Book presentation: Le Navi Ospedale Italiane Dopo l’Armistizio (The Italian Hospital Ships After the Armistice), by Vincenzo Giacomo Toccafondi

Shipwrecks, WW2, WW2 in Greece, WW2 Wrecks

From the presentation of the book by Amm Isp. Capo (c.a.) Vincenzo Martines

Vincenzo Giacomo Toccafondi  has already explored the world of Italian hospital ships with the recent valuable publication of the “Story of a white ship: Wandilla-Fort St.George- Cesarea- Arno 1912-1942” which ended with the sinking of the latter by of a British torpedo bomber on 11 September 1942.

But the war continues and we arrive on 8 September 1943 with the announcement of the armistice with the allies, a date which coincides with the disbanding of the units of the Royal Army and with the very sad but orderly departure of our fleet for Malta where will hand over to the British.

Our hospital ships will suffer different fates: some will be captured by the Germans, others will be used by the Anglo-Americans. Hospital ships that will continue their missions well beyond the end of the war, reaching as far as the seas of the Far East. In this regard the author writes:

“The war had dragged and scattered men and women around the world, playing with their fate in a bizarre and almost always cruel way. The task of going to the four corners of the earth to find people who had been driven away from their homes and families and to try to bring them back was a huge task that presented infinite difficulties.

These were people who had suffered all kinds of psychological and physical suffering, malnourished and often affected by chronic pathologies, and, not infrequently, by tropical diseases, it was inevitable that hospital ships were used.

The Italian white ships therefore changed their name, flag, crews, mooring places: the research carried out by the Author is not an easy painstaking work of reconstruction, considering that the documents relating to their activity are kept in the Archives of the nations that managed them, but this has not discouraged him and he retraces, with an engaging style, the often heroic events of the personnel of these units.

m30sheq3r22srbt2j845hveqgh._SY600_Toccafondi admirably describes the sacrifice of Giulio Venticinque who was embarked on the hospital ship Gradisca which on 8 September 1943, near Patras, was captured by the Germans.

Not wanting to collaborate with the Nazis, he managed to escape and joined a band of Greek partisans, working as a doctor.

Captured following denunciation, refusing to give information to the Nazis, he was sentenced to death by hanging, a sentence carried out on January 28, 1944.

He will be awarded the Gold Medal for Military Valor.

Toccafondi did not limit himself to reporting the historical aspects of the missions, but also wanted to include in the volume many particular episodes in which some hospital units that survived the world war were the protagonists.
I want to mention one that refers to the hospital ship Laurana which on 11 May 1943 was stopped by a British destroyer, diverted to Susa, searched and declared a war prize for violating international standards on hospital ships. It was carrying some German soldiers recovered at sea and two pistols and a rifle found on board. Toccafondi, champion of the Geneva Convention, rightly has doubts about the legitimacy of the seizure.

In 1949 the Laurana had been sold to the Greek shipowner Spiros Latsis who had used her under the new name of Neraida in navigation services between the Greek islands; the ship was immortalized in various films and documentaries, including the film “The boy on the dolphin” interpreted, writes Toccafondi, “by a very young and wonderful Sofia Loren, a true goddess born from the waters of the Greek sea.”


It is therefore a book of particular interest not only for those who love history, in which it deals with often little-known facts that are very well documented and examined. but also for passionate readers of the world of the sea.

The volume, and this is another merit, is illustrated by excellent iconography, largely unpublished and owned by the author.

You can order the book on AMAZON