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I sommergibili della Decima Flottiglia M.A.S.

(Decima MAS submarines)

 
  Regio Smg SCIRE'
 

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The Scirè submarine, under prince Junio Valerio Borghese’s control was the best in "approaching" the Italian assault crafts. It was built between 1937-38 at the O.T.O. Shipyard and followed the 600 Class-"Adua" Series constructing scheme (also said "Africano"), although the nine submarines made that shipyard had some differences compared to the C.R.D.A and Tosi' shipyards.

artwork - Regio Smg Scirè - Decima MAS -1941
Reg.Smg SCIRE'  missions B.G1-B.G2

 
Technical information
Class : "600" <Africano-Adua> Type (17 units)
Shipyard : Cantieri Odero-Terni Orlando del Muggiano - 1937/1938
Devoted to: Scirè - Etiopia western region (Italian colonial territory)
Displacement : 697 / 854 tons
Length : 61 metres
Breath: 6,45 metres
Draught : 4,65 metres
Hull typology: simple hull with bulge
Fuel : 47 tons of gasolio
Range surface : 2.200 mg. at 14 nds.
Range dived : 74 mg. at 4 nds.
Engines : 1.400 hp diesel / 800 hp electric
Top speed superface : 14 nd
Top speed dived : 7,5 nd
Torpedos : 6 - 12 da 533 mm
AA : 2-4 x 13,2
Crew : 45
Operational depth : 80 metres
   
 

The Scirè was assigned to the First Submarines Group, the 15th Squadron based in La Spezia; at the beginning of the war the Scirè carried out some attacks to the British shipping.
Under the control of Lt. Pini, on July 10 1940, it torpedoed the French steamship s/s Cheik (1.058 tons). The little ship sank, but the commander Pini save, 10 French sailors.

Immediately after this patrol the Commander of the Scirè  was substituted and the submarine was modified to transport the SLCs ("Siluro a Lenta Corsa" - slow running torpedo, dubbed "maiale" – pig - by the crews of the Decima MAS Flotilla )
In the summer of 1940 in the yards of La Spezia the bow gun was taken down and the three watertight containers to carry SLCs were inserted.
Unlike the Gondar, modified shortly before, all three containers were strengthened with some external armour (instead the bow cylinder of the Gondar  was smooth)
.

_______________________________Mission "B.G.1" - Gibraltar____________________________

At the end of September the Scirè was already operative, and on September 24 1940 it left for the first mission (B.G.1) against Gibraltar.
After crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, at 59 miles from the objective the submarine was ordered to annul the mission as the military relevance of the mission was limited.
The submarine reentered to the Mediterranean and on October 3 it berthed the naval base of La Maddalena, in Sardinia.

_______________________________Mission "B.G.2" - Gibraltar____________________________

The second attack to the fortress of Gibraltar (mission BG2) was programmed for the new moon in October.
The Scirè left La Spezia harbour on October 21 1940 and on 27 October, it tried twice to force the Strait of Gibraltar in surface.

Regio Smg Scirè in missione - Photo
October 1940: the Regio Smg SCIRE' sets sail to Gilbraltar, mission BG.2


But the submarine was discovered and pursued by the British destroyers. In the night of 28 the submarine force the British obstruction proceeding in silent submersion.
After a 40 hour submersion, on October 30 the Scirè emerged off Point Europe and at night the three SLCs left the submarine and  went toward Gibraltar harbour.
During the journey in submersion two SLCs got broken and sank next to the obstruction nets.
The third SLC overcame the protection nets and penetrated inside the roadstead, but a sudden breakdown stopped it,too. The SLC sunk at less than one hundred meters from the hull of the HMS Barham.
The Italian commando of Decima MAS was discovered by the British sentinels while it was trying to drag the explosive heading of the sunk SLC under the hull of the war ship.

As soon as the submarine Scirè released into the sea the three SLCs it started navigation again. In the night it crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in submersion unseen by the British ships.
On November 3 1940 it berthed at the Submarines Base of La Spezia.

In the spring of 1941 the submarine is improved: the connig-tower is modified to make it less visible and the hull is coloured with the camouflage scheme used in the Mediterranean by the other Italian submarines.

_______________________________Mission "B.G.3" - Gibiraltar____________________________

On the new moon in May, the men of Decima MAS organized the third assault to Gibraltar with the submarine Scirè.
The mission (B.G.3) includes some variations in comparison to the two previous missions.
To avoid useless stress to the operators of the Decima MAS Flotilla through a long navigation and the dangerous crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar, they were embarked in the submarine at the last moment.

On the evening of May 15 1941 Scirè leaves La Spezia and on May 22, after eluding the control of the Strait of Gibraltar, emerges in the Atlantic.
On May 23 it reaches Cadige (Spain) and at night it enters in submersion in the Spanish harbour.
The submarine emerges near the Italian ship Fulgor anchored in the Spanish harbour for different day. The ten commandoes of the Decima MAS Flotilla came down from the ship and embarked the submarine.

At the dawn of May 24 the Scirè leaves unseen Cadige harbour and goes up along the bay of Algerias reaching the pre-arranged point (mouth of the river Guadarranque) near Gibraltar harbour.

Due to the bad weather, the release of the three SLC's is performed in the night of May 26. In the meantime the Scirè was informed from Rome that the British war ships had left on a mission and therefore the Gibraltar harbour was deprived of some principal objectives of the Italian commandoes.
But Lt. Commander Junio Valerio Borghese and the frogmen of the Decima MAS Flotilla decided to complete the mission anyway.

At 24 the three SLCs are detached from the Scirè, and the submarine begins the disengagement manoeuvre .
At 2.45 the men of the submarine hydrophones heard the echo of four distant explosions.
The commander Valerio Borghese believes that the mission was successful.
Instead also that night the three SLCs had betrayed the men of the Decima MAS Flotilla at a footstep from success.

Scirè crosses for the sixth time the Strait of Gibraltar and returns on May 31 1941 to La Spezia.

_______________________________Mission "B.G.4" - Gibraltar___________________________

Despite the failures, the "Decima MAS Flotilla" organizes a fourth attack on the base of Gibraltar (BG4) at the new moon September 1941. The mission includes the same routes and formality of attack of the previous attempt.

On September 10 Scirè leaves La Spezia favoured by obscurity. While the submarine sails in the Mediterranean the team composed by ten operators of the SLCs reaches the city of Cadige by air and hides in the Italian oil-tanker Fulgor. On September 18, at night, the Scirè  emerges silently near the Italian ship and in a few minutes the operators of the "Decima MAS Flotilla" they enter inside the submarine.

Un sommozzatore della Decima MAS esce dallo "Scirè"
A frogman of the Decima MAS goes out from the Smg SCIRE'

On September 19, 1941: Scirè sights on his route a convoy bound to the Atlantic, but the commander Borghese succeeds in not being seen by the escort destroyers. In the night of 19 the submarine goes up the Bay of Algerias. It stops at the mouth of the river Guadarranque and stays at 10 meters depth. After the watertight containers have been flooded, the frogmen come out from the submarine and put their SLCs into operation.

At 01,07 of September 20 the three "pigs " leave the submarine and set out toward the roadstead of Gibraltar. After rescuing the three backup operators that had collaborated at the departure of the three SLCs the "Scirè" immediately began the diversionary manoeuvre. Distant echoes of explosions were heard at the hydrophones of the submarine during navigation. They were roars of victory: the three SLC's had in fact overcome the obstructions and the MAS's frogmen had succeeded in placing the explosive charges on the hulls of the auxiliary cruiser HMS Durham (11,000 tons.), of the oil-tankers s/s Denbydale (16,000 tons) and s/s Fiona Shell (2,400 tons).

Because of the low depth the first two ships did not sink completely and they were subsequently recovered, while the s/s Fiona Shell, totally submerged by the sea .

After crossing for the eight time the Strait of Gibraltar, the Scirè moored at the submarine quay of La Spezia on September 25. A few days after all the operators of the three MAS's returned to Italy. They had succeeded in escaping capture thanks to a perfect organization purposely set in Spain by the men of the Decima MAS Flotilla.

_______________________________Mission "G.A.3" - Alexandria__________________________

During November 1941 the British Mediterranean Fleet was in a critical situation: only the battleships HMS Valiant and HMS Queen Elizabeth, based at Alexandria, were available. The Italian Navy studied carefully how to take advantage of that: if those two battleships were destroyed the Italian convoys to Lybia could safely sail with positive effects on the African war. In November 1941 the mission to destroy the British battleship was relied on the Decima MAS Flotilla and the submarine Scirè.

The first suitable time of the new moon is a few days before Christmas in 1941. Consequently in the night of December 3, the Scirè, silently sets sail from the Submarines Base of La Spezia.
It sails in surface up to the Aeolian Islands unseen by the lookouts of a French steamboat and by the pilots of three enemy airplanes.
Crossing the Strait of Messina the submarine is reached by an Italian motorboat with a dispatch for the commander of the Scirè with new information on Alexandria harbour.
The vessel continues its route, but off Taormina an British submarine intercepts it. Commander Borghese disengages from a possible enemy attack and the submarine continues toward Greece. Despite a damage (dx thermal engine), in the evening of December 9 the submarine berths at Leroy harbour, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea under Italian control. The watertight cylinders containing the three SLCs are prudentially hidden under curtains. In the following days the sailors of the Scirè try to mend the damaged engine.

On December 14 the men of the Decima MAS Flotilla reach the Greek island too.Once completed the reparation, the Italian submarine leaves the island of Leroy and, at the dawn of December 16, it reaches the Egyptians coast at a few miles from Alexandria harbour.
The conditions of the sea are unfavourable and consequently Borghese decides on a 24 hour delay of the attack to the British harbour.
17december 1941: the submarine is informed by the Italian Command in Athens that two big British warships are anchored in Alexandria harbour . In the night the submarine begins its approaching manoeuvre sailing in submersion at 60 meters depth. The Scirè advances slowly fearing the mined fields and reaches the preset point for the release of the SLCs after about 23 hours of silent navigation.

The release operations of the SLCs start at 20,47 and they were more difficult than expected because they provoked a serious accident to one of the frogmen. After about an hour the submarine sales back, but because of the defective closing of the stern cylinders, it sails with difficulty. Borghese is forced twice to resurface in the attempt to close the defective portholes, but both times the operation fails. Even strongly tilted of stern, the submarine continues its disengagement route in submersion,in the effort of not being discovered and to jeopardize the action of the three SLCs. After about 19 hour submersion the submarine emerges but after only three hours it is forced to submerge again for the approaching of an British destroyer.

At 1.00, the submarine emerges again and receives from Athens the message that the aerial recognition has signalled in Alexandria harbour different ships on fire. In fact the three SLCs had entered unseen the enemy harbour and the frogmen of the Decima MAS Flotilla had struck with their explosive charges two British battleships HMS Valiant (30,600 tons), HMS Queen Elisabeth (30,600 tons), the destroyer HMS Jervis (1,690 tons.), the oil-tanker s/s Sagona (7,554 tons) and the steamboat RMS Durham (10,900 tons).

Alexandria harbour map
Alexandria Harbour map


The oil released from the oil-tanker Sagona burst and created further damages in the port. Also in this case the low depth of the harbour prevented the complete sinking of the ships: but for about two years the big British war ships were stopped in Alexandria in rescueing and mending operations.

In the meantime the Scirè returned to Leroy on December 21. The wounded frogman is disembark and after being supplied with naphtha and supplies, on December 23 the Scirè sets sail bound to La Spezia.
On December 25, at midday it is suddenly attached by an British airplane. The submarine doesn't have time to submerge and consequently Borghese orders to try defence by using the machineguns on board. The airplane avoids Italian tracings and releases 5 bombs that nearly hit the hull of the submarine. The vessel can continue its trip back and on December 28 the Scirè berths in the Submarines quay of La Spezia, welcomed with the best honours.

artwork Regio Smg Scirè - Decima Mas 1942
Reg.Smg SCIRE' missions B.G3-B.G4-G.A3

_______________________________Mission "S.L.1" - Haifa________________________________

In July 1942, near the commands of the Regia Marina a new mission for the men of the Decima MAS Flottilla and Scirè is organized: the attack to Haifa harbour, Israel.
In the meantime, the commander and the crew of the submarine were substituted (except the radiotelegraph operator ). The command of the Scirè  is entrusted to the Captain of Corvet Bruno Zelich that had previously commanded the submarine Onice in the operative zones off Israelian coast.

The Scirè loads the three SLCs and sets sail from La Spezia in the evening of 27 July1942. After a calm navigation it reaches the island of Leroy, on August 2 1942. Two days after also the ten frogmen and ten "Swimmeres Gamma" of the Decima MAS Flotilla reach the Greek island by air .
In the morning of August 6 the Scirè leaves Leroy harbour and moves toward the Israelian sea. According to the plan the Italian submarine will follow some internal routes to the Aegean Sea to go up as far as 1,5 miles from Haifa harbour, where the three SLC will be disengaged.

The mission is coordinated with the German Aerial Command of the Egeo that on the 9 and 10 August sends some scouts above Haifa harbour. The aerial photos allow the Italian Command to know the situation at Haifa. A message informs the Scirè  that in Haifa harbour are present: a light cruiser, three destroyers, nine steamboats, two tankers, two torpedo-boats and five vigilance ships. In the morning the exact position of each ship in the moorings is also comunicated.

In the meantime also the British guarded their seas: and in the morning of August 10 the Italian vessel in submersion is signalled at twenty miles from Haifa harbour. One of the vigilance unities of Haifa harbour, the HMS Islay, is positioned at a few miles from the entrance of the harbour. 
After a few hours it sizes the Scirè going to the pre-arranged point for the release of the three assault crafts. 
At 16,15 the HMS Islay  launches the first depth charges and immediately strikes the Scirè. The Italian submarine emerged arming the bow torpedos but it didn't have the time to perform the attack manoeuvre because the British ship artillery struck it. The submarine sank quickly, situating on the sandy fund at only 32 meters depth. 
On board the crew was prepared to abandon the submarine: 35 men went to the stern exit and flooded the vain motor to balance the pressure before opening the external porthole.
But a few moments before the first man abandoned the submarine it was struck by a second series of depth bombs that destroyed the hull and killed all the sailors and the men of the Decima MAS Flotilla.

Currently, the wreckage of the Scirè is still abandoned on the sand of Haifa harbour, in the point of coordination North 32° 54', 5 East 34° 58 '.

Scirè crew - photo
the crew of the Regio Sommergibile SCIRE'

 


an other page on the SCIRE' submarine
The SCIRE' Wereckage and the SLCs

the other submarines of the Decima MAS
Regio Smg IRIDE e Reg.Smg GONDARD
Regio Smg AMBRA
CA class
CB class
SLC


Text and artworks
"Regio Smg SCIRE' " by SUB.net It@lia - All right reserved


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