The RN Roma holds a unique historical distinction, she was the first major warship to be sunk by a guided missile. The Roma was the third and last member of the Vittorio Veneto Class of Italian Battleships to be completed for the Regia Marina. The class comprised four ships. Vittorio Veneto and Littorio laid down in October 1934, were the first pair. Roma and Impero laid down in 1938, were the second pair. Although the Impero was launched seven months before the Roma, she was never completed. Therefore, Roma was the last battleship to be completed by Italy.
Mussoliniís government stated that the ships had a displacement of 35,000 tons and accordingly were within the limits imposed by the Washington and London Treaties. In reality they averaged a displacement of 41,000 tons. This disregard of the terms of the international treaties on maximum displacement of warships and then providing false information as to their displacement to conceal the truth, were tactics also practiced by Italyís future allies, Germany and Japan. The class in common with the four completely rebuilt battleships of the Conte di Cavour and Caio Duilio Classes incorporated a unique form of torpedo protection, the Pugliese cylinder. Huge hollow steel cylinders, 12.5 feet in diameter, were situated behind the armor belt and ran the entire length of the citadel amidships. They were designed to crush in the event of torpedo detonation and absorb the force of the explosion.
The nine 15 inch/ 50 caliber guns were of a completely new design and fired a shell weighing 1,951 pounds. The maximum elevation was 35 degrees, which gave the guns a maximum range of 46,216 yards. The secondary battery comprised twelve six-inch 55 cal guns, singly mounted in turrets amidships. They fired a shell of 110 pounds and had a range of 28,150 yards. However, they were not designed for dual-purpose (DP) use. As designed, the class was thought to have a heavy AA armament of twelve 3.5 inch, twenty 37mm and sixteen 20mm AA guns. In common with other navies, as the war progressed, additional 20mm AA guns were added. Roma completed with twenty-eight 20mm guns placed in twin mountings. There were also variations in the superstructure of Roma that distinguished her from her two sisters.
Originally the class carried two Ro.43 reconnaissance floatplanes but after the Battle of Cape Matapan, the floatplanes were replaced by Re.2000 fighters. The Re.2000 fighters carried by the battleships were a special long-range variant. They were wheeled and could not be recovered after launch. The propulsion machiery was designed to produce 128, 206 shp. On trials both Vittorio Veneto and Littorio substantially exceeded designed shp to reach maximum speeds slightly over 31 knots.
The first pair saw significant action in the Mediterranean Theater, mainly as victim of British air attacks. Roma was not completed until June 14, 1942. By that time the Regia Marina was far less active due to critical fuel shortages. Roma was made fleet flagship but because of the lack of fuel and the dominance of the Royal Navy by the summer of 1942, she made no sorties. Her sole action against the allies was to be damaged in an air attack on June 23, 1943. With the Italian armistice of September 1943, Roma led the Italian Fleet to Malta. On September 9, 1943, while in the Straits of Bonifacio, she was attacked by German bombers armed with a new breakthrough in technology, the guided missile. Eleven Do 217 bombers from KG 100 were armed with the new SD-1400 Fritz X glider bombs. Two of these optically and radio guided missiles struck Roma. The first struck her amidships. It passed through and exploded under her keel. The second hit near the bridge and B turret. The magazine for B turret detonated, blowing the huge turret off of the ship and into the sea beside her. Roma sank soon afterwards, claiming Fleet Admiral Bergamini and 1,254 sailors. (The bulk of the history of the RN Roma is from Battleships of World War Two by M. J. Whitley)
The smaller parts are cast on ten thin resin wafers. The resin wafers are thin enough that only a light sanding is necessary to prepare the parts for attachment. These wafers contain 237 parts. They range from the large 01 deck down to minute fittings that are not seen on the assembly instructions. It appears that the very small deck fittings not cast as part of the hull are cast on the wafers. This is hard to determine, as the placement of the smallest parts are not shown on the instructions.
The quality of the smaller parts ranges from good to excellent. The nicest detail was the inclusion of one each of the Ro.43 floatplane and Re.2000 fighter. In their green and white banded paint schemes, they will add a nice touch of color to the stern. The 01 deck has good deck detail with winches, small deck-houses, boat chocks and other fittings. The numerous deck levels and platforms are very well done with very thin splinter shielding and no defects. Shipís boats and secondary turrets are also very well executed. The parts for the 15-inch guns are cast in groups of three. They are designed to be inserted through the interior of the main turrets, through the turret openings, reminiscent of a plastic kit assembly rather than the more conventional practice of attaching the guns one at a time. In common with other kits from H-P Models, there is a thin resin film between the gun barrels. Use extreme care in removing this film, as the barrels are susceptible to breakage. The six-inch gun barrels are cast separately. They are even more prone to breakage than the 15-inch guns because each one must be removed from the wafer and cleaned. The barrels for the smaller armament are subject to the same risks. In cleaning the thin flash on the 3.5-inch gun turrets, I accidentally broke several of these minute barrels. This thin flash is common in the rows of the smaller resin parts and care must be used in removing it from very thin parts.
Although a color flag sheet is provided by H-P Models, there is no photo-etch. Currently the Italian firm of Regia Marina produces a stainless steel photo-etched fret, which is included in their versions of Vittorio Veneto and Roma. However, this fret can be purchased separately (click for review of the Regia Marina fret). Sami Arimís new firm of Navalis is also scheduled to produce a 1:700 scale photo-etched fret for the class but that fret is not available as of September 2002. I recommend getting one of these frets (when the Navalis fret is produced) to complement this model.
The instructions are not adequate. As mentioned earlier some of the smallest parts are not shown in them. A good plan and profile will be of immense help in building this model. A simplistic one page isometric assembly diagram just doesnít cut it when assembling a kit made up of 238 parts, excluding scratch-built masts, yards, davits, etc.
Pacific Front Hobbies (Phone: 541-464-8579, Fax: 541-957-5477, E-Mail Shipguy@internetcds.com) is the exclusive distributor in the United States for the Roma as well as the rest of the extensive H-P Models line of 1:700 waterline kits.