RM Francesco Caracciolo (CV-1928)


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The Caraciolo class were laid down just as the war started, with four ships being projected. With the Italian entry into the war on the Allied side in 1915, work on the Caraciolo was slowed down and stopped on the other 3. Work on the Caraciolo was finally halted in 1916 as the equipment and material was required to assist the war effort against the Austro-Hungarian forces. The 15" guns were used in monitors and as rail guns till the used guns were eventually sold to the Netherlands (See that countries Zeeland class BB). At this stage there were still two full sets of 15" guns available, but the turrets for them had not been completed. With the finish of the war in 1918 the Italian Navy undertook an inventory of what was available to them through existing ship, ships under construction and what they might receive from the Allied War Commission sources. The Caraciolo was the only battleship that was far enough advanced to be able to completed in a reasonable period of time. The Castellamare yard advised that 2-3 years would be required to finish the ship as a battleship depending on the resources available. Work was approved to proceed to launch status, which occurred in 1920. The ship was then under scrutiny as to its future.

At this stage it is probably worth remembering that Italy was still a fully paid up member of the 'Allied Powers' in good standing and if the Italian Navy asked for assistance with its building programs from the US or Commonwealth sources such assistance would probably be given. The Italians did not really become 'bad guys' until 1935 with the invasion of Abyssinia and in 1939 with the signing of the Pact of Steel.

The Italian Navy eyed the US, Commonwealth and even French Navies conversions of ex-battleships and battlecruisers to ships to carry and operate aircraft. Such ships as the Argus and Eagle were of a size with the Caracciolo and such a conversion of the Caraciolo would be of use to the Italian Navy to explore the possibilities of Naval Aviation. Permission was given to proceed in 1921.

The Caraciolo conversion was based on the latest Commonwealth conversions with elements taken from the US conversions. That's a lot of conversions. The Caraciolo was unique in having two separate hangars with seperate entrances. The upper hangar was for fixed wing aircraft with two elevators to take the aircraft up to the flight deck. The lower hangar was a half size compared to the upper hangar and was for the storage and maintenance of seaplanes and flying boats. The access to the hangar was through the rear of the hangar with two cranes to lift the aircraft from the sea to their hangar deck. The Caraciolo had a cunning system of extendable sliding floor sponsons that were controlled by electric motors which would extend out 20 feet from the ships side under the flying boat which would then settle onto its cradle, the aircraft then being drawn back into the ship, the wings folded and the aircraft being pushed back into the hangar.

This system worked well but as the fixed wing aircraft got better and outperformed the flying boat/seaplane genre. It was decided to bring the lower hangar into use for fixed wing aircraft by extending the rear elevator down to the lower level. This improved the overall fixed wing carrying capacity from around 30 to 48 by 1939. From that date the seaplane handling facilities were removed. The rear elevator now blocked the seaplanes entry.

Work was recommenced on the ship in late 1921 in a stop start fashion as designs and new features were added and subtracted. The ship was finally completed in 1926 but underwent a further 2 years of 'builders' trials before the ship was finally accepted for service by the Regia Marina in 1928.

Displacement 31,200 tons std 38,800 tons full load
Length 694.5 ft
Breadth 95.5 ft
Draught 31 ft
Machinery 4 shaft steam turbines, 100,000shp
Speed 28 knots
Range 4000 miles at 15 knots (1,500 nm at 27 knots)
Armour 3.9" side, 2.6" deck
Armament 8 x 4.7" (8x1)

14 x 37mm (14x1)

Aircraft As Built: 34 fixed wing, 8-12 flying boats

From 1938: 48 fixed wing

Complement 1780
Notes RM Francesco Caraciolo


Francesco Caraciolo: laid down 12 October 1914, launched 12 May 1920 - completed 4 March 1928, Royal Naval Yard, Castellamare di Stabia

The unused and unsold 15" guns were fitted into the completed turrets and mounted as shore batteries defending Italian Navy bases.


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