In the late 1920s to the mid 1930s Italy constructed a series of light cruisers collectively called the Condottieri. They started as very light cruiser designs, almost in the class of destroyer leaders but mounting six-inch guns. The supreme emphasis was on speed. They had very little armor, barely under an inch in thickness at the start. As design followed design, a change occurred and each subsequent design of the Condottieri became heavier with more emphasis on armor protection, making each class more combat worthy than the preceding class. This article looks at the 4th class of Condottieri, which consisted of two ships, Emanuele Filiberto Duca D’Aosta and Eugenio Di Savoia.
Light Cruiser construction for the Italian Navy (Regia Marina) between World War One and World War Two most almost exclusively governed by the warships being constructed by France. Italy saw France as her possible adversary and designed warships in reply to French designs. The line of Italian Light cruiser designs from 1928 to 1933 illustrates this influence.
In the mid-1920s France began construction of a series of very large destroyers of 2,100 tons and mounting five 5.1-Inch guns. In addition to designing her own large destroyers, the Italian Navy went a further step. A very light, ultra fast cruiser, which sacrificed all armor protection for great speed and strong armament was developed. The four ships of the Da Barbiano Class were laid down in 1928, launched in 1930 and completed February 1931 to February 1932. These 5,110-ton ships mounted eight 6-Inch and six 3.9-inch guns, had a maximum speed of 36.5 knots but carried no armor, except for a miniscule 24mm (1-inch) belt and 23mm on the turrets. The Da Barbiano actually hit 42 knots for 30 minutes during trials but that was in an artificially favorable environment. Since a bonus was paid to the builders for exceeding contract speed, builders would force the machinery beyond normal and safe limits during trials, resulting in artificially high legend speeds. This class, as well as subsequent classes were called Condottieri, as they were named for famous Italian captains of free agent armies that dominated Italy during the Renaissance, when the peninsula was a series of small kingdoms and principalities, as well as subsequent Italian heroes.
In 1930 another class of Condottieri was laid down. The two ship Luigi Cadorna Class had the same size, speed and armament as those of the Da Barbiano Class. Although there was still a lack of armor, as it was the same scheme as the earlier design, these ships had a slightly greater displacement at 5,323 tons due to improved strengthening of the hull. Laid down in 1930, they were both completed in 1933.
In the following year with the third class of Condottieri, the Regia Marina finally improved the armor plan of their light cruisers. The two cruisers of the Raimondo Montecuccoli Class saw a big jump in displacement to 7,405-tons. Length also jumped from 555 feet in the prior two classes to 598 feet. The primary reason for the additional length was the increase in the power plant. To keep the ships as fast as the earlier no armor designs but to carry armor of a 60mm belt and 70mm on the turrets, a larger plant was necessary. Where the two earlier designs could achieve their 36.5 knots with 95,000 shp, the Montecuccoli Class required 106,000 shp to hit 37 knots maximum speed. However, the armament remained the same as the earlier designs. These two were laid down in 1931, launched in 1934 and completed in 1935.
The fourth class of Condottieri continued with the trend for larger but better protected cruisers. The two ships of the Duca D’Aosta Class saw another jump in displacement to 8,317-tons, length to 613 feet and armor to a 70mm belt with 90mm on the turrets. The armament remained the same as the three preceding designs but the power plant increased to 110,000 shp to achieve 36.5 knots maximum speed. These two, Emanuele Filiberto Duca D’Aosta and Eugenio Di Savoia were laid down in 1932 and 1933, launched in 1935 and 1936 and completed in 1935 and 1936.
The changes from the preceding Montecuccoli Class were all to make the ships more stable and provide enhanced protection, hence improved survivability. Armor alone took up 1,700 tons of the 8,317-ton displacement, more than 20% of the cruisers’ displacement. The armor scheme represented a 29% increase over the Montecuccoli Class. Quite clearly the Condottieri had evolved from the early light, extremely fast but extremely frail cruisers that started the parade in the 1920s. To keep the 36knot+ speed of the earlier cruisers more powerful engines were installed. Horsepower was 110,000, up from the 106,000shp of the Montecuccoli Class.
The gun armament remained almost identical to the preceding Montecuccoli Class, with a slight increase in heavy AA machine guns. The two cruisers were fitted with eight 6-inch (4x2) guns, six 3.9-inch (3x2) guns, eight 37mm AA (4x2) guns and twelve 13.2mm (6x2) heavy machine guns, which were four more than found in the Montecuccoli Class. However, there was another change in armament. With the preceding class there were four 21-inch torpedo tubes mounted in two twin mounts. With the Duca D’Aosta Class, torpedo strength was increased by 50% by the use of triple mountings. Additionally, the ships were outfitted to carry 100 to 185 mines. Two Ro43 floatplanes were carried for the Gagnotto catapult. They were very similar in appearance to the two cruisers of the Montecuccoli Class but could be distinguished by the funnels, which were equal size in the Duca D’Aosta Class and by the slightly heavier bridge. On trials the ships were extraordinarily fast with Duca D’Aosta hitting 37.35 knots and Savoia hitting 37.33 knots. However, in large part these high speeds were determined as a result of the standards employed in the tests. They ran light and forced the machinery above designed capacities.
Eugenio Di Savoiawas laid down in the Ansaldo Yard in Genoa on July 6, 1933. She was launched on March 16, 1935 and entered service on January 16, 1936. She was immediately tasked to participate in the patrol of the Spanish coast in the Spanish Civil War and was active on the side of Franco’s Nationalists. Savoia shelled Barcelona in February 1937. She was the flagship for the 7th Cruiser Division, which also included Duca D’Aosta, Montecuccoli and Attendolo. This occupied the rest of 1936 and 1937. In 1938 Eugenio Di Savoia and Duca D’Aosta were ordered to circumnavigate the world. The pair left Naples on November 5, 1938 and were scheduled to finish their voyage on July 25, 1939. During the first part of the voyage, they stopped at ports in the Caribbean, Brazil, Argentina and Chile. However, logistical problems and the war clouds deepening over Europe caused the cancellation of their mission and they were recalled to Italy before visiting the US and then striking across the Pacific. They arrived back at La Spezia on March 3, 1939. Both ships became part of the 2nd Cruiser squadron of the 7th Cruiser Division. in 1940. Between July 6 to 10 they were engaged in a sortie that culminated in the action off of Punto (Cape) Stilo. During the summer the pair covered convoys to North Africa. In October they took part in a sortie designed to intercept British cruisers bound for Malta, without success. On December 18, 1940 Savoia bombarded units of the Greek Army north of the island of Corfu. Savoia stayed with the 7th Cruiser Division even though Duca D’Aosta was transferred to the 8th Division.
In 1941 the Savoia was tasked to use her mine laying capability. Between April 19 through 24, 1941 she was engaged in laying mine fields off Cape Bon. For the remainder of April and into May Savoia was back to escorting North African bound convoys. On June 3, 1941 she and Duca D’Aosta laid mines off of Tripoli. The rest of the year was rather uneventful for Savoia, as the one big sortie in which she participated in October was cancelled upon receipt that the Royal Navy was out in force. Savoia was lucky in her convoy escort duty. In March 1942 her convoy, V5, made Tripoli without a loss. Between April 2 through 4, 1942 Savoia covered three more successful convoys that arrived in Africa without losses. In June Savoia sailed to intercept British units during the British Operation Harpoon/Vigorous. In the course of this operation Savoia with other Italian units, engaged British destroyers and HMS Bedouin was sunk. British Operation Pedestal in August 1942 was a critical supply run to Malta. Savoia was assigned to an interception force but the force was recalled due to a lack of air cover.
Savoiawas anchored in the Bay of Naples on December 4, 1942 when a bombing raid of the USAAF rumbled in. Savoia received damage and was transferred to Castellamare di Stabia for several months of repairs. By 1943 the acute shortage of fuel oil sidelined the cruiser for prolonged periods of time but she did make an unsuccessful attempt to bombard allied positions at Palermo after the Invasion of Sicily. With the armistice of Italy in September 1943, Savoia sailed to Malta with the rest of the fleet and as a flagship, was the first ship of the Regia Marina to contact the allies. She was sent to Suez on September 16, 1943 and was used for training. In January 1944 she was damaged when she struck a mine off of Punto (Cape) Stilo. In April 1944 she became inactive. Savoia was laid up and on February 10, 1947 was transferred to the Greek Navy as part of the final peace treaty. Savoia was renamed as the Greek cruiser Helli on July 1, 1951. She was active with the Greek navy until 1964 when she was decommissioned. Finally she was scrapped in 1974. (Bulk of history from Cruisers of World War Two, An International Encyclopedia by M.J.Whitley; and Instructions for the R.N. Eugenio Di Savoia by Delphis Models)
RN Eugenio Di Savoia from Delphis
Since the Delphis Savoia does not come with photo-etch, the company tries to execute every detail possible in the resin casting. With this kit at least, they maximize the detail integral with the hull casting. The hull casting is loaded with detail. It is literally everywhere you look. The capstans are very well done, except one had a small pinhole void that is very easy to fix. Cable reels are delicate and well delineated and the bases for the twin 3.9-inch gun mounts have an intricate steel grid pattern. The decks appear to be entirely of steel, as there is no deck planking present. However, it is just the sheer number of deck fittings on this hull that is especially striking. Anchor chain is cast onto the deck but this feature is one of the weaker ones. Most modelers will probably want to remove the resin anchor chain and add either photo-etch chain or a suitably small link anchor chain. Since the anchor hawse are already open, this will maximize the impact of these bow fittings. The fittings on the 01 deck are just as nice with well defined skylights, cable reels, deck hatches, 3.9-inch gun base grid and what appears to be an amidships breakwater, which is an admittedly odd place to find one.
When looking at the sides of the hull, the modeler will also see a great amount of detail. The hull features on each side a boat boom forward and nicely done smoke-screen dischargers aft. There is a collapsible propeller guard on each side, that is shown in its folded position, flush with the hull. Its OK but a photo-etch propeller guard would be better. The bottom edge of the hull will need a very light sanding as there is a minute amount of flash along the edge. The bottom has no over-pour and is perfectly level. In other words, its ready to go. Portholes are slightly shallow. If you ink them in, there is no problem, they’re fine as they are. If you like more depth to the portholes and don’t ink or paint them in, you’ll probably want to deepen them with a pin-vice. From the side the real detail pops on the superstructure bulkheads. There are doors, louvers, and fittings everywhere in the same profusion as found on the deck. Doors are slightly overscale in relief but it is nothing that I would worry about. Doors come with and without portholes. The bulkheads forward are dominated with the standard circular portholes but on the bulkheads aft are square windows with their shutters in a down position. Paravanes are cast on either side of B barbette. These are so well defined that they look like separate pieces attached to the bulkhead. There are clean and deep undercuts for the places of deck overhang and platforms.
Delphis has taken the fairly unusual step of casting the two funnels and associated structures as part of the hull. The various stack platforms have very thin splinter shielding and platform supports. Both stacks feature a number of steam pipes on their aft quarters that really have to be seen in the magnified photographs to be appreciated. This is especially true with the steam pipes on the forward funnel. The pipe ends cleanly angle away from the base of the stack cap. Instead of giving the modeler a solid stack cap or an open cap without clinker gratings, Delphis has executed the clinker gratings in resin and hollowed out the area below the open spaces in the gratings. I don’t see how it could be done better in resin. Because of the limitations in the medium, the clinker gratings are on the thick side. A more delicate presentation would be to install photo-etch stack gratings over hollowed-out funnels. Throughout the hull casting vertical ladder is cast onto the hull but not inclined ladders. Some may wish to remove the resin vertical ladders and add photo-etch detail in their place. All in all, the hull casting is a first class effort that is similar to the best hull castings of the other first line resin manufacturers.
Even though the stacks are cast as part of the hull, there still is a multitude of smaller resin parts in the kit. The pride of place here goes to the bridge/forward superstructure tower. It has deep, well-cut windows that perfect for being glazed in with Micro Klear. The bridge platforms have nice support detail, along with ammunition lockers and other platform fittings. The mainmast base platform, although much smaller, is also well done. It also has the same thin splinter shielding found in the other parts of the kit.
The twin 6-inch main gun turrets are one piece. Turret, base plate/aprons, guns, blast bags are all cast as one piece. Delphis provides five turrets, even though only four are needed. The turrets come in two styles. The B and X turrets had large range finders positioned on either side of the rear of the turrets. You get two of these. The lower A and Y turrets were of the same overall design but lacked the range finders. Y get three of these. Pick the nicest two and the other is a spare. On both types of turrets you’ll find an entry door on the right side, an apron with no tie downs, an observation position/cone on the left rear corner and pyramid shaped observation ports on the frontal glacis plate. The twin guns are set closely together with delineated blast bags. All guns were well formed with no breakage and no warp, except the pair in one turret that seemed to have a slight droop. Muzzles are solid and don’t have hollow tips. The smaller 3.9-inch and 37mm guns have a great amount of detail packed into these small parts. Frankly it is somewhat amazing as to the amount of detail that Delphis crammed into these parts. The two torpedo mounts are also well done, with reinforcing/connecting bands, tapered muzzles and blast shields.
There are quite a few separate platforms included of different shapes and function. Some are substantial circular fittings with a series of triangular supports for 37mm positions on either side of the forward funnel, others are obviously boat platforms with boat chocks and still others are overhanging steel grid platforms with a clearly defined grid and supports underneath. Although the Savoia carried two Ro43 floatplanes, only one is included in the kit. The fuselage with lower wing and main pontoon are well done but the upper wing in slightly on the thick side. Control surfaces are scribed into the resin. Likewise the smaller wing pontoons appear to be slightly beefy and the propeller is too thick. Wing connecting supports will have to be added with sprue or from spare photo-etch. The ship carries a large number of carley floats that Delphis has executed very well. The bottom grid design can clearly be seen as well as the reinforcing strips along the sides. Normally carleys can be an afterthought but since the Italian Navy used a yellow and red color scheme on the carleys, they will stand out and the detail will be appreciated. Ship’s boats, especially the larger launches, are beautifully done. Superstructure directors, open range finders, searchlights, anchors, catapult and parts for the tripod mainmast round out the parts inventory. There is some very light flash on some of the sprues. The catapult is solid and would best be replaced by a photo-etch version. Delphis also provides some solid inclined ladders with the rung/steps but no side rails. Don’t use these as 1:700 scale inclined ladders are an easily and inexpensively attained substitute that will look much better. Any criticism that I have advanced as to the quality of the resin parts is not the result of lack of effort by Delphis but is strictly the result of the inherent limitations of resin casting. The fact is that resin can never equal photo-etch in detail in some fittings, such as catapults or inclined stairs. Delphis has done an exemplary job in providing the best detailed, quality parts to which the resin medium is capable.
The instructions from Delphis consist of two back-printed pages. Page one provides statistics and historical information in Italian and English as well as a small line profile of the ship. Page two provides a much clearer line profile and plan, followed by profiles of each side showing the camouflage scheme worn by Savoia in 1942. The camouflage colors are indicated by a letter that matches a color matrix, written in Italian and English, as well as the Humbrol paint number. In two cases, for the hull light gray and deck gray, two different Humbrol colors are needed to be mixed to obtain the proper color. In both cases the instructions show the proportion of each color to be used. One interesting detail was the use of blu scuro/dark blue for the inside surfaces of the shields for the 3.9-inch gun mounts. That is an example of the detail provided by Delphis for this kit. The two side camouflage patterns are somewhat muddied. The design is clear enough, the areas to be painted grigio chiaro/light gray and bianco opaco/matt white are shown but the designation for the darkest color bands are lost black of the panels. However, these can be identified as grigio scuro/dark gray through the process of elimination. Smaller insets show the paint schemes for the boats, carley rafts and Ro 43.
Page three is the main assembly diagram. It shows a full-length profile and plan with four additional assembly insets. Parts are shown in position on the plan or profile with the parts that go into each position being identified by a alphanumeric designation. The designation of the part is the same as found on the parts lay-down found on fourth page. Page four has the parts lay-down with each part being given its distinctive alphanumeric code. The lay-down shows each sprue but instead of showing each part it shows each distinctive part, in other words multiple parts of the same design are not shown. Only one of each type is shown to establish its alphanumeric designation. Most times there is a separate number next to the part drawing to show how many of that part are on the sprue but not always. As an example part 2A is the 37mm position. Two are needed, one on each side of the stack. There are three on the sprue but the parts lay-down diagram only shows one part without a x2 designation to show that two parts 2A are needed. Pay close attention to the parts location to make sure that you are not omitting one of the parts. At the bottom of this page are an additional six inset drawings that show specific assembly instructions for certain sections of the ship.
The Delphis Eugenio Di Savoia, as well as the entire Delphis line, is available from Bill Gruner at Pacific Front.