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Giulio Biscaccianti - RN Grecale

After leaving the R, Livorno Naval Academy with the rank of Aspirant Ensign, on 15 April 1943 I embarked on the battleship Duilo in Taranto to follow the "rc" internship which would be completed on 29 July.

I interrupted my training from 21 to 27 June because I was embarked as a subordinate to the route on the torpedo boat Ardito engaged in an escort mission to a merchant ship bound for Syracuse. We arrived in front of Syracuse at the dawn of day 22, on a clear morning, with calm of the sea and good visibility. As the escorted ship headed for the harbor entrance, where the obstructions had already been opened, an enemy submarine lying in wait launched two torpedoes at it. From the dashboard of the Ardito we sighted the air bubbles of the launch and the trails of the torpedoes, on which we immediately fired with the machine guns to signal the launch to the merchant ship: this, with an abrupt approach, managed to avoid the torpedoes, entering unscathed. in port.

The Ardito headed full force at the launch point and unloaded all the depth bombs from the hoppers but could not be sure of the sinking of the submarine  "During escort missions carried out in 1942 ( the Ardito) on 16 and 24 December carried out decided hunting actions against enemy submarines which resulted in the probable damage of one of them and the sinking of the British P48 (in competition with another torpedo boat) 10 miles NW of Zembra. in 1943, until the armistice, the torpedo boat Adito carried out twenty-eight escorts to merchant ships; during these missions it assisted the shipwrecked of the Ardente of some merchant units sunk by attacks by bombers and torpedo aircraft: the torpedo boat suffered minor damage and loss of personnel by strafing aircraft while its anti-aircraft reaction knocks down two attacking planes; without controlled result remained instead its antisubmarine actions of 9 and June 22).

Promoted to Ensign on 14 July, on 30 of the same month I embarked in Genoa on the Grecale fighter, which had CF Ponza di San Martino as Commander and TV Pratis as Officer in 2nd. The ship had just completed the work for the reconstruction of the bow (which had been lost in the collision with the Ardente near Punta Barone (Sicily) and had already done the machine tests. The ship was moored to a quay near a shed and had loaded all the ammunition in view of the transfer to La Spezia.

On the first Saturday of August only part of the crew was present on the ship because the Commander had sent the staff who had family in the area on weekend leave. I, being on guard, was the only officer on board. Late in the night, Genoa was subjected to a massive aerial bombardment, aimed above all at hitting the port and the shipyards, which were lit up by a large launch of flares. I formed a patrol of 7/8 sailors under the command of a non-commissioned officer, senior boarding officer and skilled in the ship, and sent the rest of the crew to the nearby air-raid shelter. Then, having noticed in the sky, in the light of the flares, something white, in the doubt that there had also been a launch of paratroopers, I placed the guard patrol, armed with muskets, at the entrance of the shed with a machine gun on a tripod .

During the alarm I noticed that some incendiary pieces of phosphorus had fallen on deck and on the stern castle and also on the ammunition reservoirs of the machine gunners; the flames had begun to lick the sheets, especially those of the reservoirs. If these exploded, the ship's survival would have been jeopardized. So I took a blanket from the beds inside the shed, I ordered the sailors to take more and to follow me on the Grecale to throw them on the incendiary pieces and put them out; and to someone who was reluctant and shouted "Here we all jump!", I strengthened saying "We have to save the Grecale!" and we succeeded.

Sunday passed and on Monday all the crew returned. I had not made any report because - due to inexperience - it seemed to me that my behavior and that of the guard patrol had been normal in times of war. But the non-commissioned officer who was with me mentioned something to the Commander who gathered all the officers in the square and, after telling the episode, pointed to me saying: "This little boy, who has been on board for three days and still has milk on his lips, has made a gesture like an old fighter and saved the ship, even though he knew he was in danger. It deserves an honorable mention. "

I replied that I had simply done my duty and had given an example; I added that it was the members of the patrol who deserved a commendation and a reward in the form of a few days off. Proposal that the Commander accepted instantly.

The Grecale moved to La Spezia on August 13, joining the bulk of the FF.NN .BB. On 8 September 1943, the announcement that the American fleet under the command of Admiral Hewitt was heading to Salerno with a convoy to make a landing there and that an armistice had been signed in Sicily which provided for the delivery of the Italian fleet to the Allies, he found the ship with the boilers already on and ready to move with all the other units.

When the radio broadcast the armistice communiqué, the Commander was with all the officers in the square: a non-commissioned officer arrived out of breath announcing that in the bow, below the castle, the news of the armistice and the probable delivery of the fleet had caused great confusion and many disagreements of opinion especially on the part of elderly fighters; therefore he threatened to occupy the Santabarbara and blow up the Grecale so as not to hand it over to the English. The Commander turned to me saying: "Go under the castle to calm down!" I made silence, I called the non-commissioned officer and the sailors of the patrol of the facts of Genoa, I praised them for the courage shown, concluding that, after having defended the Grecale on so many occasions, there was no need to make rash gestures. The spirits calmed down, everyone began to reflect, no one raised objections.

I got the keys to the Santabarbara and took them to the Commander.

At 02.00 on 9 September the Grecale departed from La Spezia with all the ships of the FF.NN, BB. for that tragic navigation which is well known to all for the sinking of Rome by German bombers. The Grecale was also attacked: I was on the lookout on the starboard bridge wing and followed the flight of the planes.

I saw a plane attacking the stern Grecale: I noticed a white cloud indicating the release of a bomb and a black point that descended quickly. I shouted to the Commander: "The plane has dropped on us. I see a black dot" An excited conversation followed: "Is it still in the air?" "Yes. I see him stationary" "He is on a collision course with us and he will hit us! What to do?" "Full forward and tiller to starboard heading out to sea!" "But there are minefields!" "On the left are the rocks!".

While the Grecale approaches 90 ° on the starboard, increasing the speed to the maximum, I continue to follow the black dot: "Commander, it expires at the bow!". A few moments later the bomb explodes into the sea about 100 meters from the approach point and on the route that the Grecale followed before the maneuver. A huge column of water rises, investing the ship and making it dance. It had gone well! I didn't break down. A signalman who was next to me on the bridge wing, knowing that I was a "little boy" at the first war embarkation, asked me "Are you afraid, Mr. Biscaccianti?". And I calmly "No! It's part of the game!" ..

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