Italian cruiser Libia

Libia was a protected cruiser built in Italy in the 1900s. The ship had originally been laid down in 1907 for the Ottoman Navy and was to have been named Drama, and was based on the Ottoman cruiser Hamidiye. She had not been completed by the outbreak of the Italo-Turkish War in 1911 and so she was seized by the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy) and was completed in 1913. The ship was armed with two 152 mm (6.0 in) and eight 120 mm (4.7 in) guns, and was capable of a top speed of over 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph).

Ottoman Empire
Name: Drama
Namesake: Sanjak of Drama
Ordered: 1907
Fate: Seized in September 1911 by the Kingdom of Italy
Name: Libia
Namesake: Colony of Libia
Laid down: 1907
Launched: 11 November 1912
Commissioned: 25 March 1913
Struck: 11 March 1937
Fate: Sold for scrapping, 1937
General characteristics
  • Normal: 3,760 long tons (3,820 t)
  • Full load: 4,466 long tons (4,538 t)
  • 103.6 m (340 ft) lwl
  • 111.8 m (367 ft) oa
Beam: 14.5 m (48 ft)
Draft: 5.5 m (18 ft)
Installed power:
Speed: 22.9 knots (42.4 km/h; 26.4 mph)
Range: 3,150 nmi (5,830 km; 3,620 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
  • 14 officers
  • 300 enlisted men
  • 2 × 152 mm (6 in) guns
  • 8 × 120 mm (4.7 in) guns
  • 8 × 47 mm (1.9 in) guns
  • 6 × 37 mm (1.5 in) guns
  • 4 × 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes

Libia had a relatively uneventful career. Before Italy's entry into World War I, she was involved in the evacuation of Prince William, the ruler of Albania, from Durazzo in late 1914. Following Italy's declaration of war in May 1915, Libia patrolled the Otranto Barrage but did not see action. In 1921–1922, she went on a world tour, during which she was featured in a short documentary produced by the then-unknown Frank Capra. In 1925 she was deployed to China, where she remained for nearly a decade. In 1937, the old cruiser was stricken from the naval register and sold for scrap.


The design for the new cruiser was based on the British-built Ottoman cruiser Hamidiye. The ship was 103.6 meters (340 ft) long at the waterline and 111.8 m (367 ft) long overall. She had a beam of 14.5 m (48 ft) and a draft of 5.5 m (18 ft). She displaced 3,760 long tons (3,820 t) standard and up to 4,466 long tons (4,538 t) at full load. The ship was fitted with two pole masts. She had a crew of 14 officers and 300 enlisted men. The ship was protected by an armored deck that was 100 mm (4 in) thick, and the conning tower had the same thickness of armor plating on the sides. The main guns were protected by 76 mm (3 in) thick gun shields.[1]

Libia was powered by two vertical triple-expansion steam engines, each of which drove a screw propeller. Steam for the engines was provided by sixteen coal-fired Niclausse water-tube boilers that were trunked into three closely spaced funnels on the centerline. The engines were rated at 12,500 indicated horsepower (9,300 kW), though they only reached 11,530 ihp (8,600 kW) in service. This was sufficient to propel the ship at a top speed of 22.9 knots (42.4 km/h; 26.4 mph). Libia had a cruising radius of 3,150 nautical miles (5,830 km; 3,620 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).[1]

The ship was armed with a main battery of two 152 mm (6.0 in) L/50 quick-firing guns, one forward and one astern.[1] These guns were probably Pattern FF Armstrong guns, which fired a 20-kilogram (44 lb) shell at a muzzle velocity of 780 meters per second (2,600 ft/s).[2] These were augmented by a battery of eight 120 mm (4.7 in) L/45 guns, four mounted individually on each broadside. Close-range defense against torpedo boats was provided by a battery of eight 47 mm (1.9 in) L/50 guns and six 37 mm (1.5 in) L/20 guns. She was also equipped with four 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes.[1]

Service history

The new cruiser was laid down in 1907 at the Ansaldo shipyard in Genoa for the Ottoman Empire, under the name Drama.[1] But following the rise of the Young Turks in the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman government became unwilling to pay its foreign debts, which led Ansaldo to halt construction work. Work on the ship only resumed in late 1911 when Italy seized the ship following its declaration of war against the Ottoman Empire in the Italo-Turkish War.[3] The completed hull was launched on 11 November 1912, and following the completion of fitting-out work, the new ship was commissioned on 25 March 1913.[1] On 3 September 1914, Libia was in the port of Durazzo, Albania when Prince William, the ruler of the country, departed following turmoil caused by an insurgency in the country, coupled with the outbreak of World War I. Libia had landed a contingent of marines to restore order in the city, where some 2,000 refugees fleeing the insurgents attempted to board passenger ships bound for Italy. After the refugees were evacuated, Libia recalled her marines and departed as well.[4]

Italy had declared neutrality at the start of World War I, but by July 1915, the Triple Entente had convinced the Italians to enter the war against the Central Powers.[5] Admiral Paolo Thaon di Revel, the Italian naval chief of staff, believed that the threat from Austro-Hungarian submarines and naval mines in the narrow waters of the Adriatic was too serious for him to use the fleet in an active way.[6] Instead, Revel decided to implement a blockade at the relatively safer southern end of the Adriatic with the main fleet, while smaller vessels, such as the MAS boats, conducted raids on Austro-Hungarian ships and installations.[7] Libia spent much of the war patrolling the Otranto Barrage, along with the cruisers Piemonte and Agordat and several Italian and French destroyers.[8] During the war, the ship had three 76 mm L/40 anti-aircraft guns installed.[1]

In 1921 the ship went on a world tour under the command of Captain (later Admiral) Ernesto Burzagli. During the cruise, she stopped in San Francisco, United States in November, where she stayed for a month. While there, she was filmed for a short documentary by the then-unknown film director Frank Capra on 6 and 7 Novemberthough it did not generate much attention, it was Capra's first publicly screened film. The ship departed San Francisco on 4 December.[9] In 1922, Libia visited Australia while on her tour.[10] In 1925, her 150 mm guns were removed.[1] That year, she was sent to China, where she joined the armored cruisers San Marco and San Giorgio and the river gunboats Caboto and Carlotto. These ships contributed men to form the Battaglione Italiano in China (Italian Battalion in China); the contingents from Libia were sent to guard the consulates in Beijing and Shanhaiguan.[11]

On 28 March 1929, Libia collided with the Chinese coastal steamer SS Kangtai off Woosung, China. Kangtai sank with the loss of 30 crew members.[12] Libia remained in Chinese waters for nearly a decade; in the early 1930s, she was replaced by the protected cruiser Quarto.[11] In September 1935 she was drydocked to prepare for her disposal.[13] She was stricken from the naval register on 11 March 1937 and was sold to ship breakers.[1]


  1. Gardiner & Gray, p. 262
  2. Friedman, p. 96
  3. "Italian Cruiser Libia", p. 67
  4. "Exit Albania?", pp. 10621063
  5. Halpern, p. 140
  6. Halpern, p. 150
  7. Halpern, pp. 141142
  8. Cavallaro, p. 624
  9. McBride, p. 133
  10. Cresciani, p. 93
  11. Marinelli & Andornino, p. 54
  12. "Casualty reports". The Times (45164). London. 30 March 1929. col C, p. 22.
  13. Willmott, p. 60


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