The British concept of the small cruiser as used in World War I was followed by the Japanese in the 1920s but, thereafter, development lapsed for a decade until the French embarked on the 'Mogador' class. These looked like, and were, super destroyers but which, on a deep displacement of barely 4,000 tons, could outgun a 'Dido' class cruiser. With about 92,000 shp (68605 KW) they could also make 40 kts. The Italians, stung to urgency, produced the 'Capitani Romani' class, laying down no less than 12 keels in the space of six months. As a result of Italy's varying fortunes of war, however, only four were completed.
Less than 5 m (16 ft 5 in) longer than the 'Mogador' class ships, the 'Capitani Romani' class vessels looked like small cruisers, their extra beam allowing space for machinery developing an astonishing maximum of 125,000 shp (93210kW), equivalent to that of a 'Salem' class heavy cruiser of four times the displacement. At this power the Italian ships were good for 43 kts and, while they were virtually unprotected, they also shipped a very respectable main battery. In addition, eight torpedo tubes were fitted and mines could be carried, though probably in lieu of other topweight.
Their Roman names were splendidly euphoric, belying the headache that they could have caused any convoy escort commander not blessed with air support. As it was, four were demolished on the ways, five more being sunk through various agencies whilst fitting out. Three were completed in 1942-3, and one other was eventually salvaged and fitted out, the four being the Attilio Regolo, Pompeo Maguo, Giulio Germanico and Scipione Africano.
One pair served post-war with each of the French and Italian fleets. Of the Italians, the San Giorgio (ex-Giulio Germanico} served, albeit reengined, until very recently. None of the four mounted its original armament, supply considerations dicating American 127-mm (5-in) L/38s in the Italian ships and ex-German 105-mm (4.1-in) weapons in the French units.
Specification 'Capitani Romani' class Ships in class (launched): Attilio Regolo (1940), PompeoMagno (1941), Giulio Germanico (1941) and Scipione Africano (1941) Displacement: 3,750 tons standard and 5,400 tons full load Dimensions: length 142,2 m (466 ft 6 in); beam 14.4 m (47 ft 3 in); draught 4.1m (13 ft 5 in) Propulsion: geared turbines delivering 110,000 shp (82025 kW) to two shafts Speed: 40+kts Armour: not known Armament: eight 135-mm (5.3-in), eight 37-mm AA and eight 20-mm AA guns, plus eight 533-mm (21-in) torpedo tubes Aircraft: none Complement: 425