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Capitani Romani-class cruiser
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: 43 knots (49 mph; 80 km/h) on trials (claimed)
36 knots (41 mph; 67 km/h) in war conditions
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

Capitani Romani 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 Fantasque and Mogador classes.[1] 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.[2]


The Capitani Romani were originally classed as "ocean scouts" (Esploratori Oceanici), although some authors consider them to have been heavy destroyers.[3][4]

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, 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 43 knots (80 km/h) during trials.[2] The Capitani Romani 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 to 36 knots (67 km/h).[1]

Operational history

Only Scipione Africano saw combat. Equipped with the Italian-developed EC.3 Gufo radar,[5] 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.[6] 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 / 38.055611°N 15.5912083°E / 38.055611; 15.5912083.[7][8][9] A dozen British seamen lost their lives in this action.[10] The engagement lasted no more than three minutes.[6] 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.[11] 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.[12]

Attilio Regolo was torpedoed by HMS Unruffled on 7 November 1942, and remained in drydock for several months with her bow shattered.[13] She was interned in Port Mahon in the island of Minorca, Spain, after the Italian capitulation on 9 September 1943.[14]


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.[2]

  • Attilio Regolo, named after Marcus Atilius Regulus, built by OTO Livorno, completed May 1942. Commissioned in August and used as a mine-layer until seriously damaged by a torpedo in November. Ceded to France in 1948 renamed Châteaurenault.
  • Caio Mario, named after Gaius Marius, built by OTO Livorno, launched 17 August 1941; captured in La Spezia by the Germans, with only the hull completed. Used as a floating oil tank and scuttled in 1944.
  • Claudio Druso, named after Nero Claudius Drusus, built by CdT Riva Trigoso, construction cancelled June 1940. Scrapped 1941-1942.
  • Claudio Tiberio, named after the Emperor Tiberius, built by OTO Livorno, construction cancelled June 1940. Scrapped between November 1941 and February 1942.
  • Cornelio Silla, named after Lucius Cornelius Sulla, built by Ansaldo Genoa, launched 28 June 1941; captured in Genoa by the Germans while fitting out; never completed. Sunk in an air raid in July 1944.
  • Giulio Germanico, named after Germanicus, built by Castellamare shipyard, launched 20 July 1941; captured by the Germans in Castellammare di Stabia, almost completed. Scuttled by the Germans on 28 September 1943; raised and completed by the Italians after the war. Renamed San Marco, she served as a destroyer leader until her decommission in 1971.
  • Ottaviano Augusto, named after the Emperor Augustus, built by CNR Ancona, launched 31 May 1942; captured in Ancona by the Germans while being completed; sunk in an air attack on 1 November 1943.
  • Paolo Emilio, named after Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus, construction cancelled in June 1940. built by Ansaldo Genoa, Scrapped between October 1941 and February 1942.
  • Pompeo Magno, named after Pompey the Great, built by CNR Ancona, launched 24 August 1941, completed. Renamed as San Giorgio, served as a destroyer leader until 1963. Became a training ship in 1965 and decommissioned and scrapped in 1980.
  • Scipione Africano: named after Scipio Africanus, built by OTO Livorno, launched January 12, 1941 and completed on April 23, 1943. Ceded to France in 1948 and first renamed S7, then renamed Guichen. Scrapped 1979.
  • Ulpio Traiano, named after the Emperor Trajan, built by CNR Palermo, Launched 1941; not completed. Sunk in Palermo by British human torpedo attack in 1943.
  • Vipsanio Agrippa, named after Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, built by CDT Riva Trigoso, construction stopped June 1940. Scrapped 1941-1942.

French post-War service

D606 Chateaurenault, the former Attilo Regolo

The 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.[2]

General characteristics as rebuilt

  • 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

D563 San Marco, the former Giulio Germanico, in 1959

The 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.[2] 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


  1. 1.0 1.1 Gardiner & Brown, page 65
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Bishop, page 489
  3. Shipbuilding & marine engineering international, Volume 106, Whitehall Press, 1983, page 388
  4. Sadkovich, James: Reevaluating major naval combatants of World War II. Greenwood Press, 1990, page 132. ISBN 0-313-26149-0
  5. 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
  6. 6.0 6.1 “Scipione: posto di combattimento”, by Maurizio De Pellegrini Dai Coi. Rivista Maritima, gennaio-febbraio 2012
  7. 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
  8. Fioravanzo, Giusseppe (1970). Le Azioni Navali In Mediterraneo Dal 1° aprile 1941 all'8 settembre 1943. USMM, pp. 468-469 (Italian)
  9. Baroni, Piero (2007). La guerra dei radar: il suicidio dell'Italia : 1935/1943. Greco & Greco, p. 187. ISBN 8879804316 (Italian)
  11. Green, Jack & Massignani, Alessandro (1998). The Naval War in the Mediterranean, 1940–1943. Chatam Publishing, pp. 290-291. ISBN 1-885119-61-5
  12. Cocchia, Aldo (1966). La Marina italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale. Volume 18. Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare, p. 397
  13. Bragadin, Marc'Antonio: The Italian Navy in World War II, United States Naval Institute, Annapolis, 1957, page 241. ISBN 0-405-13031-7
  14. 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

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