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Born in 1917, he was embarked in early March 1943 on Rome in the signaling group. The attack caught him on one of the fins of the signal bridge and he was seriously injured.

6.00 pm of 8 September 1943 the Commander of ROME who raised the insignia of Admiral Carlo Bergamini, appointed in April Commander in Chief of the Naval Squad, gave the news via intercom of the separate armistice with the Allies signed in Cassibile. A disheveled, crafty armistice, with which allies became enemies and enemies, allies and which made American General David Maxwell Taylor, who participated in the frantic negotiations, say, "it's an anwful jam, it's a damned mess!"

On the ships of the entire fleet there was an explosion of joy, because we were all convinced that it was time to go home, that the war was over, but those German aviators, twenty or so, who we had on board for the connections with their airplanes in flight, who, before landing at one in the night of 9 September, said that the worst was yet to come.

An hour later the Squadron Command, then the ship ROMA, gave the order to the fleet to set sail and move to an unknown destination.

At this point we must remember the few but eloquent words spoken by Admiral Bergamini in the official square, before departure.

“I intend to take the fleet to an Italian anchorage or to another anchorage beyond any extraneous interference. I will never hand over ships to the enemy, whatever it is ”. And with an unusual hint of melancholy in him, he added. "I feel we won't see each other again, we will have to go down." It's his will.

Admiral Bergamini, gold medalist for military valor, died on the afternoon of that 9 September 1943 sinking with almost all the crew of the ROMA, hit by the radio-guided bombs of a squadron of German "Junker 88" commanded by an ace of the " Ltwaffe ”, Major Bernhard Jope.

The German air formation consisted of fifteen long-range bombers that took off from the Istres base in France on the orders of Field Marshal Hermann Goering, who in the night, immediately after the news of the armistice, had participated in a "summit" of the General Staff with Hitler.

Each "Junker" carried a single bomb that weighed fourteen hundred kilos and had a special steel ogive suitable for piercing very thick armor. It had to be launched at a height of no less than 5,000 meters so that it acquired, with the high speed of fall, greater penetration force.

All this information was revealed by Major Jope himself, in Germany after the war, in an interview with Italian and English journalists.

Admiral Antonino Trizzino, in the book “8settembre 1943-Pietà and tragedy”, by Alberto Giovannini, gives this testimony.

“Bergamini knew nothing of the negotiations with the enemy when in the afternoon of 8 September foreign radios began to spread the news of the surrender. More treacherously he was told to leave for Malta and there to hand over his ships, himself and his men to the English.

Surrender without a fight for a man like that was absolutely inconceivable. Bergamini's latest decision is in his very noble words pronounced at the moment of departure ”.

The order to prepare to set sail was proof that we had all deluded ourselves on the peace we had found and so from one hour to the next we passed from euphoria to a state of great anxiety because now we no longer knew who the real enemy was.

Around 3.00 del  morning the whole fleet set sail, sailing in perfect line formation. In advance the corvettes and fighters, then the battleships LITTORIO, ROMA, VITTORIO VENETO and, behind, other corvettes, then on the sides the cruisers, escorted in turn by the fighters.

The navigation proceeded smoothly and followed a course for 320 ° at the speed of 20 nautical miles. The sky was clear and the sea calm.

At a certain moment I realized that the ROME, flagship, was approaching on the starboard side as if for a U-turn, but no one paid any attention to it, everyone's fixed thought was the armistice, peace, war, everyone was wondering what was happening.

Shortly after fifteen we spotted a flock of German planes that we continued to respect as friends, especially as in the morning other planes, this time English, had wandered away from our ships, which, moreover, were ordered not to open fire.

The planes flew very high on our vertical and glistened with silver reflecting the sun's rays.

Around 4pm, we suddenly felt an explosion. The first radio-controlled bomb "PC 1.400 X" had fallen between the stern of the LITTORIO and the bow of the ROM. The fleet immediately took up battle formation and all the artillery went into action. It was then that we understood the German revenge for the armistice that had taken place.

The anti-aircraft defense was ineffective because the "Junkers" were far away and out of range, but they continued to throw their deadly radio-guided bombs at us.

One of these hit the straight side of the ship right at the height of the 90/50 mm complex of which I was Plant Manager.

The bomb pierced the main deck and the armored deck below and entered the deposit of small and medium caliber bullets. The explosion caused a massacre by filling my area with smoke and gas.

A few moments later the second bomb arrived which, wedged between the large-caliber tower, number two, and the tower, went to explode right in the santabarbara where there were the charges for the 381 mm guns! The tower served as a flue, burning alive all those who were at the fighting posts. A column of black smoke more than 2,000 meters high rose over the ROMA.

The crash of the entire ship was impressive, frightening, apocalyptic and hundreds and hundreds of men died in that precise moment, in a blaze that enveloped the entire ship.

Thus died Admiral Bergamini and all the officers of the General Staff. Despite the collapse, on the dashboard now gutted and invaded by flames, there was still someone who gave a sign of life.

It was Commander Medenich who by telephone ordered me to rescue with my men those who had been trapped in the second depot of small and medium caliber ammunition.

In the great excitement of those highly dramatic moments, Cannoniere Fraboni has a panic attack, he refuses to obey my order and I have no choice but to resort to maximum energy and hardness.

"It is a higher order, Fraboni, if you refuse to carry it out I will break your head with this hammer", I yell at him, pointing to the big club I was holding in my hands, "and this applies to everyone!"

I was going to the hatch to go below deck when there was another tremendous explosion and I was engulfed in a blaze of fire and thrown into the air.

Recovering from the shock, I opened my eyes and a frightening scene appeared. The ammunition depots of small, medium and large caliber were blown up along with the four boilers that were at maximum pressure.

Near me, almost unrecognizable, was Domenico Lucchiari, the gunner of Venice who was very fond of me and looked at me dazed. He leaned over me, I realized he was talking, but I didn't understand anything, in my head I had only a tremendous buzz.

“Domenico, help me! I can't walk, my hands are burned. Find me a life preserver ... ".

I saw him staggering away towards the stern and I knew he was going to his death.

"Don't go there, Domenico, stay here, we will be saved! ..."

Lucchiari no longer understood anything, he stammered, trembled, I saw him step over the cuttlefish of the Commander who, due to the movement of air, had put himself across the blanket and disappeared.

I was dizzy, I did not realize my condition, I did not feel any pain, but then I realized that I had broken both ankles and pieces of bone were sticking out of the malleolus of my right foot. My forehead was also bleeding from a wound to my temple and I had several burns all over my body.

I didn't have a life jacket, so I was destined to certain death, but as if by a miracle the torn corpse of a sailor wearing it falls on me.

I appealed to all the forces I still had, I tore the life jacket from that poor fellow and with the providential help of Sergeant Serio, Plant Manager of the 90 mm piece 1, I fastened it.

Then, I don't know how, I reached a pedestal of the 90/50 mm piece and sat down, exhausted and speechless. From that position I saw wandering in front of me like so many ghosts hallucinated, petrified men, I also saw the Lieutenant of Vascello Gentini die, little loved for his mania to bestow maximum rigor for nonsense. He was literally burning and fell, killed, hitting his head on the gunwale.

In that hell of fire, smoke, vapors and crashes, Mr. Medenich "the Lord will forgive him because he heroically fell to the service of his country" completely burned and blind, Mr. Incisa, Second Range Director and many others, appeared to me. I didn't know the name, but the degree and the specialization ...

My brain must have then ceased to function, as I no longer remember anything. The fact is that I found myself in the sea tossed about by the waves, trembling from the wounds and from the fever that devoured me and that perhaps, at times, made me delirious.

ROMA sank off the Asinara, a sea area known for strong currents. In all likelihood it was the current that saved me by dragging me more than fifty meters from the battleship which, mortally wounded, was sinking into an immense vortex.

Crying, I witnessed that indescribable and unforgettable scene. The most beautiful battleship in the world, bellowing and hissing ominously,   capsized as fountains of water spurted everywhere and clouds of steam and smoke emanated from its mammoth keel. Then it split in two parts and disappeared in a few minutes, taking 1,326 men with it. Another 596 were recovered at sea by rescuers and I was among them too.

Admiral Oliva, who commanded the battleship ANDREA DORIA, signaled to the other ships that he had assumed command of the squad, bringing his command to PRINCE EUGENIO.

In subsequent German attacks a bomb also hit the battleship ITALIA, formerly LITTORIO, which took on water and had to slow down its cruising speed.

Two hours after the disaster, the Naval Force was ordered to head to the port of Bona in Algeria and for Admiral Oliva the news was precious because only Bergamini, who disappeared with his ship, knew what the fleet should do.

The 12th destroyer squad, the REGOLO and the PEGASO group recovered the survivors of the ROMA, then the MITRAGLIERE group, composed of the MITRAGLIERE, FUCILIERE, CARABINIERE and REGOLO fighters, under the orders of Commander Marini, who had no provision on what to do, tried to contact the other units, but received no response. Commander Marini, in agreement with the Commanders of the other units, excluded the idea of bringing his ships to Anglo-American ports, not considering it an act in accordance with the traditions of the Royal Navy and therefore decided to sail to the Balearics, where he arrived at dawn the next day. These ships were interned by Spain and returned to Italy after 16 months.

After the rescue of the shipwrecked people of ROME, also the PEGASO, the IMPETUOSO, the ORSA, resumed navigation under the orders of the Imperiali Commander who, after much thought, reached the same conclusions as the Commander Marini and, having heard the opinion of the Commanders dell'IMPETUOSO  and the ORSA, ordered to sail to the Balearics. Imperiali then ordered the self-sinking of the PEGASO and the IMPETOSO.

An investigation conducted at the end of the war by the authorities of the Royal Navy, considered the behavior of those officers and all the Commanders who refused to deliver their ships intact to conform to the laws of honor. Even if with only one eye, I scan the horizon hoping to see some rescuer, a lifeboat, any boat. Anything. Next to me is a sailor who is unable to swim, but is perfectly afloat without a life jacket. "But how do you do it?" I ask him. "I have a  dead between my legs and I hope not to lose it because it would be the end for me". In the concentration camp I looked for him many times, but without success. Certainly that dead man who was riding took him with him. Four hours after the disaster, at 8.30 pm, I was finally spotted by a launch of the destroyer FUCILIERE which, together with other ships of the fleet, was crossing in the area for rescue operations. The sailors of the launch pulled me aboard and I found myself lying on a tangle of bodies, many wounded, others dead, but it was certainly not the case to look at so many subtleties. On board the FUCILIERE there were no medicines suitable for treating so many people in those conditions, so the medications were very brief. But the crew were admirable and went out of their way to help us. Many wounded however died shortly thereafter and among these, they told me, there was also Domenico Lucchiari. The next night, around two o'clock, there was an air alert and the sky lit up with Bengal. It was the Germans who were looking for us. There was also a submarine warning, but luckily everything went smoothly and without consequences. We disembarked in Port Mahon, on the island of Menorca, on the morning of September 10, 1943. A motorboat of the Spanish Navy took us to the islet of Rej, where there was the military hospital. The hospital had only sixty beds and when the doctors saw all those injured arriving they were amazed and worried not knowing how to hospitalize them. The lightly wounded were medicated and sent to the Naval Base, but the most serious were placed in the available beds. I, who arrived later, found no place and was put on a litter in the toilet room where I remained for three days waiting for someone to die. Meanwhile the doctors sutured my head wound and when I had the regulation bed they took me to the operating room to remove the splinters of iron and bone that were in the ankle. I was operated on without any anesthesia, as the hospital ran out of supplies, so just a handkerchief in my mouth and grit my teeth! Many other medications were also missing and the wounds were struggling to heal. The doctors, both Spanish and Italian, the latter were medical officers of Italian ships interned, they did their utmost to do the impossible, but from the Spanish mainland the supplies of medicines never arrived and therefore it was necessary to adapt and hope in God. Spain had come out of a long and bloody fratricidal war, so there was only the bare essentials to live and everything in membership. But my most serious wound, for which there are no medicines whatsoever, was the distance from the homeland, from family, from friends, from everything that belongs to us by birth. In Italy will they have known what happened to us, will they know the truth about who is dead and who is alive? They say that Spain has relations with the Holy See and the International Red Cross and that it takes weeks or months to give or receive news.

We try to remedy these anxieties with the memories of life on board, recalling the days of relief in the numerous port cities, in short, the happy days.



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Guido Bellocci, published by CLD in 2001, concerning the chapter

dedicated to the sinking of the Regia Nave Roma.


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