Italian battleship Giulio Cesare
Giulio Cesare after reconstruction
|Career (Kingdom of Italy)|
|Builder:||Gio. Ansaldo & C., Genoa|
|Laid down:||24 June 1910|
|Launched:||15 October 1911|
|Completed:||14 May 1914|
|Commissioned:||7 June 1914|
|Decommissioned:||18 May 1928|
|Motto:||Ad quamvis vim perferendam|
|Recommissioned:||3 June 1937|
|Decommissioned:||15 December 1948|
|Struck:||15 December 1949|
|Fate:||Transferred to Soviet Navy, 4 February 1949|
|Name:||Novorossiysk (Russian: Новороссийск)|
|Acquired:||4 February 1949|
|Commissioned:||6 February 1949|
|Struck:||24 February 1956|
|Fate:||Sank 29 October 1955; scrapped, 1957|
|General characteristics (as built)|
|Type:||Conte di Cavour-class dreadnought battleship|
|Displacement:||23,088 long tons (23,458 t) (standard)
25,086 long tons (25,489 t) (deep load)
|Length:||176 m (577 ft 5 in) (o/a)|
|Beam:||28 m (91 ft 10 in)|
|Draught:||9.3 m (30 ft 6 in)|
|Installed power:||31,000 shp (23,000 kW)
24 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers
|Propulsion:||4 × Shafts
4 × Steam turbines
|Speed:||21.5 knots (39.8 km/h; 24.7 mph)|
|Range:||4,800 nmi (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)|
|Complement:||31 officers and 969 enlisted men|
|General characteristics (after reconstruction)|
|Displacement:||29,100 long tons (29,600 t) (deep load)|
|Length:||186.4 m (611 ft 7 in)|
|Beam:||33.1 m (108 ft 7 in)|
|Installed power:||75,000 shp (56,000 kW)
8 × Yarrow boilers
|Propulsion:||2 × Shafts
2 × Geared steam turbines
|Speed:||27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph)|
|Range:||6,400 nmi (11,900 km; 7,400 mi) at 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph)|
|Armor:||Deck: 166–135 mm (6.5–5.3 in)
Barbettes: 280–130 mm (11.0–5.1 in)
Giulio Cesare was one of three Conte di Cavour-class dreadnought battleships built for the Regia Marina in the 1910s. She served in both World Wars, although she was little used during the former and saw no combat. The ship supported operations during the Corfu Incident in 1923 and spent much of the rest of the decade in reserve. She was extensively reconstructed between 1933 and 1937 with more powerful guns, additional armor and considerably more speed than before.
Both Giulio Cesare and her sister ship Conte di Cavour participated in the Battle of Calabria in July 1940, when the former was lightly damaged. They were both present when British torpedo bombers attacked the fleet at Taranto in November 1940, but Giulio Cesare was not damaged. She escorted several convoys to North Africa and participated in the Battle of Cape Spartivento in late 1940 and the First Battle of Sirte in late 1941. She was designated as a training ship in early 1942, and escaped to Malta after Italy surrendered. The ship was transferred to the Soviet Union in 1949 and renamed Novorossiysk. The Soviets also used her for training until she was sunk when a mine exploded in 1955. She was scrapped two years later.
Giulio Cesare was 168.9 meters (554 ft 2 in) long at the waterline, and 176 meters (577 ft 5 in) overall. The ship had a beam of 28 meters (91 ft 10 in), and a draft of 9.3 meters (30 ft 6 in). She displaced 23,088 long tons (23,458 t) at normal load, and 25,086 long tons (25,489 t) at deep load. She had a crew of 31 officers and 969 enlisted men. The ship's machinery consisted of four Parsons steam turbines, each driving one propeller shaft. Steam for the turbines was provided by 24 Babcock & Wilcox boilers, half of which burned fuel oil and the other half burned both oil and coal. Designed to reach a maximum speed of 22.5 knots (41.7 km/h; 25.9 mph) from 31,000 shaft horsepower (23,000 kW), Giulio Cesare failed to reach this goal on her sea trials, despite generally exceeding the rated power of her turbines. The ship only made a maximum speed of 21.56 knots (39.93 km/h; 24.81 mph) using 30,700 shp (22,900 kW). She had a cruising radius of 4,800 nautical miles (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).
The ship was armed with a main battery of thirteen 305 mm (12.0 in) guns in three triple-gun turret and two twin-gun turrets, designated 'A', 'B', 'Q', 'X', and 'Y' from front to rear. The secondary battery comprised eighteen 120 mm (4.7 in) guns, all mounted in casemates in the sides of the hull. Giulio Cesare was also armed with fourteen 76 mm (3.0 in) guns. As was customary for capital ships of the period, she was equipped with three submerged 450 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes. She was protected with Krupp cemented steel manufactured by Terni. The belt armor was 250 mm (9.8 in) thick and the main deck was 40 mm (1.6 in) thick. The conning tower and main battery turrets were protected with 280 mm (11 in) worth of armor plating.
Modifications and reconstruction
Shortly after the end of World War I, the number of 50-caliber 76 mm guns was reduced to 13, all mounted on the turret tops, and six new 40-caliber 76-millimeter anti-aircraft (AA) guns were installed abreast the aft funnel. In addition two license-built 2-pounder AA guns were mounted on the forecastle deck. In 1925–26 the foremast was replaced by a tetrapodal mast, which was moved forward of the funnels, the rangefinders were upgraded, and the ship was equipped to handle a Macchi M.18 seaplane mounted on the center turret. Around that same time, one or both of the ships was equipped with a fixed aircraft catapult on the port side of the forecastle.[Note 1]
Giulio Cesare began an extensive reconstruction in October 1933 at the Cantieri del Tirreno shipyard in Genoa that lasted until October 1937. A new bow section was grafted over the existing bow which increased her length by 10.31 meters (33 ft 10 in) to 186.4 meters (611 ft 7 in) and her beam increased to 28.6 meters (93 ft 10 in). The ship's draft at deep load increased to 10.02 meters (32 ft 10 in). All of the changes made increased her displacement to 26,140 long tons (26,560 t) at standard load and 29,100 long tons (29,600 t) at deep load. The ship's crew increased to 1,260 officers and enlisted men. Two of the propeller shafts were removed and the existing turbines were replaced by two Belluzzo geared steam turbines rated at 75,000 shp (56,000 kW). The boilers were replaced by eight Yarrow boilers. On her sea trials in December 1936, before her reconstruction was fully completed, Giulio Cesare reached a speed of 28.24 knots (52.30 km/h; 32.50 mph) from 93,430 shp (69,670 kW). In service her maximum speed was about 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph) and she had a range of 6,400 nautical miles (11,900 km; 7,400 mi) at a speed of 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph).
The main guns were bored out to 320 millimeters (12.6 in) and the center turret and the torpedo tubes were removed. All of the existing secondary armament and AA guns were replaced by a dozen 120 mm guns in six twin-gun turrets and eight 102-millimeter (4.0 in) AA guns in twin turrets. In addition the ship was fitted with a dozen Breda 37-millimeter (1.5 in) light AA guns in six twin-gun mounts and twelve 13.2-millimeter (0.52 in) Breda M31 anti-aircraft machine guns, also in twin mounts. In 1940 the 13.2 mm machine guns were replaced by 20-millimeter (0.8 in) AA guns in twin mounts. Giulio Cesare received two more twin mounts as well as four additional 37 mm guns in twin mounts on the forecastle between the two turrets in 1941. The tetrapodal mast was replaced with a new forward conning tower, protected with 260-millimeter (10.2 in) thick armor. Atop the conning tower there was a director fitted with two large stereo-rangefinders, with a base length of 7.2 meters (23.6 ft).
The deck armor was increased during reconstruction to a total of 135 millimeters (5.3 in) over the engine and boiler rooms and 166 millimeters (6.5 in) over the magazines, although its distribution over three decks, each with multiple layers, meant that it was considerably less effective than a single plate of the same thickness. The armor protecting the barbettes was reinforced with 50-millimeter (2.0 in) plates. All this armor weighed a total of 3,227 long tons (3,279 t). The existing underwater protection was replaced by the Pugliese system that consisted of a large cylinder surrounded by fuel oil or water that was intended to absorb the blast of a torpedo warhead. It lacked enough depth to be fully effective against contemporary torpedoes. A major problem of the reconstruction was that the ships' increased draft meant that their waterline armor belt was almost completely submerged with any significant load.
Construction and service
Giulio Cesare, named after Julius Caesar, was laid down at the Gio. Ansaldo & C. shipyard in Genoa on 24 June 1910 and launched on 15 October 1911. She was completed on 14 May 1914 and served as a flagship in the southern Adriatic Sea during World War I. She saw no action, however, and spent little time at sea. Giulio Cesare made port visits in the Levant in 1919 and 1920. Both battleships supported Italian operations on Corfu in 1923 after an Italian general and his staff were murdered on Corfu; Benito Mussolini was not satisfied with the Greek Government's response so he ordered Italian troops to occupy the island.
Cesare became a gunnery training ship in 1928, after having been in reserve since 1926. She was reconstructed at Cantieri del Tirreno, Genoa, between 1933 and 1937. Both ships participated in a naval review by Adolf Hitler in the Bay of Naples in May 1938 and covered the invasion of Albania in May 1939.
World War II
Early in World War II, the sisters took part in the Battle of Calabria (also known as the Battle of Punto Stilo) on 9 July 1940, as part of the 1st Battle Squadron, commanded by Admiral Inigo Campioni, during which they engaged major elements of the British Mediterranean Fleet. The British were escorting a convoy from Malta to Alexandria, while the Italians had finished escorting another from Naples to Benghazi, Libya. Admiral Andrew Cunningham, commander of the Mediterranean Fleet, attempted to interpose his ships between the Italians and their base at Taranto. Crew on the fleets spotted each other in the middle of the afternoon and the Italian battleships opened fire at 15:53 at a range of nearly 27,000 meters (29,000 yd). The two leading British battleships, HMS Warspite and Malaya, replied a minute later. Three minutes after she opened fire, shells from Giulio Cesare began to straddle Warspite which made a small turn and increased speed, to throw off the Italian ship's aim, at 16:00. At that same time, a shell from Warspite struck Giulio Cesare at a distance of about 24,000 meters (26,000 yd). The shell pierced the rear funnel and detonated inside it, blowing out a hole nearly 6.1 meters (20 ft) across. Fragments started several fires and their smoke was drawn into the boiler rooms, forcing four boilers off-line as their operators could not breathe. This reduced the ship's speed to 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). Uncertain how severe the damage was, Campioni ordered his battleships to turn away in the face of superior British numbers and they successfully disengaged. Repairs to Giulio Cesare were completed by the end of August and both ships unsuccessfully attempted to intercept British convoys to Malta in August and September.
On the night of 11 November 1940, Conte di Cavour and Giulio Cesare were at anchor in Taranto harbor when they were attacked by 21 Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers from the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, along with several other warships. One torpedo sank the former in shallow water, but Giulio Cesare was not hit during the attack.
She participated in the Battle of Cape Spartivento on 27 November 1940, but never got close enough to any British ships to fire at them. The ship was damaged in January 1941 by a near miss during an air raid on Naples; repairs were completed in early February. She participated in the First Battle of Sirte on 17 December 1941, providing distant cover for a convoy bound for Libya, again never firing her main armament. In early 1942, Giulio Cesare was reduced to a training ship at Taranto and later Pola. She steamed to Malta in early September 1943 after the Italian surrender. The German submarine U-596 unsuccessfully attacked the ship in the Gulf of Taranto in early March 1944.
After the war, Giulio Cesare was allocated to the Soviet Union as war reparations in 1949, and renamed Novorossiysk, after the Soviet city on the Black Sea. The Soviets used her as a training ship when she was not undergoing one of her eight refits in their hands. In 1953, all remaining Italian light AA guns were replaced by eighteen 37 mm 70-K AA guns in six twin mounts and six singles. They also replaced her fire-control systems and added radars, although the exact changes are unknown. The Soviets intended to rearm her with their own 305 mm guns, but this was forestalled by her loss. While at anchor in Sevastopol on the night of 28/29 October 1955, she detonated a large German mine left over from World War II. The explosion blew a hole completely through the ship, making a 4-by-14-meter (13 by 46 ft) hole in the forecastle forward of 'A' turret. The flooding could not be controlled and she later capsized with the loss of 608 men. Novorossiysk was stricken from the Navy List on 24 February 1956, salvaged on 4 May 1957, and subsequently scrapped.
The ship sank slowly from the bow, capsizing at 04:15, 2 hours and 45 minutes after the explosion, and disappeared beneath the waves 18 hours later. It became the worst disaster in Soviet naval history. Because of the politics of the Cold War, the fate of the Novorossiysk remained clouded in mystery until the late 1980s.
The cause of the explosion is still unclear. The officially named cause, regarded as most probable, is a magnetic RMH naval mine, laid by the Germans during World War II. During the next two years after the disaster, divers found 19 German mines on the bottom of Sevastopol Bay. Eleven of the mines were as powerful as the estimated blast under Novorossiysk. There is, however, some doubt that the blast was caused by a mine. The area where Novorossiysk sank was considered swept of mines, and other ships had used the area without triggering the mine. Some experts estimate the maximum battery life of the magnetic mines as 9 years, and thus contend that such a mine would unlikely to trigger at the time of explosion. Another problem some experts claim is that the size of the crater (1 – 2.1 m deep) was too small for such a big mine. On the other hand, according to some research, damage to the ship corresponds to an explosion equivalent to 5,000 kilograms of TNT.
A highly questionable explanation, both for political and technical reasons, that appears (with variations) from time to time is that it was Italian frogmen who - more than ten years after the cessation of hostilities - were avenging the transfer of the formerly-Italian battleship to the USSR. Covert action by the frogmen of the former Italian special operations unit Decima Flottiglia MAS has often been surmised, and there were rumors that not long thereafter a group of Italian Navy frogmen received high military awards. Another theory states that explosives were hidden in the ship before she was given to the Russians. No evidence of sabotage has been found, though Soviet inquiries did not rule out the possibility because of the poor safeguarding of the fleet base on the night of the explosion.
Some details were provided in the statement of a former naval officer who served on Novorossiysk, retired captain and historian Oktyabr' Bar-Biryukov, retelling the story of another former Soviet naval officer, who emigrated to the United States, citing one of the frogmen participated in that covert mission (the man is known as Niccolò or Nicolò), after they met in Florida:
When italian ships were being transferred to the Soviet Union, former Xª MAS commander prince Borghese has sworn to avenge the disgrace by exploding Giulio Cesare battleship at all costs. Prince Borghese kept his word. The reward for the implementers was fabulous. The operation site was explored and well-known. Those post-war years the Soviets were relaxed, no dams at the port entry, booms were used overnight only, though not blocking frogmen anyway. The preparation took a year. The implementers were eight frogmen after wartime sabotage training at the Black Sea. On the night of October 21, 1955, an ordinary cargo ship departed an italian port and headed for one of Dnepr ports to take a load of wheat. The heading and speed were carefully picked so as to pass 15 miles off the traverse of Chersonesos lighthouse on the midnight of October 26. Having arrived at the point, the ship released a small submarine from a special-purposed hatch in the bottom, and gone its way. The submarine named Piccolo covertly reached Omega (Kruglaya) bay area, where its crew deployed a hidden storage of diving cylinders, explosives, propulsion vehicles and other stuff. In darkness they returned back to the sea, waiting for a signal. When they received the signal, the italians returned to Omega bay to their storage, got into their diving suits, took the necessary stuff and used their propulsion vehicles moving to the pier of Novorossiysk. The visibility was terrible, so worked almost by touch. They returned to Omega bay twice for explosives, hidden inside magnetic cylinders. Having finished by the sunset, they returned to the base and entered the lock of Piccolo. Being in a hurry, they left forgotten their tool bag and a spare propeller for propulsion vehicle on the sea floor. Then reached high seas to wait for their ship for two days. Plunged under the bottom of the ship, closed the hatch and pumped out the water. Three long-awaited knocks on a bulkhead told that the operation is finished.
In July 2013, Ugo d'Esposito, a former commando of Gamma group of the Decima Flottiglia MAS, a former member of the SIM and SD services and an expert in encrypted communications, made an admission that commandos of the Xª MAS are in fact responsible for the explosion, after eight commandos of the Xª MAS (formally disbanded in 1945), implementing the orders of the Italian services and acting on behalf of NATO, placed bombs on the keel of the ship.
The enormous loss of life was directly blamed on the incompetent actions of her captain, Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Victor Parkhomenko. Among other underestimates of the danger to his ship, he did not know the conditions of the sea bottom, believing that the ratio between the sea depth (17 meters) and the ship's beam (28 meters) would prevent capsizing. However, the bottom was soft mud, 15 meters deep, which offered no resistance. It was also reported that the commander displayed conceit and groundless calmness during a critical situation, and had even expressed the wish to "go have some tea".
Because of the loss of Novorossiysk, the First Deputy Minister of Defence and Commander-in-Chief of the Navy Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov was fired from his post in November 1955, and in February 1956 was demoted to the rank of vice admiral and sent to retirement without the right to return to active service in the Navy. Kuznetsov was later reinstated.
The wreck of the Novorossiysk was raised in May 1957 and broken up for scrap.
- Gardiner & Gray, p. 259
- Giorgerini, pp. 270, 272
- Giorgerini, pp. 271–72
- Giorgerini, p. 277
- Whitley, p. 158
- Bagnasco & Grossman, p. 64
- Bargoni & Gay, p. 18
- Bargoni & Gay, p. 19
- Brescia, p. 58
- McLaughlin, p. 422
- Bagnasco & Grossman, pp. 64–65
- Bagnasco & Grossman, p. 65
- Bargoni & Gay, p. 21
- McLaughlin, pp. 421–22
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- Killing the «Caesar» (Russian)
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