The trade ships war in Sardinia


The tradeship war in Sardinia

During the Second World war in the Gulf of Orosei and in the whole eastern coast of Sardinia took place the so-called tradeships war. The allies forces attacked the german-italian tradeships to impede the supplies dispatch to the Lybian coast. The british troupes based their onslaught mostly on air units and submarines and were able to sank six ships of the german-italian axis only in the Gulf of Orosei. Our coast was easy to monitor nearby the cliffs thanks to the depht of the sea bottom. Most of the sinking were made by the british submarine Safari, patrolling the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The terrible "Safari"

The terrible "Safari"

The “S class” submarine Safari had a tonnage of 1000 tonnes. It was 65 meters long and 7 meters large and could reach a speed on the surface of 14 knots. With his 40 men crew had an autonomy of 37 days, a range of action of 3800 nautic miles and a 80 millimeters cannon. The first sank the Safari made was the Adda, a full loaded steamship which was sailing near Capo Monte Santo. In that year nearby Punta Nera, on the northern part of the Gulf of Orosei, the Safari sank the Ausonia directed to Cagliari. Between March the 27th and April the 14th 1943 the captain Bryant caused the sinking of the Nasello, in the area of Cala Luna, and of the San Francesco da Paola. Between the 29th April and the 14th of May on the same year the Safari, captained by Lieutenant Lakin sank the KT12, a german tradeship, sailing nearby the Osalla beach between Cala Gonone and Orosei.

The sinking of "KT12"

Here is an excerpt from the Safari logbook, written the morning of Juny the 10th 1943. The military boat KT12 was built in Livorno and that was its first journey.

  • ore 11:55 - We spotted a small tradeship of 1200 tonnes rounding Capo Comino and heading south. It is escorted by an E-boat.
  • ore 12:19 - 3 torpedoes fired from a distance of 600 yards. One hitting the center of the ship. After launching as usual, we have avoided further action.
  • ore 12:26 - Periscope. The engine room and the ship's stern burn furiously. The load seems to be constituted by vehicles and oil barrels. Wreckage of the boat afloat. Many small explosions on the surface of the water up to 4 cables away, in the middle you can see the E-Boot recovering survivors covered with oil.
  • ore 12:35 - Remained in position for 5 minutes. The E-boat turns out to be a lifeboat gray, unarmed except for two machine guns. We decide to leave its humanitarian task. We head out to the sea to look after about 5 miles to a depth of 100 fathoms.
  • ore 12:40 - Outside the periscope with machines half strength. Immediately the lifeboat began to strafe.
  • ore 13:00 -The ship sinks in point 40.21 N and 09:45 E. We continue southward to the Gulf of Orosei.

Dead bodies from the crew of the KT12 kept on emerge from the sea for days. Survivors were less than 20, burned by the oil. Only one of the three torpedoes hit the boat, the others reached Osalla and were exploded weeks later. The two pieces of the KT12 are still on the sandy seabottom 24 and 34 meters deep.

The sinking of the "Nasello"

The sinking of the "Nasello"

Compared to the sinking of the KT12, the Nasello sinking was more brutal. The Safari was then captained by the Captain Bryant, known as a man without mercy. Here's an an excerpt of the diary during his command on the morning of April 3, 1943.

  • ore 04:00 - We approach the northern part of the Gulf of Orosei from ENE but there is no boat in sight, just planes flying every now and then.
  • ore 11:37 - Spotted near north shore a small steamship gray sailing along the coast to the south. We are approaching to attack.
  • ore 12:15 - The steamship, difficult to see against the cliffs, unfortunately proved to be used only as a vessel minesweeper of 350 tons, armed with two machine guns on the forecastle and the other on the deck. Although it was a target of little value, travelled at 9 knots and had the overall appearance of a big well-built fishing boat. We found an excuse to satisfy our natural desire to sink it, deciding it would be very useful to the enemy in case he decided a DUNKIRK from Tunis. A schooner was sighted on the horizon in E.N.E.
  • ore 12:29 - Emersion phase. We open fire with cannon from 1200 yards. The vessel did not respond to the fire and tries to reach the shore at about one mile south of Gonone. The first shot flew over, the second struck the base of the chimney, and the third froze. Unfortunately our special Samson with strong arms, the only one capable of maneuvering the breech of our very old cannon, had been put out of action by an Algerian Dalida, armed with less than scissors. The strongest sailor we can use is not yet up to the task and during the day we should bear a little of the usual problems with the breech by 3 inches. Somehow we forced the cannon to function as it should, and a number of shots hit home on the water line of the stern while the crew abandoned ship in two large rafts. The engines of the vessel stopped and then we could bomb it as we wanted at about 5 cables from the shore. The sea was rough and it was difficult to aim, we wanted to be sure that it sank, so we shot a total of 54 shots. Everything happened at lunchtime, any kind of movement was registered in Cala Gonone.

The wreck of the boat rested on its side off the coast of Cala Luna about 25 meters deep.


The freighter Ugo Bassi, whose position of sinking was assumed to Capo Monte Santo was discovered in 2012 by a local fisherman off the coast of Cala Cartoe. We show you the video shot inside one of the most intact wrecks of Sardinia.

For those interesting on the diving experience in Cala Gonone please find out more information following this link.

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