Italian Submarine flotilla in the Atlantic
The fall of France and the subsequent occupation of the French Atlantic ports by Germany radically changed the strategy of the Kriegsmarine and stretched its naval presents in the Atlantic. The German Navy immediately sought to capitalize on the new opportunity, but the availability of ocean going vessels was very limited. Due to the post war limitations, Germany had to develop its submarines in other nations, mostly Holland, and preferred small, inhabitable boats with the maximum war load, while Italian engineers gave plenty of focus to habitability. Leveraging some of the discussion which had taken place in Friedrichshaffen (Germany) on the 20th and 21st of June, 1939, and following the signing of the Italian-German “Pact of Steel”, the Germans requested the transfer of Italian boats to the Atlantic. During these meetings, Admiral Cavagnari, the Italian equivalent of the First Sea Lord, committed to an Italian presence in the Atlantic. It should be remembered that Italy and Germany were conducting parallel wars, and that the submarine agreement amounted to the first practical collaboration.
For a navy specifically built for a strictly Mediterranean war against France, this commitment was a stretch; still the Italian shipyards had developed and built several classes of submarine specifically designed for operations in the oceans. Since the late twenties and early thirties, Italy had begun building high displacement submarines capable of crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, reaching the Atlantic for long patrols along the French and African coast. During the 1939 discussions, the glamorous successes of the German U-Boot during World War I were still vivid in the minds of all Italian naval strategists: the glitter of glory was irresistible.
During World War II several Italians submarine use to dock constantly French Atlantic naval bases held by the Germans. Following Italy`s surrender in 1943 the commander of the Italian submarine base at Bordeaux overprinted five Italian definitive’s, issued in 1929, with an inscription Italia Repubblicana Fascista- Base Atlantica. These stamps were used on mail sent by submarine to the naval base at La Spezia. Towards the end of the war, mail from servicemen bore stamps overprinted Inselpost which was sent out by submarines.
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||A 1929 definitive, Julius Cisar, with overprint Italia Repubblicana Fascista- Base Atlantica