militare
1 Apr 1945 Croce di guerra al valore militare

Career information

ALESSANDRO MALASPINA (C.F. C.O.): from 04.07.1940 to 23.03.1941.
From 27.12.1942, served at MARISTAT (Naval Headquarters).
Went on to command the destroyer LANZEROTTO MALOCELLO.
Joined R.S.I.

Commands listed for Mario Leoni

Submarine Type Rank From To
Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)Ocean goingC.F.4 Jul 194023 Mar 1941

Ships hit by Mario Leoni

DateSubmarineShip hitTypeGRTNat.Loss type
1.12 Aug 1940Alessandro MalaspinaBritish FameTanker8,406BritishSunk

War patrols listed for Mario Leoni

 SubmarineDateTimePortArr. dateArr. timeArr. portMilesDescription
Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)10 Jul 19400827La Spezia10 Jul 19401140La Spezia18Exercises.

Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)11 Jul 19400800La Spezia11 Jul 19401651La Spezia52Exercises.

Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)13 Jul 19400745La Spezia13 Jul 19401205La Spezia38Exercises.

Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)15 Jul 19400755La Spezia15 Jul 19401722La Spezia58Exercises.

Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)19 Jul 19400800La Spezia19 Jul 19401700La Spezia62Exercises.

Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)20 Jul 19400800La Spezia20 Jul 19401450La Spezia41Exercises.

Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)25 Jul 19400750La Spezia25 Jul 19401600La Spezia10Exercises.

1.Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)29 Jul 19400400La Spezia4 Sep 19402030Bordeaux5771Passage La Spezia-Bordeaux. Patrolled on the parallel 38°40'N between 16°50'W and 20°00'W without sighting anything. From 12th to 20th August, explored the area between 38°00'N and 40°00'N, and between 20°00'W and 30°00'W, sighting four ships. She was the first Italian submarine to reach Bordeaux. Passed Gibraltar on 3rd August 1940.
  6 Aug 19401320
(0) Off the Tage Estuary between Espichal and Cape De Roca.
At 1320 hours, a steamer was sighted proceeding North. She turned out to be the Spanish Sebastian (3,024 GRT, built 1920) from Bilbao.

Shortly after, a destroyer was sighted in the mist. She turned out to be the Portuguese Douro.
  8 Aug 1940104538° 15'N, 14° 10'WAt 1045 hours, a steamer was sighted at a distance of 7,000 metres. Malaspina closed to 4,000 metres before recognising her to be Portuguese. Nevertheless, the submarine fired a warning shot and intimate the vessel to bring her papers. This was the Portuguese motor vessel San Miguel (2,112 GRT, built 1931) on passage from New York to Lisbon. She lowered an embarkation and sent her papers. She was released upon their examination.
  12 Aug 19400620
0505 (e)
38° 07'N, 22° 58'WAt 0550 hours, a steamer was sighted. Malaspina submerged to attack. It was identified as a tanker steering 200°.

At 0620 hours, two torpedoes (533mm, S.I. type) were fired from a distance of 1600 metres and the submarine went down to 15 metres. After 70 seconds, a loud explosion was heard (C.F. Leoni thought it was a double explosion).

This was the British Tanker British Fame (8,406 GRT, built 1936). She was sailing from Avonmouth to Abadan. She had sailed with convoy OB.193, but after its dispersal, she was now travelling alone. She was damaged by a torpedo hit and brought to a stop, but she opened fire on the submarine.

Malaspina had come back to periscope depth and fired a third torpedo (450mm, W 200 type) from 600 metres, It hit the engine room. The crew was now observed to abandon ship in three lifeboats and they moved away to about a mile.

At 1045 hours, a fourth torpedo (450mm, W.200 type) was fired. It was observed to hit with a large column of water but the explosion was hardly heard in the submarine. The tanker began to sink from the stern but remained afloat.

The submarine surfaced and closed the lifeboats. The Master William George Knight was taken prisoner and was well treated. C.F. Leoni would befriend him. A friendship which endured postwar.

Malaspina was armed with two old 102mm/35 cal. guns. She fired 22 rounds into the hull of the tanker, which finally sank at 1120 hours.

Three crew members perished. Forty-four survivors were rescued by the Portuguese destroyer Dao and brought to Lisbon.
  14 Aug 1940130439° 25'N, 22° 20'WAt 1150 hours, a smoke was sighted on the horizon. Malaspina closed at 14 knots. The 7-8,000-ton vessel appeared to be armed with a 102 or 120mm gun and was steering 010° at 12 knots.

At 1304 hours, the submarine had closed to 3,000 metres and fired two torpedoes (one 533 mm S.I., one 450 mm W 200 type). They missed as the vessel took avoiding action and fired two rounds at the submarine.
  14 Aug 1940211539° 30'N, 21° 30'WAt 2115 hours, a shadow was sighted on the horizon. Malaspina closed on the surface, only to realise it was a destroyer who (apparently) fired a torpedo. Malaspina dived to 100 meters but was not attacked.
  18 Aug 19401700
1908 . (e)
39° 23'N, 21° 33'WAt 1620 hours, a steamer was sighted on the horizon steering 090°, on a parallel course with Malaspina who dived.

At 1700 hours, the distance had dropped to 800 metres and the submarine was getting ready to launch torpedoes from the stern tubes. Suddenly, the 6,000-ton vessel, turned toward the submarine as if to ram her or perhaps she was just zigzagging.

C.F. Leoni took his submarine deeper to avoid being rammed. He returned to periscope depth and watched the enemy ship showing her stern, just 200 metres away. At the same time, she fired three rounds, estimated at least of 120mm, at the submarine's periscope. These shook the conning tower violently, causing some damages such as breaking down one of the two depth manometers and confusing the other, as well as blocking the aft hydroplanes. After about 30 minutes, the vessel disappeared in the mist.

This was the Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Circassia (11,136 tons, built 1936), who fired one 6in and two 3in shells and then dropped three depth-charges.
  19 Aug 1940013939° 20'N, 21° 25'WAt 0120 hours, a dark ship was sighted at a distance of 5,000 metres steering northward. Using her diesels, Malaspina closed to 2,000 metres on the surface, then switched to her electric motors to avoid being detected.

At 0139 hours, a single torpedo (450mm, W.200 type) was fired at a distance of 1,500 metres. The target was believed to be an 8-10,000-ton vessel and the submarine dived upon firing. Because of the noise from the quick-diving tank, the hit was not heard in the control room, but only in the diesel engines room. However, the hydrophones picked up the noise of her propellers until 0153 hours, when a loud explosion was heard. It was believed that the vessel had been hit by the torpedo which caused a secondary explosion and the vessel was claimed sunk.

No allied records have confirmed such a sinking.

2.Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)9 Oct 19401420Bordeaux9 Nov 19401715Bordeaux5143Sailed for patrol between 55°20'N and 58°20'N and 23°00'W and 27°00'W (patrol report) or between 56°50'N and 58°20'N and 20°10' and 24°10'W (BETASOM).
  17 Oct 19400330
0417 (e)
53° 38'N, 21° 20'W
(0) German Grid AL 8227.
At 0330 hours, a German submarine was encountered and exchanged signals. This was U-37 (KL Viktor Oehrn).
  18 Oct 1940162556° 00'N, 23° 00'W
(0) Very approximately!
At 1625 hours, a signal from BETASOM was received. It indicated that a convoy of 15-20 steamers was seen by a U-boat (U-93?) at 1430 hours, steering 225°, 8 knots in position 59°15' N, 20°05' W. Malaspina proceeded to intercept.

Despite excellent visibility, the convoy was not seen and Malaspina abandoned the chase. Further signals arrived on the next day (by U-93 acting as beacon) and attempts were made to intercept, but these were unsuccessful until the Italian submarine sighted a vessel at 2345 hours on the 19th (see entry of 0002 hours on 20th October).
  20 Oct 19400002
0035 (e)
59° 05'N, 28° 57'WAt 2345 hours, an 8,000-ton merchant vessel was sighted on the port bow, steering 230°, 10 knots. Malaspina proceeded to attack on the surface.

At 0002 hours, a torpedo (533mm, S.I. type) was fired from a distance of 1,000 metres. Shortly after, a second torpedo of the same type was fired from 900 metres. A loud explosion was heard. However, the target failed to slow down. The submarine followed her and determined her speed to be about 12 knots (later in the action, it was assessed as 6 knots).

This was the Dutch Bussum (3,636 GRT, built 1917), on a voyage from North Shields to Montreal, steering 238° at 10.25 knots. She had a crew of 24 Dutchmen (Master Lubbert Wulp) and six British gunners and was armed with a 4" gun, one Lewis MG and three Ross rifles. She had sighted a torpedo, which missed close astern.

At 0027 hours, a third torpedo (450mm, W 200 type) was fired from 500 metres.

At 0046 hours, a fourth torpedo (533mm, S.I. type) was fired from 500 metres. No result was observed or heard for the last two. The submarine then followed Bussum firing a burst of machine gun from a distance of 1,500 metres, to test if the vessel was armed. The Dutch ship replied with three 4" rounds (C.F. Leoni saw only one) and the Malaspina opened fire with her 102mm gun but stopped after 5 rounds, as the fall of shots could not be observed in the rough seas. The action was broken off and Bussum escaped (special thanks to Siri Lawson of who shed light on this attack).

Leoni intended to renew the attack at dawn, but lost contact in a rain squall at 0200 hours. In the morning, debris were found in 59°20' N, 24°20' W (which was 130 miles - 110° from the point where she was claimed to have been torpedoed) and the vessel was believed to have been sunk.
  30 Oct 1940093058° 00'N, 21° 27'WAt 0930 hours, a smoke was sighted on the horizon. Malaspina attempted to intercept at a maximum speed of 14 knots due to the rough seas. It appeared to be an armed merchant cruiser. At 1230 hours, the submarine abandoned the chase.
  31 Oct 1940131557° 17'N, 23° 25'WAt 1315 hours, a convoy was sighted at a distance of 10,000 metres to the southeast. It consisted of seven steamers in single file, escorted by two destroyers on its starboard flank, steering 225° at 12 knots. Almost at the same time, a destroyer appeared to turn toward the submarine. Malaspina turned away immediately to put some distance. The destroyer appeared to catch up and, when the range had dropped tp 5,000 metres, Malaspina dived, but the waves were hitting her from the beam side and it took 132 seconds to reach a depth of 12 metres. Hydrophone contact was made, but the destroyer kept in the same bearing as the convoy and it made difficult to discern between the two. Another destroyer or sloop appeared to join the first destroyer, apparently to keep the submarine down while the convoy was getting away.

At 1730 hours, Malaspina surfaced and it was assumed now that the convoy was distant of some 48 miles.

At 2040 hours, she informed BETASOM that, at 1630 hours, she had sighted a convoy of six or seven ships escorted by destroyers in 57°25' N, 21°25' W, steering 225°, 12 knots. The position is probably erroneously deciphered as this was about 70 miles from the position recorded at 1315 hours.
  4 Nov 1940131051° 01'N, 20° 40'WAt 1310 hours, a convoy was sighted at a distance of 12-14,000 metres on a southerly course. It was later assessed as a seventeen-ship convoy, escorted by an armed merchant cruiser (destroyers were not observed) steering about 320°, 10 knots. Malaspina shadowed it with the intention of attacking at nightfall, but at 1720 hours she had lost sight of it.

This was convoy O.G. 45 (Liverpool to Gibraltar). At 1650Z hours, the British Glenaffric (7,806 GRT, built 1920), Commodore ship of the convoy (Rear-Admiral H.S. Candy, CBE), sighted the submarine in 50°52' N, 20°14' W at a distance of 6 miles.
  5 Nov 19400710-0740
0940 (e)
48° 45'N, 19° 50'WAt 0710 hours, a vessel was sighted far to the southwest steering 320° at a fast speed. Malaspina steered 180° to intercept. The vessel appeared to turn away then turned right back toward the submarine. When the range had dropped to 8,000 metres, she could be identified as a 16,000-ton armed merchant cruiser proceeding at 20 knots.

At 0740 hours, the enemy vessel was exactly astern of the submarine and she opened fire from a distance of 5,000 metres. Two rounds fell 50 and 70 metres from the submarine. C.F. Leoni correctly estimated them to be 152mm rounds. He ordered the submarine to crash-dive and just before going down the hatch, he had time to observe four more rounds straddling the submarine. Malaspina went down to 70 metres. At 0930 hours, the sound of propellers could no longer be heard.

This was the armed merchant cruiser HMS Salopian (10,549 tons, built 1926) armed with six 6" guns. She was on her way to rejoin the O.G. 45 convoy.

3.Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)4 Jan 19411140Bordeaux4 Jan 19411515Le VerdonPassage Bordeaux-Le Verdon.

4.Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)5 Jan 19410800? AMLe Verdon5 Jan 1941AMLe VerdonGyro-compass tests.

5.Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)5 Jan 19411630Le Verdon3 Feb 19411300+Le VerdonSailed for patrol west of Scotland (a) between 57°00'N and 58°00'N and 17°00'W and 20°00'W (b) between 53°00'N and 54°00'N and between 15°00'W and 18°00'W. Met by German minesweepers M-9 and M-21 off Royan for passage to Le Verdon.
  16 Jan 1941163057° 36'N, 19° 05'WAt 1630 hours, a signal was received reporting a convoy of twenty vessels escorted by an armed merchant cruiser in 58°05' N, 10°00' W (about 280 miles away) on a westerly course, 8 knots. Malaspina proceeded at 12 knots to intercept.

At 0330 hours on 17th January, the submarine had sighted nothing and resumed course to her patrol area.
  26 Jan 1941090053° 33'N, 15° 55'WAt 0900 hours, a submarine chaser was sighted at 1,200 metres steering on a SE course, 7-8 knots. Malaspina submerged immediately but was not attacked.
  28 Jan 1941133053° 55'N, 15° 55'WAt 1330 hours, an armed merchant cruiser, painted in grey, was sighted steering 330°, 16 knots.

At 1415 hours, the target altered course to 060° and, again at 1440 hours, to 090° but the distance could not be closed to less than 5,000 meters and the attack was abandoned.

Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)4 Feb 19411800Le Verdon4 Feb 19412005Pauillac1Passage Le Verdon-Pauillac.

Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)6 Feb 19411210Pauillac6 Feb 19411610BordeauxPassage Pauillac-Bordeaux.

Alessandro Malaspina (MP, I.6)6 Feb 19411230Pauillac6 Feb 19411610BordeauxPassage Pauillac-Bordeaux, the delayed departure was caused by the presence of magnetic mines in the estuary.

29 entries. 15 total patrol entries (5 marked as war patrols) and 17 events.

Italian Commanders

Italian Submarines