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Obsolete Cruisers

by Andrea Piccinotti

(ex Strassburg)
"Ovunque un raggio della gloria d'Italia"

The Strassburg was launched in Wilhemshave (Germany) in 1911 along with three more units (Magdeburg, Breslau, Stralsund) which made up a class of large explorer. These units were the first in the period to have armor in the form of a vertical belt of 60 mm, a horizontal protection of 50 mm, and a double hull for underwater protection. The power plan included 16 boilers, both coal and fuel oil-fired, and power was distributed over two axles. The original armament included twelve 105/45 mm built by Krupp and four 500-mm torpedo launchers. During World War I, the Kaiserliche Marine altered the ship’s configuration replacing all guns with seven 150/45 mm and two 88/45 mm, but leaving the torpedo launchers. Three of the 150 mm guns were place aft, one forward and one on each side. Four were astern, one to each side of the mast, one immediately astern of the mast and one further down. This layout was, for the time, optimal making for a robust and well-armed ship. The Strassburg was included in the list of ships to be transferred to Italy as part of war reparations, and it was delivered in Cherbourg (France) on July 20th, 1920.

The ship underwent some repair work and alterations; the 88 mm guns were removed and replaced by two 76/40 mm. Later, the torpedo launchers were completely removed. In 1929 the ship, renamed Taranto, was reclassified as a cruiser and began an intense period of activity including several cruises, station duties in the Red Sea, and visits to ports in Spain and Albania. In 1935, the Taranto entered the shipyard for new and more extensive modernization work. The two foremost boilers were removed, along with their corresponding funnel, thus reducing power to 13,000 HP and speed to 21 knots. In addition, the ship was equipped with some antiaircraft guns.
At the beginning of the hostilities, the Taranto already obsolete and heavily worn out, was assigned to the defense of the port of Taranto. After the invasion of Greece, the unit was engaged in numerous bombardment missions along the Adriatic coast, and some mine-laying activities. In 1941, when the invasion of Malta appeared imminent, the unit was to participate to the landing operations, but the mission, for several reasons, never took place. In 1942 the ship war removed from service and on September 9th 1943 was scuttled to avoid capture by the Germans. The Taranto was later salvaged to be utilized as an obstruction near the outer jetty, but after 31 years of service, its carrier was ended by Allied bombing.

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