Italian submarines in World War Two

Italian Commanders

Francesco Brunetti

Born  20 Nov 1909La Spezia
Died  4 Feb 1981(71)Genoa


  C.C.Capitano di Corvetta


  Cavaliere di gran croce dell'ordine della Republica Italiana
7 Nov 1941 Medaglia d'argento al valore militare
29 Jul 1949 Medaglia di bronzo al valore militare

Career information

From 06.05.1940, served as Third in Command to C.F. Aldo Cocchia in 1° GRUPPO (La Spezia).
IRIDE (C.C. C.O.): from 07.06.1940 to 22.08.1940 (sunk, Brunetti survived).
GONDAR (C.C. C.O.): from 10.09.1940 to 30.09.1940 (sunk, Brunetti survived as PoW).

Commands listed for Francesco Brunetti

Submarine Type Rank From To
Iride (IR)Coastal / Sea goingC.C.7 Jun 194022 Aug 1940
Gondar (GO)Coastal / Sea goingC.C.10 Sep 194030 Sep 1940

Ships hit by Francesco Brunetti

No ships hit by this Commander.

War patrols listed for Francesco Brunetti

 SubmarineDateTimePortArr. dateArr. timeArr. portMilesDescription
Iride (IR)1300SunkSunk by FAA Swordfish.

Iride (IR)7 Jun 19400935La Spezia7 Jun 19401830La Spezia47Exercises.

Iride (IR)9 Jun 19400815La Spezia9 Jun 19401000La Spezia8Exercises.

Iride (IR)11 Jun 19401650La Spezia11 Jun 19402050La Spezia10Exercises.

Iride (IR)12 Jun 19401345La Spezia12 Jun 19402000La Spezia36Exercises with the submarine Zoea.

Iride (IR)14 Jun 19400830La Spezia14 Jun 19401200La Spezia6Exercises.

1.Iride (IR)14 Jun 19401935La Spezia19 Jun 19401015La Spezia349Sailed to form a patrol line with Scirè in 135° - Capo dell'Arma - 10 miles, between Cape Noli and Capo dell'Arma (French border).

2.Iride (IR)20 Jun 19402015La Spezia28 Jun 19401120La Spezia896Patrolled in 43°00'N, 05°05'E, off Marseilles.
  23 Jun 1940031542° 30'N, 5° 05'EAt 0305 hours, a shadow was sighted at a distance of 2,500 metres. It appeared to be a large armed vessel steering on a northerly course (toward Marseilles).

At 0315 hours, a torpedo (533mm) was fired from a bow tube at a range of 700 metres, followed ten seconds later by a second one. Both torpedoes missed. Iride was now withdrawing by steering 090° at a depth of 30 metres, when she was shaken by an explosion followed by four more. She escaped by going down to 80 metres.

Iride (IR)3 Jul 19400820La Spezia3 Jul 19401335La Spezia?Exercises.

Iride (IR)4 Jul 19401400La Spezia5 Jul 19401100La Maddalena214Passage La Spezia-La Maddalena.

3.Iride (IR)10 Jul 19400050La Maddalena12 Jul 19400705La Maddalena?Patrolled 310° - Asinara Point - 65 miles. On a patrol line with Argo, Scirè and Diaspro.

Iride (IR)14 Jul 19400730La Maddalena15 Jul 19401415La Spezia214Passage La Maddalena-La Spezia.

Iride (IR)22 Jul 19400830La Spezia22 Jul 19401830La SpeziaExercises.

Iride (IR)31 Jul 19401830La Spezia31 Jul 19402000La SpeziaExercises.

Iride (IR)2 Aug 19400620La Spezia3 Aug 19400145La SpeziaExercises.

Iride (IR)5 Aug 19400825La Spezia5 Aug 19401820La SpeziaExercises.

4.Iride (IR)12 Aug 19401100La Spezia14 Aug 19401850MessinaPassage La Spezia-Messina.

5.Iride (IR)16 Aug 19401620Messina21 Aug 1940Menelao Bay (Gulf of Bomba)Passage from Messina to Menelao Bay (Gulf of Bomba).

6.Iride (IR)22 Aug 1940Menelao Bay (Gulf of Bomba)22 Aug 19401200SunkThe submarine was anchored in Menelao Bay and was expected to sail the next day for operation GA.1, an attack by the Decima Flottiglia MAS on Alexandria. She was torpedoed by a Swordfish from HMS Eagle (but based at Dekheila, near Alexandria) and sunk.
  22 Aug 19401200
1258C (e)
32° 16'N, 23° 13'E
(0) 85° - 1.5 mile from Ras Megara (Gulf of Bomba).
At 1200 hours, Iride was anchored in the bay of Ain El Gazala (AKA Menelao Bay) in the Gulf of Bomba, when she came under air attack from Swordfish of 824 Squadron, belonging to HMS Eagle but based at Dekheila (west of Alexandria). Air reconnaissance of the previous day had reported the presence of the submarine. Swordfish torpedo bombers were moved from Dekheila to the airstrip of Ma'aten Bagush near Sidi Barrani, to be able to get within striking range.

Three aircraft took off on 22nd August, they were piloted by Captain Oliver Patch, RM (leader), Lieutenant (A) Neville Addison Fyers Cheesman, RN and Lieutenant (A) John Walter George Wellham, RN. The flight navigator was Midshipman (A) Gordon John Woodley, RNVR who exhibited great skill as the flight came over the sea and was in sight of land only when the attack occurred.

At 1258C hours, the three Swordfish attacked from the northwest, flying at a height of only 30 feet. The main target was Iride, cruising at the time 4 miles off the coast. She was observed to open fire with two twin-mounted machine guns. The other ships present also opened fire. Captain Patch launched his torpedo, which squarely hit the submarine and broke her in half. She sank in 14-16 metres of water. Lieutenant Wellham launched his torpedo at the auxiliary minelayer Monte Gargano from a distance of 500 yards. The ship had opened fire, hitting the aircraft with a single bullet causing minor damage. She was also struck, caught fire and sank. Lieutenant Cheesman is reported to have launched his torpedo at a second submarine alongside a destroyer and she also sank. In fact, there were no second submarine present (an Italian report mentions that two torpedoes struck Iride). At the time it was claimed that four ships had been sunk or seriously damaged with three torpedoes when in fact only Iride and Monte Gargano (three wounded) had been sunk but the raid had nevertheless been very successful. The torpedo boat Calipso had been present but was only slightly damaged (two killed or missing, four wounded).

Iride was in the process of taking the SLCs from the torpedo boat Calipso who had brought them from La Spezia. Of her crew, five men were picked up and six men were rescued from the sunken submarine (three officers and thirty ratings were killed). Rescue efforts were soon under way with the assistance of the torpedo-boat Calipso and the tugs Egadi and Luigi Rizzo. Eight men had been located in the submarine and eventually seven made their escape, the eighth was too scared to leave the submarine but S.T.V. Luigi Durand De La Penne (who later achieved fame for his Alexandria attack) entered the submarine and after 12 minutes managed to bring him out by lending him his own Davis apparatus. In all fifteen men of the crew of Iride survived including T.V. Brunetti.

Gondar (GO)16 Sep 19401035La Spezia16 Sep 19401230La Spezia20Exercises.

Gondar (GO)17 Sep 19400650La Spezia17 Sep 19401700La Spezia30Exercises.

Gondar (GO)20 Sep 19400740La Spezia20 Sep 19401110La SpeziaExercises.

Gondar (GO)21 Sep 19400800La Spezia21 Sep 19401050La Spezia12Exercises.

7.Gondar (GO)21 Sep 19402200La Spezia23 Sep 19402105Messina450Passage La Spezia-Messina to pick six officers and four ratings for a Maiale operation in Alexandria.

8.Gondar (GO)24 Sep 19400700Messina30 Sep 19400950SunkSailed for Operation G.A.2, a Decima Flottiglia Mas operation on Alexandria. Sunk 75 or 100 miles - 300° of Alexandria by the Australian destroyer HMAS Stuart, the trawler Sindonis and Sunderland L.2166 of 230 Squadron in 32°02'N, 27°54'E. The crew of five officers and thirty-three ratings + ten frogmen of Decima Flotilla MAS (led by C.F. Mario Giorgini, T.V. Alberto Franzini/G.M. Alberto Cacioppo, Cap. G.N. Elios Toschi/Sg. Pal. Umberto Ragnati and Cap. A.N. Gustavo Stefanini/Sg. Pal. Alessandro Scappino and in reserve: G.M. Aristide Calcagno, Sg. Pal. Giovanni Lazzaroni and C. El. 2^ Cl. Cipriano Cipriani) were picked up, one crew member was drowned. Apparently the wreck was dived upon and examined in November 1940. The survivors claimed they were to plant hydrophones on buoys ten miles from Alexandria with listening posts in Cyrenaica!
  29 Sep 19402215
-0950/30 (e)
During the night of 29/30th September, the Australian destroyer HMAS Stuart was returning to Alexandria due to a defective steam pipe. To avoid reaching the harbour before daylight, an A/S search was routinely made at 16 knots.

At 2215 hours on the 29th, the ASDIC operator picked up a contact at 3,000 yards. HMAS Stuart increased speed to 18 knots.

This was Gondar closing on Alexandria to carry out operation G.A.2, the second attempt by the Decima Flottiglia Mas to force Alexandria. She attempted to escape by diving to 110 metres.

At 2220 hours, a pattern of six depth charges was dropped.

At 2245 hours, a second pattern of five depth charges was released, the destroyer having slowed down to 12 knots to minimise the water disturbance which impeded the sonar.

At 0100 hours on the 30th, a single depth charged was dropped at "maximum depth".

At 0200 hours, a fourth attack was made with six depth charges.

At 0350 hours, a fifth attack was carried out with a single depth charge.

At 0625 hours, HMAS Stuart carried a sixth and final attack with five depth charges.

At 0630 hours, Sunderland flying boat L.2166 (Flying Lieutenant Alington) of 230 Squadron appeared and began circling over the area.

At 0925 hours, the armed trawler HMT Sindonis arrived to assist the hunt.

At 0930 hours, the aircraft dropped a single bomb about 3,000 yards from the destroyer.

At 0940 hours, the submarine surfaced on the starboard's bow of HMAS Stuart and attempted to escape at 10 knots. The destroyer opened fire and the Gondar's crew began to abandon ship. As the destroyer closed, about ten explosions appeared to occur inside the submarine as the scuttling charges went off and Gondar sank by the stern at 0950 hours.

Twenty-eight survivors were picked up by Stuart and nineteen by Sindonis, one man drowned, this was the electrician Luigi Longobardi who received posthumously the Medaglia d'oro.

The survivors included T.V. Francesco Brunetti, four officers and thirty-three ratings as well as ten frogmen of the Decima Flotilla MAS led by C.F. Mario Giorgini, T.V. Alberto Franzini/G.M. Alberto Cacioppo, Cap. G.N. Elios Toschi/Sg. Pal. Umberto Ragnati and Cap. A.N. Gustavo Stefanini/Sg. Pal. Alessandro Scappino and in reserve: G.M. Aristide Calcagno, Sg. Pal. Giovanni Lazzaroni and C. El. 2^ Cl. Cipriano Cipriani.

Elios Toschi was with Teseo Tesei one of the founders of the Decima Flottiglia Mas. He was shipped to a British PoW camp in India and made a remarkable escape by trekking through the Himalayas before reaching Portuguese Goa. He wrote his adventures in Ninth time Lucky published by William Kimber in 1955

T.V. Brunetti had the unenviable record of losing two submarines in 40 days (the other was Iride)!

25 entries. 25 total patrol entries (8 marked as war patrols) and 3 events.

Italian Commanders

Italian Submarines