Royal Navy. 


Italian Torpedo Boat - 

JX 113661 Chief Petty Officer T.G.M. Campbell - 1940's


The Italian destroyer (CIRCE) which found HMs/m TEMPEST, (off the Gulf of Taranto around 13th February, 1942), and depth charged her so precisely actually was a Spica tipo Alcione Class Torpedo Boat.

As Carmelo Incorvaia kindly informed me, the CIRCE was part of the 13th Torpedo Boat Squadron, which in turn belonged to the 1st Torpedo Flotilla, based in Messina, Sicily, under the command of Admiral Barone.

The CIRCE was built around 1937 and was launched on April 15th, 1938, was commissioned and in June 1940, sank the Royal Navy submarine HMs/m GRAMPUS.  I think at this point, I should mention that the term 'Torpedo Boat' and 'Destroyer' are very similar in this instance, both in size and armaments.  The CIRCE was primarily a torpedo attack boat.  (A Spica tipo Alcione class Torpedo Boat seen here below.)

Spica tipo Alcione Class.The CIRCE's specifications are quite impressive.  My thanks again to Carmelo and to Cristiano D'Adamo, for informing me of these specifications.  A length of over 267ft (81.4m) and over 26ft (7.9m) wide and a draft of over 10ft (3m), the power for this boat came from two turbine engines and two boilers driving twin propellers, producing over 19,000 Horse Power.  With a maximum speed of 34 knots, the CIRCE's range was about 1,900 miles at 15 knots, using 215t of fuel.

A crew of 99 officers, petty officers and sailors manned the CIRCE.  Her armaments consisted of 3 x 100mm, 3 x 47mm and 8 x 13.2mm guns.  4 x 16" (450mm) torpedo tubes, 2 x depth charge launchers and an assortment of mines.

The ASDICS / Sonar installed, which found and tracked TEMPEST, was almost certainly a German make.  Here, Leonardo Ciaccheri, kindly clarifies that Italy had no Asdics at the outbreak of WW2, only passive hydrophones.  By late 1941, Italy started using German equipment and in 1943, the first Italian Asdics appeared.

Michael Emmerich informs me that the German Asdics were a S-Gerät make, an underwater detection system.  Michael explains that the system consisted of a sender-crystal moulded in a hydrodynamic dome below the keel of the CIRCE. (The CIRCE was one of the few ships equipped with the S-Gerät design.)  It used horizontal directed sound pulses which were reflected by underwater objects, in example a boat's hull.  The reflections were received by a receiver-crystal mounted in the same dome as the sender-crystal.  This system was similar to the British Asdic, except for the way the sound pulses were differently generated.

Leonard explains there were two types of depth charges available.  Both were made by the Moncenisio company, the 50/1917 consisted of a 50kg charge and could be set to explode at depths of 22, 40, 70 and 100m, and entered service in 1917.  The 100/1927, again consisted of a 100kg charge and could be set to explode at depths of 25, 50, 75 and 100m , entering service around 1927.  These depth charges could be used both with a bomb-thrower and bomb racks.  They were bulky, slow to sink and appeared to have an insufficient charge.

A more modern hydrodynamic depth charge with a 150kg charge was produced.  These were used mainly for the 'Gabbiano' Corvette Class (which were the best Italian escort ships).  Leonard believes it is possible that the later type of depth charge could have been fitted other ships, including the CIRCE but there is no clear evidence yet - unless someone reading this could enlighten us.


My thanks to Carmel, Cristiano, Michael and Leonard for their time and effort in helping me, and for allowing me to use their material / details.


The CIRCE was lost after a collision with the Italian boat CITA di TUNIS at Castellammare on the 27th November 1942.



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