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Archimede (1939)

Diesel-Electric Attack Submarine

Kingdom of Italy | 1939

"The Archimede was constructed in secret by the Italian Navy and managed to sink two vessels before she herself was sunk in World War 2."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/10/2017 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The Archimede was a diesel-electric powered attack submarine serving the Regia Marina of Italy during World War 2. She was born of the Brin-class of submarines which included the "Brin" as the lead ship of the class and sisters Galvani, Guglielmotti and Torricelli - all produced during the period of 1938-1939. The Achimede and Torricelli were constructed in secret in order to hide the same-named submarines (of the Archimede-class) that were covertly handed over to the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). All the boats in the Brin-class (sans the Brin) would be sunk by British or American forces before the end of the war - the Brin being formally surrendered in 1943 and scrapped in 1948. The Archimede was launched on March 5th, 1939 and named after the famous Greek inventor/engineer, Archimedes. The boat originally made her homeport out of Massawa though she was later relocated to Bordeaux, France as the war situation dictated.

The Archimede was of a typical Italian design with a wide beam and deep hull designed for deep water voyaging and excellent range. The stretched sail was located just aft of amidships and managed the collection of periscopes and communications equipment as well as the bridge. As originally planned, the Archimedes was completed with 2 x 100mm surface guns though the second was removed some time later. The overall design was very streamlined and efficient with four torpedo tubes at the bow and four additional tubes at the stern. This allowed the crew to attack targets in front and at the rear of the vessel without having to turn the entire boat around. Power was derived through the aforementioned diesel-electric configuration in which the diesels were utilized during surface travel and the electric system used to supply power when the vessel was submerged. This forced the boat to surface repeatedly to recharge her battery and oxygen supplies as required - this recharging period being the most vulnerable part of the submarine voyage. The powerplant supplied the boat with 3,200 horsepower output from the diesel engines and 1,200 horsepower from the electric configuration to which speeds of 17 knots (surfaced) and 8 knots (submerged) could be achieved in ideal conditions. The powerplant drove a pair of propeller shafts held aft on the lower hull feeding directly into a pair of rudders. Armament consisted of 8 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes with 14 torpedo reloads held aboard as well as 1 x 100mm deck gun along the aft portion of the conning tower. Up to 4 x 13mm heavy machine guns were mounted on the sail for close-in anti-aircraft defense. The boat was crewed by 58 personnel made up of officers and sailors. The Archimede displaced at 1,000 tons on a standard load and 1,260 tons under full load. She sported a running length of 72.5 meters with a beam of 6.7 meters and draught of 4.5 meters.

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World War 2 began in September of 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. Italy joined in June of 1940 on the side of the Axis and set its army, air force and navy to work in the hopes of recapturing the glory of its former Roman Empire - with a destiny to control the vital shipping lanes of the Mediterranean with colonies across Africa. The Archimede was trusted to the Red Sea Flotilla which was stationed off of the Italian-controlled coast of East Africa and made her homeport from Massawa (present-day Eritrea). The Red Sea remained important to European interests and British and Commonwealth forces fought a hard campaign to take strategic control of East Africa in time. With the eventual fall of its homeport, the Archimede and crew relocated to Axis-held Bordeaux along the western French coast, arriving there on May 7th, 1941. She undertook her patrol duties once more and eventually claimed the Panamanian freighter "Cardina" on June 15th, 1942 off the Brazilian coast during her tenth war patrol. A patrol beginning on June 19th experienced serious technical issues with the onboard air conditioners which poisoned the crew, killing four. This forced the Archimede into dock for necessary repairs which lasted until September. On October 8th, 1942, this part of her eleventh war patrol, she lay claim to the converted ocean-liner-turned-British-troop-transport SS Oronsay off the coast of Liberia, killing six crew. Most of the surviving crew were safely recovered by the HMS Brilliant within two weeks though the rest fell to arriving Vichy French forces and taken prisoner.

It was on her twelfth and final war patrol that the Archimede would meet her untimely end. Tracked by Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat aircraft of the United States Navy, the Archimede was subsequently attacked on April 15th, 1943 and suffered catastrophic damage - proving a complete loss. One Italian sailor managed to survive the ordeal and spent the next 29 days on a raft before being spotted and rescued. In her short war time career, the Archimede managed to sink 25,629 tons of Allied war goods - though 20,000 of this total were from the SS Oronsay sinking alone.

Due to mounting losses and internal upheaval at home, the Italians eventually surrendered to the Allies in September of 1943 and went on to declare war on former allies Germany and Japan. Around 500,000 Italians died during World War 2 while its colonial aspirations were defeated and the Italian monarchy abolished. Dictator Benito Mussolini was captured and killed, his body publically mutilated and put on display. Additionally, millions of dollars were spent in reparations to several nations though none of her leaders were ever put through war crimes trials.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one sea-going vessel design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for Archimede (1939).
2 x Diesel engines delivering 3,200 horsepower (surfaced); 2 x Electric motors generating 1,200 horsepower (submerged); 2 x shafts.
17.0 kts
19.6 mph
Surface Speed
8.0 kts
9.2 mph
Submerged Speed
10,258 nm
11,805 miles | 18,998 km
The bow-to-stern, port-to-starboard physical qualities of Archimede (1939).
237.5 ft
72.39 meters
O/A Length
22.0 ft
6.71 meters
15.0 ft
4.57 meters
Displacement (Submerged)
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of Archimede (1939).
8 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes (four in bow; four in stern)
2 x 100mm cannons (later reduced to 1x)
4 x 13.2mm machine guns
14 x torpedoes
Ships-in-Class (5)
Notable series variants as part of the Archimede (1939) family line as relating to the Brin-class group.
Brin; Galvani; Guglielmotti; Archimede; Torricelli
Global operator(s) of the Archimede (1939). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national naval warfare listing.
National flag of Italy National flag of the Kingdom of Italy

[ Kingdom of Italy ]
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Image of the Archimede (1939)
Image from the Public Domain.

Going Further...
Archimede (1939) Diesel-Electric Attack Submarine appears in the following collections:
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