R.Smg. Enrico Tazzoli under Carlo Fecia di Cossato March 1942 Bahamas patrol

R.Smg. Enrico Tazzoli

The exploits of Count Carlo Fecia di Cossato aboard the submarine Enrico Tazzoli are carefully detailed in the chapters on the Cygnet, Daytonian and Athelqeen, so it will suffice to recap the salient points here. She began her patrol on the 2nd of February sailing for the Betasom Flotilla/joint venture based in Bordeaux. Her assigned area was to the east of Florida and the Bahamas – because she was so busy sinking ships she would never have the need to approach Florida directly.

Tazzoli was the first Italian sub sent to the region, but not the first to arrive, as we have seen the Finzipreceded her. On the way to the patrol area, according to Cristiano D’Adamo of RegiaMarina.net, she encountered and fired three torpedoes at the 8,017-ton British tanker Rapana in daylight on March 3rd. Due to interference from the sea conditions, all missed, and the boat continued westwards.

Three days later, on March 6th, the Tazzolicame upon the 1,406-ton Dutch steamer Astreaand sank her. Later on that same day (a claim which is not supported by geography – the distances between the two reported sinkings being too far apart for even a fast boat to have covered in the same day), Tazzoli destroyed the Norwegian tanker Tonsbergfjord at 31 22N by 68 05W. There is evidence of the sinking in a photo of the Tazzoli crew displaying the Tonsbergfjord’s life ring on the conning tower, as well as extensive documentation at Warsailors.com.

Because the thirty-two surviving crew met survivors of the Montevideo, sunk by the same sub, and were rescued by the same ship (the Telamon) there is also ample evidence of how the Tonsbergfjordreached Haiti and then Curacao. The Montevideowas sunk on the 8th of March – she was a 5,785 steam ship from Uruguay which had been built in Italy (ironically) as the Adamelloin 1920. The position of her sinking is given as 29.13 north by 69.35 west.

Claims that the neutral ship was sunk by Germans inflamed anti-German nationalism in Uruguay and led to protests and that country’s eventual abandonment of its neutrality. Uruguay’s neutrality had crucially allowed the Germans to seek refuge there after the Battle of the River Plate earlier in the war on the cruiser Graf Spee.

            Tazzoli’s next three attacks are carefully documented and verified elsewhere in this book – the Cygnetoff San Salvador on the 10th of March, the British Daytonian off Abaco on the 13th, and the Athelqueen, a large British tanker in ballast, also off Abaco on the 15th. The survivors of all three ships – over 100 in number – were landed in the Bahamas, eventually making Nassau. The Cygnet survivors were first led ashore at Dixon’s Point San Salvador by a boat skippered by the “one-legged American A.B. Narne”. They then voyaged on the Monarch of Nassau to the capital.

The Daytonian crew were rescued at sea by – and travelled to the capital aboard – the Dutch ship Rotterdam, with one dead who was presumably buried at sea but possibly interred in Nassau. The Athelqueen’s crew rowed ashore at Hope Town Abaco, only to lose three members to drowning in the surf. The balance were brought to the capital in the government-chartered launch Constance S, the same ship which a week before had rescued the survivors of the O. A. Knudsen from southern Abaco (Knudsenwas sunk by a German not an Italian submarine, on 5 March 1942).

Because the Tazzoli had its starboard torpedo tubes damaged in the attack on the Athelqueen, it was forced to break off the patrol and make back for Bordeaux. Its arrival and passage up the Gironde estuary, with crew lining the rails, its impressive girth on display, and the damage visible, are well documented in photographs from a biography of di Cossato. She arrived on the 31st of March, culminating one of the most successful single missions to the region and of the war as a whole, with a ship attacked on average every day of the week for a period.

SOURCES: Cristiano D’Adamo, www.regiamarina.net, 2011, Sir Holm Lawson, www.warsailors.com, 2011