Tag Archives: Regia Marina

Warship Wednesday, June 24, 2020: ‘You are the most beautiful ship in the world’

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 24, 2020: ‘You are the most beautiful ship in the world’

Photo via the Marina Militare

Here we see the Italian Navy’s historic nave scuola (training ship) Amerigo Vespucci (A5312) during the vessel’s 1992 at-sea campaign, specifically the Colombiadi, a Tall Ship regatta organized on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Pushing almost a full century in service, the Vespucci is most assuredly “old school.”

Designed in 1925 for the old Royal Italian Navy, the Regia Marina, Vespucci was to replace the aging Flavio Gioia-class incrociatore (cruiser) of the same name. The former Amerigo Vespucci, a 2,750-ton iron-hulled steam barque carried 13 guns and was laid down in 1879, the first such Italian warship named in honor of the 15th Century explorer who figured out the American continent was, in fact, not Asia.

The Regia Marina’s first Amerigo Vespucci, shown here in 1903 while ranked as a corvette, served from 1882 until 1928, first as the fleet flagship, then a solid 26-years as a training ship for the students of the Royal Naval Academy, the Accademia Navale in Livorno.

The new Vespucci was designed by Francesco Rotundi as was her near-sister, the slightly larger Cristoforo Colombo, taking pains to model them on the old Sicilian (Sardinian) Navy’s 84-gun ship-of-the-line Re Galantuomo (Monarca), a key vessel in 19th Century Italian naval lore. If Rotundi’s name rings a bell, he was the naval engineer who drew up the plans for the interwar modernization of the WWI-era Caio Duilio– and Conte di Cavour-class dreadnoughts as well as the construction of the new Littorio/Vittorio Veneto-class fast battleships.

Some 329-feet in length over the bowsprit, Vespucci’s main mast towered 177 feet into the air and, when fully rigged, she carried more than 20 holona canvas sails. While she had two white-painted “gun decks” fitted with more than 200 portholes rather than cannon ports, she was completed only with saluting guns and a few vintage black powder display pieces. She carries a life-size figurehead of the ship’s namesake explorer in golden bronze, has teak decks, and ornate embellishments from her bow to stern, some covered in gold foil.

In a nod to 20th Century shipbuilding techniques, her hull, masts, and yards were steel (although her tops are wood) and the vessel was designed from the start with an “iron topsail,” an auxiliary diesel-electric plant of two 6-cylinder FIAT Q 426 engines coupled with a pair of dynamos to supply electricity for her radios, navaids, loudspeakers, sounding gear and lights. The electricity in turn could also be used to spin up a pair of Marelii motors on a single shaft– good for up to 10.5 knots. She carried enough diesel to cruise 5,400 nm at a breathtaking 6-knots without breaking out the first sheet.

Launch of Amerigo Vespucci

Built at the Royal Shipyard of Castellammare di Stabia, Vespucci was commissioned as part of the Divisione Navi Scolastiche (School Ships Division) on 6 June 1931, joining her sister Cristoforo Colombo with the task of training Italian naval cadets.

La navi scuola Vespucci (left) e Colombo (right) all’ancora a La Spezia, 1935 (Archivio storico Marina Militare)

Italian Sail Training ships- AMERIGO VESPUCCI and CRISTOFORO COLOMBO. Italy, Circa 1936. NH 111394

Vespucci sailed on her first annual training cruise, to Northern Europe, late in the summer of 1931. As noted by the Italian Navy, “from 1931 to 2006 the Amerigo Vespucci performed 79 training cruises for the 1st Class Cadets of the Naval Academy: 42 in North Europe, 23 in the Mediterranean, 4 in the Eastern Atlantic, 7 in North America and 1 in South America within the only circumnavigation of the globe carried out between May 2002 and September 2003.”

While not a warship in the traditional sense of the term, Vespucci and her sister trained the officers that manned Italy’s battleships and cruisers in a series of surface actions throughout the first few years of WWII, as well as many of the young gentlemen of the Italian submarine force and Decima MAS who wreaked havoc on the British fleet during the conflict.

As for the tall ships, however, they spent the war on training missions close to shore at Pula and, gratefully, survived to come through the other side.

The Regia Marina training ship Amerigo Vespucci repaired in the port of Brindisi following the armistice of 8 September 1943.

Once the war was over, and the Allies began carving away the most choice cuts of the old Italian fleet in 1949, Cristoforo Colombo was awarded to the Soviets along with the old battleship Giulio Cesare, the cruiser Duc’a De Aosta, two destroyers, three torpedo boats, two submarines, and assorted auxiliaries for a token fee. Colombo was renamed Dunaj (Danube) and worked with the Red Navy’s Black Sea Fleet for a decade.

Arriving in Odessa, 1949, former COLOMBO, soon to be named DUNAJ

Falling into disrepair in the 1960s after Colombo was handed over to the merchant marine school at Odessa, the graceful Italian tall ship was slowly dismantled by 1971.

Meanwhile, Vespucci returned to service with the reformed (i.e. non “Royal”) Italian Marina Militare. She resumed her overseas training cruises in 1951, equipped this time with a modest armament of four American-supplied 3″/50 guns and a single 20mm cannon to provide the ship’s cadets with some underway ordnance training.

Amerigo Vespucci in Rotterdam, Bestanddeelnr 912-9445

Playing a role in the XVII Olympiad, held in Rome that year, she transported the Olympic flame from Greece to Italy, an important healing moment between the two countries a generation after WWII. Vespucci, placed at the disposal of the Games’ Organizing Committee, embarked the flame on 13 August at Zeas with the torch carried aboard by an Italian naval cadet in a whaleboat and, sailing across the Ionian Sea, arrived at Syracuse on the 18th.

According to legend, while sailing in the Med in the 1960s, the 80,000-ton Forrestal-class supercarrier USS Independence, on a deployment with the Sixth Fleet duty in support of President John F. Kennedy’s firm stand on the newly-established Berlin Wall, came across a strange tall ship at sea. The carrier flashed the vessel, Vespucci, with the light signal asking, “Who are you?” The answer, “Training ship Amerigo Vespucci, Italian Navy,” came back. Independence was said to have replied, “You are the most beautiful ship in the world.”

AMERIGO VESPUCCI Italian Training Ship, Sails past USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62) in the Mediterranean, 12 July 1962. The Navy later used this image on recruiting posters and advertising in the 1960s and 70s. USN 1061621

In 1964, she was extensively refitted at La Spezia, given new engines, generators, radars, rigging, and refurbished below deck areas.

Afterward, she became increasingly visible overseas, taking part in international tall ship events in 1976, 1981, 1985, and 1986, crossing the Atlantic at least twice in that period.

The Italian cruiser Garibaldi (C551) passing Vespucci off Naples, 1968

Photograph of the Italian vessel Amerigo Vespucci visiting Finland 25 Aug 1965. By Pentti Koskinen, Finnish archives

Amerigo Vespucci (Italy) in New York Harbor during OpSail 76. Photo by Marc Rochkind via Wiki Commons

A U.S. Navy Lockheed P-3B-95-LO Orion (BuNo 154576) from Patrol Squadron VP-23 Seahawks flying over the Italian Naval Academy sailing ship Amerigo Vespucci in 1976. The P-3B 154576 was later sold to Norway. U.S. Navy photo by PH1 R.W. Beno, U.S. Navy. U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation No. 2004.NAI.055.001

A port beam view of the Italian training ship AMERIGO VESPUCCI (A 5312) in New York harbor during the International Naval Review, 7/4/1986 NARA DNST8701314

Today, Vespucci is only armed with two 6-pounder saluting guns in pivot mountings on the deck, forward of the mainmast, although her small arms locker is interesting and recent pictures show that she still carries at least two-dozen WWII-era Beretta MAB38/42 submachine guns, used by her ship’s watch.

Further, she is still hard at work at age 89, very much a part of the Italian fleet.

Luigi Durand de la Penne (ex-Animoso) destroyer and the training ship Amerigo Vespucci both of the Italian navy.

The Alpino FREMM frigate docked near the Amerigo Vespucci training ship. Italian Navy, 2018.

Specs:

1:84 scale model of Italian training ship Amerigo Vespucci at the Hamburg IMMM

Displacement:
4,146 t (4,081 long tons) full load (DWT)
3,410 t (3,360 long tons) gross tonnage
1,203 t (1,184 long tons) net tonnage
Length:
329 ft 9 in LOA including bowsprit
270 ft overall, hull
229.5 ft pp
Beam: 51. ft
Height: 177.2 ft
Draught: 22 ft
Sail Rig: (original) 21 sails, 22,600 sq. ft. of canvas
(current) Up to 26 sails, 28,360 sq. ft.
Propulsion: Two 6-cylinder FIAT Q 426 engines, Two Marelli motors, 1,900 shp 1 shaft (1931),
Two 4-stroke, 8-cylinder FIAT B 308 ESS diesel engines (1964)
Engineering (since 2016)
2 × diesel engine generator MTU 12VM33F2, 1,824 bhp each
2 × diesel engines generator MTU 8VM23F2, 1,020 bhp each
1 × Electrical Propulsion Engine (MEP) ex Ansaldo Sistemi Industriali (NIDEC ASI) CR1000Y8 (1,010 bhp)
Speed:
Sails, 10 to 15 knots
Engines, 10 knots
Sensors: 2 × navigation radars GEM Elettronica AN/SPN-753(V)5, current
Complement: Up to 470
15 officers
64 NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers)
185 sailors
130 Naval Academy Cadets and Support Staff (when embarked)
Armament:
(1951)
4 x 3″/50cal singles
1 x 20mm cannon
(Today)
Small arms, saluting guns

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The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

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Warship Wednesday, June 10, 2020: Yes, but these go to 17 inches

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 10, 2020: Yes, but these go to 17 inches

Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 88710

Here we see the gleaming white late 19th-century Italian turret “ironclad” (corazzata) Caio Duilio (also sometimes seen as “Gaius Duilius”) at the La Spezia Navy Yard, around the time of her completion in 1880. Important to naval history as she was the first blue-water battlewagon on Earth rigged only with a military mast rather than a sail rig, carried only stupidly enormous guns, and likewise was the first two-shaft capital ships in the Italian Navy, Duilio also had the neatest stern-launched torpedo boat– but we’ll get into that in a minute.

The Regia Marina was one of the newest navies in the world in the 1870s, having just formed in the previous decade via an amalgamation of the old Sardinian, Partenopea, Sicilian, Tuscany and Pontifical fleets. In the driver’s seat across much of three decades off and on during this early period as Naval Minister was Benedetto Brin with the blessing of Sardinian ADM Simone Antonio Saint-Bon– Italy’s Tirpitz. A trained naval engineer, Brin sought to build not only the King’s fleet but also to the infrastructure to domestically produce all the things needed for a steel navy from shipyards and engine works to armor and gun factories.

Saint-Bon and Brin’s first large scale effort was the colossal Caio Duilio and her near-sister Enrico Dandolo.

Some 12,000-tons full load, these beasts were iron-hulled with a heavy layer of French-made Creusot steel plates stacked as thick as 21.6-inches in places and backed by twice that amount of timber. With a hull separated into 83 watertight compartments, they were built to absorb damage and they had a 15-foot submerged bow wedge that served as a ram. Equipped with eight boilers driving a pair of vertical compound engines, these ships were designed to make 15 knots.

Then there were the guns.

Throughout their design and construction several armament schemes were brainstormed until it was decided to fit these leviathans with a quartet of 17.7″ (450mm) /20 calibers “100 Ton” muzzleloading rifles made by Elswick/Armstrong in England, making them the most powerful battleships of the time. These immense pieces actually weighed 103 tons but fired a 2,000-pound shell which, in its AP format, could smash through 21-inches of the steel plate of the day. On the downside, they had a short-range (6,000 yards) and an abysmal rate of fire (four rounds per hour).

Originally designed by EOC with the Royal Navy in mind, the Admiralty turned the guns down for being too heavy and cumbersome, leaving Italy as the other fleet that mounted these giant toms on a warship. In British Army, however, did later acquire six of these pieces for installation in coastal artillery batteries at Gibraltar and Malta, ironically as a direct result of the Italian purchase should they ever come to blows with the Duilio-class ships.

As Italy was at the time allied with Imperial Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, her navy’s natural enemy was seen as France and in the early 1880s the two Duilio-class ships, with their eight 17.7-inch guns, were considered capable of keeping in check the entire French Mediterranean fleet.

The transport of these huge rifles from England to Italy and their subsequent testing was avidly followed by the Italian press of the era.

100 ton 17.72-inch rifled Armstrong gun being loaded onto the Italian transport ship Europa at Newcastle England bound for Italy. One of eight such guns sold to Italy to arm the Duilio-class battleships.

In October 1876 the first 100-ton gun for the Italian Duilio-class battleships was taken over in Newcastle, named “Margherita” and shipped to Italy on the steamer Europa. This illustration shows its arrival in La Spezia later in October. The L’Illustrazione Italiana No. 54 from November 5, 1876, had an article on page 363 and this picture on page 364. The illustrator is not mentioned, but the signature says something like “Cenni”. Note the inset with the shell compared to an Italian tar. Via Wikimedia Commons

In November 1876 the first 100-ton gun for the Italian Duilio-class battleships was tested at Muggiano near La Spezia. This illustration of the gun named “Margherita” was featured in the November 12, 1876 issue of the L’Illustrazione Italiana. This picture was on page 373, with an article on page 374. The illustrator is not mentioned, but there is both a set of initials and a signature that reads something like “Canedi”. Via Wikimedia Commons

The tests of the 100-ton gun at La Specia continued to capture the Italian public. The experiments apparently also included putting a man into the belly of the beast, plus entertaining the numerous guests who wanted a first-hand look at what was arguably the most potent gun in the world at the time. This illustration of the gun Margherita was featured in the November 26, 1876 issue of the L’Illustrazione Italiana. This picture was on page 405, with an article on page 407-410. The illustrator is referred to as “Signore A. P.” Via Wikimedia Commons

The guns were arranged in two twin turrets, offset from each other.

Which required an interesting loading process since they were front-stuffers. Keep in mind that the rate of fire on these pieces was one round every quarter-hour.

In addition to their main guns, the battleships carried another recent invention in the form of a trio of submerged torpedo tubes for 14-inch Whitehead torpedos. These early devices could make 20.7-knots, had a range of 833 yards, and packed a 94-pound warhead. Italy would order an initial batch of 34 these tin fish, produced at Fiume, in 1879-80, then continue to buy small batches until they moved to larger diameter torpedoes in the 1890s.

One other surprise that just Duilio was outfitted for was the carry of a stern-launched steam torpedo boat, the 76-foot, 26-ton Clio. The vessel was housed, combat-ready, in an 82x13x13-foot well deck, something that was really unheard of in the 1870s.

Constructed in England by Thornycroft to a design by Italian engineer Luigi Borghi, Clio was equipped with a pair of stern-dropped 14-inch Whitehead torpedoes– the same used by the battleship’s own submerged tubes– and a 37mm deck gun. She could make 18 knots on her coal-fired locomotive boiler but was a day-runner with no accommodation for her 10-man crew. Model at the Museo Storico Navale, photos by Emil Petrinic.

Clio’s stack and mast folded to allow her to enter the battleship’s well deck.

Both ships also carried four 39-foot steam launches on their stern deck that could mount a 37mm gun and could deploy mines.

Construction 

When it came to construction, both ships were laid down on the same day, 1 June 1873, with Duilio, named after Roman naval hero Gaius Duilius, having her keel laid at Regio Cantiere di Castellammare di Stabia (which today is Fincantieri) and her sister Dandolo at R. Arsenale di La Spezia with the lead ship completed in 1880 and Dandolo tarrying until 1882.

The launch of the Italian battleship Caio Duilio in Castellamare in 1876. Illustrator’s name quoted as “Piteco” via the L’Illustrazione italiana, May 28, 1876.

Detail view was taken on the ship’s starboard side amidships, looking forward sometime after 1890 as they have 37mm anti-torpedo boat guns mounted atop the turrets. Both of the ship’s twin 450mm (17.72-inch) main battery gun turrets, mounted en echelon amidships, can be seen in this view. Note the details of the opened turret port covers; the hammocks stowed around the turrets, and the “flying deck” running overhead. NH 88685

DANDOLO Photographed on the ways at the Royal Navy Yard, La Spezia, not too long before launch on 10 July 1878. Note the large opening in the hull amidships for installation of the 45 meters long, 550mm thick iron armor belt. The hull was built of iron, with wood backing for the armor. NH 88759

DANDOLO Photographed at the Royal Navy Yard, La Spezia, not too long before being launched on July 10, 1878. Here you can really see the 15-foot submerged bow. Note that the ship’s short midships armor belt-550mm thick iron 45 meters long-was not yet installed at this time. Thick wooden backing supported the armor, explaining the very deep gap in the ship’s side that can be seen here. Note the submerged bow tube for Whitehead torpedoes. NH 88684

Service

Caio Duilio on trials. Via the Italian weekly L’Illustrazione Italiana, June 1, 1879 edition, Wikicommons

DANDOLO Probably photographed soon after completion in 1882. These ships were completed in an all-white scheme and then after 1889 changed to a black and buff. NH 88711

DANDOLO, likely in the late 1880s. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington DC Catalog #: NH 74828

While huge, impressive ships, they were something of white elephants (see what I did there?) as naval technology soon past them by, and Italy, except for mixed results in North Africa, had nothing in the way of colonial enterprises to protect. Therefore, their entire career took place in the central and Eastern Mediterranean and was spent in peacetime training exercises, regional port visits, and the like.

In 1890, the ships would receive three 4.7″/40cal, two 3-inch, eight 57mm, and 22 37mm guns to defend against small torpedo boats.

Colorized photo of the crew of the Battleship Duilio (Italia) posed in front of one of her 17.7-inch turrets sometime in the 1890s. Note the small-caliber guns, 37mm 1-pounders, atop the turret.

Postcard of Duilio in the 1890s. Note her two 3″ stingers over the stern and two of her four 40-foot steam launches shown stowed.

DANDOLO underway in the Canal at Taranto, Italy, on 24 February 1894, bristling with small guns. Farenholt Collection. NH 66131

Italian ironclad battleship, Caio Duilio, of the Regia Marina, in Venice around 1900. By Steve Given via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/69559277@N04/16575211845

Duilio was increasingly sidelined and was withdrawn from fleet use in 1900, lingering on for a few years as the school ship Timonieri e Marò and a floating coastal defense battery until she was disarmed in 1906. Clio, her parisite torpedo boat, would be disposed of in 1903. Struck from the naval list in 1909, her superstructure was demolished and she would later be converted to a coal and oil storage hulk, dubbed GM40, and fade into history.

Her sister Dandolo would be rebuilt in 1898-1900 with new engines and be fitted with breechloading 10-inch guns in place of her massive 100-ton muzzleloaders. She would also pick up a wide array of smaller guns, seal off her bow torpedo tubes, and gain four deck-mounted 450mm tubes arranged bow, beam, and stern. She would continue in this manner through 1918, serving as a coastal defense ship during the Great War, until she was finally disposed of in January 1920.

The monicker Duilio by then had been recycled for an Andrea Doria-class battleship that served in both World Wars and was scrapped in 1957. The third Duilio was an Andrea Doria-class helicopter cruiser (C 554) that served throughout the Cold War. The fourth and current Italian warship to bear the name of Rome’s famous admiral is an Orizzonte-class destroyer (D 554) commissioned in 2008.

The original vessel endures in various series of popular period maritime art.

Duilio, Italian Navy, trade card from the “Naval Vessels of the World” series (N226), issued in 1889 to promote Kinney Tobacco Company. Via The Met

And, as already shown off in the above details of her parasite torpedo boat, there are some very nice scale models on public display.

This impressive model of the armored ship Duilio was built by Jürgen Eichardt on a scale of 1:100. It is displayed in the Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg’s exhibition on the history of the modern navies, on deck 9 of the museum.

Specs:

Longitudinal Section of the Warship Duilio Italian battleship. This view shows inboard (internal) features of the ship, including half the ship’s 8 oval boilers, the hull framing outboard of the starboard (forward) twin 450mm (17.72inch) gun turret, and the large open compartment aft used to carry a small torpedo boar. This space measured 25 x 4 x 4m in size. Via Ocean Steamships 1891

Displacement: Standard 11,138 tons; full load 12,265 tons
Length: 358 ft oa over ram, 339 pp
Beam: 64 ft.
Draft: 29 ft.
Machinery: 2 double-expansion vertical steam engines, 8 oval-section boilers, 8,045 shp, 2 propellers
Speed: 15 knots designed
Range: 2,875 mn at 13 knots; 3,760 nm at 10 knots on 1,000 tons coal
Crew: 26 officers + 397 enlisted (1880) 515 (1890)
Armor:
Belt 550 mm.
Bridge 50 mm.
Turrets 250 mm.
Tower 350 mm.
Armament:
(1880)
2 x 2 450mm/20 caliber Armstrong
3 bow 350mm torpedo tubes
(Added 1890)
3 x 120 mm
2 x 75 mm
8 x 57 mm
22 x 37 mm

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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Battlewagon in the anti-ship missile age, 29 years ago today

While primitive guided bombs and missiles were fielded in WWII (see = the U.S. Navy’s SWOD-9 Bat and the sinking of the Italian battleship Roma in 1943 by an air-launched Fritz X) it wasn’t until the P-15 Termit (NATO: SS-N-2 Styx) was developed by the Soviets in 1958 that a reliable surfaced-launched anti-ship missile was fielded. Soon answered in the West by the Swedish Saab Rb 08 and Israeli Gabriel in the 1960s, then by more advanced platforms such as Exocet and Harpoon, such weapons replaced coastal artillery batteries as well as surfaced-launched torpedos as the principal means for asymmetric forces to effect a “kill” on a capital ship.

Likewise, the age of the dreadnought and large all-gun-armed cruiser was fading at the same time.

The four Iowa-class fast battleships were mothballed in 1958 (but, of course, New Jersey would be brought back for a tour in Vietnam while all four would be returned to service in the 1980s for the Cold War– more on that later) while the British retired HMS Vanguard in 1960 while the Soviets had gotten out of the battlewagon biz in the late 1950s after their Italian trophy ship Novorossiysk (ex-Giulio Cesare) blew up and their circa 1911 Gangut-class “school battleships” finally gave up the ghost. The French held on to Jean Bart until 1970, although she had been in reserve since after the Suez affair in 1956.

With that, it was no surprise that when the quartet of Iowas was reactivated in the 1980s to play a role in Reagan’s 600-ship Navy, they were “modernized” with 32 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from eight funky four-shot armored box launchers as well as 16 Harpoon anti-ship missiles in place of some of their WWII-era retired AAA gun mounts. In a nod to the facts, the missiles all out-ranged the battleships’ gun armament.

Fast forward to the 1st Gulf War and Mighty Mo, USS Missouri (BB-63), chunked 28 Tomahawks and 783 rounds of 16-inch shells at Saddam’s forces while dodging a Persian Gulf filled with naval mines of all flavors– as well as the occasional anti-ship missile counterfire.

16-inch (410 mm) guns fired aboard the battleship USS MISSOURI (BB-63) as night shelling of Iraqi targets takes place along the northern Kuwaiti coast during Operation Desert Storm. Date 6 February 1991. Photo by PH3 Dillon. DN-ST-91-09306

As for Missouri, the Iowas were not able to carry Sea Sparrow point defense launchers as they could not be shock-hardened to deal with the vibration from the battleship’s main guns, so they had an air defense provided by soft kill countermeasures such as chaff, decoys, and ducks; along with a quartet of CIWS 20mm Phalanx guns and five Stinger MANPAD stations– meaning a modern anti-ship missile would have to be killed either by an escort or at very close range. Good thing the Iowas had as much as 19.5-inches of armor plate!

While closing in with the enemy-held coastline to let her 16s reach out and touch someone on 23 February 1991, Missouri came in-range of a battery of shore-based Chinese-made CSS-C-2 Silkworm anti-ship missiles. One missed while the second was intercepted by Sea Darts from a nearby screening destroyer, the Type 42-class HMS Gloucester (D96). The intercepted Silkworm splashed down about 700 yards from Missouri.

USS Missouri under Attack by Iraqi Silkworm Painting, Oil on Canvas Board; by John Charles Roach; 1991; Framed Dimensions 28H X 34W Accession #: 92-007-U
Official caption: “While providing gunfire support to harass the Iraqi troops in Kuwait in preparation for a possible amphibious landing, USS Missouri (BB-63) was fired upon by an Iraqi Silkworm anti-ship missile. By the use of infrared flares and chaff, the missile’s guidance was confused. It crossed close astern of Missouri and was engaged and shot down by HMS Gloucester (D-96).”

The AP reported at the time:

Royal Navy Commander John Tighe told reporters two Sea Dart missiles were fired by the Gloucester less than 50 seconds after the ship’s radar detected the incoming Iraqi missiles at about 5 a.m.

Tighe said one Sea Dart scored a direct hit, destroying the Iraqi missile. He said a second missile launched by the Iraqis veered into the sea.

The commander said allied airplanes subsequently attacked the Silkworm missile launch site. He said that while he had not received a battle damage assessment, he was ″fairly confident that site will not be used to launch missiles against the ships again.”

Missouri did take some damage that day, from CIWS rounds fired by the escorting frigate USS Jarrett (FFG-33), which had locked on to one of the battleship’s chaff clouds and opened fire. One sailor was wounded by 20mm DU shrapnel.

Today, battleships left the Naval List for the final time in 1995 and all that made it that far are preserved as museums. The missiles, however, endure.

Warship Wednesday, May 22, 2019: The Defiant Bicyclist

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 22, 2019: The Defiant Bicyclist

Il sommergibile Enrico Toti 2

Here we see the Balilla-class diesel submarine Enrico Toti of the Italian Regia Marina around 1933, dressed to impressed. Although many of Il Duce’s undersea boats met grim ends at the hands of the Allies in World War II and had little to show for their career, Toti had a much higher degree of success on both accounts.

While British, American and German submarines are given a lot of press for their storied achievements during the conflict, it should be noted that Italy was no slouch in the submersible department, historically speaking. The first Italian “sottomarino,” Delfino, was designed by marine engineer Giacinto Pullino at the La Spezia Navy Yard back in 1889, predating John Philip Holland’s designs for the U.S. and Royal Navy by a decade.

Over the next four decades, the Italians produced more than 100 subs, including some for the King of Sweden, the Kaiser of Germany and the Tsar of Russia, while in turn adopting a modicum of contemporary British designs to learn from. During World War I, the Italian submarine force counted some of the few Allied “kills” in the northern Adriatic when the Regia Marina’s F-12 torpedoed the Austro-Hungarian U-boat SM U-20 in 1918. Importantly, after the war, Italy received the relatively low-mileage German Type UE II long-range submarine SM U-120 as reparations, which the country’s designers apparently learned a good deal from.

In 1927, with an increasingly fascist Italy on track to build the fourth largest navy in the world, Rome ordered a new class of four Balilla-class “cruiser” type submarines, large enough to operate independently in the Indian Ocean and around Italy’s African colonies which at the time included Italian Somaliland and Eritrea on the strategically important (Red Sea/Suez Canal) Horn of Africa.

The country’s first post-WWI submarine design, the big Balillas went 1,900-tons and ran 284-feet long, capable of making 17-knots in a surface attack. Capable of diving to 400 feet– which was deep for subs of the 1920s, they could travel 13,000 nm on their economical diesel engines. Able to carry 16 torpedoes for their six tubes as well as a 120mm deck gun, the design rivaled the U.S. Navy’s later Porpoise-class subs (1900-tons/289-feet/18-knots/16 torpedoes) of the early 1930s, which in turn was the forerunner of the USN’s WWII fleet boats. A fifth Balilla was constructed for Brazil, which in turn triggered Argentina to order three later Cavallini-class subs from Italy in the 1930s

Built by OTO at Muggiano, largely side-by-side, Italian Navy sisters Balilla, Domenico Millelire, Amatore Sciesa, and Enrico Toti were all in service by 1928.

Balilla class member Domenico Millelire, note her conning tower-mounted short-barreled 120mm gun. This was later replaced by a longer gun mounted on the deck.

All the vessels were named after famous Italian heroes:

Balilla was the nickname of one Giovanni Battista Perasso, a Genoese youth who is credited with a revolt against the Austrians in 1746.

-Millelire was an officer in the Sardinian Royal Navy who reportedly gave the first defeat to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1793.

Sciesa was an Italian patriot hung by the Austrians in 1851.

As for Toti, the namesake of our sub, he was a one-legged bicyclist who was allowed to join the elite Bersaglieri in the Great War and was killed by the Austro-German forces at the horrific waste that was the Sixth Battle of the Isonzo in 1916, famously throwing his crutch at the enemy lines and remaining defiant to the last.

The 1 October 1916 cover of La Domenica del Corriere, a popular 20th Century Italian weekly newspaper famous for its cover drawings akin in many ways to the American Saturday Evening Post, on Toti’s deed

The class soon engaged in a series of long-range peacetime cruises, waving the Italian tricolor around the globe. Boston photojournalist Leslie Jones documented Balilla off the Boston lightship on her way to Charlestown Navy Yard in May 1933.

Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library

Note how large the sail is on these boats. Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library

In September 1933, Toti, in conjunction with her sister Sciesa, set sail from La Spezia to circumnavigate the African continent East-to-West, passing through the Suez, and calling at Mogadishu, Chisimaio, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar-es-Salaam, Diego Suarez, Lourenço Marques, Durban, Cape Town, Walvis Bay, Lobito, São Tomé, Takoradi, Dakar, Praia, Las Palma, Gibraltar and Barcelona before making it back to Italy in February 1934. In short, visiting every important British, French, Portuguese and Spanish port in Africa and the Med.

Il sommergibile Enrico Toti

In 1934, the class was updated with a more modern 120mm/45 cal gun (from the old 27cal weapon) mounted on the deck rather than the conning tower, while Breda M31 13.2mm twin machine guns on innovative pressured disappearing mounts replaced the older Hotchkiss singles.

Images of Toti in March 1935, showing her new configuration, via Association Venus :

Deck mounted 120mm gun

Images of the internals of WWII Italian submarines are hard to come by

At sea, note the new conning tower profile

One of the few pictures I’ve ever seen of the twin submarine mount Breda M31 AAA machine guns. It could reportedly telescope in and out of the pressure hull like a periscope.

Starting in 1936, Toti and her sisters became heavily involved in the Spanish Civil War, semi-secretly supporting Franco’s forces without any (published) successes.

When Mussolini finally joined WWII proper in June 1940, just in time to deal a death blow to France, the Balilla class were no longer the best subs the Italians had in their fleet, as a staggering 150~ follow-on large submarines were either in commission or on the drawing board. With this, the four Balillas were largely relegated to training use although they did undertake a few war patrols early in the conflict. Toti was the only one that was successful.

Just after midnight on 15 October 1940, off the Italian central Mediterranean town of Calabria, Toti, commanded by LCDR Bandino Bandini, encountered the British Royal Navy T-class submarine HMS Triad (N53) at a distance of about 1,000 meters.

HMS Triad (N53)

Toti, like the British sub, was operating on the surface and moved to close at flank speed, managing to hit Triad with her 120mm deck gun as the vessel was submerging. RN LCDR George S. Salt, the skipper of Triad, went to the bottom with the vessel’s entire 52-man crew. Salt and Triad did not go down without a fight. Her own deck gun hit Toti‘s pressure hull and injured two Italian sailors, while a torpedo from the British boat reportedly came within just a few feet of her opponent.

Once Bandini and the crew of the Toti made it back to port, they were celebrated as heroes. After all, they had sunk a British submarine (and would be the only Italian boat to do so, although HM Submarine Force would scratch 17 Italian subs). However, there would be enduring confusion over just which RN ship they should be credited for. The Italian press was initially told it was HMS Perseus (N36), a British Parthian-class submarine which in fact would only be sunk by an Italian mine in the Ionian Sea on 6 December 1941.

A 22 October 1940 Domenica del Corriere cover depicting Toti’s deck crew splashing a British submarine in a night action, incorrectly identified as Perseus.

For decades, both the Italians and the British mistakenly thought Toti sank the submarine HMS Rainbow (N16), which had actually been lost off Albania at about the same time after she struck a submerged object.

It was only in 1988 that Triad, which had been listed as missing for 48 years, was positively tied to the Italian boat that sunk her. In a twist of fate, Triad‘s lost commander was the father of British RADM James Frederick Thomas George “Sam” Salt, who was captain of the destroyer HMS Sheffield during the Falklands when that ship was lost to an Argentine Exocet– the first sinking of a Royal Navy ship since WWII. The junior Salt was only six months old at the time of his father’s disappearance in the Med.

By 1941, the obsolete Balillas were removed from frontline service. Of the quartet, Millelire and Balilla were soon hulked and used as floating battery charging vessels. Sciesa was disarmed and hit by an air attack in Benghazi in 1942 while running resupply missions to the Afrika Korps then later scuttled in place as the Americans advanced on the city.

Toti, true to her past, remained more active than her sisters.

From March to June 1942 she carried out a reported 93 training missions at the Italian submarine school of Pula, which saw her very active.

Enrico Toti submarine at the submarine school in Pula

She was then was used for four short-run supply missions across the Med to Italian forces in North Africa, landing her torpedoes and instead carrying some 200 tons of medicine and high-value materials as well as transferring most of the diesel fuel in her bunkers ashore for use by panzers and trucks.

Enrico Toti returns to Pola June 42, note her newly supplied camo scheme applied to run supplies to Italy Via Lavrentio/WarshipP reddit

Submarine blockade runners in North Africa: Enrico Toti (left) with the smaller Bandiera-class submarine Santorre Santarosa (in the center) and the Foca-class minelaying submarine Atropo (right) in Ras Hilal, Libya on 10-7-42. Of these, Santarosa would be grounded and scuttled in place 20th January 1943 while Atropo would be used to supply isolated British forces in the Dodecanese after the 1943 armistice and scrapped after the war. Via Lavrentio/WarshipP reddit

By April 1943, Toti was hulked and used to charge batteries, a role she continued through the end of the war.

The Italians lost over 90 subs during the war, almost one per week, with little bought with their loss. This figure is made even more considerable once you figure the Italians were only an active Axis ally from June 1940 to Sept 1943. By 1945, the country could only count about a dozen semi-submersible vessels and most of those had been laid up/disarmed for months.

On 18 October 1946, Toti was retired for good, along with the last of the Italian submarines. You see, the Regia Marina was dissolved with the end of the monarchy and the Treaty of Paris in 1947 banned Italy from operating submarines. With that, Toti and the last few Italian boats were scrapped or given away to victorious Allies as war reparations.

Jane’s 1946-47 edition does not list Italy with a single submarine of any kind.

Italy, with her navy rebranded as the Marina Militare, was only allowed out of the Treaty restrictions after the country joined NATO in 1949, effectively refraining from submarine operations until 1954 when the Gato-class submarines USS Barb (SS-220) and USS Dace (SS-247) were transferred to Italian service, where they became Enrico Tazzoli and Leonardo da Vinci, respectively. Through the 1970s, the Italians went on to acquire nine former WWII U.S. fleet boats.

The first of a new class of domestically made Italian submarine since WWII was laid down in 1965 by Fincantieri and commissioned in 1968 with the name of one of Italy’s most succesful boats, Enrico Toti (S 506). She went on on to provide nearly 25 years of service to the Italian Navy, much of it during the Cold War spent keeping tabs of the Soviet Mediterranean Fleet

This newer Toti has been preserved at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan since 2005.

The latter Toti, via the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan

Today, the Italian Navy fields eight very modern SSKs of the Todaro and Sauro-classes, with two more of the former on order.

Italian submarine Salvatore Todaro (S 526) passing the Castello Aragonese di Taranto by Alberto Angela

Specs:
Displacement: 1464 tons (1927 submerged)
Length: 284 ft.
Beam: 26 ft.
Draft: 15 feet.
Operating depth 100 m
Propulsion:
2 4,000 hp Fiat diesel engines, twin shafts
2 Savigliano electric motors, 240 cell battery
Submerged speed, max: 9 knots
Surfaced speed, max: 17 knots
Range: 3,000 miles at 17 knots or 13,000 nm at 7 knots; 8 miles at 9 knots underwater
Crew: 5 officers, 47 enlisted. Given as 77 in wartime.
Armament:
(1928)
1 120mm/27cal Mod. 1924 gun (150 shells)
2 single Hotchkiss 13.2 mm machine guns
6 torpedo tubes (4 front, 2 rear) of 533 mm, 16 torpedoes
4 mines in dedicated tube
(1934)
1 120mm/45cal Mod. 1931 gun (150 shells)
2 twin Breda M1931 13.2mm machine guns on disappearing mounts (3000 rounds per machine gunner)
6 torpedo tubes (4 front, 2 rear) of 533 mm, 16 torpedoes
4 mines in dedicated tube

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Italians discover long lost cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere

Commissioned 1 January 1931, the Giussano-class light cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere (John of the Black Bands) was a sleek warship of the Regia Marina, though not quite up to the same quality as her three sisters.

The 7,000-ton, 555-foot cruiser had a lot of speed– 37 knots– and eight 6-inch guns but had *razor thin* armor (less than an inch at its thickest) as an Achilles heel. To make it worse, the class had virtually no underwater protection at all.

When WWII came, Bande Nere managed to escape serious damage in the Battle of Calabria and follow-up Battle of Cape Spada in 1940 but hit HMAS Sydney in turn, then went on to survive another close call at the Second Battle of Sirte in 1942. As such, she was much luckier than her three sisters– Alberico da Barbiano and Alberto da Giussano, sunk December 1941, by Royal Navy and Dutch destroyers during the Battle of Cape Bon; and Bartolomeo Colleoni, sent to the bottom at Spada.

Her luck ran out on 1 April 1942 when she came across HM Submarine Urge who fired a pair of torpedoes at the Italian cruiser, one of which broke the Bande Nere into two sections, and she sank quickly with the loss of more than half her crew in 1,500m of water some 11 miles from Stromboli. In a cruel bit of karma, Urge, a Britsh U-class submarine was herself lost just three weeks afterward with all hands, most likely near Malta as a result of a mine.

Bande Nere was discovered over the weekend by the now-Marina Militare, and her crown of Savoy clearly seen on a released video.

“Over a seaman’s grave, no flowers grow.”

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018: Giuseppe, how many seaplanes you packing?

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018: Giuseppe, how many seaplanes you packing?

(1500×1000)

Here we see the Regia Marina’s very proud seaplane carrier, Giuseppe Miraglia, at anchor in the 1930s. A true-life example of what today would be seen as a dieselpunk aesthetic, the Italian navy views her as an important predecessor of their modern pocket carriers– Cavour and Giuseppe Garibaldi— today.

Italy got into the seaplane tender biz in February 1915 when they bought the aging 392-ft./7,100-ton Spanish-built freighter Quarto and, as Europa, converted the vessel to operate a half-dozen or so FBA flying boats. Taking part in the Battle of the Strait of Otranto against the bottled-up Austro-Hungarian fleet in 1917, she was discarded after the war.

Italian seaplane carrier Europa, in service 1915-1920. Note her method of flying boat storage

Fast forward to the mid-1920s, and Italian rivals Britain and France had newer and more modern seaplane carriers (such as HMAS/HMS Albatross and Commandant Teste, the latter carrying 26 aircraft) on the drawing board. This left the Italian Navy with a need for a warship that could pack a lot of (sea)planes once again.

In 1925, Rome bought the incomplete passenger/mail steamer Citta di Messina and, sending her to the Regio Arsenale Della Spezia for completion, produced Giuseppe Miraglia.

The vessel was renamed in honor of Tenente di vascello Giuseppe Miraglia, an early Italian naval aviator killed in an accident in 1915 at age 27.

This guy

Early in the war, he made headlines in the country by leading his seaplane squadron over Austrian-held Trieste in a raid that was widely celebrated.

She wasn’t a giant ship, just under 400-feet long with a light draft of 4,500-tons. But Miraglia was fast enough for naval use (21 knots) and with enough room for as many as 20 seaplanes of assorted sizes.

For this, she was well-equipped with two below-deck hangars in what was to be the steamship’s holds, each equipped with catapults and cranes for launching and recovery, respectively. Inside the hangars were room for spare parts including fresh engines, a few spare aircraft in “knocked down” crated condition, tools, and handling equipment.

Note her hangar arrangement fore and aft of her stack

Many of the planned staterooms which originally were meant for 1st and 2nd class passengers were completed for aircrew instead. A central ordnance magazine and avfuel storage were accessible from each hangar.

All those Macchis…

The twin hangars could each hold 5-6 Macchi M.18AR seaplanes with their wings folded while additional aircraft “parking” was available topside for a couple extra boats.

A pusher-style biplane flying boat, the M.18AR was one of the more successful “combat” seaplanes of the 1920s and 30s, serving not only with the Italians but with the Spanish Navy‘s early seaplane carrier Dédalo (Dedalus) during the Civil War in that country as well as against Moroccan rebels, but also with the Paraguayan Navy during the Chaco War.

The open cockpit three-seat scout bombers were the staple of the Aviazione per la Regina Marina for much of the interwar period, capable of toting a few small bombs and a 7.7mm machine gun aloft with a 300~ mile combat radius.

A flight of Macchi 18ARs with the Aeronáutica Naval Española, impressive airpower for the roaring 20s.

By 1930, the Macchi aircraft were replaced largely with Cantoni 25 AR seaplanes and, after 1937, with the smaller but more modern IMAM Ro.43, which at least had a closed cockpit and two machine guns rather than just one– although carried no bombs.

Recovering an IMAM Ro.43 seaplane, the standard Italian Navy’s floatplane that flew from not only Miraglia but also all her cruisers and battleships from 1937 onward

Miraglia’s topside deck was protected by 50mm of armor to stave off air attacks not scared off by her AAA suite of a dozen Breda machine guns while a quartet of 4-inch guns could take shots at closing destroyers or torpedo boats. She had a side belt of between 70 and 80mm (sources vary).

Miraglia entered service 1 November 1927 and was used in the disgrace that was the Italo-Ethiopian War in the late 1930s to transport aircraft to the theatre.

With six Macchi seaplanes on deck, underway

Note the Macchi ready to cat. The ship carried one Gagnotto-made catapult forward…

…And another aft. Also, note the 4-inch gun under the cat on the aft stdb quarter

Italian ship GIUSEPPE MIRAGLIA. Italy – CVAN. Circa 1935. Note the seaplanes on her hangar decks. NH 111421

When WWII came, she somehow managed to not catch a British torpedo or American bomb while serving in the Mediterranean although she was present in the harbor for the raid on Taranto in 1940. She spent most of the war as a transport and testbed, rather than in operations.

Later in the conflict, the zippy little Reggiane Re.2000 Falco I “Catapultabile” monoplane, which could be catapulted off by not recovered by the vessel, made an appearance on the ship.

The Re.2000 Catapultabile (MM.8281) on a topside catapult of Giuseppe Miraglia ready for take-off, May 1942. Less than a dozen of these variants were used during WWII. The planes were planned for the unfinished 27,000-ton Italian aircraft carrier L’ Aquila but cut their teeth on Miraglia.

Following the shit-canning of Mussolini, Miraglia sailed to Malta in 1943 to be interned under British guns and served the rest of the war as a receiving ship for Italian sailors from smaller vessels.

Meanwhile, Italy’s first planned aircraft carrier– a respectable 772-foot leviathan by the name of L’Aquila (Eagle) converted from an unfinished ocean liner– was left under construction at Genoa. Although it was envisioned she would carry up to 56 aircraft, the Italian eagle was never completed and finally scrapped at La Spezia in 1952. A sistership, Sparviero, never even got that far, making Miraglia the sole Italian aviation ship fielded in WWII.

The unfinished Italian aircraft carrier “Aquila” tied up at La Spezia sometime following Italy’s surrender in WWII.

Italian aircraft carrier Aquila in 1950, pending her conversion to razor blades

Following the end of the war, with the general disfavor of seaplanes and seaplane carriers of the time, Miraglia was retained at Taranto as a PT boat tender until 1950 when she was disposed of. Jane’s, in their often confusing 1946-47 volume, noted that she was to be refitted as a supply ship.

Giuseppe Miraglia 1946-47 Janes listing

Giuseppe Miraglia, 1946-47 Janes listing, where she was one of the few Italian ships left from WWII

The spark rekindled

Italian Naval Aviation languished for a full decade following VE-Day, only restarting on a limited scale when a few Bell-Augusta AB-47G helicopters were handed over to the Navy for shipboard service in 1956.

By 1969, Vittorio Veneto, a so-called “helicopter cruiser,” was in service, capable of carrying six SH-3D Sea Kings or larger numbers of smaller whirlybirds.

Vittorio Veneto was all cruiser in the front…

But a party in the back…ITS Vittorio Veneto (C550) view from the stern with raised deck and hangar beneath.

Finally, in 1990 the Italian government placed an order for several AV-8B Harriers for use on the newly completed light aircraft carrier Garibaldi, returning the country’s fleet to a fixed-wing capability that it hadn’t seen since Miraglia steamed for exile in Malta in 1943.

Today, it is thought that the carrier Cavour will carry a squadron of operational Italian F-35Bs by 2023, almost a century after Miraglia was conceived.

Italian aircraft carrier Cavour

Specs:


Displacement, full load: 5.913 t
Length: 397.72 ft.
Beam: 49.18 ft.
Draft: 19 ft.
Propulsion: 8 Yarrow water tube boilers, 2 groups of steam turbines with Parsons type reducer, 2 propellers with three blades, 16,700 HP, 430 tons oil.
Speed: 21 knots
Crew: (196) not counting airwing, as follows:
16 officers
40 NCOs
140 enlisted
Armament:
4 x 102/35 Schneider-Armstrong naval rifles
12 x 13.2 mm Breda machine guns
Airwing:
2 Gagnotto steam catapults in bow and stern
2 aircraft hangars for 5-6 planes with folded wings (total of 11 seaplanes)
2 depots for 3 dismantled aircraft, each
17 Macchi M.18AR seaplanes (1927-30), 20 Cantoni 25 AR seaplanes (1931-36) up to 20 IMAM Ro.43s (1937-43)

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, March 2, 2016: Fritz and the short career of an Italian battlewagon

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday: March 2, 2016 Fritz and the short career of an Italian battlewagon

Here we see the Littorio-class battleship (corazzata) Roma, the pride of the WWII Regia Marina and last flagship of Admiral Carlo Bergamini. While her 15 months of service to Mussolini’s Italy was uneventful, she ended her days with a bang.

Although the modern Italian Navy saw little service in the first few decades of the 20th Century– primarily being used in an uneventful blockade of the Austro-Hungarian fleet in World War I and a few skirmishes with the Turks before that– the admirals in Rome had a twinge of panic in the 1930s when the French laid down new, fast battleships for service in the Med.

To augment the Regia Marina’s four modernized Conte di Cavour (29,000-ton/10×12.6-inch guns) and Andrea Doria-class (25,000-ton/13×12-inch guns) World War I battleships, four new fast battleships of the Littorio-class (Littorio, Vittorio Veneto, Roma, and Impero) were envisioned with the first laid down in 1934.

These ships, which if you squint and look at them from a distance look a lot like the U.S. North Carolina-class battleships which followed just after, were beautiful, modern vessels.

With a full load displacement pushing 50,000-tons, they carried nine 381 mm/50 (15″) Model 1934 guns in three triple turrets guided by distinctive “Wedding Cake” Fire Control Directors and were  capable of firing a 1,951-pound AP shell to a maximum range of a staggering 46,807 yards– and keeping it up at 1.3 rounds per minute.

Her 381 mm (15.0 in)/50 cal guns were tested to nearly 50,000 yards in experiments on land.

Her 381 mm (15.0 in)/50 cal guns were tested to nearly 50,000 yards in experiments on land.

battleship-roma-deck-guns-and-turrets-5

While the Littorios were reasonably fast, capable of 30 knots, they achieved this by using thin armor (just 11 inches in belt and much less on deck) which put them at risk against other large battleships (or significant aircraft-dropped ordnance) though below the waterline they used the innovative Pugliese torpedo defense system, a 40mm armored bulkhead blister outer hull over a 15-inch liquid-filled void. Although the Pugliese wasn’t ideal, the Soviets copied it for their last battleship class and the Littorios survived no less than four serious torpedo attacks during World War II (though air attack is another story).

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The hero of our sad tale, Roma, was the third and last of the class to be completed (Impero was canceled, her unfinished hulk ultimately sunk as a target). Laid down 18 September 1938 at Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico in Trieste, when WWII came less than a year later, work slowed on Roma and she was only completed on 14 June 1942.

Roma upon commissioning

Roma upon commissioning

Gunnery trials

Gunnery trials

Upon completion

Upon completion

Roma was Beautiful on the inside too it would seem - rather lavish officer’s quarters.

Roma was beautiful on the inside too it would seem – rather lavish officer’s quarters.

Commissioning. She would never be this beautiful again

Arriving at Taranto on 21 August, she was assigned to the Ninth Naval Division, though with the general lack of fuel experienced in all of the Axis countries by that stage of the war, she rarely went to sea.

In November, with the Americans landing in North Africa in Operation Torch, all three Littoros were moved from Taranto to Naples to lay low. The Americans quickly found them, however, and after air attacks Roma and her two sisters were moved to La Spezia where, for the next several months, they endured near-weekly air attacks that left all of the ships bruised and battered though unbroken.

Soon after commissioning she was given a distinctive camo pattern

Soon after commissioning she was given a distinctive camo pattern

In all, over a 15-month period, Roma spent a grand total of just 130 hours underway under her own steam.

italian_battleship_roma_by_achmedthedeadteroris

Her deck fore and aft had red and white diagonal stripes

As Rommel was defeated in North Africa and the Allies began landing on Sicily in July 1943 during Operation Husky, the Italian fleet at La Spezia consisting of the three Littoro sisters, a few cruisers and eight destroyers was put under the command of Admiral Carlo Bergamini, who chose Roma as his flag. An old-school surface warfare officer, Bergamini had picked up a silver medal in 1918 during the Great War while the gunnery officer of the cruiser Pisa, and commanded the Italian battleship division from the deck of Vittorio Veneto during the Battle of Cape Spartivent– which was about the closest thing to an Italian victory over the Royal Navy during WWII.

Then in September, the Allies began Operation Avalanche, the invasion of Italy proper. This led Bergamini, under orders from the new Italian government who sought an armistice with the Allies, to take his fleet across to La Maddalena in Sardinia where King Victor Emmanuel III was setting up new digs, thus keeping the flower out of navy out of German hands.

The only thing was, the Germans weren’t a fan of that plan, as the Allies jumped the gun and announced the secret Italian armistice on the radio in Algeria on 8 Sept.

The Italian battleship roma anchored, ca., 1942

Battleship Roma, date unknown

Battleship Roma, date unknown

Slipping out in the predawn hours of 9 Sept, Bergamini’s fleet, joined by three cruisers from Genoa, made for Sardinia and just after dawn saw Allied planes observing their movements– but not attacking. Then, around 1340 that day came the news the Germans had seized La Maddalena, leaving Bergamini in a pickle as he cruised through the narrow Strait of Bonifacio between Corsica and Sardinia.

Over the next two hours, six German Do 217K-2 medium bombers from III. Gruppe of KG 100 (III/KG 100) were seen by lookouts, each carrying what appeared to be a single large bomb. At 1530, these bombers climbed and hurled one of these oddball new bombs– that seemed to maneuver in flight– at the battleship Italia (Littorio), exploding just off her stern, damaging her rudder.

Then at 1545 a second bomber dropped a 3,450-pound, armor piercing, radio-controlled, glide bomb, which the Luftwaffe called Fritz-X, right down Roma‘s gullet.

Depiction of the Dornier Do-217M Fritz X attack on Italian battleship Roma. The glide bomb had a flare in its tail to allow the bombardier to guide it to its target from upto 5km away

Depiction of the Dornier Do-217 Fritz X attack on Italian battleship Roma. The glide bomb had a flare in its tail to allow the bombardier to guide it to its target from up-to 5km away

"End of the Roma 1943" by Paul Wright. Note the very distinctive national markings on deck. However, the flare on the Fritz-X seems a little too rocket-like as the bomb was unpowered.

“End of the Roma 1943” by Paul Wright. Note the very distinctive markings on deck. However, the flare on the Fritz-X seems a little too rocket-like as the bomb was unpowered.

The Italian battleship Roma listing after being hit by German Fritz X radio-controlled bombs launched by Do 217s, Sept. 9, 1943. Italian Navy photo

The Italian battleship Roma listing after being hit by German Fritz X radio-controlled bombs launched by Do 217s, Sept. 9, 1943. Italian Navy photo

Eight minutes later, another Fritz struck the already crippled ship, leading to a magazine explosion that killed the vast majority of her crew– including Bergamini.

Explosion aboard Roma, Strait of Bonifacio

Explosion aboard Roma, Strait of Bonifacio

Roma5973planRU

Capsized, she broke in two and sank by 1615. In all, two Admirals, 86 Officers and 1264 sailors were taken down to the seafloor with the stricken flagship who had less than 3,000 miles on her hull.

The rest of the fleet carried on and eventually made Malta where they were interred under British guns for the duration of the war, later moving to Alexandria where they remained until 1947. While Roma’s sisters, Italia/Littorio and Vittorio Veneto were on paper given to the U.S. and Britain respectively as war prizes, this was largely to keep them out of Soviet hands and both were scrapped at La Spezia in the early 1950s.

On Fritz, KG 100 continued to use these amazingly destructive weapons– the first effective smart bombs and precursors to current anti-ship missiles– in attacks on the cruisers USS Savannah, USS Philadelphia, HMS Uganda and the British battleship HMS Warspite, though without sinking them. Within months, the Allies figured out Fritz could be foiled by attacking his radio waves and by the Normandy invasion had issued some of the first electronic countermeasures to the fleet to jam the German wunderweapon.

German aerial picture of the KG100 attack on Warsprite

German aerial picture of the KG100 attack on Warsprite

As for Roma, her wreck was discovered in 2012, found at a depth of 1,000 meters around 25 km off Sardinia’s coast. It is preserved as a war grave.

An Italian Navy picture of a cannon on the Roma battleship, found at a depth of 1,000 metres around 25 km off Sardinia's coast.

An Italian Navy picture of a AAA gun on the Roma, found at a depth of 1,000 meters around 25 km off Sardinia’s coast.

Bergamini in death was promoted to the rank of Ammiraglio d’Armata and two frigates, one in 1960 and another in 2013, have been named in his honor, the latest of which had top of the line air defenses against anti-shipping missiles.

Italy's first FREMM class frigate, Carlo Bergamini (F590)

Italy’s first FREMM class frigate, Carlo Bergamini (F590)

Specs:

Image by Shipbucket

Image by Shipbucket

Displacement: Full load: 45,485 long tons (46,215 t)
Length: 240.7 m (790 ft.)
Beam: 32.9 m (108 ft.)
Draft: 9.6 m (31 ft.)
Installed power:
8 × Yarrow boilers
128,000 shp (95,000 kW)
Propulsion: 4 × steam turbines, 4 × shafts
Speed: 30 kn (56 km/h; 35 mph)
Complement: 1,920
Armament:
3 × 3 381 mm (15.0 in)/50 cal guns
4 × 3 152 mm (6.0 in)/55 cal guns
4 × 1 120 mm (4.7 in)/40 guns for illumination
12 × 1 90 mm (3.5 in)/50 anti-aircraft guns
20 × 37 mm (1.5 in)/54 guns (8 × 2; 4 × 1)
10 × 2 20 mm (0.79 in)/65 guns
Armor:
Main belt: 350 mm (14 in)
Deck: 162 mm (6.4 in)
Turrets: 350 mm
Conning tower: 260 mm (10 in)
Aircraft carried: 3 aircraft (IMAM Ro.43 or Reggiane Re.2000)
Aviation facilities: 1 stern catapult
If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

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Cruiser-killer HMS Urge rediscovered after 74 years overdue

When compared to the large U.S. fleet boats used in the Pacific in WWII, the Royal Navy’s 49 U-class submarines were downright tiny. At just 700-tons submerged and 191-feet oal, these boats were originally designed as coastal training subs. However, with the Italians and Germans giving the UK a run for their money in the Med, the Brits started churning these craft out in numbers.

Armed with a half dozen 21-inch tubes, they could carry 8 warshot torpedoes and a 3-inch pop gun on deck. They gave a good account of themselves, sinking a large number of Axis transports and freighters carrying much-needed supplies to Rommel and his Italian compatriots in North Africa– although they suffered severe losses of their own, with 19 U-class sisters going down during the war.

Photograph FL 3433 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 8308-29)

Photograph FL 3433 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 8308-29)

This brings us to HMS Urge. Commissioned 12 December 1940 at Vickers, she lasted 17 action-packed months during which she managed to torpedo the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto, damaging her in the First Battle of Sirte. She had better luck on 1 April, 1942 when she torpedoed and sank the 6844-ton Italian Giussano-class light cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere.

The  Regia Marina's Giovanni delle Bande Nere, some 10-times HMS Urge's size, was bushwacked by the hearty British submarine with two torpedos and sent to the bottom on April Fools Day, 1942, breaking in half and taking 381 Italian sailors with her.

The Regia Marina’s Giovanni delle Bande Nere, some 10-times HMS Urge’s size, was bushwacked by the hearty British submarine with two torpedos and sent to the bottom on April Fools Day, 1942, breaking in half and taking 381 Italian sailors with her.

However, Urge went missing at the end of that month and was never heard from again.

— That is until 76-year old Belgian diver Jean-Pierre Misson, poking around off Tobruk, Libya, came across something very submarine-like. It now appears that Italian dive bombers reaped retribution for their lost cruiser.

62482464_HMS-Urge-_3295219b

The rest here

Warship Wednesday May 28, The Great Italian Count

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday May 28, The Great Italian Count

Italian battleship Conte di Cavour on maneuvers, 1938 with sistership behind

Here we see the pride of the 20th Century Royal Italian Navy (the Regia Marina), His Majesty’s battleship Conte di Cavour. Named after the first Prime Minister of a unified modern Italy, Camillo Paolo Filippo Giulio Benso, Count of Cavour, of Isolabella and of Leri, who was also the first Italian Minister of the Navy, the ship was to be the Regia Marina’s notice to all that the country was a legitimate naval power.

 

The good Camillo Paolo Filippo Giulio Benso, Count of Cavour.

The good Camillo Paolo Filippo Giulio Benso, Count of Cavour.

 

Laid down 10 August 1910 at the La Spezia Arsenale, she was the lead ship of a class of new dreadnought-style ships for Italy. With a 25,000-ton displacement, 577-foot length, and 21-knot speed, she was comparable in size to battleships of the day. Equipped with good British Parsons steam turbines, and 20 boilers, she was reliable underway. Her armament of a baker’s dozen 12-inch guns, was designed with the help of Armstrong Whitworth and Vickers.

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These were arranged in an odd five turret plan of three triple-gun turrets and two twin-gun turrets, was formidable while her 5-11 inches of locally made Terni cemented armor (crafted from U.S. steel and nickel) was sufficient for all but close combat from the most modern battleships.

3621C_RN_Conte_di_Cavour_1911_foto_Falzone_Collez- Ernesto-Burzagli-1930

At the time she was constructed, Italy’s biggest rival in the Med was France, who had just built a series of Courbet-class battleships of some 25,000 tons with up to 11-inches of armor, a 21-knot speed (also powered by British Parsons steam turbines), and 12x12-inch guns– which could be why the Italians insisted on having 13!

WNIT_126-44_m1934_Conte_di_Cavour_pic

Delayed by the Italo-Turkish war, she took nearly a half decade to complete, being commissioned 1 April 1915, just in time for Italy’s entrance into World War One– as an ally of France. Nevertheless, she spent that war as the flagship of the Navy, calmly waiting for the Austrian fleet to sortie out into the Adriatic, which never happened. Two sisters, Leonardo da Vinci and Giulio Cesare would soon follow her down the ways although da Vinci suffered a catastrophic accidental magazine explosion in 1916 that destroyed her.

When the war ended, Cavour was something of a happy ambassador, embarking King Emmanuel III and his family on occasion and conducting extended sorties to the United States . She did however fire her guns in anger during the 1923 Corfu Incident, in which her tertiary battery bombarded the island during an Italian occupation. You see good old Mussolini was in power by then, and looking for trouble.

Laid up from 1927 until 1937 at Trieste (recently seized from the scraps of the Austrian empire), Cavour was extensively rebuilt under the orders of Generale del Genio navale Francesco Rotundi.

Italian battleship Conte di Cavour on maneuvers, 1938

When she emerged from this decade of slumber, she had a thoroughly new look, as well as a new power-plant of eight superheated Yarrow oil-fired boilers (fueled by Libyan oil wells Italy had wrested away from the Ottomans in 1911). This made the old ship new aging, extending her range by a factor of 50 percent while increasing her speed to over 27-knots at a full clip. To accommodate the weight of more armor, the center triple 12-inch turret was removed, bringing her broadside down to 10 guns rather than 13. She was recommissioned 1 June 1937.

Soon, Mussolini had her clocking in to pay for all the recent improvements by covering the Italian invasion of hapless Albania in 1938. That same year, the Cavour served as the reviewing stand for both the chubby Benito and his stubby homie Adolf in a grand review of the Regina Marina at Naples.

 

Conte di Cavour, with the Duce and Hitler on the stern in Naples watching the torpediniera Cassiopea pass close in review.

Conte di Cavour, with the Duce and Hitler on the stern in Naples watching the torpediniera Cassiopea pass close in review.

When Italy entered WWII on the side of Hitler in 1940, both Cavour and her similarly rebuilt sister Cesare were soon mixing it up with the British Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet with the two trading long-range shots with HMS Malaya and HMS Warsprite at the Battle of Punto Stilo.

This uneventful combat was to be her greatest moment, as the Brits soon decided to make sure the Italian surface fleet was marginalized.

Then late on the night of 11 November 1940, a group of just 21 British Swordfish torpedo bombers penetrated the Italian anchorage at Taranto and sank Cavour along with three other battleships with well-placed torpedoes. Note that this was a full year before Pearl Harbor.

taranto_raid_map

 

'Taranto Harbour, Swordfish from Illustrious Cripple the Italian Fleet, 11 November 1940′ by Charles David Cobb. Painting in collection of National Museum

Taranto Harbour, Swordfish from Illustrious Cripple the Italian Fleet, 11 November 1940′ by Charles David Cobb. Painting in collection of National Museum

 

 

40-11-2

She spent the rest of the war in a state of salvage and repair but was never returned to service. During this time first the Germans then the Americans captured the derelict ship which was finally scrapped in 1946.
Specs:

 

Note the center turret

Note the center turret

(As built)
Displacement: 23,088 long tons (23,458 t) (standard)
25,086 long tons (25,489 t) (deep load)
Length: 176 m (577 ft 5 in) (o/a)
Beam: 28 m (91 ft 10 in)
Draught: 9.3 m (30 ft 6 in)
Installed power: 30,700–32,800 shp (22,900–24,500 kW)
20 × Water-tube boilers
Propulsion: 4 × Shafts
4 × Steam turbines
Speed: 21.5 knots (39.8 km/h; 24.7 mph)
Range: 4,800 nmi (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 31 officers and 969 enlisted men
Armament:

3 × triple, 2 × twin 305 mm (12 in) guns
18 × single 120 mm (4.7 in) guns
14 × single 76.2 mm (3 in) guns
3 × 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes

Armor:

Waterline belt: 250–130 mm (9.8–5.1 in)
Deck: 24–40 mm (0.9–1.6 in)
Gun turrets: 280–240 mm (11.0–9.4 in)
Barbettes: 230–130 mm (9.1–5.1 in)
Conning towers: 280–180 mm (11.0–7.1 in)

 

....and no center turret

….and no center turret

(after reconstruction)
Displacement: 29,100 long tons (29,600 t) (deep load)
Length: 186.4 m (611 ft 7 in)
Beam: 33.1 m (108 ft 7 in)
Installed power: 75,000 shp (56,000 kW)
8 × Yarrow boilers
Propulsion: 2 × Shafts
2 × Geared steam turbines
Speed: 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph)
Range: 6,400 nmi (11,900 km; 7,400 mi) at 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph)
Complement: 1,260
Armament:

2 × triple, 2 × twin 320 mm (12.6 in)
6 × twin 120 mm (4.7 in)
4 × twin 100 mm (3.9 in) AA guns

Armor: Deck: 166–135 mm (6.5–5.3 in)
Barbettes: 280–130 mm (11.0–5.1 in)
Aircraft: 1-2 Macchi M.18 seaplanes

 

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!