Italian cruiser San Giorgio

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Italian coast defence ship San Giorgio 1940.jpg
San Giorgio in 1940
Career (Italy)
Name: San Giorgio
Namesake: Saint George
Builder: Castellammare Dockyard
Laid down: 4 July 1905
Launched: 27 July 1908
Commissioned: 1 July 1910
Fate: Scuttled 22 January 1941
General characteristics [1]
Class & type: San Giorgio class armoured cruiser
Displacement: 11,300 t full load
Length: 131.0 m (429 ft 9 in) pp, 140.8 m (462 ft 2 in) oa
Beam: 21.0 m (68 ft 11 in)
Draught: 7.3 m (21 ft)
Installed power: 19,595 ihp (14,612 kW)
Propulsion: 2 shaft Vertical Triple Expansion (VTE) engines
14 mixed Blechynden boilers
Speed: 23.2 knots (43 km/h)
Range: 6,270 nmi (11,610 km)
Complement: 32 officers, 666–673 men

254 mm (10 in) guns,
8× 190 mm (7.5 in) guns,
18×76 mm (3 in) guns
2× 47 mm guns
2 machine guns

3× 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes

Side 200 mm (7.9 in)
Deck 50 mm (2.0 in)
Conning tower 254 mm (10.0 in)
254 mm turrets 200 mm (7.9 in)

190 mm turrets 160 mm (6.3 in)

San Giorgio was an armoured cruiser[nb 1] of the Italian Royal Navy (Italian: Regia Marina). Commissioned in 1910, she served in both the First World War and the Second World War, being scuttled at Tobruk in 1941.

Design and construction[edit]

The Italian Navy placed an order for two improved versions of the Pisa class armored cruisers, the San Giorgio class, on 3 August 1904. The new class featured the same main armament as the earlier ships but had a different armour scheme and were fitted with a higher forecastle to give better seaworthiness. Accommodation for the ship's crew was also improved.

San Giorgio Brasseys 1912.jpg

The two sister ships differed in their power plants. The first ship of the class, San Giorgio used two vertical triple-expansion steam engines, fed from 14 coal-fired boilers to drive two propeller shafts, while San Marco used more modern and powerful steam turbines. Both ships had four funnels. San Giorgio's engines were designed to produce 19,500 ihp (14,500 kW) and propel her to 22.5 knots (41.7 km/h) but on trials, they generated 19,595 ihp (14,612 kW), allowing the ship to reach 23.2 kn (43.0 km/h).[1][3]

San Giorgio had a main armament of four 254 mm (10.0 in) guns in two twin turrets situated fore and aft.[1] These could fire a 230 kg (500 lb) shell to about 25,000 metres (27,000 yd).[4] Secondary armament was eight 190 mm (7.5 in) guns in four twin side turrets,[1] which could fire a 91 kg (200 lb) shell to 22,000 metres (24,000 yd).[5] Tertiary anti-torpedo-boat armament consisted of 16 76 mm (3.0 in) guns mounted in casements on the ship's sides, while the ship was fitted with three submerged torpedo-tubes, one each on the port and starboard broadsides and one in the ship's stern.[1][3]

San Giorgio was laid down on 4 July 1905 at the Castellammare Naval Dockyard, was launched on 27 July 1908 and commissioned on 1 July 1910.[1]

Operational history[edit]

The San Giorgio ran aground on a reef in the Bay of Naples on 12 August 1910, and was badly damaged, with 4,300 t of water flooding the boiler room, magazines and lower compartments. In order to allow her to be floated off, the ship's guns and turrets, together with her conning tower and some of her armour had to be removed.[6][7]

San Giorgio after running aground in 1913.

The need to repair this damage meant that the San Giorgio was out of service at the outbreak of the Italo-Turkish War,[8] although she served later on in the war,[9] rejoining the fleet in June 1912.[10] San Giorgio ran aground again in November 1913 in the Strait of Messina, but the damage this time was not severe,[7] although it did result in the Captain of the ship being dismissed.[11]

During the First World War, the San Giorgio operated in the Adriatic Sea, taking part in the defence of Venice and, along with her sister ship San Marco and the armoured cruiser Pisa, in the bombardment of Durrazo, Albania in October 1918.[7] Her light armament was revised during the war, with eight 75 mm guns being replaced by six anti-aircraft guns of similar calibre.[12]

Following the end of the war San Giorgio made cruises to the Far East and China, and served as part of the Red Sea naval division, supporting land operations in Italian East Africa. She was used as a training ship for naval cadets between 1930 and 1935, when she was deployed as part of the Italian forces blockading Spain in the early stages of the Spanish Civil War.[2][7][9]

San Giorgio was rebuilt at La Spezia between 1937 and 38 as a training ship. She retained her primary and secondary armament of 254 mm and 190 mm turrets, but the tertiary armament of 76 mm guns (including the anti-aircraft guns added in the First World War) were removed, as were the ship's torpedo tubes. These were replaced by eight 100 mm (3.9 in) dual purpose guns in four twin turrets, together with six 37 mm Breda M39 guns, twelve Breda M35 20 mm cannon and four 13.2 mm machine guns.[13] She was converted to burn oil fuel, with the number of boilers reduced to eight and two of her four funnels being removed.[14]

In 1940, with war approaching, it was decided to use San Giorgio to supplement the defences of Tobruk from both naval and air attack. A fifth twin 100 mm turret was fitted on the ship's forecastle, ahead of the 254 mm turret, while extra machine guns were fitted. She sailed to Tobruk in May 1940, and was anchored in shallow water just outside the port, surrounded by torpedo nets.[7][13]

Italy declared war against France and the United Kingdom on 10 June 1940, and on 12 June the British launched a co-ordinated sea and land attack against Tobruk. The British naval force, including the cruisers HMS Liverpool and HMS Gloucester shelled Tobruk and engaged in a gun duel with San Giorgio, while RAF Blenheim bombers from RAF squadrons No. 45, No. 55, and No. 211[15] also attacked Tobruk, with San Giorgio being hit by a bomb.[16][17] On 19 June, the British submarine HMS Parthian fired two torpedoes at San Giorgio, but these did not hit.[18][19] San Giorgio '​s main use was to supplement the anti aircraft defences of Tobruk, her guns claiming hits on 47 British aircraft. San Giorgio was also involved in the shooting down of the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 aircraft carrying Italo Balbo, the Governor-General of Libya and Commander-in-chief of Italian forces in North Africa. His plane flew low over Tobruk shortly after an attack by British aircraft on 28 June 1940. Fired on by anti-aircraft guns from both San Giorgio and the shore, Balbo's aircraft crashed, killing Balbo.[7]

San Giorgia scuttled at Tobruk, 22 January 1941.

When British and Commonwealth land forces attacked Tobruk on 21 January 1941, San Giorgio turned her guns against the attacking troops, repelling an attack by tanks. As British forces were entering Tobruk, San Giorgio was scuttled at 4:15 AM on 22 January.[13][20] San Giorgio was awarded the Gold Medal of Military Valor for her actions in the defence of Tobruk.[21]

San Giorgio was salvaged in 1952, but while being towed to Italy, her tow rope failed and she sank in heavy seas.[13]


  1. ^ Sometimes officially rated as a 2nd Class Battleship Nave da battaglia di 2a classe[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Gardiner and Gray 1985, p. 261.
  2. ^ a b Parkes 1931, p.250.
  3. ^ a b Moore 1990, p.209.
  4. ^ DiGiulian, Tony. "Italy: 10"/45 (25.4 cm) Model 1908". Naval Weapons of the World. 28 December 2008. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  5. ^ DiGiulian, Tony. "Italy: 7.5"/45 (19.1 cm) Model 1908".Naval Weapons of the World. 26 December 2008. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  6. ^ Hythe 1912, pp. 49–50.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Sicurezza, Renato. "Il Regio Incrociatore Corazzato:San Giorgio". (In Italian) Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  8. ^ Hythe 1912, p. 158.
  9. ^ a b "Incrociatore corazzato S. Giorgio". Marina Militare. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  10. ^ Beehler 1913, p. 84.
  11. ^ "ADMIRAL CAGNI DISMISSED.; Cruiser San Giorgio's Captain Also Dropped for Recent Accident". New York Times, 12 December 1913, p.1.
  12. ^ Gardiner and Gray 1985, pp. 261–2625.
  13. ^ a b c d Gardiner and Gray 1985, p. 262.
  14. ^ Gardiner and Chesneau 1980, p.285.
  15. ^ Playfair, Vol. I, pages 112-113.
  16. ^ Rohwer and Hümmelchen 1992, pp. 23–24.
  17. ^ Shores, Massimello and Guest 2012, p. 24.
  18. ^ "Part 8 - Pandora to Proteus". British Submarines of World War Two. 4 January 2008. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  19. ^ "HMS Parthian (N 75)". Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  20. ^ Piccinotti, Andrea "Armored Cruiser San Giorgio". Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  21. ^ "Medaglia d'oro al Valor Militare al Regio Incrociatore corazzato San Giorgio". Marina Militare. Retrieved 25 September 2010.


  • Beehler, William Henry. The History of the Italian-Turkish War, Sept. 29, 1911 to Oct. 18, 1912. Annapolis, Maryland: Advertiser-Republican, 1913. OCLC 63576798.
  • Brassey, Earl. Brassey's Naval Annual 1915. London:William Clowes and Sons, 1915.
  • Gardiner, Robert and Randal Gray, (eds). Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906-1921. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1985. ISBN 0-85177-245-5.
  • Gardiner, Robert and Roger Chesneau (eds.) Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946 London: Conway Maritime Press, 1980. ISBN 0-85177-146-7.
  • Hythe, Viscount. Brassey's The Naval Annual 1912. Portsmouth, UK:J Griffin, 1912.
  • Moore, John. Jane's Fighting Ships of World War I. London:Studio, 1990. ISBN 1-85170-378-0.
  • Parkes, Oscar. Jane's Fighting Ships 1931. Newton Abbot, Devon, UK:Davis & Charles Reprints, 1931 (1973 reprint). ISBN 0-7153-5849-9.
  • Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; Molony, Brigadier C.J.C.; with Flynn, Captain F.C. (R.N.) & Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2009) [1st. pub. HMSO:1954]. Butler, Sir James, ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume I: The Early Successes Against Italy, to May 1941. History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-065-3. 
  • Richardson, Alexander and Archibald Hurd (eds). Brassey's Naval and Shipping Annual 1923. London:William Clowes and Sons, 1923.
  • Rohwer, Jürgen and Gerhard Hümmelchen. Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945. London: Greenhill Books, 1992. ISBN 1-85367-117-7.
  • Shores, Christopher, Giovanni Massimello and Russell Guest. A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940–1945: Volume One: North Africa June 1940–January 1945. London: Grub Street, 2012. ISBN 9781908117076.

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