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Italian ironclad Lepanto

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Italian battleship Lepanto.jpg
Lepanto in La Spezia
Name: Lepanto
Namesake: The Battle of Lepanto (1571)
Operator: Regia Marina (Italian Royal Navy)
Builder: Cantiere navale fratelli Orlando, Livorno
Laid down: 4 November 1876
Launched: 17 March 1883
Completed: 16 August 1887
Struck: 26 May 1912
Reinstated: 13 January 1913
Struck: 15 January 1914
Fate: Sold for scrapping 27 March 1915
General characteristics
Class and type: Italia-class ironclad battleship
  • 13,336 t (13,125 long tons; 14,700 short tons) normal
  • 15,649 t (15,402 long tons; 17,250 short tons) full load
Beam: 22.34 m (73.3 ft)
Draft: 9.39 m (30.8 ft)
Installed power:
  • 15,797 ihp (11,780 kW)
  • 8 oval and 16 cylindrical boilers
Propulsion: 4 shafts, 4 compound engines
Speed: 18.4 knots (34.1 km/h; 21.2 mph)
Range: ca. 5,000 nautical miles (9,260 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 669–701
  • 4 × 17-inch (432 mm)/27 guns
  • 8 × 6-inch (152 mm)/32 guns
  • 4 × 4.7-inch (119 mm)/32 guns
  • 4 × 14-inch (356 mm) torpedo tubes

Lepanto was an Italian ironclad battleship built for the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy), the second and last ship of the Italia class. Lepanto was laid down in November 1876, launched in March 1883, and completed in August 1887. She was armed with a main battery of four 17 in (432 mm) guns mounted in a central barbette and was capable of a top speed of 17.8 knots (33.0 km/h; 20.5 mph). Unlike other capital ships of the era, Lepanto had an armored deck rather than the more typical belt armor.

Lepanto spent the first two decades of her career in the Active and Reserve Squadrons, where she took part in annual training maneuvers with the rest of the fleet. In 1902, she was withdrawn from service for use as a training ship. During the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–12, the ship provided fire support to Italian troops defending Tripoli in Libya. Lepanto was ultimately stricken from the naval register in January 1914 and sold for scrapping in March 1915.


Line drawing of Italia; Lepanto had four funnels instead of six

Lepanto was 124.7 meters (409 ft) long overall and had a beam of 22.34 m (73.3 ft) and an average draft of 9.39 m (30.8 ft). She displaced 13,336 metric tons (13,125 long tons; 14,700 short tons) normally and up to 15,649 t (15,402 long tons; 17,250 short tons) at full load. Her propulsion system consisted of four compound steam engines each driving a single screw propeller, with steam supplied by eight coal-fired, oval boilers and sixteen fire-tube boilers. Her engines produced a top speed of 18.4 knots (34.1 km/h; 21.2 mph) at 15,797 indicated horsepower (11,780 kW). She could steam for 5,000 nautical miles (9,300 km; 5,800 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). She had a crew of 669–701 officers and men.[1]

Lepanto was armed with a main battery of four 17 in (432 mm) 27-caliber guns, mounted in two pairs en echelon in a central barbette. She carried a secondary battery of eight 6 in (152 mm) 26-caliber guns and four 4.7 in (119 mm) 32-caliber guns. As was customary for capital ships of the period, she carried four 14 in (356 mm) torpedo tubes. Unlike other ships built at the time, Lepanto dispensed with vertical belt armor. Her designer, Benedetto Brin, believed that contemporary steel alloys could not effectively defeat armor-piercing shells of the day, and so he discarded it completely. Lepanto was instead protected by an armored deck that was 4 in (102 mm) thick. Her conning tower was armored with the same thickness of steel plate. The barbette had 19 in (483 mm) of steel armor.[1]

Service history[edit]

Drawing of Lepanto under construction at Orlando

Lepanto was under construction for nearly 11 years.[2] She was laid down at the Cantiere navale fratelli Orlando shipyard at Livorno on 4 November 1876, ten months after her sister Italia. She spent nearly six-and-a-half years on the building ways and was not launched until 17 March 1883, two-and-a-half years after Italia. Lepanto was not completed for another four-and-a-half years, her construction finally being finished on 16 August 1887, twenty-two months after the completion of Italia.[1] After entering service, Lepanto took part in the annual 1888 fleet maneuvers, along with the ironclads Caio Duilio, Italia, Enrico Dandolo, and San Martino, a protected cruiser, four torpedo cruisers, and numerous smaller vessels. The maneuvers consisted of close-order drills and a simulated attack on and defense of La Spezia. Later that year, the ship was present during a naval review held for the German Kaiser Wilhelm II during a visit to Italy.[3]

In 1890, Lepanto participated in the annual fleet maneuvers in the First Squadron, along with the protected cruisers Piemonte and Dogali and several torpedo boats. The exercises were conducted in the Tyrrhenian Sea, where the First Squadron was tasked with defending against an attacking "hostile" squadron.[4] The ship served as the flagship of the 1st Division of the Active Squadron during the 1893 fleet maneuvers, along with the ironclad Ruggiero di Lauria, the torpedo cruisers Euridice and Monzambano, and four torpedo boats. During the maneuvers, which lasted from 6 August to 5 September, the ships of the Active Squadron simulated a French attack on the Italian fleet.[5]

Lepanto in the Mediterranean Sea in the late 1880s

In 1895, Italia and Lepanto were assigned to the Reserve Squadron, along with the ironclads Ruggiero di Lauria and Re Umberto.[6] That year, unrest in the Ottoman Empire that killed hundreds of foreign nationals prompted several of the European great powers to send an international fleet to pressure the Ottomans into compensating the victims.[7] In November 1895, a small Italian squadron sent to Smyrna to join the fleet in there; Lepanto was mobilized as part of a larger force in Naples that consisted of the ironclads Francesco Morosini, and Ruggiero di Lauria, the protected cruiser Elba, the torpedo cruisers Calatafimi and Folgore, and five torpedo boats. This second squadron was stocked with coal and ammunition in the event that it would need to reinforce the squadron at Smryna.[8] In June 1897, Lepanto steamed to Britain to represent Italy at the Fleet Review for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, held on the 26th of the month.[9] For the periodic fleet maneuvers later that year, Lepanto was assigned to the First Division of the Reserve Squadron, which also included the ironclads Caio Duilio and Ruggiero di Lauria and the protected cruiser Lombardia.[10] The following year, the Reserve Squadron consisted of Lepanto, Ruggiero di Lauria, Francesco Morosini, and five cruisers.[11] In 1899, Lepanto, Re Umberto, Sicilia, and the three Ruggiero di Lauria-class ironclads served in the Active Squadron, which was kept in service for eight months of the year, with the remainder spent with reduced crews.[12]

In the early 1890s, the Italian Navy had considered rebuilding Lepanto along the same lines as Enrico Dandolo,[13] which had received new, quick-firing 10-inch (250 mm) guns in place of her slow 17-inch guns.[14] Lepanto and her sister were to have their guns replaced with new 13.4-inch (340 mm) guns,[13] but by 1902 this plan had been abandoned as too costly.[15] Lepanto was withdrawn from front-line service in that year and she became a gunnery training ship. By that time, her armament consisted of her original 17 in guns and four of her 4.7 in guns; to these, nine 57 mm (2.2 in) 40-caliber guns, six 37 mm (1.5 in) 25-caliber guns, and two machine guns had been added. Her torpedo tubes had been removed by this time. In 1910 she became a depot ship at La Spezia.[1][16]

During the annual fleet maneuvers in September–October 1907, Lepanto was present to carry observers of the exercises, though she did not directly take part in the training.[17] At the start of the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–12, Lepanto was assigned to the 5th Division of the Italian fleet, along with her sister Italia and the ironclad Enrico Dandolo.[18] In December 1911, Lepanto and Italia were sent to Tripoli, replacing the three Re Umberto-class ironclads, to support the Italian garrison that had captured the city. The two Italias were sent in large part because the Italian Navy had a large stockpile of 17-inch shells.[19] Lepanto was stricken on 26 May 1912, but was reinstated on 13 January 1913 as a first-class auxiliary ship. She was stricken a second time on 15 January 1914, sold for scrap on 27 March 1915, and subsequently broken up.[1][16]


  1. ^ a b c d e Gardiner, p. 341
  2. ^ In comparison, the preceding ironclad Caio Duilio took only seven years to build, and the subsequent ironclad Ruggiero di Lauria took less than six and a half years. See Gardiner, pp. 340–342
  3. ^ Brassey 1889, p. 453
  4. ^ "The Naval Maneuvers of 1890", p. 268
  5. ^ Clarke & Thursfield, pp. 202–203
  6. ^ Brassey 1896, p. 65
  7. ^ "Sultan Continues to Defy the Menaces of the Powers". Chicago Tribune. 27 November 1895. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  8. ^ "The Fleets in the Levant", p. 16,664
  9. ^ Diehl, p. 82
  10. ^ Garbett 1897, p. 789
  11. ^ Garbett 1898, p. 200
  12. ^ Brassey 1899, p. 72
  13. ^ a b "Italy", p. 46
  14. ^ Gardiner, pp. 340–341
  15. ^ Garbett 1902, p. 1076
  16. ^ a b Gardiner & Gray, p. 255
  17. ^ Brassey 1908, p. 78
  18. ^ Beehler, p. 10
  19. ^ Beehler, p. 47


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