top of page

Testimony of Admiral Iachino

“At 7.45 pm the Italian radio broadcast the message from Marshal Badoglio. I was in the ministry when it was released and, since I was unaware of everything, I was deeply impressed: I immediately went to the office of the adm. de Courten (whom I knew very well and who had been one of my Division commanders when I commanded the Squad in 1942) and I found him together with the Deputy Chief of SM Amm. Sansonetti, who was issuing orders for the application of the Armistice norms.

He was still very excited by the events that had taken him by surprise as well, and he explicitly told me that he was outraged at being kept in the dark until the last moment. He added that, after having thought of ordering the Fleet to self-sink rather than surrender to the enemy, he had then ended up deciding otherwise; that the Grand Admiral Thaon di Revel had expressed himself in the same sense, whom he specifically consulted; and he invited me, as a former commander of the Fleet, to express my opinion on the matter. I had no hesitation in telling him that, while deploring the way things had gone, I saw no other solution than the one already approved by the King, since it left Italy with the hope of a future improvement in armistice conditions. And I am still convinced that that solution was truly the best.

On the night of the 8th, the adm. de Courten and his closest collaborators dedicated themselves to addressing the critical situation that the sudden announcement of the Armistice had created in the Navy. First of all, the immediate cessation of hostilities by all the naval units at sea, and especially by the submarines, which were already stationed in the south, had to be obtained. It was then necessary to orient the Ground Commands on the real scope of the Armistice, informing them of the clauses contained therein, which were still unknown to all. But first of all, it was necessary to start the fleet from La Spezia (and other departments from Genoa), convincing the crews of the need to loyally comply with the provisions of the Armistice, abandoning any idea of self-sinking ships.

The issue of self-sinking had long been considered by Supermarina, and all our ships had prepared the means and ways to carry it out promptly and surely when the order was given from Rome. It was established that the ships would be sunk in the open sea and in deep water, but ensuring the rescue of all personnel. A mentality had therefore spread in the Squadra which, following the example of the German ships after the First World War and of the French ships in Toulon during the war in progress, considered it appropriate and perhaps even necessary to sink the ships so that they did not fall into the hands of the enemy. .

It was now necessary to cancel this mentality from the crews, and instead convince them that the handing over of the units to the Anglo-Amenicans would be the best decision for the Navy and for the country.

Admiral de Courten, that same evening, made contact by telephone with Admiral Bergamini in La Spezia and asked him what the reactions of the crews had been to the sudden news of the Armistice. Bergamini told him frankly that the mood of the admirals and commanders, already summoned by him as soon as he heard the news of the Armistice, was unanimously oriented towards the self-sinking of the ships. It was moreover natural that this was the case: after months of propaganda and ranting, aimed at bringing the crews to the moral temperature necessary to accept a supreme test against the enemy, it was not possible that they suddenly changed their mind radically and were ready. to surrender himself docilely to the English.

It was rather difficult for de Courten to convince Bergamini of the need to obtain this bitter sacrifice from his employees, and not even the prospect of a future softening of the armistice clauses could induce him to impose on the crews an attitude which they considered contrary to military honor. Yet time was running out; Bergamini had to leave La Spezia as soon as possible to save the fleet from the threat of a German coup; it was not possible to continue debating for a long time an issue on which no agreement seemed possible for the moment.

In order to arrive quickly to a conclusion, de Courten, after appealing to the sense of duty of all the personnel on board, assured that the provisions of the Armistice did not foresee that the flag would be lowered, nor the ships sold to foreign Marines (there in fact there was no clause to that effect, but there was also none that forbade the Allies to do so, if they thought it appropriate). To facilitate Bergamini's delicate task, de Courten told him to leave as soon as possible for La Maddalena without specifying to the crews which would be the final destination of the team “.

bottom of page