Etna class protected cruisers (1885)

Etna class protected cruisers (1885)

Italy (1885)
Etna, Vesuvio, Stromboli, Fieramosca

The first Italian modern protected cruisers:
Etna was the only survivor of a class of four protected cruisers dating from 1885-1888. Designed by Carlo Vigna and George Rendel , they were based on the Giovanni Bausan of 1883, herself largely based on a Sir W G Armstrong Mitchell & Co.’s Elswick design. Most importantly, they were built in Italian shipyards, gaining considerable knowledge in the process for these kind of ships (British exports of cruisers had been particularly successful).

Giovanni Bausan 1883
Giovanni Bausan (1883), a typical 1880s Elswick cruiser on which the Etna were based on.


Ettore Fieramosca, was slightly longer than the others at 290 feet (88.4 m). For the others normal figures were 283 feet 6 inches between perpendiculars, 42 feet 6 inches in beam and 19 feet of draft.
They had been armed originally two 254 mm guns, six 152 mm, five 57 mm, five 37 mm, 1 Revolver cannon, 2 machine guns and two to three torpedo tubes. Propellers were fed by two horizontal compound steam engines and four double-ended cylindrical boilers. They could reach on trials 17–17.8 knots (31.5–33.0 km/h; 19.6–20.5 mph).

The original Armstrong 10-inch (254 mm), 30-caliber breech-loading guns had been mounted in barbettes (open turrets) fore and aft, as customary for the 1880s. So despite their size, these ships packed quite a punch being capable of delivering 450-pound (200 kg) shells flying at a muzzle velocity of 2,060 ft/s (630 m/s).

Ettore Fieramosca off Algiers
Ettore Fieramosca off Algiers

Secondary armament was mounted in Vavasseur mountings, in sponsons. The secondary anti-torpedo armament was quite comfortable with 6-pounder Hotchkiss guns firing at 6 rpm, completed by 1-pounder Hotchkiss guns (37 mm) at 30 rpm. General disposition of the torpedo tupes were one mounted underwater in the bow and the other three were above water, but for the Ettore Fieramosca which dispensed of a TT.

Protection was interesting as they had an armoured belt with a maximum thickness of 1.5 inches (38 mm) doubled with an inner belt of cork at their waterline to absorb water if needed.

1900 Reconstruction

In 1900 they were rearmed with one 75 mm and 4 TTs, then in 1907-1909 (Not for the Stromboli and the Fieramosca, disarmed at these dates), their old 254 mm, two 152 mm were removed while two 120 mm guns were added. The remainder of her artillery were two 47 mm, two 37 mm and 2 TTs.

Etna as rebuilt, at the 1909 Hulton-Fulton Celebrations, Hudson bay, NYC

Line drawing of the Bausan. The Etna were very smiliar (after reconstruction)

Italian protected cruiser Stromboli in 1895


The ships had been laid down in 1884 respectively at Castellammare, Venice and Livorno shipyards. The Fieramosca was laid down in 1885 at Livorno. Launched in 1885-86, they were completed in 1887 (Etna), 1888 (Vesuvio, Stromboli), and 1889 (Fieramosca). The ships went into the Squadra Permamente (Permanent Squadron) up to 1893, visiting South and North America several times. Etna was in Red Sea (First Italo-Ethiopian War 1895–6) and the Cretan Revolt of 1898. She was also flagship of the Superior Torpedo-Boat Command in 1904.

The three other ships participated in putting down the Boxer Rebellion as part of the Eight-Nation Alliance. The Vesuvio was disarmed in 1911, before the first Balkan war, while Etna was converted into a training vessel and served as such from 1907 to 1914. At the time of the war, she was assigned as a coast guard after Serving as a floating HQ, then a tanker and finally a GHQ for the entire Italian fleet in Taranto. She was only sold and broken up in 1921.

It should be noticed that there was a second, perhaps better-known Etna class on the Internet, which was one of a never-finished class of light cruisers (1941) originally built for the Thai Kingdom. There will be an article about these too.


Etna class on Wikipedia
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905.

Etna class cruisers specs

Dimensions Lenght 91.4 m x 13.22 m x 5.8 m (283 x 42 x 19 ft)
Displacement 3390 long tons, 3700 t FL
Crew 321
Propulsion 2 shafts, two DE engines, 4 boilers, 7200 hp,
Speed 17 knots (31.5 km/h; 19.6 mph)
Range 5,000 nautical miles (9,300 km; 5,800 mi) at 10 knots
Armament (Etna 1914) 2x 152 mm, 2× 120 mm, 2x 47mm, 2x 37mm, 2 TT 350 mm.
Armor Belt armor: 38 mm, Barbettes 51 mm, Deck: 30 mm, blockhaus 13 mm


Etna as rebuilt in 1914
Illustration of Etna as rebuilt in 1914

HD photo of the Etna on the Hudson Bay, 1909

Italian cruiser Etna in its 1890s black, white and sand canvas livery

Ettore Fieramosca’s officers taking the pose

Giovanni Bausan
Cruiser Giovanni Bausan

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