Carlo Fecia di Cossato

Carlo Fecia di Cossato

Commander RM Submarine Tazzoli

25 September 1908 -27 August 1944

Sank 18 ships for a total of 96,553 tons making di Cossato the highest scoring Italian submarine skipper during the Second World War.

Cossato graduated from Livorno Naval Academy in 1928 then spent time in China as a Naval Attache. He served on two submarines during the Spanish Civil War. At the beginning of WW II Cossato commanded Ciro Menotti, a diesel/electric sub in the Mediterranean operating against the Royal Navy. Promoted to Lieutenant Commander, Cossato was posted to command Tazzoli (Calvi Class) ID symbol ‘TZ’  operating  as part of  BETASOM (Bordeaux Sommergibile or Sommergibili) commanding Italian boats operating in the Atlantic. Tazzoli passed through the Straits of Gibraltar on September 13, 1940 arriving at Bordeaux the 29rd of the same month.

Italian subs, designed for the Mediterranean, suffered from slow dive times, underwater handling below par and conning towers too large. Many were reconstructed to address these deficiencies. 

The first patrol:  to the coast of West Africa. On April 15, 1941 Tazzoli sank the  armed merchantman  Aurelia (4700 tons) with gunfire. Attacks on a destroyer and merchantman on May 16, 1941 were unsuccessful. “in the following days, the Tazzoli sank the Norwegian Fernland (4,310 tons), isolated from the Allied convoy OG59. “…Tazzoli sank the Fernland with four torpedoes; 2 while submerged and 2 while surfaced at close range.”* “on 9 May 1941, the Tazzoli sank the Alfred Olsen with its cannons.”** on May 23,1941 Tazzoli damaged an attacking Bristol Blenheim – no damage to itself. Total for patrol –  17,860 tons, a new record for BETASOM and a Medaglia di Argento (silver) for the skipper. 

Second patrol on July 15,1941: again to the coast of Africa in Liberian waters providing few opportunities. After sinking the Cistern Sildra (7,300 tons), Tazzoli was forced to return to France due to a damaged vent. 

Then, “a new mission with a humanitarian objective. Cossato received orders to save the shipwrecked crew of the German auxiliary destroyer Atlantis which HMS Devonshire sank.”

He reached Saint Nazaire between the 23 and 29 December 1941.

The third Patrol – 11 February 1942 netted a total of 4500 tons in waters off Florida, then the Caribbean. At the end of this patrol, Tazzoli netted six ships for a total of 29,200 tons, another new record for the Regia Marina. Di Cossato received the highest Italian order for bravery, the Medaglia di Oro (gold metal). Damage to torpedo tubes forced a return to BETASOM. 

Tazzoli returned to action on June 18, 1942 heading back to the Caribbean. The next day the sub was attacked from the air – a narrow escape and finding Allied ASW efforts improved, the sub was sent to waters off of Trinidad. Tazzoli accounted for 11,600 tons then returned to Bordeaux.

A final  patrol to the coast of South America commenced on 4 November 1942 ending  ‘Fecia Cossata sank 20,500 tons on this mission and won another Medaglia d’oro al valor militare.” Due to declining health he was taken off active operations and given the torpedo boat Aliseo back in the Mediterranean. 

On May 16, 1943, Tazzoli was sunk while on a transport mission to Japan to load with materiel desperately needed by a deteriorating Italian economy. Fecia’s crew went down with her. 

While in Bastia after the armistice commanding the torpedo boat Ardito. Other Italian units including a torpedo boat squadron were in harbor when a German group of ships entered the harbor.“At midnight Fecia di Cossato left the port. The Germans attacked and damaged the Ardito and Mas and captured their crews and their commanders with heavy losses.” Fecia won another Medaglia di Bronzo by attacking and sinking a number of the German vessels.

Furious at the secondary role and treatment of the Regia Marina, di Cossato protested. From a family of loyal monarchists, ” …the new Ivanoe Bonomi government of June 1944 did not give an oath of loyalty to the king. Fecia di Cossato refused to obey orders of the new ministry and was charged with insubordination.”  “Carlo Fecia di Cossato was removed from his duties, and prevented from entering in the Official circle when he was at Naples. During this period, it appeared that Fecia Cossato requested an audience with Umberto di Savoia on several occasions. The request never made it to the King’s desk. 

Anger and betrayal got the better of the celebrated skipper – mainly over events after the armistice. Cossato committed suicide on August 27, 1944 in Naples.

From a last note to his mother:

“It has been months since I started thinking about these events and I cannot find a way out, a meaning to my life. For months I have been thinking about my sailors of the Tazzoli who are honorably on the bottom of the sea, and I think that my place is with them.” 

Note: – the Italian submarine force was the second largest in the world at the beginning of the war.

Many thanks for quotes from and


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