Nino Bixio-class cruiser

Class overview
Name: Nino Bixio class
Operators:  Regia Marina
Preceded by: Quarto
Succeeded by: Campania class
Built: 19111914
In commission: 19141929
Completed: 2
Scrapped: 2
General characteristics
Type: Protected cruiser
Displacement: 4,141 t (4,076 long tons; 4,565 short tons)
Length: 140.3 m (460 ft)
Beam: 13 m (43 ft)
Draft: 4.1 m (13 ft)
Installed power:
Propulsion: 3-shaft Curtiss steam turbines
Speed: 26.82 to 27.66 kn (49.67 to 51.23 km/h; 30.86 to 31.83 mph)
Range: 1,400 nmi (2,600 km; 1,600 mi) at 13 kn (24 km/h; 15 mph)
  • 13 officers
  • 283 enlisted men

The Nino Bixio class was a pair of protected cruisers built for the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy) in the 1910s. The two ships, Nino Bixio, and Marsala, were built in Castellammare between 1911 and 1914. They were intended to serve as scouts for the main Italian fleet, and as such required a high top speed. They were overweight as built, which prevented them from reaching their intended maximum speed. They were a disappointment in service, especially compared to the earlierand fastercruiser Quarto, which cut their careers short.

Both ships saw limited action during World War I, largely a result of the cautious strategies employed by the Regia Marina and its opponent, the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Nino Bixio was involved in the pursuit of a group of Austro-Hungarian raiders in December 1915, but did not engage them before they escaped. Marsala briefly battled Austro-Hungarian cruisers during the Battle of the Otranto Straits in May 1917. Both ships were sold for scrapping in the late 1920s, the victims of very tight naval budgets and their own poor performance.


General characteristics

The ships of the Nino Bixio class were designed as fleet scouts by Engineering Captain Giuseppe Rota, along similar lines to the cruiser Quarto. The ships were 131.4 meters (431 ft) long at the waterline and 140.3 m (460 ft) long overall. They had a beam of 13 m (43 ft) and a draft of 4.1 m (13 ft). The ships displaced 3,575 metric tons (3,519 long tons; 3,941 short tons) and up to 4,141 t (4,076 long tons; 4,565 short tons) at full load. The ships were fitted with a pair of pole masts equipped with spotting tops located at the forward and aft conning tower. Their crew consisted 13 officers and 283 enlisted men. The Nino Bixio-class ships were only lightly armored, with a 38 mm (1.5 in) thick deck, and 100 mm (3.9 in) thick plating on their forward conning tower.[1]

Propulsion system

The ships' propulsion system consisted of three Curtiss steam turbines, each driving a screw propeller. Steam was provided by fourteen mixed coal and oil firing Blechynden boilers that were trunked into four funnels; the first two were closely spaced just aft of the foremast and the other two were farther spaced further aft. The engines were rated for 22,500 shaft horsepower (16,800 kW) which should have given the ships a top speed of 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph), but neither ship reached that speed in service owing to their being overweight. Nino Bixio's engines reached 23,000 shp (17,000 kW) for a top speed of 26.82 kn (49.67 km/h; 30.86 mph), while Marsala was slightly faster at 27.66 kn (51.23 km/h; 31.83 mph) at the same horsepower; both ships were a disappointment, especially compared to the older but faster Quarto. The Nino Bixio-class ships had a range of 1,400 nautical miles (2,600 km; 1,600 mi) at a cruising speed of 13 kn (24 km/h; 15 mph).[1][2]


The ships were armed with a main battery of six 120 mm (4.7 in) L/50 guns mounted singly.[Note 1] Two were placed side by side forward, with the other four located on the centerline, two amidships and two in a superfiring pair aft of the mainmast.[1] The guns were the Pattern EE type, the same type employed as secondary guns on the dreadnought battleships of the Dante Alighieri and Conte di Cavour classes, and were manufactured by Armstrong Whitworth.[3] They were 3.35-metric-ton (3.30-long-ton; 3.69-short-ton) guns that fired a 22.5-kilogram (50 lb) projectile at a muzzle velocity of 860 meters per second (2,800 ft/s), at a rate of 6 shots per minute.[4] The ships were also equipped with six 76 mm (3.0 in) L/50 guns,[1] the same Pattern ZZI type guns used on the Italian dreadnoughts,[5] which provided close range defense. These guns weighed 1.14 t (1.12 long tons; 1.26 short tons) and fired 5.6 kg (12 lb) and 7 kg (15 lb) shells at 815 m/s (2,670 ft/s). They had a rate of fire of 15 shells per minute.[4] They were also armed with two 450 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes submerged in the hull. The ships were also fitted with equipment to store and launch 200 naval mines.[1]


NameBuilder[1]Laid down[1]Launched[1]Commissioned[1]
Nino Bixio Castellammare 15 February 1911 31 December 1911 5 May 1914
Marsala Castellammare 15 February 1911 24 March 1912 4 August 1914

Service history

Italy had initially declared neutrality at the start of World War I, despite having been allied to Germany and Austria-Hungary. By May 1915, the Triple Entente had convinced the Italian government to enter the war against their erstwhile allies. The main Italian fleet was kept at the southern end of the Adriatic, at Brindisi, and in the Mediterranean, at Taranto, where it would be safe from Austro-Hungarian U-boats. The Austro-Hungarians, meanwhile, employed a fleet in being strategy while conducting raids with small craft and U-boats.[6] For the duration of the war, Nino Bixio and Marsala were stationed at Brindisi, where they could quickly respond to Austro-Hungarian raids.[7] In December 1915, Nino Bixio and several other warships, including British cruisers, sortied in response to an Austro-Hungarian attack on transports supplying the Serbian Army through Albania. Nino Bixio pursued the cruiser SMS Helgoland before the latter escaped under cover of darkness.[8]

Marsala saw action during the Battle of the Otranto Straits in May 1917, though Nino Bixio did not have steam up in her boilers when the Austro-Hungarians attacked, so she was unable to join her sister ship.[9] Marsala briefly clashed with the Austro-Hungarian cruisers before Rear Admiral Alfredo Acton, the Italian commander, broke off the engagement following the arrival of the powerful Austro-Hungarian armored cruiser SMS Sankt Georg.[10] The demobilizations and funding cuts that followed the end of the war in 1918 continued into the 1920s for the Regia Marina, and disposing of the two Nino Bixio class ships, which had never met design expectations, was an easy means to trim the naval budget.[4][11] Nino Bixio and Marsala were stricken from the naval register in March 1929 and November 1927, respectively, and were subsequently sold for scrap.[1]


  1. L/50 refers to the length of the gun in terms of caliber.
  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Gardiner & Gray, p. 263
  2. Alger, p. 645
  3. Friedman, p. 96
  4. 1 2 3 Gardiner & Gray, p. 254
  5. Friedman, p. 108
  6. Halpern A Naval History of World War I, pp. 140142
  7. O'Hara, Dickson, & Worth, pp. 183184
  8. Halpern A Naval History of World War I, pp. 156157
  9. Halpern, The Battle of the Otranto Straits, p. 50
  10. Halpern A Naval History of World War I, p. 165
  11. Goldstein & Maurer, p. 225


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