Italian submarine Iride
|Laid down:||3 September 1935|
|Commissioned:||30 July 1936|
|Armament:||6 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes|
The Italian submarine Iride was a 600-Serie Perla-class submarine, serving with the Regia Marina during World War II. She was originally armed with six 21 inch torpedo tubes, 12 torpedoes, one 100 mm (3.9 in) deck gun and room for up to four 13.2 mm machine guns. During the course of the war, Iride was converted to carry human torpedoes, which were stowed in cylinders mounted on her deck.
Iride almost torpedoed the destroyer HMS Havock on 31 August 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. The British ship replied with depth charges, damage on both sides was avoided, although "in the wardrooms of the Fleet, wild stories circulated of Neapolitan dentists being kept busy repairing Italian submariners teeth broken in the depth-charge explosions".
On 22 August 1940, in preparation for a human torpedo attack on the port of Alexandria in Egypt, Iride was performing a test in the Gulf of Bomba, Cyrenaica with four human torpedoes when three Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle attacked and sank the submarine and two other ships in shallow water.
Sent in response to a sighting of the submarine tender, they approached at sea level after a flight of several hours from a North African airfield. The aircraft caught the Iride together with the depot ship Monte Gargano and the torpedo boat Calypso at anchor. The flight leader, Captain Oliver Patch, Royal Marines, sank the Iride, while John Wellham and Lieutenant Neville Cheesman attacked the others. The action resulted in the sinking of two ships. A few crew members were rescued with the support of the human torpedo operators; most died in the sinking. John Wellham, low on fuel and wounded, returned to his desert base and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Patch received the Distinguished Service Order, while Cheesman, Sub-Lieutenant Frederick Stovin-Bradford and Acting Sub-Lieutenant Gordon Woodley also received the DSC, and Petty Officer Alfred Marsh the Distinguished Service Medal. Patch and Wellham would later fly in the attack on Italian fleet at Taranto harbour.