M.T.M. - Barchino-Milan

M.T.M Barchino: Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci-Milano
By Jonathan Manuel

Throughout its long history, the Italian Navy has built and operated many types of small warships ranging from larger coastal warships such as sloops and gunboats to small Motor Torpedo Boats. One such class of small boats that were used by the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy) was the explosive motorboat Motoscafo da Turismo (MT) and its later variants, such as the Motoscafo da Turismo Modificato (MTM). The MT/MTM, also known as “Barchino” (Italian for "Small Boat"), was part of a series of small explosive motorboats developed by the Regia Marina as a follow-up to its predecessors, the prototype MA (Motoscafo d'Assalto) and the MAT (Motoscafo Avio Trasportato), which was an air-dropped small boat. The Italian Navy used the MT and MTM boats from 1940 to 1949. They partook in several major operations during the Second World War and achieved somewhat limited success in those operations. These small boats were designed on the principle of being able to make silent approaches to moored warships and other targets such as port infrastructure or bridges. The idea was that the pilot of the motorboat would set a collision course and run into full gear until the last 200 or 100 yards to the target. Upon reaching this stage, the pilot would eject after blocking the rudder. And upon impact with an enemy ship or other target, it was hoped that the explosive within the bow of the boat would go off, causing severe damage to infrastructure and vessels alike if not outright sinking the ships.

Today at least five "Barchino" explosive motorboats are preserved in various museums around the world including the Israeli National Maritime Museum in Hailfa, Museo Tecnico Navale in La Spezia, Museo Storico Navale in Venezia, National War Museum Malta, and the one discussed here at the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci in Milano.

The MT and MTM are perhaps best known for their use in two major Italian operations, one of which resulted in a significant Italian victory. The first of these operations was the Raid on Souda bay which resulted in the crippling and later scuttling of the Royal Navy York-class Heavy Cruiser HMS York, as well as severely damaging the Norwegian tanker Pericles which later sank under tow to Alexandria. The second major operation was the Battle of Grand Harbour or Operation MALTA-2. During this operation, the Italian MT squadron suffered severe losses while inflicting none on the British forces within Malta. The only significant damage of note was to the St Elmo Bridge, which was rammed by an MT and destroyed. The St Elmo bridge itself was never replaced or repaired until 2011 when a new bridge was finally designed and built over the remains of the original. The destruction, however, blocked the Italian force's retreat, and they were finished off by RAF close air support. Aside from these two actions, there were various other operations with less than successful results. As such, the MT and MTM boats would not gain another victory until 16 April 1945, when an MTM in service to the Italian Social Republic rammed and severely damaged the French Destroyer Trombe, which was towed to Toulon and declared a total loss.
Little is known about the service life of the MTM on display at the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci in Milano; however, it is quite an interesting example of one of the aforementioned explosive motorboats. More specifically this boat is one of the MTM variants which were modified MTs that included among many things a reverse gear, something the original lacked. Aside from this, the boat is kept in quite excellent condition and is displayed with a small opening in its forward hatch to allow the visitor to see the explosive charge in the bow. Furthermore, one can also see a complete and fully intact representation of the pilot's cabin. The MTM on display is painted in the normal operation colors of the Italian MTM with a black underwater hull and grey upperworks. The boat is also displayed next to another unique Italian attack craft of the Second World War, a nearly complete Siluro a Lenta Corsa or Maiale (Italian for Pig). The MTM overall however, represents a unique survivor of this equally interesting and unique class of small explosive Motorboats and is a very interesting artifact to see exhibited especially owing to its fully intact state.

Sources: Museoscienza.it - jstor.org - anaim.it - en.wikipedia.org - it.wikipedia.org

Museum info: Museo Nazionale Scienza E Technologia Leonardo Da Vinci
Address:  Via San Vittore 21, 20123 Milan, Italy
Phone: +39 02 48 5551
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