RM Regina Elena (BB-1908)


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The original design of the Elena type battleships showed a semi-dreadnought design with two single 12" turrets and six twin 8" turrets. In 1903 a design from Cunibertti showing an all big gun battleship design stirred some originality from the Italian Naval designers who realised that any navy that built such a ship would seriously outgun the Elena's.

A recast design utilising all big guns with three twin 12" turrets for an armament of six 12", this was a 50% increase of firepower over the pre-dreadnought battleships of the time. With four ships of the class being laid down from 1904 to 1907 they were immediately outshone by the quick building time of the Dreadnought. They were still a good interim class when compared to the Dreadnought and were not a group of 2nd class ships that the original Elena design would have been.

The Regina Elena class, like the Dreadnought was 3-5 knots faster than existing battleships in the Italian and other navies. A massive advantage over their rivals. Twelve 4.7" anti-torpedo boat guns made up the secondary armament where a lot of the pre-dreadnoughts had 6" guns for the same purpose. The 4.7" guns were probably a better gun, for the anti-torpedo boat duties, than the 6", faster firing weapons against small agile vessels, more probability of a hit. The armament was rounded out with 10x3" and 4x2 pounder boat guns.

So there we have four very good looking ships. What was their major problem? Triple expansion engines. These were the last major Italian warships with triple expansion engines. Any further modernisation to these ships to keep them into WW2 will need to take out the old machinery and update it with modern oil fired, steam powered, turbines. By 1930 these ships are looking decidedly obsolete. Big belches of black smoke tells the dirty story. Coal is still the motive power. Would I want to keep the ships and refurbish them to a point where they could be useful? What I would like to do is to rebuild them as 'expendable' raiders based on Eritrea and sent out into the Indian and Pacific Oceans to wreak havoc while they still exist. My thought to make this happen is to fit the ships with diesels for long range. Fire and forget. Send them out and don't expect them back.

Burmeister & Wain diesels,  as fitted to the Saturnia and Vulcania, would be my choice for these ships. 28,000bhp sets would be available to fit to these ships in 1930 just when they would be required. This would still give the ships a 23-24 knot top speed and an extensive range at cruising speeds. Fit new superstructures for mounting modern gun directors, guns and boats. Torpedoes with reloads would feature as part of the armament. It can take a lot of shells to sink a merchantmen. One torpedo and it is all over.

The end I am looking for is to have five raiders (with the Liguria) that I can make look similar so as to confuse recognition by the Allies, in and around the various Oceans. Whether any of them last long enough to go to Japan for internment and possibly to rejoin the fight will have to await the waving of my magic wand.


Displacement 18,500 tons std 21,800 tons full load (1932)
Length 520 ft
Breadth 80 ft
Draught 28 ft
Machinery 4 shaft, triple expansion, 30,000shp 4 shaft diesel engines 30,000bhp
Speed 24 knots
Range 5000 miles at 10 knots 12,000 miles at 10 knots
Armour 8" side, 2" deck, 8/5/3" turrets
Armament Original

6 x 12" (3x2)

12 x 4.7" (8x1)

10 x 3" (10x1)

4 x 2pd (4x1)

After rebuilding

6 x 12.6" (3x2)

12 x 5.3" (6x2)

10 x 37mm (5x2)

10 x 20mm (10x1)

Aircraft nil 2
Torpedoes 3 x 18" submerged 6 x 21" (2x3) 18 reloads
Complement 850 880
Notes RM Regina Elena

RM Napoli

RM Piedmont

RM Vittorio Emmanuelle

The original drawing I had for the Regina Elena was based on the drawing below.

Then I rebuilt the above into the below. Neither drawing filled me with any joy. The premise of turning them into ADV's (Area Defence Vessels) and use them for the air support missions for the Italian forces in Abyssinia, while workable is not very realistic and even my magic wand can't do everything. Doing the below upgrades would really be a waste of resources.

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