Italian submarine Leonardo da Vinci

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Leonardo da Vinci in 1940
Name: Leonardo da Vinci
Builder: CRDA (Monfalcone, Italy)
Launched: 16 September 1939
Homeport: BETASOM, Bordeaux
Fate: Sunk 24 May 1943
General characteristics
Class and type: Marconi-class submarine[1][2]
  • 1,175 long tons (1,194 t) standard
  • 1,465 long tons (1,489 t) full load
Length: 76.5 m (251 ft)
Beam: 6.81 m (22.3 ft)
Draught: 4.72 m (15.5 ft)
  • Diesel engines, 3,600 hp (2,685 kW) (surfaced)
  • Electric motors 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) (submerged)
  • 2 shafts
  • 17.8 knots (33.0 km/h; 20.5 mph) surfaced
  • 8.2 kn (15.2 km/h; 9.4 mph) submerged
Complement: 57

Leonardo da Vinci was a Marconi-class submarine of the Italian navy during World War II. It operated in the Atlantic from September 1940 until its loss in May 1943, and became the top scoring non-German submarine of the entire war.[3][4]


Leonardo da Vinci was built at the CRDA shipyard in Monfalcone, near Trieste, Italy’s leading submarine builder. One of six boats of the Marconi class, which were laid down in 1938-39, Leonardo da Vinci was launched in September 1939. Designed as an ocean-going vessel, she was intended for operations both in the Mediterranean and in the Atlantic.

Service history[edit]

With Italy’s entry into World War II in June 1940 Leonardo da Vinci was dispatched to the Atlantic to Bordeaux in occupied France to serve in the Italian submarine flotilla there, BETASOM. She arrived October 1940 after a successful transit of the Straits of Gibraltar, scene of a number of Axis submarine losses.

Leonardo da Vinci carried out 11 war patrols, sinking 17 ships of 120,243 GRT,[5] which included the 21,500-ton ocean liner RMS Empress of Canada. Leonardo da Vinci was Italy's most successful submarine in World War II, and her captain, Lt. Gianfranco Gazzana-Priaroggia, Italy's leading submarine ace. In July 1942 Leonardo da Vinci was assigned to a special operation aimed at mounting raids on harbours on the eastern seaboard of the United States. To this end she was converted to carry a CA-class midget submarine, and during the autumn engaged in trials with the new weapon.[6] However, the operation was delayed due to the need for modifications to the CA craft and Leonardo da Vinci returned to action to the Atlantic.

On 19 March 1943 Leonardo da Vinci torpedoed and sank the 7,628 ton British cargo ship SS Lulworth Hill in the South Atlantic.[7] Leonardo da Vinci captured and took on board one survivor;[8] two other men survived following a 50-day ordeal on a liferaft.[9]

In April 1943 Leonardo da Vinci sank three vessels in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Durban.[10]

Ships sunk by da Vinci[11]
Patrol Date Ship Flag Tonnage Notes
4th 28 June 1941 Auris  United Kingdom 8,030 Tanker; 27 survivors from a crew of 59
6th 25 February 1942 Cabedello  Brazil 3,557 Freighter; no survivors
6th 28 February 1942 Everasma  Latvia 3,644 Freighter from Convoy TAW 12 torpedoed at 16°00′N 49°00′W / 16.000°N 49.000°W / 16.000; -49.000; 15 survivors
7th 2 June 1942 Reine Marie Stewart  Panama 1,087 Schooner
7th 7 June 1942 Chile  Denmark 6,956 Freighter; 39 survivors from a crew of 44
7th 10 June 1942 Alioth  Netherlands 5,483 Freighter; 8 survivors from a crew of 36
7th 13 June 1942 Clan Macquarrie  United Kingdom 6,471 Collier; 1 killed from a crew of 90
8th 2 November 1942 Empire Zeal  United Kingdom 7,009 Freighter
8th 5 November 1942 Andreas  Greece 6,566 Freighter
8th 10 November 1942 Marcus Whitman  United States 7,176 Liberty ship; no casualties
8th 11 November 1942 Veerhaven  Netherlands 5,291 Freighter; no casualties
9th 14 March 1943 RMS Empress of Canada  Canada 21,517 Troopship; 392 killed from 1,800 aboard
9th 18 March 1943 Lulworth Hill  United Kingdom 7,628 Freighter
9th 17 April 1943 Sembilan  Netherlands 6,566 Freighter
9th 18 April 1943 Manar  United Kingdom 8,007 Freighter
9th 21 April 1943 John Drayton  United States 7,177 Liberty ship
9th 25 April 1943 Doryessa  United Kingdom 8,078 Tanker; 11 survivors from a crew of 54
Total: 120,243


After sinking four more ships, on 22 May 1943 Leonardo da Vinci unwisely signalled its intention to head for Bordeaux on completion of its patrol.[12] Its position having been fixed by direction-finding, on 23 May the destroyer HMS Active and the frigate HMS Ness (both escorts to convoys WS-30 and KMF-15) subjected the submarine to an intense depth charge attack and sank it 300 miles (480 km) west of Vigo at an estimated position of 42°16′0″N 15°40′0″W / 42.26667°N 15.66667°W / 42.26667; -15.66667Coordinates: 42°16′0″N 15°40′0″W / 42.26667°N 15.66667°W / 42.26667; -15.66667.[13] There were no survivors.



  1. ^ Conway p 306
  2. ^ Bagnasco p161
  3. ^ Clay Blair, Hitler's U-boat War: The Hunters, 1939-1942, p.740
  4. ^ The US Navy's most successful submarine, USS Tang, sank 116,454 GRT, while HMS Upholder, the Royal Navy's most successful submarine, sank 93,031 GRT of shipping.
  5. ^ Blair p.739
  6. ^ Kemp p.59-60
  7. ^ Piccinotti, Andrea (2000–2006). "Sommergibili Classe Marconi". La storia della Regia Marina Italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale. Andrea Piccinotti. Retrieved 1 July 2010. 
  8. ^ Allen, Tony (9 May 2008). "SS Lulworth Hill (+1943)". The Wreck Site. Retrieved 1 July 2010. 
  9. ^ "What Cares the Sea?" by Kenneth Cooke, published by McGraw-Hill, New York, 1960.
  10. ^ Bizley, Bill. "U-Boats off Natal" (PDF). Natalia. 23&24: 78. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Christiano D'Adamo. "Regia Marina Italiana - Boats - Leonardo da Vinci". 
  13. ^ "WRECKsite - Leonardo da Vinci". 


External links[edit]