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September 8 afternoon in La Spezia


Battleship Rome


The Command in Chief of the FF.NN.BB. he intercepted the communication of Radio Algiers with which General Eisenhower announced the Armistice between Italy and the Allies. Admiral Bergamini thus unexpectedly learned via radio that an Armistice had been signed.

Admiral Bergamini immediately gathered Admiral Caraciotti and his General Staff to examine the situation and to take the relative decisions, which were oriented towards the self-sinking, also taking into account what was communicated by Supermarina at 1.30pm

7.45 pm

Shortly after the end of that meeting, he heard the proclamation of Marshal Badoglio on the radio. He therefore decided to go to the Vittorio Veneto (the only unit that he had specifically left moored at the buoys of the breakwater, because they allowed the telephone connection to be maintained with the land), to speak with Admiral de Courten. He also arranged for a meeting of the admirals and dependent commanders to be held at 22.00 on the Vittorio Veneto. He then went to that unit.

The interview with Admiral de Courten could only take place at 8.30 pm.

Admiral de Courten thus reports in his "Memoirs"

 "While I was trying to make telephone contact with Admiral Bergamini, he, who had taken the battleship Vittorio Veneto, headquarters of the 9th Division Command, to the announcement of the Armistice received by the radio".


Admiral Bergamini initially expressed his indignation at not having been informed the day before the conclusion of the Armistice, considering this attitude as a lack of trust in him. He therefore asked to be exonerated from the Command in Chief of the FF.NN.BB. However, he pointed out that it was not his intention to take his ships to allied ports and that his intention, as well as that of his General Staff, was to scuttle the ships, as planned by Supermarina. He had also summoned the subordinate admirals and the commanders of the dependent naval units to report, at 22.00 on the Vittorio Veneto, to evaluate the decisions to be taken; he believed that his admirals and commanders were also oriented towards the self-sinking hypothesis.

De Courten writes:

"I explained to him the situation, as it was also revealed to me in its crudeness, placing myself in front of the fait accompli that previously was only partially known to me, with the constraint of secrecy. I explained to him the progress of the meeting held at the Sovereign, the which had ended with the order of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces [the King] to loyally execute the harsh armistice clauses, an order that certainly cost his heart at least as much as it weighed on ours. General Staff and the existence of a document, which they communicated to me [the Quebec document], from which this appeared to be the way to give the Italian people the possibility of life and recovery in the future, with a certain guarantee on the part of the leaders of the Anglo-American coalition. These were the considerations that led me to believe that the fair execution of the agreed and accepted clauses was necessary. uncle foresaw the transfer of the Fleet to Anglo-American controlled areas beyond Bona, with precautionary security measures, but with respect for military honor. I added that it was better to remove the ships from / as soon as possible, not only from the danger of a German intervention, which could manifest itself at any moment, but also from the deleterious influence of the land environment and the repercussions of contacts and discussions between the General Staff. and crews of different units. Since the advanced hour would not have allowed us to leave the naval bases until after midnight (and therefore would not have allowed us to follow the procedure of the Dick Document, which provided for the arrival in daylight hours in the waters of Bona), I told him to prepare to leave as soon as possible for La Maddalena, where he had already been prepared for mooring and where I would have him find the exact text of the armistice clauses and related documents, as well as the detailed instructions for further movements.

With that promptness of perception and decision that were characteristic of him, Admiral Bergamini immediately entered the spirit of the arguments that I had extensively exposed to him and replied that he understood the intimate meaning and profound value, sharing the conclusions I had reached, despite the very hard sacrifices for all that were implicit in them. He assured me that in a short time he would report to me on the results of the meeting he called, stating that he would do his work to convince everyone of the need to abide by the orders of the Sovereign.

This short and dramatic interview, which took place between 20.30 and 21.00, gave me a certain sense of tranquility ".

9.30 pm

Admiral de Courten decided to go to the home of Grand Admiral Paolo Thaon di Revel, who enjoyed a high esteem in the Navy and was considered an "example of the sentiment of military honor" to explain the situation to him and have his opinion. Admiral Thaon di Revel listened attentively to de Courten, gathered himself for a few minutes in silent meditation and then addressed de Courten with these words:

"The Navy must carry out Her Majesty's orders"

10.00 pm

Battleship Vittorio Veneto


The captain of the vessel Carlo Tallarigo, commander of the cruiser Eugenio di Savoia, reports on the meeting as follows:

“[...] Admiral Bergamini, made a quick comment on the Armistice communiqué transmitted by the Radio, recommended to the Commanders who had not already done so, to gather the crews and explain its meaning.

Then he communicated that the units of the FN able to move, had to, at the order that was expected from the Center, move to the Magdalene, and that before leaving it was necessary to stock up on food from subsistence in the greatest possible quantity.

He did not give other communications regarding the location of the ships [as he does not know why it would have been communicated to him at La Maddalena]. Then, perhaps to remove any doubt from the minds of those present, he spoke of the need for the strength of the Navy to remain compact in spirit and decision, as it could constitute the strongest element for the reconstruction of the homeland and concluded by pronouncing approximately the following words: It is the duty of each of us to blindly obey the orders of the central authorities as they alone possess the elements to judge the situation that has arisen and to choose the right path to follow. We all must be ready to make any sacrifice, even if it goes beyond our lives.

Finally, in response to a question put to him by some Commander or on his own initiative, he said that it could not be excluded that the ships were attacked both by the Germans and by the allies and that therefore it was necessary to be ready to react to any offense, from whoever came [ ...] ".

And so reports, on this meeting, the frigate captain Marco Notarbartolo di Sciara, commander of the cruiser Attilio Regolo

“[...] On the Vittorio Veneto I already find the admirals and part of the commanders. At about 10.30 pm, the adm. Bergamini who looks moved. It tells us that, while hostilities with the Anglo-Saxons must cease, a very serious conflict with Germany is imminent. The Italian Navy in 40 months of war, has done all its duty: none of the FFAAs. he obeyed and gave as much as the R. Marina. Even in this period of transition, the Navy must continue to maintain its traditions high and serve the country. Up to now the crews have been an example of sacrifice and duty. Everyone has always given, in every moment and in every place, the maximum of their possibilities, up to the extreme sacrifice for the good of the homeland. The only resource is to keep intact the spirit of the Armed Forces, especially the Navy, which in these 40 months of struggle left 12,000 dead and about 40,000 missing. Only by doing so will one day be able to reconstruct the new fortunes of Italy on these intact bases. The adm. Bergamini also informs us that he was awaiting a telephone call from Rome and that he would meet us the next day for further communications ”.

Still on the same meeting, the captain of the vessel Marini, commander of the destroyer machine gunner and of the 12th destroyer squadron reports as follows:

  • informs that the German ships have been properly disembarked;

  •  confirm the instructions given in the afternoon;

  • informs that he does not yet know which orders will be given for the FF.NN.BB. departure or not, to eventually move to Sardinia or elsewhere;

  •  informs that the Minister of the Navy, Admiral de Courten was summoned at 22.00 by Marshal Badoglio for instructions; that he, Admiral Bergamini, will subsequently speak by telephone with Admiral de Courten, and, in the meeting the following morning, will transmit any new communications to the Commanders ”.

Frigate captain Antonio Raffai, commander of the destroyer Velite, reports

“[...] Admiral Bergamini gathered in the Council Room all the commanders together with the members of his General Staff. He communicated to all the orders of His Majesty, transmitted to him by Admiral de Courten, underlining the importance and gravity of the decisions to be taken.

I remember that Admiral Bergamini said that it was not a surrender and that the Flag would not be lowered on the ships [...] “.

11.00 pm

Bergamini contacted the Arsenal and the Commanders of the ships who, despite being under construction, could however "be readily available" as per orders received from Supermarina. He therefore established that the two units that could leave with him were the cruiser Attilio Regolo - who was to finish the work on 25 September, but who had already made a three-hour outing on the previous 4 for progressive tests of the engine system. - as well as the destroyer Artigliere, who had left the Basin on the 8th afternoon where he had carried out dry-docking works, even if he still had to carry out some small works.

Subsequently he called Admiral de Courten who thus reports the interview

 “Just before 11pm the telephone bell rang again. It was Admiral Bergamini who gave me the long-awaited answer. He concluded and summed up in the brief dialogue - during which I confirmed the urgency to leave the waters of La Spezia as soon as possible and the allied commitment to respect the honor and dignity of the Navy and the concordant judgment of the Grand Admiral - with these simple words: “Don't worry, in a few hours the whole team will leave to fulfill their duty entirely; all ships capable of moving, even with a single propeller, will leave with me. These were the last words that I had to hear from the lips of that noble and high figure who, after having animated and empowered with words and example all the organizations entrusted to his multifaceted activity, after having left an indelible imprint of his personality, of his good and generous heart, of his simple dedication to the common good, was destined to close, a few hours later, his earthly day, immolating himself with faithful devotion to those high ideals of Italianness and a sense of duty and sacrifice, which they had inspired his whole life. Admiral Bergamini's communication was welcomed with a sense of relief even by my closest collaborators, who continued to carry out their fervent work from my office in the Ministry "


Admiral Bergamini took care to call Admiral Biancheri again in Genoa, who reports this call as follows:

  “Last phone call with Bergamini at 00.30; He is also embittered, but he obeys and tells me that he will speak to me at Magdalene for a long time ”.

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