top of page

Orazio Luigi Marzi - RN Rifleman

My first embarkation as an Aspirant Ensign was the cruiser Eugenio di Savoia who reached La Spezia on April 15, 1943; my assignment was that] or Suborder in the Artillery Service, as Head of the Machine Gunner Department. I was on that ship, the seat of the command of the VII Cruisers Division headed by Division Admiral Romeo Oliva, when, on 4 August 1943, together with Montecuccoli, we left for the mission that involved the bombing of Palermo, already occupied by the Allies. As is known, the mission was interrupted then that the admiral believed that the surprise effect had disappeared.

On 7 September 1943, in La Spezia, I left the cruiser to pass, again as a subordinate to the Artillery service, on the Fusilier fighter of the XII Squadriglia CC.TT. The Commander was the CF Uguccione Scroffa, while the CV Giuseppe Marini, commanded the Machine Gunner, Head of Squadrig] ia, and CF Gianmaria Bongiovanni the Carabiniere. Fourth unit of the Squadron was the Velite.

I was on my second day of embarkation when, on 8 September, the national radio announced the news of the armistice. In the night all the ships capable of moving left from La Spezia, under the orders of Admiral Bergamini, and our squadron took on the task of escorting the battleships Rome, Vittorio Veneto and Italy, taking place on the left side of the formation, in line in a row. We were headed for La Maddalena but at 2.45 pm on 9 September, having received the information that the base we were headed to was occupied by the Germans, the Commander in Chief ordered a turnaround, after which German bombing planes made their appearance. who used, for the first time, guided bombs (which were later identified as Fritz-X). The air strikes hit the battleship Italia with a bomb on the prow which brought about 600 tons of water on board, without affecting the operational capabilities of the unit, and the battleship Roma with two bombs that caused it to sink rapidly.

During the air attack, the Rifleman, like all the other units, reacted with his artillery (120/38 guns) firing at g] the planes which, however, were higher than 6000 m and therefore out of range. After the sinking of Rome, which cost the lives of 1227 men, including the Commander in Chief AS Carlo Bergamini, Attilio Regolo and our squadron (except the Velite) were commissioned to provide for the recovery of the shipwrecked of the sunken ship. (According to the official report of the CIS (Commission of Inquiry) the sinking of the ship Roma followed these communications:

From Vittorio Veneto to the 7th Division Command (Amm. Oliva)

"I think ship struck Rome I propose to send two to save people (alt) From intercepted, it seems we have to go to Sona 160509".

The Command of the 8th Division (Amm. Biancheri) at 16.08 gave the following order to the cc. t t. Machine gunner, Rifleman, Carabiniere: "Give aid to Rome, and he informed Adm. Oliva, Commander of the VII ° Division, that he was in charge of the Command in Chief of the FF.NN.BB. having the almost certainty that" Etc. Bergamini is dead or in any case not in a position to command ".

In turn, the VII Division, at 16.02, ordered the XII Squadron and Attilio Regolo to go and give assistance to the stricken ship (a similar order was given to the "Pegaso" Squadron which was behind on the route), as shown in the telegram:

1616. "Give assistance to ship struck 160209".

It was transmitted after that of the VIII °, although it was probably conceived before: it followed that the Velite fighter, not having been called by the 8th Division Command, did not go to rescue the naugraghi, but remained information).

At the end of the rescue operation, the Rifleman had about 150 shipwrecked on board, some of them with very serious injuries and burns as a result of which they died within the next 24-28 hours. Then, while the Naval Force continued its navigation southwards, directed to Bona and then to Malta, the naval group Attilio Regolo, Mitragliere, Fuciliere and Carabiniere, under the command of CV Marini on the Mitragliere, headed for the nearest neutral land, the Balearic Islands, to land the injured castaways, including some in very serious conditions (I quote for all the Sharks: Michele Scotto and Marcello Vacca Torelli).

On the morning of September 11, the group entered the Port Mahon bay on the island of Menorca and the wounded were immediately hospitalized in the small military hospital which was located on the small island in the center of the bay. The Italian ships, having been unable to refuel with fuel and food due to opposition from the Spanish government, after the 72 hours provided for by international law, were considered interned by the Spanish authorities.

All four units were moored "in packet" in the center of the bay and all were required to disassemble and deliver the breeches of the guns, the shutters of the machine guns and the doors of the boilers, material that was given in custody to the Command of the Naval Base .

The ships were guarded by the Churruca and Escano fighters and - so to speak! by an old Italian explorer, Guglielmo Pene of the "Poerio" class, ceded to Spain in 1938 and renamed Teruel, as well as by a department of the Infanteria de Marina.

Thus began a period of delivery on board ships without any external contact. Only a Commissioner Officer per ship, flanked by an Officer of the Navy Infantry (for the Rifleman it was Captain Don Lorenzo Arbona y Penilla, who later became our good friend) could access the warehouses of the base and go to the affiliated shops of the city, to supplies of food.

it was a very sad time. There was no news of the Italian situation and of our loved ones, nor was it possible for us to send it. It should also be added that the provisions were rather scarce. In truth it cannot be said that they suffered from hunger, but many accused weakness for lack of alimentation to the point that the services on board and the jobs were reduced to the essential.

In addition, the thought of the defeat, of the sinking of Rome which had caused so many human losses, of the summary care that it had been possible to give during navigation to some wounded survivors, when, having exhausted the supplies of the infirmary, for lack of bandages we had to sacrifice clothing personal, of the subsequent hospitalization of the most suffering and needy (I cannot forget dear Scotto - the "Octopus" as we called him - with his head completely bandaged) ....... everything contributed to increasing the sadness and despair in our situation.

A first partial relief came during the Christmas holidays, during which we were allowed to go ashore in separate shifts of 2 hours (NCOs and Sailors from 14 to 16, Officers from 17 to 19). We thus had the first contacts with the city and, sporadically, with the population.

In March 1944 an event occurred, in a certain way, crucial: perhaps because a sense of impatience began to be felt on the part of some faithful to the old regime - and here I express a completely personal opinion - faithful for a heartfelt sense of honor and dignity and certainly not for anything else - we Officers were invited to renew the oath of loyalty to the King. The Shooting Director Marco Andrenelli and the Chief Engineer refused on the Rifleman (I don't remember his name). Said officers, who declared themselves adherents to the Italian Social Republic, were immediately disembarked. Consequently, I, subordinate to the Artillery Service, was appointed Director of the Shooting and Head of the 3/4 Department.

As the tide of the conflict turned in favor of the Allies, Spanish surveillance was diminishing so much that we were able to enjoy almost complete freedom at Easter. This improvement in the standard of living made us all more relaxed also because contacts with the citizens of Mahon became more frequent: above all the attendance of the fair sex increased, represented, at least for us officers, by senoritas' from a good family but also - because no? - from bailarinas del "Trocadero", a well-known club in the "Barrio chino"!

Our enforced sojourn further improved when the ships were transferred from anchor in the harbor to the groynes of the Naval Base. Since then we have been able to enjoy even greater freedom while always respecting our condition as inmates. Some of us were also invited to our surveillance fighters, Churruca and Escano, and thus became familiar with their staffs. I add a curious fact that can give the right idea of our relations with the Armada: one day there was a breakdown of an old Teruel machine gun and, given my specialization, I was asked for an intervention from the Spanish side. I joined immediately using some skilled gunmen from the Rifleman, who solved the problem.

This situation of relative freedom lasted until January 1945, when our internment was declared invalid under international law. The ships were then able to leave Port Mahon to return to Italy.After a brief stop in Tangier, to carry out the necessary supplies in the allied Navy Stores, we continued to Taranto where we arrived on January 26, 1945.

bottom of page