Prior to World War One Great Britain and Imperial Germany were eyeing each other across the North Sea and busily adding to their battleship squadrons. The naval race between the two was one of the ingredients that brought about the war. However, that was not the only battleship race. Although at a lesser scale, the battleship race in the Mediterranean among France, Austro-Hungary and Italy was just as intense. It was the order for five French battleships that prompted the Italian government to bring her dreadnought inventory up to five. Italy already had the Dante Alighieri and the two battleships of the Cavour Class, Conti di Cavour and Giulio Cesare, which were laid down in 1910. The two new battleships were the Caio Duilio and Andrea Doria and were slightly modified version of the preceding Cavour Class. The Caio Duilio was completed in May 1915 and spent the remainder of the First World War watching the Austrians across the Adriatic.
By the early 1930s all of the Italian battleships were obsolete. The new Vittorio Veneto and Littorio were laid down in October 1934 but looking at pure numbers, they would be greatly outnumbered by the potential foes of France and Britain. It was decided to completely rebuild the Cavour and Duilio Classes. Starting in 1937 both classes received some of the most far-reaching rebuilds of any World War One battleship design. The ships were stripped down to hull level, lengthened, were given new machinery to achieve 27 knots and received a brand new defensive system with the installation of huge Pugliese cylinders. These cylinders were basically designed to act as a crush zone, to absorb the shock of torpedo explosions and stop the blast from reaching the interior of the hull. The ships received ten new 12.6-Inch guns in four turrets in place of the thirteen 12-Inch guns in five turrets that they had earlier. Twelve 5.3-Inch guns, surface fire secondaries were clustered around the forward superstructure tower in four turrets. For air defense ten 3.5-Inch (90mm) guns were placed in single turrets that ran amidships, five per side. New tower forward superstructure, stacks and rear tower rounded out the additions. The Caio Duilio emerged from the process as an almost completely new battleship and a very handsome one to boot. Whether it was worth the cost is debatable. The main guns were still of very small size compared to the run of 14, 15 and 26-Inch guns of the older battleships in other navies. The ships were ready in 1940 and only received some additional 20mm and 37mm AA mountings during World War Two.
Recommissioned on July 15, 1940 Caio Duilio sortied on 31 August against HMS Valiant but returned to port the next day. On September 7 she returned to sea, acting under information that the British Force H was on the move. Force H was indeed on the move but instead of eastward into the Mediterranean, it went south to the west coast of Africa on the fiasco that was the Dakkar attack. Caio Duilio was at Taranto when the Italian battle fleet was attacked by the FAA on November 11, 1940. She received one torpedo hit. With a hole almost 40 feet long on the starboard bow, the forward magazines were flooded, she was beached in shallow water. Caio Duilio received temporary repairs and retired to Genoa for complete repairs to the battle damage. Repairs were completed in May 1941 and she returned to Taranto. During the rest of the year she sortied on November 29 and December 13 as flagship of the cover group of Italian convoys bound for North Africa. Both operations were failures as the Italian strike force returned to harbor early. Her third sortie of the year was on December 16 and led to the First Battle of Sirte but the Duilio group was not involved in this action.
Caio Duilio was fully committed as convoy escort for the first part of 1942. She successfully escorted two convoys in January. Two more sorties followed in February. One was a failed attempt to intercept Malta and Alexandria convoys and the other was another convoy escort mission. After this the fuel situation for the Italian Navy became so critical that fuel of the Caio Duilio was drained to provide it for lighter escort forces. For the rest of 1942 and 1943 she was inactive. With the armistice of September 1943 she steamed to Malta and avoided damage at the hands of the Luftwaffe. She remained in Malta until June 1944, when she returned to Taranto as an ally to the RN and USN and made only training cruises for the rest of the war. Both ships in the class remained with the Italian Navy after World War Two with the Caio Duilio being fleet flagship from 1947 to 1949. She became inactive in 1953, was stricken September 15, 1956 and scrapped in 1957, having served over 40 years in the Italian Navy. (Bulk of history from Battleships of World War Two by M.J. Whitley)
Outstanding by any measure, the Regia Marina Caio Duilio appears to be the best yet from this Italian Company. In praising the hull, it is hard to distinguish between liking the replication of the interesting design of the original with liking the detail that Regia Marina has crammed into the hull casting. With the four triple gun secondary turrets clustered around the forward tower superstructure and the rows of single 3.5-Inch DP turrets flanking each side amidships, the Caio Duilio has turrets everywhere and that is before you start counting the open AA mounts. Seeing all the turret barbettes/bases on the hull really grabs attention and a desire to build this model.
That desire is only heightened when you look at the detail that Regia Marina has included on the hull. Deck detail abounds with a multitude of chocks, skylights, ventilators and other fittings appearing on the delicately scribed quarterdeck. The focísle has even more detail. It is hard to look anywhere on that deck without tripping over a fitting or other integral detail. Capstans, cable reels, finely replicated anchor chain appear to reinforce the other deck fittings. Of special note is the delicately flared and curved anchor positions that are extraordinarily well done. The amidships area is not neglected as in addition to the numerous turret positions, there is a wealth coamings and hatches to be found here. Amidships splinter shielding is admirably thin and crisp. The sides of the hull have also received the detail treatment with some special fittings, hull portals and unique indentation at the stern.
Is the hull casting perfect? Almost but not quite. The only defect of any note is a slight concave spot on the port bow hull side. This defect is so slight, that a light sanding of the spot will even out the finish. There are no voids that appear on the surface of the casting. Some small internal voids can be seen on the bottom of the casting, which of course is no problem. However, my copy had three covered pinhole voids that were just under the surface of the resin on the hull sides, very close to the water line. With my copy this is no problem, since them are covered by the resin wall of the hull sides but it may be possible that another copy may have a couple of pin holes visible on the surface. If so, they would be of such small size that they would be easily filled with an extremely small amount of gel super-glue. A series of very short casting stubs are found centerline on the bottom of the casting but they are easily removed with a hobby knife and sanded. There was no resin breakage found on the hull casting.
The turrets and forward superstructure are the focal points of this kit. With both the lower triple 12.6-Inch turrets and upper twin turrets, Regia Marina has caught the angular planes of armor that comprise the turret roofs. Each lower turret has six distinctive armor slabs and each twin turret has four such slabs. They are so delicately executed that you wonít notice this fine detail unless you are looking for it. The guns are integral to the turrets and the blast bag detail is especially impressive. I cannot recall seeing better blast bag detail in any 1:700 scale model. Each upper twin mount has an AA gun position at its rear. If you look on the underside of these positions, you will notice some delicate supports for the overhang of the gun tubs. The oval splinter shielding (open at the front) of these positions is as fine as that found on the hull amidships. If anything Regia Marina created such delicate detail that it caused the only defect noticeable in the turrets. One gun tub had a small hole present on the position deck because of the thinness and delicacy cast into these positions. Again, one drop of gel super glue will close this pinhole opening. The triple secondary turrets come with metal gun barrels. The main gun turrets and single 3í5-Inch turrets have resin barrels. The DP turrets are also very nice with an unusual shape of a combination of curves and planes and beautifully done, very thin aprons.
The other small parts are cast on runners. In the past Regia Marina would give each resin runner an alphanumeric designation, found on the runner. With the Caio Duilio only one runner (A1) had that designation on the runner. However, Regia Marina still uses its parts designation system in the instructions. The small parts show the same attention to detail as the larger ones. The photographs only hint at the detail, as a couple of the bridge levels and other platforms have full underside support struts. It may be a small matter but Carley rafts are exceptionally well done. With Regia Marina there are no parts that do not receive the detail that they deserve.
The Regia Marina Caio Duilio comes with two photo-etched frets, both made with stainless steel. However, one of the two frets is a very small fret that just contains boat chocks. The main fret has some three dimensional etching with noticeable detail for the bow crown emblems. The smaller AA guns are done in stainless steel and are on this fret. There are plenty of other items found on the fret with plenty of railing and inclined ladder for the whole kit. It appears that the trickiest part will be the superstructure face, which will need to be curved to fit the superstructure platforms. This will provide open windows on the bridge that can be glazed in with Micro-Klear and provide a very striking feature.
With the instructions for Caio Duilio Regia Marina has improved the instructions from previous kits of the company. In the past the drawings found in Regia Marina kits were of indifferent quality. With those in Caio Duilio the instructions are dramatically improved. Drawings are much more delineated and clear. Additionally the instructions on one sheet are on a larger size paper, which also clarifies them. Instructions comprise two back-printed sheets. The large sheet has a parts matrix, color description in Italian and English and features five profiles and one plan showing various camouflage schemes worn by the Caio Duilio, 1941, 1942 and 1944-1951. The reverse of this page contains an isometric assembly diagram with many, many insets showing assembly on different subassemblies. The location for each part is shown with the alphanumeric number given in the parts matrix. The subassembly drawings frequently contain text in Italian and English that further elaborate on those assemblies. The second, smaller sheet features are very nice plan and profile with detail insets on one side and additional detail and mast rigging diagram on the reverse. The instructions are definitely improved but still need to be studied prior to assembling the kit. As was the case with previous kits Regia Marina gives you all of the optional parts to build this battleship at any point in her career after her reconstruction, a period running from 1940 to 1951. Therefore, it is very important that the modeler decide which yearís fit of the Caio Duilio he wishes to build and identifies the differences on the instructions before going on to the assembly.
The rebuilt Caio Duilio and Andrea Doria were beautiful ships. For some reason this class has been missing in kit form when the preceding Conti di Cavour appeared in kit form from two different companies. Regia Marina has solved that problem with the production of this wonderful kit that provides the one design of Italian battleship from World War Two that was not available in kit form before. This kit is excellent on almost every level. Casting quality, detail, and parts design are all top notch. This appears to be the best yet from Regia Marina.