Italian cruiser Zara

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Crucero pesado Zara 2.JPG
Career (Italy)
Name: Zara
Laid down: 4 July 1929
Launched: 27 April 1930
Commissioned: 20 October 1931
Fate: Sunk, 29 March 1941
General characteristics
Class & type: Zara-class cruiser
Displacement: 11,870 t (11,683 long tons) standard
14,530 t (14,301 long tons) full load
Length: 182.8 m (599 ft 9 in)
Beam: 20.6 m (67 ft 7 in)
Draught: 7.2 m (23 ft 7 in)
Installed power: 95,000 shp (71,000 kW)
Propulsion: 8 × 3-drum Thornycroft boilers
2 × Parsons steam turbines
Speed: 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph)
Range: 5,361 nmi (9,929 km; 6,169 mi) at 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)
Complement: 841
Armament: 4 × 2 - 203 mm (8 in)/53 cal. guns
8 × 2 - 100 mm (3.9 in)/47 cal. guns
6 × 1 - 40 mm/49 cal. guns
8 × 13.2 mm machine guns
Armour: Maximum 70 mm (2.8 in) vertical, 150 mm (5.9 in) horizontal
Aircraft carried: 2

Zara was an Italian Zara class heavy cruiser, which served in the Regia Marina during World War II. The cruiser was named after the Adriatic city of Zara (today Zadar).


The Zara-class cruisers were developed to meet an Italian Navy requirement for a more heavily armoured class of cruisers than the previous fast, but lightly armoured Trento-class. This was particularly important as Italy's battleships were obsolete, and the new cruisers were needed to lead the Italian fleet.[1][2] The first two ships of the class, Zara and Fiume were ordered under the 1928–1929 construction programme, with a third ship, Gorizia ordered as part of the 1929–30 programme, and a fourth and final ship, Pola under the 1930–31 programme.[1]

To save weight, the Zara-class did not use the flush deck adopted by the Trento-class, instead having a raised forecastle reaching back to the main superstructure. In another attempt to save weight, a similar machinery design to that used by the Giussano-class light cruisers was adopted, with eight Thorneycroft boilers feeding geared steam turbines and driving two shafts. It was arranged in unit configuration, being split into physically separated units to give greater ability to withstand machinery damage. The machinery was designed to give 95,000 shp (71,000 kW) maximum power, with a design speed of 32 kn (59 km/h; 37 mph).[1][3]

The main armament of Zara was eight 203 mm (8 in) Model 1927 guns in four twin turrets, two turrets forward and two aft. These guns could fire 125 kg (276 lb) armor-piercing (AP) shells or 111 kg (245 lb) high-explosive (HE) shells to a range of 34,400 yd (31,500 m) at a rate of about three and a half rounds per gun per minute, although the guns were mounted too close together in the turrets, reducing accuracy. Secondary armament consisted of sixteen 100 mm (3.9 in) dual purpose guns in eight twin turrets, with a short range anti-aircraft armament of four 40 mm/39 Vickers-Terni guns (a licence-built version of the British 2-pounder pom-pom) and eight heavy machine guns in four twin mounts.[1][4][5] A fixed aircraft catapult was mounted down the centreline of the ship's bow, allowing the launching of floatplanes, with a hangar for two aircraft located in the forecastle, in front of the main gun turrets. Initial aircraft equipment was a pair of Piaggio P.6 floatplanes.[6]

Zara's armoured belt was 150 mm (5.9 in) thick, thinning to 100 mm (3.9 in) below the waterline, and covered the ship's machinery, the main armament barbettes and magazines, while a main armor deck of 70 mm (2.8 in) provided protection against plunging fire. The main gun turrets and the barbettes beneath them had between 150 mm and 120 mm of armour, while the ship's conning tower was protected by between 70 and 150 mm of armour.[1][3]


Zara's keel was laid down on 4 July 1928 at the Odero Terni Orlando (OTO) shipyard at Muggiano, La Spezia; she was launched on 27 April 1930, and her construction was completed on 20 October 1931.[2] During sea trials, Zara reached a speed of 35.23 kn (65.25 km/h; 40.54 mph), but this was with the ship's machinery forced to give 120,690 shp (90,000 kW). This was not representative of in-service performance, however, and normal maximum at-sea speed was about 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph).[7][nb 1]

Service history[edit]

Zara participated in the Spanish Civil War.



On 29 March, in the battle of Cape Matapan, under commander Capitano di Vascello Luigi Corsi, the Zara was escorting the battleship Vittorio Veneto, which had been damaged by an aerial torpedo and slowed down, to Italy. The Zara class cruiser, Pola was damaged by a torpedo from a British aircraft, and was also obliged to slow down and later stop. The remainder of the Italian force headed towards home ports, leaving the ship, but at the coming of night, the Zara together with her sister-ship Fiume and four destroyers (Oriani, Alfieri, Carducci and Gioberti) of the IX Squadriglia were dispatched to the Pola. In a night action the unprepared Italian cruisers were taken by surprise by the radar-equipped British vessels. Three British battleships, HMS Barham, Valiant and Warspite, firing from as short distances as 2,000 m (2,200 yd) comprehensively outgunned the cruisers. Zara and Fiume were struck several times within five minutes. Unable to recover the ship, the commander ordered the crew to scuttle and abandon Zara. The Fiume and the ship they had come back for, the Pola, and two destroyers, Vittorio Alfieri and Carducci, were also sunk.


  1. ^ Constructors trials were carried out with the ship's engines forced to such an extreme amount as the Italian Government paid a bonus to shipbuilders for every knot of speed in excess of contracted speed.[8] This process was stopped after the trials of Gorizia, the third of the Zara class.[7]
  1. ^ a b c d e Gardiner and Chesneau 1980, p. 292.
  2. ^ a b Whitley 1999, p. 149.
  3. ^ a b Fraccaroli 1972, p. 101.
  4. ^ Fraccaroli 1972, p. 100.
  5. ^ Whitley 1999, pp. 146, 150–151.
  6. ^ Whitley 1999, p. 151.
  7. ^ a b Whitley 1999, p. 150.
  8. ^ Whitley 1999, pp. 129–130.
  • Fraccaroli, Aldo (1972). Warship Profile 17: RN Zara/Heavy Cruiser 1929–41. Windsor, UK: Profile Publications. 
  • Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger (1980). Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-146-7. 
  • Whitley, M. J. (1999). Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. London: Brockhampton Press. ISBN 1 86019 8740. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°20′N 20°57′E / 35.333°N 20.950°E / 35.333; 20.950