On August 10, 1939 three Motorships (Motonavi) were laid down for the Societa Tirrenia at the shipyard of CN Quarnaro. These were the first three sisters in the eleven ship Poeti Class, which entered merchant service for Italy beginning 1n 1942. They were called motorships rather than steamships because diesel engines rather than a steam plant powered them. These ships were designed to transport a wide variety of freight and developed a top speed in excess of 14 knots. They were of robust construction and were blessed with good nautical and modern characteristics.
As each ship entered service, she was immediately pressed into service of the transportation for military equipment and supplies to Italian North Africa. The Italian Army in North Africa and their German allies, Rommel’s Deutsche Afrika Korps (DAK) later Deutsche Armee Afrika, were always desperately short of fuel, ammunition, and equipment in their campaign against the British 8th Army. The desert campaign in North Africa was characterized by dramatic swings of fortune for the opponents. As dramatic as the land campaign was the naval campaign, which was characterized by the same swings of fortune. Called the "War of the Convoys" both sides tried to re-supply their ground forces while stopping the re-supply of their opponents. It proved to be the same seesaw affair as the desert battles. For a period of time the axis was ascendant and Malta was besieged, critically short of aircraft, fuel, ammunition and most critically, food. During this period the Royal Navy was driven from the island’s main port of Valetta and could not operate in the central Mediterranean without prohibitive losses. Also during this period, supplies flowed smoothly from Italy to North Africa and Rommel achieved most of his spectacular victories.
STATISTICS OF UGO FOSCOLO (POETI CLASS MOTORSHIP)
DIMENSIONS: Length – 117m Beam – 15.2m DISPLACEMENT: 4,500 tons (standard)
SPEED: 14 kts ARMAMENT: one 4.7 inch (120mm/45cal); 5 to 7 20mm Oerlikon AA (varied by ship)
SISTERSHIPS:Alessandro Manzoni Laid Down Aug 10, 1939, Launched June 18, 1942, Delivered December 1942: Vittorio Alfieri Laid Down August 10, 1939, Launched December 1942, Delivered May 1943: Vincenzo Monti Laid Down February 21, 1940, Launched December 21, 1941, Delivered August 1942: Alredo Oriani Laid Down February 21, 1940, Launched June 4, 1942, Delivered November 1942: Nicolo Tommasco Laid Down June 3, 1940, Launched October 24, 1942, Delivered February 1943: Gabriele D’Annunzio Laid Down July 31, 1940, Launched December 18, Delivered September 1942: Giacomo Lepardi Laid Down November 27, 1941, Launched March 1943, Delivered September 1943: Giovanni Pascoli Laid Down October 25, 1941, Launched 1943, Delivered 1944: Giosue Borsi Laid Down December 29, 1941, Launched 1943, Delivered 1946: Vittorio Locchi Laid Down July 1, 1942, Launched 1943, Delivered 1944
By fall 1942 the situation had completely turned. The Royal Navy had gained dominance throughout the Mediterranean. The strength of the Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm, RAF and the introduction of the USAAF had increased the attrition rate on the Italian Merchant Marine as to make each run to Africa more and more like suicide. Seven of the Poeti Class participated in the "War of the Convoys" and seven of the eleven sisters were lost during the war. Three of the survivors were seized by the German Army, after the armistice and Borsi was not completed until 1946, when she became the first new ship to enter service for the Italian Merchant Marine.
Ugo Foscolowas one of those first three of the class to be laid down and in June 1942 was the first to enter service. Foscolo along with Alfredo Oriani were the most successful of the sisters, each completing eleven voyages. August 1942 saw Foscolo’s first run Pireo to Bengasi. In September it was Pireo to Tobruk. In October it was Corfu to Bengasi followed by Bengasi to Corfu then Brindisi. She had three missions in November, Brindisi to Bengasi, Bengasi to Tripoli and Tripoli to Naples. On December 12, 1942 she took a short voyage from Naples to Trapani. The next day, December 13 she departed Trapani bound for Tripoli, transporting a cargo of gasoline. Her brief time was up. Off of Marsala she was attacked by Albacores of the 828th Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm (FAA), based in Malta. Left in flames, Foscolo sank 25 miles southwest of Cape Lilibeo.
Other war losses of the class were:Alessandro Manzoni sunk by Wellingtons of 221st Squadron RAF on March 22, 1943; Vittorio Alfieri going from Messina to Naples, was sunk by air attack on July 29, 1943, nine miles north of Point Licosa; Vincenzo Monti was traveling from Naples to Biserta, carrying ammunition and fuel, when on March 22, 1943 she was sunk in an air attack 18 miles east of Biserta; Nicolo Tommaseo was under repair at Catania from previous damage sustained by a torpedo from a British submarine. On July 26, 1943 she was destroyed in an aerial bombardment of the port; Gabriele D’Annunzio was sunk January 16, 1943 in her voyage from Tripoli to Palermo. She was caught by British destroyers 60 miles south of Lampedusa; Giacomo Lepardi was lost in the Aegean Sea on February 2, 1944 for unknown reasons.
Of the four ships that survived the war,Giosue Borsi, which although laid down in 1941 was not completed until 1946, served her intended owner, Societa Tirrenia, as did Alfredo Oriani, under the name of Cagliari. Giovanni Pascoli ended up in French service, rechristened as Djebel Nador. Vittorio Locchi served with the Germans under the name, Kuckuck, and after the war was given to the Yugoslavs and served under the name of Ucka. (Most of the history is from the Regia Marina instructions and the voyages of Foscolo from information provided by Mr. Francesco Grenet to Mr. Giampiero Galeotti.)
REGIA MARINA DESIGN PHILOSOPHY
The other reason for the great number of parts is also because of the Regia Marina design philosophy. The kit gives you all of the optional parts to build any of the eleven ships in the class. Before you do any assembly on this kit, decide which ship you wish to build. I guess that is determined by what features of the individual ships that you find most interesting. You can assemble the kit as a post war merchant ship (Borsi & Cagliari ex Oriani). In this case you have four boat platforms that go one to each side of the two cargo loading positions, plus an additional four lifeboats that go on the platforms. If you wish to build one of the class that appeared during the war, decide which features that you like most.
I picked theUgo Foscolo because it was involved in the "War of the Convoys" and had many runs to North Africa. Therefore I could include some of the nice deck cargo. Two other features that I liked about this particular ship were the use of square AA gun tubs on the bow and an AA tower at the stern. Most of the differences among the ships, excluding the post war mercantile fits, involve the particular AA fits that the individual ships carried. The ships had between five and seven 20mm Oerlikon AA gun positions. All of the ships had round tubs on either side of the bridge. Four of them (Foscolo, Monti, Oriani & D’Annunzio) had two square gun tubs of the bow and an AA tower at the stern. The Manzoni had three square tubs on the bow but no stern AA tower. Three of the sisters (Alfieri, Lepardi & Locchi) had three round AA tubs on the bow, a large round AA tub tower on the rear superstructure and the stern AA tower. Tommasco & Pascoli had three small tubs on the bow, the large platform on the superstructure but no stern tower. Also, the rear life raft positions were built into the aft cargo loading position on five of the ships and into the aft AA tower on three of the ships. Lastly, the ships had an open mount 120mm gun on the stern deckhouse except for Monti, Oriani & Pascoli, which had a gun shield for the gun. The gun shield is included as an optional part.
There is a great amount of detail cast into the deck. There are beautifully executed anchor chains and capstan, and very cleanly executed cargo positions. The solid deck bulkheads have extremely well done inboard braces. All of the small parts exhibit the same degree of care for detail. You can clearly see the machinery in the top of the stack. Since the class was diesel powered, the stack could house machinery as well as the exhaust ducts for the diesel engines. The cargo loading deckhouses are crammed with detail. The bridge face and the superstructure sides have quite a number of square windows or ports. These are readily identifiable on the parts but are not open. I believe the model will present a much more detailed appearance if these positions are open. I used a hand drill to place a hole in the middle of each position and then used a hobby knife to enlarge and square the position. It takes a little while because of the number of positions but is easy to accomplish and very satisfying. The deck bulkheads also had oval scuttles between each pair of inside bracing. I used the same process here. I drilled a hole from inboard out to insure that the scuttles would be in alignment and then used a hobby knife from outboard in to get the proper shape. It is well worth the time to do this as the long row of scuttles adds even more detail to this fine kit.
Some parts are constructed with plastic sprue or plastic/resin sheet. There are ten support posts located in the superstructure. Four on each side and two on the stern face. Those were very easy to install with sprue. Each side had four small solid panels that connected the deck bulkhead with the deck bulkhead on the deck above. I cut the correct sized pieces from Evergreen plastic strip to add these. This takes a little more time and patience, since the panels have to be the right size to span the gap and to conform to the size and shape of the other panels. The instructions show the locations for all of these parts. If you are building one of the eight ships that had a life raft position, this position must also be constructed with sprue or plastic rod. I used .02 inch Evergreen rod. The instructions give you a template for the positions as well as giving you the lengths of the individual posts or bars for the positions. There are two different templates. The one you use depends upon the location of the life raft position, attached to the stern AA tower or attached to the aft cargo loading position. You also have to cut the posts for the cargo cranes forward and the support posts for the forward AA tubs and superstructure AA tower. Again, the instructions give you the dimensions for all of these positions. The only other things that I added to my build were the crane cables, rigging, and cross supports for the bow AA positions. I used plastic sprue for all of this. Lastly the two masts had a slight bow, which I removed by putting them in a microwave for 30 seconds and straightened by hand.
The second page has the assembly diagrams with 12 additional blowup drawings that go with certain options. Because of the great number of options included in this kit, a first glance the instructions appear somewhat confusing. Study the assembly first and you will note that, as with other Regia Marina kits that include a significant number of options for individual ships, they are very logically presented. The key is deciding which ship that you wish to build (as designated by the letters a-m) before jumping into the assembly. You’ll know which parts you need and which parts to ignore. Once you understand how the options are presented in the assembly drawings, the instructions are very clear. The back page of the second sheet has port and starboard camouflage drawings for Foscolo, Manzoni, D’Annunzio, port camouflage designs for Monti & Oriani, and starboard drawings of Alfieri, Lepardi, Pascoli & Locchi. The last four are overall light gray. Lastly, profiles of the tanks, guns, trucks and half-track used for deck cargo are included with a color key.