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Antonio Meneghini - RN Rome


When we began to put together this book Antonio was no longer with us; but, as has happened for others, he had already taken steps to fix on paper the memory of his first embarkation, on Rome and above all of that tragic day, 9 September 1943, during which he managed to escape death, which already he had aimed with a crazy splinter. Mrs. Eleonora has provided us with the newspaper clipping (unfortunately we do not know the title or the date of publication) which shows the article "Thus ended Rome" signed by Antonio. But Arturo Catalano Gonzaga and Agostino Incisa della Rocchetta also talk about him in their books (see Bibliography) and the other Sharks (Casini, Vacca Torelli, Rossi) in their files.

From these documents it was also possible to draw Antonio's card which is proposed as a noble testimony of that "human solidarity, dedication to duty and stoic endurance of pain" that the motivation of the Medal rightly highlights.


Antonio embarked on Rome on April 15, 1943 at La Spezia and took an oath on it on August 22, in front of Commander C. V Adone Del Cima, together with the large group of Sharks who were on board the beautiful ship. He opens the article "This is how Rome ended", defining his ship: "Patent and very fast, wonderful for harmony of forms" and then continues:

"On the morning of September 8, 1943, the Ensigns returning aboard from one of the usual night exercises, learned that the ship was ready to move to order.

It was known that the Allies were landing in Salerno and there was no doubt that they were finally going to "boil in the cauldron".

The Aspirant on guard in cipher had the feeling that the messages he was deciphering were imaginary dream tales. The sightings spoke of hundreds of ships and thousands of planes that seemed to suddenly appear everywhere from the sea and the sky.

Each man on board had the appearance of he  who, having been devoted to dying from time immemorial and tormenting, at last knows the date of his passing.

A dull, grave and silent calm hung over everyone from the snake to the admiral.

Everyone wrote the last message home and everyone wrote the same lies: "All right," rest assured, we will be on leave soon.

Only the Ensigns, sentimental and mad like all the Ensigns in the world, gathered in their little square to sing the Corsican anthem and drink the last bottle together.

Deputy Commander Cableri helped them as he could in their confidence by distributing days of arrests, by the dozen, with no economy, to persuade them, poor boys, that they should have continued to live to pay off - as the Regulations prescribe - that rampage of punishments that rained down. on their shoulders.

The first table of the evening was at six o'clock. A clear sign that immediately after sunset the ships would have set sail to meet their tragic fate. The sailors ate an excellent ration. But, on the premises, it seemed to the Watch Officer that hundreds of mutes were sitting.

Even in officers' squad we ate in silence. From the open doors you could see the surrounding hills lit by a fragrant sun and you thought it must be nice to be able to lie down once more on one of those meadows and feel underneath, with your hand, the dry and deep security of a good earth.

The news of the armistice arrived suddenly. Whispered by someone, it was immediately on everyone's lips. For a short while it was as if a whirlwind overwhelmed everyone's soul.

Few were the cries of joy and many faces were streaked with tears.

From the coast the anti-aircraft militia fired tracers as a sign of jubilation and boats of cheering workers passed alongside.

On Rome the Commander Del Cima said, through the collective orders network, a few words ............ There were no comments; perhaps every man was convinced that he was living a dream, a bad dream, which the reality of the morning would dispel.

That evening, aboard the Roma, ready to move into the night, there was a cinema aft.

I don't think anyone understood what those shadows waving on the white canvas wanted, but the show was there anyway, because on the daily service sheet it was written: "twenty hours, free guard, cinema projection".

By the very early hours of day nine, the full squad had already slipped silently and darkly out of obstructions and was sailing west of Corsica, heading for Maddalena. The "navigation in war" proceeded regularly, with all the men in their place. The cruisers, having left Genoa, reached the battleships that were proceeding in line in a row, and placed themselves at their sides on two columns. Late in the morning, an English scout began to hum very low around the formation. It looked like, outlined on the horizon, a huge haunted slipper.

He felt sure, so sure that, petulantly, he came close, closer than good manners and observance of the rules allowed. A salvo of the 90 mm from Italy convinced him at greater discretion.

Around fifteen, already close to La Maddalena, Admiral Bergamini was informed that that port had been occupied by the Germans.

The decision was sudden and rapid, flags were raised ashore by signals: the ships of the long line in line passed at the same time to the front line with brilliant, orderly and precise maneuver, as during an exercise. It will always remain in the eyes of those who saw it, the spectacle of that imposing front of large ships that ran parallel, lifting high mustaches of foam and giving a final vision of strength and dexterity. At a second raising of flags, the ships made another coup at a time that led them to sail  on the opposite route to the first.

Suddenly, a sighting: "Plane one hour, two hours, site fifty". The column turned quickly and in the eyepiece of the binoculars, the heavy device appeared like a big boring fly. "

We take from "The last mission of the battleship Rome" (Bibliography n. 15 p. 64) a part of the deposition of Antonio, assigned to the SDT machine gunner:

"I saw the first planes at about 30 ° bearing on the starboard, at an altitude of 5,000 m, on a WNW route. Before the air alarm sounded I saw the stern bomb fall to Italy, which was sailing forward to Rome that detected it for 40 ° (starboard) ........ The alarm was attended by the STV Milani, the STV Codognola, the GM Guidotti, Tropea, De Crescenzio, Bernardi and Scotto, plus the GM Brozzu, who however he went to his combat post on the bridge. " At first the order was given to the SDT personnel of the machine gunners to go close to the tower, under the command bridge, then Commander Giugni, 1st DT; before entering the bridge, he shouted to let the staff stay in place and I went to the signal bridge, aft of the tower and made the staff go back. The gunners were not ordered to fire, because the planes, flying in groups of 4 or 5 at a time, were too high ".

Let's go back to the article:

"The smoke he launched seemed at first to be one of the signals of recognition, foreseen by the aero-naval code.

It was a matter of seconds, and only when a huge bomb, which seemed animated by a demonic fire, sank screaming a few meters from the stern of Italy; everyone ended up realizing that they were under fire from an air formation that used a weapon never before used.

The reaction was immediate. The ship flared up from all pieces; even the machine gunners whose firing could not be directed with certain effectiveness, given the high altitude of the attackers, fired angrily and relentlessly. German planes attacked in isolation and from different directions. They aimed carefully and fired their huge rockets that descended, lightning fast and almost vertical, with their eerie black trail.

The first shot hit the ship in the center on the starboard side, devastated a couple of rooms and got into the cars. "

From the deposition:

"..... at the first bomb that hit Rome, the gabion of the radiotelemeter went and slipped into the barrel of one of the first 90 units on the left. they gave no sign of receiving orders either for headphones or horns. Some machine guns opened the direct target shooting, particularly precise seemed to me that of the 37 mm machine guns of tower 2 large caliber ".

Antonio continues:

"Anyone who has not tried it, cannot imagine the sensation of who is on a ship when it is hit;. Perhaps the one who, in battle, has had the horse wound under him, can realize it. It writhes, yes. freezes at the blow; you may not believe it, but screams in pain, then grits his teeth and throws himself forward, appealing to all his strength, to every part still healthy. By a miracle of the car crew, Roma continued the its navigation.

Then another smoke, a huge angry black finger, slipped out of the sky to look for us. He came down, hooked and swift, malicious and intelligent, and struck the ship, bursting into an ammunition depot.

A sharp pain in the eardrums and everyone seemed to sink into the bilge, and from the bilge into a sea of flames, and from this into an even hotter hell, where the burning sulfur entered the lungs grabbing and tearing them apart.

When the few men, who could, recovered, the ship burned in the incandescent armored tower, the reservoirs jumped and the superheated steam came out cheerfully from the turbofans.

His hands, groping for the way on the hot bulkheads, felt the fizzing of the burning skin, without feeling any pain. As the sirocco wind blew, the only practicable place was the stern, where those who could reach it gathered and those who could be transported were transported ".

In that hell Antonio wanders stunned when he sees Ruri (Arturo Catalano Gonzaga) who describes the dramatic encounter as follows:

"One ... came towards me, his face was torn by fire and his eyes immersed in a layer of blood. He asked for help with a vaguely  familiar voice. I recognized him: it was Ensign Meneghini. A splinter had almost skinned him. I saw the nape of his neck partly deprived of the skin, which hung hanging from a thin strip of skin, and a part of the bare skull stained with red clot. I tried to cleanse his blood with my handkerchief that covered his eyes, heartening him and repeating "go! go!".

Antonio would have gone into the sea, but not before having rescued Michele Scotto who - he reports ".... I found at the stern via della torre n.4 mc, unconscious and badly burned. I took off his shoes and some clothes: I then inflated his life buoy. When the water overtook the gunwale, I made him go down to the sea and I too followed him, without being able to reach him, because of a lot of blood lost and my lack of swimming skills . I found him. On the machine gunner's motor launch when Mr. Costa threw himself into the sea to recover me ".

Rome is now a wreck full of corpses:

"A huge crack cut the ship in two, right in the center, as if a giant ax had hit it.

The lookouts sat burned in their movable domes. On the bridge, the signalers burned alive, tragic human torches. The ship swerved quickly and in a few minutes all those who could do it threw themselves or were thrown overboard: Rome was alone ............... In a few minutes it overturned and broke and the two stumps rose enormously against the sky before sinking, rapid and silent, as if sucked by an unknown power of the abyss, enclosing within themselves the bodies of about sixteen hundred men, among the best who had offered their arm to the homeland. On the sea around, the few survivors turned. On their backs their tormented bodies to see the ship finish, and when the last sheet quickly disappeared, the cry with which, then, rose simultaneously, spontaneously, with a glorious and tragic simplicity. they used to go to the fire: <Long live Italy, Long live the King> ".

On board the machine gunner who had picked him up, Antonio received the first treatment from Doctor Sala who mended the large wound in his head then, when the ship arrived in Menorca on the morning of 10 September, he was disembarked with the other wounded at the Military Hospital. He remained interned in Spain until 10 July 1944 when he was able to repatriate to Taranto with the cruiser Duca degli Abruzzi.

On 22 July 1944 with the boarding on]] a torpedo boat Aretusa, Antonio resumed service on the ships that would continue until February 1947 when he left the Navy.

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