Italian Navy / Marina Militare Italiana - Corvette

F 546  -  ITS Licio Visintini



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f 546 licio visintini its nave pietro de cristofaro class corvette italian navy marina militare italiana cantieri riuniti dell adriatico monfalcone

Type, Class:


Corvette; De Cristofaro class



Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico, Monfalcone, Italy



Laid down: 1963

Launched: 1965

Commissioned: 1966

Decommissioned: 1994






Lieutenant Licio Visintini (1915-1942) (see history below)

Ship’s motto:



Technical Data:

(Measures, Propulsion,

Armament, Aviation, etc.)


see: INFO > De Cristofaro - class Corvette


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f 546 its licio visintini de cristofaro class corvette italian navy


f 546 licio visintini its nave pietro de cristofaro class corvette italian navy



F 546 ITS Licio Visintini:


-- service history wanted --


Lieutenant Licio Visintini:


Lieutenant (Tenente di Vascello)

(born: February 12, 1915 in Parenzo (Porec/Pola, now Croatia) / died in action: December 8, 1942 - Gibraltar)


Promoted to Ensign in 1937.

Duty aboard the Submarines NARVALO and ATROPO.

Participated in military actions off Albania in 1939.

Took part aboard the submarine TORICELLI in the first war mission of the Italian Navy Submarines in the Atlantic at the outbreak of WWII.

On his request he was transferred to the X Flotilla MAS in La Spezia.

After a hard training he became operator of the Assault Craft.

Promoted to Lieutenant in 1941 he was Commander of the famous “Orsa Maggiore” (Great Bear) Team of special operations, which succesfully operated at the British Naval Base in Gibraltar.

He died in action during a mission with “manned torpedoes” in Gibraltar on December 8, 1942.


licio visintini lieutenant tenente di vascello medaglia d'oro di argento valore militare olterra

Licio Visintini - Awards:

Medaglia d'oro al Valore Militare alla memoria - Gold Medal for Military Valour in Memory

Medaglia di Argento al Valore Militare sul Campo - Silver Medal for Military Valour in the Field (Mediterranean Sea, May 1941)

Medaglia di Argento al Valore Militare sul Campo - Silver Medal for Military Valour in the Field (Gibraltar, September 1941)




Olterra’s campaign:

(source: wikipedia)


The auxiliary ship Olterra was a 5,000 ton Italian tanker scuttled by her own crew at Algeciras in the Bay of Gibraltar on 10 June 1940, after the entry of Italy in World War II. She was recovered in 1942 by a special unit of the Decima Flottiglia MAS to be used as an undercover base for manned torpedoes in order to attack Allied shipping at Gibraltar.

From 24 September 1940 to 15 September 1942, there were six submarine-borne assaults on Gibraltar. Three of them resulted in the destruction or sinking of a number of Allied freighters, with a total tonnage of some 40,000 tn. Three of them were carried out by human torpedoes launched from the submarine Scirè; the other two were the work of combat swimmers.

After the attacks carried out by the Scirè, the commander of the Decima MAS realised that, given the limitations of using a submarine as a mother ship for human torpedoes in Gibraltar, it would be more feasible to mount a secret base in neutral Spain. A first step in that direction was taken when a member of the Decima, Antonio Ramognino, rented a bungalow along the coast road near Algeciras, right in front of a bay used by Allied convoys to drop anchors. The operations from Villa Carmela were carried out by combat swimmers. Because Ramognino's wife was a Spanish citizen, he had little difficulty establishing his ‘home’ there.

At the same time, another officer of the Italian special unit, Lieutenant Licio Visintini, himself a veteran of previous submarine incursions against the “Rock”, learned about the Olterra and conceived the idea of a secret mother ship for the maiali. Maiale (literally “pig”) is the Italian nickname for the human torpedoes. Under the pretext of raising the ship to sell it to a Spanish owner, a team of members of the Decima, disguised as Italian civilian workers, took control of the tanker. The ship was towed to Algeciras, where “repairs” were started. The Italian Navy personnel were helped by two civilian members of the crew. They had remained on board the half sunken oiler along with a Spanish guard for more than two years, in order to protect the rights of the Italian company which owned the Olterra. Once at docks, some of Olterra's cargo holds and a boiler room were modified by Visintini men into a workshop for the assembling and maintenance of human torpedoes. An improvised observation post was also mounted on the forecastle to watch the Bay of Algeciras and the Allied ships at anchor there. A scene of civilian sailors working to overhaul the ship was meanwhile set up for the outsiders, in order to deceive both British and Spanish authorities. The torpedoes (in spare parts) and other equipment were smuggled into Spain by men of the Decima under the pretense of being materials for the ‘works’ on board the Olterra. Finally, a sliding hatch was open with a cutting torch six feet below the waterline. This would be the exit door of the manned torpedoes, which would launch their attacks from the flooding bilge, right beneath the workshop. The special unit in charge of the operations was dubbed Squadriglia Ursa Major (Great Bear Squadron), after the star-constellation of the same name.

By the end of the autumn of 1942, the Olterra was ready for her mission. The workshop works were completed and all the supplies smuggled from Italy had reached Spain without raising any suspicion. On 6 December 1942, after taking part in Operation Torch, a naval squadron consisting of the battleship HMS Nelson, the battle cruiser HMS Renown, the aircraft-carriers HMS Furious and HMS Formidable and a number of escort units entered Gibraltar. Visintini planned a three manned torpedoes mission, each of them carrying 2 divers: the leading torpedo, driven by Visintini himself and Petty Officer Magro, the second by 2nd Lieutenant Cella and Sergeant Leone and the third by Midshipman Manisco and Petty Officer Varini. The targets were designated in the following order: for Visintini, Nelson, for Manisco, Formidable and for Cella, Furious.

The assault craft departed from the Olterra during the early hours of 8 December. At 2:15 AM, the first human torpedo reached the area of the boom defences. The motor launches and sentries inside the British base were quietly active and alert, conscious of the danger of a potential attack on the fleet at anchor. One of the security measures taken by the Royal Navy after the summer incursions of combat swimmers was the deployment at Gibraltar of an underwater bomb disposal unit, under the command of Lieutenant Lionel Crabb. A pattern of depth charges was dropped by the motor barges at an interval of three minutes between each one. The craft of Visintini and Magro was apparently hit by one of the charges and destroyed when they were trying to find a breach in the steel net protecting the harbour. Their bodies were recovered by the British some days later and buried at sea with full honors. The second “pig” also endured the strong response of British defences after being uncovered by a searchlight. After an endless chase by anti-submarine boats, the Italian crew decided to scuttle their craft and took shelter on board an American freighter. They discarded their swimsuits before submitting themselves to Gibraltar authorities. The last manned torpedo was caught in the middle of the general alarm across the stronghold, but managed to slip beneath the waters and fool the submarine chasers. The copilot, Leone, became missing during the pursuit and was never found; Cella, meanwhile, abandoned the craft elsewhere, thinking that he was still near Gibraltar or, in the best case, stranded close to the Spanish coast. With the idea of becoming a prisoner of war or being arrested and interned by Spanish authorities in mind, Cella surfaced, only to find that he was just a few meters away from the Olterra. His torpedo was recovered by the Italians the following day. The two divers captured by the British told their interrogators that the attack was launched by submarine, successfully deceiving Allied intelligence. Nevertheless, the first human torpedoes mission ended in failure.


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