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Ninjapacman

The histories of Belles

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I'm a history Major and I love studying naval history in particular. I have many books on the subject and I love learning new things. "What does this have to do with me?" you might ask. Well, that's simple.

 

This is a HISTORY thread. Tell me what belle you want the IRL history of, and I'll see what information I can dig up on her. If there's a lesser known ship that you know about and want to share, you can post what you know about her here! I can't wait to see what ships you give me to look up.

 

 

Edit: DISCLAIMER I may take hours or several days to write each history, as I constantly read and re-read each source or reference while typing it up to make sure I get all the stuff I may not get if I did it by memory. I apologize in advance for the wait.

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I've done my own research on her, but I'll be interested to see what you dig up on my lovely lady, the German cum Turkish Battlecruiser Yavuz. :-)

 

Heck, just about anything on the Turkish navy from 1920-1945 is pretty hard to come by, in English at least.

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I already know a good amount about her, but why not? HMS Rodney

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I do most of my own research, so I won't be asking many questions. However, I reiterate that I have done plenty of my own research and would be glad to help Ninja here answer questions you may have about ships or famous naval battles!

I've read everything there is to read on the William D. Porter, look her up if you haven't yet, and ships such as the Yamato, USS Salt Lake City, and Kido Butai Carriers. I can also quote sources like Tin Can Sailors and Shattered Sword regarding the battles. If you hadn't yet guessed, I specialize in the Pacific war regarding naval combat, and so I'll leave Ninja there to Europe and the Atlantic. I look forward to your questions!

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Thank you Legate, I appreciate the approval. As for everyone else, I'm sorry if I take a while for each individual reply, as there are some ships (Such as the SMS Goeben/TCG Yavuz) that I may not even have heard of or only have limited knowledge about. Therefore, I spend quite a bit of time checking multiple sources for a complete history before giving a shorter rundown of the ship.

 

Also, I am only looking at operational history, not technical specifications such as armament or displacement and the like.

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I believe I have researched enough to give a simple history of the first request. Here goes:

 

German Service

 

The SMS Goeben was built by Blohm & Voss. Her keel was laid in 1909, she was launched in 1911, and completed in 1912. When World War I began in 1914, she was stationed in the Mediterranean along with the light cruiser Breslau. In need of fuel, Goeben went to Italy, but was repeatedly denied resupply by Italian ports. Eventually in Messina, she took coal from several German merchant vessels. Led by Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, their orders were to attack British and French troop convoys on their way to North Africa, but the British and French naval presence in the area was massive, making such offensive actions suicidal. With little choice, Admiral Souchon chose to sail for the waters of the Ottoman Empire. The Goeben was soon pursued by the British forces across the Mediterranean. They were nearly caught by a British squadron of 4 cruisers and 8 destroyers, however the Admiral of the British squadron thought a direct attack would be too risky, and the Goeben and Breslau escaped. Although the British continued to chase the Goeben, they had little success, and on August 10th, 1914, the Germans made it to Turkish waters. In order to avoid legal problems with the two ships transiting through the straights, both were transferred to the Ottoman navy. Interestingly, they kept their German crews throughout the war.

 

 

Ottoman Service

 

When they were transferred to the Ottomans, the SMS Goeben was renamed Yavuz Sultan Selim, and the Breslau was renamed Midilli. In late October of 1914, they bombarded a Russian naval installation in the Black Sea, which was the first military action of the Ottoman Empire in the war. For the next year, Yavuz Sultan Selim was the major power in the Black Sea. Her presence not only prevented the Russian navy from leaving the Black Sea to assist the war in other areas, but also prevented Russia's allies from sending supplies through the Black Sea ports. When Yavuz Sultan Selim hit a mine in late 1914, the damage was expertly concealed to preserve morale until she could be repaired. Throughout multiple attacks on the Dardanelles in 1915, the largest of which was led by the new super-dreadnought Queen Elizabeth, the Yavuz Sultan Selim was ordered to fight to the death if the British and French allied fleet broke through to Constantinople. Ironically, none made it to Constantinople, not even the massive attack led by the Queen Elizabeth in which the fleet hit a minefield where 6 of the battleships hit mines, and 3 were sunk, forcing them to turn back. Over the next couple years, the Yavuz Sultan Selim remained in the Black Sea and tangled with the Russian fleet multiple times, with little effect on either side, so Yavuz Sultan Selim remained the dominant power in the Black Sea. In 1917, Russia left the war, and Admiral Souchon left the Yavuz Sultan Selim. In 1918, the British fleet in the Dardanelles was weakened, so Yavuz Sultan Selim and Midilli attempted to break into the Mediterranean and attack them. Unfortunately, on the way, Midilli hit a mine. While attempting to tow Midilli, Yavuz Sultan Selim also struck a mine, forcing them to abandon their long time partner, and Breslau, now Midilli, was lost. On the way back to port, Yavuz Sultan Selim struck another mine, causing her to need extensive repairs. Her repairs were not yet completed when the war ended, and the German crew finally handed the ship over to a Turkish one on November 2, 1918.

 

 

Turkish Service

 

After World War I, due to a series of events, Yavuz Sultan Selim was not scrapped, instead remaining inactive until 1923, when she was handed over to the new Turkish navy. Renamed TCG Yavuz, she was now long obsolete, and sat in reserve while the Turkish navy gathered funds for a major refit. While a major refit was out of the question, they did give Yavuz a modest modernization. The project was a financial disaster, and Turkey was on the verge of giving up Yavuz when the Greeks undertook a massive naval exercise in Turkish waters. This severely antagonized the Turks, who immediately refit Yavuz, and in 1930, she returned as the new flagship of the Turkish navy. In 1936, Yavuz led a peaceful operation to Malta, reinforcing the Anglo-Turk friendship. When Ataturk died in 1938, Yavuz carried his body to its final resting place. Since Turkey did not do anything in World War II until 1945, and even then, it was a purely political move so they didn't actually help the war effort, Yavuz did not see service in the war. Yavuz remained the flagship of the Turkish navy until 1954. By the early 50's she was the last coal burning battleship in the world. Yavuz lay in reserve until 1962, when the Germans offered to purchase her and turn her into a museum. Unfortunately, the Turks declined. By 1966, when the Turks had changed their minds, the Germans no longer wanted to buy, and since no other buyer could be found, she was scrapped in 1973.

 

 

Her history was long and diverse, and quite unique. Of all ships that should have been preserved as museums, she was definitely one of them. One commentator argued "Scrapping Goeben was roughly akin to finding, then eating a complete, intact mastodon corpse."

 

I found this one quite enjoyable. Next I'll work on Iowa.

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Here's one hell of a museum ship, the USS Iowa. I had to condense a lot of the information due to there being way too much.

 

Birth and WWII Service

 

The Big Stick was laid down in the New York Naval Yard on 27th June 1940, launched on 27th August 1942, and commissioned on 22 February 1943. First she went on a shakedown along the eastern coast of the United States. In August 1943 she sailed to Newfoundland to counter the threat of the Tirpitz, however she was recalled to the U.S. on October 25th for maintenance. Her next mission was to take the president and top military brass to the Tehran conference. Along the way, one of her escort destroyers, the USS William D. Porter, along with multiple other mishaps, accidentally fired a live torpedo at the Iowa during a training exercise. They warned the Iowa in time and the Iowa evaded the torpedo, which detonated in her wake. After the conference, Iowa returned the president to the United States. In January 1944 she sailed to the Pacific to join up with Admiral Lee's battleship division 7. There she supported airstrikes by TF 38.3 first on Kwajalein and Eniwetok atolls, then on the Japanese logistics base at Truk. In February she was with TF 58 (or TF 38, depending on whether it was part of the 3rd or 5th fleet), and participated in the assaults on Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam. Here she along with her sister ship New Jersey sank the light training cruiser Katori. (I would like to point out here that both the Iowa and New Jersey ignored the survivors of the Katori, but this was not by any means an isolated incident in the pacific war.) On 18th March 1944, Iowa participated in the bombardment of Mili Atoll. She was struck by two 120mm shells, but suffered no notable damage. She continued supporting airstrikes against Japanese controlled islands for the next few months, and on June 19th, she participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, also known as the Marianas Turkey Shoot. She shot down 4 aircraft and assisted in the destruction of another. Throughout July she participated in more airstrikes, and after resting for a month, she joined the 3rd fleet and supported the landings at Peleliu. For the next month she continued to support yet more airstrikes. In October 1944 she accompanied the third fleet during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Until late December, she continued screening carriers in Philippine waters. On 18th December, Typhoon Cobra hit the fleet while they were refueling at sea, sinking 3 destroyers with nearly all hands, and severely damaging a large portion of the fleet. Iowa managed to suffer no injuries and only the loss of a floatplane and the damage of a shaft. Iowa returned to San Fransisco for repairs in January 1945. She also received a refit with new search radars and fire-control, and her bridge was enclosed. In March, she sailed for Okinawa, arriving in April to relieve her sister New Jersey. She continued supporting airstrikes and carrier operations over the next couple months, and in July, she bombarded targets on Hokkaido, Honshu, and Kahoolawe. She oversaw the surrender by the Japanese at Saganami Bay on her sister ship Missouri. She remained in the bay as part of the occupation force until 20th September 1945, when she departed for the United States loaded with POWs and GIs.

 

Post WWII

Iowa first sailed to Seattle, then to Long Beach, California in October 1945. There she engaged in training operations until 1946 when she returned to Japan to serve as flagship of the 5th fleet. She returned once again to the United States in March 1946 and resumed her role as a training ship. In October, she underwent modernization, removing some of her 20mm and 40mm anti-aircraft weaponry, but giving her the SK-2 radar. Following the Bikini Atomic Tests, she assisted in the sinking of the USS Nevada in July 1948. In September 1948 she was inactivated in San Francisco, and decommissioned on March 24th 1949.

 

Korean War Service and Post Korean War

Iowa was reactivated on 14th July 1951, and recommissioned on 25th August 1951. She sailed for Korea in March 1952. In April, she relieved her sister Wisconsin, and became the Flagship of Vice Admiral Robert P. Briscoe, Commander of the 7th Fleet. In her first combat operation of the Korean war, she bombarded supply lines on 8th April 1952. The following day, she engaged North Korean troop positions and gun emplacements. She then supported the South Korean I Corps by bombarding North Korean positions again on April 13th. Throughout April and May, she continued bombarding industrial and troop positions. On June 9th, one of her helicopters rescued a downed pilot from the USS Princeton. On 20th August, Iowa took on 9 injured crewmen from the destroyer Thompson and covered the destroyer's retreat into safer waters. On 23rd September, Iowa was observed in action by the Commander in Chief of U.N. forces. The following month she participated in Operation Decoy. That was the end of her Korean War service. In July 1953, she embarked to Northern Europe, and participated in Operation Mariner. Upon completion of the exercise, she operated in the Virginia Capes area, and in 1954 she became the Flagship of the Commander of the Battleship Cruiser force, United States Atlantic Fleet. From January to April 1955 Iowa was on an extended cruise in the Mediterranean as flagship of the Commander of the 6th Fleet. Upon completion, She returned to Norfolk for a 4 month overhaul. Afterwards, she continued training cruises and operational exercises until January 1957, when she returned to the Mediterranean. Upon completion of her duty in the Mediterranean, she made a South American training cruise, then joined the International Naval Review in Hampton Roads, Virginia in June. On 3rd September she sailed to Scotland for Operation Strikeback. On 28th September, she returned to Norfolk, and then on 22nd October sailed for Philadelphia, where she was decommissioned again on 24th February 1958.

 

Reactivation

In 1982, Iowa was reactivated and moved to New Orleans, where she was refitted and modernized, losing all of her remaining 20mm and 40mm mounts, as well as four 5" secondary turrets. She was then towed to Pascagoula, Mississippi, where she was refit with all of the most modern weapons available. (as mentioned, I'm not going to spend time detailing armament and technical details) Iowa was formally recommissioned ahead of schedule on 28th April 1984, not going through with necessary repairs to her guns and engines, and skipping the mandatory Navy inspection. From April to August 1984, she went through refresher training in the Atlantic. She spent the rest of 1984 aiding in humanitarian operations in Central America. In April 1985 she returned to the United states for maintenance. In August and October she joined in NATO operations in the Baltic and North Atlantic. After the operations she returned to the United States. In March 1986, she finally got her overdue inspection. When she failed the inspection, the leaders of the Atlantic Fleet were instructed to make sure her deficiencies were corrected. Afterwards, she provided a military presence in the waters of Central America. On the 4th of July 1986, she returned to the Hudson river where president Reagan came on board with his wife for the International Naval Review. In August she set sail for the North Atlantic and took part in Exercise Northern Wedding. From January to September 1987, Iowa operated in the waters off of Central America. In September she joined the 6th Fleet again in the Mediterranean. In October, she once again left the 6th Fleet for the North Sea. In November she sailed to the Persian gulf, where she escorted tanker ships for the rest of the year. On 20th February 1988, she departed again for the United States, arriving in Norfolk on March for maintenance. In April she got another small refit. On a shakedown in Chesapeake Bay, she narrowly missed colliding with a Cruiser, Destroyer, and Frigate before running aground. After an hour she was able to extricate herself from the mud with no damage. Iowa continued sea trials until September, and refresher training in October. On 20th January 1989, she set a record for the longest ranged 16 inch shell ever fired, at 23.4nmi. On April 13, she sailed to participate in a fleet exercise.

 

Turret explosion and becoming a museum ship

On 19th April 1985, at 0955, an explosion in the number 2 turret killed 47 crew members. A crewman in the powder magazine room quickly flooded it, likely preventing a catastrophic secondary explosion. (I won't go into investigation details here, there are plenty of places you can find them, and they aren't really that relevant to the service history.) Iowa was Finally decommissioned for the last time on 26th October 1990. She was berthed in Newport from 24th September 1998 until 8th March 2001, when she was towed to California, where she joined the reserve fleet. In March 2006, she was struck from the Naval Register. On 6 September 2011, the USS Iowa was given to Pacific Battleship Center for placement at the Port of Los Angeles at berth 87. She sailed to the Port of Los Angeles under tow in May 2012. She was permanently anchored on 9th June, and opened as a museum for the public on 7th July.

 

 

Damn this took me a long time. I hope it was worth it and doesn't look half assed. There was a lot to cover. I eliminated about 60% to 70% of the not absolutely necessary information, and it still came out this long. If you want a more complete summary, the wikipedia page for the USS Iowa is actually quite comprehensive with many useful and trustworthy sources. It has more specifics than I was able to fit into this.

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In another thread, we were talking about the sinking of the Bismarck, so here's a quickie. This is a fun little story, not of a ship, but of the pilot who scored the torpedo hit that locked the Bismarck's rudder.

 

The pilot, Jack Moffat, was making his run on the Bismarck in his Fairey Swordfish. When flak opened up, he was ready to drop the torpedo and get out of there. From behind he heard a shout that stopped him. "Wait!" his navigator said. So he waited, and his navigator kept telling him to wait. He was getting anxious, so he turned around to see what his navigator was doing, and what he saw was the navigator hanging out of the aircraft, nearly completely outside of it, with his ass facing straight up and hanging in the air. He was looking over the side judging the waves and practically hanging off the plane. You see, if a torpedo hits a swell at an odd angle, or hits the water long because of an odd wave, it can change course and go someplace completely different from where you want it to, or even detonate on the water, which is bad. Finally, his hanging navigator shouted "Drop it now!", so he did, and historians believe that his torpedo was the one to hit the Bismarck.

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They didn't have nav computers back then and he had to rely on his partner's use of the force. Good enough for a 1-in-a-million shot, anyway.

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Speaking of nice shots, I'd like to give it a try and share a (future, I hope) Belle's story that might not be that known.

The cruiser Raimondo Montecuccoli

 

Prewar career

The lead ship of her class (pertaining to the Condottieri-type of light cruisers), she was laid down on 1st October 1931, launched on 2 August 1934, and she was fully commissioned on 30 June 1935.

 

After a few uneventful years (with only a few cruises to protect traffic, during the Spanish Civil War), in 1937 she embarked on a cruise towards the Far East, to protect Italian interests in an area where the war between the Empire of Japan and the Republic of China had just ignited. Departing from Naples on 30 August, she arrived at Shangai on 15 September, not before visiting Australia and participating to the festivities about the 150th Anniversary of the foundation of New South Wales. She remained in Far East waters until 1939, when she was recalled to Italu.

 

Wartime career

Assigned to the Settima Divisione (7th Division - made of of light cruisers), she took part in the Battle of Punta Stilo on 9 July 1940. After the war against Greece was declared, she was used, together with her sister ships, to shell Greek positions around Corfu. She also was part of the convoy escort for the First Battle of Sirte (17 December 1941).

 

The biggest exploit came with what in Italy is called "Battaglia di Mezzo Giugno" (Mid-June Battle) on 16 June 1942, that encompasses the naval contrasts against two Malta-bound convoys from both Alexandria (Operation Vigorous) and Gibraltar (Operation Harpoon). Together with the light cruiser Eugenio di Savoia and seven destroyers, she took part in the battle against the latter convoy and its escort.

 

In the confused and convoluted hours of battle, the Montecuccoli scored several hits, while receiving little damage herself. Part of the damage was at the painting that depicted her namesake and his motto (Centum Oculi - "one hundred eyes" in Latin"); a shrapnel cancelled the "o", which was seen as a lucky thing (the resulting phrase "Centum culi" can be taken in a Latin-Italian pastiche as meaning "one hundred... arses"!).

 

During said battle, moreover, the Montecuccoli might have also inflicted one of these record-making hits. It seems that both Italian and British reports say that, at one point, the two cruisers bumped into the minesweeper HMS Hebe at long range and opened fire, and on the Montecuccoli they saw a hit from one of their salvoes; the Hebe apparently confirmed this, stating that it came from "approx. 26000 yds".

In other words, they're suggesting that a puny light cruiser, firing at the very extreme range of its guns, scored a hit on a rather small target at a distance comparable of that of the two big contenders for the longest hit in naval history - HMS Warspite and the Scharnhorst.

I've kept the conditional, though, because I've not yet had the opportunity to verify it. Still, it might be possible.

 

After sortieing once more (but without engaging the enemy) against the convoy of Operation Pedestal (10-15 August 1942), she was seriously damage by Allied bombers on 4 December 1942 at Naples, and required months of repairs. When Italy's armistice was declared, on 8 September 1943, she sailed with the main body of the fleet from La Spezia to Malta.

 

Between 1943 and 1945 she took part in several transport missions.

 

Postwar career

The Raimondo Montecuccoli was one of the ships left to the new Marina Militare after the war.

 

In 1949, she was assigned as a school ship to the Naval Academy of Livorno, and in 1954 she was further modified for the role. In one of the training cruises, she undertook a circumnavigation of the world between 1 September 1956 and 1 March 1957, in which she again visited the Australian waters, for the Melbourne Olympics.

 

Decommissioned in 1964, she was scrapped starting from 1972.

 

One thing remains of the Montecuccoli, though. In a park near Perugia, one of its 6-inch twin mountings, the military mast and the anchors are still preserved.

 

-

 

Well, there it is.

I hope this was useful and interesting.

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Awesome. I learned something this time!

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During said battle, moreover, the Montecuccoli might have also inflicted one of these record-making hits. It seems that both Italian and British reports say that, at one point, the two cruisers bumped into the minesweeper HMS Hebe at long range and opened fire, and on the Montecuccoli they saw a hit from one of their salvoes; the Hebe apparently confirmed this, stating that it came from "approx. 26000 yds".

In other words, they're suggesting that a puny light cruiser, firing at the very extreme range of its guns, scored a hit on a rather small target at a distance comparable of that of the two big contenders for the longest hit in naval history - HMS Warspite and the Scharnhorst.

I've kept the conditional, though, because I've not yet had the opportunity to verify it. Still, it might be possible.

 

O'hara confirms it in "Passage Perilous", I think.

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O'hara confirms it in "Passage Perilous", I think.

 

I looked into this; he does confirm it, but he gives a distance of 23'000 yds.

Although it doesn't substract much; it was still a rather impressive hit, in my opinion.

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I looked into this; he does confirm it, but he gives a distance of 23'000 yds.

Although it doesn't substract much; it was still a rather impressive hit, in my opinion.

 

I see. Are you sure it's not 23,000 meters? That'd be about 26,000 yards.

 

Just checking. I think he calls it the longest 6" gun hit of the war, anyway.

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I see. Are you sure it's not 23,000 meters? That'd be about 26,000 yards.

 

Just checking. I think he calls it the longest 6" gun hit of the war, anyway.

 

No, he says yards.

 

He does say that it's the longest 6-inch gun of "either Navy". But I don't think any 6-inch cruiser was credited with a longer shot.

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Speaking of nice shots, I'd like to give it a try and share a (future, I hope) Belle's story that might not be that known.

 

The cruiser Raimondo Montecuccoli

 

Prewar career

The lead ship of her class (pertaining to the Condottieri-type of light cruisers), she was laid down on 1st October 1931, launched on 2 August 1934, and she was fully commissioned on 30 June 1935.

 

After a few uneventful years (with only a few cruises to protect traffic, during the Spanish Civil War), in 1937 she embarked on a cruise towards the Far East, to protect Italian interests in an area where the war between the Empire of Japan and the Republic of China had just ignited. Departing from Naples on 30 August, she arrived at Shangai on 15 September, not before visiting Australia and participating to the festivities about the 150th Anniversary of the foundation of New South Wales. She remained in Far East waters until 1939, when she was recalled to Italu.

 

Wartime career

Assigned to the Settima Divisione (7th Division - made of of light cruisers), she took part in the Battle of Punta Stilo on 9 July 1940. After the war against Greece was declared, she was used, together with her sister ships, to shell Greek positions around Corfu. She also was part of the convoy escort for the First Battle of Sirte (17 December 1941).

 

The biggest exploit came with what in Italy is called "Battaglia di Mezzo Giugno" (Mid-June Battle) on 16 June 1942, that encompasses the naval contrasts against two Malta-bound convoys from both Alexandria (Operation Vigorous) and Gibraltar (Operation Harpoon). Together with the light cruiser Eugenio di Savoia and seven destroyers, she took part in the battle against the latter convoy and its escort.

 

In the confused and convoluted hours of battle, the Montecuccoli scored several hits, while receiving little damage herself. Part of the damage was at the painting that depicted her namesake and his motto (Centum Oculi - "one hundred eyes" in Latin"); a shrapnel cancelled the "o", which was seen as a lucky thing (the resulting phrase "Centum culi" can be taken in a Latin-Italian pastiche as meaning "one hundred... arses"!).

 

During said battle, moreover, the Montecuccoli might have also inflicted one of these record-making hits. It seems that both Italian and British reports say that, at one point, the two cruisers bumped into the minesweeper HMS Hebe at long range and opened fire, and on the Montecuccoli they saw a hit from one of their salvoes; the Hebe apparently confirmed this, stating that it came from "approx. 26000 yds".

In other words, they're suggesting that a puny light cruiser, firing at the very extreme range of its guns, scored a hit on a rather small target at a distance comparable of that of the two big contenders for the longest hit in naval history - HMS Warspite and the Scharnhorst.

I've kept the conditional, though, because I've not yet had the opportunity to verify it. Still, it might be possible.

 

After sortieing once more (but without engaging the enemy) against the convoy of Operation Pedestal (10-15 August 1942), she was seriously damage by Allied bombers on 4 December 1942 at Naples, and required months of repairs. When Italy's armistice was declared, on 8 September 1943, she sailed with the main body of the fleet from La Spezia to Malta.

 

Between 1943 and 1945 she took part in several transport missions.

 

Postwar career

The Raimondo Montecuccoli was one of the ships left to the new Marina Militare after the war.

 

In 1949, she was assigned as a school ship to the Naval Academy of Livorno, and in 1954 she was further modified for the role. In one of the training cruises, she undertook a circumnavigation of the world between 1 September 1956 and 1 March 1957, in which she again visited the Australian waters, for the Melbourne Olympics.

 

Decommissioned in 1964, she was scrapped starting from 1972.

 

One thing remains of the Montecuccoli, though. In a park near Perugia, one of its 6-inch twin mountings, the military mast and the anchors are still preserved.

 

-

 

Well, there it is.

I hope this was useful and interesting.

Yes quite interesting. Don't hear much about the Italian Navy, at least not most of the individual ships.

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Yes quite interesting. Don't hear much about the Italian Navy, at least not most of the individual ships.

 

Thank you.

 

I'll post more in the future, if it helps. I know that knowledge of the Regia Marina and its ships is rather scarce.

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I'd love to learn more about the sortie to Malta of the fleet after the armistice. You noted this in another thread and honestly i know almost nothing about how the Italian Navy responded to the allied invasion, resulting armistice, and then the reverse invasion by Germany.

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I'd love to learn more about the sortie to Malta of the fleet after the armistice. You noted this in another thread and honestly i know almost nothing about how the Italian Navy responded to the allied invasion, resulting armistice, and then the reverse invasion by Germany.

 

Well, it was a very confused and painful affair.

 

The main fleet (based at La Spezia) was preparing to sail for a last ditch attack towards the Allied forces around Salerno, when the proclamation of the Armistice took everyone by surprise. No operative command had been given specific orders, and so nobody really knew what to do. However, when the news that the fleet would have to sail to Malta broke out, most were opposed, and favoured scuttling the ships; only when it became clear that the ship would not be turned over to the Allies and they would keep flying the Italian ensign the opposition waned (although some who didn't like it disembarked).

 

Anyway, in the end Admiral Carlo Bergamini, in accordance to what Admiral Raffaele De Courten (the Navy Chief of Staff) had told him, decided to take time and sail towards the isle of La Maddalena (near the northern shore of Sardinia), and see what would happen. As they were closing in, they got the news that the base had been overrun by the Germans, so they turned around.

It was then that the formation was attacked by German bombers, some of which equipped with the Fritz X guided bombs. Two of these hit the flagship Roma, and the second had the luck of striking the magazines, causing a deflagration that destroyed the battleship, killing a lot of its crew and the same Admiral Bergamini. Another bomb of the same kind hit the sister Italia, that was damaged but kept going. The light cruiser Attilio Regolo, three destroyers and three torpedo boats were detached to look for survivors, and afterwards they sailed to Mahòn in the Balearic Islands, where they were interned for a while (except for two torpedo boats that went out and scuttled themselves after disembarking the wounded).

 

Afterwards, the Italian fleet sailed west, then after receiving further orders made for Bone, where the battleships Warspite and Valiant were waiting for them; they would lead the Italian ships to Malta, where they arrived on 11 September. There, they found the two old battleships Duilio and Andrea Doria (based at Taranto in reserve), together with light cruisers and destroyers, commanded by Admiral Alberto Da Zara who, as senior officer, took command of the whole fleet. They too had dealt with the agitation of the crews, who calmed down, but not without preparing for any attempt by the British to seize the ships (by preparing armed pickets in hidden positions and the such). They would be joined by the other old battleship Giulio Cesare, sailed from Pola, after a while.

 

Admiral Da Zara and Admiral Cunningham met and reached a conclusions about how the situation would evolve: of course, the Italian ships remained under the control of their crews, and the British armed pickets remained onboard only for a little time, however all the gun breeches (save the AA ones), the torpedoes' detonators and the explosive charges would be disembarked. Overall, a classic procedure for internment.

 

To relieve the harbour's cluttering, the two remaining Littorio-class battleships were sent to Alexandria after a few days with some escorting destroyers, and from there they were interned in the Great Bitter Lakes, from where they would return to Italy only in early 1947, when their cession (soon transformed into obligation to scrap them) had been already decided. The rest of the Italian ships returned to the Southern Italian ports (especially Taranto) gradually.

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