ww2 Italian Navy Archives - naval encyclopedia

Capitani Romani class Cruisers


Capitani Romani class cruisers

Italy (1922-43)- 26 cruisers

Best Italian cruisers ever ?

The Capitani Romani-class was a class of light cruisers acting as flotilla leaders for the Regia Marina (Italian Navy). They were built to outrun and outgun the large new French destroyers of the Le Fantasque and Mogador classes. 12 hulls were ordered by late 1939, but only four were eventually completed, and three before the Italian armistice, September 1943, with just two active before the end of the war. The class name is an historian commodity as all were named after prominent Ancient Romans Generals or statesmen “capitani” having a broader sense here. Only two ever saw little service until the capitulation. After the war, these same ships, spared destruction, were reclassified as flotilla leaders or “caccia conduttori”, and later modernized, but under French flag as per peace treaty conditions and war damage attributions.

Concept development

For the general context back in 1937, The heavy French destroyers still posed a threat to Regia Marina. The last ones, those of the Mogador and Fantasque class were not answered, and thus was the ideao to develop a a “Super Destroyer” a concept well beyond Flotilla Leaders, but scaled almost like a light cruiser, but still the same DNA as a regular destroyer. During the 1930s, the concept was reinterpreted, and between high speed, light protection, same torpedo armament as a destroyers, they were always heavily armed as for main artillery with four twin turrets. The Soviets had the Kiev and Tashkent (built in Italy), the British Royal Navy Cossak class, arguably, and the Japanese Akitsuki class. They were not comparable to a close, but different concept that was the AA cruiser, like the the Dido and Atlanta classes in 1940.

In reality, officially, these “Capitani Romani” (at the insistance of Mussolini, like an echo to the “Condotierri”) class were designed as scout cruisers, for long range oceanic operations and dubbed esploratori oceanici. Some authors still would consider them as heavy destroyers, broadly similar to the German “Spahkreuzer” project.

Design-wise they were almost unarmoured hulls with a large powerplant able to bring them to 40 knots and more, but still with a light cruiser style armament. The original design was modified during their early conception in 1938 as prime requirements of speed and firepower changed.

The launch of Attilio Regolo in 1939

The speed was, as for the first “Condottieri”, an important motivation, the Guissano class and the new specifications included the possibility of exceeding 41 knots. With limited movement and poor protection of the engine room, these ships had to be able to catch and destroy enemy destroyers and escape cruisers. They were armed with the , semi-automated and fast 138 mm model 1939 guns shared with the Commandante Medaglie d’Oro class destroyers, which construction just started. for the rest, their configuration was that of large destroyers, with two quadruple axial torpedo banks and powerful AA armament. ASW armament was present, but more of an afterthought, and no radar (in 1938). However this would change.

Design of the “Capitani Romani” (1939)

Rendition of the “Regolo class” USN intel – ONI. Note the very different shape of the bridge among others. Quite off the mark here for naval recoignition.

Based on these previous estimates, the final design was approved in 1939. Umberto Pugliese and Ignazio Alfano worked on this design, with work starting in 1938, from the Italian-built Tashkent for USSR by Odero-Terni-Orlando (OTO shipyard) in Livorno. The hull was flush deck, with a central superstructure incorporating a tower, the first of two funnels and the tower bridge supported the main fire direction center, followed by a foremast, a pole as designed, but which was later in production replaced by a tripod in order to support the upcoming Gufo radar system. The two funnels were widely spaced apart, having straight lines.
Around the aft funnel were grouped the night projectors, and AA mounts. The service boats were stacked abaft and behind the forefunnel, with a walkway above the fore torpedo tubes bank. Right behind the forefunnel was installed the aft fire control director. The second torpedo tube bank was installed aft of the aft funnel complex, also centrline, again topped with a walkway. The rear superstrcture was short and only contained the upper “X” turret.


The very “sharp” prow of Africano. No doubt they would reach 43 knots or more.
The machinery was well served by a fine, about 10:1 ratio like destroyers. The powerplant comprised four vertical water tube boilers, each arranged in its own room; Steam came to two sets of Belluzzo turbines, driving two shafts ended by 4.20-meter diameter three-blade propellers. Each group of two boilers operating a turbo-reducer group, consisting of a high-pressure turbine and two low-pressure turbines for more versatility.
Their machinery reached in the end a phaenomenal 93,210 kW (125,000 hp). To put this into perspective, this was the same as the 17,000-ton Des Moines class heavy cruisers !. Top speed as planned was 41 knots (76 km/h; 47 mph) but of course at the price of no protection. Eventually, they did managed even better in trials, easily reaching 43 knots (80 km/h).

The interwar Italian craze for speed was confirmed again. Basically it was logical, as they were supposed to replaced the 1920s Cadorna class, also designed to be “destroyer hunters”. Wartime load made them of course slower, generally 1.9 to 9.3 km/h or 1.2 to 5.8 mph, although in mission, Scipione Africano, while still fully loaded even managed to peak over 43 knots, so much faster than any British destroyer.

Regolo -official profile photo, just camouflaged.


Main turrets on Africano

Main 4×2 135 mm (5.3 in) DP Modello

The Capitani Romani-class’ main battery consisted of eight 135 mm (5.3 in) DP guns. They had a rate of fire of 8 rounds a minute, for a range of 19,500 m (21,300 yd). These 135/45 mm gun were considered the best Italian naval gun of World War 2. They had a 45° elevation and a 19.6 km range, were capable of a 8 rounds per minute ROF, and were very accurate with a dispersion 25% lower than the old 120mm/50 models. Still, they lacked a satisfactory anti-aircraft amunition and direction foor an effective barrage. They were made by OTO and Ansaldo and accuracy was helped by their placement in separate cradles, greatly improving accuracy by lack of interference when firing.
More on navweaps.

Torpedoes: 2×4 533 mm (21 in) TTs

This secondary heavy armament comprised two axial quadruple torpedo tubes, with no less than eight 533 mm (21 in) launched in a single volley, and more reloads than on an average destroyer. The model was the 53.3 cm (21″) Si 270/533.4 x 7.2 “M” built at Naples (Silurificio Italiano). It was shared by most interwar and ww2 destroyers and cruisers. It is unsure when it was introduced, likely 1936, and Weighted 3,748 lbs. (1,700 kg) for an overall Length of 23 ft. 7 in. (7.200 m). Each carried a 595 lbs. (270 kg) warhead at 4,400 yards (4,000 m)/46 knots (setting 1) or 8,750 yards (8,000 m)/35 knots or 13,100 yards (12,000 m)/29 knots, Powered by a Wet-heater. Later versions, those used on the Capitani and Medaglie d’Oro class were 48 knots, 38 knots and 30 knots settings speeds respectively.

More on navweaps

AA armament:

-Eight single 37 mm (1.5 in) AA guns: These were the standard Breda type, which needed a crew of three to operate.
The anti-aircraft armament, after the forced renunciation of the new 65/64 mm anti-aircraft guns, consisted of eight Breda 37/54mm in eight individual mounts, particularly useful against torpedo bomber attacks, and against low altitude targets.

More on navweaps
-Four twin 20 mm (0.8 in) AA guns. These eight 20mm/70 Breda guns, in four twin mounts were located on raised platforms around the aft funnel. They proved themselves well, easy to use and maintain, and could fire tracer, tracer-explosive, ultra-sensitive, disruptive rounds, widespread on the Regia Marina. The eight 37/54mm mounts were located on the sides of the bridge deck, plus two abreast the aft turret. The four 20 mm twin mounts
More on navweaps


All these cruisers were designed as minelayers with two rails running on the weather deck to the forward superstructure to the stern, with chutes. 70 mines were carried, of an unknown type. Could be the Pignone Elia 145/1930 Elia, the more recent 1936 P200 (P5) or Bollo P125/1935. They had no ASW installation.

First Italian cruiser completed with radars:

Close view of the bridge and FCS atop. Note the tripod with a platform for the Gufo radar, not yet installed.
The Capitani Romani class received the EC-3/ter Gufo radar.
This 10 kw unit worked on a 400 – 750 MHz frequency with a PRF of 500 Hz, a Beamwidth of 6° (horizontal) and 12° (vertical), a Pulsewidth of 4 μs and 3 rpm, for a range of 25 up to 80 km (50 mi).

Author’s profile of the Scipione Africano class

⚙ Capitani class specifications

Dimensions 142,90 m long, 14,40 m large, 4,90 m draft
Displacement 3 680 t. standard -5 334 tons Fully Loaded
Propulsion 2 shaft Belluzo turbines, 4 Thornycroft boilers, 110,000 hp.
Speed 40 knots (42+ trials) ()
Range 2300 nm @ 30 knots.
Armament 8×135 mm (4×2), 6x37mm AA, 8×20 mm AA, 8 533mm TTs
Protection Turrets: 6–20 mm (0.24–0.79 in), Conning tower: 15 mm (0.59 in)
Crew 420

View from the open control bridge

The ‘Capitani’ in the cold war

San Marco class

San Marco, D563 in 1959
Giulio Germanico and Pompeo Magno were completely modernized for the Marina Militare: Germanico became San Marco (D 563) and San Giorgio (D 562) reclassified as destroyer leaders. Both ships were extensively rebuilt between 1951 and 1955 US weaponry and radar typical of the time:
-Six 127 mm (5 in) guns (twin turrets) for ‘A’, ‘X’ and ‘Y’ turrets,
-Menon anti-submarine mortar (in lieu of ‘B’ turret)
-Twenty 40 mm (1.6 in) Bofors AA guns
-Sensors: Radars SPS-6 and SG-6B radar, SQS-11 sonar, Mk37 fire control system.
San Marco later became a cadet training ship, rebuilt in 1963–1965 with a brand new CODAG machinery for extra range (thrice). She was also fitted with new 76 mm (3 in) OTO Melara guns in place of all 40 mm artillery and ‘X’ (rear) 5-in turret. She was decommissioned in 1971, but San Giorgio served for another decade, until 1980, making one of the oldest ship in the Marina Militare since she was laid down in 1939, 41 years.

French Chateaurenault class

The two ex-Attilio Regolo class cruisers Scipio Africano and Attilio Regolo were attributed to France in 1948. They were converted in fast ASW/AA escort cruisers for the french task forces. Conversion started after some design work in 1951 at La Seyne NyD, completed by 1954. They were re-commissioned as Chateaurenault and Guichen dubbed “escorteur d’escadre” (litt. “squadron escort”) like the T47 class destroyers. They received initially three twin 105 mm mounts of the same type used on German capital ships and cruisers in a superfiring pair aft and a single forward. The rest comprised French twin 57 mm M1951 in fwd “B” positio or behind the rear funnel, new fire directors and radars. For ASW warfare four triple 550 mm acoustic TTs (12 in all !) were installed forward, close to the forward superstructure and they had a short lattice mast for the heavy DRBV11 surface radar plus the DRBV 20A.
They acted as command ships for squadrons and ultimately lost their aft deck 105 mm mount and TT banks for extra accomodation. They were stricken sooner than the Italian vessels, in 1961.
Profile of the Guichen class in French service

General Assessment

Regolo underway, leading the destroyers Mitragliere, Fuciliere and Carabiniere
With the combination, of very high power and fine lines giving them an unprecedented top speed, even maintained in combat load, acurate and modern armament, including good AA, and radars for the first time, the Regolo class (or ‘Capitani’) could well be, arguably, called the best Italian cruisers of WW2.
The only relatively grey spot on this assessment would be their late arrival into the fight for the Regia Marina. Most of the major battles were over in the Mediterranean, after Torch and the evacuation of Sicily Italy was down to defend Sicily when they arrived, and with the combined naval and air power of the allies, Mussolini’s dream of an “Italian lake” was definitively buried. The three active vessels of the class nevertheless, saw their fair share of action, single-handely defeating motor torpedo boats which were equally agile and very fast, with skills and accurate, combined rapid fire by night. This performance likely bought back the humiliation the battle of Cape Bon, when the two light cruisers they were supposed to replace were sunk by a destroyer squadron. They too were fast, but lacked awareness (not radar, near complete surprise) a good, accurate main battery and fire density.
The “Capitani” also proved the worth of their AA when Africano repelled several allied air attack, including one that could have put the Italian government in immediate danger, and showed their versatility by laying minefields which had the effect of deterring the allies to stop the axis evacuation of Sicily, ensuring prolongated, fierce fighting in Italy in the upcopming months and years.
The Capitani Romani were thus, the perfect replacement needed for the early six Condotierri class, but they arrived far too late.
The allies neever gave them another chance to fight, this time the Germans, and they spent the rest of their career of co-belligerence as transports.
However as a testiment to the qualiy of the ship in general, adaptability and longevity, four of them would serve for more than half of the cold war (even 1980 for one), proving they could be modernized in completely different configurations and for many roles.
Now for a bit of “what if” and alternate history, they were probably be the concrete realization of the “spahkreuzer” the Kriegsmarine dreamed of in Plan Z, either for the Baltic or north sea. They would have excelled by hunting down northern route convoys from Norway, hitting hard and leaving all allied destroyers behind. Would they had been laid down instead in 1937 and all twelve available in 1940-41, no doubt the Mediterranean campaign could have turned differently as well for supermarina.


Attilio Regolo

Scipione Africano, date unknown

Read More

The prow of the unifinished Ottaviano Augusto in CNR Ancona before launch


Robert Gardiner, Roger Chesneau Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.
Elio Andò, Incrociatori leggeri classe “CAPITANI ROMANI”, Parma, Ermanno Albertelli Editore, 1994
Piero Baroni, La guerra dei radar: il suicidio dell’Italia : 1935/1943, milano, Greco e Greco, 2007
M. J. Whitley, Cruisers of World War Two – an international encyclopedia, Londra, Arms and Armou, 1996
Gino Galuppini, Guida alle navi d’Italia : dal 1861 a oggi, Milano, A. Mondadori, 1982.
Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina Militare nel suo primo secolo di vita 1861-1961, Roma, Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare, 1961.
Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina dall’8 settembre alla fine del conflitto, Roma, Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare, 1971.
Raffaele de Courten, Le Memorie dell’Ammiraglio de Courten (1943-1946), Roma, Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare, 1993.
Pier Paolo Bergamini, Le forze navali da battaglia e l’armistizio, in supplemento “Rivista Marittima”, n. 1, gennaio 2002, ISSN 0035-6984 (WC · ACNP).



Model Kits

The Capitani Romani: Construction, fate and career

In construction from 1939, the 12 ships were delayed with the start of the war catching them in June 1940: Only eight of them were launched, and three completed, RN Attilio Regolo in May 1942, RN Scipione Africano in April 1943 and RN Pompeo Magno in June 1943. Giulio Germanico was completed after the war while Pompeo Magno was completely modernized and renamed, and remained in service until 1964 and 1971 respectively. The other two became war reparation to France in 1948 (Guichen and Chateaurenault). Only Scipione Africano and Attilio Regolo saw combat.

Scipione Africano

Construction of Africano in Livorno
This cruiser was named after general Scipio Africanus, which vanquished Hannibal at Zama. She was laid down at O.T.O., Livorno on 28 September 1939, launched 12 January 1941, completed on 23 April 1943 under command of Ugo Avelardi. Next she had Captain Ernesto De Pellegrini Dai Coi in command from 24 February to 25 March 1943, and from there, Frigate Captain Umberto Del Grande from 26 March to 5 May 1943, and Frigate Captain Ernesto De Pellegrini Dai Coi from 6 May 1943.

Scipione Africano in sea trials, not yet camouflaged.

Her most famous engagement arrived when she detected and engaged four British Elco motor torpedo boats in the 16-17 night of July 1943 en route to Taranto. It happened while crossing the Messina straits at high speed, off Punta Posso. She sank MTB 316 and heavily damaged MTB 313 between Reggio di Calabria and Pellaro:

Scipione Underway at sea

After the Allied landing in Sicily (Operation Husky), and anticipating of a possible blockade by the Allied part of the Strait of Messina, she was sent to force the Strait and reach Taranto, going also from the Tyrrhenian to the Ionian sea, Operation Scilla. She left La Spezia at 6.30 am on 15 July 1943, under the command of the vessel captain Ernesto De Pellegrini Dai Coi from Naples. Africano was by then equipped with the EC3/ter Gufo radar and proceeded through the strait at 02.00 on 17 July and detected off the Calabrian coast near Capo Pellaro, four Elco type motor torpedo boats, MTB 260, 313, 315 and 316 from 10th Flotilla sailing from Augusta and on patrol south of the Strait. They spotted the cruiser in returned and attacked immediately.

Africano’s captain took action, and moving away at high speed, dodging incoming torpedoes while opening fire with her main artillery even her 37 and 20 mm at this range. She was deadly accurate, and soon hit all four MTBs, left them afire behind at full speed, arriving unscaved in Taranto. All in all, she sank one MTB and damaged two others. Her commander and crew were publicly praised by Admiral Bergamini on 18 July 1943.

On 4-17 August Scipio made several mine-laying missions in the Gulf of Taranto and off the coast of Calabria, escaping each time Allied planes attacks. Her actions allowed to crteate a safe “corridor”, deterring the allies to attack the retiring Italo-German forces from Sicily. The four minefields in the Gulf of Taranto and Gulf of Squillace were laid with RN Luigi Cadorna.

On the evening of 8 September, the armistice was heard via radio and while in Taranto around 6 am on 9 September, she received orders to reach Pescara asap, escorted by the Gabbiano-class corvettes Scimitar and Baionetta from Brindisi and Pola and meeting underway. At around 2:00 pm while off Capo d’Otranto at 28 knots, she spotted the German S-Boats S 54 and S 61 approaching fast. However, fearing the guns of Africano, they suddenly created an artificial fog curtain and declined action, just maneuvering to get away. Commander Ernesto Pellegrini went on afterwards towards Pescara without other incident.

Scipione Africano arrived shortly after midnight there, with the corvette Baionetta (Lt. Piero Pedemonti) which had on board the Badoglio government and Minister of the Navy De Courten. She however refuelled and went on to Ortona and embarked the royal family on the 10th soon rejoined by Africano as escort. They reached Brindisi, and King Vittorio Emanuele III with his entourage disembarked around 4 pm, hosted by Admiral Rubatelli.
The other corvette Scimitar arrived in Pescara from Brindisi (Lt. Vascello Remo Osti) on the early morning on 10 September,proceeding to Taranto the following day. Six allied fighters were spotted incoming over Brindisi, but they were deterred by a vigorous AA defence of Scipio Africanus and the corvette.

Africano with her Co-belligerence livery, 5 May 1943

On 29 September, Scipio escort Marshal Badoglio and part of government officials to Malta for signing the armistice treaty with General Eisenhower on board HMS Nelson, following the ceasefire of 3 September agreed by General Giuseppe Castellano. The cobelligerence saw Africano in the same role as other cruisers of her class, making transport trips to Alexandria and the Bitter Lakes were eventually Italian battleships were interned, notably the modern RN Vittorio Veneto and Italia. She proceeded to other missions until 1945, under command of Captain of the Libero Chimenti (22 March 1944-31 January 1945), Riccardo Imperiali de Francavilla (1 February-21 March) and eventually Emilio Francardi (22 March-31 August 1945), until she was interned, and later attributed to France for war reparations, as Guichen.

Attilio Regolo

Regolo in Livorno, May 1942

RN Attilio Regolo was named after Marcus Atilius Regulus (statesman and general in 267 BC-256 BC of 1st Punic war fame) at O.T.O., Livorno, laid down on 28 September 1939, launched on 28 August 1940 and completed on 15 May 1942, but commissioned in August 1942 under command of Vessel Captain Pietro Sandrelli (14 May-10 October 1942). She was fitted like the others to be used as a minelayer, a mission she performed under orders of frigate Captain Umberto di Grande, until seriously damaged by a torpedo in November by the submarine HMS Unruffled on 7 November 1942. Her bow was severed by the blast, but she managed to limp back and to port, with some help. She managed to reach Messina, and was towed to La Spezia, where she remained in drydock for several months with her bow repaired, with the intact prow of Caio Mario, still under construction.
To Captain Umberto Del Grande, leaving on 31 January 1943 succeeded Lieutenant Dario Salata, responsible for the repairs until recommission in La Spezia, from 1 February to 17 May 1943.

Regolo with her destroyed bow

According to some sources, in the summer of 1943 she received her intended radar EC.3ter Gufo. She was completed after the allied landing in Sicily, and only returned to service on 4 September 1943, under orders of frigate Captain Marco Notarbartolo di Sciara. On the 8th she was still in La Spezia, as part of the VII Division with Montecuccoli and Eugenio of Savoia, the latter being flagship, carrying the insignia of Admiral Oliva. Admiral Bergamini warned by the Chief of Staff De Courten of an imminent armistice and possible immediate transfer of Italian ships, but most remained waiting for their destiny, obliged to raise a black flag on their masts and having black circles painted on the decks. various positions emerged, some officers wanted indeed to set sail out and to seek a final battle of to scuttle the fleet, but Bergamini took control from La Spezia and sailed to Maddalena to join the battleship Roma as flagship, followed by Vittorio Veneto and Italia as the IX Division, to be escorted by the cruisers of the VII Division,, Attilio Regolo being used as command ship of destroyers (Commodore Franco Garofalo), leading the destroyers Mitragliere, Rifiliere, Carabiniere and Velite (XII Squadriglia) and the Legionario, Oriani, Artigliere and Grecale (XIV Squadriglia) in two columns plus in vanguard the TBs Pegaso, Orsa, Orione, Ardimentoso and Impetuoso.

They met en route ships from Genoa of the VIII Division (Garibaldi, Duca degli Abruzzi, Duca d’Aosta, the latter flagship of Admiral Bianchieri)- preceded by the torpedo boat Libra. At 15.45 Roma was attacked by Luftwaffe bombers using Fritz-X guided bombs and sank after two hits in a few minutes. Admiral Bergamini with his staff went with her. Carabiniere reversed to pick up recover survivors, followed by Attilio Regolo and Carabiniere, Pegaso, Orsa and Impetuoso.

Attilio Regolo stayed behind with three ships of the XII Destroyer Squadron and torpedo boats under command respectively of captain Giuseppe Marini, and captain Riccardo Imperiali of Francavilla, staying until they recovered 622 sailors, but 1352 went to the bottom with Roma. 17 had been picked up by Attilio Regolo. Italia was also hit, but not fatally, and despite being flooded by 800 tonnes of seawater, she went on, taking command until reaching Malta, under command of Admiral Oliva on Eugenio di Savoia. There, they met the Duilio, Cadorna and her sister Pompeo Magno.

Vessel Captain Giuseppe Marini on Mitragliere, squadron leader of the XII Sqn having many serious injuries on board requested Attilio Regolo to be detached to Livorno. Evenually the formation, looking for a neutral port, headed for the Baleares, Spanish controlled. There, they would be able land the wounded sailors from Roma and resupply before heading to a place of internment. After arriving on 10 September, Regolo docked in Porto Mahon, Menorca, TBs stopping at Mallorca. The wounded and burned were disembarked, transported to the hospital.

However in the nigh of 10-11 September Regolo’s turbines were sabotaged while leaving the Spanish waters and both Pegaso and the Impetuoso, Imperiali and Fulgosi left their moorings and were scuttled, the crews interned. Commander Marini (Regolo) failed to get water and fuel oil and on 11 September failing to leave under 24 hours according to the Hague convention, were seized by order of the Spanish government. Months passed with growing tension, many ship crew members expressin their wish to join the Italian Social Republic. In January 1944, a few desertions commenced. Some stole a 14-ton fishing boat to escape, but did not survived a storm.

Regolo in Venezia, 1945

Tensions between Spanish soldiers and civilians towards the crews reach such a level, that to decrease it on 22 June 1944 Spanish authorities forced a reunion of all sailors and officers, asking them to join either the Kingdom or RSI. Voters would be repatriated across the border with France if joining the latter, or by ship via Gibraltar for the second option. Out of 1,013 voters, 994 opted to stay loyal to the King, 19 joined the RSI. The cruiser, wit a skeleton crew was at last authorized to leave Spanish waters on January 15, 1945 ad arrived in Taranto on January 23. According to peace treaty clauses, Regolo was among the units ceded as war damage to France, acted on July 27, 1948 with the initials R4. Her last captain was Marco Notarbartolo di Sciara from 18 May 1943 to 3 July 1945. She was renamed Chateaurenault in French service, until the late 1960s after reconstruction.

Giulio Germanico

Emperor and conqueror of Germany hence the nickname (full name Germanico Giulio Cesare, 24 may 15 BC, 10 oct. 19 AD), was among the first of these cruisers started. She was started on 3 April 1939, launched on 26 July 1941 and captured by the Germans in Castellammare di Stabia while under completion (90%). She was never completed by them and instead scuttled on 28 September 1943. Instead, she was raised and completed again by the Italian Navy after the war (Marina Militare), renamed San Marco and quite modified. She served as a destroyer leader until her decommission in 1971. Her career started on 19 January 1956, she was Renamed San Marco, and served as a destroyer leader.

Pompeo Magno

Pompeo Magno, named after Pompey the Great, Caesar’s mentor, friend and later rival, was built in CNR, Ancona, laid down 23 September 1939, launched 24 August 1941 and completed on 4 June 1943 but never fully operational. Construction at the Cantieri Navali Riuniti in Ancona was followed by a completion on 4 June 1943 and she entered service twenty days later, assigned to the Taranto base, and carrting out minelaying missions. It seems during this summer of 1943 she received the EC.3ter Gufo (“Owl”) radar but this is contested among sources. At that time, she was under command of Vessel Captain Paolo Mengarini from 24 June, until 7 August 1943 and later of Frigate Captain Alberto Banfi.

In July 1943

Pompeo Magno clashed in the night of 12-13 July 1943 in the Strait of Messina, with five allied MTBs apparently having intercepted her EC.3ter radar emission. This episode would prompt the Italian admiralty to limit the use of this radar. Magno however managed to locate these ships by radar, caught them and engage them in battme, sinking two in rapid succession, severely damaging a third, later sunk while the remaining two fled at full speed (which was not easy due their top speed quite close to the Romani class). When teamong with Africano, both woold repeat that feat in the night of 16-17 July with British MTBs in the same Strait of Messina but there are conflicts in logs of both ships. More likely it was the Scipio Africanus after the Allied landing in Sicily and in anticipation of a possible Allied blockade of Messina which headed full steam ahead, forcing the narrows to Taranto.

Proceeding to Malta, 9 September 1943

The armistice of 8 September saw pompeo Magno in Taranto with her twin Scipione Africano and Cadorna inside the V Division, escorting the battleship Duilio. The armistice caused tensions and on the 9 September, after Scipio left her moorings around 6 AM, ordered to reach Pescara, other ships were ordered to proceed to Malta. A meeting between officers favored instead a scuttling of their ships. Rear Admiral Giovanni Galati (cruiser group) simply refused to go to Malta and wanted instead to sail North, joining the axis, or to seek a last battle, but he was placed under arrest by Admiral Bruto Brivonesi, failing to convince him to follow the King’s orders of the King. However in the end loyalty prevailed and two battleships, two cruisers, the destroyer Nicoloso da Recco left Taranto, soon in sight of a British fleet which escorted a troopship convoy to occupy Taranto. Around 19:00 the Italian fleet was attacked by German fighter-bombers, Duilio having near-misses. At 09:30 AM they escort a British destroyer, and soon eight more to escort them to Malta, arriving in 17:50, mooring off Madliena Tower, they were joined by the other group from La Spezia (lossing the battleship Roma) under Admiral Oliva. Pompeo Magno soon was to depart again:

Underway in 1946
On 4 October, she sailed from Malta back to Italy, with the VIII Cruiser Division (Taranto) and on 2 February 1944 she was reassigned to the VII Cruiser Division. After some upkeep she was to carry out mostly transport missiones during the co-belligerence, under command of Alberto Banfi until 4 September 1944 and Nicola Murzi from 5 September 1944 to 13 October 1945.
She survived the war, was renamed San Giorgio, and served as a destroyer leader until 1963. She was decommissioned and scrapped in 1980 (will be covered in a dedicated cold war article).

Caio Mario

Caio Mario, or “Gaius Marius” in english, great reformer and statesman before the age of Casear, she was laid down at O.T.O., Livorno on 28 September 1939, launched 17 August 1941 but never completed before she was captured by the Germans in La Spezia, with only the hull completed, so that she was used as a floating oil tank, and scuttled in 1944.

Claudio Druso

Claudio Druso (after Nero Claudius Drusus) was built at Cantiere del Tirreno in Riva Trigoso, laid down on 27 September 1939. Construction was cancelled in June 1940, and shew as eventually scrapped between 1941 and February 1942 to fill more urgent needs of the hard-pressed Italian industry.

Claudio Tiberio

Claudio Tiberio (Emperor Tiberius) was started at O.T.O., Livorno on 28 September 1939 but construction was cancelled by June 1940. She was scrapped between November 1941 and February 1942.

Cornelio Silla

Silla after launch
Varo under completion, 1943
Cornelio Silla (Lucius Cornelius Sulla, the dictator that re-established the senate faction over the “populares”) was laid down at Ansaldo, Genoa on 12 October 1939, launched on 28 June 1941 and Captured by the Germans in Genoa while fitting out. She was sunk in an air raid in July 1944.

Ottaviano Augusto

Ottaviano Augusto in Ancona, after launch
RN Ottaviano Augusto was named after the Emperor Augustus (“Octavian”). She was laid down at CNR, Ancona on 23 September 1939, launched on 28 April 1941, left unfinished and captured by the Germans in Ancona while under completion. She was never completed by the latter and sunk in an air attack on 1 November 1943, so soon after capture.

Paolo Emilio

Paolo Emilio (Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicusn, c.229 – 160 BC) was a two-time consul of the Roman Republic and general who conquered Macedon (hence the surname), putting an end to the Antigonid dynasty in the Third Macedonian War. She namesake ship was laid down at Ansaldo, Genoa on 12 October 1939 but Construction was cancelled in June 1940, and she was scrapped where she laid between October 1941 and February 1942.

Ulpio Traiano

Ulpio Traiano (the Emperor Trajan) was laid down at CNR, Palermo on 28 September 1939 and launched on 30 November 1942. She was never completed, but was not seized by the Germans for completion since she was sunk while in completion and fitting out on 3 January 1943 by a British human torpedo attack in Palermo.

Vipsanio Agrippa

Vipsanio Agrippa (aftet the famous admiral Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa of Actium fate) was laid down at Cantiere del Tirreno in Riva Trigoso in October 1939, and Construction was cancelled on slip in June 1940, directly linked to the start of the war. It was obviopus she would never be finished and was more useful in scrap metal for more urgent needs. She was scrapped between July 1941 and August 1942.

Duca d’Aosta class Cruisers (1934)

Duca d’Aosta class Cruisers (1934)

Italy (1935), Duca D’Aosta, Eugenio di Savoia

The middle Condottiere

Emanuele Filiberto Duca D’aosta in 1942, showing her unique camouflage – Src Pinterest

The group IV of the Condottieri cruisers “superclass” included the Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta (1934) and Eugenio di Savoia (1935), very similar in design and appearance to the previous Raimondo Montecuccoli class. These fleet cruisers were the last armed with “only” (given their tonnage) eight 6-in guns (150 mm). They improved on the previous class on many points, setting them apart eventually despite the obvious similarities. This incremental process allowed to reach the next big step forward that was the Duca Degli Abruzzi class in 1936.
The E.F.Duca D’Aosta class was scheduled and planned for the very same 1931-33 naval programme as the Montecuccoli class. There was however a full year gap between their laying down: Both the Group III cruisers were laid down in Ansaldo and CRDA in April (Attendolo) and October (Montecuccoli), while the lead ship D’Aosta was laid down in OTO in October 1932. This full year allowed engineers to gradually improve on their previous designs while keeping the essentials. For various reasons (such as range and habitability) it was preferred a larger hull, which implied greater displacement, requiring greater output, but also allowing for some extra protection and better balance overall. Still, protection remained light.

Both cruisers in concert, prewar. During the war they were in separated units most of the time.
Both cruisers would have a long active life. They participated in several important battles and survived into the co-belligerence period, but were sent after the war as war reparations to Greece and USSR, as Elli and Kerch, new flags under which they served for many more years, like the Montecuccoli which also seen cold war service with the Marina Militare.

Design Changes

Savoia in 1942 and 1943
The major concern of the engineers was to increase protection, even compared to the Montecuccoli class. Therefore they opted for a full, thicker armor, also reflected in the layout plan, which had a larger volume. Yet she was still better protected, between 3 to 4-in (100 and 60 mm) versus for example a mere 1-in at most on Cadorna. This was done by a sacrifice: Speed, and yet based on a better output, 106,000 hp versus 95,000 on the previous class. Displacement But they still managed to crank up 37 knots on trials. In practice it was below 36.5 knots. Armament did not changed, except for a better AA artillery with 4 twin Breda 37mm mount, no 40 mm as on the Montecuccoli.

Cruiser Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta

Hull Construction and general design

Launch of Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta in 1934

The D’Aosta was virtually a repeat of the montecuccoli design but they were designed with almost a year gap, for the same programme. This left time for plenty of incremental improvements. The hull was the same in shape and form, with the remarkable amount of flare at the bow, which looked from above larger than the more slender poop. New sections were added, and the hull was lenghtened, the making it roomier with an extra 39 feets (12 meters) long, 3.6 feets (1.10 meters) at the beam, and 1.6 feets (0.5 meters) of additional draft, or 186.9 m (613 ft 2 in) overall for 17.5 m (57 ft 5 in) in beam and 6.1 m (20 ft 0 in) draught. Tonnage of course rose to 8,300-8,600 tons standard versus 7,400 on the Montecuccoli, and up to 10,300-10,600 tons fully loaded. Their standard was the Group III cruisers’s full load…

Full Interior design

Superstructures and general outlook were the same, and in fact Intel service in all admiralties had problem distinguishing Group III and IV, understandably. Main and secondary Artillery was placed exactly the same, they had identical silhouette with same forecastle, proportions, minimalistic tower bridge supporting the main telemeter and FCS, two large funnels with raked caps, an amidship catapult, same tripod mainmast just at the base of the aft funnel. The only light difference was due to the greater powerplant, making the aft funnel the same size of the fore funnel, unlike Group III cruisers. That was still hard to spot from binoculars. As for the crew, they were manned by 27 officers and 580 ratings. They carried 8 service boats amidships on davits, later reduced in wartime to four, but with extra inflatable rafts.

Armour Layout

To summarize, it was improved enough compared to the Cadorna and the Group III to not consider these “tin-clad cruisers”, but still unsufficient overall. It did not reached the level of Group V cruisers, which went straight for the Washington limit for this, on the same hull basically. For turrets it’s their frontal arc, front plates and sides figures. For the CT, the second value is the roof. Former Group III are marked with a star.
Main belt: 70+35 mm (2.8+1.3 in)/60+25 mm*
Bulkheads: 50-30 mm (2-1.2 in)/40-20 mm*
Deck: 35-30 mm (1.4 in)/30-20 mm*
Barbettes: 70-50 mm (2.7-2.1 in)/50-30 mm*
Turrets: 90 mm (3.5 in)/70 mm*
Conning tower: 100-40 mm (3.9 in)/100-25 mm*
Communication Tube: 30-20 mm (1.2-0.7 in)/30 mm*


Cutaway of the Montecucoli showing the location of respective boiler rooms and truncated exhaust pipes.
The propulsion comprised two propeller shafts driven by Parsons (Aosta) and Belluzo (Savoia) turbo-reducer groups turbines, fed by steam provided by six water tube boilers of the Yarrow (Aosta) and Regia Marina (Savoia) type, oil-fired with injectors and superheaters. Water flowed through pipes heated externally by combustion gases exploiting to the full all the heat coming from the burners, boilers walls and exhaust gases. They required a special steel and special welding techniques to withstand high temperatures. Total output was 110,000 hp, to compare with 106,000 on Group III,
allowing a maximum speed of almost 36.5 knots, a bit less than Group III due to the larger hull. They had a roughly similar range based on 1,653 tons of oil in normal conditions, at cruise speed 14 knots, of 3,900 nautical miles. To compared on Group III this was respectively 1,275-1,295 tons for 4,122 nmi (7,634 km) at 18 knots, so they were not good walkers and range was decreased despite additional fuel on board.

Cutaway of the previous Attendolo (src)
But the most important was the arrangement of boiler rooms: Previous group had four forward, two aft groups and funnel size accordingly. On group IV, they were placed in two groups and three boilers fore and aft, for a heavenly number of smoke ducts making funnels of identical size. Each boiler room was also positioned in a separate compartment.


Main: 4×2 6-in/53 (152mm) OTO

Main guns blazing in heavy seas on Savoia in 1937.
The main armament comprised eight 152mm/53 A-1932 model gun (6 inches/53) from OTO, in separated single mounts but twin turrets, two superfiring forward and two aft. They used semi-automatic loading guns allowing reload up to 15° elevation. The individual mounts and larger separation, like on the Montecuccoli class, authorized less interference and thus favored accuracy.
See more on the weapons section

Sec: 3×2 100 mm/47 DP M28 OTO

The main anti-aircraft armament consisted of six 100/47mm OTO guns modello 1928. Original design was going back to the 1907 Škoda 10 cm K10. First pattern was 1924. They were distributed in three twin mounts like the previous Montecuccoli class, and could take on anti-ship roles as well. Relevant in 1934, but no longer by 1940 they were unable to follow the nex generation of aircraft or to repel diving attacks. By default the tactic was to use them for barrage fire. For their replacement, it was planned to install the new 90/50 mm model A-1938 developed by OTO for the Regia Marina, in single mounts, much faster and stabilized. They were adopted on the rebuilt Duilio and Littorio only however. See more on the weapons section

Torpedo Tubes and ASW

Torpedo Tube banks on Savoia
The torpedo armament consisted of six 533 mm (21 inches) torpedo tubes, distrubited into two triple banks that located on deck, amidships, abaft the funnels.
The models fired were same as the Montecuccoli class: 53.3 cm (21″) Si 270/533.4 x 7.2 “M” models with the following specs:
Total weight 3,748 lbs. (1,700 kg) for 23 ft. 7 in. (7.200 m)
Explosive Charge: 595 lbs. (270 kg)
Wet Heater, 4,400 yards (4,000 m)/46 knots or 8,750 yds/35 knots or 13,100 yds/29 kts

Anti-submarine armament: The Aosta class cruisers carried each two depth charge throwers and two racks aft.
Paravanes: Both cruiser carried four of them. Used as mine cable cutters, Paravanes were present on all Italian cruisers.

AA Armament

The main anti-aircraft armament consisted of:
-8 Breda 37mm/54 heavy machine guns in four twin mounts. They were located
They were proved against low-flying torpedo bomber attacks.
-8 13.2mm/76 Hotchiss heavy machine guns in four twin mounts. Completely inadequate in 1940 but yet still also shared (in caliber) by French, British and US ships. They were located around the bridge.
Note that by the Autumn of 1943 both kept thir six twin 13.2mm/76 Breda but had in addition (and replacement of their 100 mm apparently) ten single 20mm/70 Oerlikon AA guns installed. In 1944, two more added on both ships again. There were no other modifications but the removal of torpedo tubes, catapult and seaplanes to spare weight and stability.

Duca d’Aosta in 1941


Like most Italian ships in 1940, these cruisers had no radar. With war lessons and availability, by mid-1943, Emanuele Filiberto Duca d`Aosta received a German FuMo 39 radar, provided by its ally. From there, by August 1943 her sister ship Eugenio di Savoia inaugurated the Italian Gufo or EC.3/ter radar. By the Summer of 1944 Duca d’Aosta had both a FuMo 39 radar and a British type 286 radar, quite a unique combination !
By early 1945, she only retained her British type 286 radar. USSR apparently fitted Kerch with better sensors while under service (according to navypedia): Giuys and Redan radars. This radar is easy to spot aft of the tower. Greece did received modifications as its radar was installed at the end of a sturdier lattice mast aft of the tower bridge. Presumably the same EC.3/ter radar, but apparently later replaced by an SO-8 surface radar. Src
The FuMo 39 (Funkmess-Ortung) Radar was for direction finder, active ranging. Derived from FuMo 21, which had a mere 10 nm range.
The Type 286 radar made by ECKO had a frequency of 214 MHz. It was a VHF-Band with a PRF of 200 to 800 Hz, 2 µ pulsewidth, 6 kW for a 25 NM (≙ 46 km) range.
The EC.3/ter Or “Gufo” was had a 400–750 MHz Frequency, 500 Hz PRF, 6° (horizontal), 12° (vertical) Bdwt, 4 μs Plswt, 3 RPM, 10 KW for a 25–80 km (16–50 mi) range. This was the first Italian radar, invented by navy technicians Ugo Tiberio, Nello Carrara and Alfeo Brandimarte in 1936–1937, stopped in 1941 but revived after Cape Matapan. First tests on TB Giacinto Carini in April 1941. Produced by SAFAR (150+ units) but only 12 on various ships by 8 September 1943. It was however used “officially” rarely, since the German informed the RN not to use it long range, believing it could be spotted by British radar warning such as the Metox (which was not opertational before mid-1944). It seemed to have seen a wide use, but was not mentioned on logbooks. Only Scipione Africano used it in combat on 16-17 July 1943, sinking MTB 316.

On board Aviation

IMAM Ro 43 aboard Trieste..

RO 43 being towed back on the catapult, on Eugenio Di Savoia (Luce, src below).
The unit embarked two IMAM Ro.43 sea reconnaissance seaplanes two-seater biplanes (300 kph, 1,000 km range). They were launched from the admidship catapult, in between funnels, and max capacity was three, with one on catapult and two on rails on each side, wings folded. They could be picked up with a little traverse by the catapult. The Ro.37 was however too flimsy for landing at sea and be recuperated aboard, and so often instead looked to land on shore.

About the names

The lead ship, often simplified by the allies as “Aosta” was baptized in honor of Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, the Duke of Aosta, an area bordering France and Switerland, the northermost of Italy and mountainous. He was a general of the Royal Army, son of the King of Spain Amedeo I, brother of Duke of Abruzzi, Luigi Amedeo di Savoia (another cruiser by the way). He was considered a brillant general, leading the third army without ever suffering defeat in WWI. For this he was also nicknamed “Duke Invitto” (the invicible Duke) and conquered Gorizia in the sixth battle of the Isonzo. In 1926 he became Marshal of Italy but passed out in 1931, by his will buried among his soldiers in the Military Memorial of Redipuglia. The cruiser had the motto “Victoria nobis vita” (for us victory is life), the Duke’s motto in fact. The cold war cruiser Vittorio Veneto adopted the same. “Emanuele Filiberto” was a name given to a battleship previously.

Eugenio di Savoia was named after Eugene of Savoy, a military strategist and general of the late 16th century, which he served with distinction. Prince Eugene Francis of Savoy–Carignano or Carignamo (18 October 1663 – 21 April 1736) “Prince Eugene” became a field marshal both in the army of the Holy Roman Empire, Austrian Habsburg dynasty and one of the most successful military commanders of his time, rising at the top of Imperial court in Vienna, but brought up in the court of King Louis XIV of France, but was denied service in the French army, transferring his loyalty to the Holy Roman Empire, with a career spanning six decades. Victories counts the fields of Blenheim (1704), Oudenarde (1708), Malplaquet (1709), Battle of Turin (1706), battle of Petrovaradin (1716) and Siege of Belgrade (1717). The 1934 cruiser also had the motto of the Aosta Alpine battalion engraved.



Arrigo. Petacco, Le battaglie navali del Mediterraneo nella seconda guerra mondiale (Mondadori)
Michael J. Whitley, Cruisers of World War Two, Londra, Arms and armour Press 1995
Robert Gardiner, Stephen C. All the World Fighting’s Ships 1922-46 and 1947-1995
James Joseph Colledge, Ben Warlow, Ships of the Royal Navy: complete record (Chatham 2006)
Gianni Rocca, Fucilate gli ammiragli. La tragedia della marina italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale (Mondadori 1987)
Gino Galuppini, Guida alle navi d’Italia dal 1861 a oggi, Milano (Mondadori)
Giuseppe Fioravanzo, L’organizzazione della Marina durante il conflitto. Tome II. Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare 1975.
Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina Italiana nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale. Vol. IV. Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare 1959.
Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina Italiana nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale. Vol. V. Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare 1960.
Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina Militare nel suo primo secolo di vita 1861-1961. Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare 1961.
Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina dall’8 settembre alla fine del conflitto. Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare 1971.
Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina Italiana nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale. Vol. VIII. Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare 1964.
Raffaele De Courten, Memories Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare, 1993.
Pier Paolo Bergamini, Le forze navali da battaglia e l’armistizio. Rivista Marittima 2002
Aldo Cocchia, Filippo De Palma, La Marina Italiana nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale. Vol. VI-Vol. VII Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare
Luis de la Sierra, La guerra navale nel Mediterraneo: 1940-1943. Mursia 1998
Erminio Bagnasco, M. Brescia, Cacciatorpediniere classi “Freccia/Folgore”. Albertelli, 1997.


On regiamarinaitaliana.it (archive)
On wiki.warthunder.ru
Italian Torpedoes on navweaps.com
On uboat.net/
On navypedia.org/
Kriegsmarine radars on navweaps.com
On associazione-venus.it – many photos
on alchetron.com
On agenziabozzo.it
Kerch 1:700 Kombrig on scalemates.com/
1:350 Fine scale models kit review on modellmarine.de


Catapult Launch on Di Savoia (original Luce Footage)
Launch ceremony of Di Savoia
On world of warship
Same, on “armada”

Model Kits

An extract of Profile Morskie 1/400 shiowing the unique camouflage of D’Aosta1/700 Kombrig kit of the class on scalemates
Kit review on icsm.it/regiamarina/
It was also done in 1:1200 by Xpforge and is available for print.


Author’s profile

Eugenio di Savoia in 1936, showing her two-tone livery, dark hull, light superstructure, quite common at the time. Note also the all metal covering of the forecastle deck. During WW2, aerial recoignition white-red bands were painted. src regiamarinaitaliana.it (archive)

The famous and atypical camouflage of E.F. Duca D’Aosta by the time of Operation Harpoon

Eugenio di Savoia at the time of Operation Harpoon. She would receive later another variation of the same with larger “loops” later.

In video games, Duca D’Aosta is a “special” in world on warships.


Both of Group IV survived the war and were awarded to the USSR and Greece in war damage. Under the name of Kerch the first served until 1958-59 as auxiliary cruiser, the second under the name of Helle until 1964.

Emanuele Filiberto Duca D’Aosta

Cruiser Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta
Emmanuele Filiberto Duca D’Aosta (referred to there simply as “duca D’Aosta”) was started on October 29, 1932 in OTO shipyard, Livorno. She was launched in 1934, commissioned in 1935. First captain was Alberto Da Zara (from 11 July 1935), and she spent her early years in training, after shakedown cruiser, fixes, and fleet exercizes. Nothing much happened until 1938, when she had a new captain, Carlo Balsamo di Specchia.
That year, she departed with her twin Eugenio di Savoia for a circumnavigation of the globe, from Naples on November, 5, 1938, as part of Mussolini’s propaganda campaign. It was only interrupted by the outbreak of World War Two. At the time, both cruisers were in South America. Their initial return was scheduled for July 25, 1939, but it was initially in March, with La Spezia as destination.
They eventually reached La Spezia and were reassigned to the VII Cruisers Division, II Fleet Squadron. They were joined soon by Montecuccoli, Muzio Attendolo under command of Admiral Sansonetti.

Battle of Puntla Stilo (9 July 1940)
Duca D’Aosta took part in the battle of Punta Stilo, first major naval battle between the Regia Marina and Royal Navy. Details could be found there. At the time she was under command of Franco Rogadeo, from 6 September 1939.
On 2 August 1941, after Greece and Crete fell to the Germans, Duca D’Aosta, Garibaldi, Duca degli Abruzzi and the destroyers Alpino, Bersagliere, Corazziere and Mitragliere were sent in Navarino (Greece) tp protect troopship and supplies. They secured the Eastern Mediterranean against any British attacks from Haifa.

Duca D’Aosta in 1941
1st Battle of Syrta
On December 17, 1941, Duca D’Aosta escorted M 42 convoy (cargo ships Monginevro, Naples and Vettor Pisani plus Ankara (German)). This was answered by a British attack, and the 1st battle of the Sirte. As part of the close cover force, along with the destroyers Camisa Negra, Ascari and Aviere, they protected the battleship Duilio and VII Cruiser Division under command of Admiral De Courten.
Battle of Pentelleria (15 June 1942):
In June 1942, Duca D’Aosta took part in the mid-June battle as part of the VIII Cruisers Division with Duca d’Aosta and Garibaldi. She was under command of Luciano Bigi from February 26, 1942. The VIIIth Division was under command of Admiral De Courten, which choosed Duca d’Aosta as flagship. He left Taranto with the Ist Squadron (Garibaldi, Littorio) as part of the interception group of the British convoy. There was a German liaison personael to the Luftwaffe to coordinate operations on Gorizia.

D’Aosta under fire (Phyrexian coll.)
The Italian formation was preceded a screen of destroyers, with Legionario forward of it, equipped with a German Fu.Mo 21/39 De.Te. radar (a first for Italian ships). HMS Burdwan and Kentucky, already on fire due to air attacks, were finished off by gunfire from Raimondo Montecuccoli and Eugenio di Savoia. The operation was called “Harpoon” on the British side, and was a tactical victory for the axis, destroying the convoy and sinking the two escorting destroyers, damaging a cruiser, while the Regia Marina lost no ships but had a destroyer damaged and 29 aircraft lost. D’Aosta was under command of Vessel Captain Temistocle D’Aloia from March 16, 1943.

Duca D’Aosta showing her camouflage in June 1942

The Raid on Palermo (August 1943):
In August 1943, Admiral Fioravanzo (VIII Division) planned to shell Palermo just retook by the allies. But it took until 6 August to gather the forces, Garibaldi, Aosta, in Genoa to be mustered at Maddalena. Garibaldi had turbines issues and down to 28 knots. Aerial reconnaissance signalled unknown ships en route to intercept them and Fioravanzo in inferiority order renounced and folded bacl to La Spezia on 8 August.

The fleet moves to Genoa
At 17:00 on 9 August the two cruisers left La Spezia for Genoa escorted by the destroyers Mitragliere, Carabiniere and Gioberti. The first were in the lead followed by the two cruisers in a row and the to remaining DDs. However underway they were ambushed south of Punta Mesco by HMS Simoon. Six torpedoes were launched, two hitting Gioberti astern which immdiately broke in two and sank with all hands. Carabiniere went on chase and depht-charged it some damaging the S class submersible’s aft launch tubes. The fleet arrived in Genoa in the evening.

Duca D’Aosta in drydock in 1948, before transfer.

Post-armistice and co-belligerence period (Sept. 1943 – May 1945);
The surrendering Italian fleet was bound for Malta and the Battleship Roma sunk underway. Admiral Oliva was in disagreement with Bergamini about the armistice clause and the latter was warned by telephone by De Courten to depart anyway. After internment, Duca D’Aosta stayed inactive until the allies accepted co-belligerence and the fleet was supplied. Maintenance work was done at Taranto Arsenal, in October 1943. The cruiser under command of Captain Ludovico Sitta from 18 April 1944 carried out 24 missions over 31,330 miles until V-Day. She patrolled the central Atlantic (seven patrols), together with Garibaldi and Duca degli Abruzzi, searching for blockade runners and U-Boats operating along the coast down to Freetown. From April 1944, she transported troops, making 55 missions over 61,542 miles.

En route to USSR

Later life as Kerch:
In compliance with peace treaty clauses Duca d’Aosta was ceded as war reparations to USSR, in addition to Giulio Cesare, the training ship Cristoforo Colombo, destroyers Artigliere and Fuciliere, torpedo boats Animoso, Ardimentoso and Fortunale, submarines Nichelio and Marea, destroyer Riboty and many other ships. Due to the poor maintenance of many, economic compensation was granted instead. Like other, D’Aosta was to be dlivered after restoration works at the Arsenal of La Spezia.

The cruiser Kerch in 1950. She had her decks repainted in orange-red, the hull dark grey with a thing white line above the waterline, the former name was removed and the now one plated over.
Delivery took place between December 1948 and June 1949 and she was in the second group with flag exchange in the port of Odessa, and she was given the provisional ‘Z 15’ pennant as delivered to the Soviet Navy on March 2, 1949. Captain Semën Michailovič Lobov took command (a fleet admiral in 1970). D’Aosta war flag was sent in Rome, and now preserved at the Sacrario delle Bandiere del Vittoriano. Name Kerch, she was withdrawn from active service on February 7, 1956, ending as a training ship until May 11, 1958, then experimental “OS 32” hull for firing trials. Stricken on February 20, 1959 she was BU in 1961.

Eugenio di Savoia

Eugenio di Savoia
NSM (Nave di Sua Maestà) Eugenio di Savoia was laid down in 1933 in Ansaldo shipyard, Genoa, launched 1935, commissioned 1936 as the very last of the class. During the late interwar after a short shakedown cruise and fixes, training, she went for her first mission to the Spanish coast, to watch over Italian citizens and interests during the civil war. In 1938 she was pressed with her sister by Mussolini for a circumnavigation of the globe, delayed and then interrupted by the outbreak War while she off south america. Under her first captain Massimiliano Vietina from January 1936, replacing “completion captain” Ludovico Sitta from September 3, 1935. But in September 1939, and since late 1938 this was Antonio Muffone, replaced by Carlo De Angelis in 1940. With Duca d’Aosta, Montecuccoli and Attendolo she was part of the VIIth Cruisers Division, IInd Squadron in La Spezia under Adm. Luigi Sansonetti.

Eugenio di Savoia in 1941. During the early war, she spent her service time escorting convoys and laying minefields.

Her career mirroed he sister’s: On 9 July 1940 she took part in the battle of Punta Stilo and later with Montecuccoli and five destroyers she shelled Corfou in December 18, 1940 during the attempted Italian invasion of Greece. By 12-16 June 1942, she was at the battle of Pantelleria (Operation harpoon) as flagship of Admiral Da Zara, and with Montecuccoli, she sank HMS Bedouin, finished off by torpedoes from an S.M.79. She also burned the large tanker Kentucky, already hit by Stukas. Next, on 10-15 August she took paert in what the Italians called “the battle of mid-August” (Operation Pedestal).

She was moored in Naples on 4 December 1942 during the infamous “Santa Barbara’s raid”, hit by bombs from B-24 Liberator. One hit caused heavy damage to the aft hull. Repairs were estimated to be about 40 days. The crew deplored 17 dead and 46 injured. Montecuccoli was also badly hit and took seven months of repair, while Muzio Attendolo was a total constructive loss.

Back in service, in January 1943 Eugene of Savoy shot down two enemy bombers.

At the armistice of 8 September she had been moved in La Spezia. Assigned to the VII Division, she departed for Internment in Malta. flanked by Attilio Regolo and escorting the battleships Roma, Vittorio Veneto and Italia (IX Division) the XII Sqn and XIV Sqn destroyers and several TBs they met en route another fleet from Genoa (VIII Division: Garibaldi, Duca degli Abruzzi Duca d’Aosta) and later joined by those from Taranto. Duca d’Aosta while en route was reassigned to the VII Division, replacing Attilio Regolo to pair with her sister Eugenio di Savoy (flagship of Admiral Romeo Oliva). Roma (flagship of Carlo Bergamini) sank on 9, attacked by Dornier Do 217s with guided bombs and in replacement, Oliva took command of the fleet until reaching destination on September 11. Afterwards, the fleet was dispatched again and D’Aosta interned in Alexandria. Until that time, she carried out 25 war missions covering 25,000 miles.

Savoia in 1942 Flickr. src Paizis-Paradellis (2002). Hellenic Warships 1829–2001 (3rd Edition). Athens, Greece: The Society for the study of Greek History. pp. 64–65. ISBN 960-8172-14-4.

On 13 October, cobelligerence started and after a refit and some maintenance in Italy, she return to guard the Suez area, taking part in an allied objective, notably with mock air attacks. On 29 February 1944 while returning from Suez she hit a mine off Punta Stilo and was severely damaged. She limped back to reach Taranto and remained there unrepaired until V-Day.

The previous Muzio Attendolo, with which Eugenio di Savoia spent most of her wartime career

Postwar career: as Greek Elli
After the end of the war she had a long overhaul on June 26, 1951, sold as reparation for war damage to Greece, renamed Elli in memory of the light cruiser sunk by Delfino on August 15, 1940 near Tino Island. As the largest active ship after the old Averoff (Italian buult), she became the new flagship, carrying King Paul I of Greece to Istanbul for a state visit in June 1952, Yugoslavia in 1955, Toulon or Lebanon. In 1959 she was in Suda, Crete, as Ionian fleet command ship. She was used for trainined and decommissioned in 1965, but not BU. Instead she became a prison ship during the colonel’s regime in the 1970s, sold for BU in 1973.

Raimondo Montecuccoli class Cruisers (1934)

Raimondo Montecuccoli class Cruisers (1934)

Italy (1934), Raimondo Montecuccoli, Muzio Attendolo

A brand new cruiser design

The four cruisers of groups III and IV were relatively similar, the Raimondo Montecuccoli class (with Muzio Attendolo), and the Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta soon after all were launched between 1934 and 1935. They were all very similar in design and appearance but differed in size, displacement and many details which explains most authors had them seperated in their own sub-classes. The Raimondo Montecuccoli class was designed from 1932, and became a real game changer, under treaty influence and in particular the Treaty of London in 1930. They constituted a complete break over previous classes of the Cadorna/Guissano, “destroyer killers” to that of fleet cruisers, more useful to the fleet with a better armament, protection and range to the price of speed.

Raimondo Montecuccoli in Venice before the war.

The Montecuccoli class cruisers can be considered the first light cruisers built by the Royal Navy, in fact the previous 5000t were essentially large esploratori or scout cruisers. They were designed in 1931 and presented good protection, despite having a very high speed thanks to the extremely refined shapes of the hull. These units turned out to be excellent vessels with a remarkable speed, RN Montecuccolli exceeded 38 knots on sea trials and was considered having a sufficient protection foe the time. Both were intensively used as minelayers thanks to their two deck rails, for 130 mines of various types.

The lead ship was built by Ansaldo Yard (Genoa), named after a 17th-century Italian general in Austrian service. Muzio Attendolo was built at C.R.D.A., Trieste, laid down on 10 April 1931, launched on 9 September 1934 and commissioned on 7 August 1935, named after the 14th-century ruler of Milan and founder of the Sforza dynasty.

The previous Cadorna class, for comparison (ONI)

Raimondo Montecuccoli entered service in 1935 with the VII naval division, participating in numerous battles, as Punta Stilo and mezzo guigno, escorting convoys and laying mines. Her last wartime trip was from Genoa to Malta on 10.9.1943 as she handed herself over to the British after the capitulation. She carried out numerous missions during the co-beligerance era still, remaining postwar a valuable asset, modified into a training ship and modernized, to be stricken by June 1964.

Muzio Attendolo entered service in 1935 too, joined her sister at the VII naval division and also did her share in the same missions and battles. On her way to Messina after a cancelled attack on a British convoy to Malta, she was hit as Bolzano, by torpedo launched by HMS Safari. Her bow was ripped off but she managed to return to port, receiving a makeshift prow before making a new crossing to be fully repaired. despite of this she was sunk at quay in Naples, never having the time to return to service.

Montecuccoli colorized by irootoko Jr.

Very active in WW2, Montecuccoli survived the war, was modernized twice after it and served in the cold war until 1972, while Muzio Attendolo was sunk on 4 December 1942 in Naples by USAAF bombers on 4 December 1942, and salvaged after the war, but it was decided the damage was not worth repairing her, and she was scrapped. Leaving her the only one of the four cruisers of Group III-IV not to survive the war.


Hull design and general construction

Forward and aft view of a scratchbuilt model (Flickr)

The Montecuccoli class for a start was far larger than the Cadorna, with a 182.2 m (597 ft 9 in) long hull (compared to 169.3 m or 555 ft 5 in), a one meter larger beam at 16.6 m (54 ft 6 in) versus 15.5 m (50 ft 10 in) and deeper draught with 5.6 m (18 ft 4 in) versus 5.2 m (17 ft 1 in)). The lenght ratio was even more favourable, together with finer hull lines at waterline level. This traduced into a much higher displacement of 8,875 tonnes standard and 8,895 t fully loaded, versus 5,323 t/7,113 tonnes. Note that acording to the London treaty of 1930, the tonnage of a light cruiser was understood as 7,500 tonnes standard. This was above average, as contemporary French cruisers (Bertin at 5,880 tons standard for example and the following La Galissonière) were 7,600 tonnes standard.

In addition to a great lenght, the hull was more rectangularly, fuller shaped than on the Cadorna class. Another interesting part of the design, other than that the longer hull, still with the trademark, large flare making the forward part looks much wider than the stern. This excessive flare was helping keeping the deck dry as much as possible, but would not have been a good idea in the Atlantic where cutter style prows were more in demand.

From forward to aft, after the clipper bow and its unusually large flare, were located the two anchor chains and capstans, followed by the main turrets A,B, superfiring, the forward superstructure encompassing the B barbette, the conning tower and bridge in a single unit, located right above B roof level. This simple, low bridge supported the main fire control station on a platform. It had wings either sides. The single bridge was open initially, then enclosed after completion. No proper mast but a small one to support radio cables coming from the main mast aft and hoist signals, including the radiodetection antenna.

Usual practice at the time, behind the fore funnel, surrounded by the two forward secondary armament FCS turrets, was located on the superstructure’s roof the single main aircraft catapult, with enough space port and starboard, at the foot of the forefunnel, two spare floatplanes with fokding wings as spares. They were on a raised platform -by default of a crane here- to be placed with ease of the catapult’s tip.

At the foot of the superstructure were located amidship on the main weather deck the two torpedo tube banks. Services boats were installed behind, on both sides, and served by the main boom crane anchored on the fore mast of the main tripod aft. The latter comparised a platform and supported others with the aft secondary FCS and night projectors. The secondary armament, comprising, as on previous cruisers, three twin turrets, were located port and starboard on sponsons, and an axial one, on the quarterdeck superstructure aft, followed by X and Y turrets also in a superfiring pair.

All in all, these cruisers looked much elongated, with little room to spare forward and aft of the main turrets. This was corrected both on the contemporary Zara class, and the successor Group VI, Duca Degli Abruzzi class.


On sea trials

The propulsion system benefited from a larger and longer hull, but still consisted of a generally similar powerplant as the previous Cardona class, with two identical units consisting in two steam generators, connected to a turbine group, the whole being housed in three separate rooms: One for the turbine, two for the generators, placed one behind the other in the center so as to avoid a single torpedo hit to flood the entire machinery spaces.

Each power unit comprised in reality a combined turbine: A high-pressure turbine was combined with a low-pressure turbine, both of the Belluzzo type. Direct action, with rapid reverse running was enabled, as connected by a gearbox to the shaft line. The forward group drove the starboard propeller right-hand and the aft group, left-land, with three bladed three meters diamters bronze propellers. Below the turbine group was installed the low-pressure condenser cooled with sea water. It could operate the turbines in a closed circuit. To compensate for the loss of distilled water, three evaporators were capable of producing 154 tonnes of the latter over twenty-four hours.

For the boilers, which were of the Yarrow type, superheated steam generators worked at 225° C. The watertube boilers had five collectors and were capable of producing 90tonnes per hours of steam pressure. The combustion chamber for each generator was provided with by twelve nozzles, and spread oil was heated up to 90-100°C. Fumes from the two stern generators were evacuated were truncated into the aft funnel, and the forward ones in the corresponding forward funnel, both rounded, same size, slightly raked, provided with a cap, and widely spaced apart, a clear recoignition sign. Steam generators were fed with distilled water preheated to 100°C by the auxiliary turbines.

All in all, this powerplant provided 120.000 hp, compared to 95,000 for the Cadorna, enough to reach 37 knots (same). On trials Montecuccoli exceeded her contract speed even reached 38.7kts, on however a displacement less than standard, plus machinery pushed 18% above normal figures. In service, fully loaded she never ventured beyond 34 kts. These cruisers carried 1,300 tons of oil (versus 1,230 tons) for a max range of 4,122 nmi (7,634 km) at 18 knots (21 mph; 33 km/h), versus 2,930 nm for Cardorna, an 1/3 increase allowing them a broader specter of missions with the fleet.


ONI plate, showing the armour layout

Protection was entrusted to two nichrome steel walls: There was an external one of 60 mm and an internal one of 25 mm amidships, plus 30 mm in correspondence with the main barbettes, spaced from each other by 1.60 m. It should be noted that while the protection of the Italian cruisers covered about 75% of the length of the ship, in practice from the first forward barbette to the last one in the stern, it left only secondary importance compartment unprotected. British cruisers copmparatively had protection that covered only 30% of the length, leaving ofter ammunition stores for thee main turrets unpritected. The main problem with these ships was undoubtedly poor effectiveness of the turrets, even as engineers were not enthusiastic as topweight was already reduced by opting already for single cradles (fixed dual mounts) to the risk of high interference and poorer accuracy.

Being larger and better protected meant an increase of 1,376-tons (18.3% of her displacement) destined to armour, compared with 8% for the Cardona, a three time increase.
Still not impressive for a cruiser (the belt could barely withstand a destroyer AP round), it was less appalling compared to the early “tin-clad” cruisers, and was radically improved on many levels with this new class:

-Main armored Deck: 30 mm thick (1.2 in). It topped the main belt at waterline line, with slopes reaching that same thickness. The weather deck above was mildly protected. But there was not extra protection for the ammunition storage deeper in the hull or steering gear.
-Main Belt amidships: 60 mm thick (2.4 in). It was all all or nothing scheme, extending as along as the barbette. Beyond it the hull forward and aft was not protected.
-Main turrets: 70 mm (2.8 in). This was for the sloped front and sides only. The roof and back were more lightly protected, likely 30 mm (1.2 in).
-Conning Tower: 100 mm (3.9 in). The walls had this thickess (roof included), but thinner below the armored deck (thickness unknown).

To put things in perspective that was compared to 20 mm (decks), 24 mm (belt), 23 mm (main turrets) and 40 mm (CT) for the previous Cadorna. The extra addition was in the ship’s size, which was larger, with more surface to cover as well. The Montecuccoli’s funnel crowns and uptakes, main bridge or superstructures were not armoured.


Main: 4×2

Surviving 6-in gun

The armament overall was essentally the same as on the previous Group I-II Condotierri class. In all, eight 6-in guns or 152/53 mm Ansaldo 1926 in four twin mounts, but now upgraded to the 57 caliber. All four turrets were in superfiring pairs fore and aft. There were solidary twin mounts, with no independent elevation. This caused the issue of a potentially massive barrel interference when firing, so it was slightly delayed between barrels, but still, the second shell in the salvo per turret had its trajectory greatly disturbed by the previous shell own trail.

These Ansaldo guns weighted 7.22 t, with 6.682 m long barrel. The semi-armor piercinf shells that were fired weight 50 kg (AP model 1926), or 47.5 kg (Mod. 1929 AP) and 44.3 kg for the high explosive (HE). Muzzle velocity was 1000 m/s (For the AP 1926 or 950m/s for the HE. Their max range was 24.6 km (HE) or 22.6 km (m1929 AP) at +45° elevation. Useful range was way below that.

Main director APG

Secondary: 6×2 OTO 100mm DP

OTO 100 mm twin mount

A “classic” among classic, this ordnance originated in the Austro-Hungarian 10 cm/50 (3.9″) Skoda 1910 K10 and K11, which examples were obtained after the peace was signed, and Italy obtained war prize cruises, in particular the excellent Admiral Spaun class cruisers and some destroyers. A copy was done with few changes but a loose liner. In 1924, OTO (Livorno) started mass production, with the 100 mm/47 (3.9″) Modello 1924, 1927 and 1928. In 1930 it was adopted by the Soviet Navy, in close cooperation with Italy at the time, with Chervona Ukraina and Krasny Kavkaz being equipped by the 100 mm/50 (3.9″) “Minizini”. They were also used by the Argentine Veinticinco de Mayo class built in Italy and naturally equipped Group I/II light cruisers of the Condotierri class.

The Montecuccoli had three mounts, under shields, aft of the superstrcture, one axial, upper, and two at deck level amidships. They were used for dual fire, and thus used AA modello 1928 shell of 54.23 lbs. (24.6 kg) and the HE modello 1928 of 62.17 lbs. (28.2 kg). Exact bore lenght was 185.0 in (4.700 m). Circa 600 rounds were carried per gun (wartime more). Range was 16,670 yards (15,240 m) at 45° and ceiling 33,000 feet (10,000 m).


AA armament: 37 mm and 13.2 mm

They carried four twin mounts, Breda 37/54 mm modello 1932, not protected, and each weighting 277 kg with a Barrel length of 1,998 mm. HE Shell weighted 830g. This was a Gas-operated-drive reload system capable of 140 rpm at 800m/s and 3,500 m (useful) 6,000 m (theoretical). Fed by 6 vertical cartridges racks with +85° elevation, 60° angle. The barrel jackers were water cooled and possibly later upgraded to the air-cooled modello 1938/1939. Src

They also carried four twin 13.2mm/76 modello 1931 Breda heavy machine gun mounts. In short, they used a 1,532 lbs. (695 kg) mount, with a -11/+85 degrees elevation. At 45° they reached 6,600 yards (6,000 m) with an effective range of 2,200 yards (2,000 m). They were just introduced as the ships were completed. They were replaced by Breda (licence built Swiss Oerlikon) 20 mm/65 guns during WW2.

Torpedo and Mines:

She was completed with a rather weak torpedo armament for the standards of the time, just two twin mounts with 533 mm or 21-in Torpedoes, of the Si 270/533.4 x 7.2 “M” Type (1930) by Napoli’s Silurificio Italiano.
Weight: 3,748 lbs. (1,700 kg)
Overall Length: 23 ft. 7 in. (7.200 m)
Explosive Charge: 595 lbs. (270 kg)
Range/Speed (3 settings):

  1. 4,400 yards (4,000 m)/46 knots
  2. 8,750 yards (8,000 m)/35 knots
  3. 13,100 yards (12,000 m)/29 knots

The type was powered by a Wet-heater and later in WW2 a new model was introduced, a bit faster at 48 knots, 38 knots and 30 knots for the ranges seen above.

Thanks to deck rails running from the forcastle, both cruisers were able to carry 112 to 146 mines (unknown type, src) and did in effect laid several minefields. They also carried two or four paravanes to eliminate mines (2 located on the “B” barbette walls), and had two depht charge launchers installed at the stern with 12 projectiles in reserve.

Onboard aviation:

Both cruisers were provided from the onset with an axial catapult with hydraulic and steam explosive launch system, with enough space around for two to three seaplanes (one on the catapult, two stored close to the funnel). Initially as completed, she carried a single Macchi M.41 fighter and a Cant.25 observation seaplane. Later they were replaced (likely from 1937 onwards according to photos) by two to three Imam Ro.43 biplane observation/spotting general purpose floatplanes. They were removed in 1945. The catapult had a limited traverse, up to 30° from centre line either side of the fore funnel.


Evolution of the Montecuccoli, in 1937, 1938, 1942 and 1944. Click to see further modernizations.

In 1943 Raimondo Montecuccoli received a Gulfo EC.3/ter radar (plus extra AA, eight Oerlikon guns after repairs). The armistice came and by late 1943 she received four twin 13.2mm/76 AA and her battery was competed with ten extra 20mm/70 Oerlikon (18 total). In 1944 apparently her two twin banks were removed, but she received two single extra 20mm/70 Oerlikon and a British type 291 radar was installed on her formast.

By early 1945, both the catapult and seaplanes were removed. Her first postwar refit was perform between 1947 and mid-1949 as a schoolship, as two boilers were removed (remaining output 75,000shp for 29kts) and armament was changed to her “B” superfiring twin main turret 152mm/53 removed, a single twin 100mm/47 AA left, four twin 37mm/54 AA and eight single 20mm/70 AA and four twin 40mm/60 Mk 1 AA guns. She also received a new sturdied foremast to support heavy new radars. Her final displacement was 7,675 tonnes standard and 8,994 tonnes fully loaded for a 5.4m draught.

Monteccucoli class camouflage in 1942.

Raimondo Montecuccoli in June 1940

Muzio Attendolo in June 1942

Sources/Read More


Modernization of the Garibaldi and other Condotierri cruisers in the cold war
On navypedia.org
condottieri-class-cruisers (NE)
marinai.it: The great cruise of Montecuccoli 1956-57 (pdf)


Montecuccoli’s prow underway in 1960

Monografia ridotta nave R.Montecuccoli per aspiranti e allievi dello Stato Maggiore, Livorno, Poligrafico dell’Accademia Navale, 1959.
M. J Whitley, Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia, Londra, Arms and armour Press, 1995
Carla Casazza, Montecuccoli 1937-38 Viaggio in estremo Oriente, Bologna, Coop Bacchilega, 2006
Brescia, Maurizio (2012). Mussolini’s Navy: A Reference Guide to the Regina Marina 1930–45. Annapolis, Maryland: NIP.
Chesneau, Roger, ed. (1980). Conway’s All The World’s Fighting Ships 1922–1946. London: Conway Maritime Press.
De Toro, Augusto (December 1996). “Napoli, Santabarbara 1942”. Storia Militare. 39.
Fraccaroli, Aldo (1968). Italian Warships of World War II. Shepperton, UK: Ian Allan.
Whitley, M. J. (1995). Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. NIP
Paolo Alberini, Franco Prosperini, Dizionario biografico Uomini della Marina 1861-1946,

Model Kits

Review of the resin kit 1:350 (italian)


Raimondo Montecuccoli

Montecuccoli’s prewar career

Raimondo Montecuccoli prewar in Sydney, 1937, for the 150th anniversary of Australia

Raimondo Montecuccoli entered service in 1935. She was assigned to the VII division with her sister ship Attendolo. At the outbreak of the Spanish civil war in 1936, she participated in various missions to protect maritime traffic. In 1937 he was sent to the Far East under the command of Captain Alberto Da Zara to protect Italian interests in the area. Indeed, the Sino-Japanese conflict just broke out and Italian citizens and assets could be at risk. She departed from Naples on 30 August and arrived in Shanghai on 15 September after stops at Port Said, Aden, Colombo and Singapore. Mission acomplished, she sailed south, visiting Sydney and representing Italy at the occasion of 150th anniversary of the founding of the State of New South Wales’s celebrations. She also visited Hobart, Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne.

Returning to Shanghai she continued to operate in those waters in defense of Italian interests, visiting also several Japanese ports, like Yokosuka and Kure, and returning to Italy in 1939. Back home in November 1938 she was relieved in Shanghai by Bartolomeo Colleoni. In the period 1935-1940 commanders had been Carlo Alberto Coraggio (from 30 June 1935), Mario Bonetti (from 10 April 1936), Alberto Da Zara (from 11 April 1937), Onorato Brugnoli (from 23 December 1938) and Giovanni Galati (21 December 1939 – 27 April 1940).

Montecuccoli’s wartime career

Montecuccoli in Taranto (wow)

Among her early war missioned from June 1940, here are the most notable:
-She flew IMAM Ro.43 seaplanes with Muzio Attendolo and Duca d’Aosta when taking part in the battle of Punta Stilo on 9 July 1940.
-Together with Eugenio di Savoia and five destroyers, she later fired at Greek positions on the island of Corfu on 18 December 1940.
-In April 1941, Raimondo Montecuccoli laid down an extensive minefield off Cape Bon, along with her sister Muzzio Attendolo and the cruisers Eugenio di Savoia and Duca D’Aosta.

Battle of Sirte

-She was part of the M.42 convoy escort, culminating in the first battle of Sirte on 17 December 1941. She was mobilized by Comando Supremo as the 7 Divisione Incrociatori with Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta and her sister Muzio Attendolo. Iachino stayed distant as a covering force, opening fire at about 32,000 m (35,000 yd), off range for British Cruisers while Vian laid smoke and moved to the attack, but after a 15 minutes shelling, Italian forces disengaged and headed westward to cover M42. HMS Kipling only was shook by a near-miss either possibly from Gorizia and/or from Andrea Doria and Giulio Cesare and possibly also HMAS Nizam, still by near-misses from Maestrale. As the convoy reached its destination unscaved, her mission was successful without firing a shot.

Battle of Pantelleria

Montecuccoli unwerway in 1942

By she took part in jer most serious engagement on 12-16 June 1942 (operations Harpoon) and the Battle of Pantelleria. Raimondo Montecuccoli and Eugenio Di Savoia, formed the 7th Division which engaged in a long gunnery duel the large Allied convoy to Malta, damaging the cruiser HMS Cairo and destroyer HMS Partridge. They also fired at, and knocked out the towed destroyer HMS Bedouin, later finished off by SM.79 bombers of second lieutenant Martino Aichner (281st Squadron, 132nd Group); During the same convoy attack she set fire to the large tanker Kentucky, and the cargo ship Burdwan, struck already by the Luftwaffe.

According to post-battle reports, Raimondo Montecuccoli also scored a hit on the minesweeper HMS Hebe at “approximatively 26.000 yards”. Fires erupted aboard and she had extensive splinter damage with electrical cabling to sweep mines destroyers, wires, steering gear, echo sounding gear and voice pipes, sounding machine, Commanding Officer’s Cabin were all damaged. As for HMS Bedouin she had been already damaged by a previous air attack, and under tow by HMS Partridge, which was forced to cast off her tow and leave her behind. Only two ships from the convoy reached Malta, one of them holed by a mine.

On 4 August Raimondo Montecuccoli and Eugenio di Savoia sortied to shell without consequences a small Allied convoy off Palermo, during the Allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) and tried to shell the fleet in port. The “Allied convoy” they spotted was the submarine chaser USS SC-530 escorting a freshwater barge. They failed to sink them and withdrew after picking up coastal search radars tracking them with their Metox systems.

Battle of Mid-August (Pedestal)

Two months later, she was mobilized for another Malta convoy interception in 10-15 August 1942 (Operation Pedestal). Called by the Italians Battaglia di Mezzo Agosto, or “Battle of mid-August”, it took place far at sea and could not be attached to a particular location. On 12 August, Kesselring began discussions with Comando Supremo for the co-ordinated Axis attack and reported that the Luftwaffe was to start bomber escort sorties and could not provide air cover for Italian ships, suggested laying extra mines (The Regia Marina already laid a minefield). This absence of air cover limited surface operations and only the light cruiser Muzio Attendolo was sent with two destroyers from Naples to Messina for the operation. Still, Comando Supremo mobilized for it CruDiv 3 (Gorizia, Bolzano and Trieste, 7 destroyers) and CruDiv 7 (Eugenio di Savoia, Raimondo Montecuccoli and Muzio Attendolo, 5 destroyers) plus 18 submarines, 19 MS/MAS boats. But Montecuccoli was only mobilized as “backup”, and did not took part in any engagement.

The Raid on Naples

Muzio Attendolo was theoretically part of the 7th Naval division with Eugenio di Savoia and her sister Raimondo Montecuccoli, reinforcing the main attack force that was the 1st Battle Squadron, with the three Littorio-class battleships. Combined, they could have been very effective in classical naval warfare, but the Battle of Taranto changed their ideal location for more remote positions, and Naples, had become the Italians’ most important naval base. These, were hosted the 7th CruDiv and 1st BS, becoming a priority target for the RAF and USAAF. The city was an important port and strategic location for the RM as were Taranto and La Spezia, and air raids started with French attacks on 10 and 15 June 1940 already. RAF raids started on 1 November 1940, 8 January 1941, 10 July, 9, 11, 18 November and in 1942 were weekly or even daily as part of a strategic campaign led by Vickers Wellington bombers taking off from Africa.

While in Naples on 4 December 1942, the day of Santa Barbara, a raid of 20 USAAF B-24s of 98th and 376th Bombardment Groups taking from British airfields in Egypt arrived over the city, well defended, but unscaved as the local command believed they were a formation of German Ju 52 previously announced, and in addition coming from the direction of the Vesuvio as a trick. It was too late when realizing the mistake as bombs dropped from 6,000 meters just as anti-aircraft defences opened fire at 16.40. A rain of 500 and 1000 lb bombs fell into the port, on the many ships present.

Coming in from the higher Vesuvio, pilots underestimated the time needed to spot, identify, and target the most important targets, making course corrections and between structures and other topographic features, confused the pilots. Bombardiers tried to quickly pick out the more important targets as they approached quickly, and the direction of the air-attack had many B-24 out of position for a bombing run, so they missed the battleships, but they were able to inflex course over the cruisers of the 7th Division.

Some bombs were near-misses, but some also struck the cruisers Montecuccoli, Eugenio di Savoia, and her sister ship, quite badly. Eugenio di Savoia as a result of a near-miss aft had 17 dead and 46 wounded mostly when the rear part of the hull was near-missed, likely by a 1000 ib bomb. An initial examination showed this could be repaired in 40 days. Her twin Muzio Attendolo was also hit in the center by one or two bombs and the damage was quite extensive below the waterline, in fact she listed badly and sank to the bottom, superstructures still emerging. Estimates of recovery and repair were estimated to about a year, but never took place. It was over for her sister ship.

Montecuccoli was next in line and she was struck by a bomb midships, which entered right inside a funnel, disintegrating the area and leaving a crater. The armoured grating protected her vital machinery underneath. If it could have penetrate further ctastrophy could have been total. She had 44 killed and 36 wounded as a result. After the raid, examination took place, showing all the damage where her funnel was, and supporting structures. Her armor however managed to save her and after the initial estimation, it went to seven months of work. The other consequence of the raid was that the 1st BS soon departed for La Spezia, the best defended RM port.

In total the 7th division was crippled, with 188 killed estimated (total number unknown) and 86 wounded. When repairs were done, in the local yard she received four extra 20mm/70 mm Oerlikon machine guns as extra AA defence, before being returned to active duty. She became also one of few Italian naval units fitted with the Italian-designed EC-3 ter Gufo radar. However when recommissioned, this was just weeks before the armistice of August 1943 and she did not sortied prior.

Montecuccoli post-armistice

Montecuccoli in Livorno, 1955 (postcard)

While at that stage Muzio Attendolo was still considered repairable, salvage operationsonly started after the Italian armistice. During the allied occupation she was used as a floating barrack. She could have been converted as an anti-aircraft cruiser to replace Luigi Cadorna, lack of funds and fear of a refusal by the Allied Commission led her to be scrapped instead.

From 8 September, Monteccucoli had been moved in La Spezia, and with two units, Eugenio di Savoia and the Attilio Regolo, recreated the 7th Cruiser Division, added to the 1st BS, battleships Roma, Vittorio Veneto and Italia, plus DesDiv IX, XII (destroyers Mitragliere, Rifiliere, Carabiniere and Velite), DesDiv XIV (Legionario, Oriani, Artigliere and Grecale) and squadron of torpedo boats (Pegaso, Orsa, Orione, Ardimentoso and Impetuoso) from Genoa in addition to CruDiv 8 (Garibaldi, Duca degli Abruzzi, Duca d’Aosta) escorted by the torpedo boat Libra. They set sail to surrender to the Allies for internment in Malta with other vessels coming from Taranto.

Before departing, Duca d’Aosta was reassigned to CruDiv, replacing the small Attilio Regolo, moving to the CruDiv 8 Division. The transfer famously saw the Luftwaffe attacking the Italian fleet underway with “Frit-X” guided, rocket propelled bombs (the first antiship missile attack in some way): Roma, Bergamini’s flagship, sank on 9 September off Asinara coast. When Montecuccoli arrived to surrender and struck her flag, she had carried out 32 war sorties covering 31,590 miles. The “co-belligerence” era saw her participating in numerous missions, mostly as fast transport and for POW repatriation in Italy. She went on in this task without any war mission until the end of the war, with no noticeable event as the Mediterranean became de facto an “allied lake” with only localized coastal operations led by the axis.

Wartime captains has been Captain Franco Zannoni from 28 April to 24 October 1940, Arturo Solari from 25 October 1940 to 20 January 1943, Carlo Unger of Lowemberg from 21 January to 16 May 1943 (interim), Ubaldino Mori Ubaldini from 17 May 1943 to 21 August 1944 and Luigi Cei Martini from 22 August 1944 to the end of the war, in 1945.

Montecuccoli in the cold war

Montecuccoli in 1960 at anchor in Genoa

Ramondo Montecuccoli was one of the four “Condotierri” cruisers left to the Italian Navy following the Peace Treaty: Luigi Cadorna, Duca de Abruzzi and Garibaldi plus Montecuccoli. After a regime change, she joined the newly established Marina Militare, still not part of NATO, and resumed extensive training after a postwar refit, extensive maintenance and some modernization work. from 1947 to 1949 she was converted to serve as a training ship for the Livorno Naval Academy cadets, and carried out summer education campaigns, the first in 1949, from the Mediterranean and beyond; For example she cruised to Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1951, and London in 1952.

Yet, technology advanced rapidly in many fields and it was felt she needed another refit and modernization, started in the Arsenal of La Spezia from June 1954. The modernization work was aimed at making her more suitable as dedicated training ship and embrace new standards after Italy’s entry into NATO structure, receiving the new pennant C552.

Montecuccoli as a school ship, stern view

Changes consisted in the removal of two boilers to declaim usable space, as well as her nº2 turret, well and ammunition storage, the whole 100mm/47 dual artillery, both turrets, storage and FCS, and her eight now obsolete 20mm/70 Oerlikon machine guns. Instead she was fitted by eight 40/56 “Bofors”, also replacing the 37/54 mm guns. She received a reworked bridge, with extended facilities for C&C and spacious enough for officers and cadets, but also a new mast with surface and aerial detection, aerial detection and fire control radars, plus a new firing center installed lower in the hull. Fuel tanks had an increased capacity of 300 m³ for an extra 615 miles. Her appearance changed in particular on the central area between the forward funnel, new mast and new command bridge.

Alternating fleet exercizes and educational campaigns, she visited Copenhagen in 1955, Montreal, Boston and Philadelphia in 1958, Helsinki in 1961. She also made a famous circumnavigation of the world from 1 September 1956 to 1 March 1957, representing Italy in Australia (as she did in the intwerwa), for Melbourne Olympics, going home by rounding Africa after the crisis in the Suez Canal. Under the command of captain Gino Birindelli, in all she visited 34 ports on four continents and covered 33,170 miles.

Same, 1960.

This however proved to be had last voyage, her hull was now reaching her limits of age and she was disarmed, lowering her flag for the last time in Taranto during a well attended ceremony on the evening of 31 May 1964.
She stayed in reserve however, preserved for long term in case of war and possible reactivation, while her role of training ship was retaken in 1965 by San Giorgio, a former Capitani Romani class vessel. After eight years in reserve, she was sold fro BU, towed for this to La Spezia in 1972.

Some of her remains had been preserved, exposed at Mount Pulito at the entrance to the Città della Domenica and wildlife-recreational park of Perugia in Umbria. There, the public could see her well preserved 152 mm (6 in) twin gun, bridge mast and anchors with a plaque commemorating her 156 missions and 77 800 miles covered.

Muzio Attendolo

Cruiser Muzio Attendolo underway in 1940
Completed in 1935, Muzio Attendolo served in the Mediterranean, in the same unit as her sister ship, CruDiv VII. From 1936, under command of Captain Manlio Tarantini, she departed for Spain as the civil war broke out, to protect Italian citizens and assets and later for patrolling neutral waters and ensuring officially that no supplies came to either side (in reality the Republicans). Captain Federico Martinengo was in charge from March 1938 to 9 December 1940.

Punta Stilo (9 July 1940)

She was present at the Battle of Punto Stilo (Or battle of Calabria). She was part of the 7th (Light) Cruiser Division, Vice-Admiral Luigi Sansonetti (Division Commander) comprising three light cruisers in addition to Muzio Attendolo, Eugenio di Savoia, Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta and her sister, Raimondo Montecuccoli. However due to the position of the unit at Punta Stilo, the cruisers were never engaged not fired any shot. Captain Martinengo was relieved by Giorgio Conti from 10 december 1940, until 1st Augusto 1941.

Operation Halberd (27 Sept. 1940)

SM.84 carrying torpedoes

Later, she took also part in Operation Halberd unlike her sister ship, a British operation to resupply Malta, in which she took part as a wing of CruDiv VII, composed of the light cruisers Luigi di Savoia Duca degli Abruzzi and herself, under supreme order of Admiral Angelo Iachino. It happened southwest of Calabria, as the Italian fleet tried to intercept a large convoy, well defended, of nine cargo ships, full to the brim with ammunitions and supplies for Malta. The main Battle happened on the 27th, but the light cruisers never were in the right position to be engaged before Iachino withdrew. It was a British tactical victory as the convoy arrived largely unscathed and Admiral Somerville was knighted (a second time) by Cunningham in recognition of his successful command of Force H. Iachino was criticized by his undecision, despite having battleship to throw into the battle. Aviation played a major part with important losses on both sides.

Other engagements: Sirte and Pedestal

At the inconclusive First Battle of Sirte, which came about as a British attempt to intercept the resupply of Benghazi, Attendolo was part of the “Close covering force” covering Convoy M42 while possibly called for an interception. Events ar the same as for her sister ship Montecuccoli, so we will not dive into it. The interception was short-lived and she withdrew to protect the convoy, without firing a shot. In between, Captain Conti had been relieved by Mario Schiavuta from 2 August 1941 until the loss of the cruiser on 4 december 1942.

At Pedestal or the “battle of mid-august”, this was something else. The Regia Marina under Admiral Alberto Da Zara deployed no battleship (after what happened at Tarento, they were based too far away and considered too slow for effective action, and some still in repairs) but still three heavy cruisers (Trieste, Bolzano, and Gorizia, sole survivor of Matapan), three light cruisers (the VII Division including both sister and Eugenio di Savoia), plus 12 destroyers, which could all make a final run at 35 knots, and ambushing forces comprising 23 MAS, 21 submarines and supported by the Regia Marina and Luftwaffe under orders of Kesserling, some 285 bombers, mostly, escorted by 304 fighters so around 600 aircraft. More than some air-sea battles of the Pacific.

Same tactics were used as for Operation Harpoon back June 1942, with joint reconnaissance of Force H, starting on 11-12 August, followed by Axis air attacks from Sicily and Sardinia, and ambush of incoming packs of Italian submarines and German U-boats, plus a barrage comprising Axis torpedo boats and minefields in four successive barriers to disperse the convoy, making it more vulnerable to a fast surface force, and support by 22 torpedo-bombers and 125 dive-bombers (German and Italian Stukas), with fighter escorts, 40 medium bombers, all in a synchronised attack.

However, the Italian cruiser division being denied air cover by the Germans, it was withdrawn. However the British had submarines in the area of their retreat, the cruisers went through their patrol area and Muzio Attendolo was soon spotted by HMS Unbroken (an U-class submarine) in the early morning of 13 August. A 21-in torpedo struck her bow, which was completely shattered, to the point she was only able to crawl back to safety under good escort. Engineers reinforced the damaged forward bullhead and welded plates to stop flooding so she could accelerate, and escape other potential attacks.

When she arrived at Messina, it was realized by the headquarters of the Autonomous Maritime Military Command as much the damage was extensive. She not only lost her whole forward section up to the bulkhead, which held firm just in front of the “A” barbette, and the transversal bulkhead was what mostly spared her extensive flooding while she did not plunger much due to the inbalance after the loss of the damaged part. It essentially lightened the ship and allowed her to list a bit at the stern, the froward section being slightly more abive water as a result, reducing further any flooding.

Strangely she was not the only one to loss her bow that day as Bolzano was similarly torpedoed by the same HMS Unbroken (note the irony of her name) but amidship, and not repaired due to a lack of resources. They were the only surface losses of the Regia Marina that day (plus two submarines sunk and on damaged). Attendolo was further repaired, and towed from Messina to Naples for prolongated drydock repairs, initially estimated to be done within 3 months. But this proved optimistic.

Muzio Attendolo bow destroyed, general view and close.

Santa Barbara Day Raid

Muzio Attendolo was repaired and part of the 7th Naval division with Eugenio di Savoia and her sister Raimondo Montecuccoli, the “light” arm of the Regia Marina at Naples, bolstered by the 1st Squadron and all three Littorio-class battleships. Quite a powerful deterrent, for which, afetr Operation Torch and ongoing allied convoys, the allies wanted eliminated for good. Airpower was though after, and by On 3 December 1942, a massive bomber force of USAAF Consolidated B-24 Liberator were mobilized in an airfield in Egypt. They took off for a long trip started in the early hourse of 4 December 1942 (St. Barbara’s Day in Italy), with 20 USAAF B-24s of 98th and 376th Bombardment Groups taking off and proceeding armed with 500 and 1000 lb bombs.

As events proceeded the same way as for her sister ship we will go quick about the details. They arrived unnoticed, from Vesuvio, too late to make last minute corrections, bombardiers confused by the clutter of constructions, and missed completely the important battleships, arriving instead above the cruisers and dropping their payload. The heavy bombs were intended for battleships, but they were trusted to go ungodly damage to lightly protected cruisers of the 7th Division.

One bomb nearly missed (but shooked and damaged) Eugenio di Savoia on her aft hull (17 dead, 46 wounded) and then hit Raimondo Montecuccoli midships inside the funnel, blasting her entire superstructure and leaving a crater. Her citadel acted as a “raft”, and she survived, with the armour crown and grating of the funnel acting well too. Raimondo Montecuccoli also deplored 44 killed and 36 wounded as a result. Repairs were stimated short and she would have a long, very long life afterwards.

Muzio Attendolo however, was hit also midship, and by possibly two bombs, between her “X” turret (upper one aft) as her superstructure. This time, the damage went through the citadel and her main power was instantly shot down while flooding started. Not only she had no power but the damage below the waterline due no near-misses caused an extensive flooding, difficult to tame, plus a fierce fire broke aft. The spreading of fire was eventually contained before another air-raid alarm was heard (false alert) at 21:17. By precaution, repair crews were evacuated while other were scrambling for cover.

The second air raid never materialized and the crews returned to their hard work trying to save their ship. Soon, extra repair personnel from the port and and vessels attended Muzio Attendolo over an hour later. The crippled ship meanwhile had her flooding uncheck, to the point she rolled almost 180 degrees, stopped by her superstructures, and settling to the bottom, at her moorings at circa 22:19. The following day the battleships departed to La Spezia and further damage assessments were made.

Attendolo was still considered repairable after this, the staff being informed of a possible 10-12 months worth. However salvage operations did not materialized before the Italian armistice. Once upright and patched, but noit fully repairs still, the cruiser was stripped and used as floating dock during the Allied occupation of Naples. After the war ended, another team examined her structures still in good condition, and it was planned to convert her as a modern AA cruiser, replacing the old Cadorna. However the lack of budget to proceed in the difficult post-war context of Italy had the plan cancelled. There was also the fear of a refusal by the Allied Commission. So she was scrapped instead in place.


Raimondo Montecuccoli (world of warships)


Forward View

Aft view

WW2 Italian Torpedo Boats

WW2 Italian Torpedo Boats

Italy (1914-1943)- 62 TBs

The Regia Marina like the Kriegsmarine did not brushed out the torpedo boat class as obsolete. On the contrary, this smaller and cheaper type could replace destroyers well in the confined waters of the central Mediterranean, notably for escort missions. In addition to all the vintage WW1 vessels reclassified as Torpedinieri, from 1933 a new breed of modern torpedo boat was created, the Spica class, followed by the Pegaso and in WW2 Ciclone and Ariete class, seeing a lot of action and heavy losses, including in Kriegsmarine’s hands in 1944-45.

Why still using torpedo boats in WW2 ?

Castore in 1942 (USMM)

The appearance of the torpedo in the 1870s trigerred several generations of very interesting carrier ships and boats. In the 1860s already, a “torpedo” was a simple expmosive charge detonated by cordon at the end of a spar. With Whitehead’s innovation, the search for a light, fast and nimbler carrier trigerred the apparition of the first “torpedo boat”, but cruisers, battleships also adopted it in the 1880s. The latter renounced it after Jutland but cruisers still had it in the cold war, and in fact they are still on the menu today in an ASW form.

In the interwar, all major ships types were capped by the Washington treaty signed by major major powers of the time, less Germany capped by the Versailles treaty. Battleships were forbade for ten years and the remainder capped in tonnage, Cruisers also by singular and global tonnage plus armament, as well as destroyers, limited to 1500 tonnes standards, which corresponded to the British own upper limit. But the treaty also left many loopholes, a 10,000 tonnes aicraft carrier was not one as the tonnage seemed unrealistic, Navies could built heavy cruisers to compensate for the loss of battleships, they could also modernized theirs, no limit was given to submarine tonnage, nothing was said about fleet auxiliaries, and crucially for what we are interested about, nothing was said about “naval dust” and torpedo boats with they below 800 tonnes displacement.

If the 1930 London naval conference and treaty adressed most of these issues, it still said nothing about torpedo boats, albeit destroyers were now limited to 1,850 tonnes and 5.1 inches guns. This means below this tonnage, a “torpedo boat” was seemingly acceptable, within the limits of global tonnage (16% of it was devoted to destroyers and over 1,500 tonnes vessels), which were for Italy 175,000 tonnes, like France. Thus, this left them in theory outside the global tonnage for all intents and purposes. For Italy this had two consequences: Allowing to keep in service a large number of vintage WWI destroyers, reclassed as “torpediniere” and place them out of the global tonnage, and built new ones, or a modernized type.

Lira 1942

Destroyers were so much more useful than early TBs, condemned to coastal defence, they just had much better seaworthiness, greater capabilities and left open the belowr 600 tons to unlimited construction. This, the French, Italian, Japanese and German Navies developed torpedo boats about 70 to 100 m long with this standard tonnage (“cheating” when posible to make them artificially lighter). They were armed with two or three 100 mm guns (4 inches) well velow the 5.1 inches authorized and of course torpedo launchers. They were still fast and could be also useful for ASW patrol, being equipped with depht charges.

Among smaller navies, the Royal Norwegian Navy relied on torpedo boats and with their prewar Sleipner-class “destroyers” created a very potent torpedo boat. On their side, the Italian Spica-class was rather large and ended a bit as a destroyer escort. The Germans replaced their own interwar models in wartime by 1,700 tonnes types Flottentorpedoboot as the former were found wholly inadequate. The whole category was reclassed as “corvette” under NATO new designations. The “large type” disappeared for good as such but smaller “torpedo boats”, the Motor Torpedo Boats or “MTB”, also an invention of WWI, soldiered on in WW2 and were still around until the late 1960s around the world’s navies before being replaced by the larger missile-armed FACs.

Italy’s postwar Torpediniere

Torpedo Boat in 1942 (codename CE)

Italy’s own torpedo boat (the “torpediniere”) started quite soon as Whitehead produced Luppis’ invention, an Austro-Hungarian engineer, in Italy’s backyard. Developed into nine classes from 1878 after many experimental small crafts, the type really gained traction in the 1900s with the Sirio, Pegaso, Orione, and the prototype Gabbiano ending with the successful mass-built PN class which made the bulk of Italian WWI torpedo boats. In 1918 however, the TBs shown thaat their seaworthiness and light armament made them not so useful in their actual form. They were justified in the context of adriatic operations, but the Regia Marina really concentrated on destroyers postwar.

After the Washington treaty was signed, it was not long before new classes of destroyers were designed, in the mid-1920s. In the meantime, the bulk of the destroyer force counted on the numerous pre-WWI and wartime destroyers of the “3-tubes” of the Indomito, Audace, Pilo, La Masa, Sirtoti classes at least had a forecastle instead of the typical turtleback bow of previous vessels, and had some usefulness despite their small tonnage. Until 1938 these were all still designated as destroyers, while still well under the tretay limits. However at that stage, the Regia Marina planned a much larger class of destroyer, the Soldati class, for mass-production, already rated at the maxium 1700 tonnes, and the new generation, the Medaglie d’Oro on it’s way was even larger at 2,300 tonnes standard.

Italian former destroyer Catalafimi in 1940 during Operation Vado

Thus, decision was taken to “free destroyer tonnage”, by redesignating all WWI destroyers as torpedo boats, and this included the 1917-1921 Palestro and Curtatone classes, eight two-funneled, fast and well armed vessels of high standard. In 1939, Italy prepared for war and many of these TBs were upgraded with AAn sonars and depth charges, given to coastal divisions and especially along the Italian’s west coast, facing French trade routes with North Africa, the riveria, and the Thyrrenian sea.

WWI Italian Torpedo Boats in 1940

Indomito class (1913)

Ardito, Insidioso

Ardito of the Indomito class in 1942

These 1913, 760 tons ships were all reclassified as TBs from 1929. They were all discarded in 1931-37 but Insidioso, although discarded in 1938 was not broken up, and was brough back in service after the war erupted. In 1941 she lost a funnel, and was taken in hands and refitted with a single 102mm/45 gun, and a modern AA comprising four single 20mm and two twin 13.2 mm HMG mounts. She was used for many duties, starting as a target for submarines in Pola, then an Adriatic escort vessel. Captured in 1943 she was renamed TA21, she was rearmed in German standard (Flakvierling mounts, 2×4 plus a single mount, 2x 102 mm). She was damaged by a British plane in August 1944, was repaired and then served until 5.11.1944 when she was sunk by an American aerial torpedo.

Audace (1916)

(no image)
Audace, the first of this name was sunk in 1916. The second was transferred from the Japanese, then under construction at Yarrow yards in Great Britain. This vessel was reassigned to the fleet in 1940 after serving as a radio control vessel. She lost her torpedo tubes and won 20 single 20 mm AA guns. Inactive in 1943 in Venice, she was captured by the Germans and was sunk in action in November 1944 under as TA 20 near Zara, by two British destroyers, HMS Wheatland and Avon Vale.

Pilo class (1916)

Rosolino Pilo, Giuseppe Cesare Abba, Giuseppe Dezza, Giuseppe Missori, Antonio Mosto, Ippolito Nievo, Fratelli Cairoli, Simone Schiaffino

Fratelli Cairoli

Official photo of Rosolino Pilo

These 885 tons ships were all in service, although reclassified as torpedo-boats. Nievo was the exception, being discarded in 1938. they were rearmed with two 102mm guns, six 20mm AA guns, four AA heavy machine guns, and keeping half of their torpedo tubes. They served as escorts. The first two and Mosto survived the war and wer discarded in the 1950s. F. Nullo (Fratelli Cairoli from 1921 hit a mine off Libya, on 23 September 1940. Schiaffino seized the Greek steamer Athinai off Messina on 20 October 1940 and was sunk by an Italian mine off Cap Bon 24 April 1941. Giuseppe Dezza (former Bronzetti pre-1921) was scuttled 16 September 1943 and became TA35 from 9 June 1944, sunk by mine 17 August 1944 refloated and scuttled 3 May 1945. Missori was captured by Germany 10 September 1943 as TA22, scuttled 3 May 1945.

Sirtori/La Masa classes (1917-19)

Giuseppe Sirtori, Giovanni Acerbi, Vincenzo Giordano Orsini, Francesco Stocco * Giuseppe La Masa, Giacinto Carini, Angelo Bassini, Nicola Fabrizi, Giuseppe La Farina, Enrico Cosenz, Giacomo Medici.

Sirtori in 1942

The destroyers of the Sirtori classes (4 ships, 1917), and La Masa (8 ships, 1917-18-19), were assigned to the same tasks. Very close to the Pilo, they received between 6 and 8 guns of 20 mm AA during the war. Acerbi was sunk in 1941 by the RAF but the others for the most part by German or allied planes and/or captured: Giuseppe Sirtori was stranded on a badly damaged beach on September 14, 1943 after a German air raid near Corfu, scuttled. Giovanni Acerbi was damaged beyond repair by a RAF attack on Massawa in early August 1940 and finished off on 4 April 1941. Vincenzo Giordano Orsini also was scuttled at Massaoua on April 8, 1941. Francesco Stocco was sunk by German bombers near Corfu on September 24, 1943.

Giuseppe La Masa was captured on 9 September 1943 but scuttled on the 11th. Giacinto Carini survived the war and became a minesweeper in 1954-1958. Angelo Bassini was sunk on 28 May 1943 in Livorno after an USAAF raid. Nicola Fabrizi survived the war (minesweeper in 1954-1957), Giuseppe La Farina was sunk on 4 May 1941 after hitting a mine off the Tunisian coast. Enrico Cosenz (Agostino Bertani) was scuttled in the Adriatic near Lastovo on 27 September 1943 after been heavily damaged by the RAF. Giacomo Medici was sunk in Catania on 16 April 1943 by an American air raid.

Generali class (1921)

Generale Antonio Cantore, Antonio Cascino, Antonio Chinotto, Carlo Montanari, Marcello Prestinari, Achille Papa.

Montanari in 1942

The destroyers of the Generali class (6 units, 1921), very close to La Masa, but launched and completed well after the war. They received two 20 mm guns and some additional Breda 13.2 mm twin machine guns. They were all sunk in combat, except Cascino and Montanari, both scuttled. Cantore hit a mine off Ras el Tin in Libya, and sunk 22 August 1942. Cascino was scuttled 9 September 1943, Chinotto hit a mine off Palermo, 28 March 1941. Montanari was scuttled on 25 April 1944, Prestinari hit a mine near Sicily on 31 January 1943 and Papa was captured by the Germans, unnamed and eventually sunk 25 April 1945 after seeing little service.

Generale A. Cantore

Rear view of Achille Papa showing her aft deck, DCs and paravanes.

Superb photo of Prestinari in Monaco, 1923 (agence Rol).

Palestro class (1921)

Palestro, Confienza, San Martino, Solferino

RN Solferino

A brand new type of destroyer based on the Audace, itself Japanese in design. Two funnels, four Schneider-Arsmtrong guns, twi 75mm/40 AA and two twin 45 cm tubes plus mines, for 32 knots they could cover 1970 nm. Started but completed in 1921 and of the eight originals, only four completed in 1921-22. TBs from 1938, the AA was modernized like the Curtatone (see later).

Palestro (PT) was sunk by the British submarine HMS Osiris off Durrës, Albania, on 22 September 1940. Confienza (CF) collided with the auxiliary cruiser Capitano A. Cecchi off Brindisi on 20 November 1940 and sank as a result.
San Martino (SM) was captured by the Germans at Piraeus, Greece, on 9 September 1943, becoming TA17, then hit a mine on 18 June 1944, refloated then sunk in an air raid on 18 September 1944 while under repair, scuttled at Salamis on 12 October 1944. Solferino (SL) had the same fate and became TA18, badly damaged by gunfire during a duel with HMS Termagant and Tuscan off Skiathos (Aegean) and her captain ran aground near Volos, her crew finishing her off.

Profile of Palestro class in 1942

Curtatone class (1921)

Curtatone, Catalafimi, Castelfidardo, Monzambano

Castelfidardo 1942

The Curtatone class were the first post-war Italian destroyers, using also for the first time twin mountings for their main guns. Ordered at the same time as the Palestro-class in 1917, construction was postponed due to steel shortages so the design was modified to incorporate was lessons. Their hull were also lenghtened by by 4.5 metres (14 ft 9 in). Started in 1920-21, launched 1922-23, they were commisioned in 1923-24 and all came from Orlando yard in Livorno.

In 1938 they were all reclassed as torpedo boats. They were modernized to perform escort missions during WW2. The twin mounted were replaced by single mounts and their triple 450-mmm (18 in) torpedo tubes replaced by twin 533 mm (21.0 in) ones, and light AA guns added in place of their old 76 mm (3.0 in)/40 DP guns: 2 Scotti-Isotta-Fraschini 20mm/70 Modello 1939 and two 8 mm Breda AA MGs.

As such, they took an active part into the fight, Curtatone being sunk by the explosion of one or two mines in Saronikos. Calatafımi’s and Monzambano’s aft twin gun mount was replaced by one single gun only by 1942 and Calatafimi’s had her 2-2lin TT installed at that date also. Both Catalafimi and Castelfidardo were catpured by the Germans in September 1943 in pareus, became T19 and T16 and were sunk both in the Aegean in 1944. Monzambano survived the war and was discarded in 1951.

Interwar development for new torpedo boats

Sirtori in 1942

After the London Conference still allowed it in 1930, the Regia Marina staff started to look at the “below 800 tonnes” category for a new generation of torpedo boats, having a much longer range and seaworthiness compared to it’s numerous MAS squadrons. Thus, soon after the Curtatone were reclassified as TBs in 1929, the Regia Marina started to look on a new category of modern torpedo boat, looking how to “scale down” a contemporary destroyer and foreign designs.

In 1930, the staff inded commissioned Generale del Genio Navale Gustavo Bozzoni of the Comitato Progetto Navi to study a new class of escort ships with the aim of replacing the decommissioned destroyers reclassed as torpedo boats, notably the numerous “tre pipe” approaching anyway their age limit as warships.

At first studies concentrated on below-600 tons category and the general staff imposed engineers that upper limit, of course for standard displacement. With regard to the armament, speed, autonomy however, their required remained pretty high, even though the displacement stayed this stringent wall. The Comitato Progetto Navi then proposed to remove a single the 100mm/47 gun of the four of usual destroyers, to just three, and later two became the standard.

These works ended in 1931 with an approved basic design, and thus, two prototypes were ordered for comparative tests, but to the same BSN Yard of Naples. Their definitive design was completed in 1932 and approved by the general staff, after which construction commence with the aim as providing the Regia Marina with a first mass-built class of 32 vessels, to be reparted between various yards: BSN Napoli, but also Ansaldo, Sestri Ponente, CT, Riva Trigoso, and CNQ, Fiume.

The two prototypes Spica and Astore, laid down on May 24, 1933, had a standard displacement of around 630 tons and thus were still a bit above. However soon, denunciation of the Treaty of London by Berlin and Tokyo eventually resulted for Musolini to also abandon that limit. The following Alcione series thus, reached an uncomplexed standard displacement of 679 tons. And it was just the start.

Mussolini indeed had grand plans for them, based on their extected speed of 35 knots and 1,728 nautical miles at 16 kts (3,200 km a 29,63 km/h) enabling them a fairly large action radius, well able to roam at will the Adriatic and Thyrrenian sea, reaching the French riviera for a short high speed attack run from Genoa, patrolling the whole Italian coastal area, the african coast and later provide a valuable defence of East Africa where a full squadron could without doubt deter any British incursion.

After two prototypes, Spica and Castore (they were soon adopt star names, like their WWI forebears), would later led to the construciton of 32 torpedo boats, while already in 1934, engineers were given leeway to study the next iteration, Bacini e Scali Napoletani, Napoli aldo showed an interesting design, and they trusted the engineering team to provide blueprints of a larger version, this time free to reach 850 tonnes standard, provided better endurance, beyond 3,000 nm if possible. They dropped a 100 mm gun, but gained six torpedo tubes, still of the “light” airborne model, and extra AA and ASW firepower. They were slightly less powerful and rea-rated as 28 knots ships, but oil capacity was doubled. Thus, they were designated at first as “escort destroyers”. However in 1938 as completed, they were re-rated as “escort torpedo boats” (scorta torpediniera). Only four were made.

The last Spica class were completed in 1938 and at that stage, a “vacancy” allowed some leeway before proceeding to possibly a new design. However in June 1940 Mussolini declared war on France and Britain, and thus, the admiralty was tasked to design was wartime naval plan. Torpedo Boats made a comeback due to their low coast and potential. Studies immediately started on an improved version of the Pegaso, about 70% heavier, and reaching 1,625 tonnes fully loaded. For the rest, not many changes, apart that torpedo armament was lowered, as ASW armament, but AA augmented considerably.

These sixteen vessels were even slower at 26 knots and were considered mostly were as escort convoys and ASW patrollers during the war. But as the war progressed in 1942 the General staff wanted a ship to protect their convoys in a more agressive way, as well as dealing with enemy convoys, requiring to return to speed as a prime requirement. Thus, the Spica design was adopted again and just updated, for what became the Ariete class, of which only 11 vessels were completed before the Italian Captulation of November, and some afterwards for the Germans and possibly the “Italian Social Republic”. In fact, most of them, rebaptised TA-24-47 saw active service with the Kriegsmarine.

Design philosophy behind Italy’s new torpediniere

The previous Prestinari (colorized)

The general design was inspired by standard Italian destroyers, with their silhouette mixing a long forecastle, rounded bridge, and single funnel although with much lighter armament, two or three 100 mm instead of 120 mm guns (4 in instead of 4.7 in), and 18-in torpedo tubes, twice light than the 21-in used on destroyers, and in single or twin banks like WWI vessels.

The space gained was used by a long platform after of the forrecastle, supporting a generous AA armament for their escorting role. Speed was at first on part with destroyers, but went back on later classes, again to correspond to an escorting role. Their hulls had a same ratio as destroyers, 1/10, to make the best of their powerplant as well.

They had however limited ASW capabilities and even AA was not up to standards as mixing obsolete 12.7 mm and 20 mm formed only a short range defence, Italy lacked a true intermediate heavy AA between the 37 mm, absent from these TBs and 100 mm AAs. They did not have radars, unlike later Kriegsmarine torpedo boats. Range was half that of Maestrale class destroyers for example, but that was expected dfue to their missions. They were not expected to take part in fleet action, but to free destroyers of more tedious medium-range escort and patrol missions.
They had however limited ASW capabilities and even AA was not up to standards as mixing obsolete 12.7 mm and 20 mm formed only a short range defence, Italy lacked a true intermediate heavy AA between the 37 mm, absent from these TBs and 100 mm AAs. They did not have radars, unlike later Kriegsmarine torpedo boats. Range was half that of Maestrale class destroyers for example, but that was expected dfue to their missions. They were not expected to take part in fleet action, but to free destroyers of more tedious medium-range escort and patrol missions.

Two types of different “models” were created before the war. The Spica were fast, offensive TBs, while the Pegaso were heavier, larger specialized escort vessels, slower but with greater range, but still with turbines engines. The wartime classes followed these models with respectively the Ariete and Ciclone classes.

General construction and powerplant

As said above, Italian TBs’s general appearance was close to destroyers, albeit much smaller. Unlike older early 1920s vessels reclassed as TBs before the war, like the Generali, Curtatone and Palestro classes, they had a longer forecastle with more flare, a clipper bow, clipper stern, a single funnel, large bridge to house better telemetric systems, better communication suite, C-in-C features, and more deck space to accomodate AA, amost inexistant but one or two 75mm AA guns in previous vessels.

It was believed they were so light and shallow-draft that extra compartimentation of the hull below the waterline or ASW bulkheading was a waste of more useful space. However they carried still extra compartments filled with oil, acting as buffers in case of a torpedo hit. Nevertheless, without any sot of protection, they were vulnerable. A single medium to heavy caliber shell, an aerial bomb or a standard (21 in, 533mm) would have severe, practically always fatal consequences.

Powerplant wise, the first in the serie, the “prototype” albatros, common to the TBs and Gabbiano class escorts, was a specialized large submarine hunter. It had turbines but yet was still limited to 24.5 knots as a superior speed would have been a waste to hunt down submersibles of the time, capped to 18-20 kts surfaced. Endurance was good for such small vessels, at 390 tonnes standard, 1420 nm. Armament and AA was close top that of torpedo boats, albeit without torpedoes. But they were specialized ASW vessels, with a dedicated sonar, depth charge racks and launchers.

The Spica class comprised compartimented engine rooms, with two propellers shafts, drove by two Belluzo steam turbines fed by their own single admiralty boiler. In total they were rated for 19,000 hp (14,200 kW), which for a tonnage of 795 tonnes standard, gave them excellent performances at 34 knots (39 mph; 63 km/h), in fact, the best of all italian WW2 torpedo boats. The doctrine evolved for more radius of action for the next classes, but there was a returned to the Spica philosophy in late 1942 with the Ariete. They were slightly lighter, more powerful with 22,000 hp (16,400 kW) and yet, capped to 31.5 knots (36.2 mph; 58.3 km/h), but for a greater range: They carried 210 versus 207 tonnes of oil at normal load. That was consider worth the loss of three knots, giving them more versatility.

For the Pegaso and wartime Ciclone however the design was completely different. These much larger vessels (840 and 910 tonnes standard respectively) were designed more as escorts, and emphasis was on range, less than speed, which was just enough to hunt down submarines. The Pegaso class were given geared Tosi turbine engines, buy smaller and capped in order to reach 27 knots as compared to the 34 knots of the Spica. They traded this for range, 5,100 nmi (9,400 km) at 12 kn (14 mph; 22 km/h), better than destroyers and several fold that of the Spicas whicj looked lie coastal vessels in nature. This range game them abilities to criss-cross the Mediterranean and escort any convoy to any point and back without refuelling, with a margin of safety to rush at full speed on any targets.

In early 1941, the damage done by British submarines was already quite obvious, and the Pegaso model was adopted for an even larger production. The Ciclone class had Yarrow type boilers instead of the ammiraglio 3-drum models of the previous Pegaso, but still enough to be rated as the same 16,000 hp (11,900 kW), but top speed capped to 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph). They were slightly larger, which perhaps explained the loss in speed, but also carried less oil, 442 tons at normal load versus 520 tons, and so had a more limited range.

Armament of Italian torpedo boats

Main aft battery, TB Ariel, Spica class.

This topic is quite wide, as their armament was diverse, owing to the numerous types in service in WW2, between the “tre pipe” of WWI, the early 1920s “due pipe”, and the 1930s models, which had to have good AA and ASW armament or even carrying mines, athough that capability was not exploited.

Italian Torpedo Boats Main guns:

  • Cannone da 102/35 Modello 1914: Audace, Indomito, Pilo, Sirtori/La Masa class.
  • Cannone da 102 mm/45 Modello 1917/1919: Generali, Curtatone, Palestro class*.
  • Cannone da 100 mm/47 Modello 1931: Gabbiano, Spica, Pegaso**
  • Cannone da 100 mm/47 Modello 1937: Ciclone, Ariete***

Italian 102mm/35

*Actually these were either derived from the Schneider-Arsmtrong model or the Canet Model. They fired AP: 35.3 lbs. (16 kg) or HE: 30.3 lbs. (13.74 kg) shells at 2,789 fps (850 mps), up to 16,400 yards (15,000 m) at 35° for those which modified mounting. In 1936, some received an AA mounting enabling 84°.
**Unlike WWI models, they came with a dedicated shield. Manufactured by OTO, desgigned from from 1928, they were Well-liked, but used in mountings with low maximum elevations (45°). 196.3 in (4.985 m) long and 6.2 tons, they fired a 31.3 lbs. (14.2 kg) HE shell at 2,805 fps (855 mps), 8-10 rounds per minute 1 and 16,840 yards (15,400 m).
***The OTO modello 1937 was just improved, with a 60 degrees elevation. It weighted 6.7 tons but had the same general characteristic. These were all manually operated.
The RM 1937 was used on Animoso only. Muzzle velocity was originally 2,953 fps (900 mps) but reduced in an effort to reduce dispersion. Storage varied, but it is only known for the Gabbiano class, which carried 200 rounds + 60 starshells.


Apart early captured Schichau and Whitehead models and derived units, all were built by Silurificio Italiano S.rl.

  • 450 mm (17.7 in) modello torpedo for the Audace/Pilo, presumably same 17.7-in model as introduced on the 1905 Sirio class and shared by the PN class.
  • Modello 140/450 for the Generali/Palestro/Curtatone classes: 29-32 knots on the 6,000-4,000 m settings and had a 1140 Kgs TNT warhead of 140 kg of TNT, and air tank loaded to 170 atmospheres.
  • 45 cm (17.7″) Si 200/450 x 5.36: Interwar Italian TBs.
  • 45 cm (17.7″) w 200/450 x 5.25: WW2 Italian TBs.

45 cm 200/450 Precise specs:
These were shared by torpedinieri and MAS boats 2,050 lbs. (930 kg), 17 ft. 7 in. (5.750 m) long, explosive Charge 441 lbs (200 kg), single setting 2,200 yards (2,000 m)/44 knots, powered by Wet-heater. The later W 200/450 x 5.25 was lighter at 1,896 lbs. (860 kg) and shorter 17 ft. 2.5 in. (5.250 m), same warhead by much greater range at 4,400 yards (4,000 m)/46 knots. Likely to be introduced on the Ciclone/Ariete classes during WW2.

Italian Torpedo Boats AA:

  • Cannone da 76/40 Modello 1916: Standard dual purpose still onboard WWI former DDs when no replaced in WW2*.
  • Ansaldo 40mm/39 AA: Derived from the British 2-pdr Pompom. In service in some modernized 1920s vessels and Spica sub-group.
  • Breda 20 mm/65 Modello 1935/39: Modernized Spica and Pegaso**
  • Breda 20 mm/65 Modello 1940: Ariete class**
  • Scotti-Isotta Fraschini. 20 mm/70: Swiss model, only used on the Ciclone class in twin mounts***.
  • Breda 13.2mm Modello 1931 HMG: Introduced on the Curtatone/Palesto class, and following interwar and WW2 TBs***.

*The 76/40 had a muzzle velocity of 680 m/s (2,200 ft/s), effective firing range of 10.7 km (6.6 mi) at +40°, max 5.8 km (19,000 ft) and 4.8 km (16,000 ft) AA.
**The 20/65 was basically a scaled up 13.2 mm (0.52″) M1931. It fired a 0.295 lbs. (0.134 kg) round at 2,756 fps (840 mps), 120-240 max rpm, to 2,500 m over surface, 2,900 m ceiling, and differed by their mounts, the M1935 dual mount was stabilized and elevated to 100°, while the single M1935 elevated to 90° only. The M1940 was a single mount with 100° elevation.
***The 20/70 was a copy of the Swiss Oerlikon, so same basic performances and carateristics.
****The 13.2mm/75.7 M1931 was derived froml the WWI Hotchkiss HMG also copied by the Japanese; It used a 13.2×99mm 51g Hotchkiss round. It fired at 85°, 400 rpm cyclic, 250 sustained, to 805 m/s (2,640 ft/s) mz, 2 km (1.2 mi) at +45°, to 3.98 km (13,100 ft) range at +80° and max 6 km (3.7 mi) at +45° or 4.2 km (14,000 ft) ceiling at +80°. Manually operated, each had a gunner and two loaders using 30 rds box mag.

Italian Torpedo Boats ASW:

  • DCT (Thrower) for 100 kg (220 lbs.) model (all vessels)
  • DCR (Rack) “Gatteschi” type multi-level with 2-4 DC. Only Gabbiano class Corvettes.
  • Depth Charge B TG Monc. 50/1917: WWI vessels
  • Depth Charge B TG Monc. 50/100 1927 4 Reg. Modernized WWI vessels.
  • Depth Charge B TG Monc. 50/1936: Spica and following.*

*The B TG Monc. 50/1936 were 141 lbs. (64 kg) heavy with an explosive Charge of 110 lbs. (50 kg), sink rate or settings are unknown.
It should be added, that they all also carried paravanes which were noted at the time as “siluro trainato” (towed torpedoes).

Swedish Exports: Romulus class

HMS Romulus

The first two vessels of the Spica class (Astore, Spica of their own group), which acted a bit as prototypes, were exported to Sweden in 1940. They were renamed Romulus and Remus in hommage to their Italian origins and myhical founding figures of Rome. HSwMS Romulus was in service during World War II, and first decades of the Cold War, stricken in 1958. HSwMS Remus also patroled Swedish waters during WW2 and was stricken in 1958, scrapped in 1961.

HMS Remus

Italian Torpedo Boats at war 1940-43

Lupo in 1942

It’s difficult to really summup Torpedo Boats actions in WW2, or tactics. The latter differed in large part due to their types: Both the Spica and Ariete were used for medium-range defence, and escort. The Pegaso/Ciclone were mosetly used solely for escort, both for convoy protection and ASW warfare, patrolling alone or in small squadrons.

In case of destroyers attacks, they were likely able to somewhat defend the convoy by making a torpedo barrage, and lay smoke. Due to their age and speed, the older Generali class and other “tre pipe” as well as the Curtatone/Palestro were mostly used for escort duties only. This did not excluse more agressive stances, like at the battle of Vado, where Calatafimi attacked the French Cruisers engaged in a bombing raid of the coast. She was detached while in escort of a minelayer approaching to secure the approaches of Genoa, when spotting the French attack. Italian propaganda later glorified this attack, but no French vessel was sunk that day.

Losses were appealing: From 1940 to 1945, first under Italian flags, and second under German flag from 1944, 48 of the interwar and WW2 vessels were sunk, and 29 of the WWI and early interwar classes, so about 3/4 of their entire numbers. They were sunk by torpedo and gunfire as well by air attacks, but about a dozen were scuttled and two were sunk by mines (Aldebaran and Altair).

An overview of their combat records

Perseo underway

Combat records are a good way to approach the detailed operations of these vessels. They were certainly successful for some, depending of opportunities, shooting down about 30-35 planes including the very fast Beaufighter. Some sunk upt to four British submarines, proving they were among their greatest threat. Altogether they sank perhaps 15 subs.

They rarely won contests over destroyers, but some inflicted quite severe damage to them. The average British DD could survive a 45 cm torpedo hit. Their speed was certainly a saving grace, as some went unscaved from very intense battles opposing cruisers and destroyers. We must remember they were rarely used for anything else than convoy escort duties, giving them little chances to shine; But at more than one occasions they saved the sole of several cargoes they escorted.

Camouflage and concealement

Altair, Aldebaran, Antares, Andromeda, Perseo, Sagittario and Vega in port showing their ID letters (Coll. Giorgio Parodi)

First off, Italian TBs were smaller than destroyers (although they could be confounded by them due to their similar silhouette, at least for interwar and WW2 vessels). This could play a deterrent effect for assailants, and was probably intended. Speed was one advantage, a lightweight hulls and agility, but active concealement was mostly due to the use of smoke dischargers. The Italian Cruisers and destroyers were all fitted with these, and smoke laying was practiced and well understood in combat. It could be a way to conceal a convoy for torpeod boats. However there are no precise information available on Torpedinieri own smokelaying devices or system, nor tactics or defines use.

For identification, after the Battle of Calabria of July 1940 where there was a serious friendly fire, Italian TBs, like all other Italian ships, received on their quartedecks, bow and stern sometimes, a simple red and white stripes pattern. These were used until the Italians capitlated to avoid friendly bombing from the aviation. Some even had their stern deck also painted this way and ship-borne seaplanes also had their upper or main wings painted also that way.

Torpedo Boats decks were left in part metal with metallic traces (Grigio Ferro) and wood. The hull underwater was brick red (Rosso Mattone) with waterline black lines.

For horizontal surfaces, they kept their leggero grigio or “grigio cenerino chiaro” overall prewar matte paint, with identification letters related to their second name, first and last letters. Ex. CT for “Curtatone”, PG for “Pegaso”, VG for “Vega”, etc.

Ariete in Genoa, 23 August 1943, showing her unusual rounded camouflage shapes.

As for passive concealement, In WW2 it became common practice to camouflage torpedo boats, but it was not systematic. But as WW2 progressed, they received a regulated camouflage, applied also to destroyers: Simple dark grey (“grigio scuro”) with hard edges shapes over their original light grey. Light blue (“Azzurro”) or Light ash grey (“Grigio Cenerino”) were rarely seen. However to deceit submarines about their real lenght, either fake bow waves or more commonly white areas at the bow and stern were painted in “bianco”. ID letters were painted in black or red depending of the camouflage pattern. After Italy joined the allies, the few remaining TBs were painted like allied vessels, with a dark hull and light grey superstructures. The ID was painted in black.

Cold War Fate

Orsa (F-558) as rebuilt in the 1950s

Only a few Torpediniere remained after WW2: Seven of the Spica-class, two of the Pegaso class (Orione and Orsa). The rest, three Ciclone class went as war prize to to USSR and two to Yugoslavia, and three more of the Ariete clas to Yugoslavia in 1948-49. They mostly provided a “stopgap service” of a few years. The Yugoslavian ships were known as the Biokovo, Triglav, Ucka, Durmitor, Valebit (ex. Ta-46, never completed and BU).

The Italian vessels were all reclassified as covettes in 1950, and it was envisioned their modernization and possible reconstruction. Some were even older than that: There were still surviving WW1-vintage Pilo, La Masa, and Curtatone class vessels, of which three Pilo became minesweepers after refit in 1953 (Abba and Mosto) and discarded in 1958. Carini and Fabrizi (La Masa class) were converted the same way, discarded in 1957-58. The sole Curtatone was scrapped without modifications in 1957.

The minesweeper Abba (M5330) in the 1950s, certainly among the oldest NATO vessels still in activity.

Interwar TBs of the Spica class became fast ASW corvettes and their modernization took place in 1952. Their torpedo tubes were all removed, a single 100 mm was removed, but an ASW Hedgehog was added in its place, whereas the Bridge was modified and a radar added, along with a new NATO standard sonar. In 1958 they also gained two 40mm AA.

-Sagittario was used to test various types of weaponry, and in 1958 for all survving ship the remainder 100mm/47 was removed.
-The same modifications were applied to the Pegaso-class Orione and Orsa. These were discarded in 1959-64.

Italian Interwar Torpedo Boats

Albatros (1934)

Albatros in 1936

With the threat posed by submersibles in WWI, and the late response that came from the entente, Italy started to study a dedicated sub-hunter as far back as the late 1920s. These ended with a design, the Albatros, the first experimental project proposed to thje admiralty by CNR Palermo, which was accepted for production. The RM planning in addition had it built as the head of a 25 ships plan.

Preliminary study in 1929 retook the hull shape of contemporary foreign coastal torpedo boats, notably the forecatle, and a pair of 450 mm torpedo tubes was to be installed in her bow. Though, due to the terms of London Naval Treaty that Italy signed in 1930, there was a limited tonnage above 600t authorized, and thus, these sub-hunters had to be designed to be declared with a standard figure right nelow this tonnage. The prototype in the end was rather unsuccessful.

Albatros was laid down in November 1931 at Palermo, launched on 27 May 1934 and commissioned on 10 November 1934. Her sea trials started right away and reports were not enthusiastic. Despite her forecastle she lacked seaworthiness in open sea, was costly to operate and difficult to maintain correctly her steam propulsion turbines. Other criticized her outdated armament (two WWI 100mm/47 notably, no sonar or hydrophones, for her primary task). Eventually, the project was canceled and work shifted towards the larger Pegaso class escorts while torpedo tubes were never installed. In 1935, Albatros was reclassified as a second-line ship, assigned to Regia Marina’s naval experimental unit at La Spezia, a nice way to say she was no longer operational. And in 1938 she was reclassified as a “torpedo boat”, despite she had no torpedo tube…

She had a SAFAR 600 sonar installed in June 1939, and in 1940 she received extra AA. She was used to patrol the Strait of Messina, and along the eastern coast of Sicily. In all she performed 57 missions, betwen escort and submarine patrols. In 1940 in June-July she was attacked twice by British submarines, and on September 27, 1941 she was to meet U-371 to escort her through the Strait of Messina. However HMS Upright (the strtait was a British captains’s favorite ambush position) spotted Albatros off Milazzo.

Albatros detected the submarine practically at the same time and closed at full speed for a first DC pass, trying to ping her position. At 8:55, she came for a second pass, when Upright launched two torpedoes from 2,750 meters away, one hitting Albatros, sinking 8 miles (12.8 km) NW of Milazzo, with 47 survivors.

⚙ Albatros specifications 1939

Dimensions 70.56 x 6.9 x 1.71-2.25 m (231.5 x 22.5 x 5ft 7in-7ft 5in)
Displacement 334 tons standard, 490 tons Fully Loaded
Crew 52 wartime
Propulsion 2 shafts Belluzo turbines, 2 3-drum boilers, 4,300 shp.
Speed 24.5 knots ( km/h)
Range 1,420 nm @ 10 knots.
Armament 2× 100mm/35, 2x 13.2 mm, 2x 8mm AA, 4 DCT, 2 DCR, 2 Paravanes

Spica class (1933)

Airone, Alcione, Aldebaran, Altair, Andromeda, Antares, Aretusa, Ariel, Astore, Calipso, Calliope, Canopo, Cassiopea, Castore, Centauro, Cigno, Circe, Climene, Clio, Libra, Lince, Lira, Lupo, Pallade, Partenope, Perseo, Pleiadi, Polluce, Sagittario, Sirio, Spica, Vega


First interwar Italian TB design. They were 75 m long at the waterline, 80.4-82 m long (273 feets) for 620-670 tons standard and 885-1,030 long tons (1,040 t) full load, so already above the London limits. Mussolini followed Germany and Italy in refusing these limits. By comparison the German Type 1935 TBs were 844 tonnes standard, but they were laid down much later in 1937. These were generally handsome vessels resembling miniature Freccias. Their value as escort vessles was discovered during the war.

Their tonnage diverged in between groups, The Spica group was sold to Sweden, leaving the Climene group (Canopo, Cassiopeia, Castore, Centauro, Cigno, Climene) with 640 tonnes standard, the Perso Group (Aldebaran, Altair, Andomeda, Antares, Perseo, Sagittario, Sirio, Vega) were 630/985 tons, and the Alcione Group (the remainder) were 670/1,030 tons. Their machinery was arranged into three compartments, two boilers rooms, one single engine room. At 15 kts their endurance was still 1800 nm. 34 knots was nominal as they reached on trials speeds in excess of 37 kts. But with wartime addition up to 250 extra tons were added and with wear and tear they generally were limited to 30 kts max and 26 kts in operations in 1940-43.

Spica general rendition (ONI)

They way their carried their torpedoes also changed between classes: The Spica, Climene, centauro series had a single tube on each beam, and twin on the centerline. Later with the remainder Climene group and Perso plus the CNQ built vessels, they had two twin tubes nbanks centerline, more destroyer-like. This was also for stability. In fact in 1939-41 all vessels were converted to this arrangement. AA varied also, as the two original Spica and Astore were completed with two twin 40 mm/39 AA guns and four 13.2 mm, but the rest has all eight in all, in single and twin mounts. In WW2, they were replaced when possible by commion Breda 20mm/65 mountings and the standard became three twin of them, plus a twin 13.2 mm, and in 1941-42, extra DC throwers were added, with 40 in stowage. They were equipped for monelaying and could carry 18-20 mines but this

However for this, their ASW capabilities were fairly limited. Adding these would have compromise their stability because of the topweight, and the admilty never consented to sacrifice torpedo tubes. They became however moderately good AS vessels and their AA was reinforced during WW2. In all, 7 were lost in surface actions, 8 by aviation, 3 by mines and 3 by submarines. They gave Italy an edge over France in 1940 as these numerous TBs were cheap and could replace advantageously destroyers in some ways.

The Spica class torpedo boats in Combat

Airone was sunk on 12 October 1940 at the battle of Cape Passero by HMS Ajax. She scored three hits before being disabled and 59 went down with her. Ajax’s bridge and radar installations were damaged by the TB, with 13 killed and 26 wounded. Alcione was torpedoed on 11 December 1941 by submarine HMS Truant. Aldebaran was sunk on 20 October 1941 in the Saronic Gulf by mines laid by HMS Rorqual. Altair had the same fate, same day. Andromeda was sunk on 17 March 1941 at Valona in Albania by RAF bombers. Antares sank the Greek submarine Proteus by ramming on 29 December 1940 and was herself sunk on 28 March 1943 at Livorno by USAAF bombers.
Aretusa on 2 December 1942 escort, shot down a Fairey Albacore south of Kerkennah Islands while Lupo was sunk by British destroyers. She was badamy damaged in a airstrike on 13 April 1943 but survived the war (discarded 1958). Ariel was sunk 12 October 1940 by HMS Ajax like Airone.

Calipso was sunk on 5 December 1940 by mines east of Tripoli. Calliope provided 117 convoys escort missions, 21 various combat missions over 77,500 miles, shooting down six British aircraft and survived the war. Canopo was sunk on 3 May 1941 by British bombers in Tripoli. Cassiopea managed to sink the British destroyer HMS Pakenham in battle southeast of Marettimo island (16 April 1943) but she was heavily damaged to be towed by Climene to safety and survived the war. Castore led a convoy from Tripoli to Taranto, managing to escape an attack from the destroyers HMS Jaguar, Lance, Lively and Zulu, already attacked by Swordfish of the 830 Sqn. Later she also repelled British motor boats off Tobruk (Operation Agreement). She was sunk on 2 June 1943 by HMS Jervis and Vasilissa Olga defending her convoy (and saving it).

Antares of the Spica class

Centauro was sunk on 4 November 1942 in Benghazi harbour. Cigno protected a four-freighter convoy to Tripoli on 26 May 1941 shooting down to Blenheim bombers, recuting survovors after the Battle of Cape Bon, and dodged four torpedoes from HNLMS Isaac Sweers. She was sunk in battle 16 April 1943 southeast of Marettimo island by HMS Paladin and HMS Pakenham. Circe attempted to ambush a British convoy south of Pantelleria in January 1941. She duelled with HMS Bonaventure but was damaged. She also managed to sink the submarines HMS Grampus, HMS Union, HMS P38 and HMS Tempest but was sunk in a collision on 27 November 1942.

Climene on 24 April 1936 took part in the shooting down of three Beaufort bombers and a Beaufighter on 20–21 August 1942 and was torpedoed on 28 April 1943 by HMS Unshaken. Clio sank the submarine HMS Triton in December 1940, and shot down a Swordfish from HMS Illustrious off Sfax on 21 December 1940. She took part in the battle of Skerki Bank on 2 December 1942 and survived the war. Libra with Lupo attacked by night the convoy AN 14 on 31 January 1941 and survived the war, only decomm. in 1964. Lince landed troops at Kastelorizo in February 1941. She was torpedoed and grounded on 28 August 1943 by HMS Ultor. Lira was scuttled 9 September 1943, and as TA49, sunk by bombing 4 November 1944.

Lupo with Libra attacjed a convoy and badaly damaged the British tanker Desmoulea (8120 tn) in the Kasos straits (31 January 1941). Under Captain Francesco Mimbelli she took part in the reconquest of Kastelorizo and Battle of Crete. She was sunk 2 December 1942 by HMS Jervis, Javelin, Janus and Kelvin. Pallade was sunk 5 August 1942 by air attack in Naples. Partenope shot down two Blenheim on 11 July 1941 and hit a mine off Preveza on 26 July 1943, scuttled while on drydock at Naples. Perseo was sunk on 4 May 1943 off Cape Bon by HMS Nubian, HMS Petard and HMS Paladin. Pleiadi was wrecked on 31 May 1941 off Tripoli after a fire onboard and finished off during an airstrike on 14 October 1941 while refloated.

Castore in 1942

Polluce sank the submarine HMS Grampus in June 1940 with Circe, Clio and Calliope but was lost to torpedo bombers on 4 September 1942. Sagittario successfully protected a German convoy during the Battle of Crete and badmy damaged HMS Kingston as destroyed MTB 639 off Tunis, on 28 April 1943. Survived the war until 1964. Sirio started the battle of Cape Spartivento, being spotted first. On 16 February 1943, during a convoy escort she fought off MTB 77, MTB 82 and MTB 62 south of Marettimo. Survived the war until 1959. Vega Shot down a Swordfish from HMS Illustrious off Sfax on 21 December 1940. She was sunk by HMS Hereward 10 January 1941 in the strait of Sicily.

Cutaway of the Spica class

Cutaway of the class, De Agostini coll.

⚙ Spica specifications 1939

Dimensions 80-82 x 8.20 (Alcione Gpe 7.92m) x 2.82-3.09 m (264-269 x 26 x 9 ft)
Displacement 620-670 tons standard, 885-1,030 tons Fully Loaded
Crew 99 peacetime – 120 wartime
Propulsion 2 shafts Tosi turbines, 2 Yarrow boilers, 19,000 shp.
Speed 34 knots ( km/h)
Range 207 tons oil, 1,800 nm @ 15 knots.
Armament 3× 100/47, 4x 450 m TTs, 8x 13.2 mm, 2 DCT, 2 Paravanes

Pegaso/Orsa class (1936)

Pegaso, Procione, Orione, Orsa

Orsa in port, 1942 with her quirky camouflage

The Orsa class (Or Pegaso for Conways) were large mixed torpedo boats/destroyer escorts designed as a enlarged version of the Spica-class but with less speed, more endurance and greater ASW armament, and lighter gun armament (two instead of three main guns). They were originally designed in 1935 and re-rated from escort ships to “escort torpedo boats” in 1938. They also carried still two pairs of TTs on the broadside, but still lacked an effective AA armament. Sea speed was rerated at 27 kts in operation. The “P” were built at BSN and the two “O” at CNR Palermo yards. During the war theu replacd their 13.2 mm by 8-11 20mm/65 Breda guns.

Pegaso sank the British submarines HMS Upholder, HMS Undaunted, and HMS Thorn. She was attacked while escorting a convoy to Tripoli on 26 May 1941 by Blenheim bombers, shooting down two. She downed a Beaufort bomber and Beaufighter on 21 August 1942 ending as one one of the most successful Axis anti-submarine warships of World War II, being scuttled 11 September 1943 at Majorca. Orsa along with the Spica-class Climene shot down three attacking British aircraft on 24 July 1942 while escorting Vettor Pisani. She survived until 1964 . The first two were scuttled in September at Majorca and La Spezia respectively. The others served long after the war as AS Frigates, reconstructed.

Orsa blueprint

⚙ Pegaso class specifications 1939

Dimensions 82.5 x 9.69 x 3.74 m (270 ft 8 in x 31 ft 9 in x 12ft 3in)
Displacement 840 tons standard, 1,575 tons Fully Loaded
Crew 116
Propulsion 2 shafts turbines, 2 boilers, 16,000 shp (11,900 kw).
Speed 28 knots (32 km/h)
Range 520 tons oil, 5,000 nm @ 14 knots.
Armament 2× 100/47, 4×2 13.2 mm, 6 DCT, 2 Paravanes

Italian WW2 Torpedo Boats

Ciclone class (1942)

Aliseo, Animoso, Ardente, Ardimentoso, Ardito, Ciclone, Fortunale, Ghibli, Impavido, Impetouso, Indomito, Intrepido, Monsone, Tifone, Uragano

Design of the Ciclone class

The Ciclone class laid down in 1941 were slightly enlarged versions of the previous Orsa/Pegaso class but with better stability and better ASW capabilities, as part of the war mobilization programme. Completed in 1942–43 most saw action under the Regia Marina flag. All were fitted with a sonar and two twin broadside torpedo launchers. They however differed in armament, with Ghibli, Impavido, Impetuoso, Indomito, Monsone given three single 100/47mm guns, and four twin 20mm/65mm AA guns, while Aliseo, Ardente, Ciclone, Fortunale, Groppo, Tifone, Uragano had a two 100/47mm guns plus the third ordiginal gun replaced by an additional twin 20/65mm for ten total. Animoso, Ardito, Ardimentoso, Intrepido had two main guns, and central mounting with a quadruple 20/65mm mounting, for 12 total. They were the most heavily armed of all Italian TBs in WW2.


The Ciclone class in action

Ciclone in 1942

Aliseo engaged and destroyed German auxiliary vessels off Bastia after the Cassibile armistice and became in 1949 the Yugoslav Triglav. Animoso ended as war reparation to the USSR in 1949 as Ladny. Ardente sank the submarine HMS P48 on 25 December 1942 and collded with the destroyer Grecale on 12 January 1943, never repaired. Ardimentoso became a war reparation to USSR as Liuty. Ardito sank the submarine HMS Turbulent on 6 March 1943 and took part in the battle of off Bastia with Aliseo. Captured by the Germans in September 1943 as TA26. Her fate is uncertain. Ciclone shoot down three Beaufort bombers and a Beaufighter on 20-21 August 1942 but sunk on a mine on 8 March 1943.

Fortunale sank the submarine HMS P222 on 12 December 1942 and ended in USSR as Liotny. Ghibli was captured in September 1943 but scuttled in La Spezia 25 April 1945. Groppo claimed a Bristol Beaufort on 23 January 1943 and captured an RAF inflatable motor boat from a downed Lockheed Hudson bomber on 22 February. She was sunk by USAAF raid on 25 May 1943 in Messina. Impavido was captured by the Germans in September 1943 (TA23), sunk by mine on 25 April 1944 and while in two, torpedoed by MTBs. Impetouso was scuttled 11 September 1943.

Indomito became the Yugoslav Biokovo in 1949. Intrepido was captured by the Germans, TA25, sunk by US PT boats on 15 July 1944. Monsone repelled three British MTBs off Marettimo on 16 February 1943 with Sirio, Gabbiano and Antilope, located thanks to their sonar. She was Sunk on 1 March 1943 at Naples by USAAF. Tifone escorted the Cigno convoy on 16 April 1943 and delivered fuel to Bizerte. Damaged by USAAF, scuttled at Korbous, Tunisia, on 7 May 1943. Uragano was sunk by mines on 3 February 1943.

Cutaway of Ardito

Blueprint of Ciclone

⚙ Albatros specifications 1939

Dimensions 82.5 x 9.9 x 3.77m (270 x 32 x 12ft)
Displacement 910 tons standard, 1,625 tons Fully Loaded
Crew 154
Propulsion 2 shafts turbines, 2 Yarrow boilers, 16,000 shp.
Speed 26 knots (48 km/h)
Range 4,000 nm @ 14 knots.
Armament 2-3× 100/47mm, 8-12x 20mm AA (8x 13.2 mm orig), 2×2 450mm TTs, 4 DCT, 2 paravanes

Ariete class (1943)

Ghibli, Impavido, Impetuoso, Indomito, Monsone, Aliseo, Ardente, Ciclone, Fortunale, Groppo, Tifone, Uragano, Animoso, Ardito, Ardimentoso, Intrepido

Arturo launch in 1943.

The Ariete-class, although niminal successors of the Spica class, were designed as destroyer escorts, enlarged versions of the Spica-class but really made to escort convoys to North Africa. Of the 42 planned, only sixteen were eventually ordered, just one completed when the armistice came: Ariete, built at Sestri Ponente, commissioned on 5 August 1943, also the only one to survive the war. She was ceded to the Yugoslav Navy 1949 as Durmitor.

Ariete on trials in August 1943.

The others were captured on slip and completed by the Germans. Designated “TA” for “Torpedoboot Ausland” they were sunk in various operations across the Aegean and the Adriatic. Fionda (TA46) was sunk in Fiume by an air raid on 20 February 1945 with TA47, still unfinished and recovered by the Yugoslavians in 1947. Učka, the first, was decommissioned in 1971. For more, see the future (unwritted yet) German WW2 TB page.

Ariete in Genoa, 23 August 1943

Ariete in Taranto, in non-belligerence paint, 1944

⚙ Albatros specifications 1939

Dimensions 70.56 x 6.9 x 1.71-2.25 m (231.5 x 22.5 x 5ft 7in-7ft 5in)
Displacement 334 tons standard, 490 tons Fully Loaded
Crew 52 wartime
Propulsion 2 shafts Belluzo turbines, 2 3-drum boilers, 4,300 shp.
Speed 24.5 knots ( km/h)
Range 1,420 nm @ 10 knots.
Armament 2× 100/35, 2x 13.2 mm, 2x 8mm AA, 4 DCT, 2 DCR, 2 Paravanes

Read More, sources

Italian TB Partenope, 1943


curtatone * albatros * spica * spica it * ariete * pegaso * ciclone * ciclone it
Camo on worldofwarships.com
102mm/47_m1931 nawveaps
20mm/65 nawveaps
132- 757_m1931
Italian WW1 destroyers


Gardiner, Robert & Chesneau, Roger (1980). Conway’s All The World’s Fighting Ships 1922–1946.
Fraccaroli, Aldo (1985). “Italy”. In Gray, Randal (ed.). Conways AWFS 1906–1921
Gianni Rocca, Fucilate gli ammiragli. La tragedia della Marina italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale, p. 270.
A. Nobili, M.E. Palmisano, Il patrimonio ritrovato. Navi, sottomarini e aerei dei nostri fondali, Regione Siciliana, 2010.
Giorgio Giorgerini, La guerra italiana sul mare. La Marina tra vittoria e sconfitta 1940-1943, p. 543.
Ufficio Storico della M.M.
Brescia, Maurizio (2012). Mussolini’s Navy: A Reference Guide to the Regina Marina 1930–45.
Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Naval Institute Press.
Dodson, Aidan & Cant, Serena (2020). Spoils of War: The Fate of Enemy Fleets after Two World Wars. Seaforth Publishing.
Fraccaroli, Aldo (1968). Italian Warships of World War II. Ian Allan.
Whitley, M. J. (1988). Destroyers of World War 2: An International Encyclopedia.


youtube.com/watch?v=9K2Cl5HJBYo footage of espero
youtube.com/watch?v=tYFKhPehG20 launch of Partenope

The model’s corner

Resin 1:350 scale by EVA of the Pegaso.
Not a lot of choice, but very small ones for waregaming and in 3D print.

Zara class Cruisers (1931)

Zara class Cruisers (1931)

Italy (1931)- Zara, Pola, Gorizia, Fiume.

The best protected Italian cruisers ? – The four Zara class cruisers for most authors and historians are the most famous, well-known Italian cruisers of the Second World War. Of course because they were in the other end of British barrel mouths at Matapan, but also due to their excellent design, allocating them the best protection possible for a heavy cruiser at the time, and probably one of the best in the world when launched. But they had also the dubious privilege, shared with USN New Orleans class in 1942, to lost three of their class in a single night engagement. Both were caused by surprise, almost without firing a shot. A single aerial torpedo was involved in their doom. But this fight was mostly unfair due to the lack of radar on the Italian side, the British achieved complete surprise and secured victory as no cruiser armour could stand British 15-in shells at such close range. The battle concluded also with one of the rear boarding actions of WW2, on Pola, and a controversy. Gorizia in repairs back then, would serve for another two years and see action at both battles of Syrta.

The battle of Cape Matapan was nevertheless quite a victory for the British, on par with taranto, in which it crippled three out of four of these heavy cruisers, the last of the Italian Navy. Zara, Fiume, Gorizia (launched 1930), and Pola (1931) which differed between them. They were nevertheless an evolution of the two Trento class but seeking better protection, like for the French Algérie. The London treaty signed in 1935, would cap the overall numbers of 8-in cruisers, and the Regia Marina turned towards “large light cruisers” like in other navies.

Design Development of the Zara class

For the first time since 1920, the admiralty questioned speed. Until then, it was seen as a kind of active protection, but advances in ballistic computing and modern range finders was starting to negate this. A return to a better protection was then preferred by the rejuvenated staff of the RN, but this went against the Washington treaty limits and its 10,000 tonnes standard wall. Indeed more armour with the same armament, meant a reduction of speed and smaller dimensions as a way to mitigate this, but also a better protective scheme overall. These ships innovated on many points. Despite the lenght reduction of ten meters, the beam was unchanged to preserve stability. Lighter superstructures to decrease the roll, a more complex internal protective arrangement, and above all, the drastic reduction of the length of their citadel, giving them this silhouette, with much more closer turrets fore and aft, and long ends at the bow and stern. This also helped to save armour weight in the “all or nothing” design.

A comparison worthy of all speeches: Respective citadel size on Trento and Zara. The latter was 1/3 thicker, but on an obviously shorter section.

Displacement, fully loaded was 1,000 tonnes heavier than the Trento class, 14,300 tons versus 13,300 and the belt reached 6-in (150 mm) against of 70-100 mm. Still, that did not made them armoured cruisers, but at least thy can deal with confidence with any light cruisers or the dreaded French super destroyers. This made them superior as well to the French Duquesne and Colbert classes. The appearance of the Zara class was worrying for the French, which voted in January 1930 the construction of a new heavy cruiser of revised design, Algérie. Unfortunately for the latter, they also signed the Treaty of London and this ensured she would have no sister ships. This fact gave confidence to the Regia Marina staff in case of a confrontation with the French in the Mediterranean. But no plans survives the chaos of war.

Design of the main bridge of Zara (wow)

The admiralty at first advocated for a near-impossible compromise, maintaining 32 knots (instead of 34-35) and its main armament, while having a 200 mm thick belt, so proof against 8-in shells. This more balanced design also vowed for a more comprehensive protection scheme overall. Designers of course found that these characteristics were hard to achieve, and can only be inserted in a 10,000 long tons design by radical innovations in order to save weight. The naval command “Supermarina” instructed designers to eliminate “unnecessary features” and eventually the belt armor was decreased, while the torpedo armament was omitted. It was also seen that eliminating the flush deck for a forecastle deck, stepped-down main deck would also helped to save weight. In the same vein, reducing the machinery overall weight by having just two propellers AND lightweight machinery was also a judicious choice. Boilers tech moved forward since the 1925 Trento, and it was now possible to produce as much output from smaller boilers and turbines. There was also if course the drastic length reduction of the citadel.

Pola completing in Livorno, 1931

Despite all of this, the Zara still exceeded the displacement limit by at least 1,300 long tons at least on paper in 1928. It was hoped not further additions would be made, and the regime planned to lie about their displacement anyway.
The first two, Zara and Fiume, were ordered as part of the 1928–1929 shipbuilding program, Gorizia in the 1929–1930 program, and Pola under the 1930–1931 program. As a propaganda gesture for the fascist regime, they were all named for former Austro-Hungarian cities annexed to Italy after World War I and contested by other powers, leading to the irredentist movement. However three were built at Odero Terni Orlando (OTO) of Muggiano, just one in Trieste (Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino) or STT in the space of three years down to two (for Pola).


Main tripod mast aft


The Zara class had short hulls compared to the 190+ meters Trento class. They measured 179.6 meters (589 ft) at the waterline, 182.8 m (600 ft) overall, for a beam of 20.62 m (67.7 ft) and 7.2 m (24 ft) draft. So same beam, more draft, but 13 meters less in length. Standard displacement was superior, at 11,326 of Fiume and 11,712 long tons on Gorizia and fully loaded, up to 13,944 and 14,330 long tons respectively. The first three ships had light, narrow superstructures framed inside the three-legged main mast, saving weight. However it soon was seen as a problem, and Pola which was intended as a flagship was given a larger bridge to accommodate an admiral’s staff, with extended to the funnel behind.


Engineers did not took more risky path for the powerplants like the Germans testing diesels, despite the obvious gain in weight, as they needed to reached 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph) as requested. But they opted for licence-built Parsons steam turbines, fed by eight “light” oil-fired Thornycroft boilers, and Yarrow for Fiume. Exhausts from the two engine rooms were trunked into two funnels of unequal size. Total output was 95,000 shaft horsepower (71,000 kW), reaching the desired speed. On sea trials these were exceeded at 118,000 shp (88,000 kW), reaching 33 to 34 knots (61 to 63 km/h; 38 to 39 mph), pleasing the admiralty which still had this operational “reserve” under the foot in case. In service of course it was reduced to a more manageable top speed of 31 knots, and 16 knots cruising speed. No excessive vibrations were registered as they were more strongly built and compact than the previous Trento. These cruisers carried 2,300 to 2,400 long tons (2,300 to 2,400 t) of fuel oil. This enabled a range of 4,850 to 5,400 nautical miles (8,980 to 10,000 km; 5,580 to 6,210 mi) at 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph), down to 1,150 to 1,900 nautical miles at full speed. The narrow confines of the Mediterranean Sea allowed to accept a shorter cruising range, contrary to the French which ships were also likely to be posted on the Atlantic and north sea as well.


There was no real surprise on this chapter, as it was defined long in advance to comprise eight 8-in guns (203 mm), and sixteen secondaries plus AA. The real surprise went from the absence of torpedo tubes.

Main artillery:

-Eight 203 mm (8.0 in) Modello 29, 53-caliber guns. They were placed in four gun turrets, arranged like the Trento in superfiring pairs fore and aft. They were a modernized version of the 203 mm (8.0 in) Mod 24 50-caliber guns of the Trento, with a better range at 31,500 meters (34,400 yd) versus 27,000 meters (30,000 yd) for the same elevation of 45 degrees but more powerful propellant charges and greater initial velocity.
The shells weighted 125-kilogram (276 lb), and had a muzzle velocity of 940 meters per second (3,080 ft/s). 157 shells per gun meant a total of 1,256. Rate of fire was 3.5 rounds per minute. The number of shells carried needs to be put in comparison to their general performances: This was notably due to the inability to create separated barrel mounts. Both were mated to the same cradle, and could not elevate separately. This cause also a dispersion problem, as both were too close together and interfere with each other due to massive turbulence (each shell was red hot when exiting the barrel and tended to dilate the air around, naturally pushing each other apart. To mitigate this, engineers found two solutions: Having a delayed firing for each gun, less than a second, and modified shells capable of a lower muzzle velocity of 900 meters per second. The second problem was due to poor factory quality control: The shells failed to adhere to strict caliber tolerance, which created unequal pressures in the barrel, ending with not accurate shells. This was shown time and again in combat.

AA artillery:

This was a four fold pyramid, or “defence bubble” around the ship:
-Sixteen 100 mm (4 in) 47-cal. dual pupose guns: Basically copies of 1910 Austro-Hungarian guns from Škoda placed in new DP mounts elevating to 85°, range 15,240 m (50,000 ft)
-Four single Vickers-Terni 40 mm/39 guns: Derived version of the Škoda guns, comparable, but less effective than Bofors. Already obsolescent in 1932.
-Eight (4×2) 13.2 mm (0.52 in) twin Breda mounts. Quick but short range weapons, lacking punch.
The gap between machine guns and the 40 mm was quickly detected and led to armament revisions before and during the war.

-1938: The two aft most broadside 100 mm guns were removed as well as the 40 mm guns in 1937-39. Eight 37 mm (1.5 in) Breda 54-cal. guns were installed in twin mounts instead, two twin on either side of the after superstructure in place of the 100 mm aforementioned.
-1940: Two 120 mm (4.7 in) 15-cal. star shell guns added for night operations.
-1942, Gorizia’s star shell guns replaced with four additional 37 mm guns (2×2).
-1943: Still on Gorizia, fourteen 20 mm (0.79 in) guns (six twin, two single mounts) were installed, replacing the obsolete 13.2 mm HMGs.

Onboard aviation:

Without radar, these ship’s reconnaissance and artillery corrections relied to floatplanes: They carried each a pair of IMAM Ro.43 seaplanes. The hangar was situated under the forecastle. They were served by a fixed catapult mounted on the centerline, at the bow. While it was an hinderance for deck work and frequently “wet” there was no room anywhere else along the superstructure, which were concentrated in the center of the ships. In 1943 tests were made with ore offensive planes like the Capronia-Reggiane Re-2000 able to carry a bomb or an aerial torpedo.

IMAM Ro.43 launched from the fwd deck catapult.

Protection: The ace card

The Zara class were protected with a shorter armored citadel as we have seen, covered the ships’ vitals, topped by the armoured deck. The machinery spaces and ammunition magazines were well protected compared to all and every cruiser of the 1930s, in fact, the Zara class ended as the best protected cruisers in the world prior to the introduction of the Des Moines class in 1947 !.
-Vertical: Armored belt 150 mm (5.9 in) thick, tapered down to 100 mm (3.9 in), bottom edge of the waterline belt.
Armored bulkheads 120 mm (4.7 in), upper portion, 90 mm (3.5 in) lower one.
-Horizontal: Main armor deck 70 mm (2.8 in) thick + 20 mm (0.79 in) upper deck to detonate fuses.
The connection between the lower and upper comprised slopes 30 mm (1.2 in) thick.
-Gun turrets: 150 mm plating (faces), 100 mm sides and back.
-Barbettes: 150 mm thick above the deck.
-Main conning Tower: 150 mm walls, 80 mm (3.1 in) roof.

Fiume in La Spezia: Safety inflatable boat, and radio room.

The perfect match: Zara vs Algérie

Colorized photo of Zara at Punta Stilo (comandosupremo.com)

We can only guess how a duel between a Zara and Algérie would lead to:
-In terms of main armament, both were evenly matched, although the French could elevate their barrels independently.
-In terms of secondary armament, the French had an advantage in number, with twelve versus eight dual purpose 100 mm guns.
-The Italians had a better AA, but no torpedo tubes.
-Both had seaplanes, but Algérie had three of them, perhaps able to locate the Italians first.
Now in the duel at long range overall, the French design was clearly weaker in armour thickness.
-French Figures for bulkheads to the CT were between 70 and 95 mm (3-4 inches), 120 mm (5 inches) for the Belt.
-The Zara class had 150 mm (6 inches) overall, and slightly thinner armoured deck (70 mm versus 80 mm), so the French would have a slight advantage in long parabolic, long range artillery contest, but against an armour-piercing capped 8-inches shell, 10 mm would not made much difference.
At closer range, the Zara would have been much more efficient. The rest would be in the hands of the meteorology, general condition of each ship and of course its captain, with slightly more speed to the Zara to out-manoeuver its opponent.
So the “bad rep” of the Zara, and conversely the Algérie branded as the “best washington treaty cruiser” is not doing them justice. We can see here a much maligned class of cruisers, victims of circumstances of war. Indeed, in wartime and with almost a 5,000 tonnes more displacement, so 1/2 more, the Baltimore class had about the same armour figures, at 6 to 6.5 in, with the exception the the turret faces, protected by 8 in.

Heavy Cruiser Algérie

Technical specifications

Displacement 11,680 tons standard -14,300 tons Fully Loaded
Dimensions: 182,80 m long, 20,62 m large, 7,20 m draft
Machinery: 2 shaft Parsons turbines, 8 Thornycroft boilers, 95,000 hp.
Top speed: 32 knots
Protection: Belt 150, decks 70, turrets 150-120, CT 150 mm
Armament: 8×203 (4×2), 6×100 (8×2), 6×40 AA, 8×13.2 AA
Crew: 880

Links/Read More


Zara Class Heavy Cruiser History and Specifications


Fiume launching its floatplane, seen from the main upper turret (cropped postcard)

Brescia, Maurizio (2012). Mussolini’s Navy: A Reference Guide to the Regia Marina 1930–1945. Barnsley: Seaforth. ISBN 1-84832-115-5.
Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War II. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-459-4.
Cernuschi, Enrico; Brescia, Maurizio; Bagnasco, Erminio. Le Navi Ospedale Italiane 1935–1945. Albertelli. ISBN 88-87372-86-1.
Fioravanzo, Giuseppe. La Marina italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale. II – La guerra nel Mediterraneo – Le azioni navali – Tomo Primo: dal 10 giugno 1940 al 31 marzo 1941. Rome: Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare. OCLC 561483188.
Fitzsimons, Bernard (1977). Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons & Warfare. 24. London: Phoebus. ISBN 0-8393-6175-0.
Friedman, Norman (2008). Naval Firepower: Battleship Guns and Gunnery in the Dreadnought Era. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-555-4.
Gardiner, Robert & Chesneau, Roger, eds. (1980). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1922–1946. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-913-8.
Greene, Jack & Massignani, Alessandro (1998). The Naval War in the Mediterranean, 1940–1943. London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 1-86176-057-4.
Hogg, Gordon E. & Wiper, Steve (2004). Warship Pictorial 23: Italian Heavy Cruisers of World War II. Flowers, T. A. (illustrator). Tucson: Classic Warships Publishing. ISBN 0-9710687-9-8.
Martin, Stephen (1988). Grove, Eric (ed.). Sea Battles in Close-up: World War 2. Shepperton: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-87021-556-6.
O’Hara, Vincent P. (2009). Struggle for the Middle Sea: The Great Navies At War In The Mediterranean Theater, 1940–1945. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-648-8.

Differences between all four cruisers (shipbucket). see also

Zara and Fiume showing their different bridges, in Naples (comandosupermo.it)

Some original footage about the Zara (Luce)

Author’s profile of the Zara as commissioned, Pola in 1933, Gorizia and Fiume in 1941.

The models corner

-Trumpeter’s Zara, pola, Fiume, Gorizia (1943 for the latter) 1:350, probably the best detailed so far
Scalemate results
And books: Kagero ed. “The Italian Heavy Cruiser Pola” Author: Carlo Cestra; POLA by Author: Sławomir Brzeziński, Editor BS Firma Wydawniczo-Handlowa.

The Zara class in action

Colorized photo of Zara at Punta Stilo (comandosupremo.com)

All four were therefore sunk during the war: Zara, Pola and Fiume during the fatal night of March 29, 1941 off Cape Matapan, and Gorizia in June 1944 by ‘chariots’ used by Free Italians to avoid its capture by the Germans, in La Spezia. See the Battle of Cape Matapan Engagements: Invasion of Albania, Battle of Calabria, Battle of Cape Matapan, First Battle of Sirte, Second Sirte (GORIZIA).


Zara was started in 1928 at Odero-Terni-Orlando (OTO) shipyard, the first of three built there. The famous yard of Northern, industrial Italy was based at Muggiano, La Spezia (Ligurian coast). Launched on 27 April 1930, completed on 20 October 1931 she made her sea trials, reaching 35.23 knots on forced machinery (120,690 shp), more to break a record than representative of real service speeds. In standard conditions, fully loaded and in a moderately formed sea, maximum speed observed was more in the order of 29 knots. When commissioned, she was presented with the battle flag in her namesake city, Zara (now Zadar in Croatia).

From August 1932, she took part in her first fleet training exercises, in the Gulf of Naples. She later hosted King Victor Emmanuel III and became flagship of the First Naval Squadron by September. In July 1933 she took part in a naval review held for Benito Mussolini in the Gulf of Naples, and another review on 27 November 1936 with Victor Emmanuel III and prince Umberto II present as well as Mussolini, and their host, the Regent of Hungary, Miklós Horthy. All also came on board. Another fleet review on 7 June 1937 was held for German Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg, minister of defense and on 16 September 1937, she passed on her flag to the modernized battleship Conte di Cavour. Last peacetime naval review was on 5 May 1938, in front of Adolf Hitler.

She made her only mission in the wake of the Spanish civil war on 7 March 1939, as part of the division. She left Taranto to intercept a squadron of Republican warships fleeing the Nationalists takeover: It was three cruisers and eight destroyers strong. This fleet attempted to reach the Black Sea and friendly USSR. The italians held their fire but tried to impede their progress, forcing them to dock at Augusta in Sicily. But the Spanish commander refused and proceeded to Bizerte (French Tunisia) instead. There, his ships were interned. On 7-9 April 1939, Zara supported the Italian invasion of Albania and was back in Genoa for Navy Day, 10 June. The year 1939 passed without other incidents of notable events, Italy only went at war in June 1940.

Operations of 1940:

From 10 June 1940, Zara was mobilized as part of the reorganized 1st Division, 1st Squadron, as flagship (Rear Admiral Matteucci). The 1st division of cruiser (Gorizia, Fiume four Oriani-class destroyers) was based in Taranto and started to patrol off Crete. From 11–12 June, they were attacked by an unknown submarine, which missed, but the destroyers failed to sink it. On 21 June, Zara with division sailed to Augusta in Sicily, ready to intercept Allied convoys, in particular French troopships to North Africa. The 1st Division patrolled with the 2nd and 3rd Divisions, but never spotted any convoy. Zara took part next in the Battle of Calabria (Punta stilo) on 9 July: The engagement had been called later “Lots of Bark but No Bite” as it was largely indecisive. Basically it went when the Italians led to convoy to Libya, two torpedo boats escorting several steamers carrying 2,200 troops, 71 M11 tanks, 231 vehicles, 5,720 tons of fuel, and 10,445 tons of supplies. En route it was joined by a large fleet led by Admiral Inigo Campioni in which the 1st division of cruisers participated. Admiral Cunningham on the other hand committed force B and Force C, with three battleships (Warspite, Malaya, Royal Sovereign) and the carrier Eagle, and Campioni at fisr tried to lure out the British closer to an Italian airbase. The 1st Division engaged British cruisers arrive din reinforcement, Fiume opening fire first on HMS Liverpool, soon joined by Zara, Bolzano, Pola, Gorizia and Trento. Bolzano was hit three times by HMS Neptune, but Zara emerged unscaved. At 16:02 the Italians folded up under the conver of smoke, and withdrew to Messina.

On 30 July, the 1st Division escorted a convoy to Benghazi and Tripoli. In August, Gunnery training followed off Naples and at the end of the month, the division left Naples for Taranto. On the 31 September, it made a sortie of interception for a British convoy (Operation Hats) but failed to spot them. Zara was present during the Attack of Taranto during the night of 11–12 November. The few swordfish planes concentrated on the battleships, so she ws left unattacked and undamaged. The Italian command decided afterwards to disperse the fleet and Zara was sent to La Spezia for a periodic maintenance, until 9 December. She sailed for Naples which was bombed by the RAF four days later and she had to flee again to La Maddalena (Sardinia), arriving on 15 December, to be back in Naples on the 19th, and then Taranto on the 22. Admiral Carlo Cattaneo became the new commander of the division and started training exercises with Gorizia in January and February, later with Pola as well, and Fiume. In March 1940, artillery training was done in the Gulf of Taranto and Pola replaced Gorizia as flagship of the 1st Division, as she had been tailored for this role during construction. It became late the 3rd division.

The Battle of Cape Matapan

Scheme of the battle (cc)

The famous battle which decimated the 3rd cruiser division started as another attempt to intercept a British convoy, in the eastern Mediterranean. It was spotted south of Crete, by late March.
In the battle order, on the italian side (Iachino) the was a battleship (Veneto), 6 heavy cruisers of both divisions, 2 light cruisers and 17 destroyers. This was heavenly matched by Cunningham and his single aircraft carrier, 3 battleships, 7 light cruisers and 17 destroyers. There was an action off Gavdos, Veneto firing first on Admiral Pridham-Wippell’s cruiser group, but without much results, only splinters and showers of water splashed, notably on HMS Gloucester. This was followed by a night action, this time decisive. The 3rd Division was stationed on the disengaged side of the Italian fleet and did not see action but soon Vittorio Veneto was torpedoed by aircraft from HMS Formidable and had to withdraw. The 3rd Division screened the port side of the Italian fleet and there was another air strike on the 28, failing to locate the Vittorio Veneto, but they found the cruiser division. They attacked and soon one scored a hit on Pola, amidships and starboard side. She stopped and was soon immobilized, her teams rushing repairs. Iachino was later informed of Pola’s desperate situation around 20:10 and fatefully detached Zara, Fiume, and four destroyers to protect her until she was able either to steam away or to be towed to safety.

They were completely unaware that HMS Orion mea,while had detected Pola by radar, reported her and soon the Valiant, Warspite, and Barham closed in. At 50 nmi (93 km; 58 mi) they picked up the division by radar, closed in until they were ready to fire. At 22:10, they lighted up their projectors and immediately found the Pola, Zara and Fiume at around 6 nautical miles. The Italian lookouts spotted shapes approaching, assuming they were Italian vessels, going as far as firing a red flare to guide them. Twenty minutes later, the British line was so close the ships could be reoignised with ease, and they illuminated Zara the first, then Fiume and opened fire. Zara and Fiume were literally obliterated ad well as two destroyers. This was more a point-blank execution than a fight. Zara took no less than four broadsides from HMS Warspite, five from Valiant in the matter of 4-5 minutes. As she was burning and listing, HMAS Stuart closed in an launched torpedoes, followed by HMS Havock. Still after the British battleships turned away to avoid a torpedo attack from remaining Italian destroyers, Zara, remained afloat. She drifted near Pola and her commander decided she could not be saved, ordering to scuttle her. HMS Jervis meanwhile has returned to see if the cruisers were still afloat, spotted and then closed in with Zara, firing a volley, of which three torpedoes hit Zara, and she sank in ten minutes, carrying with her 783 men including captain Cattaneo.


1938: The 1st Division cruisers in Naples

The only cruiser of this class not built at OTO but Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino (Trieste) because she was ordered at the same time as Zara, Fiume was in fact laid down earlier, on 29 April 1929, launched a year later in April 1930, same day as Zara, and fitted-out work to be commissioned on 23 November 1931. Nothing notable happened since her entry into service, fleet exercises gunnery training, ports visits, naval review, and by January 1935, autogyros were tested on board, using a wooden platform at the stern, successful experiments. Nevertheless, these autogyros were considered unreliable and had a too short range for effective service in the Regia Marina, the experiment was terminated. Fiume took part in a grand ceremony and parade held for the visit of Adolf Hitler in May 1938, making a gunnery demonstration observed from Conte di Cavour.

When war broke out for Italy in June 1940, Fiume was in the 1st Division with her sister ships and four destroyers (9th Destroyer Flotilla), part of the 1st Squadron (Inigo Campioni). They made a sortie in response of British attacks on Italian Libya, and were spotted en rout and attacked (but missed) by the submarine HMS Odin. On 7 July, a British cruiser squadron was spotted arriving in Malta while an italian convoy departed a day before and Supermarina (the high command) ordered the 1st Division to rush and join the escort. Conte di Cavour and Giulio Cesare were also scrambled to provide distant cover and two days later, this generated the inconclusive action off Calabria.

Fiume’s stern view

By late September, Fiume made a sweep with her division, searching for Operation Hats convoy, without results and in November she was in Taranto during the night time carrier strike, but was not targeted and she was reaffected elsewhere for a time. She was back to another intercept attempt of a British convoy by late November: The Battle of Cape Spartivento. This happened on 27 November for about an hour. At 12:22, both leading cruiser forces came into range. Fiume opened fire first, at 23,500 metres and the distance closed, and by then Italian firepower started to be more accurate. The situation changed with the arrival of HMS Ramillies, but she was soon distanced. The Italian cruisers outgunned the British and could have prevailed, if Vice Admiral Angelo Iachino had not received orders to disengage and ordering a general withdrawal under a cover of smoke. This decision was mostly the result of poor aerial reconnaissance. Fiume likely hit HMS Berwick twice, possibly helped by Pola.

Fiume underway

Fiume, like Zara and Pola met her fate at the Battle of Cape Matapan. We will not delve in the details of it, as it was covered above and in more detail in the dedicated page. Basically Fiume was detached by Iachino, with Zara to escort the stranded Pola to safety. Spotted by radar, a British battlefleet, sneaked in and lit up the scene at 10:27 PM. Warspite was leading. Fiume was illuminated at 2,900 yards (2,700 m), and took a salvo of six 15-inch (380 mm) shells from Warspite, five hits which caused very serious damage: Fiume’s superfiring rear turret was blown overboard and her superstructure crippled. A second salvo followed, and Warspite was joined by Valiant after they dealt with Zara. Fiume was transformed into a burning wreck, not firing a short in response. She was spared further destruction however, as both battlehips went back to Zara. The Italian heavy cruiser eventually fell out of line and listed badly to starboard, but still she remained afloat for 45 minutes. After which she capsized and sank, stern first at 23:15. The battleships had battered the three cruiers for about three minutes, making short work of the cruisers with their 15 inches (381 shells), reputed as the heaviest, hardest-hitting in the world at that time. Not armour, at such distance, could absorbe such punishment. Fium sank rapidly, carrying with her 812 men including Captain Giorgio Giorgis. A few survivors were picked up by British destroyers after dawn, and Greek destroyers in the evening, and the remainder by the Italian hospital ship Gradisca the following days.

The Hospital ship Gradisca in Patras, Greece.


Pola, official sea trials photo

Pola, named after the city on the Adriatic coast of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, was laid down at OTO Livorno on 17 March 1931, launched on 5 December, and was in service quickly, on 21 December 1932. She was affected to the 1st division, 1st squadron, and was fitted as a flagship, the only one with an extended bridge (which was narrow) and upper command deck. Pola participated in a naval review in the Gulf of Naples in presence of Benito Mussolini in July 1933 and the next year was formally given her Pola battle flag. By September 1936 she left Gaeta to patrol Spanish waters and non-intervention patrols. Between 10 September-3 October she was based in Palma de Mallorca and returned to Gaeta afterwards. On 10–12 March 1937 she operated off Libya, hosting Mussolini and Prince Luigi Amedeo. In June, she was in another naval review in the Gulf of Naples for Werner von Blomberg and in May 1938 again for Hitler during his state visit to Italy. On 7 March 1939, the division forced a squadron of Republican warships to dock in Sicily but the commander instead sailed to Bizerte to be interned. By 7–9 April 1939, Pola provided gunfire support for the landings in Albania.

Mussolini and Prince Luigi Amedeo aboard Pola in March 1937

Pola became flagship of her division as planned, with Admiral Riccardo Paladini on board, as commander of the 2nd Squadron, comprising also thee Trento, Trieste and Bolzano (2nd Division) and the three light cruisers in the 7th Division plus seventeen destroyers. Pola escorted minelayers disrupting French sea lanes during the night of 10–11 June, refuelled at Messina. Her unit made a sortie to intercept a convoy on 6 July, which later transformed into the first large naval action in the Mediterranean, off Calabria. Pola engaged British cruisers but did not scored any hit. On 30 July-1st August, she was with Trento and Gorizia escorting a convoy to Libya. On 16 August, gunnery trained off Naples, and was later based in Taranto. After an unsuccessful sweep for a British troop convoy to Malta, she hosted Mussolini in Taranto. Pola was not targeted by British Swordfish during the night attack in the port. She left for Naples afterwards, and took part in the Battle of Cape Spartivento. According to some sources she landed two of her main guns shells on the British cruiser HMS Berwick, disabling one of her main battery turrets, but some authors argued this was by Fiume. Campioni broke off the action nevertheless because of bad intel, depriving the Italian cruisers of a possibly easy victory.

Fleet manoeuvers of the cruiser division

As the Italian fleet was reorganized on 9 December, Pola was affected with Zara and Fiume in the 3rd Division, 1st Squadron (Admiral Angelo Iachino). On 14 December, she was in Naples when the RAF attacked. She took near misses and two bombs hits, both amidships, port side. Three boilers were damaged and flooding followed, with a list to port. She was drydocked on 16 December, until 7 February 1941, missing exercises and sorties, before returning to Taranto on 13 February, joining Zara and Fiume. They preformed extensive maneuvers together in March, followed by a nighttime training operation on 23–24 March.

Immobilized by an aerial torpedo
On 27–29 March, Pola became the centerpiece of the drama that unfolded at Matapan. For most of the daytime engagement, the 3rd Division was not engaged. After Vittorio Veneto, torpedoed, withdrawn, a second wave of British aircraft from HMS Formidable searching for the battleship failed to locate her and instead fell on the fleet’s screening force, the 3rd division, on the port side. This airstrike mostly failed, scoring a single successful torpedo hit, on Pola. The light aerial torpedo, 457 mm (18 in) was enough to torn away the longitudinal bulkheads, below the belt amidships, starboard side. It happened just as Pola manoeuvered furiously to avoid these torpedoes, nearly colliding with Fiume. The flooding was quick and forced the ship to stop after an entire boiler room was inundated. She could no longer take evasive action and captain C.V. Manlio De Pisa considered his options. Meanwhile, after exchanging messages, the rest of the fleet conformed to orders and kept their flanking position, leaving Pola behind, her crew hard at work to repair the damage. Three compartments were underwater five boilers out of action, the main steam line shit down. She was effectively stopped dead in the water and the loss of power even immobilized her main guns in case British ships were closing in. There was the danger also of another air attack.

HMS Formidable, which launched three air raids on the Italians and sank Pola (and two other cruisers indirectly) at Matapan.

Sister ships to the rescue
Iachino, meanwhile, was completely unaware of Pola’s situation. He was informed inly at around 20:10 on 28 March. Learning this, he sent his screening force (Fiume, Zara, and four destroyers) back to protect Pola. HMS Orion detected Pola by radar, reported her location and British battleline by then was only 50 nmi (93 km; 58 mi) away, strating to close in, using their own radar as darkness fell. At 22:10, Pola was circa 6 nautical miles from Valiant when her lookouts spotted them, assuming they were the reinforcements, revealing her presence by firing a red flare. It took twenty minutes more before the British battleships were placed in the perfect spot, opening their searchlights. Zara and Fiume were hit and destroyed first, including the two destroyers as seen above, but Pola was left alone.

The boarding party
Captain C.V. Manlio De Pisa assumed he would be the next target, while still unable to return fire. He ordered to prepare scuttling, by opening seacocks and prepare to abandon ship. Ten minutes after midnight, HMS Havock at last spotted Pola in the dark, as she was still left without power. British destroyers rushed in, spotted Zara and torpedoed her along the way, and later joined Havock. Together, they prepared something rarely seen in a modern naval war, ath the age of radars: A boarding party. The idea could have been to take Pola as a war prize, and tow her to port. This would have been for Churchill, desperate for good news, quite a formidable propaganda coup. The last boarding action of the kind was from HMS Cossack, on the German supply ship Altmark in Norway, in 1940. Arriving, the destroyers observed the crew assembled on deck trying to warme themselves as they could. The remaining men and officers were assembled in the forecastle and officers destroyed sensible documents, preparing to surrender the ship, as they was nothing more to do. HMS Jervis approached carefully and boarded Pola, the party jumping into action in a fast and casualty-less assault, rounding up the surviving 22 officers and 236 enlisted men on board. Later, HMS Nubian torpedoed the ship at close range, helped by HMS Jervis which illuminated her. It’s when the situation is unclear. Pola’s magazines exploded allegedly because of explosive charges (prematurely?) detonated, and she sank at 04:03, on 29 March, with still apparently 328 men on board. There was no reason why the crews were not all evacuated properly before Nubian launched her torpedoes, so that point needs some explanations.

HMS Hasty, of the same type of the Havock, which spotted Pola in the dark.

Controversy debunked
Authors are divided however about facts following this torpedo hit, with much British propaganda since, to the point of making the situation absurd (and quite funny for RN crews). It was alleged that after the torpedo hit, most of the crew panicked, abandoned ship without waiting for instructions, but not before getting drunk to keep the cold out. Since Pola did not sank, the soggy sailors soon hauled themselves back up on board, stripped naked to avoid hypothermia. Some were discovered in that sorry state by a boarding party later (see below), and event speaking volumes about the discipline onboard. However, this needs to be debunked. Pola was torpedoed at 7:58pm after Formidable’s third strike, and eight strike counting land-based bombers. At some point, the crews thrown overboard ammunition for the 100 mm secondary battery, as steam from a broken pipe was mistaken for fire and it was quickly stopped and the remainder properly stored nearby to avoid potential explosions. Pola in fact had communicated her situation and was waiting for the rest of 1st Division to come back toe tow her. The crew managed to pump most of the war out and relight a boiler and she was was capable of 5 knots, but making too much smoke in the process, so the captain ordered to shut down it down later.

HMS Jervis, which boarded Pola, in one of the rare actions of the kind during WW2

Gunnery flashes were seen when British battleships opened fire, ambushing Zara and Fiume before they made it to Pola. The latter then was ordered cleared for action, with only her secondary battery, using backups for elevation and traverse, although it was soon determine there was no longer enough ammunition on board. By then the staff took to decision to open seacocks, at 11:15pm so three hours, 18 minutes after her torpedo hit. It was about 12:10 am when Havock discovered Pola, and fired briefly, starting a fire, which indeed, prompting indeed some crew member to jump into the sea. It was during the boarding party that British sailors found them again, naked but under blankets, and given wine because of hypothermia. Onboard Zara and Fiume, Main gun crews manned them all along, waiting for a possible firing order. Nevertheless, these guns were ill-prepared for night actions as they were not provided with flashless ammunition. The impression made by the situation on the British boarding party was probably inflated later as a funny anecdote, and reassuring the Navy in a sense for what they faced in the Mediterranean, where the advantage was not so clear-cut. It nevertheless fed a picture already born during operation Compass. These narratives were contradicted anyway by the sober British official reports of this night action.


Gorizia was laid down at OTO shipyard in Livorno on 17 March 1930, was the last ship of the class, and sole survivor, at least until 1944, so she had the longest career. Launched on 28 December 1930, completed on 23 December 1931, commissioned with the 2nd Division (so separate from her sister ships for her whole career), she took part in naval exercises off Naples in August, in presence of King Victor Emmanuel III. On the 25 she became flagship of the division and participated in other naval reviews, in July 1933, while being transferred to the 1st Division, still as flagship, receiving her battle flag on 29 June 1934. She escorted the royal yacht Savoia to the east coast of Africa in October 1933, ending in Italian Somaliland. The 1st Division Commander swapped his flag to Pola on 31 December and back on 3 June 1935. Gorizia patrolled to Spanish waters in July 1936, evacuating Italian nationals from Gijón on 31 July-1st August, landed at Le Verdon-sur-Mer in France. She then headed for Germany and arrived in Kiel on 8 August for a naval review with the Graf Spee, Königsberg, and HMS Neptune. She represented Italy there during the 1936 Summer Olympics’s sailing events.

Gorizia at a pre-war fleet review

On 19 August 1936, Gorizia departed Kiel for Tangier and headed for Italy. However during that night, her forward aviation gas tank blew up for undetermined causes. The damage was serious enought that she headed back to Tangier for provisional repairs, then Gibraltar, arriving on 25 August for more thorough repairs in dry dock. This gave the occasion to British officials to board and examine the cruiser. They concluded she exceeded her nominal 10,000-ton displacement, but this did not led to any formal complaint. After repairs ended on 9 September, Gorizia headed for La Spezia, and more permanent repairs. This was over by November 1936. Newt followed a naval review for the Regent of Hungary, and she returned to normal duties as divisional flagship by May 1937, before another review on 7 June, and on 5 May 1938. On 7 March 1939, she intercepted and forced back to Bizerte a squadron of Republican warships, later interned in Tunisia and in 7-9 April, she supported the Italian invasion of Albania. She also took part in Navy Day festivities in Venice and spend the rest of early 1940 without notable event.

Gorizia underway, date unknown

1940 Operations: Calabria, Cape Spartivento

Gorizia was was in the 1st Division, 1st Squadron with sisters Zara and Fiume based in Taranto, and patroled off Crete, and by July she took part in the Battle of Calabria, but on the disengaged side of the Italian line, so she never fired. She was nonetheless later atacked by Torpedo bombers from HMS Eagle, but without hit. After the Italian battleships started to engage the British battleline, Gorizia and her division steamed ahead at the the front of the line, joining in the attack on Warspite, scoring no hits. While after a single hit on Giulio Cesare, reducing her speed to 18 knots, the Italian commander ordered to disengage while British cruisers attacked the Italians and the duel went on for some time, both sides staying at long range. Gorizia was never hit by the British cruisers.

On 30 July, the 1st Division escorted a convoy to Libya, followed by Gunnery training off Naples and a posting to Taranto. On the 31, the Division was out to incercept a british convoy (Operation Hats), without success and in early 7–9 September, the division was based in Palermo, and returned to Taranto on 11 September. Followed a gunnery training this month and the next and Gorizia was left unscaved after the night air raid on 11–12 November, her anti-aircraft crew claiming to shot down at least one Swordfish. Gorizia was sent in Naples by safety, taking part in the Battle of Cape Spartivento, duelling with British cruisers and shooting down a British plane. But her home base was later bombed, forcing her ti be relocated to La Maddalena in Sardinia, on 15 December 1940.

Gorizia painted in dazzle camouflage in 1942

1941 Operations

RN Gorizia returned to Taranto by late January 1941, training with Zara on 29 January before joining La Spezia for periodic maintenance, leaving the drydock on 7 May and replaced by Pola as flagship of the 1st Division. Meawnhile her three sisters were sunk at Cape Matapan on 28 March, deleting the 1st Division as a fighting force. Gorizia therefore was reassigned to the 3rd Division on 8 May, with Trento, Trieste and Bolzano. This was the only Italian heavy cruiser unit, now based in Messina, and tasked of convoy escort to North Africa. The first started from 26 to 28 May, another on 25 June, to Tripoli and back and another. On 23 August, however, the main fleet made a sortied to try to intercept Force H, but failed to locate it and returned. On 9–11 September, RAF and RNAS air strikes on Messina multiplied, Gorizia like the other making her anti-aircraft batteries talk each time, caliming palanes down or damaged. By the fall of September, the British launched Operation Halberd, another large convoy, and the Italian fleet departed on the 26th, but had to broke off when discovering the strength of the escort force. On 29 September, Gorizia departred alone to La Maddalena, but returned to Messina on 10 October, followed by another massive bombing of the port on 21 November. This time Gorizia was damaged by shell spinters, but this did not prevent her to make a sortie the same day for a convoy escort.

Battle of Syrte
The 16-17 December 1941 escort mission, faced a force of 5 British light cruisers and 14 destroyers escorting their own convoy to Malata. The Italian on paper thrown all they had at the time: 4 battleships (Caio Duilio and in 3 in distant cover), Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta, Muzio Attendolo, Raimondo Montecuccoli as the close covering force plus three destroyers, as as a distant cover, Trento, Gorizia, and 10 destroyers. Their convoy consisted in just three motorships and a single freighter. Both admiral, Iachono and Vian, wanted to avoid combat so basically they tanced each other with long range volley at 32,000 m (35,000 yd) while the British soon reterating under smoke and the italians broke off due to the lack of radar.

1942 Operations

Gorizia firing her main battery during the Second Battle of Sirte

Gorizia hosted while in Messina on 25 January 1942, German Luftwaffe officer Generaloberst Bruno Loerzer. on the 30, she also hosted Prince Umberto II and Hermann Göring as the Germans organized the air defence of Sicily. Gorizia was back in action on 14 Feabruary, search for Allied shipping befotre being spotted and targeted by torpedo bombers and later ambushed by submarines, which all missed. On 21 February, the protected a convoy to Tripoli and on 22 March, took part in the Second Battle of Sirte: In this battle that took place that day, the italians mustered superior forces again, 1 battleship, 2 heavy cruisers (Trento and Gorizia), 1 light cruiser, 10 destroyers and 1 submarine, and arguably achieved victory, by having no casualties and their battleship slightly damaged; while they damaged three light cruisers, three destroyers and disabled two more. But the Italians failed to reach their objective and left the convoy unscaved. Both screening foces duelled with each others, and Gorizia was heavily engaged with British light cruisers and destroyers, at long range, the British ships using smoke to protect them. Gorizia due to this scored no hits, firing 226 main battery rounds. Due to this her barrels were worn out and relacement planned afterwards.

They were relined in Messina in early May and the ship was damaged by splinters ny air raids on 25-26 May and the next two days. The 28 saw her heading for Taranto, repulsing more air attacks underway. On 15 June the fleet was assembled to launched a sortie against another convoy to Malta (Operation Vigorous) and Gorizia lost a floatplane while soon after she had to fend off three British torpedo bombers attacks. Trento was less lucky than Gorizia and took a hit, was immibilized and later sunk by a submarine. On 5 July 1942, Gorizia, was the last of three Italian heavy cruisers in operations, sailed back to Messina where she hosted the 17 Umberto II. While en route to intercept a British convoy on 11–13 August, she was ambushed by a British submarine but evaded the attack. Meawnhile, Bolzano (now repaired) and Muzio Attendolo were both badly damaged. Gorizia, Trieste, and two destroyers returned to Messina and stayed inactive from August to december.

Gorizia abandoned at the end of the war in 1945.

1943 Operations

Allied bombing raids were so frequent, the Regia Marina decided to leave Messina for good. The 3rd division sailed on 9 December for La Maddalena (Sardinia), only to be targeted this time by USAAF heavy bombers, on 10 April 1943. Trieste was sank, Gorizia took three bombs hits. One bomb penetrated the rear superfiring turret, exploded inside and the other two went through the port deck abreast of the superstructure, while near misses breached the hull below the waterline. Damage control avoided flooding and Gorizia was able to steam out to La Spezia for comprehensive repairs, only to be bombed again her on 19 April (only splinter damage). By that time, the 3rd Division was disbanded, there was no Italian heavy cruiser left. Bolzano was indeed torpedoed and sank in August 1942.

Gorizia entered the dry dock in La Spezia on 4 May 1943 and she was still there when the September armistice was signed. Her commander initially ordered to flood the drydock and scuttle the ship when German troops arrived, but cancelled it as he realized the ship would not be of any use for them. They nevertheless captured it, and later towed her to free the drydock and achor her in the harbor. A raid on 21–22 June 1944 by British and Italian frogmen using ‘Chariots’ (manned torpedoes) infiltrated and reached Gorizia and Bolzano, to sink both. The idea was to prevent the Germans using them as blockships. Gorizia however remained afloat, while heavily listing. She was captured by the allies on April 1945, discarded afterwards, stricken and BU in situ in 1947.

WW2 Italian Cruisers

WW2 Italian Cruisers

Italy (1922-43)- 26 cruisers

Transalpine Cruisers: Grace and speed under the eagle

The Regia Marina surprised everyone, soon after the country was united in the 1880s by its unusual and powerful ships, made by famous naval engineers such as Benedetto Brin. Due to the isolation and weakness of the Austro-Hungarian Navy in an Adriatic under lock and key beyond the Otranto barrage, it was not seriously tested during WW1. Like France, she was caught by surprise by the dreadnought race and was in full transition, neglecting cruisers for a time and catching up at great cost. The irredentism and rise of Fascism only contributed to reinforce the image of a fleet made to built a colonial Empire in the Mediterranean, and later the affirmation of a “mare nostrum”. Mussolini dreams of grandeur were shattered by the Washington Treaty, imposing a tonnage that Italy was not in financial position to overcome anyway. Like the French Navy, the Marina modernized itself by sticking to an almost ship-for-ship basis with France, until WW2 erupted.

Author’s overview of Italian cruisers camouflages in WW2 – All cruisers. Work in progress.

This was especially true for Italian cruisers, more than any other topic. The match was even, with a slight advantage for Italy, then France, and Italy again in terms of cruisers, unit for unit. For example WW1 war reparation cruisers were about the same German-built ships and served as colonial cruisers. Modern cruisers were built in the 1920s through the famous ‘Condotierri’ superclass, through the need of countering French super-Destroyers.

Italian light Cruiser Duca degli Abruzzi

Development of Italian cruisers

There were three distinctive steps in this evolution:
1-The “Condotierri” destroyer hunters: Guissano and Cardona classes.
2-The heavy cruiser era (with an evolution between the ‘tin-clad’ Trieste trio and the Zara quatuor
3-The “heavy light cruiser” era post-1930 London treaty: 3, 4, 5 and 6th Condotierri series

A vacancy in cruiser construction

The evolution of Italian Cruisers after 1914 is of course a reflection aboout the launch of HMS Dreadnought, which freezes cruiser contruction in all majot navak powers. and the last cruisers built are, launched in 1908, the San Giorgio class. Afterwards, only three scout cruisers are built: The Quarto (1911) and the two Bixio class (1911), or the two Colonial cruisers (in reality glorified gunboats) of the Campania class, dubbed “protected cruisers”, launched with low priority in 1914 and completed in 1917. Preferring to concentrate dwindling budgets to new dreadnouhts and light crafts or monitors, no new cruiser is planned until 1918.

The race for super destroyers

However, Italy would design and built unusually large and powerful destroyers, used as flotilla leaders: The Poerio, the Mirabello, Aquila, but moreover the large Leone class, which in 1923 when they were launched, were among the largest Italian destroyers in service at the time, with 2,300 tonnes fully loaded. They had some influence on future cruiser design: Indeed the French at the exact same time are launching a whole serie of very large destroyers, not intended as leaders, but just to hunt down Italian destroyers in a context of growing Mediterranean rivalry. The Chacal class were even much larger than the Leone at 2,900-3,000 tonnes fully loaded. They had less guns, but of a larger caliber, a mor powerful torpedo armament, and better speed at 35 knots where the Leone were capped at 33.

Italian light Cruiser Alberto di Guissano

The ‘early Condotierri’

After the Washington treaty, the threat is very real for the admiralty, which place this threat above all else. Thus, the first Italian cruisers since 1911, are designed from 1925 to deal with these, and only provided by the naval programme of 1927-28. Four of them, the first of a future serie of the so-called “Condotierre”, are ordered in 1928: The Giussano class.

Compared to the earlier Duguay-Trouin class (1923), they carried the same armament over a smaller tonnage (5,000 tonnes standard versus 7,600), typical of a treaty light cruiser: 8x 6 inches (150 mm). For this design, the goal being to hunt down these French large destroyers, it is needed to catch them. So speed is a deciding factor.

The Guissanos are insanely fast for cruisers: 36.5 knots (compared to 33 for the French cruisers). But this is done by reducing armour to the symbolic, and even construction is considered weak. This was made all clear duing WW2. Rather than hunting down French destroyers, two were destroyed by …regular British destroyers. A single torpedo was able to do untold damage, as well as gunnery.

Italian light Cruiser Emanuele Filiberto

What was considered the “second group”, the following four Cadorna class, started two years later in 1930, engineers and the admiralty seems to come back to common sense. Stability issues are solved by reinforcing the hull and lowering superstructures. The goal however is still the same, and the slightly heavier Cadorna are as fast, and with the benefice of a seaplane. In between, when these last two ships are completed in 1933, the French added the Guepard, Aigle, Vauquelin and are completing the 42-knots capable Le Fantasque class, no less than 30 “super-destroyers”, versus six light cruisers. The late Le Fantasque are close to 3,400 tonnes fully loaded, about 2/3 of a Cadorna and armed with 5.5-in/45 guns said quite capable in range and rate of fire, compared to the Italian 152 mm/53 modello 1929. Still, each cruiser could engage two destroyers by staying at a relatively safe margin in ideal conditions.

Back to heavy cruisers

Of course this focus on a destroyer hunter was worrying for the admiralty that also needed cruisers fo regular, traditional cruiser tasks, and they were urgently needed: In 1925 already, the French were laiying down the keel of its first two heavy cruisers, largely based on the plans of the duguay Trouin but scaled up with the typical Washington “eight-eight” configuration (Eight guns, Eight inches) on 10,000 tonnes standard: The Duquesne class. In fact a whole serie of heavy cruisers was planned, one laid down each fiscal year between 1924 and 1930, the second batch being of a slightly revised version (Suffren class).

Italian heavy cruiser Trieste

In answer, the Italians in 1925 already laid down the Trento class. They wluld have been three, but the third (Bolzano) was heavily modified and launched much later, in 1932. They were very comparable to the French ships but emphasis was again on speed and not protection, trying to out-run the French for a possible contest. The Trento reached 36 knots, versus 33, a comfortable margin. This was however paid dearly as both ships showed intense vibration problems and their hull had to be strenghtened (and top speed lowered). Protection was -of course- weak, but comparable to the French, just able to sustain destroyer fire. This was typical of the “tin-clad cruisers” era. In 1930 this began to change, and instead of a repeat of the Trento, the Italians to answer the Suffren class started the Zara:

Italian heavy cruiser Zara

Instead of targeting a superior speed, the Italian engineers were tasked to produce a more balanced design, with a much better protection. Since speed had many tradeoffs, the Italians would just battered the weakly built Frech cruisers into submissions with much better protected vessels. The admiralty in fact even wanted “armoured cruisers”. This was not only in answer to the earlier Suffren class than to take account of the new -and last- French heavy cruiser, the Algérie, which precisely targeted a much better protection above all else.

Algérie was laid down in March 1931, while the Zara was started two years earlier already in April 1929. In the end, the more futuristic looking Algérie stayed sole in her class -The French having spent their heavy cruiser budget- London treaty obliged. In this match, the Italians had out-smarted the French, with four of these heavy cruisers, versus one, and even arguably better protection in some ways. We can only guess what a duel between a Suffren and a Zara would have been like, but the former stood less chances due to their weaker protection, only counting on a better speed to evade.

Late Light cruisers

Meanwhile, the treaty of London only capped heavy crusers tonnage, not light ones, even now authorized to reach 10,000 tonnes, setup as “ultimate limit for any cruiser”. This made the follow-up in the “Condotierri” serie quite interesting. In that area, the admiralty wanted “conventional” cruisers for traditional missions, and therefore, took the best of the tonnage limits to make strongly built ships with a much better range, where the Guissano/Cadorna were mere “interceptors”.

The Montecuccoli class (3rd group) launched in 1934 displaced about 8,850 tonnes, the same as the French Duguay Trouin, stuck to the 8×6 formula (eight guns, 6 inches), and the Duca d’Aosta class (4th group, 1934) just improved on a few points; With only three light cruisers, the French needed to compensate fast, and they tried to innovate. Instead of sticking to the classic formula of twin turrets, they embarked on triple ones, just like the Germans did with their own earlier K class.

And so the Bertin was built a bit earlier (1934). As a side note, the French also launched 1930 the Pluton and Jeanne d’Arc but both were “special purpose” cruisers, the first a minelayer, the second a schoolship, not really included in this count. Emile Bertin was very comparable to the Italian cruisers, same displacement, almost same dimensions, 34 knots, but the Italians wanted again to be faster and achieved 37. Arguably in arillery the French had the advantage of a ninth gun, versus eight, and in addition all nine were independent, while the Italians had solidary twin mounts. But Bertin was single and the French quickly capitalized on this successful “prototype” to start a serie of six cruisers, La Galissonière, launched 1933-37. By all intent and purposes they answered to the 3rd, 4th and 5th groups, also six ships. All also had nine guns, plus intensive seaplane facilities and a straight stem.

Observing this, the Italians planified to out-gun the French, what they did with a fifth group, using the 10,000 tonnes limit available, with the arguably excellent Abruzzi class. They, too, devised triple turrets but instead of having just three and better concentrate armour, the Abruzzi were even longer and much heavier than their predecessor, to still accomodate four turrets, bringing as a result, a total of ten guns (two twin, two triple), retaking the advantage, although with a less stellar speed and better protection.

Ten guns was good for the Mediterranean, but for the wider world, it was just weak: The British with their Town class -their eyes on the far east- setup a large class of cruisers armed with twelve (four triple) guns, while the Americans, having their eyes set on the Japanese, opposed the fifteen guns armed Brooklyn to the Mogami (Five triple). For the last, sixth group of the Condotierri, the Italians stuck to a ten-gun ship, the Ciano class, but the design was delyed and went through a number of modifications, before being cancelled altogether. They would have faced the French De Grasse class, a repeat of the previous class too, with nine guns. There are more to rals about “wartime” heavy cruisers (see later).

About Exports:

With its sleek lines and quad-mast, the DNA is there (Kirov).

One striking aspect where the Italians easily out-do the French at every corner, was their mastery of exporting their designs and concepts. They sold destroyers for example to Turkey and Sweden, and even cruisers to the Thai Kingdom before the war (Taksin ckass). The French only export successes of the interwar were two submarines to Greece and two destroyers to Poland, plus the refit of the old Yavuz.

Italan designers strongly influenced the Swedes and the Russians, selling or designing cruisers to them and to the Spaniards. The Italians were consulted by the Soviet admiralty when it was time to start producing a new generation of cruisers (the Kirov class) and their mark is definitely there when seeing the style of the class and up to the Chapayev class in 1944. Orlando yard also delivered a prototype of super-destroyer for the black sea, the Tachkent, nicknamed “blue beauty”. This was supposed to be a prototype for a new class to be built in USSR but, the war came before the project was realized.

Obviously, design considerations had quite a wight there. Italian designs were aesthetically pleasing, fast and sleek. A reputation which had strong, old historical roots, found in the Renaissance, and which had quite an appeal, still, during the interwar, when streamlining was the norm. Sweden also, in long rivaly with Russia, choose the Italians. Swedish destroyers were strongly influenced by italian design, while the last Swedish cruiser types, the Tre Kronor class, proceeded from an Italian design during WW2, and when completed ad an uncanny “family flair” to late Ansaldo cruiser projects. They are a glimpse into what the hypothetical Spanish cruisers would have look like, if built (see later).

Armament of Italian cruisers

From the highest to lowest caliber. Al links goes to the excellent navweaps.com

Onboard aviation of Italian cruisers

Not all Italian cruisers carried aviation, the largest were concerned: The Trento, Trieste, Bolzano, Cadorna and Diaz, Montecuccoli, Attendolo, Duca D’Aosta, Di Savoia, Abruzzi, Garibali, Ciano (planned). The only large cruisers not fitted with aircraft facilities were the Zara class. The Guissano were not configured for that, and the ‘Capitani Romani’ too small.

The standard model was the Imam Ro-43, a sturdy all-metal gullwing biplane, it will be covered in a specific post as well as the closely derivative IMAM Ro.44 fighter floatplane (1936). The Ro-43 however started to be introduced in 1936, so before that, the Piaggio P.6 catapult-launched floatplane (1927) was likely to be deployed.

Piaggio P.6 (1927): Two-seat catapult-launched seaplane for which Piaggio produced two designs: The P.6bis with a 190 kW (260 hp) Isotta Fraschini V.6 engine driving a pusher propeller. The P.6 had one large central float and two stabilising floats at the wingtips. It was given a nose-mounted A.20 engine. In 1928, the P.6ter was produced based on the P.6 floatplane with the engine boosted to 306 kW (410 hp). 15 P-6ter aircraft were manufactured by the Italian Navy and became widespread on battleships and cruisers.

Macchi M.40 (1928): Single prototype tested. Credits airwar.ru

Captured Cruisers

These were ex-French cruisers, available after Jean de Vienne and La Galissonière, scuttled at Toulon in November 1942, were taken over by the Italian Navy. They were refloated in the following year and redesignated FRII and FRI2 respectively. Plans were drawn up to repair and refit them for Italian service, and work has begun, but very slow progress was made, until both were sunk in Allied air raids. For details of these ships see under France.

WW1 cruisers in interwar and ww2 service

Bari (1920)

Pillau only briefly served in the Reichsmarine, was stricken on 5 November 1919 and was seized by the allies in Cherbourg on 20 July 1920, lated ceded to Italy under the provisionnal name “U”. She was renamed “Bari” recommissioned on 21 January 1924 as scout cruiser. Its 8.8 cm AA guns were replaced by Italian 76 mm (3 in)/40. In August 1925, she ran aground off Palermo (Sicily), refloated on 20 September. She served with Ancona, Taranto and Premuda as the Scout Division of the 1st Squadron at La Spezia.

Modifications: Modified bridge, forward funnel shortened. In 1933–1934, she was refitted for colonial service, converted to oil-firing, with additional oil bunker space, forward funnel removed, the others lowered. She was down to 21,000 shp for 24.5 kn (45.4 km/h; 28.2 mph) but her range went from 2,600 nmi to 4,000 nmi (7,400 km; 4,600 mi) at 14 kts. Bari was sent in the Red Sea, Italian East African fleet, in station until May 1938, relieved by the sloop Eritrea and in September 1939, she received six 20 mm (0.79 in) and six 13.2 mm (0.52 in) AA. In 1940 she was the flagship of the Forza Navale Speciale during the Greek invasion, supporting the attack on Cephalonia and shelled Greek positions in mainland Greece. From April 1941 she escorted convoys to Greece. In 1942, Bari and Taranto were mobilized for the invasion of Malta, to lead the landing force but it was cancelled. In November 1942 she became flagship of the amphibious landing in Corsica and took part in anti-partisan bombardments off the Montenegrin coast. She ended in Livorno, placed in reserve in January 1943.

She was later slated for conversion to an AA cruiser, but the planned rearmament with six 90 mm (3.5 in)/50 guns, eight 37 mm (1.5 in), eight 20 mm/70 scheduled to start on 28 June, was distrupted after an allied bombing which damaged Bari, and she sank in shallow water two days later. The German occupiers parachieved the destruction to retreive scrap metal in 1944. She was raised after the war for BU.

Sunk in Livorno, 1943. Note the hull has been camouflaged.

Bari in 1942, carmouflaged (from reddit, shipporn)

Specifications (as rebuilt)

Propulsion: 2 shafts Parsons turbines, 4 oil-fired boilers, 21,000 shp.

Top speed: 24.5 knots

Armament: 10 x 152 (2×2, 2×3), 8 x 76mm (8×1), 8 x 37 AA, 8 x 13.2 AA, 6 x 533 mm TTs (2×3)

Venezia class cruisers (1920)

Both Venezia and Brindisi were former Admiral Spaun class cruisers, given a war prize. Italy received Helgoland on 19 September 1920 (Saint-Germain-en-Laye treaty), she was renamed Brindisi and anchored at Bizerte, Tunisia, rated as esploratore (scout cruiser) and headed for la Spezia on 26 October, for the Scouting Group (Gruppo Esploratori). She was modified from 6 April to 16 June 1921 (notably Italian guns, modified bridge) and became flagship of Rear Admiral Massimiliano Lovatelli, commander of the Light Squadron. She operated off Istanbul and visited several ports in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. She relieved San Giorgio as flagship of the Eastern Squadron and departed on 6 October for the Eastern Squadron, back to Italy on 7 January 1924.

Brindisi hosted King Victor Emmanuel III during the Fiume transfer ceremony (Treaty of Rome), then was transferred to Libya. Back to Italy she was transferred to the Scout Squadron in 1926 and soon paced in reserve, reactivated in 1927, assigned flagship of the 1st Destroyer Squadron (Rear Admiral Enrico Cuturi). She then joined the Special Squadron (Rear Admiral Antonio Foschini) on 6 June 1928. In 1929, she cruised the Eastern Mediterranean and she was disarmed on 26 November, used as a depot ship at Ancona, Pula, and Trieste, stricken in 1937.

Saida was also ceded to Italy, commissioned as Venezia on 5 July 1921. Like he sister, her 6.6 cm AA guns were replaced by 37 mm (1.5 in); and she served from 1930 as a barracks ship at Genoa and La Spezia. In September 1935, she was drydocked at La Spezia and prepared to be scrapped, which was only done after she was sold on 11 March 1937. Note: Photos of both cruisers are excessively rare. If you know some, please contact me !

Ancona (1920)

Ancona in 1930, showing her new bow and catapult

Graudenz only served briefly with the Reichsmarine in 1919 but she was stricken in March 1920, surrendered to the Allies as war prize, awarded to Italy on 1 June 1920 (“E”) in Cherbourg. She was renamed Ancona, and overhauled at arrival between 1921 and 1924. This extensive reconstruction saw her partially re-boilered (six oil-fired models) the remaining six modified as mixed (oil-coal). Coal storage space was reduced from 1,280 down to 900 metric tons while oil bunkerage went from 375 t to 1,520 t. She saw her superfiring 15 cm gun moved amidships but was moved back later to make room for a new platform holding a scout plane. She carried a Macchi M.7, then CANT 25AR.

Ancona was fully recommissioned on 6 May 1925 but soon was refitted again in 1928–1929. A fixed aircraft catapult was installed in the bow whih was lenghtened, into a specific clipper bow. She also tested the utility of a bow fixed catapult. The arrangement was used in the Trento and Zara classes notably. Ancona joined Bari and Taranto and Premuda to form the Scout Division, 1st Squadron (esploratori) in La Spezia from 1929. Ancona was in average condition, and was laid up in Taranto after her only cruise in August 1932. She served as spare parts reserve for Bari and Taranto, for that the admiraly had trouble to maintain properly.

There were proposals at that time to rebuilt Ancona more thoroughly as a colonial cruiser in 1936 (new oil-fired boilers ducted into a single large funnel, more range, three 76 mm (3.0 in)/40 AA guns. But it was dropped due to cost issues. In April it was proposed to just arm her as a floating AA battery. Both her boilers and aft superstructure were to have been removed, providing space for twenty-six 100 mm (3.9 in) 47-cal. guns, all twin mounts, plus installation of a dedicated fire-control director. The cost seemed excessive and the project dropped again. Third option, futting a new propulsion system for her to be used as escort vessel. But she was evetually stricken on 11 March 1937 and sold.

Ancona 1935 AA conversion project

Tarento (1920)

Cruiser Tarento, former SMS Strassburg. The Tarento was the former German cruiser KMS Strassburg granted in 1920 as a war damage to the Italian government, along with Venezia and Brindisi (former Austro-Hungarian class Saida), and Ancona (formerly Graudenz), and Bari (ex.Pillau). The Tarento was completely rebuilt in 1936-37, the front funnel was truncated in the second and at when war started, AA artillery was added, in four twin mounts, 20 mm Breda cannons.

Tarento served as a colonial cruiser, but guarded the territorial waters during the war. She was scuttled at La Spezia to avoid capture during the 1943 surrender by the Germans. They managed to get the ship back, but the repairs were underway when an allied raid sank the ship in October. She was refloated and sank again during another air raid, and this time it was left as is. The hull will be refloated after the war.

What-if camouflaged Tarento in 1942 – Author’s illustration.

Note: A dedicated post will be made on the future, with profile reconstitutions and far more data and photos.

San Giorgio class cruisers (1908)

San Giorgio at Tobruk, 1940

The San Giorgio and the San Marco were two battlecruisers of 1908, which made the pride of the Italian Navy. Already in 1918, they were overwhelmed, but the Admiralty decided to keep one in use, the San Giorgio, to convert it into a coastal defense vessel, preferably assigned to the colonies of North Africa. While his twin was disarmed and converted into a target ship, the San Giorgio was brought to the arsenal of La Spezia in 1937 for major redesign work, which largely changed its appearance.

Her powerplant was modified, as she received 4 oil boilers instead of the original 8 coal-firing ones, reduced masts, remodeled superstructures, and the AA artillery was considerably beefeded up, with eight 100 mm guns, and seven twin 13.2 mm heavy machine guns. They kept part of their armor and heavy guns, still very effective despite their limited range and rate of fire. In 1940, San Giorgio received an additional 100mm twin turret and 6 twin AA 20 mm Breda AA gns to be used in Tobruk as AA defense battery ship. She was scuttled there at the announcement of the impending capture of the city by British troops, on January 22, 1941.

Author’s Illustration of San Giorgio in 1942


Displacement: 9,470 t. standard -11 500 t. Full Load

Dimensions: 145 m long, 18.90 m wide, 6.30 m draft

Propulsion: 2 propellers, 4 Yarrow boilers, 60,000 hp.

Top speed: 14 knots

Armour: Belt 250, bridge 30-60, turrets 250, blockhouse 300 mm

Armament: 4 x 254 (2×2), 8 x 152 (4×2), 8 x 100 (4 × 2), 14 x 13.2 AA, 2 x 533 mm sub TTs

Crew: 650

Read More/Src

Conway’s all the worlds fighting ships 1906-21 & 1922-46

on FR archive

Nomenclature of ww2 italian cruisers

Trento class class heavy cruisers (1924)

In 1920, Italy emerged from conflict with old ships of low military value. The Washington Treaty had set standards for heavy cruisers, and the arrangement of eight 8-in (203mm) in four twin turrets for less than 10,000 tons was followed by all signatory nations, including France, which studied them in 1922-23. The Italians defined the Trento in the 1924 program as ships for which speed was paramount, as were battle cruisers, due to their traditional role of fleets scouts and commerce raiders.

They had to escape battleships while posing a threat to light cruisers and destroyers. As a result, the Trentos had only 4-in plating as maximal protection, and standard internal shielding forming a “box” extending from the second to the third main turret. Turrets faces and conning tower only were given 100 mm armor thickness.

This light construction resulted in excessive vibrations at full speed from the tripod masts, shaking the firing direction station. This grave defect that was eliminated by the reinforcement of these masts (5-pods) and the installation of additional framing making the top speed speed falling to 31-32 knots. They carried two seaplanes, launched from the catapult of forward deck in front of the turrets, and housed in the hangar located just in front of the first turret.

Their main anti-aircraft artillery counted dual-purpose 100 mm shielded twin mounts, which had a relative effectiveness because of their WW1-vintage Austrian origin, readapted to specific marine DP, but of weak range, muzzle velocity and rate of fire. They were replaced by the new models in 1933. The AA passed from a few 40 mm and 12.7 mm HMGs during the rearmament of 1937, to new twin 37 mm mounts instead and in addition to extra Breda HMGs.

Their active career was full, the two ships participating in the Battle of Cape Matapan, the Trento participating in the action of Calabria in July 1940, then in the second battle of the Great Sirte in March 1942 and was sunk by HMS Umbra during operations against convoys to Malta, 15 June 1942. Trieste, torpedoed in November 1942 while escorting a convoy by HMS Utmost, managed to return to Messina with several thousand tons of water in her hull. She was sunk by RAF aircrafts in the harbor of Maddalena, Sardinia, on April 10, 1943.

Proposal to convert the Bolzano into an aircraft carrier.


Displacement: 10,340 t. standard -13,330 t. Full Load
Dimensions: 197 m long, 20.60 m wide, 6.80 m draft
Propulsion: 4 shaft Parsons turbines, 12 Yarrow boilers, 150,000 hp.
Top speed: 36 knots
Armor: Belt 70, decks 50, turrets 100, blockhouse 100 mm
Armament: 8 x 203 (4×2), 16 x 100 (8×2), 4 x 40 AA, 8 x 13.2 AA, 8 x 533 mm TTs (4×2)
Crew: 780

Giussano class light cruisers (1927)

The four cruisers of the Giussano class are the first in the Condottieri series. These are Albercio da Barbiano, Amberto di Guissano, Bartolomeo Colleoni and Giovanni delle Bande Nere. They were originally designed to respond effectively to heavy French destroyers of the Eagle, Jaguar and Lion classes. In order to do this, they sacrificed everything at the speed.

Indeed with 38 to 39 knots in practice, and even 42 for Barbiano, they were among the fastest cruisers in the world. However, their protection was almost non-existent, and their stability was mediocre, which made them bad shooting platforms. The range of their parts was to ensure their protection at a distance of 5 bursts per minute.

They were also uncomfortable, poorly arranged and suffered from poor autonomy. In operations, these defects reappeared, and none survived. The Bande Nere was sunk by the submarine HMS Urge near Stromboli, the Colleoni in July 1940 by the cruiser Sydney, the Barbiano and Giussano by destroyers HMS Legion, Maori, Sikh and Dutchman Isaac Swers during the battle of the cape Good December 13, 1941.


Displacement: 5,110 t. standard -6,840 t. Full Load
Dimensions: 169.30 m long, 15.30 m wide, 5.30 m draft
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 Belluzzo turbines, 8 Yarrow boilers, 95,000 hp.
Top speed: 36.5 knots
Armor: 42, Deck 20, Turrets 23, Blockhouse 40-25 mm
Armament: 8 x 152mm (4×2), 6 x 100mm (3×2), 8 x 37mm AA, 8 x 13.2mm AA, 4 x 533 TTs mm (2×2)
Crew: 520

Cadorna class light cruisers (1930)


The second Condottieri group was to have in 1930 two units very close to the previous Giussano. They corrected one of the essential shortcomings, stability, on the one hand by adopting side “bulges”, but also by lowered superstructures and better distributed weaponry. These efforts were accompanied by a slight increase in weight, their dimensions remaining unchanged, and they had new, more spacious turrets for their servants. Following the very fast but fragile Giussano, the two Cadornas are coming to their senses.

Equipped to lay mines, they could carry 138 of the smallest model. The Cadorna managed to reach 39.7 knots during testing. it was rearmed in 1944, receiving 4 double 20 mm AA carriages and losing its catapult and torpedo tubes. It survived the war and remained in service until 1951. Its twin Armando Diaz received a torpedo volley from the submarine HMS Upright and sank while escorting a convoy to Tripoli in February 1941.


Displacement: 5,230 t. standard -7,000 t. Full Load
Dimensions: 169.30 m long, 15.50 m wide, 5.50 m draft
Propulsion: propeller machines, 2 Parsons turbines, 6 Yarrow boilers, 95,000 hp.
Top speed: 36.5 knots
Armour: Belt 40, bridge 20, turrets 23, blockhouse 40 mm
Armament: 8 x 152 (4×2), 6 x 100 (8×2), 2 x 40 AA, 8 x 13.2 AA, 4 x 533 mm TTs (2×2)
Crew: 544

Heavy cruiser Bolzano (1932)

Author’s profile of Bolzano

The heavy cruiser Bolzano was both from the previous Trento and Trieste, but revised and corrected following the construction of the four Zara. The latter had better protection at the cost of their speed. With the Bolzano, we had tried to remedy it. It was put on hold in 1930 and completed in 1932, commissioned the following year. Of dimensions and tonnages neighbor of the Trieste, its hull was however with detachment (forecastle) and not more flush-deck, and its superstructure of completely different footbridge.

Instead of a simple tower anchored to the front tripod mast, it encompassed the tripod mast and front chimney and was larger. The Bolzano had eight 203 mm pieces in four classic double turrets, complemented by eight double 100 mm, four 40 mm single, and eight 13 mm Breda machine guns, in addition to the two fixed flanks of lance tubes. -torpilles. The power unit had been split into two units to provide a central hangar for three seaplanes, served by a catapult between the two funnels.

In 1938-39 this armament was revised. One of the 100 mm double turrets was landed for four more 20 mm and later four additional 20 mm carriages in 1942. During the Battle of Calabria he was hit by three shells. Later in 1941, it was torpedoed by the HMS Triumph, then in 1942 by HMS Unbroken and remained in repairs until the Italian capitulation in La Spezia. It was the Italians themselves who sent it to the bottom with the MAS75 to avoid its capture by the Germans. It will be refloated and demolished after the war.


Displacement: 10 886 – 13 865 FL
Dimensions: 197 x 20.60 x 6.80m.
Propulsion: 2 Parsons turbines with reducers and 10 Yarrow boilers, 2 propellers, 150,000 hp and 36 knots
Armor: Decks 50 mm, belt 70 mm, turrets 100 mm, CT 100 mm
Crew: 780
Armor: 8×203 (4×2), 16×100 (8×2), 4×40, 8×13 AA, 2×4 TTs 533mm.

Zara class Cruisers 1933

Author’s profile of the Zara class

The four Zara class ships remain the most famous Italian cruisers of the Second World War for having the sad privilege, with the three American cruisers of the New Orleans class a little later, to have been cast at close range without having fired a single shot, and this during the famous battle of Cape Matapan, probably the first and last big classic engagement of Regia Marina. The Zara (launched in 1930), the Fiume (1930), the Gorizia (1930), the Pola (1931), were an evolution of the heavy cruiser after the two Trento.

It was a question moving the cursor from speed to protection, in particular by the adoption of smaller dimensions (183 against 196 meters long, but a width unchanged to preserve stability, as well as refitted superstructures, and in general vital parts concentrated in a short space for a better repartition of the armor). Thus their full speed displacement increased from 13,300 to 14,300 tons). Also protection reached in many places 150 mm against 100 to 70 at best on both Trento.

Their firepower remained unchanged except for the range of 203 mm pieces, their best DCA and the abandonment of the torpedo tubes. Developing 95,000 hp instead of 150,000, because of the reduction in the number of boilers (8 against 12), their maximum speed in operation did not exceed 32 knots. However at the tests, the Pola maintained 34.2 knots with all the available power. the Pola had a bridge structure different from the other three since it extended to the rear, encompassing the funnel a concept that was taken over the Bolzano.

The Zara class in action
All four were therefore sunk by war, Zara, Pola and Fiume during the fatal night of March 29, 1941 off Cape Matapan, and the Gorizia in June 1944 by chariots handled by Free Italian crews. South in the harbor of La Spezia.


Displacement 11,680 tons standard -14,300 tons Fully Loaded
Dimensions: 182,80 m long, 20,62 m large, 7,20 m draft
Machinery: 2 shaft Parsons turbines, 8 Thornycroft boilers, 95,000 hp.
Top speed: 32 knots
Protection: Belt 150, decks 70, turrets 150-120, CT 150 mm
Armament: 8×203 (4×2), 6×100 (8×2), 6×40 AA, 8×13.2 AA
Crew: 880

Montecuccoli & Duca d’Aosta class cruisers (1934)

Author’s profile of the D’Aosta class

The four cruisers of groups III and IV of the superclass Condottieri, included Raimondo Montecuccoli (launched in 1934), Muzio Attendolo (1934), for the first and Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta (1934), Eugenio di Savoia (1935) for the second. These four buildings, very similar in design and appearance, only differed in size and displacement. They were a real advance over the previous “Cadorna”, from a “destroyer killer” role to that of “cruisers” truly.

The major concern was to increase protection. Therefore we opted for a full and thicker armor, which was also reflected in the layout plan larger volume. Much more habitable (12 meters longer, 1.10 in width and 50 cm of additional draft), and better protected, (between 100 and 60 mm in places against 40 mm at most on Cadorna), these units sacrificed finally little speed: With 106,000 hp against 95,000 on the previous class, and despite a displacement of 8850 tons against 7000 at full load, they managed to support 37 knots at full speed.

The armament did not change, except in the adoption of a DCA at the height (4 double carriages of 37 mm against 2 singles of 40 mm on the Cadorna). The buildings of the Duca d’Aosta class took up most of it, if not further improved protection, and had larger dimensions, of the order of 187 meters long by 17.50 meters in width, a much larger displacement, rising to 10 600 tons at full load, compared with the 6800 tons of Group I in 1930. Their speed fell slightly with a power of 110,000 hp, at 36.5 knots. Of these four buildings, only one was lost in combat, the Muzio Attendolo during the RAF bombing of Naples on 4 December 1942. Montecuccoli served as a cadet training ship until 1964, and both of Group IV were awarded to the USSR and Greece in war damage. Under the name of Kerch the first served until 1958-59 as auxiliary cruiser, the second under the name of Helle until 1964.


Displacement: 7,405 t. standard -8 850 t. Full Load
Dimensions: 182.20 m long, 16.60 m wide, 6 m draft
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 Belluzzo turbines, 6 Yarrow boilers, 106,000 hp.
Top speed: 37 knots
Armor: Belt 85, bridge 30, turrets 70, blockhouse 100 mm
Armament: 8 guns 152 (4 × 2), 6 guns 100 (3 × 2), 8 of 37 AA (4 × 2), 8 of 13.2 AA, 4 TLT 533 mm (2 × 2)
Crew: 650

Abruzzi class cruisers (1937)

Author’s profile of the Abruzzi class

This class also counting the Guiseppe Garibaldi was built by OTO shipyards in La Spezia, the lead ship being named after Luigi Amedeo, Duke of Abruzzo, Italian explorer and admiral of the First World War. The Duca degli Abruzzi class cruisers were the final version of the long-standing Condottieri class and were bigger and better protected than their predecessors. The armament was increased by two additional 152 mm guns in triple turrets at positions A and Y.

The engine unit was also fully revised, allowing greater reliability but with a slightly lower maximum speed than their predecessors. The first of the two cruisers was completed in 1937, forming the 8th Cruiser Division 8 with Giuseppe Garibaldi. Duca Degli Abruzzi, known for his famous zebra camouflage applied in 1942 participated in the Battle of Calabria, leading the squadron of light cruisers that fired the first salvoes of the battle in September 1940. Part of the fleet tried to intercept the British convoys which led to the Battle of Cape Matapan September 24, 1941.

The Degli Abruzzi was damaged by an aviation torpedo on 22 November 1941, was repaired, but interned by the Allies after the Italian Armistice. He later served in the South Atlantic against operations against potential German privateers. After the war its torpedo tubes were replaced by two 4-inch anti-aircraft guns.

In 1953, the ship was upgraded, equipped with a radar AN / SPS-6 2D aerial watch. Following negotiations leading to the handover of Trieste to Italy, the cruiser was transferred from Taranto to Venice, in order to strengthen Italy’s position at the negotiating table. On October 26, 1954, the Duca degli Abruzzi was the flagship of the Italian naval force taking possession of the port facilities of Trieste. He served still in the Marina Militare until 1961.


Displacement: 9,440 – 11,575 tonnes FL
Dimensions: 187 x 18.90 x 6.80m.
Propulsion: 2 shafts with reducers, 8 Yarrow boilers, 100,000 hp, 34 knots
Armor: crew: Bridges 40 mm, belt 130 mm, turrets 135 mm, blockhouse 100 mm, Crew 692
Armament: 10×152 (2×3, 2×2), 8×100 (4×2), 8×13 AA, 8 (2×4) 533 mm TTs.

“Capitani Romani” class light cruisers (1941)

In this class a return was made to the concept of ‘destroyer of destroyers’, The ships were intended primarily to counter the large French destroyers of the Fantasque and Mogador classes and, as those ships had design speeds Machinery: of 39-40kts, the exceptionally high speed of 41kts was specified for the new design. To allow for the construction of a reasonable number, and keep costs down, design displacement was limited to 3400t with only splinter protection to the machinery, guns and control positions. In effect the resulting vessels were little more than very large, fast destroyers, although they had a distinctive cruiser profile with a flush deck and two funnels. Detailed design resulted in a slight increase in displacement and abandonment of the machinery protection, splinter plating being provided for the bridge (15mm) and gun turrets (20mm) only.

The machinery was arranged in two separate groups each consisting of 2 boilers and 1 turbine, one group forward and one aft separated by a small auxiliary machinery room amidships. All boilers were in individual compartments.
No trials appear to have been run, as those units completed did so after the outbreak of war, but they are reported to have reached 41kts in service with Augusto and Germanico, was reach out without difficulty. Sea speed was 36kts, an excellent figure which would have allowed sufficient margin for both running down destroyers and escaping from cruisers. The 135mm guns were fitted in twin turrets providing Displacement: 3686t standard, Dimensions:
455ft pp. (138.76 m), 142 feet wide, 2-shaft Belluzo, Armament: 8-135mm, Complement: 418 (as designed).

The 135mm guns were fitted in twin turrets providing 45 elevation, giving a range of 21,400yds, and a rate of fire of 6 rounds per minute. They also carried a new type of quadruple TT (with the tubes in two vertical pairs instead of the more usual side-by-side arrangement) and 24 DCs. and were equipped for minelaying (114-130 mines depending on type). Of the three units completed, Africano carried a short pole mast on her after director, Regolo a pole mast abaft her secund funnel and Magno no mast. All three were fitted with a tripod foremast to support the aerial of an EC3 radar set but only Regolo and Africano were actually fitted with the equipment. Work on Druso, Tiberio, Agrippa and Emilio ceased in June 1940, Truiano was sunk by “Chariots” Tranterred to Palermo.

Mario was completed as a hulk for use as a fuel depot in January 1943 and, with the incomplete Silla, Augusto and Germanico, was seized by the Germans afher the surrender. Silla and Augusto were sunk in Allied air raids, at Genoa and Ancona respectively. Mano und Germanico were suttled by the Germans, the former at La Spezia and the later, 28.9.43, at Castellammare. In 1947, Germanico was salvaged and, together with Magno, was completely refitted and modernised 1951-55. They were renamed San Marco and San Gorgio respectively, being classified as scouts initially and then destroyer leaders. Regolo and Africano were transferred to France in 1948 under the terms of the peace treaty and renamed Chateaurenault and Guichen respectively. They were discarded in 1962 and 1961 and became training hulks.

Extra Note:
French heavy destroyers posed a threat to the Regia Marina. The last ones, those of the Mogador and Fantasque class, must have had an appropriate response. This is the “super destroyer” project, a concept that emerged from what the Royal Navy called flotilla leaders, and which it began to build in 1916-17. During the thirties, the concept was reinterpreted, and shortly before the war, these ships had in common exceptional dimensions, an armament composed of four double turrets and more, and guns of 130 to 140 mm. All the navies built them, the Soviets had the Kiev and Tashkent, the British built the Dido, the Americans the Atlanta, the Japanese the Akitsuki.

The speed was, as for the first “Condottieri”, an important motivation, and the new specifications included the possibility of exceeding 41 knots. With limited movement and poor engine room protection, these buildings needed to be able to catch destroyers and evade cruisers. They were armed with the new 138mm Model 1939 guns common with the Commander Medaglie d´Oro class of destroyers. for the rest, their configuration was that of large destroyers, with two quadruple axial torpedo banks and a powerful AA armament. But under construction in 1939, the 12 units fell victim to the start of the war and only 8 units were launched and 3 completed, the Attilio Regolo in May 1942, the Scipione Africano in April 1943 and the Pompeo Magno in June 1943. The Giulio Germanico was after the war and with the Pompeo Magno, completely modernized and renamed, remained in service until 1964 and 1971. The other two went to France in 1948.


Displacement: 3,680 t. standard -5,334 t. Full load
Dimensions: 142.90 m long, 14.40 m wide, 4.90 m draft
Propulsion: 2 shaft 2 Belluzzo turbines, 4 Thornycroft boilers, 110,000 hp, 40 kts
Armor: None
Armament: 4×2 138, 8 x 37 AA, 4×2 20 AA, 2×4 533 mm.
Crew: 420

Italian cruisers projects

Costanzio Ciano class (1939)

Src: stefsap.wordpress.com, modified by me.

Slightly improved versions of the Abruzzi class, ordered under the COSTANZO CIANO class (“Condottieri type – sixth 1939 40 Programme but suspended in June 1940 and never begun owing displacement: 9615t standard; 11,810t full load to the need to concentrate available resources on smaller warships. They Would have been of similar appearance to the previous class but with a bridge structure modelled on that of the Littorio class and the modernised battleships.

Other variations included the provision of thicker deck protection, higher power machinery to compensate for increased size, a modified AA battery to include new 90mm and 20mm mountings, and a proposal to carry 4 instead of 2 aircraft. The proposed name for the second vessel was altered in 1940. These were the COSTANZO CIANO and VENEZIA (ex-Luigi Riamo). Armament comprised ten 152mm/55 Modello 36 in two triple and two upper twin turrets, like for the Garibaldi class, and eight twin 90mm 50 AA DP, plus two triple deck 533mm TTs, and two Depht Charge throwers. 3D ViewRead More

Costanzio Ciano class Specifications

Displacement: 9615 tonnes standard, 11,810 tonnes FL
Dimensions: 620ft oa x 62ft 4in x 22t 7in mean at full load (189.00 x 19.00 x 6.90m)
Propulsion: 2-shaft geared turbines, 8 boilers, 115,000hp 35ks
Armor: Belt 100mm, deck 45mm, turrets 14imm. CT 40mm
Armament: 10x152mm/55 Mod 36 (2×3, 2x 2), 8x90mm 50 AA (6×2), 6x533mm TT (2×3), 2 DC throwers

Progetto 986 CL (1940)

To be named “Giovanni Vitelleschi”, this was extracted from National maritime archives. A 15,500 tonnes wartime light cruiser design, 213.9 m long for 22 m in beam.
She was to be armed with four triple 152 mm guns (same model as Ciano or /60 caliber), two quadruple 21-inches (533 mm) torpedo tubes banks, six twin 90 mm duel purpose guns, eight twin 37 mm Breda AA guns, four twin 20 mm Breda AA guns. Her armour would have been around 150 mm for the main barbettes,
Barb 150

Estimated Specifications

Dimensions: 620ft oa x 62ft 4in x 22t 7in mean at full load (213.90 x 22.00 x 7m)
Propulsion: 2-shaft geared turbines, 8 boilers, 200,000hp 35ks
Armor: Belt 120mm, deck 50mm, turrets 150mm. CT 50mm
Armament: 12x152mm/55 Mod 36*(4×3), 8x90mm 50 AA (6×2), 8x533mm TT (2×4), 8×2 37mm, 2×2? 20mm AA

Spanish Proposal (1940)

Also known as Project XII to the Spanish, this 1937 proposal by Ansaldo was ordered by Spain. There were three variants of what is called now by historians, Italy’s “super washington” cruisers. They are a reminder of what Itakly could have produced in wartime with the right industrial capabilities, time and budget, freed from the Washington treaty and London treaty limits. Two of the the proposals were equipped with eight-in guns (203 mm) either with simple four twin or three triple main turrets, but the most extreme had no less than four triple 152mm main gun in a configuration recaling the IJN Mogami.

As late designs all three benefits from the panel of modern AA the Italian industry had to offer tat that time, 90mm, 37mm and 20mm AA guns. The Spanish proposal was also much heavier and larger than previous designs or the Ciano class, because they were considered as “armoured cruisers”, wielding a better armor, and also a better torpedo armament with quadruple tubes, uncommon for Italian cruisers. The powerplant was a match for the size of these ships, twice the Washington standard, with enormous output figures in order to reach 37 knots, on a well a streamlined hull and favourable width ratio.

The was also an Ansaldo project for Russia, but information is scarce about it, but figures such as deck armour thickness of 120mm and 37mm AA guns (not 57mm), other specs being of four triple 152mm Guns, twelve single 90mm AA Guns, eight twin 57mm AA Guns, four twin and two single 20mm AA Breda Guns and the same two quadruple 533mm Torpedo Tubes plus facilities for two Heinkel He 114 seaplanes, which are rather large to be carried on a regular cruiser.

On this matter, the real specialist is Stefano Sappino. He has an entire blog devoted to battleships and cruisers projects, the excellent https://stefsap.wordpress.com.

At the end of the civil war, there were numerous contacts between the Armada and the Regia Marina, orders to Italian shipyards in order to strengthen its depleted and aging battle fleet in case of another conflict or just for Franco to have its country assets and borders respected. Nobody forgot about the humiliation of 1898. At that time indeed, the only really modern cruiser in service in the Armada was the Canarias, a 1920s County class design. Ansaldo developed a whole serie of proposals, including a modified version of the battleships the Vittorio Veneto which did not went into initial stage as conditions of the Spanish economy plus the war in 1939 meant Italy could no afford to built and deliver the goods, having other priorities.

Ansaldo developed several proposals based on similar hulls in size (213 m inlength) with an average standard displacement of 16,000 tons, and either 203 mm or 152 mm main artillery. General tables of some of these projects are all dated from March 9, 1940, and now available in the Historical Archives of Ansaldo.

-The first project was a cruiser with four twin 203 mm towers, six twin 90 mm AA but with mounts very similar to the twin 100 mm onboard Italian cruisers of that time.

-The second project is armed with four 203mm triple turrets to enhance the ship’s capabilities, far beyond what was allowed by naval treaties of the time.

-The third project was a more balanced cruiser with armed with four triple 152 mm turrets and twelve 90/50 AA on the modernized Duilio and Vittorio Veneto mount type. Their “rhomboid” arrangement was very similar to the Veneto.

The similarity of this hypothetical cruiser with the Abruzzi is very revealing, and sources relates to the never built Constranzo Ciano class. These designs were never fully developed at project level by Ansaldo design team, so no general plans exist for these ships. In “cruisers of the Second World War” (Parma, Albertelli, 1974), Giorgio Giorgerini reports the Ciano was given ten 152 mm guns as for the Abruzzi with the same arrangement but only eight 90/50 AA guns. The Spanish projects were born from a different philosophy but would have shared many elements with the Ciano class anyway.

These Ansaldo projects also had nothing to do with the Taksin class for the Siam Navy later taken over by the Regia Marina as the Etna class. They were tailored, much smaller and cheaper units armed with the same light artillery as for the ‘Capitaci Romani’ serie and had a probably troop transport/supply carrier role as for the large unprotected spaces at the bow and stern, to be used by the Italians to North Africa. Src and also this.

Estimated Specifications

Displacement: 22.000 tons standard, 26.700 tons fully loaded
Dimensions: 620ft oa x 62ft 4in x 22t 7in mean at full load (241.50 x 28.00 x 7.45m)
Propulsion: 2-shaft geared turbines, 8 boilers, 240,000hp 37ks
Armor: Belt: 150mm, Deck: 90mm
Armament: 3×3 250 mm, 6×2 130 mm, 6×2 100 mm, 32×45 mm, 2×3 533 mm

Etna class (1941)

These two vessels were ordered by Siam in 1938 and were originally to have mounted 152mm in three twin turrets, completed by six 76mm AA (6x 1) guns and four twin 13.2mm(guns plus two triple 533mm TT (21 in) tubes banks plus an aircraft catapult amidships. Work on these vessels at CRDA, Trieste, was stopped in December 1941, and they were taken over by the Italian Government on 6.8 1942 and renamed. The design was modified to that of an AA cruiser with new guns and the TT and catapult omitted. The bridge was moved further aft, necessitating a raked funnel, the superstructure was remodelled and the mainmast omitted. The Machinery was arranged on the unit sytem with 3 boilers in separate compartments, 2 forward of the forward engine room and the third between the two engine rooms. Protection consisted of a 60mm belt with 20mm splinter bulkheads inboard covered by a 20mm deck. Between the splinter bulkheads the deck increased to 35mm. Standard displacement was still close to 6,000 tonnes, so as completed and fully loaded, battle ready they would have been around at least 6,900 tonnes or 7,000, twice the Capitani Romani, while being slow at 28 knots.

Work on the two vessels recommenced but proceeded very slowly owing to wartime shortages of material and labour and on the surrender in Sept. 1943, they were only 60 per cent complete. They were seized by the Germans on 10.9.43 who carried on the construction for a short period and then scuttled the ships at Trieste. They were salvaged after the war and scrapped in 1949.

Extra Note:
The Italians have always been happier when exporting than the French during the interwar period. Their ships were undoubtedly more aesthetic, more modern in appearance, but above all much less expensive. In addition to their sales to many countries, collaborations with the USSR, two Italian cruisers were ordered by Siam (Thailand) in 1938. It was the Taksin class (We will come back to the subject with the study of the navy from Siam); They were laid down in August and September 1939 at CRDA Montfalcone, but with the onset of the war, construction slowed down sharply, due to a lack of manpower and materials before stopping completely in December 1941. Etna and Vesuvio were launched respectively in May 1942 and August 1941, but political will was not enough to move work forward, as construction issues at that time remained the same. These two ships are interesting as export cruisers but their weak armament bodes badly for their possible role within the Regia Marina. They were underarmed and underpowered, having only the engine power of a destroyer. Poorly protected, they had on the other hand an excellent AA defense and made sense to escort convoys in the Mediterranean.

Specifications Etna class

Displacement: 5,900 t. standard -6,600 t. est. Full load
Dimensions: 153.80 m long oa, 14.47 m wide, 5.95 m draft
Propulsion: 2 shaft Parsons geared turbines, 3 boilers, 40,000 hp, 28 kts
Armor: 60 mm belt, 20 mm BK, 20 mm deck
Armament: 3×2 135/45 M38, 10x 37mm AA, 20x 20mm AA.
Crew: 420

WW2 Italian battleships

WW2 Italian battleships

Italy (1915-42) – 8 Battleships

Italian Battleships during WW2 were few in numbers, just as French ones, due to the treaty of Washington signed in 1920. But the Regia Marina tried to maintain more than a parity with its Transalpine rival in the Mediterranean, its WW1 capital ships were completely modernized in a way few fleets did while its projected battleships were quite impressive, such as the Carracciolo and pre-treaty postwar projects that would have dwarved anything in the Mediterranean.

Overview of Italian battleships, interwar to WW2

The Littorio, an answer to the French Dunkerque which in turn, already answered the Deutschland class proceeded from a long reflection and ended eventually with an artillery solution that became mainstream by the 1940s. Naval plans in WW2 were shattered as situation changed quickly and prevented to complete the last one, RN Impero. With the fall of France in June 1940 the French fleet was in principle left out of the equation, making on paper the Regia Marina, the dominant force in the Mediterranean.

However there was still an obstacle before Mussolini could complete his dream of “Mare Nostrum”: The Royal Navy, willing to protect both the vital Suez canal, Gibraltar, and Malta in between, fought tooth and nails with the Mediterranean fleet, and both under masterful management by Andrew Cunningham on one side, best use of radar and naval air force, and a more timid command, the lack of radar, and absence of efficient coordination with the Regia Aeronautica decided of the Mediterranean theater: From November 1940 in Tarento, the Italian pearl Harbour, to Matapan, a decivive night fighting, and despite their quality, Italian battleships won’t prevail and ultimately succumb to …German flying bombs, early anti-ship “missiles” in November 1943.

The fate of Dante Aligheri

Dante Aligheri in 1924 – Colorized by Irootoko Jr. More Italian colorization here.

The first Italian dreadnought took a well defined path, which also influence the Russian and and their Austro-Hungarian rivals. They were the only one to use triple turrets, whereas the British, German, French, Americans and Japanese all capitalized in twin turrets. In the early years of the dreadnought, there were doubts about whether it was possible or not to have superimposed turrets. We have to remind that the HMS Dreadnought and following classes had deck-level artillery only, on so were the early Nassau and Helgoland class in Germany. The first to break this engineering wall of using massive superimposed turret were actually not the Brazilians with the Minas Gerais class, started in 1907, but by the Americans with the South Carolina class started in 1906. They showed the way, and rapidy the French followed with the Courbet class. However for the Italians, the minds were set on a triple artillery solution early on, and having these massive turrets in superimposing position, as attractive the idea was, seemed far fetched. They were all placed on deck level, even if this meant to be forced to reduce the overall armour thickness in order to cover a larger area, and to solve secondary armament barbettes placements, eight guns were in twin turrets, long before anyone else. This made the unique RN Dante Aligheri quite original for the time, and the Ansaldo design prepared for the Russian Gangut was basically a close inspiration.

Below are three Ansaldo proposals for Russia, all three of a 23,000 tonnes, triple turret configuration battleship.

All three were prepared by Guiseppe Tavola, chief engineer at Ansaldo in 1908.

-Design A (left) was a 23,000 tonnes standard, 176m x 28m x 8,15m, 21knots, armored with 203mm/102mm Upper belt, 102mm decks, 256 mm CT, 51 mm ASW longit. bulkheads and armed with 6×3 305mm, 16×1 120mm Casemated Guns.
-Design B (middle) was a 21.650 tons project, 167m x 27m x 8,15m, 21,25 knots, same armor but 4×3 305 mm Cannons
-Design C (right) was a 22.000 tons project, 178m x 27m x 8,15m, same speed, same armor and armament but different configuration.
This leaves quite a grasp of what the Italians could have produced of not budget constrained to a specific tonnage. The “A” proposal would have, with no less than 18 12-inches guns, be a serious adversary for anything else at the time, but perhaps HMS Agincourt and her 14 guns. But the all-axial solution was nevertheless seductive in that no firepower was wasted in batteline broadside fire. The final Italian design was nowhere near these protection figures, with at best 250 mm on the belt, 280 for the CT, but 22.8 knots, which was better than many BBs of the time. The Austro-Hungarians with their Tegetthof still choose to take the engineering risk of having four triple superimposed turrets, less of bravado than forced by the size of the Yard’s basin. And the Italians, seeing the path recoignised beforehand, followed suite with the Cesare class.

Blueprint of the Dante in 1924

In the end, Dante Aligheri, started at Castellammare di Stabia in 1909, served the Regia Marina from 1913, up to 1922 where the Washington treaty put her very existence to question. Would have it be judicious to scrap her and free some tonnage ? In the end it was chosen to convert her as a training ship, modernized. Dante was at the same time, the first modernized Italian battleship of the interwar, and the least modified, as it was known her days were counted.
Her interwar modernization was mostly cosmetic: Starting in 1923, she had a tripod foremast installed to support a modern fire control system for the main artillery, and a catapult installed on the roof of Turret no. 3 for artillery spotting, plus heightening the funnels to have smoke interference less sensitive. The AA was modernized by removing the old 3-in, replaced by two 40mm Vickers AA guns. In 1924 the experimental fire-control system made a test campaign. She would serve until 1928 and as it became apparent Italy could not longer afford to maintain her fleet, chosed to sent her in reserved, and then scrapping from July 1, 1928. If the economic situation would improve, perhaps the Dante would have been rebuilt anew in the late 1930s, but that seems far fetch. The Cavour and Cesare class, better protected and armed, seemed an all-more seductive proposition.

What-if late 1930s modernization of the Dante Aligheri

Cavour class (1913)

The Guilio Cesare at sea in the interwar, dramatic photo colorized by Irootoko jr.

The Cesare was launched in 1913 as a Dreadnought (single-caliber battleships). It was the seed of three vessels (Conte de Cavour class) put on hold in 1910 and launched in 1911, completed in 1913-1914. The Leonardo Da Vinci, third in the class, was destroyed by an explosion in an ammunition bay in 1916 and scrapped in 1923. In 1932-33, the two remaining ships were placed in reserve or training, then rebuilt in Genoa (Cesare) and Trieste (Cavour) in October 1933. This absolutely radical overhaul, unprecedented in naval history led by Vice-Admiral and General of Naval Engineering Francesco Rotundi included:
-New engines and boilers, 2 new shafts, new propellers, new oil heated boilers, new funnels, new turbines for much increased performance.
-Two new masts, new gangway superstructure, new bridge, new rangefinders and optical instruments, radio and Wireless TF.
-Newly recast main cannons, rebored and relined from 305mm to 320mm, higher elevation and better range, redesigned turrets.
-A secondary artillery in turrets (removal of barbettes), in 6 twin 120mm turrets.
-AA with 6 dual purpose 102mm and 12 37mm turrets, plus 12 dual 13mm Breda heavy machine gun mounts.
-An elongated hull with a redesigned bow and revised waterlines at the front.
-A completely redesigned armor, with anti-torpedo bulges and increased vertical protection (over the decks and machinery space).
-40% of the old structure was affected from this overhaul.

Cavour in 1938, colorized by Irootoko Jr.

In the end, the two ships emerged in June and October 1937 with a new lease of life, and incorporated all the modern standards of their time. They were part of the 1st Naval Division. After a naval review in the Bay of Naples for Hitler in 1938, their first action was on the Albanian coast in May 1939. Then in July 1940, both were at the battle of Punta Stilo (undecided). RN Cesare was hit on this occasion. After repairs, the two ships tried to stop the convoys to Malta, without success. On November 11, 1940, both ships were attacked by a night raid by British Fairey Swordfish and RN Cavour was put out of action for months in Taranto. In fact, Cavour was later escorted after refloating at Trieste for repairs, which were not completed when Italy surrendered in 1943. That was one of the amazing results of this raid by antiquated biplanes. Post-war rearmament plans never materialized and Cavour was scrapped in 1949.

Conte di Cavour underway before November 1940

For her part, RN Guilio Cesare, spared in Taranto, was in action on November 27 at Cape Sparivento, then she hit in Naples during an air attack in January 1941. In December, she was in action at the first battle of the greater Sirta. Subsequently she became a school ship in Pola, sparing fuel, then conveyed to Malta after the armistice to Taranto, and attacked and torpedoed en route by U-596 in March 1944. But she survived. In 1949 she was given to the Soviet navy in repaired renamed Novorrosiysk. The latter modernized her AA in 1953. She was used as a training ship for the Black Sea when in 1955, at night, she was struck by a German drift mine dating from the war. More than 600 sailors perished, and it became the most serious Soviet maritime disaster.

Battleship Novorrossiysk. Notice her camouflage. src: shipspotting.com Her finl camouflage was dark grey on one side and light grey on the other, with the paint splitting her bridge too. This was one of the most intriguing naval camo ever designed, and it was used for observation testings. Given the links the Russian, and later Soviet navy maintained with Italian naval design, she was treated with respect. Read more.


Displacement: 29,100 tonnes/29,600 tonnes FL
Dimensions: 186.4 x 33.1 x 9.3m.
Propulsion and performances: 2 shafts geared turbines, 8 Yarrow boilers, 75,000 hp, 27 knots, range 6,400 nautical miles
Armor: Decks 135-166mm, barbettes 130-280mm, belt 130-250mm, CT 250mm.
Armament:10 x 320mm (2×2, 2×3),12 x 120mm (6×2), 4x100mm AA, 12x13mm Breda AA.

Doria class (1914)<

The Caio Duilio class differed from the Conte di Cavour class on many points. Their silhouette in particular was very different, but their armament, dimensions and tonnage were quite similar. After an active career during the First World War, the two buildings were taken over for a major overhaul in 1937 and 1940. This redesign incorporated the experience of the reconstruction of the previous battleships but also the studies undertaken for the construction of the battleships Rapids of the Litorrio class. Their engine apparatus was completely modified, their artillery realized and provided with a greater range.

Caio Duilio 1942

The modification points are the same as those of the previous class, with less width and draft, but the main difference concerned secondary armaments:
-Four 135 mm triple turrets (front)
-10 anti-aircraft guns (individual) long range 90mm single mounts guns
-2 twin 37mm mounts, 2 single 20mm AA Breda
-Final tonnage 29,391 tonnes (Duilio) and 28,882 tonnes (Doria)

Back into service

Shortly after its entry into service, the Doria was struck by the torpedo of a swordfish in Taranto and immobilized for months. It was eventually bailed out and brought to Genoa for repairs in May 1941, but did not resume service in 1942 at the November 1943 armistice. It was modernized, received additional AA artillery and a radar and resumed service with the allies. With his sister ship, these two vessels remained in service as a training ship until 1949.

Author’s illustration, 1941

Duilio specifications 1940

Dimensions 186.9 x 29.2 x 8.6m
Displacement 29,100 tonnes /29,400 tonnes FL
Crew 1300?
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 reduction turbines, 8 Yarrow boilers, 90 000 hp
Speed 27 knots (40 km/h; mph)
Range 6,700 nmi ()
Armament 10x 355mm (2×2, 2×3), 12 x135mm (4×3), 10 x90mm AA, 12x 37mm, 15x 20mm Breda AA.
Armor Decks 135-166 mm, barbettes 130-280mm, belt 130-250mm, blockhaus 250mm.

The unfinished Carracciolo class (1916)

Author’s illustration of the Carracciolo
The RN Francesco Caracciolo was the firs Italian ‘super dreadnought’, launched on 12 May 1915 at Castellamare di Stabia. The initial project called for a 35,000 tons battleship capable of 28 knots, with fur triple turrets and twenty 152 mm guns in casemates. Designs were were presented by Ansaldo Yard (engineer Nabor Soliani) and by Orlando Yard (engineer Orlando) but also the Odero Yard (engineer Scribanti). They were presented by General Ferrati, General Carpi and colonels Rota and Russo, Ferrati being the one who decided the best one. As the Italian industry would need to be ramped up and there was no time for this, requirements were lowered to an eight 381 mm guns battleship displacing a more reasonable 31,000 tons. Experiences on models were conducted in La Spezia, at Freude tank, to find what was the best hull shaped. Other scale models were designed to received a reduced underwater protection, tested against light explosives. Venica arsenal worked on the horizontal protection and La Spezia on the oil boilers and the connected pipes.

wow’s take on a what-if modernized version of the Carracciolo, if built.

After the design was approved, RN Francisco Carraciolo was laid down on 16 October 1914 at Regio Cantiere di Castellammare di Stabia.
However soon, shortages of steel slowed down the construction to a crawl and after May 1915, the admiralty decided to concentrate instead on lighter ships, destroyers, submarines, and notably gunboats, less expensive and more useful. All work as suspended in March 1916, after it went on slowly for almost a year. 9,000 t of steel already had been assembled so Carraciolo was the most advanced at around 80%. Cristoforo Colombo had only 12.5 percent of her hull complete, 5% of the machinery. The last two, Marcantonio Colonna and Francesco Morosini, started in March and June, only had the keel and few plates assembled when it was halted.
The heavy guns however had been manufactured, and were diverted onto the monitor Faà di Bruno, Alfredo Cappellini, the two Monte Santo, four Monte Grappa-class monitors also used them and the remainder were installed on railway mounts, as Cannone da 381/40 AVS, or in coast-defense positions.
It’s only in October 1919 that work resume, and in 1920, the Regia Marina staff considered converting her as an aircraft carrier. Howevr Italy was by then in a dire economic situation, and compared to the benefits of an Italian pacification campaign in Libya, this plan was dropped. Ansaldo later proposed a cheaper floatplane carrier alternative, to no avail.

Italian navy commanders in addition delayed the adoption of a policy for the interwar Regia Marina, between the traditional surface and decisive battle fleet camp, and a fleet composed of aircraft carriers, torpedo boats and submarines. Admiral Giovanni Sechi argued eventually that a balanced fleet with a small core of good battleships backed with carriers was the most flexible option. As new vessels were planned, Admiral Giovanni Sechi Sechi decided to reduce the number of older capital ships in service and the Francesco Caracciolo class was cancelled. The incomplete lead ship was sold on 25 October 1920 on auction to the Navigazione Generale Italiana shipping company, which planned to convert her as a merchant ship, but but she was evtenually mothballed in Baia Bay (Naples).

The Washington Naval Conference setup a new tonnage limit for the Regia Marina (61,000 metric tons), and the Francesco Caracciolo class was yet again planned to be converted as aicraft carriers. The new design has an island superstructure. Again, budgetary problems soomed the proposal and Francesco Caracciolo was scraped from late 1926 on, the other dismantled in their slip, and the machinery from Cristoforo Columbo recycled in the ocean liner Roma.

Carraciolo specifications 1940

Dimensions 186.9 x 29.2 x 8.6m
Displacement 29,100 tonnes /29,400 tonnes FL
Crew 1300?
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 reduction turbines, 8 Yarrow boilers, 90 000 hp
Speed 27 knots (40 km/h; mph)
Range 6,700 nmi ()
Armament 10x 355mm (2×2, 2×3), 12 x135mm (4×3), 10 x90mm AA, 12x 37mm, 15x 20mm Breda AA.
Armor Decks 135-166 mm, barbettes 130-280mm, belt 130-250mm, blockhaus 250mm.

A photomontage whatif rendition

Same idea, with a what-if 1941 camo. Src: Drake’s drum on alternatehistory.com

Blueprint of the class

Progetto G class battleships (1919)

The Project G class battleship on paper was a 37,000 tonnes battleship, before treaty limitations. This was a postwar project which need a radical hull improvement, with only 50 mm of deck armor and no AA. The belt armor was stated as 270 mm and around 300 mm on the turret faces. Progetto G was also supposed to carry sixteen 380 mm guns in four triple turrets and superfiring, quite a radical upgrade compared to the Carracciolo. These were the same guns, but with an improved reloading system to provide up to 2 rpm and a muzzle velocity of 830 m/s with AP shells. Secondary artillery was no longer in barbettes, but in turrets, in all sixteen, and of 170 mm guns (7 in) and no longer 6 in. Configuration was eight twin turrets plus twenty four dual-purpose rapid-fire 102 mm guns, completed by many 40 mm AA guns. This was quite impressive in 1919 and would have been equally so in 1940. The lack of armour was a presumably better speed, as the Carracciolo, and a massive firepower. This would have been a sound calculation, as shown at Jutland, which showed bad visibility nullified range advantages. However shell dispersion would have been a real issue.

Italian Battlecruisers:

Progetto Cassone class (1921)

Ferdinando Cassone proposal was the most ambitious and radical pre-treaty proposal for the Country that first imagine the dreadnought as a game changer. This 1921 proposal was by far the most impressive and ambitious warship ever planned for the Regia Marina. It would have dwarved any other contemporary battleship and even put to shame those of WW2, with only perhaps the Yamato as a contender. The original article which detailed this proposal was published in Rivista Marittima in October, 1921. The article title was “La fase attuale dell’evoluzione delle navi da battaglia (studio critico)” translated as “The ships of the line current evolution status – a critical essay”, signed by Ferdinando Cassone, a naval engineer.
It was a bit of a phantasm, Build to the extreme limit of engineering, and completely outside concrete requirements of the Regia Marina, yards capabilities or budget constraints. It was an extreme case designed to trigger discussion around the optimal battleship design. Of couse, Italy signed the treaty of Washington, which put an end to this speculation.
Cassone in effect made two sketches, and their only visible difference revolved around their secondary artillery layout.

-Dimensions/displacement: 45,000 tonnes, 256 m x 32 m
-Armament: 8 x 456 mm (4×2) main, 6 x 152 mm (2×3) turrets plus perhaps 8-10 more in casemates
-Estimated powerplant: 4 turbines 50,000 HP each, 18 boilers, 216,000 HP, 35-40 knots.
-Armour protection: Main tapered belt or 456 mm down to 350 and 150 mm. Armored Deck 120 mm+ 50 mm 1 deck above.
Cassone stressed indeed a superimposed layout for the engines, with the boilers placed above the turbines, in order to reduce the overall length to protect. This would have allowed to stay within a 45,000 t. tonnage limit. He also made a more classic layout with the Boilers and turbines places at the same level, this time with a displacement of 57,000 t and a lesser top speed.

Progetto Leghorn class (1928)

Progetto Leghorn 1928, src

This was a 1928 battlecruiser design. This Project from O.T.O Livorno was elaborated between 1930-1935, related to a possible alternative transformation of the Cavour and Doria classes. The other option was a brand new unit in conformity of International agreements. She was to displace 26,670 tons for an overall length of 215 m for a beam of 32 m. Top speed as specified was 30 knots. She was to be armed with nine 381 mm guns (3×3), twelve 152 mm guns (6-in) in four triple turrets and twelve 100 mm/32 AA guns, some AA and two quadruple torpedo banks. These specifications were really a basis for the development of the Littorio. This battlecruiser concept went far enough to be materialized into a large yard model. See more.

Project UP.41 and its variant, one of the alternative 1930s predecessor design before the Littorio.

Design philosophy behind the Cavour’s reconstruction:

The driving force behind it was Vice Admiral (Generale del Genio navale) Francesco Rotundi. The admiraty by that time were all eyes on the French, as a de facto rivaly existed with the French Republic, due to their conflicting interests (notably colonial) in the Mediterranean, where the bulk of the French Marine Nationale resided. And in 1931, it was known the French planned a new class of modern battleships, the Dunkerque class, trigerred by the German pocket battleships construction (the three Deutschland class). As it was recoignised the current project for a new battleship was nowhere near by that time, Rotundi proposed to the admiralty a stopgap, or interim solution, modernizing the first two Cavour class battleships. However this proposal was quite ambitious and turned to be a radical reconstruction.

Reconstruction of the Doria (wow)

In October 1933, he went forward submitting the admiralty a radical reconstruction project to keep Italian battleships up to date, circumvent Washington’s treaty limits by avoiding buiding new ones, and test ideas for a future, post-ban treaty fast battleship. After plans were accepted in 1932, the Conte di Cavour was the first taken in hands for a lenghty, and let’s say bluntly, way over budget reconstruction lasting until 1937, June and October for Cavour and Cesare, followed by Doria and Duilio in 1937-40. This reconstruction became the most extensive any battleship experienced at that time and was remarked by engineers and naval staffs around the world for the scope of modified elements in the process. Anything that could be modified was, leaving little but a part of the former subs-sytems intact. The hull was lenghtened with a new clipper bow section to have finer lines, the powerplant entirely rebuilt and modernized, partly to cope with a heavier hull (Cesare reached 28.24 knots (52.30 km/h; 32.50 mph) on post-reconstruction trials), the hull was enlarged by adding the fames Pugliese ASW system, revamped protection all around, rebored main guns with new mounts and turrets for better range and protection and no amidship turret, brand new fire constrol systems and telemeters, brand new superstructures, secondary and AA armament.

ONI reconstruction drawing of the Cavour class

Due the duration and cost of the project, this reconstruction has been wildly criticized by some naval historians, as these rebuilt capital ships woould prove at posteriori inferior to British battleships they faced, the Queen Elizabeth class. Its staggering cost eventually proved the same as building a brand new Littorio-class battleship. Not only that, due to Italy’s limited resources at that time, it caused bottlenecks in provision of steel plates, which in turn caused long delays for building the Littorio class (eventually this cost the fourth one, RN Impero) which all could have been completed much earlier if the Naval staff limited itself to a simple modernization, of AA and fire control systems for example. Considerable budgets could have been also devoted to research in radar technology for example, probably -seen in the light of WW2- the biggest negligence in that matter for Italian naval planners.

Littorio class (1937)

Battleships Littorio, Vittorio Veneto, Roma, Aquila

Littorio sailing for completion

Like most of the signatories to the Treaty of Washington in 1922, Italy was found unable to complete her latest battleships already venturing into the “super dreadnought” type contemplated in 1916-1918. The four Caracciolo were indeed capable of 28 knots with eight 381 mm guns, better overall than the British contemporary Queen Elisabeth/Revenge classes. Laid down in 1915, work stopped until 1918 and resumed afterwards, launched in 1920 but never completed, they were demolished because of tonnage limits. In 1932, however, Italy and Japan no longer felt bound to the clauses of the treaty and embarked in the study of a new battleship. At the same time, an industrial basis was developed, including much larger basins to manage the four new battleships, and the delays allowed to test many technological solutions and debate several designs. The Littorio was the result of a ten-years genesis.

Due to the size of the ships, only four could be built, one after over a period spread between launches. The construction of RN Littorio, the class leader started in 1934 along with RN Vitorrio Veneto, followed by RN Italia, Impero never completed. This class was inspired by others such as the French Strasbourg, themselves answering the German Deustchland. The French had chosen a radical forward configuration but the Italians thought after much internal debate and several proposals, that three triple turrets, two forward and one aft, were the best compromise. As a result, they had a sizeable firepower in chase, and this balanced configuration soon became the norm for super-dreadnoughts of the late interwar. It was adopted by the Germans with the Scharnhorst class, Japan with the Yamato class, and of course the United States with three classes. Moreover, these battleships had an unprecedented level of ASW protection with the famous Pugliese system. Thanks to a more advanced machinery rated for 130,000 hp and careful hydrodynamic studies, top speed was 30 knots (54 kph), much better than the rebuilt WW1 battleships of the Cesare/Doria class.

Veneto shortly after completion

The Littorio was built at the Adriatic yards in Trieste, launched on August 2, 1937. RN Veneto was built at Genoa (Ansaldo Yards), launched on July 22, 1937, starting her tests in October 1939, delivered in April 1940 by then incomplete. She joined La Spezia to receive her final equipment and completed in May 1940, sailing to Tarentum. RN Litorrio on her part was completed on the 15 of May, reaching Tarentum. Roma was started at CRDA Trieste in September 1938 and Impero started at Ansaldo in May 1938. Roma was launched in June 1940 and she was completed in June 1942. Impero was launched in November 1939, but never completed. The last pair differed by their elongated hull forward for better sea-keeping and much reinforced AA.

2-view drawing of the Littorio

wow’s depiction of Vittorio Veneto

The Littorio class in action

The Littorio and the Veneto were admitted together in active service in August 1940 in the 9th Division, 1st Squadron. The fleet set sail on the 31st with three other battleships, ten cruisers and 31 destroyers to attempt to intercept the British convoy to North Africa without success (HATS operation). The squadron made another sortie to intercept a convoy to Malta on 29 September. During the attack on Taranto on November 12, 1940, the Littorio was struck with two torpedoes and put into action for repair until April 1941. The Veneto escaped this attack and was transferred to Naples. On 26 November he took part in the battle of Cape Spartiviento in the south of Sardinia and was attacked by torpedo planes but succeeded in avoiding torpedoes by manoeuvering as best he could, and for a short time engaged the British cruisers with his artillery for hunting.

Veneto sailing out of Matapan, torpedoed.

The Veneto escaped bombs during the attack on Naples in January 1941. In February with two other battleships, it made an unsuccessful sortie against the Force H part bombing Genoa. On the 26th of March he set sail to attack the convoys to Greece under German pressure. The Veneto was then engaged in what would become the battle of Cape Matapan, together with the Guilio Cesare. He hired the British cruisers, and underwent a HMS formidable bomber attack. He escaped the first wave but was struck by the second wave of a torpedo with the Pola. He weighed 4000 tons of water and managed to regain Taranto on 29 March. Repairs completed in June. In August 1941, the two vessels met together and operated on the 22nd without meeting the convoy. On the 26th of September they departed to intercept the force sent for Operation Halberd, but they returned to the port when the sortie was canceled. The Veneto found itself escorting a convoy when it was torpedoed by the submarine HMS Urge. His repairs continued until the spring of 1942.

Battle damage of the Litorrio at tarento, 11 November 1940

In December, the Litorrio was engaged during the first battle of the Great Syrta. In January he took part in another engagement in defending a convoy, and in March, during the second battle of the Great Sirte, seriously damaged the destroyers Havock and Kingston. In the spring of 1942, the two vessels found themselves in action against the convoys of malta, coming from Alexandria and Gibraltar. On return, the Littorio was bombarded by a B-24 Liberator (without damage), then torpedoed by a Wellington. He will remain stationary until December. On the 12th the two vessels were sent to La Spezia to respond to Operation Torch. The Roma came to add to the squadron, and the fleet made two sorties against the convoys. Due to the combined fleet forces, however, these sorties were quickly abandoned. In June, the US air force began a series of attacks on La Spezia.

Unfinished Impero under German control.

The Veneto was thus struck by two bombs and was evacuated for repairs to Genoa and did not participate in anything before the armistice. The Litorrio was struck by three bombs and renamed Italia after the fall of Mussolini. The Veneto was also draped twice. In September 1943 the three ships were taken to Malta for internment and attacked on the way by German bombers equipped with the new guided Fritz-X bombs. The Italia was hit at the prow and the battery, the Roma was completely destroyed by an impact in the ammunition hold. From Malta, Italia and Veneto were transferred to Alexandria, anchored in an area of ​​the Suez Canal until the end of the war. In 1946, by virtue of the treaties of peace and reparation, The Veneto was granted to Great Britain, who transferred it to La Spezia. The ship was removed from the lists and bought back for the demolition in 1948, which took place this year, as well as the Italia, granted to the USA. The unfinished Impero served as a test target for the Germans, was then bombed by the US Air Force, then sent to Venice for demolition in 1948.

Litorrio specifications 1940

Dimensions 237 x 32.9 x 10.5m
Displacement 35,000 tonnes /45,700 tonnes FL
Crew 1830-1950
Propulsion 4 shafts turbines, 8 Yarrow boilers, 130,000 shp
Speed 31 knots (57 km/h)
Range 3,920 mi (6,310 km; 3,410 nmi) at 20 kn
Armament 3×3 381mm, 4×3 155mm, 6×2 90mm AA, 20x 37mm, 30x 20mm Breda AA.
Armor Main belt 350 mm, Deck 162 mm, Turrets, CT 260 mm (10 in)

Litorrio and Vittorio Veneto, illustrations by the author

Italian Fast battleships projects

Ansaldo design for a 57,000 tons “super littorio”

There was a projected 50,000 tonnes “super littorio” planned by Ansaldo for the late 1940s. It was basically an enlarged version of Littorio class, but with 16-in guns (406 mm), twelve 152 mm in the same configuration of four triple turrets and the same 24 dual-purpose 90 mm guns in 12 twin turrets, plus an AA composed of 37 mm in twin mounts and 13.2 mm Breda in quadruple mounts, probably over 40.
The Armor was better than the Littorio, with circa 300 mm on the main belt, but moreover 150 mm for the armour deck and a conning tower with 350 mm walls. This design would have been an equivalent of the Soviet-built Sovietsky Soyuz, with the difference the latter had probably the best naval guns in WW2, capable of better ranges than the USN equivalents or even the 18-in guns of the Yamato. These Italian 406mm proceeded from studies that went back all from 1922.

“Lepanto”, presented by wargaming as a “further development of the Vittorio Veneto-class battleships, with her main battery guns placed in quadruple turrets”.

“Colombo”, a world of warship creation around the 50,000 tonnes concept. It is presented as “A large battleship that embodies the Italian shipbuilding achievements of the early 1940s. The ship carried sixteen 381 mm main guns and a strong secondary battery.”


Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1922-1947.

Littorio class battleships

Littorio class battleships

Kingdom of Italy (1937-40) – Battleships Littorio, Veneto, Roma, Impero
The Duce’s mighty battleships: Italy had to wait after the expiration of the Washington treaty ban to start its first modern battleship class, and accommodations by the treaty of London. The Littorio class was designed to answer another ship’s class specifically, the French Dunkirk class, which themselves answered the German Deutschland class of 1929. Four were planned over time, the second pair meant to deal with the new French Richelieu in construction, but only one of this new pair was completed, in 1942. They were the best, most modern and last battleships Italy ever had, armed with 381 mm (15.0 in) in a “classic” configuration of the time of 3×3 guns and were capable of 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) as true fast battleships. The design was also considered by the Spanish Navy, but thwarted by WW2 breaking out. Their active life was marked by several battles, like Cape Matapan, but they were also attacked at Taranto in 1940 and La Spezia by June 1943, or by German aviation’s guided bombs when en route to Malta after the armistice. before they were to be interned in Alexandria. Roma was sunk by arguably the ancestors of antiship missiles. With a better command and less hesitation, the lack of radar and coordination aviation aside, these battleships individually were considered with respect by the Royal Navy, for good reasons.

Littorio sailing for completion

Development History of the littorio class

The littorio class did not happened out of the blue. The interwar was a prolific period for proposals, from yards or officers, even though the moratorium dictated patience. The last unbuilt dreadnought design was the Carracciolo class, arguably the first Italian “super-dreadnought”. Indeed she was the fastest planned (28 knots), and armed with eight 381 mm guns, perfect rival for the Queen Elisabeth class while the French had nothing to compare. In 1919, their successor, “Progetto G” were a pair of 37,000 tonnes, four quadruple turrets behemoths with the same caliber. They were comparable to the French Lyon class.

Progetto G

Since Italy signed the Washington Naval Treaty in 1922, 70,000 long tons of total capital ship tonnage was alloted, so a pair of 35,000 tonnes battleships. This would be of some use from 1927–1929, as far as went the “holiday” construction. France had the same tonnage and both pressured other signatories to grant them construction of smaller battleships with reduced calibers. Therefore the first Italian design came out in 1928, and like the French, called for a 23,000 long tons design with six 381 mm (15.0 in) main guns in twin turrets. This allowed three ships to be built instead of one. This triplet alloted the Regia Marina to have at least two units operational at any given time. Protection and range were sacrificed for speed and armament.

The same yeat, the design staff prepared another design, this time for a pair of battleship 35,000 long tons in displacement and with six 406 mm (16.0 in) main guns. Protection would be able to defeat same caliber rounds. The holiday was to expire in 1931 and until the, funding was not allocated to start any construction, also the politicians did not wanted to start an arm’s race with France due to the state of the economy. The London Naval Treaty extended the building holiday to 1936, but still, both Italy and France could use this 70,000 tonnes before, refusing the Britih proposal to limit them to 25,000 long tons with 305 mm guns. Around 1932, the light battleship design was eventually abandoned while the French laid down the two Dunkerque-class battleships. The naval staff ordered a design to answer at first the Deutschland class, but with six 343 mm (13.5 in) guns in triple turrets to face the French designs, on a 18,000 long tons displacement, but it was revised for a larger design.

Littorio recoignition plate – ONI

A 26,500 long tons (26,900 t) design was prepared in 1933, with eight 343 mm guns in twin turrets, giving one gun advantage over the French Dunkirk. However it was soon superseded by another 35,000 ton design, with 406 mm guns, later revised more realistically to a known 381 mm caliber, which had bee already developed for the Carraciolo, and this did not added further delays. The last design called for nine 381 mm guns in three triple turrets. However as the design was refined in 1934 to include the right level or protection and range, the displacement rose to 40,000 long tons, even it violated the established treaties. By the time they entered service, the major naval powers invoked the “escalator clause” and grand themselves a 45,000 long tons displacement. The final design was approved and construction started.

Veneto shortly after completion

Design of the littorio class

General characteristics

The first pair, Littorio and Vittorio Veneto were 224.05 meters (735.1 ft) long between perpendiculars, 237.76 m (780.1 ft) long overall. The next one will be longer (see later). All four ships would have the same draft of 9.6 m (31 ft) and beam of 32.82 m (107.7 ft). Displacement diverged between the first two, 40,724 metric tons for Littorio as designed (45,236 t FL) and 40,517 t for Vittorio Veneto (44,318 long tons FL). They had a bulbous bow which caused problems and was revised for the next two. The peacetime crew was 80 officers and 1,750 enlisted men, and as flagships, 11-31 additional officers. The Roma and Impero had about 100 additional enlisted men to man the superior AA. The basic design called for three triple turrets and the rest of the design followed around. These turrets were relatively closed (A-B close to X) in order to reduced the length of the citadel and thus, making the ships lighter.

As a result, superstructures, the bridge, smokestack and aft mainmast were all closed together in the center portion of the ship, representing around 1/3 of the total length. Their tower bridge, close funnels and hull’s long forecastle stopping just aft of X barbette have them quite a unique appearance. The tower bridge comprised two control decks, one for the captain and staff, and one above for the admiral and his staff when used as a flagship. The main mast was attached to it, with radio cables running to the aft mast installed above the aft tower. Above that were located the two main armoured rangefinder, for the main forward turrets A and B. The base was the conning tower. A second conning tower was installed aft with a rangefinder for the X turret, behind the aft funnel.


The propulsion system accounted for circa 5.6 % of the total displacement and consisted of four Belluzzo geared steam turbines. Steam came from eight oil-fired Yarrow boilers. Total output was about 128,200 shaft horsepower (95,600 kW) for 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) as designed. On sea trials, both battleships were beyond, 31.3 kn for the first (on 137,649 shp) and Vittorio Veneto 31.4 kn (133,771 shp), at light loads (no ammunition, reduced water and oil). In service to spare the machinery, this was reduced to 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph) in practice. Roma speed trials were been recorded and so her top speed is not known. Both carried 4,140 t of fuel oil for a theoretical range of 4,580 nautical miles at 16 knots cruising speed, greater at 14 kn (4,700 nmi). The powerplant was kept identical for the Roma class.


Main battery guns, 381 mm/50

The main battery was soon fixed to nine 381 mm L/50 Ansaldo 1934 guns, and in three triple turrets. The choice was just to not spent time developing a new 406 mm model as previously envisioned, hand not to waste the already existing 381 mm developed for the Carraciolo, of which many barrels were already in storage. The modello 34 was an evolved version of the latter.
Compared t the previous 16-in (406 mm) planned, the modello 34 barrel had a longer barrel, and subsequently fired a higher velocity shell to compensate. Indeed, the 381 mm/40 (15″) Modello 1914 was a 40 caliber, firing an AP shell of 1,949 lbs. (884 kg) or HE of 1,949 lbs. (884 kg) loaded with around 50 kg trotyl at 2,297 fps (700 mps).

The Ansaldo modello 34 was a 50 caliber. It was quite a powerful weapon for its caliber (maximum range well above the artillery pieces of this caliber, British included). A superb performance paid by excessive dispersion and very short barrel life. The gun was refined to the Modello 1939 for Roma and Impero. Some were also built by Odero-Terni-Orlando (OTO). These were complex guns, wit were six major components rather than four as ususal, with A tube in two layers, the outer layer continuing to the muzzle. The jacket was over 72% of the total length while the breech bush was screwed into the jacket. There was also a loose liner to improve the barrel life. They used a Welin breech-block, hydro-pneumatically operated and compressed-air smoke scavenging system.

The classic artillery configuration of a superfiring pair forward and one aft was also favored by the US Navy, and with a variation, the British Navy. Maximum elevation was 35 degrees,giving a theoretical range of 42,260 m (46,220 yd), which was excellent. Muzzle velocity was 870 meters per second (2,854 ft/s), down to 850 m/s (2,789 ft/s) to reduce dispersion and increase barrel life. The guns also fired the new SAP or semi-armor piercing shells (824.3 kg, 1,817 lb) with a 29.51 kg (65.1 lb) bursting charge. HE shells weighted only 774 kg (1,706 lb) but they never saw service. The ammo rooms were located below the propellant magazines, and beneath the turret’s gun house. RPM on average was 45 seconds. The ship carried in total 495 AP and 171 SAP shells.

Secondary battery, 152 mm/55

Admiral Carlo Bergamini on the deck of Roma, on the background, the ship’s right turret

These twelve 6.0 in L/55 Ansaldo Modello 1934 were the equivalent of a powerful light cruiser, with four triple turrets, a pair mounted abreast ‘B’ turret and the remainder abreast ‘X’ turret.
The modello 34 also shared by the Garibaldi class cruisers was designed from 1934 to 1936, tested and entered service in 1940. It weighted 8.9 tons (9,689 kg) and measured 348 in (8.840 m) overall. The chamber volume was 1,537 in3 (25.19 dm3) and its rate Of Fire was 4-5 rpm. It fired a 50 kg (110 lb) AP shell at 910 m/s (2,986 ft/s) of muzzle velocity and the gun cradle could elevate it to 45° for a range (maximum) of 25,740 m (28,150 yd).

Tertiary battery, 120 mm/40

Four 120 mm (4.7 in) L/40 guns were also present on the Littorio class battleship. Short barrel, low-velocity, their only task was to fire illumination rounds for night fighting. They elevated to 32 degrees, firing a 29.3 kg (65 lb) semi-fixed illumination round at 5,000 m (16,400 ft).

AA battery, 90 mm, 37, 20mm

The Littorio class BBs’ AA armament comprised a powerful battery, better adapted to the time (revised after the design started in 1934), of twelve 90 mm (3.5 in) L/50 guns. They were all mounted in a cluster amidships. Developed by Ansaldo, and shared by the Duilio and Littorio classes, they derived from a 1915 AA model, and had good ballistic properties for their caliber. However the modello 1939 had stabilized mountings too advanced for their time,and they accumulated technical issues, electrical and mechanical breakdowns plaguing their service early years. The mountings were stabilized in four axes and integrated roll and pitch corrections. They had eleven gyros integrated in a very complex arrangement only to maintain stabilization. Their gun barrel was an autofretted monobloc model with a screwed-on breech ring. The latter held the horizontal sliding breech block and seatings for recoil cylinders. It was attached to the receiver by a bayonet joint. The land model was a 90 mm/53 gun considered by meany expert better even than the German 88 mm. The Regia Marina had such trust in these, in 1938 plans were made to rebuild the Alberico da Barbiano class into AA cruisers. They fired a 7.5 lbs. (3.4 kg) frag shell, at 2,822 fps (860 mps), 12 rounds per minute and circa 10,800 m (35,400 ft) of ceiling. The guns servants were well protected by the turret. The Littorio class carried 487 rounds per gun, so 5844 in all, and 23,376 for all four battleships less spares stocks.

The light AA artillery comprised twenty Breda 37 mm (1.5 in) L/54 guns, and sixteen Breda 20 mm (0.79 in) L/65 guns. They completed this close-range defense with ranged of 4,000 m (13,100 ft) and 2,500 m (8,200 ft) respectively. All in all (including the additions on the Roma class), this AA was one of the best fielded on any axis battleship, but the Bismarck and Yamato class. This was enough for the Germans to not even attempt direct attacks on these ships in 1943 and used guided bombs instead.

Onboard aviation

The Littorio class carried three floatplanes, launched from the aft deck catapult. Aircraft facilities were located on the quarterdeck. The initial plan was to house and operate six La Cierva autogyros (The Italians acquired the licence), making these potentially the first helicopter-carrier battleships. However a more classic approach was chosen, and a single catapult was fitted, operating three Ro.43 reconnaissance seaplanes. During wartime, the ships also carried navalized Re.2000 fighters, wheeled aircraft which needed to land on solid ground but procured speed and some additional AA defence to the ship. None operated them when attacked either by He 111 or Do 217 in 1943.

Officers posing in front of their Imam Ro.42 Idro on their catapult aft deck of RN Vittorio Veneto.

Reggiane Re 2000 catapulted from RN Veneto.

Richelieu’s answer: The Roma class (1940)

As soon as the Richelieu class was laid down, the Regia Marina ordered the Roma class, comprising Roma and Impero. The first was laid down at Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico, Trieste (Vitorrio Veneto’s yard), and launched in Jun 1940 and completed two years later. Impero was laid down at Ansaldo, Genoa-Sestri Ponente, Littorio’s Yard, on 14 May 1938, sooner than Roma (September), and launched also sooner, on 15 November 1939 but as war progressed all work stopped.
Roma and Impero had significant differences incorporated in their design, with the lessons learned with the first two battleships. They were significantly longer at 240.68 m (789.6 ft) long overall on the same breadth, and displacement reflected this. Roma’s displacement was 40,992 t standard and 45,485 t FL while Impero’s figured are not known. As built, they had a modified bow in order to not repeats the problems of the previous class. Their AA was also slightly improved with twenty instead of sixteen Breda 20 mm guns. It was good enough to not be radically increase whereas the design was dating back from 1933.

Protection of the Littorio class

Vitorrio Veneto armor scheme

The level of armor protection was the best ever fitted to any Italian battleships, and one of the best compared to its contemporaries. One of its shining innovation was the Pugliese system.
The main belt armor was designed and tested to resist same-caliber (381 mm) armor-piercing shells at ranges of 16,000 m (17,000 yd), the optimal inner edge in combat. It comprised a 70 mm (2.8 in) homogeneous armor for the outer plate and 280 mm (11 in) cemented armor belt, 250 mm (9.8 in) behind it. The 250 mm gap was filed with a cement foam. It was called “Cellulite” and its role was to keep the water out of this gap. It could also brake armor piercing shells energy. This main armor belt was also backed by 150 mm (5.9 in) of oak timber, plus 15 mm (0.59 in) steel backing just behind with softer steel to trap shapnells, making a sandwich perfect to absorb energy.

Schematics of the protection of the Littorio class

Belt armor

The entire belt was sloped to 11-15º inwards, the slope depending on the section of the hull. There was a 36 mm (1.4 in) homogeneous armor plate mounted also 1.4 m (4.6 ft) behind the belt and another 4 m (13 ft) behind backed again by another 24 mm (0.94 in) stray plating, with a 26º slope in the opposite direction to stop bouncing shells that coukld have penetrated from above. The main citadel was closed by traverse bulkheads 100–210 mm (3.9–8.3 in) thick forward and 70–280 mm (2.8–11.0 in) aft. Above the citadel the was an armored casemate protected uniformly by 70 mm (2.8 in) HT steel plating. The bow itself was also reinforced, and protected by a 130 mm (5.1 in) belt extending 35 m (115 ft) ahead of the main belt. It was closed by its own 60 mm (2.4 in) transverse bulkhead. Additionally there was an aft 100 mm (3.9 in) homogeneous armor plating over the propeller shafts and aft diesel generator groups, plus the steering gear, including a 200 mm (7.9 in) bulkhead aft of the citadel.

Deck armor

The weather deck over the citadel had a 36 mm (1.4 in) homogeneous armor plating, over a stray of 9 mm (0.35 in) plate. The main armor deck had a variable thickness depending on the area protected, 150 mm (5.9 in) of homogeneous armor laminated over the magazines, superposed to a 12 mm (0.47 in) deck plating inboard, 100 mm (3.9 in) on 12 mm for the plating outboard. It was was 100 mm on 12 mm inboard, 90 mm on 12 mm outboard over the machinery spaces. This main armor extends to the ends, 60 mm (2.4 in) over 10 mm to the bow, and 36 mm (1.4 in) over 8 mm over the stern.

Artillery protection

Main battery turrets protection was 380 mm (15 in) with cemented armor for faces, thinned to 200 mm (7.9 in) for the sides and roof and 130 mm (5.1 in) on the rear sides and back, 150 mm (5.9 in) on the rear roof slope and 350 mm (14 in) for the back plate. They were mounted in barbettes which had walls 350 mm (14 in) thick above the upper deck, 280 mm (11 in) below. The Secondary battery turrets protection was just 280 mm (11 in) for the faces, down to 80–130 mm (3.1–5.1 in) for the sides, with a back plate of 80 mm (3.1 in) and 105–150 mm (4.1–5.9 in) roof. Their their barbettes also varied over and below the armored deck, from 150 mm (5.9 in) to 100 mm (3.9 in). Protection stopped below the third deck, at their basis. The 90-mm AA mounts had 12 mm (0.47) shields and 40 mm (1.57 in) barbette walls, with wells extending below the third deck.

The forward conning tower was designd by General Pugliese and had elliptical walls with 255 mm (10.0 in) on the front section, and 175 mm (6.9 in) from the side to the rear, backed by anti-shrapnell soft steel 25 mm (0.98 in) plating. The lower two levels were 250 mm (9.8 in) and 200 mm (7.9 in) backed by 10 mm (0.39 in) plating. The roof was protected by 90–120 mm (3.5–4.7 in) on 10 mm plating. Below the decks the well was still 200 mm (7.9 in) thick, the tube containing electrical cables and pipes for hydraulic systems.

Pugliese torpedo defense system

Middle section armor belt and pugliese system schematics

All four ships were signalled by a long-thought and quite unique underwater protection system. It was named after its designer, General Umberto Pugliese.
It consisted in a 40 mm thick torpedo bulkhead, which extended inboard from the base of the main belt, and sloped down to meet the hull bottom. It ormed a void, containing an empty space 3,800 mm (150 in) wide, surrounded by 6 mm (0.24 in) thick plating. The void left was liquid-filled. The cylindrical “drum” ran the length of the torpedo bulkhead. It was designed to collapse under the explosive pressure of a torpedo warhead and prevent any splinters or contain explosion effects. All these layered protection was far enough from the vitals to protect them. The system was designed to sustain a 350 kg (770 lb) warhead hit. Fortunately for Pugliese its system was live tested in combat as the Littorio and Vittorio Veneto were torpedoed several times during their career.

These torpedo attacks however revealed faults in the system: This was due to two major defects, weak riveted joints between the interior torpedo bulkhead and hull bottom, failing in cases of near misses, and preventing the hollow drum’s collapse as planned (and causing massive flooding). The width of the drum was reduced also abreast of the main battery from 3.6 down to 2,28 m (90 in) and its capacity to absorb explosive the blast was reduced in these sections where it mattered more, for the sake of finer hull lines.

2-view drawing of the Littorio

HD renditions of the Roma

The Spanish Littorio (Progetto 1047)

Rendition of the Spanish Littorio, showing its unusual secondary battery
In 1939 General Francisco Franco came out the victor of the Spanish civil war and contemplated an ambitious naval program. Franco concluded agreements with the Italian government, which already provided him during the war submarines and destroyers, and discussed the major issue of building no less than four Littorio-class battleships in Spain, under Italian assistance and plans. The agreement was made as the Ansaldo shipyard, chosen for the deal, was to draft plans for a virtual copy of the littorio with some modifications and to provide all necessary technical and material support for the construction in Spain, starting at Ferrol Shipyards. The Italian Navy also devised a plan to both modernize, expand and enlarge Spanish shipyards in order to support the construction of these much larger ships Spain ever saw. However the project was abandoned when Italy declared war on France in June 1940, whereas the state of Spanish industry back them was seen as a serious handicap, in addition to crippling budgetary issues. The plan was never revived and dropped after the war. These “Spanish Littorio” were similar to the exception of the secondary turrets, which seemed based on local models develop to modernize the 1920s cruisers during their reconstruction. Would these four ships had been built, without assistance of Italy, they would probably have been completed in 1945-47 and therefore obsolete at that stage.

The super-Littorio (Progetto UP.41)

In the early 1930s, the Soviet Navy sought advice of Italy for its battleships and on 14 July 1939, Ansaldo completed a design proposal largely based on the Littorio class. It was designated U.P.41. and called for a 42,000 t battleship armed with nine 406 mm guns in triple turrets and twelve 152/55 mm, twenty four 90/53 mm in twin turrets, and 37 mm in quadruple mounts. The powerplant was more powerful in order to expect a top speed around 28 knots.
Specifications of the Pugliese system was undisclosed to the Soviets, and instead a simpler multiple-torpedo bulkhead system was drafted. The Soviet Navy did not used this design although the Sovetsky Soyuz-class laid down at the same time was still close in many aspects. And these battleships were equipped with the Pugliese system, obtained through Soviet espionage.

While preparing the type 1047 battlecruisers in early 1940, the Dutch Navy sent a delegation to see the Vittorio Veneto under construction, hoping to have glimpses of the Italian underwater protection system, which was considered a military secret.
This project passed the 40,000 t limit and would probably reached fully loaded 50,000 tons, violating the Washington treaty. However escalation was already started.
In 1938 already two additional Littorio class vessels were ordered Admiral Pini’s project was opposed by Cavagnari for budgetary reasons and later thwarted by the lack of facilities.
The major problem to built a successor of the Littorio class in Italy was that not drydock could contain such battleships so authorities planned at first the construction of a new, massive drydock and its facilities in Taranto. The project went on during the war, and until 1941, but by the, with limited industrial capacities and shortage or men and materials, it became obvious this would not be completed in 5-6 years.


Note: First published in November, 11, 2016
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1922-1947.

Vitorio Veneto in berth (date unknown), and in Malta

littorio and Vittorio Veneto, illustrations by the author

Littorio specifications 1940

Dimensions 237.76 m (780.1 ft) x 32.82 m (107.7 ft) x 9.6 m (31 ft)
Displacement Standard: 40,724 t, Fully loaded 45,236 t
Crew 80+1750
Propulsion 4 Geared turbines, 8 Yarrow boilers for 128,200 shp (95,600 kW)
Speed 30 knots (56 km/h)
Range 4,580 nautical miles (8,480 km) at 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)
Armament 9x 381mm (3×3), 12 x152mm (4×3), 12 x90mm AA, 20x 37mm, 16x 20mm Breda AA, see notes.
Armor Belt 280+70 mm, Deck 90–150 mm, Bulkheads 70–280 mm, Barbettes 350 mm, Turrets 380 mm, CT 255 mm

The littorio class in action

Due to some reservations of the Italian Navy staff, criticized by the German high command during the time the Afrika korps needed to be supplied, and after the crippling blow of Tarento, the Littori and Veneto were rarely used in combat, but they did participated in several battles (Operation Hats convoy, Malta convoy, Battle of Cape Spartivento, Battle of Cape Matapan, Operation Halberd convoy, First and second Battle of Sirte), an protecting many convoy escorts. They were damaged and repaired several times due to aerial and submarine torpedo hits, aerial bombs and a few gunnery hits. They were both broken up after the war, after being attributed as war damage. Roma had a rather short career due to her late service introduction, and was damaged during june and September 1943 allied bombing in Genoa, and sunk en route to Malta due to German bombers using Fritz-X radio-guided bombs, a first in naval history. Impero was never completed.

RN Littorio

She was laid down with a great ceremony to commemorate in Genoa on 28 October 1934 the Fascist Party’s March on Rome in 1922. Changes in design and delays to manufacture the armor plating led to delays, three months and she was launched on 22 August 1937, during another ceremony attended by almost all Italian dignitaries. Her fitting out lasted until early 1940, her bow modified to lessen vibration and made the prow more seaworthy. After sea trials on two months, until December 1939, and further work, she was commissioned on 6 May 1940 and transferred to Taranto with Vittorio Veneto to form the 9th Division (Rear Admiral Carlo Bergamini). Until 2 September 1940, Littorio was at the heart of the largest Italian battle fleet, with five other battleships, ten cruisers, and thirty-four destroyers, for intercepting the British convoy MB.3 (Operation Hats). However, deprived of radar and correct aerial cover, the latter was missed. No action followed and the fleet retreated. Another attempt against convoy MB.5 on 29 September – 1 October also failed to spot it, and both reached Malta.

Attack on Taranto

Battle damage of the littorio at tarento, 11 November 1940

On the night of 10–11 November, a famous air raid with 21 Swordfish planes from HMS Illustrious fell on Taranto by night. They attacked in two waves and were met by the withering fire of twenty-one 90 mm anti-aircraft guns and many other Breda 37 mm and 20 mm guns plus the blocking effect of twenty-seven barrage balloons. Without radar, surprise was complete, at 20:35. Littorio was caught without sufficient anti-torpedo nets protection. Therefore she took three hits (Caio Duilio one, as Conte di Cavour). Although they were “light” aerial torpedoes, Littorio, hit twice in the bow and one in the stern had her rudder steering gear destroyed, plus a massive flooding at the bow. Her famous Pugliese protection failed, and she partially sank, resting on her bow, her main battery turrets partially submerged. The days afterwards, the safety team discovered a fourth unexploded torpedo under her keel and removing it was painstaking due to its magnetic detonator. It was done on 11 December and the ship could be towed for repairs, which lasted until 11 March 1941.

Convoy operations: Halberd, M42, M43, Sirte I & II
Littorio participated in another sortie on 22–25 August 1941. And another in September (Operation Halberd) on 27 September. The convoy was covered by no less than the battleships Rodney, Nelson and Prince of Wales, spotted by reconnaissance, and the Italian commander under orders broke off the interception and returned to port. On 13 December, another attempt was broken off after Vittorio Veneto was torpedoed by a British submarine. The fleet sailed again three days later for Operation M42. However these interceptions were thwarted mostly because by late 1941, the Enigma code has been broken. Axis convoys could be intercepted at will while trying to reach North Africa. Littorio engaged the escort of a British convoy bound to Malta and opened fire at extreme range (circa 35,000 yards or 32,000 m), scoring no hits. However this forced the British force to withdraw, but the axis convoy M42 reached North Africa unscathed.

Littorio in the summer of 1942 with her particular rounded stripes camouflage, dark grey of light blue grey.

On 3 January 1942, Littorio was sent to escort a new convoy, Operation M43, successfully. On 22 March, the Second Battle of Sirte started. The battleship was then flagship for the Italian fleet, sent to intercept British convoy for Malta. To protect hut as darkness fell, three several British destroyers were detached to sail to Littorio and attack her, at close-range, repelled by an efficient fire from her main and secondary guns. Nevertheless, one arrived at a short range, enough to fire a single 4.7-inch (120 mm) shell, causing minor damage. Littorio would later hit and seriously damage HMS Havock and Kingston and the cruiser Euryalus. Kingston was repaired later in Malta. Littorio at last had the chance of a fight where she can shine, and sent 181 shells on the British convoy’s cover, never reaching the convoy itself. The transports scattered and were mostly sunk later by air attacks.

On 14 June 1942, Littorio tried to catch another British convoy, to Malta (Operation Vigorous), from Alexandria. Littorio teamed with Vittorio Veneto, four cruisers and twelve destroyers but they were spotted by British forced, launching several night air strikes on their path, but scoring no hits. The next day, bombers arrived above the formation and Littorio was hit by a B-24 Liberator’s bomb, blasting the roof of the “A” turret with light damage to the rangefinder hood and barbette and splinters in the deck. This was enough to block the turret but Littorio carried on. The threat from both battleships had the British convoy aborted and soon after, the Italians broke off in turn. But while on their way back by night, Littorio was attacked by British Wellington toredo bombers, and took one hit, flooded by 1,500 long tons of seawater in the bow area. Counter-flooding 350 long tons the crew managed to counter the list and she was back in port for repairs until 27 August, remaining in Taranto until December, then she moved with the rest of the fleet to La Spezia.

Surrender of the Italian fleet, seen from HMS warspite.

Littorio was inactive in 1943 due to fuel shortages and whatever was available for the two battleships and the recently commissioned Roma, was kept for emergencies. On 19 June 1943, USAF bombing raids started. La Spezia was hammered and Littorio received three bombs. After Mussolini’s government fell, she was renamed Italia on 30 July and with the 3 September armistice, Italia was prepared with the rest if the fleet to move for internment. It was decided the fleet would join Malta, to remain there until the remainder of the war. However meanwhile, all-out hostilities broke out with the Germans, which seize ports and ships, and the Luftwaffe soon targeted the Fleet on its way. For the first time Dornier Do 217s were fitted with Fritz X radio-controlled bombs, ancestor of antiship missiles. One hit Italia (ex-Littorio) forward of turret no. 1, going through and out of the hull and exploding below the keel, causing considerable damage. Roma was more badly hit and sunk as a result.
Italia managed to reach Alexandria, and entered the Suez Canal 14 September to remain there until 5 February 1947, whe she was fuelled to depart again for the mainland. However the peace treaty attributed the battleship on 10 February to the United States as a war prize. Refused, she was stricken on 1 June 1948 and BU at La Spezia.

RN Vittorio Veneto

Named afte the decisive Battle of Vittorio Veneto over the Austro-Hungarians in 1918, the second battleship of the Littorio class was also one of the most active during the war. She had been laid down the same day as her sister ship in the Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico in Trieste, and completed in October 1939, although her fitting out period and trials and other post-trials modifications delayed her service entry in April 1940. But she was never really operational before August, as Italy entered war. Until 2 September 1940, she was part of a five battleships, ten cruisers, and thirty-four destroyers force sent to intercept Convoy MB.3, with no avail. On 6 September, same secenario against a force leaving Gibraltar, but the latter took the path westwards, to the Atlantic. On 29 September, new sortie against MB.5, the Regia Aeronautica spotted the convoy, but it was already too far away to intercept. The abense of good coordination with aviation and radars was each time a real problem and prevented the Navy to achieve seemingly easy victories. On 10–11 November, during the attack on Taranto Vittorio Veneto remained undamaged and therefore she became the fleet flagship (Admiral Inigo Campioni), participating in many engagements in the months coming.

Battle of Cape Spartivento
As her sister ships were in repairs, on 17 November, Vittorio Veneto and Giulio Cesare attempted to intercept a convoy to Malta (one of many) called Operation White. They failed to made contact. On 26 November this was Operation Collar, and this time both fleets met off Cape Spartivento (Cape Teulada for the Italians). Campioni’s forces comprised outside the two capital ships, six cruisers, and fourteen destroyers. The British escort however included the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, battleship Ramillies, and battlecruiser Renown. At first Italian aerial reconnaissance exaggerated their strength. Campioni was then under orders to not take too much risk and broke off, however Vittorio Veneto which had the range, started in between shelling British cruisers at 27,000 metres (17 miles), firing 19 rounds in seven salvoes and slightly damaged HMS Manchester. HMS Ark Royal launched its Swordfish torpedo bombers on the Vittorio Veneto, which evaded the torpedoes.

Naples, La Spezia and Sardinia
Naples proved a too exposed target for British bombers and so Supermarina, the High Command ordered Vittorio Veneto and the rest of the fleet to Sardinia on 14 December, returning to Naples later, but it was realized that Sardinia was an ideal base to intercept convoys from Gibraltar to Alexandria. On the night of 8–9 January 1941 Vickers Wellington bombers attacked Naples, damaging Giulio Cesare. Both battleships moved to La Spezia. Vittorio Veneto thus became the only operational battleship of the Regia Marina, as Giulio Cesare was in repairs until February, soon met by Andrea Doria. The three made a sortie with eight destroyers, to catch Force H on 8 February but both forces missed each others and the Italian returned to La Spezia.

Veneto sailing out of Matapan, torpedoed.

Battle of Cape Matapan
Vittorio Veneto was in Naples on 22 March with the fleet, four days later it sortied alone to attack British forces off Greece, with eight cruisers and nine destroyers, speed was the essence and Veneto was much faster than the other two battleships. Not ony air covered was to be assured by the Regia Aeronautica but also the German Fliegerkorps X. Off the Battle of Cape Matapanbot forces met. The Trento-class heavy cruisers and Bolzano (Vice Admiral Luigi Sansonetti) met cruisers of the 15th Squadron. Iachino tried to catch the engagement with Vittorio Veneto, east of the British cruisers but HMS Orion spotted her before she was in range and the cruisers just evaded the trap. Vittorio Veneto fired anyway but just splinter damaged Orion and latter poor visibility plagued action, notably the British cruiser’s smokescreenss. In all, Veneto fired 92 rounds.

Meawnhile, HMS Formidable arrived on the scene, and its TBs attacked Vittorio Veneto, breaking off in turn the engagement and started dodging torpedoes. Air attacks went on in an attempt to to slow down Vittorio Veneto, including land-based Blenheim bombers from Greece and Crete. At 15:10 one of Formidable’s Swordfish hit Vittorio Veneto on her port side aft which sheared off the port side propeller, damaged the shaft and jammed the port rudder while the aft port pumps were also disabled. Severe flooding started before safety teams were able to call out the damage, the shp took some 4,000 long tons weawater, giving a 4–4.5 degree list and full stop after ten minutes. Then came a new Blenheim attack. There was a near-miss close to the stern but minor damage to stern. With counter-flooding the list was reduced and the starboard shafts were restarted while steering used the backup hand-steering gear allowing the ship to resume her trip at 20 knots on her starboard shafts. A new air strike of nine Swordfish arrived, but found and struck RN Pola, having huge consequences as the two other returned to assist her, to be blown to pieces during the night, making this rather indecisive engagement a resounding British victory. Due to repairs, Vittorio Veneto was out of commissioned until August 1941.

Vitorrio Veneto firing at Gaudos, Battle of Matapan

1941-42 Operations
Still under command of Iachino, Vittorio Veneto and Littorio made an unsuccessful attack sortie on 22–25 August mine as the British attempted to mine the waters of Livorno in addition to an air raid in northern Sardinia, the Italians were posted far too in the south as aerial reconnaissance once again failed to locate the British fleet. On 27 September, Vittorio Veneto with Littorio led a fleet of five cruisers, and fourteen destroyers to attack the convoy of Operation Halberd. However this was to lure out the Italian fleet on a distant escort made of the Rodney, Nelson, and Prince of Wales. Reconnaissance failed again and no contact was made but Italian torpedo bombers managed to attack the British formation and hit Nelson.

On 13 December, this was this time a convoy protection mission to North Africa. The convoy departed to broke off after a successful British radio deception. On her way back, Veneto was spotted and torpedoed by the British submarine HMS Urge off Messina and one hit on her port side, blewing up a hole 13 m (43 ft) long. She started listing and took 2,000 tons of seawater, but despite of this, the Pugliese system somewhat contained the explosion. Counter flooding and pumping allowed her to steam her way back to port, and then Taranto for repairs, until early 1942.

Veneto in June 1942, Taranto

On 14 June 1942, Vittorio Veneto was part of the naval force deployed for Operation Vigorous. The British spotted the Italian fleet and launched air strikes with Wellington and Bristol Beaufort bombers. They scored no hits but on the cruiser Trento, flooded and an easy target later for later for a British submarine. B-24 Liberators from the USAAF also attacked the fleet, making only near misses and no damage. Later, Beauforts attacked again, but axis air cover was efficient and repelled the attack. By the afternoon of 15 June, Iachino realized there was no way to reach the convoy before dark and order to broke off the operation. In the meantime howver, the convoy had been ordered back to Alexandria, never making it to Malta, a British failure by default, compensated by a torpedo hot on Littorio on her way back.

Operation Torch and consequences
On 12 November, Vittorio Veneto moved to Naples, to have a better launching spot after the Allied invasion of North Africa. However she was caught en route by the British submarine HMS Umbra, which failed to score any hit however. However, the fleet soon had to evacuate Naples after an USAAF raid, back to La Spezia, remaining until the capitulation. On 5 June 1943, Vittorio Veneto was badly damaged by USAF bombers, and she was transferred to Genoa for repair, which went one until 3 September, and the armistice. On 9 September, Vittorio Veneto and the rest of the fleet sailed for Malta when they were attacked underway by Do 217s with Fritz X radio-controlled bombs. Vittorio Veneto was only one spared, making it in Malta and remaining there until 14 September, then Alexandria and the Great Bitter Lake for storage in October. Italia and Veneto remained there until 6 October 1946, returning to Italy. The peace treaty signed on 10 February 1947 saw Vittorio Veneto allocated to Britain, but she was paid off on 3 January 1948, stricken and sold for BU. Some of her 90mm AA guns saw action with the Yugoslav People’s Army and were surrended during on 14 September 1991 (Croatian War of Independence), after quite an active use during the Battle of Šibenik.

RN Roma

Roma’s launch, 9 June 1940

Roma’s final outfitting in the summer of 1942

After commission and training, RN Roma (Capt. Adone Del Cima) made it in the naval base of Taranto on 21 August. She was assigned to the 9th Naval Division, took part in more training exercises and Taranto, Naples, and La Spezia in 1943, seeing little combat due to late fuel shortages. On 12 November, the Allied invasion of North Africa prompted a departure of the fleet which en route were attacked by the British submarine HMS Umbra, without hit. On 4 December 1942 a major USAF raid on Naples destroyed a cruiser, damaged two others and four destroyers. Roma, Vittorio Veneto and Littorio moved to to La Spezia, and Roma, the best and most recent, became the flagship of the Regia Marina. Nothing really happened in January-February, and until early March of 1943 while La Spezia was attacked by more Allied bombers, on 14 and 19 April 1943 and on 5 June, bombs severely damaging Vittorio Veneto and Roma. These were B-17 908 kg (2,002 lb) AP bombs and Roma took two near hits but leaks were soon detecting from frames 221 to 226 on around 3m2, starting a flooding from the bow. The second near miss created more leaks one 30 sq ft (2.8 m2) and in total 2,350 long tons of seawater would entered the ship. On 23–24 June Roma was hit by another bomb aft and starboard close to the aft main turret (“X”) causing flooding from broken pipes. Another hit the turret’s rear but the heavy armor did its job. Roma had to sail to Genoa for repairs on 1 July, back to Spezia on 13 August.

Armistice and the end of Roma

As Operation Avalanche took place, the fleet was instructed to gather and sail to Salerno. However, events changed dramatically in between: On 9 September 1943, after the armistice, the Italian fleet, comprising Vittorio Veneto, Italia and Roma, as flagship of Admiral Carlo Bergamini, plus the cruisers Eugenio di Savoia, Raimondo Montecuccoli, Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta and eight destroyers departed La Spezia and were joined by Duca degli Abruzzi, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and Attilio Regolo from Genoa, but had to turn back as the operation was cancelled.
German forces soon launched Operation Achse, and Admiral Bergamini had to flee La Spezia to avoid capture and reach Allied ports. Bergamini at frst decline to sail to Malta while Victor Emmanuel III’s court and government moved from Rome to La Maddalena on the destroyers Vivaldi and Da Noli, in Sardinia, giving no more precise orders. Once there, they communicated with Bergamini, ordering the fleet to proceed to Malta from Admiral Bruno Brivonesi and related armistice documents. The fleet arrived off La Maddalena, just captured by German troops and Supermarina ordered Bergamini to head for Bône instead. This move was catch by the Germans which soon sent several Dornier Do 217s armed with the new Fritz X radio-controlled bomb, in order to destroy the ships and prevent them falling in allied hands. The bomber spotted the fleet off the Strait of Bonifacio and the attack commenced.

Roma in 1942, Nice colorization by Irootoko jr.

The Do 217s stayed off range from the fleet, remaining unidentified, but as the latter did not open fire as planned, not able to tell friend of foe, they stopped trailing the fleet and prepared to attack. Bergamini believed this was an allied air cover, as promised. But soon, the first Dornier attacked and launched its first guided bomb upon Italia and Roma soon after. Immediately AA batteries entered into action while the ships began evasive maneuvers. 15 minutes later, RN Italia was hit on the starboard side, as Roma, the bomb passing through the ship to explode beneath the keel. The hull girder was badly damaged and water flooding started in the after engine room and two boiler rooms, also causing the inboard propellers to stop while many electrical fires started. Soon, Roma started to loose power and speed and fall out of the battle group.

On 16:02, a now slow target, Roma was soon hit by another Fritz X, hich slammed into here starboard side on her deck, and detonated in the forward engine room. A massive ball of flames and heavy flooding in the magazines of turret “B” and fore port side, secondary turret. The already stressed hull girder ruptured and B turret was soon blown overboard by a massive explosion, coming from fire spreading to the turret’s magazines. This was followed by a catastrophic flooding causing the ship to sink by the bow while listing to starboard. It soon capsized and broke in two. 596 survived out of the 1,253 men that could not escaped Roma. According to Francesco Mattesini Admiral Bergamini’s staff was also decimated in the process. In all, the were 1,393 losses. In her short service, Roma would cover 2,492 mi (4,010 km) in 133 hours of sailing. The wreck ws rediscovered in June 2012 by Guido Gay’s underwater robot, laying down about 30 km (19 mi) off the northern coast of Sardinia under 1,000 m (3,281 ft). A memorial ceremony was held on an Italian frigate headed with emotion by Giampaolo Di Paola, defence minister and former sailor.

Forward turrets and starboard quarter view, stern and bow of Roma

Roma sunk by the Luftwaffe on 9 September 1943

RN Impero

Launch of the Battleship RN Impero in November 1939

Impero was the fourth Littorio-class battleship, named after the Italian word for “empire”, recalling not the Roman Empire dear to Mussolini but the newly conquered Italian Empire in East Africa after the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. She was part of the 1938 Naval Expansion Program with Roma. The two more battleships of the Littorio class were an attempt to counter a possible Franco-British alliance, and the new Richelieu class in construction. Mussolini postponed and later authorized the planning in January 1937 FY1938, approved in december and funded. Impero was laid down in May 1938, and launched in November 1939.

Before June 1940, it was well understood that Genoa was in bombing range from France, in case of a war which seems now plausible. Therefore the hull of RN Impero was tugged to Brindisi on 8 June 1940. Trieste was preferred but the basin was already taken by Roma, fitting out. Her machinery was installed, parts of her light artillery for AA defence, but due to limited manpower and resources, construction priorities went to smaller and lighter escort vessels. RN Impero was still incomplete when bombed by an allied raid, and it was decided to fit her with additional light anti-aircraft and anti-surface guns for self defense as she had her egines installed and can now sail to Venice, departing on 22 January 1942. She later that year moved to Trieste, but left there with no work done for month.

In the end, Italy capitulated to the Allies in September 1943, Impero was seized by the Germans. At that stage, hull was 88% complete and engines were 76% complete, but only 28% of her completion was done, with the secondary and main armament, electrical wiring and bridge still missing. While her sister ships sailed to Sardinia to be escorted in Malta. At first there was no intent to complete her at that stage so she was left there, and later intended to break her up for scrap. The Germans indeed expected eighteen more months of full work to complete her. The hulk was spotted by Allied aviation over Trieste and sunk in shallow waters. The Germans used her as a target practice while another air attack on 20 February 1945 futher damaged her hulk. RN Impero was eventually stricken from the register on 27 March 1947, towed to Venice, beached, and scrapped there from 1948.

Unfinished Impero under German control.

Aircraft carrier Aquila

Aircraft carrier Aquila (1940)

The Aquila and Sparviero aircraft carriers were among the well-known unfinished ships of WW2. Both proceeded from ideas developed in 1928-1930 as a faction milited for their development, in the country which invented the concept of strategic bombardment, by General Douhet.
The uncompleted 1916 Carraciolo class super-dreadnoughts were broken up due to the Washington treaty, and in WW2, the Capitani Romani class cruisers and Medaglie d’Oro class destroyers and many submarines were never completed, as the last of the Litorrio class, Impero. But the Aquila aircraft carrier would have been a remarkable ship, for her capabilities, despite being built in such a short time. She was nearly completed and started early trials when Italy surrendered in September 1943.

Mussolini’s “Aircraft Carrier Italy”

Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero, the workhorse of the Regia Marina throughout the war.

Part of the Regia Marina high command, and Mussolini himself, considered an aircraft carrier superfluous in its position: Arguably the central geographic location in the Mediterranean and shape of the peninsula made it the best “natural carrier”, fitting in the objective of a “Roman lake”. Mussolini himself boasted this “aircraft carrier Italy” was unsinkable. However the reality of warfare soon recalled the necessity of a true carrier: The Tarento raid was one of many demonstrating the issue. The greatest problem was that coordination between the fleet and air force. It range from problematic so simply inexistant. Bombers and torpedo bombers were good, especially those of the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 types, but they were never where it mattered. The latter were fast at 450 kph, with a range of about 1,000 m (1,600 and 3,300 ft), and could carry two torpedoes, although one was more current, of the standard 457 mm model.

The Regia Aeronautica’s anti-ship aviation

The Aerosilurante unit was created in July 1940 and crews had little time to practice (col. Moioli). They learned on the fly, quite literally. Their best success was to badly damage the heavy cruiser HMS Kent. They also attacked shipping in Alexandria, sank a merchant ship in Sept. 1940, and in October also badly damaged the cruiser HMS Liverpool. Both ships were written-off for almost a year in repairs and HMS Glasgow in Suda Bay, Crete. In 1941 they would also damage HMS Manchester and sank a destroyer, HMS Phoebe, HMS Nelson, badly damaged the destroyer HMS Jackal and sank the SS Imperial Star, Empire Pelican, Empire Defender, Glenearn and Xhakdina.

In 1942, they torpedoed again HMS Liverpool, just repaired near Malta, the steamer Tanimbar and they finished off HMS Bedouin. When attacking a convoy (Operation pedestal) they sank HMS Foresight and the merchant ship MV Deucalion. Later they sank a Flower-class corvette and a merchant ship, and badly damaged HMS Arethusa. They also damaged HMS Indomitable 16 July 1943 but this was their last success.

The Regia Aeronautica was primarily an independent air force subordinated first and foremost to the Army. There was no “fleet air arm” per se, and planes were attached by regional squadrons to various task, but without much centralisation. There were good marine planes however, like the CANT Z.506 Airone, a beautiful trimotor floatplane with two large floats under the engine nacelles. They were purely coastal defence planes, the equivalent of torpedo boats, carrying a single 816 kg (1,800 lb) torpedo at 350 km/h (220 mph, 190 kn) and on around 2,000 km. However only 350 were built, introduced from 1936. The main problem, like for the SM.79, was the lack of power of the engines, around 750 hp, a problem that plagued Italian aviation during WW2, solved by procurement of German engines.

The upgraded CANT Z.1007 appeared in 1940 to replace both the Z506 and SM79. Called “Alcione” these were heavier but more powerful, with three Piaggio P.XI R.C.40 14-cylinder which developed 990 hp each, capable of flying at 458 km/h (285 mph, 247 kn) and carrying two 450 mm (17.7 in) 800 kg (1,800 lb), torpedoes.

In all, 660 were built; but apart the raid of Malta, they played a limited role over sea.

Guiseppe Miraglia: The exception

The converted state railway ferry could carry and operate in WW2 17 IMAM Ro.43 Idro, served by cranes and two steam catapults. She has been rebuilt in 1929 and was used like for the French Commandant Teste, as a mobile reconnaissance base. However, she was slow and therefore would not keep up with the fleet. In 1940, she was used as as aircraft transport and training vessel for floatplane pilots in home waters. After the Armistice of 1943 she ended in Malta, and stayed relatively inactive afterwards. In the 1930s the relative failure of the concept did not pushed the cause of aircraft carrier advocates in Italy, the country of Douhet.

Advocates of a carrier

An abandoned conversion project of the Caracciolo.

During the interwar, the Italian military as well as political circles debated the role of aircraft carriers for the Regia Marina. Gino Ducci, the chief of staff in the early 1920s, Romeo Bernotti, his assistant and Giuseppe Fioravanzo argued Italy needed a fleet air arm, and this plan included also the construction of aircraft carriers, plus updated naval academies.

They faced the anti-air faction in the Navy, notably Mussolini himself and the Army, which in part wanted full control on the Regia Aeronautica, but allied with some politicians over cost issues and overall practicality. In the end, many were aware of Italy’s limited industrial capacity, cramped shipyard and little capital to develop the fleet further. The Miraglia was at best a compromise. Even the rivalry with France, with the latter converting a battleship into the aircraft carrier Béarn, entered considerations. However Mussolini was more concerned by parity in terms of capital ships and scrapped aircraft carrier conversion projects.

The other counter-arguments presented were connected always to Italy’s geography.
1-The Regia Marina was expected to operate primarily in the narrow confines of the Mediterranean
2-The navylacked a fleet air arm and there was no plan to develop one.
3-Carriers were expensive, and unproven.
4-France seemed not to commit in such endeavour (The Joffre class was projected in 1939 only)
5-The Italian coastal area allowed an extensive reach of the aviation.
6-Italian islands (Pantelleria, Sicily) were “natural” aircraft carriers, extending this reach to North Africa if needed and Mussolini’s plans to conquer Greece and the Balkans later would, and in case of war, Sardinian Corsica, Malta, Cyprus as well would have further extended the reach of the Regia Aeronautica if Mussolini’s ambitions were fulfilled. There were ample demonstration by the Luftwaffe that indeed, aviation was a threat for navies in this theater of war, even without an aircraft carrier. The carrier scenario only arranged the Royal Navy.

A conversion project of the Bolzano in 1941

Conversion of a liner as an aircraft carrier was not new: This has been already be object of a sturdy in late 1935, as relations degraded quickly between Italy and the United Kingdom around Ethiopia. The high command estimated aviation support was necessary far from home, and the Navy could bring this support in case of a conflict. It was well known that the Royal Navy had many aircraft carriers on her side. Rather than a newly built ships, such conversion, already done on the Miraglia, saved time and money. The study also envisioned a conversion of the transatlantic MS Augustus.

In 1938, with the Sudeten crisis, the aircraft carrier question made a come back, as alternatively the conversion of the heavy cruiser Bolzano. The project of was studied in detail by the famous engineer Giuseppe Rota. He considered razing the superstructures and leaving the aft 203 mm turrets and installing four catapults. One was to be placed on the main deck, and three laterally, plus a small island installed on the starboard side of the ship, and a hangar to serve a dozen fighters.

In 1940 and 1941, a serie of battle saw British planes shattered the last hopes of the Regia Marina to win without a carrier. The battle of Punta Stilo, notably turned to disaster because of British aviation, Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers which hit the Vitorrio Veneto, forced to retire, and the Pola, which was assisted by two other heavy cruisers of the Zara class, all lost by during the night by close gunfire by British Battleships. This event saw the best Italian cruiser class decimated, loss which the Italian Navy could ill-afford.

The defeat was a shock for the admiralty, and of course the raid of Taranto in November 1940 were a clear reminder that air power was not a joke if well used. On paper the Royal Navy was numerically inferior to the Regia Marina, so the conversion of existing ships into aircraft carriers became urgent.

A reunion of the admiralty took place in late 1941 to choose potential candidates for conversion. Soon, the Transatlantic Roma was found suitable. She was large enough, recent (barely 15 years old) but needed an overhaul of her machinery. Roma was originally built for the “Italian General Navigation” company of Genoa, by Ansaldo shipyard in Sestri Ponente. Roma was launched on February 26, 1926.

Bonfiglietti’s Carrier designs

About Lt. Gen. Bonfiglietti

Lt. General Filippo Bonfiglietti was born in Tivoli quarter, Rome in 1868. A cavalry sergeant in 1882, in 1892 he was graduated a civil engineer, naval school of Genoa two years later, and supervised in 1896 the construction of the revolutionary Regina Elena battleships.

A captain in 1904, he was in the ministry of the Navy in Rome and became a Lt. Colonel in 1913. He was posted during the war at the Genoese technical office fior the Navy, and started teaching at the engineering faculty for naval construction from 1917. He took the head of the technical bureau of Castellamare de Stabia NyD, and then, the yard itself. In 1924 he was promoted at the head of the naval construction in the Ministry in Rome and later general of the naval engineering corps. He also headed the information and studies office in the design committee, and later a lt. General until 1931 in this office. He retired, but went on working on engineering projects, like the port of Loano, where he died in 1939.

Bonfiglietti’s carrier design A

But of course on of his greatest legacy was his work on Italian aircraft carrier projects, which for he milited. He notably designed the Zara class cruisers and Bolzano, and from 1929 a 770 tonnes, 34 knots TB. His 15,000 tonnnes aicraft carrier project had 203 mm guns and about 40-50 aircraft.

He would design four variants of the same project, one of which (nearly adopted), strongly resembled the contemporary USS Lexington class. His blueprints resurfaced in 2008 and were used for a long article in Storia Militare, and was published therafter in Warship 2015 by John Jordan.

Bonfiglietti’s 1929 preliminary designs

Bonfiglieti variant A showing its strong resemblance in general concept to the Lexington class, with 8×8 8-in guns in twin turrets, large funnel and tower bridge. It was derived from the Trento and Bolzano hull he studied and were very fast, pure fleet carriers.

His design A to D had the same powerplant rated for 70,000 shp, 1800 nm at 29 knots, 4,200 at 2 knots, and a triple bottom to store oil, two sets of steam turbines with reduction gear fed by two groups of three watertube boilers. They were however smaller than those adopted on the Trentos. They were indeed spaced to left room for the Pugliese ASW protection system. There were also six turbogenerators, 180 KW each. The power distribition derived from the Zara class.

The propellers were 4.4 m in diameter and run at 260 rpm max. The internal hull layout allowed the ships to survive with three compartments flooded. Bonfiglietti took precaution for heating transmission when the ships was at full speed, to not overheat the hangar’s floor. There was an isolating material and air circulation vents.

Bonfiglietti design B

Complement as specified late 1928 by the naval staff was 1112 officers and men, notably 78 officers, including 62 for the air force. He submitted his design in December 1929. He really hoped this could be approved for further work, but the admiralty took her time. There were discussions and exchanges of letters with the London naval attaché over possible smaller carrier designs desrived from cruiser hulls, on which Bonfiglietti worked in 1930 and which were called variant B, C and D.

Bonfiglietti variant C

The A and B displaced 14,000 tonnes and recalled the USS Ranger in general arrangement, while the C was no more than 10,000 tonnes. Among othe r changes, the flight deck was shorter, protection lighter, armament reduced to secondary dual purpose guns. However the general yalout and even the aircraft carrying capacity was almost unchanged. The C variant was the weaker however, with less planes, no Pugliese system. He proposed all these as a base for discussion, hoping his well-thought out original design A would be chosen. He also specified using diesel to reduce the island size and maximize the landing deck surface and efficiency.

Bonfiglietti variant D

After Bonfiglietti retired, “Our Maritime policy” by Bernotti was still the rule book for the Regia Marina, based on the position the navy took at the conference of London in 1930. In 1931, Bonfiglietti however released his fourth design “D” which he sent to the design committee, based on an agreement in the conference between Italy and France on the question of remaining tonnage, 34,500 tonnes of aircraft carriers;

Bonfiglietti argued against a single carrier of 27,000 tonnes or three of 10,000 tonnes which would have been too small with too few aircrafts to operate effectively. He proposed two carriers of 17,000 tonnes instead, the object of design D, which ended at 11,500 tonnes. This D still had a 200 m long flight deck, 28 m wide. Top speed was about 26 knots, and the exhaust ducts were relocated on the sides, eliminating the funnel and thus making the island way smaller and without much interference, but this provisioned diesel engines and generators.

Its planned armament comprised four twin 120 mm DP guns and four twin 100 mm HA located on a deck level below the flight deck. This arrangement left a 140 m long area available for landing, with a 10° incline at the end. Three aircraft lifts were on the axis, centerline, reinforcing also the landing deck. Instead of the Pugliese system, tight compartmentation ensured a layered defense agains torpedoes and flooding.

In the end, 30 aircraft were carried, 12 fighter, 8 bombers, and 10 recce planes, provided these were readily available, but up to 42 with folded wings aircrafts if the project was approved. He precised the design was to be the object of much rework and developments to be completed. However in November 1931 there were just a mention about the design and no decision was made. The aircraft carrier question did not resurfaced before long after the war broke out.

Design of the conversion

The first step in the process was to choose the two liners suited for such conversion: MS Augustus and Roma. The SS Rex, famous Italian transatlantic flagbearer, one of the great civilian prestige successes of the Fascist regime, the 45,800 tons, 270 m long, 28 knots liner would have made formidably large carriers, but Rex was laid up at Genoa in late 1940, later Trieste to avoid bombings, and Pola. She will be sunk by the RAF in September.

SS Roma

The 30,800 long tons (31,300 t), 21 kn (39 km/h; 24 mph), 215 x 25 m ocean liner Roma was less recent than the Augustus. She was the lead ship in a class ordered by the Navigazione Generale Italiana as transatlantic ocean liners, from the Ansaldo shipyard. The was launched in 1926, named SS Roma, with a steel hull, Baroque interiors, teak deck, 32,583 GRT displacement, and was identified by the signal code letters ICEV. She was launched on 26 February 1926, Completed in September 1926 and in service by 21 September 1926.

Rome diverged from her sister ship Augustus as having diesel engines, connected to eight turbines on four shafts. Steam came from 9 double ended and 4 single ended boilers, thirteen in all. Top speed as designed was 22 knots. Carrying capacity was 1700 passengers: 375 in the first class, 300 in the second, 300 in the intermediate and 700 in the third class.

She had two funnels painted repainted after the company merged with the Lloyd Sabaudo and Cosulich Line, to form the Italian Line and during her service on 30 January 1932, she collided with the American ocean liner President Roosevelt in New York. The latter was rammed, but repaired and returned into service.

A rocky conversion decision

The important date was June 1940, when Mussolini sanctioned the conversion of the Roma into an auxiliary carrier. This was to a simple, fast conversion in the guise of the British HMS Argus, but even more simplified, with a full-length deck deck and small hangar for support operations. But on 7 January 1941, two month after Taranto, Mussolini decided to change the conversion into a full-blow fleet aircraft carrier.
Her top speed being inadequate for military service her power-plant had to be entirely modernized, diesels retired and new turbines and boilers added to reach 30 knots as specified.
Her conversion was to start soon after when she was ordered, but the Regia Marina staff came with many objection on 27 January 1941: Cost issues, designing from scratch catapults, an arrester gear and elevators, folding wings conversion of existing aircraft and many other aspects, for a considerable total cost and conversion duration of at least two years.

The situation could dramatically change in the interval and budget was limited (of should be limited as thought) to emergency maintenance and repairs of existing ships. Later budgets were stretched further for the construction of new destroyers (Soldati and Medaglie d’Oro), new torpedo boats (Ciclone and Ariete), submarines, ASW corvettes (Gabbiano class) and even new cruisers, the “Capitani Romani” as the 6th of the Condotierri group, Ciano class, were cancelled in June 1940. In addition, the Italians referred to the problems and delays already encountered by the Germans with the Graf Zeppelin or the Luftwaffe own’s antiship capabilities, demonstrated when HMS Illustrious was almost sunk by Stukas (The Regia Aeronautica was about to receive about 200 of them).
Mussolini heard these arguments and postponed the conversion, until the battle of Cape Matapan on 21 June. The absence of a carrier and its advantages was then obvious to the Regia Marina which rescinded its complaints. Mussolini reopened the case and ordered the ships again.

HD photo of the Aquila in La Spezia after the war (reddit)

Aquila conversion Design

The “Eagle” and “Falcon” were similar, but the conversion design was not the same. Their powerplant differences mattered as well as the financed to achieve the conversion. Falco, ex Augustus, would be converted later in 1942, in a much simplified design reminiscent of the first conversion project in November 1940.
The conversion of Roma, renamed Aquila in February 1942 to free the name for a fourth Litorrio class battleship, was started at Cantieri Ansaldo, Genoa, in November 1941. A conversion project of two years would meant she would have been serviceable by November 1943, yet at the time Italy had no hindsight on how the war would turn, in particular in North Africa.

Conversion process

The relatively large hull made a good base, although the waterline was less narrow than cruisers of the time, with the adequate powerplant it was thought suitable speed could be obtained. Moreover it was decided later to lengthen the hull to take advantage of this better output, obtaining finer entry lines. The greatest challenge was the fact both should be converted to military grade, meaning including protection aspects that did not existed in the original design, and a completely new arrangement.

Notably of course, the interior was completely gutted, back to bare walls and floors, and a very large opening cut to allow the total replacement of the original machinery. After the machinery was installed and the decks above sealed, the construction of a full-length hangar and associated workshops could start. It was certainly a much greater endeavour than just placing a flying deck above an existing ship, and time was gained only because the bottom of the hull already existed, as the shafts and rudders. Practically all the rest was changed, not far away from a brand new construction.

Aquila fitting out in Genoa, circa 1943


Protection-wide, changes were considerable: The first step was to add deep bulges either side, not only to improve stability (essential for a carrier), and provide some torpedo defense. It was not yet as thorough as the Pugliese system, but more efficient than a simpler deep-layered compartmentation. In addition, a reinforced concrete layer ranging from 60 to 80 mm (2.4–3.1 in) in thickness was poured inside the bulges for splinter protection. Conway’s states even this was 60 cm of concrete.

Also, 30 to 80 mm (1.2–3.1 in) thick armor plates were placed over the magazines and aviation fuel tanks. The latter were inspired by British models, composed of cylinders and/or cofferdams separated from hull by compartments filled with seawater. This safety measure intended prevented fracturing, and spread of volatile aviation gas, not because of a hit, but near-miss, as brutal vibration from the shock underwater was likely to provoke massive leakages.


To gain time, it was decided to use four sets of the new Belluzzo geared turbines built for the last two, just cancelled Capitani Romani-class light cruisers. The ships concerned were the Cornelio Silla and Paolo Emilio. These steam units were connected to eight thornycroft boilers, generated 151,000 shp (113,000 kW). They propelled the ships at 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) as designed in trials, down to 29.5 knots fully loaded and in battle order. This was totally adequate for the fleet. 3600 tonnes of oil was carried also.
The machinery was arranged into four separate compartments. Each contained two boilers and one set of turbines, they were separated into two equal groups by a midship compartment.

Flight deck, hangar and island

The blueprints showed a single continuous flight deck, 211.6 m long by 25.2 m wide or 694 feet 3 inches and 82 feets 8 inches. This allowed the same flight operations as the Ranger or most British aircraft carriers of the time. This flight deck was partially armored: 76 mm (3.0 in) plate were placed over the aviation gasoline bunkers and aircraft ammunition magazines. The flight deck stopped short of the bow, but overhung the stern, with a round-down for better air flow. The hangar measured 160 by 18 meters, initially large enough to house only 26 planes.
Two lifts were provided, of equal size, 50 ft (15 m) and octagonal on shape. However they had only a 5 short tons (4.5 t) capacity. One was amidships, and the second not far forward. This design placed them far from the arrester wires for safety.

The Germans, which knew and approved the Italian design, had Demag contacted to deliver already tested compressed air-driven catapults. Each of these was created for the Graf Zeppelin, and was capable of a launching every 30 seconds. On Aquila, they were installed at the forward end of the deck, side by side, ans were taken from the stocks made for “Carrier B”, Graf Zeppelin’s sister ship. On the same move, the Italian technical commission sent in Germany in late 1941 also obtained five sets of arrester gear and other equipments belonging to the same cancelled carrier B.

However the Italian solution for handling planes from the hangar was peculiar, since they derived from the German system: A set of rails was installed from the elevators to the catapults. Aircraft were to be hoisted in the hangar, onto a portable collapsible catapult carriage. Elevated to the flight deck, they were trundled forward on the rails to the catapult, as on the Graf Zeppelin. A complication the allies avoided.

Aquila’s starboard-side island was much inspired by the 1930 designs by Bonfiglietti; There was a single large vertical funnel and a tall command tower on which were mounted the fire control directors for the 135 mm (5.3 in) duel purpose guns. One bridge was the command bridge and above was placed the deck operation c&c bridge. No radar was provisioned, even though the Germans projected one large surveillance radar to be fitted in Graf Zeppelin.

Armament of the Aquila

The Aquila was to be fitted with a powerful onboard armament, less extreme but better balanced than in the 1930 design (4×2 8-in gun turrets).
Her original armament was to comprise eight 152 mm/55 (6 in) in four twin turrets for and aft of the main island, twelve single masked 90 mm/50 AA guns, and 104 37 mm/54 AA guns in twin mounts, but it was revised later:
Aquila’s final main dual purpose artillery was to comprise four twin 135 mm (5.3 in)/45 cal guns. They came straight from the same cancelled last two Capitani Romani-class cruisers as the powerplant. They could only elevate to 45° but could fire fuse delayed explosives with shrapnel to create a barrage. In addition, she carried twelve Breda 20 mm (0.79 in)/65 cal. anti-aircraft (AA) guns in single mounts, placed fore and aft on the island.

Sextuple 20 mm Breda mount, model 38, built for the Aquila.

Planners also intended to add twelve of the brand new 65 mm (2.56 in) AA guns, on sponsons below flight deck level like allied 75 mm mountings. but the ambitious ordnance fed automatically at 20 rpm were mere prototypes in 1942 and still not ready in late 1943. In alternative, additional twelve Breda 20 mm would have been mounted instead in case the ships would have been completed sooner. Final plans were even more radical, intended to use no less than twenty-two sextuple 20 mm AA mountings (132 total) in addition to the twelve 65 mm mounts. This would have made the Aquila one of the most heavily armed carrier in the world in 1943, an AA defence way above the usual Regia Marina standards, and very much the fruit of wartime reflection.

The Original blueprints of the Aquila are lilely to be lost, since i can’t find it anywhere on internet. But interpretations of the general outline design exist which gives a good sense of the ships’s look, very reminiscent of the German Graf Zeppelin.

Specifications of RN aquila

Dimensions 207.30 (wl) 211.60 (oa) x 29.40 x 7.3m (680/759 x 96 x 24 ft)
Flight Deck 216.20 (oa) x 25.30 m (70 ft 6 in x 83 ft)
Displacement 23,130 t, 28,350 t FL
Crew 1165 + 243 air personal
Propulsion 4 shafts Belluzo turbines, 8 Thornycroft Boilers, 151,000 hp
Speed 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph)
Range 5,500 nmi (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) at 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Armament 8x 135mm/45, 12x 65mm/64, 132 x 20mm AA, 51-66 aircraft.
Armor Belt: 80 mm, decks 60 mm

Aircraft complement of Aquila

The same process than in Germany took place to find suitable carrier-based aircraft and test them for modifications. Trials took place at facilities in Perugia and Guidonia. Ultimately the Regia Aeronautica settled on the SAIMAN 200 (recce) and for fighters-bombers, the Fiat G.50/B and Reggiane Re.2001 OR Serie II. They were modified and pitted each others in a serie of tests in 1942-43. Feedback in March 1943 from German engineers and instructors proposed to instruct pilots of the 160 Gruppo C.T. of the Regia Aeronautica, on Ju 87C Stuka, if the latter was to be navalized as it was studied for the German aircraft carrier, with folding wings, arrester hook and catapult attachment points.

Saiman 200: This two-seat primary trainer from the Società Industrie Meccaniche Aeronautiche Navali was designed by Mario Bottini was introduced in 1940 and was thought as a possible reconnaissance biplane. Caproni-Vizzola built 115 aircraft and SAIMAN built 25, modified in early service due to many accidents. The Italian “tiger moth” was propelled by a 185 hp (138 kW) Alfa-Romeo 115 engine to 220 kph, and was given a range of 475 km (295 miles). It was unarmed but a possible ring-mounted Breda MG for the rear observer. It was eventually never selected.
The Fiat G50B was a two-seat trainer version of which 100 aircraft were built, but its role was to be a fighter/recce plane, eventually not selected.
In addition to the Stuka, Italian pilots trained in Germany also on the Arado Ar 96B trainer. but eventually comparative tests ended with the choice of the Re.2001 as a standard. This also confirmed by the Germans, arguing it was even better than the Bf 109T.

The winner: Caproni Reggiane 2001/G Falco II

Re 2001-5

The more sturdy and proven Caproni-Reggiane 2001, derivative of the US Seversky P35 fighter (a 1939 ancestor of the P47 thunderbolt) became the main plane onboard, still in unfolded version to gain time. The RE 2000 was already well-liked by the Regia Marina, as an onboard fighter-bomber on board cruisers and battleships in 1942-43 where its replaced the Imam Ro43. Some projects were to even carry the 450 mm standard aerial torpedo. Using the same plane presented obvious maintenance and handling operations advantages.

Aquila was to receive a complement of 51 non-folding Reggiane Re.2001. They were multirole, 41 being stowed in the hangar deck and some 15 suspended under the roof to gain space. Ten were to be stowed permanently on the flight, solidly strapped and covered with tarpaulins. Of course Italian engineers with German help started to work on the folding-wing version of the Re.2001, allowing to stack in 1943 some 66 aircraft, but only a prototype was made before the Italians surrendered.

Interesting developments of the Regia Marina included the Re.2001 G/V which was a modified fighter-bomber, with reinforced structure to carry a single 640 kg (1,410 lb) bomb derived from a 381 mm shell from Littorio, and a small serie entered service, two G/Vs taking part in Operation Pedestal. This was the most serious attempt at making an Italian naval dive bomber.

In the end, only ten Re.2001s were actually fully converted for carrier use, with tail hooks, RTG naval radio equipment and two bomb racks for 650 kg (1,430 lb) of bombs. The idea was to use the plane for strafing but also diving attacks, although there was no specific additions for that (visor, bomb lever-launcher, aerobrakes). The Re2001 had two 12.7 mm (0.5 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns above the engine cowling. One Re.2001G was tested at Perugia to carry a 600 mm torpedo and two 20 mm cannons, with two built in 1943. It had a lengthened tail wheel strut and single ventral mount, but this development never went past the prototype stage by November 1943. If so, the Italians would have used the most versatile carrier-borne plane of the war. Similar concepts appeared in the Royal and US Navies in 1944, which would end with models such as the Blackburn Firebrand or Douglas Skyraider.

3-views of the Re2001-3

Re2001 Specifications:
Dimensions: 8.36 m (27 ft 5 in) x 11 m (36 ft 1 in) x 3.15 m (10 ft 4 in), Wing area 20.4 m2 (220 sq ft)
Weight: Empty 2,495 kg (5,501 lb), fully loaded 3,280 kg (7,231 lb)
Powerplant: Alfa Romeo R.A.1000 R.C.41-I Monsone V-12 inverted liquid-cooled piston engine 864 kW (1,159 hp)
License-built Daimler-Benz DB 601Aa, 3-bladed constant-speed propeller
Top speed: 542 km/h (337 mph, 293 kn), Range: 1,100 km (680 mi, 590 nmi)
Ceiling: 11,000 m (36,000 ft), Rate of climb: 13 m/s (2,600 ft/min)
Armament: two 12.7 mm Breda-SAFAT MGs (cowling), two 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT (wings), 650 kgs bombs, see notes.

Re 2001 G testing a 600 kgs short aerial torpedo circa 1943, planned to be used onboard ships, including the Sparviero and Aquila (src quora).

Fate of the Aquila

Aquila laying abandoned in La Spezia – Src www.naviearmatori.net

Early tests and modifications

In August 1943, the arresting gear installed on the carrier.

It comprised four cables, but initial trials went badly and ongoing modifications and tests were not settled early in 1943; So much so that it was therefore proposed the aircraft would fly back after their mission to the nearest land-based airfield or ditch in the sea… Axis technicians at Perugia Sant’Egidio airfield recreated a mock-up of Aquila’s flight deck however in March 1943 made an arresting gear workable at last. But postwar US Navy evaluation and report on the captured Aquila concluded the arrangement would have lade these landings hazardous, compounded by the absence of a net for added protection.

Relocation and demise of the Aquila

Aquila in la Spezia below camouflage nets – Src www.naviearmatori.net

Aquila was nearing completion and even had the time to pass her first static test in September 1943. Germany which occupied the area quickly seized the ship, placed under strong guard as they planned to end the completion and put her under service. However the Italian resistance (after Conway’s) managed to damage her, whereas little work was possible. Aquila received much more serious damage on 16 June 1944, during an Allied air raid on Genoa.
The Italian “co-belligerent” government in 1945 planned an action on the ship as they rightfully feared the Germans would use the uncomplete Aquila as a blockship, by default of completing her. The plan was to block the Genoa harbor. A commando operation was mounted, and divers from the former Decima Flottiglia MAS, launched their operations on 19 April 1945. They succeeded to partially cripple Aquila, prevented her to be towed, and she partially sunk in shallow waters. The Germans failed to tow her and soon Germany capitulated.

In 1946, a new towing attempt with refloating was done and Aquila was towed to La Spezia in 1949, where she was studied by and American commission and many photos were taken. The Italian Government considered her completion or conversion but eventually due to the lack of funds, it was decided to just scrap her in 1952. And thus ended the story of the only WW2 Italian aicraft carrier. Italy had to wait until 1982 to built another one, now the flagship of the Republica

Sparviero, the ill-fated sister ship

Sparviero at an unknown date in 1943, Genoa, under construction. The upper superstructure has been removed and a small provisional construction erected forward of the deck. Src forum.axishistory.com

This topic is good almost for a full-blown post so we will not dive into this in detail. The Augustus was taken over for conversion later in 1942. The goal was to make the fastest and cheapest conversion possible, as an auxiliary carrier, the initial plan approved by Mussolini in 1940 for both ships. Alterations therefore were limited: The superstructures were to be removed and replaced by a hangar, a flight deck above and bulges added to the hull, but no additional protection changes. No island was to be fitted and the flight deck was to be 18 m sort of the stern and ended by a 45 m extension over the bow.

Reconstruction of the Sparviero conversion. src: navypedia

The original armament was planned was to comprise six single 6-in guns (152 mm), four 4 in (102 mm) and 22 of 37 mm AA guns. Planes probably would have been Re 2001 Falco II fighters, 34 of them, or 16 and 9 of a torpedo-bomber variant. The machinery was unchanged and top speed would have been around 21-22 knots.
The name was quickly dropped, from Augustus to Falco (“Falcon”) and then Sparviero (sparrowhawk) during conversion at Ansaldo Shipyard in Genoa from September 1942.

Little work has been done one year after in September 1943 when Italy collapsed. Removing the superstructure was the only thing made so far. After the capitulation, German Forces which occupied the north capture the ship. The latter did not have the time or will to complete her and she was towed at the entry of Genoa to be sunk on 5 October 1944 as blockship. The Italians managed to broke up her in 1951.

Read More/Src

Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1922-1947
A. Pelliccia, Il periodo epico dell’Aeronautica, Veant, 1985.
Progetto Gagnotto – 1936, Progetto Bozzoni: La portaerei Aquila.

Trento class Cruisers (1927)

Trento class Cruisers (1927)

Trento, Trieste, Bolzano (1927-32)

In 1920, Italy had few modern cruisers. The Washington Treaty set new standards to be followed by all naval forces, notably the heavy cruiser, with an arrangement of 8-in (203 mm) guns for 10,000 tons standard, framed itself in a global tonnage by nation. Italy had the same as France, 175,000, in which it was possible to start designing the next generation of cruisers. Aside the light Giussano class designed to catch up French large destroyers, Italy still had to design its first 8-in cruisers.

The Trento appeared in the 1924 program as ships for which speed was paramount. Tactically they had to escape battleships while posing a threat to all other types of vessels, preferably light cruisers as their protection was already barely sufficient against 6-in shells. Thus, this mirrored the “tin-clad” tendency already shown by the light cruisers of the Regia Marina. In total three of this new breed were started, Trento, Trieste, but one modified heavily and completed much later, Bolzano. They will be studied all there for practicality. Their wartime career was eventful, they participated in the battles of Calabria, Cape Spartivento, and Cape Matapan. Trieste was sunk, but Trieste and Bolzano survived.

Cruiser Trieste in 1930


The Regia Marina began design studies for heavy cruisers, and specifically the future Trento class in 1923. The preliminary work was headed by General Filippo Bonfiglietti. In 1924, news arrived of the Marine Nationale (French Navy) laying down the keel of the first Duquesne-class cruisers, pushing the Regia Marina to order the new design.

The French Duquesne (AWM)

It was very clear from the start that engineered defined a very high speed as desirable, and a way to deal with most cruisers and scout for the fleet, but required a large reduction in armor protection, save for the displacement. A narrow beam helped to achieve the high speed goal, at the expense of stability and agility. This became general pattern of Italian cruisers, until the remarkable Zara-class and later Condottieri-class which retained lessons and improved on the formula considerably, having a much more balance design.


Blueprint of the Trieste class in 1942

General appearance

The Trento class were sleek, sea greyhounds. With 196.96 m (646 ft 2 in) long overall (190 meters or 623 ft 4 in between perpendiculars) for a beam of 20.6 m (67 ft 7 in) and a draft of 6.8 m (22 ft 4 in) they were long and narrow with a ratio of just 1/10, like destroyers.
Displacement, standard, was controlled and declared at 10,339-10,344 long tons (10,505 to 10,510 t) – divergence between the two ships. Fully loaded it reached 13,334 long tons (13,548 t). The most characteristic difference with older cruisers, and the light cruisers of the Giussano class, was their flush deck. Their now also had an innovation, being bulbous for the first time on an Italian warship.

The forward superstructure was supported by a tripod mast, supporting utility bridge whereas the main command bridge was just one step above the superfiring main turret. On trials the tripod would prove to vibrate excessively, which doomed all precision fire control and targeting devices. During a post-trial refit, the foremast was strengthened with two extra legs. The peacetime crew comprised 723 men, increased to 781 in wartime.

Italian heavy cruiser Trieste

Propulsion of the Trento class

As designed, and even in initial plans, the yard claimed it was possible for the ships to reach 40 knots, something unheard of in 1924. However, with the Washington standard tonage in mind and design revisions, some compromise led to use a reduced powerplant in the available space. This was compensated by revisions in beam, the flush-deck configuration and considerable work done in basins with hull’s models to nail the perfect shape.

The definitive powerplant comprised four Parsons steam turbines. They were powered by twelve oil-fired Yarrow boilers. The latter were trunked into just two funnels of unequal size. The largest was forward, and the smallest aft, with the aft tripod mounted just in front. The boilers rooms were compartimented into three sections, each containing four boilers: Two for the forward engines (outboard propellers) and two for the center shafts. The powerplant was rated at 150,000 shaft horsepower total (110,000 kW). The final speed design was marked at 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph), light. However in service conditions and fully loaded, normal use of the powerplant, 120,000 shp (89,000 kW) was the projected figure, which gave a more reasonable 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph) at the optimal displacement.

OTO shipyard’ ARA Almirante Brown, heavily inspired by the Trento design

Sea trials showed Trieste reaching 35.65 knots (66.02 km/h; 41.03 mph), Trento 34 knots, on the very light displacement. Eventually in service this practical top speed was reduced31 knots (57 km/h; 36 mph), notably after strengthening the ship due to excess vibrations. Storage capacity was 2,214 metric tons of fuel oil. Cruise range at 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph) was established to 4,160 nautical miles (7,700 km; 4,790 mi). This was not considerable, but standard for Italian ships, operating close to the Peninsula. In early 1940 a refit saw the fitting of funnel caps. This was due to reduced smoke interference with masts directors and observation bridges.

Protection of the Trento class: Controversy

Blueprints were approved, but soon, as both keels were on the slipways and welding too place for building the hull, some officers in the Regia Marina were concerned about the particularly thin armor. They saw it as a disadvantage in combat. They were heard ultimately, but years after and the naval staff would ordered the Zara-class, after a transitional Bolzano that was already improved.

No significant change was made however on the Trento class as it was far too advanced. The same design at that time was also chosen by Argentina for the Veinticinco de Mayo class cruisers. It was prepared by Odero Terni, in Orlando. Basically they were scaled down versions, with even thinner armor and downgraded artillery to the unusual 190-millimetre (7.5 in) caliber.
Concerns of the Navy however echoed on the plans revision for the Bolzano started in 1930.

The Trento had standard a box armor extending from the second to the third main turret, closed by bulkheads, 60 mm (2.4 in) in thickness, the belt 70 mm (2.8 in), decks 20 to 50 mm (0.79 to 1.97 in), whereas the turrets were protected by 100 mm (3.9 in), as the conning tower.

The vertical armored belt ran from 8 m (26 ft) forward of the first main turret to 5 m (16 ft) aft of the rearmost main turret. The bulkheads thickest part was only on the upper portion, the forward bulkhead lower section was just 50 mm (2.0 in). The aft bulkhead one was thinner, at 40 mm (1.6 in). The central portion of the deck was 50 mm, but i was thinned down to 20 mm (0.79 in) aft, but still had 30 mm (1.2 in) slopes along the “box”. It did not however extend forward of the citadel. The gun turrets had 100 mm (3.9 in) faces, but the barbettes rings were 70 mm thick above the deck, 60 mm below. The conning tower roof was 50 mm thick and the control director above had 80 mm (3.1 in) sides, 60 mm roof.

These figures bring some controversy, not at the time, but later, as the Washington treaty in some way obliged such compromises. This was also a trend of the time, the speed fad was to endure until 1933. 100 mm was barely enough, with a few artificial millimetres provided by the relative slope, and high-tensile hardened steel use, to stand the impact of a 6-in round. Speed was indeed 36 knots, which was way above anything known in WW1, for battlecruisers or even scouts. This was destroyer speed, and it was believed in 1924, primitive ballistic computers would be unable to readjust calculations for such as fast target. However with quick progresses in late mechanical and early electronics in WW2, this would prove it irrelevant.

In addition, to combat excessive vibrations, considerable strengthening of the hull and masts would add extra tonnage, and eventually reduce the top speed down to 31-32 knots, negating about any benefit of the initial design.

Armament of the Trento class

Forward superfiring turrets on the Trieste

Main armament

With the standard 8-in caliber and practice of the time, the conventional solution of four twin turret, in two superfiring and deck positions was chosen. This allowed the greatest possible arc of fire forward and aft and full broadside as well with little interference. The great lenght of the hull also allowed this “spread” of four turret holes without compromising too much the deck structure.

These 203 mm Mod 24 50-caliber guns were in single cradles, in opposition to the simpler twin mounts adopted for the light cruisers. These allowed an elevation to 45 degrees for a maximum range of 27,000 meters (30,000 yd). The rate of fire was rated as three rounds per minute, due to the obligation of returning to a 15 degrees elevation to reload. Traverse and elevation was electrically operated, including the ammunition hoists.

As noted in gunnery trials later, The guns suffered from excessive shell dispersion. They fired two types of shells: The 125-kilogram (276 lb) model (muzzle velocity 905 mps (2,970 ft/s)), with separated propellant charge. Another later model was reduced to 118 kg (260 lb) but at a lower, 840 m/s (2,800 ft/s) muzzle velocity (reduced charge). The idea was to tighten shell grouping, but this was largely unsuccessful.

The issue analysed later was the poor quality control of ammunition. Tight manufacturing tolerances was not possible and therefore this has an impact on accuracy. The other reason was the design itself, with compromises made over the position of the two single cradle mounts. They were indeed very close together. Interfere resulted of this between shells in flight. The Fire control system however was standard, also British in origin, two pairs of Barr & Stroud 5 m (16 ft) coincidence rangefinders installed fore and aft, to serve both turret groups, three on the forward tripod and a single one on the superstructure aft.

Artillery aft, Cruiser Bolzano (cc)

Secondary and AA armament

The first stage was a group of sixteen (8×2) dual-purpose 100 mm (4 in) 47-caliber guns. They were in twin mounts, copies of 1910 Austro-Hungarian guns (Škoda) placed in modern mounts allowing for a 85 degrees elevation, traduced into a maximum range of 15,240 m (50,000 ft). They were placed on the deck, two pairs and the remainder on the forward and aft decks, protected by enveloping masks. Fire control was provided by secondary telemeters
This was completed by four Vickers-Terni 40 mm/39 guns, all in single mounts, and at last the very close bubble was secured by four 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Breda heavy machine guns.

Vickers-Terni 40 mm/39 guns – src Navweaps.com

For close quarters, the transalpine cruisers carried four twin 533 mm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes launchers inside the hull, fixed and above water. For observation, a large rotating aircraft catapult was placed amidships right between the two funnels where the seaplanes could be managed by the main mast boom crane. The ships had a deck hangar capable of housing two IMAM Ro.43 seaplanes used for aerial reconnaissance, SAR and artillery spotting. A third could be mounted on the catapult.

Later refits will saw the AA artillery revised several times. The 100 mm guns replaced by Mod 31 versions in 1932 and in 1937–1938, second aft 100 mm pair was deposed as four 12.7 mm machine guns. In replacement, eight 37 mm (1.5 in) 54-cal. Breda M1932 guns in twin mounts (so four) and eight 13.2 mm (0.52 in) Breda M1931 heavy machine guns (same) were installed. In 1942, Trento was given four extra single 20 mm (0.79 in) 65-cal. Breda M1940 and her sister ships eight in 1943. By that time their bridge and other details has been modified too.

Cruiser Trento, bow view

Technical specifications (Trento)
Displacement 10,340 t. standard -13,330 t. Full Load
Dimensions 197 m long, 20.60 m wide, 6.80 m draft
Propulsion 4-screw machines, 4 Parsons turbines, 12 Yarrow boilers, 150,000 hp. Maximum speed 36 knots
Protection Belt 70, bridge 50, turrets 100, blockhouse 100 mm
Armament 8 guns of 203 (4×2), 16 guns of 100 (8×2), 4 of 40 AA, 8 of 13.2 AA, 8 TTs 533 mm (4×2 flanks)
Crew 780

Bolzano, the modified Trento

Official Yard photo of the Bolzano, soon after completion

The Bolzano was ordered under the 1929–1930 construction program, as a time the admiralty wanted two divisions of three heavy cruisers each. The idea was to allow at a division to be least two-cruisers strength when the third was in drydock. However the Pola (Zara class) was chosen instead, but under pressure of Gio. Ansaldo & C. yard for a construction contract, the admiralty was pressed to pass an order, and to gain time a development, this became a third modified Trento, at the time the Zara design was completed.

The new design incorporated improvements from the Zara design indeed. This included a longer 203-millimeter (8.0 in) main gun and more powerful boilers, and crucially a stepped up forecastle deck instead of a flush deck hull. The Regia Marina staff however insisted for speed over protection, so armour scheme was similar to the Trentos. Therefore sailors would later say about the new ship “un errore splendidamente riuscito”: an error beautifully executed.

The hull length was slightly shorter as well. Bolzano’s keel was laid down in June 1930. She would be commissioned in August 1933, like the last of the Zara class, and among the last Italian heavy cruisers (the tonnage was capped by the London treaty).

Bolzano’s war career was relatively uneventful in peacetime, but in WW2 she participated in the Battles of Calabria, Taranto, Cape Spartivento, and Cape Matapan. She was lightly damaged at Calabria, but spared on other occasions, escorting convoys and patrolling in the central Mediterranean, torpedoed twice by British submarines. In July 1941, this cost her three months of repairs, and in August 1942, this ended the her career. Repairs stalled at la Spezia and she was destroyed by Chariots in June 1944.

Design of Bolzano

Outside of the hull, the Bolzano also differed by its superstructure, which was entirely revised: Instead of stacked bridges around a tripod, she has a single massive structure which wrapped the tripod mast, bridges, and front funnel and was appreciated as larger and roomier. Lessons were learned since the first Trentos and even the Zara class (but Gorizia).

Her hull was slightly shorter at 187.6 meters (615 ft) between perpendiculars, 196.9 m (646 ft) overall but with the same beam of 20.6 m (68 ft) and 6.8 m (22 ft) draft. Her standard displacement was 10,890 long tons (11,060 t), 13,665 long tons (13,884 t) fully loaded. Despite having the same tripod masts as the Trentos, the fore mast was englobed in the superstructure but its role was unchanged, carrying the armoured Barr & Stoud fire directors. She also had a large, rotating aircraft catapult amidships between the funnels like the Trentos, with room for up to three IMAM Ro.43 seaplanes.


It was essentially the same as for the Trentos, with a four cells compartmentation, four Parsons geared steam turbines, four screw propellers, but ten brand new oil-fired water-tube boilers. They were trunked the same way, and spread between two unequal, raked, widely spaced funnels (for wich caps were added in 1940). Total output was 150,000 shaft horsepower (110,000 kW), as a result on paper, top speed was 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph). Speed trials, light (10,847 long tons), 36.81 knots was achieved by forcing heat at 173,772 shp (129,582 kW). In service, 30-32 knots was more common. Electricity came from two generators generating a total of 1,080 kilowatts (1,450 hp), running barbettes, turrets, fire directors, etc.


Bolzano was armed with the same type of main battery, 2×2 superfiring turrets fore and aft, but with longer 203 mm (8.0 in) Modello 1929, 53-caliber. The cradles and mounts were the same, resulting in the same dispersion and lack of accuracy as the Trentos.
The initial Anti-aircraft battery rested on the same pattern as the Trentos: Sixteen 100 mm (4 in) 47-cal. guns, all in twin mounts, and four Vickers-Terni 40 mm/39 guns in single mounts. This was completed by eight twin Breda 13.2 mm (0.52 in) heavy machine guns. For close quarters, she also had two twin 533 mm (21.0 in) fixed above-water launchers per side.
Like the Trentos, the rearmost 100 mm guns were removed, eight 37 mm (1.5 in) 54-cal. guns installed and the eight 13.2 mm (0.52 in) guns replaced with four 20 mm (0.79 in) 65-cal. AA guns in 1942.


The same scheme as the Trentos was reproduced: The armored belt was 70 mm (2.8 in) thick and the citadel closed by with armored bulkheads, 60 mm (2.4 in) forward, and 50 mm (2.0 in) aft. The main armored deck was 50 mm thick in the central citadel (starting from the forward and aft barbettes), down to 20 mm (0.79 in) on the hull’s ends. The gun turrets faces were protected by 100 mm (3.9 in) of armor, with 60–70 mm walled barbettes. The forward main conning tower had 100 mm walls, 40 mm roof like the Trentos again.

ONI – Bolzano

Features: (Bolzano, 1940)
Displacement and dimensions: Tonnage 10,886 – 13,865 PC, 197 x 20.60 x 6.80m.
Propulsion and performance: 2 Parsons turbines with reducers and 10 Yarrow boilers, 2 propellers, 150,000 hp and 36 knots
Protection: 50 mm bridges, 70 mm belt, 100 mm turrets, 100 mm blockhaus
Crew: 780
Armament: 8×203 mm (4×2), 16x100mm (8×2), 4x40mm, 8x13mm AA, 2×4 TT 533mm.

Gallery – details of the Trento, 1942

Operational Career

Their wartime career was short but very active. Trieste and Trento participated in the Battle of Cape Matapan, while Trento fought off Calabria in July 1940, and second battle of the Great Sirte (March 1942) sunk by HMS Umbra o, June 15, 1942 while Trieste was torpedoed in November 1942 HMS Utmost, but survived to be sunk by the RAF in Sardinia in April 1943. Bolzano participated in four battles, but was torpedoes two times, the second one almost fatally.

HD color Photo of the 3rd cruiser division – Unknown origin (pinterest);

Trento in action

Launch & cmmission

The story of Trento started with a delayed launched, initially planned for the 4 September 1927. A sabotage from shipyard’s anti-fascist workers mixing sand with grease in the slipway, stopped it to reach water. Eventually the yard’s direction ordered to drag the cruiser to the sea on 4 October 1927, towed by the SS Principe di Udine.

She was commissioned on 3 April 1929 and became the flagship of the Cruiser Division, cruising the northern Mediterranean with the Trieste. Their first stop was Barcelona. From July, Trento headed for South America and visited Cape Verde, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Bahía Blanca, Las Palmas, and back to the Mediterranean, Tangiers, and home on 10 October.

Interwar service

In September 1930, she made another cruise, this time in the eastern Mediterranean. By mid-1931, she was in drydock in La Spezia to strenghten her tripod foremast, with a sturdier five-legged version. From January 1932 she teamed with the destroyer Espero to carry a contingent from the San Marco Battalion bound for China (Italian Far East Division).

There, she joined the old protected cruiser Libia and gunboats Caboto and Carlotto to protect Italian nationals during the Chinese Civil War. They stopped en route to Colombo, and Singapore and ended in Shanghai on 4 March. In May, she departed to Japan, visiting Nagasaki, returned to Shanghai and departed for Italy.

In July 1933, Trento was part of a major fleet review in the Gulf of Naples and she became the flagship of the 2nd Division and from July 1934, flagship of the 3rd Division. She toure eastern Mediterranean again until March 1935, stopping notably at Rhodes and Leros. In November 1936 she participated in another review for the Regent of Hungary, Miklós Horthy. In March 1937, she escorted Mussolini onboard Pola for a trip to Libya and she stopped at Benghazi, Tripoli, and Ra’s Lanuf.

She was in another fleet review in 5 May 1938 for Adolf Hitler’s state visit and in May 1939 for Prince Paul of Yugoslavia. In June, the fleet was in Livorno (first Navy Day) and she toured the eastern Mediterranean and back to Taranto in July.

Trento in WW2

In October-December, when the war broke out, she was in drydock for a refit, with armament modifications, funnel caps installed and other alterations. By June 1940, Trento was in Messina as flagship of the 3rd Division. She joined the 6th Division and the combined force patrolled the Strait of Sicily, laying a minefield.

On 8 July, her division escorted a convoy to Libya, together with the 1st Division battleships. Their return trip saw them encountering a protected British convoy, which resulted in the Battle of Calabria.

At this occasion, Trento duelled with British cruisers but the RAF attacked her several times, but she emerged unscathed. After the forces disengaged, air reinforcements arrived, but pilots mistook the Italian ships for British ones and attacked, before realizing their mistake. This episode resulted in the admiralty to impose the painting of red stripes on white on the forecastles and poor decks of all major Italian vessels to avoid future confusion.

HD photo of the Trieste at sea, unknown origin (Pinterest)

Trento escorted another convoy to Libya, and was back to Messina on 1 August 1940. She sortied to try to catch a British convoy (Operation Hats) but was recalled off without spotting any ship.

On 12 October, Italian destroyers accompanied by torpedo boats attacked British cruisers in what was the Battle of Cape Passero. Artigliere, was badly damaged and the 3rd division (Trento, Trieste, Bolzano) was called as a reinforcement, but failed to reach the British cruisers already far away.

On their return, they were attacked by the RAF, but without success. On 21 October, Trento moved to her new operating base at Taranto, closer to action. During the night of 11–12 November, Fleet aor arm planes attacked the base, causing mayhem. On bomb did hit the Trento but fortunately, failed to explode, but damaged the port forward 100 mm mount.

On 26 November, Trento rushed to intercept a British convoy to Malta and a Bolzano’s IMAM seaplane successfully located the British squadron. Vice Admiral Inigo Campioni however became frightened by the strength of the British fleet and ordered a retreat, but the order came too late for the 3rd division, already engaged with British cruisers in what became Battle of Cape Spartivento. Trento actually scored two hits on the cruiser HMS Berwick (County class). But the success was cut short by the closing of the battlecruiser HMS Renown. Campioni was forced to send the battleship Vittorio Veneto to help the cruiser retreating, and the British breok off and both fleet disengaged.

The Trento at the the Battle of Cape Matapan

Probably the greatest involvement of the the 3rd Division so far. This happened after Trento and her sister ships escorted a convoy to North Africa on 12–13 March 1941. On 27 March, the division, now under Rear Admiral Luigi Sansonetti headed for the island of Crete, hoping to catch a British convoy. At 06:55 on 28 March, Vittorio Veneto’s IMAM Ro.43 located a British cruiser squadron. At 07:55, the 3rd Division spotted them and scrambled combat preparation. 17 minutes later they opened fire at 24,000 yd (22,000 m). For Forty minutes, Trento fired 204 AP shells on the British ships but filed to score significant hits. This demonstrated both the extreme dispersion of the fire and poor accuracy, compounded by the distance.

At 08:55, Vice Admiral Angelo Iachino ordered Sansonetti to retreat and head northwest, to lure the British cruisers towards Vittorio Veneto. At 11:00, the later was close enough to open fire, and the three cruisers returned to close the gap and fire against the British cruisers, armed with 6-in guns. They quickly broke off and retreat. However soon after British torpedo bombers from Crete attacked the Trento and her division at around 12:00, soon reinforced by planed from the carrier HMS Formidable. Iachino decided to break off 20 minutes later.

Trento, Trieste, and Bolzano escaped without damage and they reached Taranto, escorting the damaged Vittorio Veneto, but meanwhile the immobilized Pola soon reinforced by the two other Zara-class cruisers were destroyed during the night by British battleships, which made the battle a clear victory for the British.

Detail of the bridge, 1935 – src: history-navy.mil

Convoy operations (1941-42)

Trento was at La Spezia in May for an overhaul until 5 August, and returned to Messina for escort missioned. She escorted the Duisberg convoy on 8–9 November (with Trieste), being attacked by by British warships on their way, and failed to protect the convoy. On 21 November 1941 another convoy saw Trento fending a British air attack. On 16 December, she escorted two large convoys to Benghazi and Tripoli. The day after, they met a British convoy, leading to the inconclusive First Battle of Sirte.

The rest of the year was uneventful, and Trieste was protecting other convoys in January and February. However on 22 March 1942, she teamed with the battleship Littorio, and the only Zara-class left, the Gorizia, plus the light cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere and destroyers. The combined fleet was sent to intercept the British convoy MW10, and this became the Second Battle of Sirte. The four British light cruisers and eighteen destroyers managed to held off the Italians and saved the convoy, but Trento apparently scored a hit on HMS Kingston while on the Italian side, Lanciere and Scirocco were lost during a storm after the battle, and Trento failed to reach them.

On 14 June, Trento headed from Taranto with the battleships Littorio and Vittorio Veneto, and the cruiser Gorizia, light cruisers Giuseppe Garibaldi and Emanuele Filiberto Duca d’Aosta. Thir target was a British convoy from Alexandria, bound to Malta (Operation Harpoon). While steaming in the Ionian Sea, she was attacked by a Beaufighter around 05:00 and took a torpedo hit. This started a wild fire in the forward boiler rooms, soon flooded. Trento was stopped, destroyers laying a smoke screen to hide her from other attacking planes. The same detroyers attempted to tow her back, but she was a sitting duck, and an esy prey for submarines. At 09:10, HMS Umbra spoted her and launched torpedoes that crippled the Trento. These were not aviation torpdoes but standard 21-in ones, with an explosive power almost double.

As a indirect result of the impact, Trento’s forward magazines exploded, causing the hull to rupture and she sank in a few minutes carrying with her 549 men, including Captain Stanislao Esposito. 602 men were rescued by destroyers however, 21 died of their wounds later; She was only struck from the naval register in 18 October 1946.

Trieste in action

Trieste as built


Was laid down at the Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino on 22 June 1925, launched on 24 October 1926, a year before Trento but fitted-out and commissioned on 21 December 1928. She joined on 16 May 1929 the 1st Cruiser Division and cruised the northern Mediterranean until 4 June. In October, she became the flagship of the 1st Squadron and was overhauled in May or June 1931 in La Spezia for the same reasons as her sister ship. In July 1933, she participated in a review in the Gulf of Naples and on 2 December 1933, her unit became the 2nd Division, 1st Squadron, then 3rd Division in July 1934 as the Zara class formed the 1st division.

She became in June 1935 the divis