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Vincenzo Casini - RN Rome

On 8 September 1943 I was on board the battleship Roma in La Spezia. To be precise, from 2 September, I was housed in the logistical preparations of the Navy sports field together with a platoon of sailors from Rome, set up as an anti-paratrooper function. With us there were two other platoons of sailors, from Italy and from Vittorio Veneto with identical functions. The three platoons formed a company under the command of the STV Codognola (Corso "Uragano"), also embarked on Rome, which would perish with the ship.

It was the second time I had left Rome since, having embarked on April 15, at the end of the course at the Naval Academy, I was seconded on June 20 to temporarily replace a sick Ensign from the Black Shirt fighter. I stayed on this unit for about two months and in this period I had the satisfaction of being subordinate to the navigator who was the STV Bucceri, head of Corso del "Giobbe" and my centenary. On 25 July, at the fall of Fascism, the ship changed its name to Artigliere. I returned on board the Roma in the second half of August.

Returning to September 8, the morning passed with the platoon intent on the maintenance of the weapons supplied (pistols, submachine guns and light machine guns); then in the late afternoon the whole company received the urgent order to return aboard their respective units. We then left the quarters and, by truck, we moved to Marola where the Roma was moored !.

I met with pleasure my classmates (we were 14: 11 from SM Alvigini, Brozzu, Catalano Gonzaga, Gotelli, Guidotti, Meneghini, Rossi V., Scotto, Tropea, Vacca Torelli, and me) and 3 from GN (Garbarino, Moscardini and Rabitti). We were well-knit and led life on board in great serenity, well aware, however, of the particular moment we were experiencing.

On board the rumor had begun to circulate that the FF.NN.BB. they would have moved to counter the landing of the allies which was now underway on the Salerno coast. I remember perfectly well that there was an explosion of joy from everyone. We had only one thought: the intervention of our ships would certainly hamper the landing operations even if we realized that the task would be hard and difficult.

But the euphoria didn't last long. In fact, we soon learned of the armistice and the atmosphere became very sad. What this atmosphere was was well reported by Ruri Catalano Gonzaga in his book "For the honor of the Savoy"   "It was enough to go below deck and throw a look in the ensign square where the laughter, the lightheartedness they had always reigned supreme, to realize that that night was only silence, broken by sobs. The lighted lamps illuminated the disorder of the room; white uniforms, caps, shoes, blue-blue scarves ", glasses piled up everywhere; the four bunks had ruffled sheets and showed pajamas; on one with his face buried in the pillow, a Ensign sobbed nervously: it was Armando Gotelli; another, Vincenzo Casini, sat sprawled on an armchair with his eyes fixed on the void and expressionless ")

I remember my first thought went to my older brother; Corvette Captain, First DT of the cruiser Di Giussano, who disappeared with his ship on 13 December 1941; and with this state of mind I lived the tragic hours of those days. In fact, when on 9 September, during the German air attack, finding myself in tower m. 3 of the large caliber I fell to my knees hit by a terrible explosion (I later learned that the ammunition depot of tower no.2 of medium caliber had exploded), I marked myself and had the clear perception that shortly after I would see my brother again. strongly attached.

When I recovered, the evacuation of personnel from the tower began, with the ship now very heeled. The escape operation was made possible by passing through the upper rangefinder hatch, as the lower armored access hatch to the tower was blocked. I later learned that Vladimiro Rossi had contributed to the opening of the hatch.

Leaving the tower, I jumped on deck, taking a big blow to the left hip, and ran to the extreme stern as the ship was now being abandoned. At sea there were already many people and several carleys. I threw myself overboard trying to get away from the ship which soon capsized showing the four propellers. The hull broke into two sections: the one at the bow slipped into the water and remained almost vertical, while the one at the stern seemed to launch into the water.

I was picked up by the machine gunner where I was assisted by the STV Giorgio Spinelli (Corso "Giobbe") who I also knew well for his skill as a footballer, who forced me to drink a few sips of cognac. I obeyed him even though, at that time, I was not used to drinking liqueurs: since that day I have not been able to look at a bottle of "Vecchia Romagna" without feeling disgust.

Then my memories go to the hours of nocturnal navigation, spent on the deckhouse of the stern part of the Mitragliere, assisting Toni Meneghini, shipwrecked like me and seriously injured in the head. I talked to him for a long time trying to comfort him. Together we hurled vehement curses at the moon every time it peeped through the clouds, lighting up day. In fact, we feared that it would favor the discovery by any aircraft in the area.

My physical, indeed psychic, resistance lasted until the next day, 10 September, when we arrived in Menorca, mooring in Port Mahon. I was admitted to the hospital of the Spanish Naval Base, where I was found to have "acute neurosis". It happened that the first list of survivors of Rome was made without taking into account those hospitalized, so that my family, having become aware of this incomplete list, considered me for some time as missing. My mother lived days of unspeakable anguish because, after having lost her eldest son two years earlier, she was also in pain for her third son, Captain of the Cavalry, who went into hiding, hunted by the SS and of whom she had no news. I really think that those moments, if they were tragic for us, were also tragic for our families.

Of the period of Spanish internment I remember the affectionate understanding and good-naturedness with which we were welcomed everywhere. I have acknowledged this directly every time I returned to Spain. And I certainly will not be able to forget that old man who along the tracks of our train who was about to leave Caldas de Malavella for the return to Italy via Algesiras (N .dR il  9 July 1944 with the inc. Duca de !! li Abruzzi) began to shout "Adios, Italia y Espania siempre unidas contra todo el mundo!".

I can now say that those tragic events caused nightmares in me for at least ten years. In this period I terrified those who shared with me the dressing room on the torpedo boats Cassiopea (GM Porta delle "Raffiche") and Clio (STV Sculco) dear, unforgettable friend.

In one of his letters to Ruri Catalano on the occasion of the publication of the book "For the honor of the Savoy" Vincenzo Casini thanking him for having dedicated the work to his fellow students who fell with Rome he wrote:

You can't believe how much emotion you try to remember them all and in particular Moscardini who had attended the four years of the scientific high school in Livorno with me. Now, as the Gold Medal Com.te Giobbe wrote, "I am at the bottom of the sea where they sleep eternal sleep among the algae and corals together with many honored sailors" including, I add, and with great pride, my older brother.

In memory of them I often go to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Montenero, of which I am devoted, and I always pause in prayer in front of the photograph of Rome while it is exploding, which the surviving Battaglini of Livorno wanted to leave as a sign of his faith in memory of his salvation. Here is the beautiful dedication: "Enveloped in flames, I turned to You, oh Mary, and You saved me.

In the dangers of life, I still turn to You: protect me, my family, Italy ".

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