Naval Heritage – The SLC pilot who later became Commander of South Europe’s Naval Forces

by on Dec.31, 2016, under Allgemein

heritage_696_birindelliHe survived the air raid against the transport submarine Iride in August 1940 – the mission G.A.1 against Alexandria failed. He took part on the mission B.G.1 against allied ships in Gibraltar aboard the transport submarine Scirè in September 1940 – but his second mission failed again as the allied ships left the night before for Operation “Menace” – this time the Decima MAS was late…

Another four weeks later, on 30 October 1940, he became the first SLC pilot to penetrate a heavily guarded enemy harbour with the new, secret weapon which still had to achive its initial and decisive proof of feasibility: the concept of attacking enemy ships in ports. Unnoticed, in the darkness of the night. Mission B.G.2, even without the success of damaging or sinking an enemy ship, marked the start of a three-year war that took place noiselessly underwater in the Bay of Gibraltar. However, for Gino Birindelli, mission B.G.2 marked the start of a journey through Allied POW camps that would last until early 1944.

In his memoirs Gino Birindelli M.O.V.M. wrote a remarkable sentence: “I could clearly see my left wrist with the big Radiomir watch we used during the action and I saw how the hand moved, time was passing…” In his personal story this was just a very little side note, but it underlined clearly the importance of the waterproof, luminous and reliable Panerai watch he and the men of the Mezzi d’Assalto of the Royal Italian Navy were trusting during their action.

Page 1018 – 1019: The inventors of the SLC, Teseo Tesei and Elios Toschi, together with the first crews which instigated the legendary “Spirito del Serchio” at their secret base at Bocca di Serchio in June 1940 – Gino Birindelli was one of them.


Page 1026 – 1027: The progress of Mission B.G.2 against the port of Gibraltar in the night from 29 to 30 October 1940. The transport submarine Scirè, commanded by Junio Valerio Borghese, penetrated the Bay of Gibraltar, from where the three SLC teams started their approach.


Page 1012 – 1013: A view inside Birindelli’s Ref. 6152/1 with crown-protecting device and Rolex movement. The watch was auctioned at Sotheby’s in May 2014.


In his function as a two-time commander of the “Raggruppamento Subacquei ed Incursori Teseo Tesei” special unit, Gino Birindelli was one of the men who passed on his experiences to the next generation of the naval special unit. When selecting the instruments for the COMSUBIN incursori, watches from Guido Panerai & Figlio were the first choice, even after the Second World War. The fact that Birindelli still possessed a Panerai watch from the era even years after his commando activities whit the COMSUBIN shows the significance and symbolism of a Panerai watch, which must surely have been a sign of military tradition, a menento and a sign of appreciation.

The watch of Admiral Gino Birindelli (1911 – 2008) and the unique story behind his career being Comandante 1a Divisione Navale, Comandante in Capo della Squadra Navale and Comandante Nave Alleato del Sud Europa can be read in the book “The References” 1950’s-1960’s (chapter VIII.II, page 1006 to 1043). Read more on Gino Birindelli also here. Enjoy reading!


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