The evening light has just fallen on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. A huge ship is at sea transporting soldiers and English civilians. And 1800 Italians. These are prisoners of war, locked up in three enormous cages in the hold of this Transatlantic ship; they have less than half a metre each to try and survive in. This is the evening of the 12 September 1942 and that ship is called Laconia. Under the surface of the sea the Laconia’s slow progress has already been tracked for some hours. These are the German sailors who man a U-Boat. Their mission is simple: sink as many tons of enemy ships as possible. Three missiles are launched, one by one. The keel is hit, an enormous amount of water is taken in by the ship. It rushes up the various corridors until it reaches the bridge. The worst hit are the Italians: they manage to force through the barriers with the strength that comes from terror and desperation. However, only one cage is opened. The other two sink and 1200 Italians will lose their lives, forever prisoners of the ocean. The others, under the command of the young Lieutenant Vincenzo Di Giovanni will seek safety, through total darkness, endeavouring to reach the bridge up the stairs. Twisted metal, bayonette shots from the Polish guards are just the first obstacle. Once on the bridge they find all the lifeboats are full and the British unwilling to make room for them. In fact they do not seem willing to do anything to save them. Attracted by all the wounded in the Ocean even the sharks begin to arrive. Those who manage to survive will have a significant story to tell. However, despite this that large group of Italians has been forgotten. The Sinking of the Laconia would like to bring the spotlight back on this forgotten drama adventure so that it cannot be forgotten in the future.
This two part TV film was directed by Uwe Janson and starred Andrew Buchan, Brian Cox, Ken Duken and Ludovico Fremont. Both episodes were shown together in Italy, on primetime evening on Canale 5 (Italy’s main commercial TV at the time) on the 2 October 2011. This historical drama is a filmed reconstruction of actual events, known in Italy as the “Affondamento del Laconia” (the sinking of the Laconia, in Italian) which took place on 12 September 1942.