The Italian submarine Morosini, under command of Capitano di Corvetta Athos Fraternale was ordered to patrol off Guadeloupe in February 1942 and was on patrol there when it failed to overtake the British cargo ship Sagaing due, apparently to excess fuel. Cristiano D’Adamo of Regiamarina.net writes: “Morosini was still overloaded with diesel fuel and could barely make 13 knots. The submarines of the Marcello class underwent substantial modification to increase range. Some of the ballast tanks were turned into additional diesel fuel depots, and the reserve of food and ammunition was also augmented.”
He continues: “Despite the benefits, the initial few days at sea were quite dangerous since the boats were left with less than 10% buoyancy, lowering the boat up to 22 cm. Also, by redesigning some of the interior compartments, the number of torpedoes aboard was increased to 16.” Somewhat counter-intuitively, a month later the Morosini spent one day (according to its log) or three days (according to Finzi records) refueling twenty-one tons from the compatriot the Finzi northeast of Anegada.
Looking at excerpts from her war log for the 3rd of March, in position 21.15N, 74.05W, it was a frustrating exercise; “sighted by the Da Vinci. Given the intense light of the moon it begins its return. I live under the sea 2 / 3 March with long waves making us incapable of keeping abreast. I authorize the towing cable to be reinforced by others of of hemp. Given the hoses are only 80 meters, supply must be made from the stern, resulting in difficulties. (Given the weather it makes for a bad job and the subs are often sideways to one another) 05:50 break the cables. At 07.15 after six hours of unsuccessful attempts we no longer have the cable, and I must steam away with a distressed feeling at having to do so” (translated by Platon Alexiades).
As recorded, on the eleventh of March the Morosiniwent after a tanker in the area but failed to sink it or learn its name. It is possible that the Morosini went after the Norwegian ship Charles Racine, also a tanker, at the same time as the Finzi, which later sank her.
It appears that on the 11th of March the Morosiniattacked and sank a British ship – the Italian camp claiming it was the Stangarth, and others on the German side saying it was the Manaqui. Since all crew were killed on both vessels, it is impossible to verify with exactitude, except to say that on that date the Stangarthhad not left New York and therefore could not have been the victim. John’ Mozolak’s extensive list reads verbatim: “Voyage: Sailed independently from New York (lv 3/11) for St. Thomas, Cape Town and India with general”.
The following entry at barrymerchantseamen.org.uk sheds light on the Manaqui which was definitely sunk, but not on who sunk her, the authors admitting that “The SS Manaqui was understood to have been sunk by a German U-boat, U-504. Recently this has been queried, with the counter suggestion that an Italian submarine was the culprit. This serves to illustrate the problems faced in accounting for war casualties”. They continue:
“The Manaqui was one of four similar ships of 2,802 tons built for the United Fruit Company in 1921. In 1937 the Manaqui was sold to Furness Whithy and Co. On February 19, 1942 she sailed from Cardiff with a general cargo, bound for Kingston, Jamaica with an anticipated arrival date of March 20th. The voyage led to Belfast Lough to join convoy OS.20, which then left the UK on February 23rd. The SS Manaquinever got to Kingston, and is understood to have been sunk by a submarine on or about the 15th March, near Barbuda. All on board – Master, 34 crew members and six gunners – were lost.”
Whatever ship the Morosini attacked, it shifted its position deeper in the region by steaming southwest. On the 15th of March it caught and sank the 6,341-ton Dutch tanker Oscilla. The Morosini’s luck held as she encountered the 9,741-ton UK tanker Peder Bogenand dispatched her on the 24th of March at 24°.53’N, 57°.30’W. Finding its store of torpedoes depleted after so many attacks, Morosini turned for home – Bordeaux in Biscay. She arrived there on the 4th of April after a busy patrol. The Morosini was to return to the area under the command of Tenente di Vascello Francesco D’Alessandro.
SOURCES: Cristiano D’Adamo, www.regiamarina.net, barrymerchantseamen.org.uk, Kenneth Wynn, U-boat Operations of the Second World War, Volume 1 and Volume 2, 1997, John Mozolak Jr., New York Ships to Foreign Ports, 9.1939 thru 8.1945, 2011