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September 8 afternoon in La Spezia


Admiral Bergamini, who arrived in La Spezia  coming from Rome, immediately went to the battleship Roma where the command of the fleet, which was previously on Italy, had been transferred from the morning of the 8th day. On board he was made aware of the orders received from Supermarina regarding the preparation of the FF.NN.BB.


10.00 am

Admiral Bergamini called Supermarina to have clarifications on the matter.

Thus reports de Courten the telephone call between Bergamini and Admiral Sansonetti:

Admiral Sansonetti answered him from Santa Rosa in my presence on the basis ofa note written by memaking use of telephone communications in harmonic, which ensured a large degree of secrecy

Even though the telephone call took place in harmonica, Admiral de Courten took care to prepare the note in such a way that only Admiral Bergamini could understand the actual situation and the orders that were consequently given.

The Germans, on the other hand, if they managed to intercept the conversation, should have believed that the FF.NN.BB. they would have regularly left to go to counter the foreseeable landing that the Allies would have tried to carry out in the Gulf of Salerno.

It should also be borne in mind that, on the morning of the 8th, Admiral de Courten had sent the frigate captain Francesco Ruta to Frascati, where the headquarters of the OBS (German military high command) was located to request Field Marshal Albert Kesselring (Commander in Chief of the German Armed Forces in Italy) an enhancement of the German air escort to be allocated to protect the FF.NN.BB. for the planned counter action of the allied landing.

In the subsequent conversation that Commander Ruta had with Field Marshal Wolfram Von Richthofen (head of the Luftwaffe for Italy and the Mediterranean), it was decided that the escort would consist of thirty aircraft and, of these, twenty must be Germans and ten Italians. . It was also defined which were the airports, located along the route that the fleet would follow, in which to bring the planes necessary to ensure constant coverage of the FF.NN.BB.

The text of the notedrafted by Admiral de Courten, together with further recommendations was the following:

1)   Do you want to know if the order we have given is related to yesterday. The order is given in relation to the sightings, but essentially in relation to yesterday.

2)   Biancheri remains in Genoa.

3)   What could be imminent.

4)   Biggest promised air escorts: 20 Germans - 10 Italians.

5)   It may be necessary to apply the extreme measure of which we spoke yesterday therefore the order would be given as follows: I recommend maximum confidentiality the second word is that of the first name of the common friend who has name = surname.

Communications made to Admiral Bergamini

"I recommend maximum confidentiality"

Upon receiving this communication, order all ships to go out to sea and sink into deep water. If you are unable to get out, let them sink in the port ”.

Admiral de Courten thus reports in his Memoirs the part of the interview in which Admiral Sansonetti specified to Admiral Bergamini what would be the conventional signal to be followed in the event that the order was given to scuttle the ships.

“He added that however the situation could evolve rapidly towards the eventuality, formulated hypothetically in the previous afternoon, adding verbatim: The need may arise to apply the extreme measure which was spoken of yesterday; the order would be transmitted with the conventional signal I recommend ... confidentiality. In this order, all ships will have to implement what has been agreed. The second word of the conventional message, which was maximum, was made known through a specific indication, which could only be interpreted by the Chief of Staff of the Fleet, Admiral Caraciotti, referring to a confidential friendship common to Admiral Sansonetti and to him. ".

It was Cardinal Massimo Massimi.

Admiral Bergamini noted, with bitterness, that in the news communicated to him by Admiral Sansonetti there were two particular references on the basis of which he understood that, as he had predicted in the late evening of the 7th, the situation was precipitating and it would be difficult to implement the desired action to counter the Allied landing in Salerno. On the other hand, anti-German measures as well as those relating to self-sinking could become operative.

These considerations arose from the following reasons:

  • the provision it provided for“Admiral Biancheri remain in Genoa”Meant that the Fleet would no longer have to move to go to Salerno, as it could not be deprived of the particularly valuable contribution of the 8th Naval Division;

  • the phrase "I recommend maximum confidentiality”Meant that the self-sinking of ships could become of probable relevance.


Admiral Bergamini then gave orders to call Rome a meeting of the subordinate admirals and the commanders of the ships under him, present in La Spezia. He immediately called his General Staff to report, to whom he reported the news he had received from Admiral Sansonetti; his officers learned with dismayed reaction of the change in events. And in fact Admiral Franco Garofalo (at the time captain of the vessel and commander of the squadrons of the destroyers escorting the FF.NN.BB.) in remembering those moments thus writes:

"[...] but the anxiety of knowing is too great for me to wait and an hour before I am on board the flagship where, in the Council Room, I meet the Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Caraciotti, and the two Deputy Chiefs of Staff, ship captain Luigi Liannazza and frigate captain Manlio Petroni. Their expression is very serious [...] I turn to Commander Petroni and ask him "what's new?" and he looks at me with two eyes that I will never forget "Do you think my face is that of someone who is finally going to fight?" [...] "

Admiral Bergamini then contacted Admiral Biancheri to report the situation and give him the relative orders. He sent an Officer by plane to Genoa (it is believed that he was the captain of the vessel Nicola Bedeschi, Commander of the destroyer FR21 - former French Lion, who was not in a position to leave - ed.), To provide him with all the details and details of the case. Admiral Garofalo reports in this regard:

 “I enter the Commander-in-Chief's office without even being announced. Admiral Bergamini is giving instructions to an officer who is leaving by plane for Genoa [...] “.

Admiral Bergamini then called Admiral Maraghini on the phone to give him the appropriate provisions for the destruction or self-sinking of the ships that were working in the dock or in any case in conditions of not being able to move, as reported, always by Admiral Garofalo.

The meeting, scheduled for 3.00 pm, actually took place at 3.30 pm and ended around 4.30 pm.

Regarding this meeting, the captain of the vessel Giuseppe Marini, Commander of the destroyer machine gunner and of the 12th destroyer squadron reports as follows:

  • [Admiral Bergamini] premises that he will not be able to communicate everything he has learned to the Ministry of the Navy;

  • very serious decisions are in sight by the Government, the Armed Forces and the Italian people, there is only one orderly and compact force left: the Regia Marina;

  • no Regia Nave must fall into the hands of either the Allies or the Germans. Rather to sink. To the conventional telegram “I recommend maximum confidentiality”, without a doubt, let go of the self-sinking; if this telegram does not arrive, act on its own initiative on the basis of the aforementioned orders; keep in mind that the telegram may not arrive because the Higher Authority may find itself in the position of not being able to transmit it. In any case, no Regia Nave must fall into the hands of either the Allies or the Germans;

  • having to proceed with the self-sinking, do everything possible to do it in deep waters, near coasts. If in shallow waters, self-sink the ships by also implementing the means of self-destruction, if the ships threaten to fall into allied hands; to self-sink without destruction, if they threaten to fall into the hands of the Germans;

  • the King's Majesty gave the order that in such contingencies no human life should be sacrificed;

  • another conventional telegram is also envisaged “Public order measures implemented Promemoria n. 1 - Signed Supreme Command ". To this order, to capture the Germans who are on board and to implement the "special alarm", that is to put the ships in a state of alarm and defense against possible strikes from the outside;

  • confirmation from commander Valdambrini that for Antonio Da Noli and Ugolino Vivaldi a special mission with other personalities is planned.


Admiral Bergamini had a meeting with the frigate captain Riccardo Imperiali, Commander of the torpedo boat Pegaso and head of the new Torpedo boat group destined by Admiral de Courten to strengthen the escort of the FF.NN.BB. The tasks to be entrusted to these units were examined, specifying that, given the different speed of the torpedo boats compared to the units of the FF.NN.BB. it was to be expected that the“Pegaso Group"Departed an hour before the Squad with the task of advanced escort and control of the sea area that would then be crossed by the Fleet. He also communicated to him what he had reported in the meeting at 3.30 pm. The meeting ended at 18.30.

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