Icon Films/Animal Planet/Discovery Channel
Jeremy Wade was always intrigued by the disaster of the British passenger steamer HMS Laconia during WWII, which had 2500 people on board, civilians and Italian POW’s. It was attacked by a German U-boat and very few people survived. For decades, it was always assumed that the vast majority of the people who were not saved by the life boats ended up drowning or being eaten by sharks.
In Killers from the Abyss, Jeremy interviews the only Italian POW survivor of the disaster alive today. Angelo Ferraro, 95, was one of the 1200 Italian POW’s on the Laconia that night in 1942. He remembers being below in the crowded hold with fellow POWs when they heard the first torpedo hit the hull. At first, they weren’t sure what the noise was, but shortly after with the second torpedo they realized they were under attack. Most of the POWs ran to the stairs to go up to the deck only to be blocked by the locked gates. There was pandemonium in the dark as water was starting to come into the hold and as they tried to break open the gates. But the Polish guards shot through the bars and killed the desperate Italian POWs. Angelo found a different way out. He and a friend climbed up one of the big ropes used to load goods into the hold, and got onto the deck, only to be confronted by two Polish guards pointing bayonets his face. He realized that his only chance to survive was to leap over the side into the water, and swim away from the sinking ship as fast as possible.
Like so many others in the water that night he tried to get onto the lifeboats, or even just hold onto the edge, but the sailors in the boats were shooting anyone who tried to get into the overcrowded boats. He looked for something to hold onto but there were only dead bodies. Eventually, he found a plank with others holding onto it. In the end, he spent 3 days and nights in the Atlantic Ocean, floating on the heavy swells, surrounded by dead bodies and blood. He was eventually rescued by a French ship that had responded to the distress signals of the Laconia.
Fabio Di Segni, Location Manager and Producer for ItalyFixer, was contacted by the company that produces RIVER MONSTERS, Icon Films, asking if he knew of any reports in Italy of the Laconia disaster. He went one step further and in addition to finding the archives, he found Angelo. A pre-production meeting convinced Fabio that even at 95, Angelo would make an energetic and reliable contributor to the programme. It turned out that Angelo was an avid watcher of RIVER MONSTERS and was thrilled to tell Jeremy his story!
Killers from the Abyss was transmitted on Animal Planet US on Sunday 23rd April, 2017and received a fantastic response!