SSB “Human Torpedo” @ Imperial War Museum London

by on Jun.21, 2015, under Allgemein

…another box in the “to do list” ticket: visited the Imperial War Museum in London and finally found some time to take a close look at one of the very few today existing “Human Torpedo” devices of the italian “Mezzi d’Assalto” forces in WW2: The legendary “Siluro San Bartholomeo” (SSB).

Another example is located in the United Kingdom at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport/Portsmouth Harbour, one is located in the United States at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News/Virginia while one SSB remains in Italy at the museum of the Com.Sub.In. Comando in Varignano/La Spezia.

This particular SSB device – the “Delta No. 3” – was produced in February 1945 by Caproni in Milan. Other than the earlier, more known SLC devices (the “Maiali”), this later version hat a more streamlined shape in which both divers were sitting on seats, not “riding” as they did literally on the SLC torpedos’ body.

The SSB device measures almost seven meters in lenght with a weight of more than 2000 kilos. Armed with one (400 kg) or two removable explosive charges (180/200 kg) it was powered by an electric engine with 7,5 HP, reaching a speed of 4 knots.

The cockpit holds numerous instruments and control possibilities: Fore and aft level indicator, Ammeter, Pump revolution indicator, Motor control (4 forward speeds and reverse), a wheel type “joystick” as in an aircraft wheel controlled the rudder and the column controlled the diving fins (or elevators), trimming tank control, compass, depth gauge, diving tank pressure gauge and flooding valve. Pilot and Co-Pilot used knee clamps to sit tight on their seats during operation (the two knee clamps for the Pilot can be seen on the photo left and right from the motor control wheel).

During the research on our book “History2” we gathered some information about these SSB devices which were matching with the story in chapter VI. The german “Gruppo Maiale Lehmann” was based at San Andrea near Venice together with units of the “Mezzi d’Assalto” until the allied forces reached the Venice area in April 1945. SSB and SLC devices were captured soon later by the British which took photos of them – three of these historic photos from 1945 made it into chapter VI on page 622, 624 and 625.

Page 622 – 623:
The recovered SSB device during inspection by a british officer on the Pilot’s seat in 1945.

Page 624 – 625:
The cockpit of one of the recovered SSB devices with the numerous instruments and control possibilities.

It was described in all its details by the Allies for top secret purposes and later recorded at archives in the United Kingdom where after decades they are available for the public just like the SSB exhibited at the Imperial War Museum in London – which was definately worth a visit. [Volker Wiegmann]

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