The French submarine the Casabianca had made a dramatic escape from Toulon when the French fleet was threatened by the Germans. Now the she was playing an active part in the war, working under the command of the Royal Navy but engaged in activities that supported the French Resistance.
The Resistance on the French island of Corsica, now occupied by the Germans, had an important role within the Allied strategy. It was hoped to maintain the threat of a real invasion of the island, rather than Italy itself, for as long as possible – thus pinning down more German forces.
The French Resistance on the island needed substantial support to be a real threat to the Germans. Capitaine de Frégate L’Hermimier, commanding Casabianca, describes how this was achieved, although it did not always go smoothly:
On passage to landing point. The Casabianca having sailed from Algiers at 1900 on 27 July, 1943, after a normal passage, arrived in position, dived, at 0430 on 30 July, 10 miles from Cape Rosso and the Isle of Gargalo.
After taking a fix, she steered a course towards point A’ on Gradelle Beach. At 1452 on a bottom of 31 metres, approximately 500 metres from the beach, the ship’s head to North.
I made my last periscope reconnaissance 1 1/2 hours before resting her on the bottom, and continued by estimation and sounding, in order to avoid the risk of being sighted from shore.
PUT TO THE TEST OF A REAL ENEMY ATTACK
We lower: — two ‘dories’ for a preliminary reconnaissance of the beach and for towing the rubber dinghies. 14 rubber dinghies for carrying the material.
At 2250, I surfaced. The sight is hallucinating. The coast looms up before us at a distance of 500 yards. The Gulf of Porto stretches out to starboard, and the southern shore closes us in astern. Beaches A and B stand out white. We make our way at dead slow speed, to run aground between the rocks which spread out to port and starboard. In dead silence the Commando lowers the two dories and starts to inflate the first of the rubber dinghies.
At 2300, the enemy opens fire on us. Shots seem to come from all sides. Auto- matic arms open fire. Rounds whistle overhead, others striking near at hand. Everyone went down below in the greatest calm. Meanwhile I put both engines fast astern. By a miracle nobody is wounded. But the two dories dragged on their painters, which unshipped. The rubber dinghies are still on the casing, so we waited until we were clear of the bay before securing them.
PASSAGE FROM THE GULF OF PORTO
While we were opening the range from shore, the enemy continued to fire. All the emplacements in the district are certainly on the alert owing to all the noise. I decided to leave that area and try my luck again at Curza Point the following night. I intend to use the same hiding places as the previous time, as they are already known by the patriots, and reconnaissance would tell whether they had been discovered by the enemy.
At midnight on the 30th, we are steering a course towards Curza Bay at 16 knots.
LANDING IN THE BAY or CURZA
After our usual approach, we were lying on the bottom one mile from the landing point at 1522 on 31 July.
Surface at 2255/31 July. The Commando prepares its landing gear while I steer course towards the westerly end of Saleccia beach in order to run aground as near to shore as possible. The experience of the night before has made us very wary. The 1st Lieutenant asked my permission to command the Commando. I acquiesce voluntarily.
We run aground about 400 metres from the rocky westerly end of the beach, where we hope to hide some of the material in the same place as at the beginning of July.
The Commando sets out under the command of the 1st Lieutenant. It consists of two trains, that of the 1st Lieutenant and that of the English who were sent to watch the landing by their own organisation at Algiers. The 1st Lieutenant is equipped with a short range R/T set, and after a brief reconnaissance, informed us that all is clear. So we start landing the rubber dinghies.
From the original Patrol Report see TNA ADM 199/1857.
For more on the Casabianca see the Lean Submariner