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 were laid down in 1932 and 1933, launched in 1935 and 1936 and completed in 1935 and 1936.
The fifth and last class of Condottieri to be laid down saw a complete break with the earlier designs. With the two ship Abruzzi Class armor and armament took precedence over speed. The two ships of the class, Luigi Di Savoia Duca Degli Abruzzi and Giuseppe Garibaldi were of the same length as the Duca D’Aosta Class but again displayed a great leap upwards in displacement. They were 9,440 tons standard, 11,575 tons full load. The additional weight went to a powerful armament and significantly more robust armor scheme. They carried ten 6-inch and eight 3.9-inch guns for a 20% increase of armament over the preceding four classes. They were designed to engage the current French light cruiser designs.
However, the biggest change was in the armor protection. These ships were well-armored in marked contrast to their tin-clad predecessors. With a 100mm (4-inch) main belt and 135mm (5.4-inch) turret armor, only the Zara Class heavy cruisers had heavier armor among the cruiser designs of the Regia Marina. The trade off for the much-increased armor and armament was speed. The power plant was reduced to 100,000 shp, which still gave the cruisers a very respectable top speed of 33 knots, but clearly broke the mold of ultra high-speed cruisers that sacrificed protection. The next design, the Ciano Class, followed the design characteristics of the Abruzzi Class, rather than the earlier types and would have been slightly larger cruisers. These however, were never laid down as priorities shifted with the start of World War Two.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Vital Statistics
Length - 613 feet, 6-inches (187m)oa; 563 feet 6-inches (171.8m)
oa: Beam - 62 feet (18.9m); Draught - 20
feet (6m): Displacement - 9,440 Tons Standard; 11,575 Tons
Full Load: Armament as Completed - Ten 6-Inch/55 (2x2,
2x3); Eight 3.9-Inch (2x4): Eight 37mm (2x4): Eight 13.2mm MGs (2x4);
Six 21-Inch Torpedo Tubes (3x2):
Four Aircraft on Two Catapults
Armor: Belt - 100mm; Turrets - 135mm; Conning
Tower - 140mm; Deck - 40mm: Performance:
Eight Yarrow Boilers; Parsons Geared Turbines: Two Shafts: 100,000 shp:
Both Luigi Di Savoia Duca Degli Abruzzi and Giuseppe Garibaldi were laid down in December 1933, launched on April 21, 1936 and completed in December 1937 and were the most modern cruiser construction to see service with the Regia Marina in World War Two, with the exception of some units of the ultra-light Capitani Romani Class. These smaller 3,686-ton throwbacks to the original Condottieri seemed to start the whole cycle again as they were designed to combat the large French destroyers of Le Fantasque and Mogodor Classes. Indeed these odd ducks were faster at 40 knots but weaker with eight 5.3-inch guns and zero armor than the original Da Barbiano Condottieri.
Not only did the Abruzzi Class have the thickest armor of the Italian light cruisers, it was better arranged. The main armor belt of inclined 100mm armor was inboard. The hull sides carried a light 30mm armor strake designed to trigger shell fuses before the shell reached the main belt. The armor deck was also more robust and funnel uptakes were armored. Overall the armor scheme was considered the equal to the Zara Class, which was the most heavily armored class of Italian cruiser. There was one meter more beam, allowing for better subdivision and were believed to be able to defeat 8-inch gunfire. The 8 boilers were placed in four separate spaces in order to prevent catastrophic engine failure from battle damage.
Not only was armament increased, but also a new model 6-inch gun was introduced. These were of 55 calibre as opposed to the preceding 53 calibre model. Although shorter ranged, they were more accurate with a lower muzzle velocity and benefited in having individual cradles for each gun, rather than having each turret’s twin 6-inch guns on the same cradle as in earlier designs.
Abruzziran very light on trials and hit 34.78 knots with 103,991 shp on 8,635 tons. Garibaldi had a much more realistic trial and hit 33.62 knots with 104,030 shp but on a realistic 10,281-ton displacement. By 1938 both cruisers became the 8th Division of the 1st Cruiser Squadron. They immediately took part in minor operations at the end of the Spanish Civil War. On April 7, 1939 Garibaldi transported Italian troops to Durazzo in Italy’s invasion of Albania.
In 1940 after Italy had entered the war, the first significant action of the pair was a sortie against the Royal Navy 12 to 14 June 1940, and another sortie in July that resulted in the action off of Punta Stilo/Calabria. A sortie to intercept British cruisers taking troops from Alexandria to Malta in September was aborted. From December 1940 to March 1941, they were stationed in the Adriatic and supported the Italian invasion of Greece. When engaged in a shore bombardment mission on March 4, 1941, they were attacked by British aircraft but suffered no significant damage. On March 26 they sailed from Brindisi into the Aegean Sea in a plan to operate off of Crete. They steamed as far as the eastern longitude of Crete to the north before rejoining the supporting battleships. This operation of the Regia Marina resulted in the Battle of Cape Matapan in which the Zara Class cruisers of the 1st Division were sunk by the Royal Navy but by then Abruzzi and Garibaldi had already been detached back to Brindisi.
As spring turned to summer the 8th Division was involved in escorting convoys to North Africa. Abruzzi was missed by torpedoes from the submarine HMS Urge in May but on July 28, 1941 Garibaldi was not as lucky. While escorting another convoy Garibaldi was hit abeam of A turret by a torpedo from the submarine HMS Upholder. She took on 700 tons of water but managed to reach Palermo. She was subsequently sent to Naples for repairs, which took four months. During the repairs of Garibaldi, Abruzzi undertook sorties in August and September with no result. The pair were back together in November and escorting another convoy to North Africa. On November 22, 1941 it was Abruzzi’s time to suffer. A torpedo plane from Malta successfully launched her torpedo against Abruzzi and blew off her stern. Abruzzi barely made it back to Messina with 600 tons of water. As Abruzzi was repaired, Garibaldi continued to operate as convoy escort. In 1942 the base of operations for the 8th Division was moved from Taranto to Messina due to the increasing air threat.
In July 1942 the pair were transferred to the Adriatic at Navarino in the Peloponnesus, in an effort to intercept British sorties. However, by this time the 8th Division suffered chronic fuel shortages just as the rest of the Regia Marina did. They went back to Taranto in November and then to Genoa where they were when Sicily was invaded. The pair sortied on August 6, 1943 with the intent to intervene at Palermo. During this operation they were the targets for a torpedo attack by the submarine HMS Simoom off of La Spezia. Although the cruisers were missed, the destroyer Gioberti was hit and sunk by the torpedoes meant for the cruisers. After this loss the Palermo sortie was cancelled.
With the Italian armistice of September 1943 they steamed to Malta with the rest of the Italian Fleet. Now on the side of the allies as co-belligerents, the pair were sent to Freetown to patrol the Central Atlantic against German blockade runners. From November 1943 to February 1944 Abruzzi made five patrols from Freetown but Garibaldi didn’t arrive until March 1944, at which time the mission had already been completed. After one week at Freetown Garibaldi sailed back to Italy on March 25, 1944 with d’Aosta. Abruzzi left for Italy in April 16, 1944.
As the most advanced large Italian cruisers, both ships continued to serve in the reorganized Italian Navy after the war. Abruzzi was finally stricken on May 1, 1961 but Garibaldi was converted into a missile cruiser. Her appearance was changed so much in this refit that she could not be recognized as the same ship. She was designed to receive Polaris ballistic missiles but none were ever shipped. Garibaldi served another decade before being stricken in January 1972. (Bulk of history from Cruisers of World War Two, An International Encyclopedia by M.J.Whitley)
Regia Marina Giuseppe Garibaldi
The hull measures about 10 5/16- Inches long, which equates to 603 feet, slightly shorter than 613 feet overall length, a difference of about .015%. The hull has all of the hallmarks of the fine casting associated with Regia Marina. Cast in a very light gray, almost white resin, Regia Marina continues its tradition of casting a great deal of detail integral to the hull. Cast into the hull sides are the anchors, several small ports, main gun cleaning rammers and propeller guards. The Abruzzi Class appears to have folding propeller guards, which were stored flush with the hull when underway. These guards are cast in the folded, flush position.
The deck is covered with cast-in fittings. Bollards, cleats, winches, capstans, boat chocks, anchor chain, breakwater and various deck coamings are part of the hull casting. There are a series of small resin pour vents on the bottom of the hull, which will need to be sanded flat. This process took about three minutes with my sample. No pin hole voids or any other defect or breakage was apparent on the hull. The first three levels of the forward superstructure, as well as the aft superstructure are also integral to the hull casting, which simplifies the assembly process.
This simplification is appreciated as the inclusion of optional smaller fittings introduces complexity. Regia Marina always strives to give the modeler as many options as is historically accurate in building one of their models. With the Regia Marina Giuseppe Garibaldi light cruiser RM004, this means that Regia Marina has included all of the resin and photo-etch parts necessary to replicate Abruzzi or Garibaldi in any one of their fits from 1938 through 1951. There were significant changes during this decade and a half to these two cruisers.
The smaller parts come on a series of runners and should be removed with care from the casting sprue. There was a significant amount of very light flash or film on the smaller parts sprues. It is very easy to remove this film but it is additional work that you will have to do. On the whole the smaller parts are very well done and though I have not seen the kit as originally released, some parts appear as new designs, such as the sprue of Carley floats.
The nicest of the smaller pieces are the stacks and optional bridges. The stacks have a number of horizontal ribs or joints and though they may be a trifle over-scale, they add character and interest to the model. The kit comes with two types of bridges. Initially a round bridge was fitted but from the instructions it appears that Abruzzi received a reworked bridge with a square platform in April 1943 and Garibaldi in July 1943. Before you build the kit you must decide which ship and what fit you wish to portray. Most of the most colorful camouflage schemes were employed prior to the new bridge being fitted to either ship, however, Garibaldi did have a light gray, dark gray and greenish white scheme in August 1943.
There are plenty of small parts that go on this model, which add great interest. There are two catapults in photo-etch that go on the ship in fits from 1937 through 1943 and Regia Marina provides two beautiful little Ro. 43 biplane floatplanes to decorate them. Each of these miniatures is comprised of six pieces; fuselage/lower wing, upper wing, two wing floats, and central float in resin and propeller in photo-etch. As is true with other models from Regia Marina, except for the smallest guns, AA guns have a resin mount and photo-etched barrels and gun apparatus. The quantity of AA guns fitted increases with the year of the fit, so that by August 1943, they are all over the ship. Again, determine in advance which ship and year of fit to wish to model before starting on the kit. Although the turrets have nice aprons, they also have flat faces with no locator holes for the 6-inch barrels. Therefore, you’ll need to use some care in attaching the barrels in order to ensure their alignment. In addition to the light flash that needs to be removed, I did notice a couple of smaller parts that had pinhole voids that need filling.
The larger fret, measuring 6 ¼-inches by 2 ½-inches contains all of the ship specific fittings. Not all photo-etch is used. As with the resin parts, which photo-etch parts you use depends upon the ship and year of fit. The most prominent example is the photo-etch fret of the lattice foremast. This was fitted to Abruzzi, along with the German DE/TE Radar, also included on the fret, in April 1943. Regia Marina provides a circular SK-2 radar on the fret but that was mounted on the mainmast of Garibaldi from 1951 to 1954. The largest of the photo-etched parts are the two catapults but there are wide variety of other smaller parts. Stack caps, individual bow crests, accommodation ladders, smaller AA guns, platforms, crane tackle and a number of other smaller parts come on the fret.