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Minesweepers

by Pierluigi Malvezzi


During World War II, the Regia Marina utilized, for minesweeping activities, mainly ships dating back to World War II or immediately after. We are referring to 38 "RD" class minesweepers (where RD stands for "Regio Dragamine" or "Rimorchiatore Dragamine, Italian for Royal Minesweeper or Tug-Minesweeper) built from 1916 through 1926, and 13 minelayers, two of which were originally German and 3 Austro-Hungarian.
The RD class minesweepers weighed about 200 to 220 tons, and were built from a variety of shipyards for a total of slightly less than fifty units. Obsolescence reduced the total number to 38; still they were the most homogeneous group of minesweepers employed by the Regia Marina

The minelayers included two ex-German "M" class minesweepers built during World War I and handed over to Italy as part of war reparations. In addition, the navy utilized 3 former Austro-Hungarian ships displacing little more than 100 tons, and originally laid down in 1917 in the Fiume's shipyard and completed after the war on behalf of the Regia Marina. In the 1920ís, Italy built 10 more ships, but two Ostia-class minelayers, the Dardanelli and the Milazzo, were sold to Venezuela in 1938.

In 1931 the Regia Marina acquired four German-built high-sea fishing boats, which were named Berta, Biglieri, Matteucci and Sonzini. They were used as minelayers until 1938 then the Matteucci was re-rated as a transport and the other three as gunboats.
In 1938, three new ships were built: the prototype D 1 (or RD 1) and the Vigilante and Vedetta, but none of them was selected for large scale production in preparation for the quickly approaching world war. During the war, some units of foreign origin were incorporated into the Regia Marina, mainly of Yugoslavian (six minesweepers and six minelayers) and French (nine sweepers and one minelayer) origin. They were small, over-aged, and of minimal use, so they were scarcely used, and, after Italy's armistice, the surviving vessels were returned to their original navies.

Six VAS class motor anti-submarine launches (from VAS 231 to VAS 236) were adapted as fast coastal minesweepers by removing all the anti-submarine armament and by fitting sweeping gear. Moreover, a new class of coastal minesweepers was included in the new construction programs; they had no names, but were numbered DV 101 through DV 149 and were known as "Dragamine di Vigilanza" (surveillance minesweepers).

None of these units entered service with Regia Marina. The Germans, who were able to complete and utilize some of them, captured the ones already laid down. The Regia Marina did not build any minelayers during the war, probably due to the fact that all Italian warships (cruisers and smaller vessels) were equipped with mine rails. It made no sense to build dedicated minelayers when most Italian warships could effectively lay down a minefield, and in fact the majority of Italian minefields were laid down by regular warships and not minelayers.


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