Italian cruiser Elba

Elba's sister ship Etruria in 1909
Kingdom of Italy
Name: Elba
Namesake: Island of Elba
Laid down: 22 September 1890
Launched: 12 August 1893
Commissioned: 27 February 1896
Fate: Sold for scrap, 5 January 1920
General characteristics
Class and type: Regioni-class cruiser
Displacement: 3,110 t (3,060 long tons; 3,430 short tons)
Length: 88.2 m (289 ft)
Beam: 12.72 m (41.7 ft)
Draft: 4.86 m (15.9 ft)
Installed power: 4 water-tube boilers, 7,471 ihp (5,571 kW)
Propulsion: 2 shaft triple-expansion engines
Speed: 17.9 knots (33.2 km/h; 20.6 mph)
Range: 2,100 nmi (3,900 km; 2,400 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 213278
  • 4 × 15 cm (5.9 in) guns
  • 6 × 12 cm (4.7 in) guns
  • 10 × 57 mm (2.2 in) guns
  • 6 × 37 mm (1.5 in) guns
  • 2 × 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes

Elba was a protected cruiser of the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy). She was the fifth of six Regioni-class ships, all of which were named for regions of Italy, with the exception of Elba, which was named for the island. Elba was built by the Regio Cantieri di Castellammare di Stabia; her keel was laid in September 1890, she was launched in August 1893, and she was commissioned in February 1896. The ship was equipped with a main armament of four 15 cm (5.9 in) and six 12 cm (4.7 in) guns, and she could steam at a speed of nearly 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph).

Elba spent much of her career abroad. She participated in the blockade of Venezuela during the Venezuelan crisis of 1902–03 and was present in East Asia during the Russo-Japanese War in 190405. In February 1904, her crew witnessed the Battle of Chemulpo Bay between Japanese and Russian warships; after the battle ended in Russian defeat, Elba and British and French cruisers picked up survivors. She took part in the Italo-Turkish War in 191112 but saw no action, being used primarily to blockade Turkish ports in the Red Sea. In 1914, Elba was converted into the first seaplane tender of the Regia Marina, with equipment to handle three seaplanes. This service did not last long, however, as she was too small and too old. Decommissioned by 1916, the old warship was sold for scrap in January 1920 and broken up.


Main article: Regioni-class cruiser

Elba was slightly larger than her sister ships. She was 88.2 meters (289 ft) long overall and had a beam of 12.72 m (41.7 ft) and a draft of 4.86 m (15.9 ft). She displaced up to 3,110 metric tons (3,060 long tons; 3,430 short tons) at full load. Her propulsion system consisted of a pair of horizontal triple-expansion engines, with steam supplied by four cylindrical water-tube boilers.[1] On her speed trials, she reached a maximum of 17.9 knots (33.2 km/h; 20.6 mph) at 7,471 indicated horsepower (5,571 kW).[2] The ship had a cruising radius of about 2,100 nautical miles (3,900 km; 2,400 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). She had a crew of between 213278.[1] Also unlike her sisters, she had a copper-sheathed hull, which reduced fouling during lengthy periods between dockyard maintenance.[3]

Elba was armed with a main battery of four 15 cm (5.9 in) L/40 guns mounted singly, with two side by side forward and two side by side aft. Six 12 cm (4.7 in) L/40 guns were placed between them, with three on each broadside. Light armament included ten 57 mm (2.2 in) guns, six 37 mm (1.5 in) guns, and a pair of machine guns. She was also equipped with two 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes. Elba was protected by a 50 mm (2.0 in) thick deck, and her conning tower had 50 mm thick sides.[1]

Service history

The keel for Elba was laid down at the Regio Cantieri di Castellammare di Stabia in the eponymous city on 22 September 1890. Her completed hull was launched on 12 August 1893, and fitting-out work proceeded at a leisurely pace. Elba was finally ready for service on 27 February 1896.[1] Elba was stationed in East Asian waters in 1899, along with the armored cruiser Marco Polo and the old sail cruiser Amerigo Vespucci.[4] In 1901 she was replaced by her sister Lombardia and returned to Italy.[5] Elba was sent to Venezuelan waters in 1902 during the Venezuelan crisis of 1902–03, when an international force of British, German, and Italian warships blockaded Venezuela over the country's refusal to pay foreign debts. Elba was joined by the protected cruiser Giovanni Bausan and the armored cruiser Carlo Alberto.[6]

Elba was present, along with the British cruiser HMS Talbot, the French cruiser Pascal, and the United States' gunboat USS Vicksburg during the Battle of Chemulpo Bay on 9 February 1904 during the Russo-Japanese War.[7] Elba, Talbot, and Pascal cleared for action in the event that the Japanese warships opened fire on them. After the battle ended in a Russian defeat, the three cruisers sent boats to pick up the survivors from the sinking cruiser Varyag and gunboat Korietz.[8] Elba took off a total of 6 officers and 172 enlisted men from the two vessels, out of a total of 27 officers and 654 enlisted saved from the ships.[9] Elba thereafter went to Seoul to protect the Italian embassy there. On 24 February, the cruiser Piemonte arrived to relieve Elba. The latter ship departed the following morning for Hong Kong, where she would deposit the Russian sailors.[10] It was not until 10 March, however, that a French mail ship was available for Elba to discharge her passengers for their return trip to Europe.[11]

Starting in October 1907, Elba was modified to handle an observation balloon. The balloon was linked to the ship via a telephone line, and was used to spot naval mines.[12] During the annual fleet maneuvers in 1908, Elba and her balloon were used to keep watch on the harbor entrance of Augusta, Sicily, which proved to be effective in alerting defenders to attacking warships.[13] By the outbreak of the Italo-Turkish War in September 1911, Elba had been stationed in Italy's East African colonies, Eritrea and Somaliland.[14] In January 1912, she and her sister Liguria escorted a pair of mail steamships to the Red Sea, where they were used to enforce the blockade of several Ottoman ports.[15] Elba remained in the region for the remainder of the war, assisting in the blockade effort.[16] Ottoman naval forces had already been defeated at the Battle of Kunfuda Bay, so there was no chance for Elba to see action.[17] The Ottomans eventually agreed to surrender in October, ending the war.[18]

Elba operated the observation balloon through 1913. The following year, she was modified to serve as a depot ship for three seaplanes, and she entered service in this new role on 4 June 1914.[19] During this period she operated Nieuport IV seaplanes.[20] She was the first dedicated seaplane tender of the Italian navy, though seaplanes had already been operated aboard several battleships and cruisers. Elba was nevertheless too small and too old for her intended role, and she was retired in 1916.[21] She remained in the Italian inventory until 4 January 1920, when she was sold for scrap.[22]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Gardiner, p. 349
  2. "Notes on Ships and Torpedo Boats", p. 68
  3. Gardiner, p. 350
  4. Robinson 1899, p. 33
  5. Garbett, p. 1136
  6. Robinson 1903, pp. 420421
  7. May, p. 142
  8. May, pp. 145146
  9. May, p. 149
  10. May, p. 164
  11. May, p. 172
  12. Cernuschi & O'Hara, p. 61
  13. Brassey, p. 77
  14. Beehler, p. 10
  15. Beehler, p. 52
  16. Beehler, pp. 70, 93
  17. Beehler, p. 51
  18. Beehler, p. 95
  19. Cernuschi & O'Hara, p. 62
  20. Layman, p. 83
  21. Cernuschi & O'Hara, pp. 6263
  22. Gardiner, pp. 349350


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