Sardinia Class Battlecruiser.
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The Tyrrhenian Admiralty watched as the world exploded into the building of Dreadnoughts and Dreadnought cruisers. Tyrrhenias first foray into building a dreadnought, with the Cyprus class, was good enough for the converted hybrids they were. But they had cost almost twice as much as they should have with the rush order for single 12" to replace the twin 9.2" they were designed with. It was their speed that set them apart and put them into the Dreadnought cruiser class. Tyrrhenian doctrine was suited to the Dreadnought cruiser, fast, lightly armoured with big guns. The Tyrrhenian designers watched the completion of the first rounds of both dreadnoughts and dreadnought cruisers, the British with their lozenge and wing turrets, the US with their small dreadnoughts with superfiring turrets, the Germans with their better armoured designs with superfiring guns, the Italians with triple turrets and faster speed, but lesser armour. The speeds of the Dreadnought cruisers ranged from 26 to 28 knots, and it was the upper range that the Tyrrhenian designers would aim for.
The ship should have been laid down in 1908 on completion of the Cyprus class. But the extra costs associated with those ships delayed the new ship to late 1909 and only one ship was provided for. The ships design was taking shape nicely over the 1908-09 period. A good looking three turret design with two aft and one forward. The Tyrrhenians dearly wanted to go to the 13.5" to 14" range of gun in twin turrets. But again were hampered by a lack of funds to do the necessary development, and a triple 12" turret based on the Italian model with the Tyrrhenian 12" gun installed, was to be fitted. A huge 70,000 horsepower powerplant was to be fitted for a speed of 28 knots. The same armour as the Cyprus of 9" thickness was to be fitted, a further strip of 6" armour was placed above the 9" belt to give extra cover for the machinery. The ship was laid down in 1910 as a Dreadnought cruiser but with the new naming conventions instituted from 1912, the Sardinia was launched as a battlecruiser and completed in 1914.
The Sardinia had been a mixture of cost cutting and second string parts. The ship was supposed to have twin 5.5" turrets on the fore and aft positions but these were never completed in time and were used on a cruiser later and were replaced with single guns. The Sardinia was a contemporary of the British Tiger and the German Derfflinger. The Sardinia was inferior in just about every way except speed.
Being the oldest of the Tyrrhenian Capital ships, the Sardinia was the first to start a makeover in 1933. The work was to be much less complicated than that given to many of the British, German and other navies ships. There would be no bulges for underwater protection, no extra deck armour, no renewal of the machinery systems, no new bridge structures, no aircraft handling facilities. Really the only things that were upgraded was the gun directors and AA weaponry. The AA was upgraded at the expense of the 5.5" guns which were removed to make space for the 3.9" heavy AA and 2 pounder pom poms. Tyrrhenia was still recovering from the Depression and the Navy would have to bite the bullet the same as everyone else. The old 37mm QF guns would not be upgraded till 1939 when they would be replaced with 20mm AA cannons.
No sooner than Sardinia was completed, when World War One broke out, and its first orders were to hunt down the Goeben and Breslau and sink them before they could escape into Turkish waters. It failed, but not for want of trying. The Sardinia caught the Goeben and Breslau, but of the first salvo fired by the Goeben, one shell hit the Sardinia, piercing the deck armour and exploding in the forward boiler room. Sardinia's speed fell off and the Goeben sailed away into its historic annals. Sardinia limped back to port for 4 months of repairs. Little moments of bad luck dogged the Sardinia throughout its career. Instead of 'full stop', the order rung down to the engine room was 'full ahead', straight into the end of the dock it was pulling into. The Sardinia's final moments had the same sort of bad luck. The Captain screams "hard a starboard!", the helms man puts the wheel to hard a port, right under the half dozen 500lb bombs dropped by the Skuas off of an Ark Royal class carrier from Force H. Four hits blew out the bottom of Sardinia. Its lack of deck armour and underwater protection proving its downfall.
|Displacement||21,250 tons standard, 26,000 tons full load|
|Machinery||4 shaft Parsons turbines, 70,000shp|
|Speed||28 knots as completed|
|Range||5000 miles at 10 knots|
|Armour||9-6in belt, 2in decks, 10"/7"/4" turrets|
|Armament||As Completed 1914
9 x 12" (3x3)
10 x 5.5" (10x1)
8 x 37mm (4x1)
|After renovation 1933-34
9 x 12" (3x3)
16 x 3.9" AA (8x2)
16 x 2pd (2x8)
8 x 20mm (8x1)
|Complement||760 (825 as Flagship)|
|Notes||TNS Sardinia (1914) Sunk south of Majorca by bombs from aircraft from HMS Golden Hind, 09/1940|
The 5.5" guns were used on other ships as well as Sardinia. This one is aboard a light cruiser.
(Forward gun from HMS Chester)
One of the major upgrades from the 1933-34 renovation was to fit two 8 barrel pom poms fore and aft.
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