Valletta Class light cruisers.


Return to Tyrrhenian Navy page:

The Valetta class light cruisers were an upgrading of the previous Duke class cruisers. The Valetta class went from three triple turrets to four triple turrets of the 5.5" but the turret was also an upgrade from the Duke turret. Where the Duke turrets had a 50 degree elevation for a limited barrage capability against aircraft, the Valetta's new turret had an 80 degree elevation which gave it a full AA capability. What limited this capability was the size and weight of the shells. At 80 pound per shell, the shells were really too heavy for sustained AA firing. What had changed on the ship was the replacing of the 4" AA, and 2 pounder pom poms with the first twin 37mm Bofors mountings. Eleven twin mountings being fitted. This gave a very good close in AA capability and somewhat relieved the need for a faster firing main armament in the AA role. What made the 37mm guns more accurate was their tying to the 3 HAC's units.

This belief in their AA capability cost the Palma dearly. Early 1941, the Palma is on its own, looking for a reported small group of 'escorts', which turned out to be four destroyers with a leader. The Palma went to action stations and opened fire on the leader (J-N class) which with its four A-I class flotilla members, increased speed to close the range to where they could return fire on the Palma. What the British destroyers wanted to do was to tie down the Palma to allow the aircraft being launched from the two carriers in the Fleet they were the vanguard/scouts of, to arrive. The Janus received a pair of hits and ordered the flotilla to reverse course back toward the fleet. 30 miles does not take long to transit when doing 200mph. Within minutes the lookouts on the Palma were screaming out about aircraft contacts and the Palma was forced to lose contact with the destroyers so that it could concentrate on the more immediate danger. The big 5.5" AA shells were fired off without too much effect and the 37mm were readied. The Palma might have been able to survive against a dozen aircraft but the British believed in overkill and 60 aircraft attacked the Palma with torpedoes and bombs. It really was no contest, and with 4 torpedo hits and half a dozen 250/500lb bomb hits, the Palma came to a stop, reeled to starboard and capsized. The Palma had shot down two aircraft. The 12th destroyer flotilla returned to pick up survivors.

Displacement 8,850 tons standard, 10,650 tons full load
Length 560 ft
Breadth 56 ft
Draught 18 ft
Machinery 4 shaft steam turbines, 80,000shp
Speed 33 knots
Range 4500 miles at 10 knots
Armour 4in belt,  2in decks, 2" turrets
Armament As Completed 1939/40

12 x 5.5" (4x3)
22 x 37mm AA (11x2)
Torpedoes 6 x21" (2x3)
Aircraft 2
Complement 590
Notes TNS Valetta (1939) Ceded to France 1945. Scrapped 1958.
TNS Palma (1940) Sunk in action with DD's and aircraft of Force H February 1941.


Return to Tyrrhennian Navy page: