French submarine Casabianca (Q183)

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For other ships with the same name, see French ship Casabianca.
Namesake: Luc-Julien-Joseph Casabianca
Laid down: 1931
Launched: 2 February 1935
Commissioned: 1935
Struck: 12 February 1952
Homeport: Toulon
Nickname(s): "Le Casa"
Fate: scrapped in 1956
General characteristics
Class and type: Redoutable class submarine
  • 1500 tonnes (surfaced)
  • 2000 tonnes (submerged)
Length: 92.30 m (302.8 ft)
  • 2 diesels, of 4,300 hp
  • 2 electric engines of 1,200 hp
  • 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) (surfaced)
  • 10 knots (submerged)
  • 14,000 nautical miles (26,000 km) at 7 knots (13 km/h; 8 mph),
  • 10,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) at 10 knots (20 km/h; 10 mph)
  • 4,000 nautical miles (7,000 km) at 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph)
  • 90 nautical miles (170 km) at 7 knots (submerged)
Test depth: 80 meters
  • 5 officers (6 in operations)
  • 79 men
  • 11 torpedo tubes
  • 1 × 100 mm gun
  • 1 × 13.2 mm machine gun

Casabianca (Q183) was a Redoutable-class submarine of the French Navy, named in honour of Luc-Julien-Joseph Casabianca. She was notable for her escape from Toulon in November 1942 as German forces tried to seize the French fleet as part of Case Anton, the occupation of Vichy France. Following her escape the submarine and her crew fought on the side of the Allies.

Phony War, Vichy France and escape from Toulon[edit]

During the Phony War, the Casabianca undertook uneventful cruises in the North Sea and off Norway. After the Fall of France and subsequent armistice, she was disarmed in 1941.

Her new captain, Capitaine de Vaisseau Jean L'Herminier, managed to illegally restore the fighting potential of the submarine, and store 85 m³ of fuel aboard.

On the 27 November 1942, the SS stormed the harbour of Toulon to seize the French fleet, triggering the scuttling of the French fleet. As other vessels were scuttled by their crews, the Casabianca managed to set sail and dive, under fire from German forces. She sailed south to Algiers, where she surfaced in front of the screen of British patrol boats before signaling her status and intentions. Two other submarines, the Marsouin [1] and the Glorieux [2], arrived in the next few days.

Missions for the secret services[edit]

From December 1942 to 1944, the Casabianca landed intelligence elements, radios, ammunition and weapons in Corsica and Provence for the Maquis. Her elusiveness earned her the nickname of "Phantom Submarine" from German troops.

The British conservative MP Keith Monin Stainton served as a liaison officer aboard the submarine in 1943, whilst a Royal Navy lieutenant.[3] From 1943 until 1944 Charles William Beattie, a Royal Navy Signals specialist also served on board Casabianca to safeguard and interpret secret cyphers sent to the boat whilst out on station, bravely taking part in many of the secret landings under the noses of the enemy on the shores of Corsica.

In her last mission, she landed a hundred men of the elite forces (achieving a record for a submarine of such a displacement in the process). The men were landed on an isolated beach at Arone near the village of Piana in the North West of Corsica. A monument exists there now.

End of the war[edit]

After the liberation of Corsica, the Casabianca was used for regular patrols. In 1944, she was hit in a friendly fire accident by a British plane, and had to refit in Philadelphia until March 1945. The submarine was scrapped in 1956, but the conning tower survives — since 2004, it has been on display in Bastia near the harbour.[4]

The French Navy's Rubis class nuclear submarine Casabianca (S 603) was named after the submarine.


During her career, the Casabianca achieved the following success :

  • 1 warship sunk by torpedo
  • 1 warship sunk by gun
  • 1 merchantman hit by torpedo
  • 7 secret missions
  • Liberation of Corsica
  • Ran a German blockade of Toulon during defection

Casabianca in popular culture[edit]

The submarine's exploits were used as the basis for the 1951 film Casabianca, starring Pierre Dudan and Jean Vilar.

The Casabianca also played a prominent role in the 2007 novel The Double Agents, book five of the Men At War series by W.E.B. Griffin. Specifically, the insertion of Allied agents into Sicily and subsequent sinking of a German E-Boat and cargo ship.

External links[edit]