Capitani Romani-class cruiser

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Cruiser Scipione Africano
Class overview
Operators:  Regia Marina
 Marina Militare
 French Navy
Built: 1939–1942
In commission: 1942–1980
Planned: 12
Completed: 4
General characteristics
Type: Light cruiser
Displacement: 3,750 long tons (3,810 t) standard
5,420 long tons (5,510 t) full load
Length: 142.2 m (466 ft 6 in) overall
Beam: 14.4 m (47 ft 3 in)
Draught: 4.1 m (13 ft 5 in)
Propulsion: 2 shaft geared turbines
4 boilers
110,000 hp (82,000 kW)
Speed: 40 knots (46 mph; 74 km/h)
[1] 41 knots (47 mph; 76 km/h) on trials.
Range: 4,350 nmi (8,060 km) at 18 kn (21 mph; 33 km/h), 1,400 tons of fuel oil
Complement: 418
Sensors and
processing systems:
Gufo radar (Scipione Africano)
Armament: 8 × 135 mm (5.3 in)/45 calibre guns
8 × 37 mm (1.5 in) guns
8 × 20 mm (0.79 in) guns
8 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes
70 mines

The Capitani Romani class was a class of light cruisers of the Italian navy. They were essentially designed to outrun and outgun the large new French destroyers of the Le Fantasque and Mogador classes.[2] Twelve hulls were ordered in late 1939, but only four were completed, just three of these before the Italian armistice in 1943. The ships were named after prominent Ancient Romans.[3]


The Capitani Romani class were originally classed as "ocean scouts" (Esploratori Oceanici), although some authors consider them to have been heavy destroyers.[4][5] In fact, after the war the two units still in service were reclassified caccia conduttori (Italian for flotilla leaders).

The design was fundamentally a light, almost unarmoured hull with a large power plant and cruiser style armament. The original design was modified to sustain the prime requirements of speed and firepower. Given their machinery development of 93,210 kW (125,000 hp), equivalent to that of the 17,000 ton cruisers of the Des Moines class, the target speed was over 40 knots (74 km/h), but the ships were left virtually unarmoured. As a result, the three completed warships achieved 41 knots (76 km/h) during trials (43 knots (80 km/h), according to some sources).[3] The Capitani Romani vessels shipped a main battery of eight 135 mm guns, with a rate of fire of six rounds per minute and a range of 19,500 m. They also carried eight 533 mm torpedo tubes. The wartime load dropped the operational speed by one to five knots, depending on the source.[2][6][7]

Operational history[edit]

Only Scipione Africano saw combat. Equipped with the Italian-developed EC.3 Gufo radar,[8] she detected and engaged four British Elco motor torpedo boats lurking five miles ahead during the night of 17 July 1943, while passing the Messina straits at high speed off Punta Posso.[9] She sank MTB 316 and heavily damaged MTB 313 between Reggio di Calabria and Pellaro, on the position 38°3′20.20″N 15°35′28.35″E / 38.0556111°N 15.5912083°E / 38.0556111; 15.5912083.[10][11][12] A dozen British seamen lost their lives in this action.[13] The engagement lasted no more than three minutes.[9] Scipione Africano suffered minor damage and two injures when German batteries deployed along the Italian coast opened fire in the aftermath. The cruiser had been ordered from La Spezia to Taranto, which she eventually reached at 9:46 AM. Her high speed was decisive to the outcome of the battle.[14]

After her eventful passage into the Ionian Sea, she laid down four minefields in the Gulf of Taranto and the Gulf of Squillace from 4 to 17 August, together with the old cruiser Luigi Cadorna.[15]

Attilio Regolo was torpedoed by the submarine HMS Unruffled on 7 November 1942, and remained in drydock for several months with her bow shattered.[16] She was interned in Port Mahon in the island of Minorca, Spain, after the Italian capitulation on 9 September 1943.[17]


Four of the ships were scrapped before launch. Five were captured by the Germans in September 1943, still under construction. All five were sunk in harbour, one was raised and completed. Three were completed before the Italian armistice.[3]

French post-War service[edit]

D606 Chateaurenault, the former Attilo Regolo

Attilo Regolo and Scipione Africano were transferred to France as war reparations. They were renamed Chateaurenault and Guichen respectively. The ships were extensively rebuilt for the French Navy by La Seyne dockyard with new anti-aircraft-focussed armament and fire-control systems in 1951-54. The ships were decommissioned in 1961-61.[3]

General characteristics as rebuilt[edit]

  • Displacement
  • Length
  • Beam
  • Draught
  • Machinery - unchanged
  • Armament
    • 6 – 105 mm guns (three twin turrets of German origin)
    • 10 – 57 mm guns (5 twin turrets
    • 12 – 550 mm torpedo tubes
  • Sensors: Radar DRBV 20 A, DRBV 11, DRBC 11, DRBC 30, Sonar
  • Crew: 353

Post-war Italian service[edit]

San Marco, formerly Giulio Germanico, in 1959

Giulio Germanico and Pompeo Magno served in the post war Marina Militare, being renamed San Marco and San Giorgio respectively. Both ships were extensively rebuilt in 1951-55 and fitted with American weapons and radar.[3] Characteristics included:

  • 6 127 mm guns in twin turrets fitted in A, X and Y positions, with anti-aircraft capability
  • a Menon Anti submarine mortar fitted in B position
  • fitting of 20 40mm Bofors AA guns
  • SPS-6 and SG-6B radar, SQS-11 sonar and the Mk37 fire control system for the 5 inch guns

San Marco was further rebuilt as a cadet training ship in 1963-65 when she was fitted with new CODAG machinery. New 76mm guns replaced the 40mm and X 5 inch mounting. San Marco was decommissioned in 1971, San Giorgio following in 1980.

See also[edit]

Media related to Capitani Romani class cruiser at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Gardiner & Brown, page 65
  3. ^ a b c d e Bishop, page 489
  4. ^ Shipbuilding & marine engineering international, Volume 106, Whitehall Press, 1983, page 388
  5. ^ Sadkovich, James: Reevaluating major naval combatants of World War II. Greenwood Press, 1990, page 132. ISBN 0-313-26149-0
  6. ^ McMurtrie, Francis E. (Editor): Jane's Fighting Ships of World War 2. Tiger Books International, page 168. ISBN 0517679639
  7. ^ Whitley, M. J.: Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. Naval Inst. Pr., 1996. ISBN 978-1557501417
  8. ^ Swords, Séan: Technical history of the beginnings of radar. Volume 6 of History of technology series Radar, Sonar, Navigation and Avionics. P. Peregrinus on behalf of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1986, page 129. ISBN 0-86341-043-X
  9. ^ a b “Scipione: posto di combattimento”, by Maurizio De Pellegrini Dai Coi. Rivista Maritima, gennaio-febbraio 2012
  10. ^ Pope, Dudley: Flag 4: The Battle of Coastal Forces in the Mediterranean 1939-1945. Chatham Publishing, 1998, pp. 121-122. ISBN 1-86176-067-1
  11. ^ Fioravanzo, Giusseppe (1970). Le Azioni Navali In Mediterraneo Dal 1° aprile 1941 all'8 settembre 1943. USMM, pp. 468-469 (Italian)
  12. ^ Baroni, Piero (2007). La guerra dei radar: il suicidio dell'Italia : 1935/1943. Greco & Greco, p. 187. ISBN 8879804316 (Italian)
  13. ^
  14. ^ Green, Jack & Massignani, Alessandro (1998). The Naval War in the Mediterranean, 1940–1943. Chatam Publishing, pp. 290-291. ISBN 1-885119-61-5
  15. ^ Cocchia, Aldo (1966). La Marina italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale. Volume 18. Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare, p. 397
  16. ^ Bragadin, Marc'Antonio: The Italian Navy in World War II, United States Naval Institute, Annapolis, 1957, page 241. ISBN 0-405-13031-7
  17. ^ Tomlin, Barbara: With utmost spirit: Allied naval operations in the Mediterranean, 1942-1945. University Press of Kentucky, 2004, page 241. ISBN 0-8131-2338-0

References and external links[edit]