Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Italy’s first dreadnought

Italy’s first dreadnought, Dante Alighieri, was completed in 1913. It was the first capital ship with triple main gun turrets (12-inch guns) arranged along the centerline. It was considered the fastest battleship in the world at the time, although its speed, typical for Italian battleships, was gained at the expense of armor. Dante Alighieri participated in only one action during World War I, the bombardment of Austrian-held Durazzo, Albania. Its design, with amidships turrets, precluded any serious modernization, and it was scrapped in 1928. Italy’s two subsequent dreadnought classes, Cavour (Conte di Cavour, Giulio Cesare, and Leonardo da Vinci, completed 1914–1915), and Doria (Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio, completed in 1916 and 1915, respectively) did not participate in World War I. The Italians do have the distinction of being the only naval power to name a battleship after a poet, Dante Alighieri, and an artist, Leonardo da Vinci. (The French did name an armored cruiser after a historian [the Jules Michlet] and a theologian [the Ernst Renan].) Italy also laid down four units of the Caracciolo class, but these first Italian super-dreadnoughts (31,400 tons and 15-inch guns) were never completed, for the same reasons the other naval powers mostly stopped dreadnought construction during World War I: lack of steel and other materials due to their diversion to the construction of submarines, destroyers, and light craft.

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