Eden Camp Modern History Museum proudly presents the most comprehensive collection of human torpedoes in the world.

Attracting many school children and other visitors throughout the year, the museum provides an educational and immersive experience detailing the facts and history using the sights sounds and smells of the past.

The museum, located in North Yorkshire, UK, has recently finished a brand new exhibition in one of its halls that contain a fascinating collection of human torpedoes. We visited the museum shortly after this and checked them out ourselves.

Not sure what a human torpedo is? Planning a visit to Eden Camp Modern History Museum? Then this is the perfect article for you before your trip!


Origins of the Human-Guided Torpedo

During the First World War, the idea of a Human-Guided Torpedo for attacking enemy targets was first proposed by an Italian Chief Petty Officer, Luigi Martignoni. In 1915, naval engineer Raffaele Rossetti designed a compressed air Torpedo called the Mignatta, that was navigated by a crew of two sitting astride the hull of the craft.

Despite rejection by his superiors, Rossetti continued to propose the idea, but it was ultimately dismissed after several attempts. Nonetheless, the Italian Navy continued to explore the development of underwater weapons, which eventually led to the creation of Human Torpedoes during the Second World War by Tesei and Toschi.

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Lieutenants Teseo Tesei and Elios Toschi were engineers in the Italian Submarine Flotilla, who submitted plans for an improved underwater craft called SLC (Siluro a Lenta Corsa) to Admiral Cavagnari in late 1935. The SLC was designed to be faster, quieter, more manoeuvrable, longer ranged, and have a larger warhead than the Mignatta used during the First World War.

The design was approved, and two prototypes were built by the San Bartolomeo Submarine Weapons Works.

The first trials of the Human Torpedo took place in January 1936, throwing up many teething problems, requiring the need for varying technical skills, a sound knowledge of submarine construction, coupled with an understanding of the nature of water pressure.

The Human Torpedo Display at Eden Camp Modern History Museum is a truly immersive experience!

Admiral Mario Falangola saw the advantages of this new weapon and immediately gave instructions to build a number of these machines.

The Human Torpedo project faced many challenges, including finding volunteers with exceptional physical strength and endurance, developing the Torpedo’s handling and breathing apparatus, and training the divers to work as a team in various underwater situations.

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Despite these challenges, a team was formed and the Torpedo was nicknamed ‘Maiale’, meaning pig or swine, due to its difficult handling.

The Maiale

In 1935, the Italian Government faced a lot of opposition from many countries, including Britain, due to Italy’s war in Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia). The possibility of another conflict with such a powerful foe like Britain convinced the higher authorities in the Italian Navy of the need to resuscitate and improve what was so successful in the First World War- underwater manned torpedoes.  

Lieutenants Teseo Tesei and Elios Toschi, both engineers, served in the Italian Submarine Flotilla at the naval base in La Spezia. They were fascinated by underwater craft and inspired by the early drawings of the likes of Leonardo de Vinci and Giovanni Borelli, but more recently by the exploits of Paolucci and Rossetti, during the First World War.

It was these two engineers who understood the technical problems of earlier designs and worked to design a superior submersible.

A British Chariot Mk1 on display at Eden Camp Modern History Museum. The Chariot Mk1 was based off of the Maiale and is strikingy similar.

In late 1935, the two engineers submitted plans for an S.L.C. (Siluro a Lenta Corsa, meaning slow speed torpedo) to Admiral Cavagnari, Chief of Italian Naval Staff, for his approval. Cavagnari approved the design and sanctioned the building of two prototypes, to be built by the San Bartolomeo Submarine Weapons Works. 

The design was of an enhanced version of the First World War’s Mignatta. The S.L.C. was faster, quieter, more manoeuvrable, longer ranged, and had a larger warhead than the Mignatta. 

The first trials took place in January 1936, throwing up many teething problems, requiring the need for varying technical skills, a sound knowledge of submarine construction, coupled with an understanding of the nature of water pressure.

Admiral Falangola saw the advantages of this new weapon and immediately gave instructions to build a number of these machines.

Selection and Training

The River Serchio runs into the Gulf of Genoa. Here the estuary is large, offering ideal conditions to test craft. The land close by with its thick woods, stretching inland from the shore, gave the ideal protection for a secret training camp.  The land was part of the Duke of Salviati’s large estate, stretching along the coast conveniently near to La Spezia and its naval base, but far enough away from the nearest road to be totally secluded.  The Duke gave permission for the Italian Navy to use this isolated part of the estate, for training purposes.

The project began in earnest, building an assault team was not an easy task. A vigorous training programme was developed to aid in the selection of the special volunteers who would endeavour to take the human torpedo into a well-guarded enemy harbour and attach an explosive warhead to the hull of an enemy ship. 

These men needed to have outstanding physical strength, men who had to be almost superhuman for the tasks they were to perform. Men fearless in the face of adversity; with the ability to work as a team in various underwater situations. The trainees would be known as ‘pilots’, as the torpedo was compared to a rocket flying through the unexplored underwater space. 

The success of a mission would rely heavily on a combination of factors: the performance of the machine, the crude breathing apparatus and the divers own endurance in the cold water.  

Having overcome these obstacles, the two divers would face minefields, submarine nets and harbour gates before entering heavily guarded harbours.  The human torpedo operator would have to find his target under the darkness of night, attach the explosive warhead to the ship’s hull and make the return journey.  During the long mission the two men would be unable to converse and consequently need a good bond of trust and understanding.  With this, the most optimistic and experienced submariner realised the odds were not favourable.

The Chariot evolved into this, the Mk 2.

The first enthusiastic members of the human torpedo team to join Toschi and Tesei were Lieutenant Franzini, Gunner Sub-Lieutenant Stefanini and Mid-Shipman Centurione. 

The volunteers training astride the torpedo, found the reactions to the controls varied, particularly with the small rudder and hydroplanes which made the human torpedo slow to react, and often the machine seemed to have a mind of its own. 

The pilots trimmed the fore and aft tanks to establish a level balance, however, the amount of air in each tank would vary fractionally from day to day. Without gauges, the air in the trimming tanks could not be measured and consequently the handling would vary.  The extremely difficult handling characteristics of this ingenious weapon caused the pilots to let their verbal emotions run wild.  Thus, the torpedo was nicknamed “Maiale”, meaning pig or swine.

The divers wore cumbersome ‘Belloni’ diving suits, which restricted movement. The suit needed to be strong enough to give the diver protection in cold seas, yet flexible enough to allow him to work quickly and easily while cutting through submarine nets, and while fixing the explosive warheads to enemy ships.

The underwater breathing apparatus was insufficient for the necessary lengthy periods of time the divers would be under water, the breathing sets needed to provide at least 6 hours supply of air without the tell tale bubbles rising to the surface, which would indicate their presence.  Development was ongoing. 

It was hoped that the war in Abyssinia would offer the opportunity to test the new weapon, however, the war ended and destroyed the chance of proving the machines deadly capabilities. However, the Italian Navy had a great deal of faith in the weapon, and instead of scrapping the human torpedoes, they carefully stored them away in buildings at La Spezia.  The pilots were dispersed and went back to serve aboard their submarines.

The Maiale at the Beginning of World War II

By 1938, Italy knew war was inevitable, Germany began harshly demanding the return of its old territories, and at the beginning of October, the German army marched into Czechoslovakia to occupy the Sudetenland. The two Italian Naval engineers Tesei and Toschi eagerly returned to their human torpedoes. 

In June 1939, the First Light Flotilla was formed under the command of Commander Paolo Aloisi, he himself an engineer. Aloisi regrouped the original unit of divers: Toschi, Tesei, Stefani, Catalano, Centurione. More enthusiastic officers joined these men. The addition of Birindelli, Bertozzi, de Giacomo, di Domenico, de la Penne, Vesco, Paccagnini, Pedletti, Franzini, Bianchi and Lazzaroni produced the nucleus of what would be the most feared assault unit in the Mediterranean.

These few men would put fear into the world’s greatest navy, Britain’s Royal Navy, and carry out what would become some of the most daring and dangerous missions of the Second World War, and cause all British harbours to be patrolled and heavily guarded.

Once more the divers had to undergo extensive training.  The training became tense as volunteers were required to attend lectures on engineering, navigation, diving, breathing underwater, and the methods of attack.  The types of harbour defences and other obstacles were discussed and the trainees encouraged to volunteer their own theories.  

To become a human torpedo pilot, the applicant was expected to have exceptional qualities and be prepared for one years training before setting out on a mission.  The Navy set a high standard, their selection system operated during training and was designed to eliminate the undesirable volunteers.  

Eden Camp Modern History Museum have their very own Maiale too.

Early in the training course extensive checks were made into the volunteers’ family and friends, his financial affairs, love affairs; not a stone was left unturned.  A recent break with a girlfriend, disagreements between friends and family could result in lack of concentration; these were just some reasons for instant dismissal.  

Next came a thorough medical examination followed by an intensive interview with the commanding officer. Devotion to duty and patriotism were expected, ingredients that naturally surface during a time of war. If the volunteer passed these preliminary tests, he was ready for the strenuous training in diving and the uncomfortable sessions with the Maiale in the River Serchio.

The Italians originally intended to transport the Maiale to its operational area by a C.A.N.T. Z.511 flying boat. The idea was quickly abandoned in favour of using submarines, which were eventually fitted with special cylindrical containers, one for each S.L.C. The containers were fitted fore and aft deck, allowing the submarine to dive deep and manoeuvre as normal.  The submarines camouflage was changed; pale green with a darker shaded outline so the submarine when surfaced looked like a trawler. 

At the beginning of 1940, the submarine Ametista, under the command of J.V.Captain Borghese, neared La Spezia harbour with its cargo of three S.L.Cs. ready for its first experimental run.  The three human torpedoes were to be launched outside the harbour; their objective being to place a dummy charge on the “Quarto”, anchored in the east harbour.  Though two of the torpedoes ran into difficulties, the third was able to attach a dummy charge to the ship, which would certainly have resulted in her destruction, if for real.

The Italian Navy considered the British Mediterranean Fleet in its naval bases of Alexandria, Gibraltar and Malta as a major threat.  These bases were prime targets for the Maiales.

The Operational History of the Maiale

In August 1940, four Maiales and their crews under the command of Gino Birindelli, were taken by the destroyer Calipso to the Gulf of Bomba, on the coast of North Africa to prepare for an attack on Alexandria.  On the 16th August it was joined by the submarine Iride, which was to be used to transport the S.L.Cs. and their crews to their destination.  

While waiting for the scheduled date of attack, which was to be on the 25th /26th August during a full moon, the Iride while surfaced with 14 men on deck, was detected by British Swordfish aircraft of the 824 Squadron.  It was the afternoon of 21st August, and the pilots were going through their drill, and preparing their Maiales’.  The Iride was attacked and suffered an explosion that threw the men into the water, sinking the submarine.  Birindelli and his men surfaced; the Iride lay on the seabed, the forward section split in two.

The museum also has a ‘Sleeping Beauty’, a motorised submersible canoe which operated similarly to the Maiale.

Birindelli together with his men and breathing apparatus, loaned to them from a trawler which had come to their aid, dived to the sunken submarine to see if their were any survivors.  Voices could be heard, but the force of the explosion had jammed the escape hatches.  After a 20-hour struggle, Birindelli realised that their task was impossible.  

The trapped men faced death, the only option was to open the foreward watertight door and flood the whole compartment, and then for the trapped men to swim underwater through the damaged fore section, and work their way up to the surface.  One by one, by doing this, they all emerged to record one of the greatest submarine escapes of all times.

The Second Attempt to Attack Alexandria

The submarine Gondar left La Spezia for Alexandria a month later, on the 21st September 1940, with three Maiales on board. The captain of the Gondar was Commander Brunetti, the Maiale pilots being Franzini, Cacioppo, Stefanini, Scappino, Toschi, Rugnati, plus the reserve crew of Calcagno and Lazzaroni.

As the submarine was nearing Alexandria, excitement was running high among the human torpedo pilots.  However, dejection soon set in when a message was received, informing them that the British Fleet had left the harbour.  

Their plans scuttled, they had no alternative but to turn back, but while doing so, an Australian destroyer HMAS Stuart detected their submarine. The submarine’s course of action was to dive down to a depth of 125 metres, far below the recommended depth of 80 metres, where it suffered a heavy depth-charge attack.  

The pilot’s position on the Mk 1 Chariot.

The enormous water pressure helped the explosions damage the submarine until the trim was lost and she began to drop out of control. The silent crew had already endured a long and sustained attack in a confined and uncomfortable space expecting death at the next explosion. Now, they silently fell to what should have been a certain death. 

Suddenly they heard the noise of air being blown into the submarine’s ballast tanks – the commander had decided to save lives.  The submarine stopped falling and began to rise slowly at first, until it broke the surface in a mass of white foaming water.  The hatches were thrown open and men hurled themselves into the sea before the submarine, with air bubbling from its weakened and damaged hull quickly disappeared below the surface and sank to the bottom of the sea.  

On the surface were two destroyers, a Corvette and a Sunderland Flying Boat.  Only one life was lost, the other men were pulled from out of the sea to become prisoners of war.  Toschi, one of the Maiales’ designers, was far from being a model prisoner.  After several escape attempts, he eventually succeeded, and made it back to his own side.

Mission Three – Gibraltar

The Italian’s attention turned to Gibraltar, when on 24th September 1940, the submarine Scirè with three Maiales, under the command of Captain Borghese, left La Spezia with the pilots Birindelli and colleagues Paccagnini, Tesei, Pedretti, Durand de la Penne, Bianchi and the reserves Bertozzi and Lazzari. 

Captain Borghese had been instructed to launch the human torpedoes from the Scirè, and then to return directly to Italy.  The human torpedo pilots were also ordered at the briefing that after having reached their targets and setting the charges on the enemy ships, to abandon their machines and make their way to neutral Spain where the Italian Navy had made arrangements for them to be returned to Italy. 

However, fate was to intervene again, when only 100 km away from the harbour at Gibraltar, the excited Maiale teams were informed once again that the British Fleet had sailed out of harbour to take part in ‘Operation Menace’.  

The pilot’s position on the Mk 2 Chariot at Eden Camp Modern History Museum

Toschi and Tesei’s enthusiasm for their invention coupled with the pilots’ own energetic contribution to the design and construction, produced an immense thrill each time their Maiales were given the chance to display their capabilities.  One can only imagine the sheer frustration felt by the men on the return voyage of a fruitless mission, after the research, development and intense training of the previous five years without the chance to be fully operational.  

The pilots were unquestionably faithful to the project, but opponents would argue that with three failed operations, one fatality, the loss of two valuable conveyance submarines, and four Maiale teams being taken prisoner, the project did not inspire confidence.

A Second Failed Attempt on Gibraltar 

October 21st 1940, saw the Scirè complete with three Maiales and crew, head for Gibraltar. Naval Intelligence informed them that the battleship H.M.S. Barham was in the harbour with the battlecruiser H.M.S. Renown.  After several trying setbacks involving equipment failure, the mission was again aborted. 

HMS Barham at Scapa Flow in 1917.

Two operators were taken as prisoner of war, one being Birindelli. He was interned at Chester where he wrote home to his mother “Tell my brother to persevere with his university exams and he will succeed”. Mrs. Birindelli gave the letter to the Italian Navy saying,  “He does not have a brother!”  The coded message was clear. Even though it was an abortive attack, it did produce a positive result.  As Birindelli had been able to penetrate the harbour, he proved that an attack with S.L.C’s. was still a viable idea.

Decima Mas

March 15th 1941, saw the 1st Light Flotilla being renamed the 10th Light Flotilla – Decima Mas, under the leadership of Commander Moccagatta.  This was further divided into two parts, firstly, a sub-surface weapons group which included the human torpedoes and the Gamma assault frogmen.  

The Gamma men were closely allied to the Maiale operators since they engaged in many of the same missions. Both the Gamma men and Maiale operators used the same breathing apparatus and Belloni suit, the former often camouflaging their suits so as to disguise their appearance.

Swimming great distances, the Gamma men would carry limpet mines in bags secured around the waist to be attached to enemy ships. Two types of mines were used, the 2 kg Mignatta which was secured to the hull by suction; it was possible for the men to carry as many as five on a mission.

The pilot inside the Mk 2 Chariot, giving a great view of the rebreathing system they would have to wear.

The second type, an ingenious device, was attached to a ship’s bilge keel while in harbour but designed to blow up when out at sea, thus causing confusion – could it have been a submarine’s torpedo? 

The mine was activated by a small propeller, which gradually armed the charge as the ship advanced on its journey.  Booby traps and shrouds were fitted to the mines to prevent safe removal by British personnel when searching for explosives fixed to ship’s hulls. 

The second part of Decima Mas was a surface group which dealt with the operation of fast explosive motor boats. 

Mission 5 – An Attack on Gibraltar 

The next operation, which took place in May 1941, was handled differently. As the pilots needed to be rested and as relaxed as possible for their missions, the men joined the Maiale carrying submarines after travelling in by surface ship, or after being flown in. This wasn’t possible for the Gibraltar missions, so another method had to be found.  

The Fulgor, a tanker which had been interned at Cadiz when Italy had declared war, was hoped to provide the solution. It was decided that the pilots would travel overland to Cadiz and board the Fulgor disguised as crewmembers, to be picked up later by the Scirè. Though the idea of using the Fulgor as an advanced base worked well, this mission again failed to produce any results.

Mission 6 – Malta

When Greece became involved in the war on 28th October 1940, the British made use of the numerous anchorages around this country’s coastline and islands. In turn it provided further targets for the Italian human torpedoes. In July 1941, the Italians decided to target Malta, what became a chief stronghold of the British navy in the Mediterranean.  

The mission ended in failure, and was the cruellest and the bloodiest of all operations undertaken.  Piloted torpedoes and explosive motor boats were used in addition to S.L.Cs. 

The approach to the harbour went without incident; the explosive motor boats running at slow speed so as not to arouse the enemy’s attention. Tesei on his Maiale, was to blow up the approach net which was suspended from a bridge.  

A commander on his Mk 1 Chariot which is missing it’s warhead. This is also how the pilot would be situated on the Maiale.

Once the expected explosion took place, the commander gave the immediate order for the boats to attack, not waiting for confirmation that the net was successfully broken. The leading boat went ahead and a thunderous roar cracked through the air as the boat blew up on contact, killing the pilot instantly. Searchlights picked out the other craft, and it wasn’t long before fighter aircraft were swooping over the water, machine-gunning boats and men.  

Losses were heavy; overall 15 men were killed including Tesei, one of the Maiales’s co-designers and Commander Moccagatta, head of the Decima Mas. Eighteen men were taken prisoner, ten boats, a special towing craft and two human torpedoes were lost.  Two fighter aircraft, which came out to oppose the British fighters, were also shot down. 

Mission 7 – Gibraltar

Borghese was appointed to command the underwater section of Decima Mas after the death of Moccagatta in Malta, and he immediately began preparation for an attack on Gibraltar. 

The Scirè collected three Maiale teams from the Fulgor, which was berthed at Cadiz, ready for an attack, which was to be made on the 20th September 1941.  On this occasion, there was an abundance of warships, but the defences were very much on the alert, so it was decided to target merchant shipping instead. 

A close-up view of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ pilot.

The three teams of Maiale pilots selected their targets, attached warheads to the enemy hulls, and sunk their torpedoes. The human torpedoes had been fitted with charges, which would self-destruct while the men swam to the shore, to be picked up by agents lying in wait.

The Italians had finally achieved success; in that one attack 30,000 tons of British shipping was sunk. This included the ship Durham (10,900 tons), an oil tanker the Fiona Shell (2,444 tons), and the naval tanker Denby Dale (15,893 tons).  All six pilots were recovered safely.

Mission 8 – Alexandria

Alexandria was targeted for the next mission. Armed with the latest intelligence information, planning for this mission was meticulous. The submarine Scirè left La Spezia on the 3rd December 1941, arriving at Leros on the 9th December.  

Days later, the Maiale pilots were flown straight in from Italy so that they would be fully rested for their mission. Entry to the harbour on this occasion couldn’t have been made any easier, the Maiale just glided through the boom, which had been opened to let in the 7th Cruiser Squadron.   

Bianchi and Durand de la Penne targeted H.M.S. Valiant. Bianchi had problems with his breathing set, and retreated to a buoy, leaving Durand de la Penne to finish the task. The assignment itself wasn’t without problems. The Maiale sank leaving Durand de la Penne the task of dragging it along the harbour bottom with its warhead intact, until it was situated underneath the hull of the H.M.S. Valiant.  At this point the time fuse was set and the exhausted Durand de la Penne surfaced joining Bianchi on the buoy to await capture.

H.M.S. Valiant pictured before the Second World War.

In the meantime Marceglia and Schergat had attached their warhead under the H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, with Martellotta and Marino targeting the Sagona, which had the destroyer H.M.S. Jervis by its side. Both of these teams were later captured ashore. 

Bianchi and Durand de la Penne were spotted by a sentry and were picked up and taken on board H.M.S. Valiant for questioning. When information was not forthcoming, they were taken ashore and transferred  to military custody, only to return shortly after, under the orders of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham.  With only ten minutes before the warhead was due to explode, Durand de la Penne warned H.M.S. Valiant’s Captain, Captain Morgan, that he should save his crew.

The explosion in H.M.S. Valiant created a 60ft x 30ft hole in the hull, damage within being considerable. Temporary repairs were made to H.M.S. Valiant in Alexandria, but she was effectively out of commission until permanent repairs were finished in Durban seven months later. 

Damage to H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth was more serious, the flagship of the British Fleet in the Mediterranean was out of service for 17 months. The Sagona and H.M.S. Jervis were also badly damaged.  The severe consequences the British navy faced were immense; their force in the Eastern Mediterranean was shattered.

Mission 9 – Alexandria

Captain Borghese was pleased with the success of the S.L.Cs attack on Alexandria and preparation was made for another mission in May 1942, using the submarine Ambra to transport three Maiales

The Italians went with the intention of attacking H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth while she was in dry dock receiving repairs from the previous attack, and also the submarine depot ship H.M.S. Medway.  

H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth pictured in February, 1941.

The Italians made their attempt on the 14th May; unfortunately for them, it was a failure. All three Maiale teams failed to find the harbour entrance, and had no alternative but to scuttle their human torpedoes. Egyptian police arrested two Maiale teams after reaching the shore.  However, one team managed to contact Italian sympathisers in Alexandria who were able to shelter them, only to be picked up by British Military Police a month later.

The Tanker Olterra

Experience gained in the two previous Gibraltar missions had shown the advantages of having an advanced base close to Gibraltar.  So much so, the Italian Navy now wished to have a fully operational base, overlooking the harbour. 

The Fulgor in Cadiz was not suitable for this purpose, as it was too far away; however, the vessel Olterra was drawn to the attention of the Italian Navy. 

When Italy had entered the war, the Italian tanker Olterra was in the harbour at British governed Gibraltar. While there, the captain of the ship received orders to take it to Spanish territorial waters, where she was to be sunk in the shallows, an order which the captain subsequently complied with. Negotiations were held for a Spanish salvage company to re-float the vessel; the Italians had devised a plan to use the Olterra for an advance base for human torpedo missions.

Another rear view of the Chariot Mk 1.

The operation to convert the “Olterra” into an operational base for human torpedoes, was the brainchild of Lieutenant Visintini. Gibraltar harbour was just five kilometres across the bay; with binoculars the Italians could monitor events in the harbour from the ship.  

Extremely well organised, sections of human torpedoes were sent to the Olterra.  Warheads, detonators and breathing sets were packed into crates and other materials were sent in oil drums.  A launching chamber and workshop were built, with a hole cut in the ship’s side through which the Italians could launch their human torpedoes. 

Mission 10 – Gibraltar

The first Maiale attack on Gibraltar harbour operating from the Olterra took place on the 6th December 1942. The battleship H.M.S. Nelson, the battle cruiser H.M.S. Renown and two aircraft carriers H.M.S. Furious and H.M.S. Formidable, had arrived in Gibraltar harbour; three S.L.C’s. were checked and made ready for immediate use. 

The Maiales and their crews left the Olterra through the trap door in the bow, to take part in what was to be another disastrous mission. The British had improved their defences; there were more control boats and searchlights regularly sweeping the water and depth charges were randomly thrown into the water to dissuade attacks of this nature, with fatal consequences for Visintini and his partner, Magro. 

Their post mortems showed that they had suffered blast injuries to their lungs. They were both buried at sea with full naval honours (The Gibraltar Underwater Working Party, an organisation formed for the purpose of searching for explosives attached to ship’s hulls as a consequence of the Italian’s antics, contributed a wreath in recognition of their bravery and resourcefulness). Two other operators were taken prisoner of war, another dead, which left just one operator to return to the Olterra.

Mission 11 & 12 – Gibraltar

After the death of Visintini, Captain Ernesto Notari arrived to take command of the Olterra operations; with him came three new Maiale crews.  Two final missions took place, one on 8th May 1943, and the other on 3rd/4th August 1943, both attacks being successful. Six ships were damaged: the Pat Harrison, the Mahsud, the Camerata, the Stanridge, the Harrison Grey Otis, and the tanker Thorshovdi.  A total of 42,500 tons of shipping.

Finally, an improved human torpedo had been developed and built by the San Bartolomeo works in the dockyard at La Spezia  – the SSB Torpedo. This craft never saw action due to the signing of the Italian-Allied Armistice on 3rd September 1943.

So, if you’d like to take a look at what these incredible, and extremely terrifying craft looked like in real life, please check out Eden Camp Modern History Museum‘s new exhibit that contains four of them!

Not only that, but the museum has tanks, artillery pieces, aircraft replicas, trucks, half-tracks and more! There really is something for everyone. You can grab tickets here!

They reopen for half-term on February 12, 2024, so be sure to visit!