Italian ironclad Caio Duilio

Italian Ironclad Caio Duilio

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Italian ironclad Caio Duilio

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Caio Duilio was the lead ship in a class of two ironclad battleships built in Italy for the Regia Marina in the 1870s. A revolutionary design fitted with the largest guns available, 100-ton 450 mm calibre muzzle-loading guns, she and her sister ship were regarded as the most powerful warships afloat in their day.

On March 1873, Italian minister of the navy Admiral Simone Arturo Saint-Bon announced the construction of three new battleships for the Regia Marina, which would be the most powerful in the world. The naval architect Benedetto Brin was asked to design them. The first to be launched was Caio Duilio, named after the Roman Consul Gaius Duilius. Constructing these ships greatly stretched the infant Italian ship industry but, at the same time, helped the country to develop towards a modern industrial economy. Only two ships were constructed.


In her day the Caio Duilio was as revolutionary in her design as the French had been a decade before. The ship exemplified the concept of the 'monster gun', a vessel carrying the heaviest calibre weapons possible, capable of incapacitating an enemy warship with a single hit.

Initially designed to carry four 38-ton rifled muzzle loaders, similar to those carried on the British the design was sufficiently flexible to permit the gun calibre to be increased during construction. When the British armaments manufacturer Armstrongs announced their 50-ton 355 mm RML (rifled muzzle loader), Duilio was modified to receive it instead,...
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