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Zara Class Heavy Cruiser

4 Zara class - Naples 1937
4 Zara class - Naples 1937
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Ship Builder Laid Down Launched Completed Fate
Fiume STT, Trieste 29 Apr 29 27 Apr 30 23 Nov 31 Lost 29 Mar 41
Gorizia OTO, Livorno 17 Mar 30 28 Dec 30 23 Dec 31 Lost 26 Jun 44
Pola OTO, Livorno 17 Mar 31 5 Dec 31 21 Dec 32 Lost 29 Mar 41
Zara OTO, La Spezia 4 Jul 29 27 Apr 30 20 Oct 31 Lost 29 Mar 41

Displacement: 11,680 tons / 11,866 tonnes (standard); 14,300 tons / 14,528 tonnes (full load). Figures for Zara.
Length: 557ft 2in / 182.8m (oa); 547ft 6in / 179.6m (pp).
Beam: 62ft 10in / 20.62m; Draught: 20ft 4in / 6.2m (mean).
Machinery: 2-shaft Parsons SR geared turbines; 8 Thorneycroft boilers.
Performance: 95,000shp = 32kts; Bunkerage: 2,400 tons oil fuel max.
Range: 4,480-5,434nm at 16kts.
Protection: 70mm max deck; 150mm main belt; 150mm turrets, 150mm CT.
Guns: eight 8in (4x2); sixteen 3.9in (8x2); four to six 40mm (4/6x1) eight 13.2mm MGs.
Torpedoes: nil
Aircraft: two, one catapult.
Complement: 841.

Fiume before the war
Fiume before the war
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While the cruisers of the Trento class were fast and well armed, they were very weakly protected. There had been a move to design a 15,000-ton cruiser, but this was not possible because of treaty restrictions. As a result, it was decided to base a new design on the Trento, but with speed sacrificed to improve protection. Initially the sketch design proposed the same armament as Trento, but with vertical protection 200mm thick and a service speed of 32kts, all on a displacement of 10,000 tons. Not suprisingly, this proved an impossible task. Any reduction in armament or speed was, however, unacceptable, leaving only the protection to be adjusted. In consequence the vertical belt was reduced to 150mm, but, despite all the weight saving measures adopted, including abandoning the flush-decked hull of Trento, the standard displacement could not be reduced below 11,500 tons at best, and Gorizia turned out at 11,900 tons. The hull, with its forecastle design showed a weight saving of 28 per cent over that of Trento, while the adoption of a twin-shaft machinery layout similar to that installed in the light cruisers enabled a reduction of some 39 per cent in machinery weight. These savings were put into the protective scheme, which allowed about 1,500 tons for this purpose, in contrast to the Trento, which had only 888 tons.

nice pic of Fiume
nice pic of Fiume
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Fiume leaving La Spezia
Fiume leaving La Spezia
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The side armour belt of 150mm tapered to 100mm at its lower edge and, at the upper, joined the horizontal deck protection, which was 70mm (c.f. Trento, 50mm). In addition there was an upper armoured deck with 20mm splinter protection. The side protection was carried forward and aft as far as the magazine spaces, these being closed off by transverse bulkheads which were 120mm thick at their upper portions and 90mm below the waterline. Above the side belt the hull was given a strake of 30mm armour up to the upper deck. Barbette armour was doubled to 150mm, and was reduced by only 10mm between decks. Conning tower protection was also increased in line with the barbette protection.

The machinery was arranged on the unit principle, with eight Thornycroft-pattern (except Fiume, with Yarrow-type) three-drum boilers and two Parsons turbine sets, the latter built by OTO. Each boiler was in its own space, the forward pair sided port and starboard ahead of the forward turbine room, which drove the starboard shaft. To port of the forward turbine room was No.3 boiler room and an auxiliary machinery space, while abaft the engine room were four more boilers, also paired abreast. The after (port) turbine space was a reflection of the forward space, with a boiler room and auxiliary space abreast of it. The machinery was considerably advanced for Italian practice of the time, with 95,000shp on only two shafts. Under service conditions the maximum sea speed was about 29kts. Bunker capacity varied in each ship and resulted in different radii of action.

The main armament differed from the Trentos in that it was eight 203mm Ansaldo/53 cal M1927 weapon in M1927 turrets with electric elevation and training. These guns were improved versions of the 50cal weapons fitted in the earlier heavy cruisers, with a higher working pressure and muzzle velocity. However, they suffered from the same problems in that they were mounted close together in a common cradle.

Gorizia - La Spezia May 1935
Gorizia - La Spezia May 1935
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Gorizia leaving La Spezia
Gorizia leaving La Spezia
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These ships were also fitted with sixteen 100mm (3.9in) OTO 47cal in twin mountings, with 85' elevation, four on the main deck amidships and four on the forecastle deck abreast the forward and aft superstructures. These guns were developed from an elderly Skoda-pattern weapon. The light armament comprised only the outdated Vickers 40mm pom-pom and machine-calibre weapons as designed, although initially neither Zara nor Fiume were equipped with 40mm guns, and the exact outfit varied from ship to ship. The aircraft installation was similar to that of Trento, with a hangar capable of stowing two aeroplanes forward of and below A turret and a Gagnotto compressed-air catapult on the forecastle. The aircraft initially carried was the Piaggio P6, which was replaced by a succession of other designs such as the Macchi M41, Cant 25AR, CMASA MF6 and, finally, the Ro43.

No torpedo armament was fitted. Two ships were authorised under the 1928/29 programme (Zara and Fiume), one, Gorizia, in the 1929/30 programme and the last, Pola, under the 1930/31 programme.

Fiume
Fiume
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Service

July 40 all four ships participated in the Battle of Punto Stilo/Calabria.
27 November 1940 Cape Teulada (not Zara) action with British forces carrying out Operation Collar, when Berwick received shell damage.
15 December 40 air attack at Naples Pola was hit by a bomb in No.3 boiler room, which flooded three compartments and caused her to list. She was under repair for some months.
March 1941 Supermarina planned an offensive sweep into the eastern Mediterranean with battleships and cruisers, both to the north and south of Crete. As a result of intelligence and reconnaissance reports the Italian intentions became known to the British, and the Battle of Cape Matapan followed. Pola was hit by a torpedo from a British naval aircraft on the evening of 28 March flooding the forward engine room and both centre boiler rooms, totally immobilising the ship. The Flagship detailed her sisters Zara and Flume to stand by her. The ships had no radar, and these two were caught by surprise shortly afterwards by the battleships Warspite, Valiant and Barham, whose 15in gunfire at short range literally blew them apart. Pola, still adrift, was found in the dark by destroyers and sunk by torpedoes from ]ervis and Nubian. Two destroyers, Alfieri and Carducci, were also sunk.

Gorizia in Messina during the war
Gorizia in Messina during the war
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Gorizia was present at the First Battle of Sirte in December 1941, and at the second battle in March 1942.
June 1942 Harpoon/Vigorous operations, when the Italian fleet forced the convoy from Alexandria to turn back.
mid-August Pedestal convoy.
Gorizia was struck by three large-calibre bombs during a raid on Maddalena by the USSAF on 10 April 1943 and heavily damaged. She was finally sunk by a combined Italo-British special forces attack on 26 June 1944 at La Spezia. The wreck was broken up postwar.

Pola 1938
Pola 1938
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Fiume and Gorizia from Pola just before Spartivento
Fiume and Gorizia from Pola just before Spartivento
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Fiume, Gorizia, Zara and Pola laying a smoke screen - Calabria, July 1940
Fiume, Gorizia, Zara and Pola laying a smoke screen - Calabria, July 1940
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Pola,  Zara,  Gorizia and Fiume - from the left, Calabria
Pola, Zara, Gorizia and Fiume - from the left, Calabria
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