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Abruzzi Class Light Cruiser

Duca degli Abruzzi in wartime colours
Duca degli Abruzzi in wartime colours
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Ship Builder Laid Down Launched Completed Fate
Luigi Di Savoia Duca Degli Abruzzi OTO, La Spezia 28 Dec 33 21 Apr 36 1 Dec 37 Stricken 1 Apr 61
Giuseppe Garibaldi CRDA, Trieste Dec 33 21 Apr 36 20 Dec 37 Stricken Jan 72

Displacement: 9,440 tons/9,591* tonnes (standard); 11,575 tons/11,760* tonnes (full load)
Length: 613ft 6in/187m (oa); 563ft 6in/171.8m (pp).
Beam: 62ft/18.9m; Draught: 20ft/6.1m (mean).
Machinery: 2-shaft Parsons geared turbines; 8 Yarrow boilers.
Performance: 100,000shp=34kts; Bunkerage: 1,650 tons oil fuel.
Range: 4,125nm at 12.7kts.
Protection: 40mm deck; 100mm main belt; 135mm turrets; 140mm CT.
Guns: ten 6in (2x2), (3x2); eight 3.9in (4x2); eight 37mm (4x2); eight 13.2mm MGs (4x2).
Torpedoes: six 21in (2x3).
Aircraft: four, two catapults.
Complement: 640.
* Garibaldi 9,050/9,194 std, 11,117/11,294 full load.

Design

This group, the final version of the 'Condottieri' type to see service, represented a considerable advance on the previous d'Aosta. They differed from that ship in many ways, although the outward appearance was not too dissimilar. Beam was increased by over lm, while the length remained unaltered. The installed power was marginally reduced, so speed fell in consequence. Internally, however, there were many important changes, particularly regarding the protective scheme, for with this class the Italian navy decided to compromise the speed for better protection. Not only was the weight of armour increased by 24 per cent compared with d'Aosta, now totalling some 2,131 tons, but it was also distributed ih a different manner. The main vertical belt on the ship's side was dispensed with and replaced by a thin (30mm) strake designed to decap or trigger the fuses of incoming shells before they reached the main protection itself. This comprised an inclined 100mm belt projecting inboard from the ship's side at 12° (midships area) from main deck level, with a concave curved form to its lower portion so as to rejoin the ship's side below the waterline at the lower edge of the outer belt. Apart from an 8mm backing plate to this 100mm armour, there was no inboard splinter bulkhead like that of d'Aosta. Other improvements in armour included 15mm splinter protection to the upper deck, extension of the main armoured deck to full beam and increasing it to 40mm, and considerably thickened barbette and turret armour. Funnel uptakes were also given protection, and the overall scheme was considered to be equal to that of the heavy cruiser Zara, being designed to defeat 8in shell-fire.

These ships also introduced a new model 6in gun, the 152mm/55 1934 Ansaldo pattern, designed to remedy the shortcomings of the 53 calibre weapon of the earlier classes. In addition, the number of guns was increased by the expedient of shipping triple turrets in A and Y positions. These guns had shorter range, but benefited from lower muzzle velocity and from being mounted in separate cradles. The secondary armament was also augmented by an extra twin mounting, all on the upper deck and more widely dispersed than formerly. Only one main armament director was fitted, at the top of the tower, fitted with a 5m rangefinder, the secondary position being suppressed. For AA and secondary battery control, two directors with 3m rangefinders were fitted abreast the forefunnel.

The other main alteration to the previous concepts was in propulsion. There were now eight boilers, paired in four separate spaces. The two forward spaces were separated by the starboard engine room, that for the port shaft being aft of the after boiler room. This layout resulted in a reduction of about 100 tons in weight, and a reduction in the length of machinery spaces to the advantage of the protection scheme. The designed power was reduced to 100,000shp, with a consequent reduction in maximum speed, but in service this was of no importance.

Garibaldi prewar
Garibaldi prewar
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Modifications

These two ships had very long careers, but during the war the only alterations of note were the replacement of the 13.2mm MG by five twin 20mm/54 and, in 1943, the addition of a German pattern radar set in Abruzzi. In 1945 both catapults and tubes were landed and British-pattern radar was fitted.

Service

Abruzzi ran her trials in 1937, when, on the very light displacement of 8,635 tons, she achieved 34.78kts with 103,991shp. Her sister reached 33.62kts on the much more realistic displacement of 10,281 tons early the following year, with 104,030shp. Both ships formed the 8th Division of the 1st Squadron on completion and took part in some of the last operations of the Spanish Civil War from 1938. After a visit to Portugal in 1939, Abruzzi became flagship of the 8th Division.

On 7 April 1939 Garibaldi carried troops to Durazzo for the occupation of Albania. During WW2the two ships operated together frequently, beginning with a sortie against British units on 12 to 14 June 1940, followed by the engagement of Punto Stilo/Calabria the next month.

Garibaldi taken from Abruzzi off Calabria, - the cruisers are closing the British fleet on 9 july 1940
Garibaldi taken from Abruzzi off Calabria, - the cruisers are closing the British fleet on 9 july 1940
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Towards the end of September they were involved in another abortive attempt to intercept British cruisers on passage from Alexandria to Maim with troops, Operation Hats. However, from December until mid-March 1941 the Division was based in the Adriatic to cover convoy traffic involved in the Italian invasion of Greece, when they also carried out shore bombardment, as on 4 March off Pikerasi, when they in turn were attacked by British aircraft. On 26 March 1941 both ships sailed from Brindisi for a raid into Cretan waters, supported by the battleships. The 8th Division was to push into the Aegean Sea as far as the extreme eastern longitude of Crete and then return to join Vittorio Veneto off Navarino. This operation led eventually to the Battle of Cape Matapan and the loss of the cruisers of the 1st Division, but by that time the 8th Division had been detached to Brindisi and did not come into action. In May there was considerable activity by both ships in covering North African convoy traffic, and during the course of these duties Abruzzi was missed by torpedoes from Urge. Garibaldi sailed to intercept Operation Substance between 23/24 July 1941, and on 27 July left Palermo with Montecuccoli and destroyers to cover another Libyan convoy. The following evening she was torpedoed by Upholder off Marettimo, being badly damaged in the region of A turret and taking in 700 tons of water. She managed to return to Palermo and was then transferred to Naples for repairs, which lasted four months. Her sister deployed in response to the British Mincemeat and Halberd operations of August and September, but in November, after the return to service of her consort, sailed with Garibaldi for another convoy cover task. In the course of this, in the early hours of 22 November, Abruzzi had her stem blown off by a torpedo from a Malta-based aircraft a little over an hour after the torpedoing of Trieste, and was brought into Messina only with difficulty. Her sister escaped damage despite heavy bombing attacks, and continued to be employed for cover duties for the remainder of the year and into 1942. The Division was moved to Taranto from Messina early in 1942 because of bombing raids. Rejoined by Abruzzi, the 8th Division was now transferred to Navarino in July 1942 to intercept British attacks on the convoy routes to Cyrenaica, but shortages of fuel, bombing attacks, and the lack of enemy naval activity forced their withdrawal to Taranto in November. After the invasion of Sicily Garibaldi was sailed from Genoa on 6 August with d'Aosta and destroyers to attack in the Palermo area, but off La Spezia the formation was attacked by the submarine Simoom, which aimed her torpedoes at the cruisers but hit and sank the destroyer Gioberti. Both ships surrendered at Malta in September 1943 and were subsequently transferred to the Central Atlantic, based on Freetown for anti blockade-runner duties. Abruzzi sailed from Taranto on 27 October 1943 with d'Aosta, and arrived at Freetown on 13 November. During the period in the South/central Atlantic, the ship made five patrols between 29 November 1943 and 7 February 1944. She finally left Freetown on 16 April and arrived in Taranto on 29 April, being employed thereafter on transport and training duties. Postwar she had a long career in the reformed Italian Navy, and was not finally stricken until 1 May 1961. Garibaldi, although also ordered to the Atlantic, did not sail until 7 March 1944, and by the time she arrived at Freetown, on 18 March, the task for which they had been intended was finished. She therefore sailed for Italy, together with d'Aosta, almost immediately after her arrival, on 25 March 1944. For the remainder of the war she was employed on subsidiary duties, and postwar was converted into a guided-missile cruiser, serving even longer than her sister.

Abruzzi at Matapan taken from Garibaldi. Abruzzi is following a line composed of Fiume, (the nearest), Pola (centre) and Zara (heading the line). The picture is believed to be the last of the three heavy cruisers sunk off Cape Matapan the following day.
Abruzzi at Matapan taken from Garibaldi. Abruzzi is following a line composed of Fiume, (the nearest), Pola (centre) and Zara (heading the line). The picture is believed to be the last of the three heavy cruisers sunk off Cape Matapan the following day.
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Garibaldi - forward turrets
Garibaldi - forward turrets
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Garibaldi class - forward turrets
Garibaldi class - forward turrets
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Abruzzi - moody photo
Abruzzi - moody photo
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Abruzzi
Abruzzi
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Abruzzi - A and B 6in turrets
Abruzzi - A and B 6in turrets
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