Daily Event for June 23, 2009

June 23, 1940 while trying to return to her base at Massawa, Eritrea after a patrol in the Red Sea the Italian submarine Torricelli encountered a group of British warships on patrol near the island of Perim of the coast of Yemen. Under the command of Capitano di corvetta (Lt. Commander) Salvatore Pelosi, and unable to submerge, the boat began an heroic fight against overwhelming odds.

Pelosi used every weapon at his disposal to fend off the pursuing warships, and he scored the first hit of the battle when a 100mm shell hit HMS Shoreham L-32, which caused enough damage that the ship broke off and made for Aden for repairs. Pelosi kept running and shooting scoring a hit on HMS Khartoum F-45, this caused a fire in the magazine which later destroyed the ship. Using only his deck gun and four machine guns Pelosi fought on, he fired his remaining torpedoes from his stern tubes, but the British were able to evade all of them.

After thirty-five minuets of battle the first shell hit the Torricelli, the explosion disabled the steering and wounded Pelosi, he knew he could not escape and ordered his boat scuttled. HMS Kingston F-64 and HMS Kandahar F-28 picked up the survivors, seven of Pelosi's crew and one civilian were lost.

The actions of Salvatore Pelosi and his crew impressed the British adversaries so much that when he was taken aboard HMS Kandahar, he was received with military honors. Commander William G. A. Robson, RN, commanding officer of Kandahar reportedly said to Pelosi "Although five against one, we were not able either to sink you, or capture you, or force you to surrender".

At Aden both Pelosi and his first officer were invited to an official dinner. The Admiral in command of Aden was there and both Pelosi and Commander Donald T. Dowler, RN, commanding officer of HMS Khartoum were toasted. In his speech the Admiral said to Pelosi "The action at Perim Island was a very courageous one on your part and I cannot in any way consider it a British victory. Beyond the losses and damaged we suffered, our ships fired seven hundred shells and five hundred rounds of machine gun ammunition, yet despite all this were not able to sink your ship".

While Pelosi was now a POW, he was nevertheless awarded the Medaglia d'oro al Valore Militare (Gold Medal for Military Valour) by the Italian government. After the war he remained with the Italian navy and retired as a Ammiraglio di Squadra (Vice Admiral) in 1969. S-522 Salvatore Pelosi, a submarine named for him was commissioned into the Marina Militare in 1988.
© 2009 Michael W. Pocock

Roll of Remembrance
In memoria dei caduti equipaggio del sommergibile Nereide
"In memory of the fallen crewmen of submarine Nereide"

Di Raimondo, Salvatore
Rachelli, Pietro
Ragno, Nando
Sanna, Angelo
Sottocapo di Terza Classe
Signore, Angelo
Sorda, Pierino
Zavatta, Ettore

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