The RM Leonardo da Vinci was one of three Conte di Cavour-class dreadnoughts built for the Regia Marina in the early 1910s. Completed just before the beginning of World War I, the ship saw no action and was sunk by a magazine explosion in 1916 with the loss of 248 officers and enlisted men. The Italians blamed Austro-Hungarian saboteurs for her loss. She would be refloated and overhauled from 1921 through 1923 recommissioning on April 16th 1923.
After World War II, the da Vinci would be transferred to Messina where it would become a museum ship.
History[edit | edit source]
Leonardo da Vinci, named after the artist and inventor, was built by the Odero Shipbuilding Co., at their Sestri Ponente, Genoa shipyard. She was laid down on July 10th 1910, launched on October 14th 1911, and commissioned on May 17th 1914. The ship saw no combat during the war and spent most of it at anchor. She capsized in Taranto harbor, in 11 metres (36 ft) of water, after an internal magazine explosion on the night of 2/3 August 1916 while loading ammunition. Casualties included 21 officers and 227 enlisted men. The subsequent investigation blamed Austro-Hungarian saboteurs, but unstable propellant may well have been responsible.
On January 21st 1921, in what is considered a brilliant feat of engineering, the Leonardo da Vinci was righted four and a half years after she was sunk by a time bomb placed in her magazine what was assumed to be Austrian saboteurs. Many experts had said that the feat was impossible to achieve with a 23,000 ton Battleship, and that it was best to scrap her after she was sunk in Taranto on the August 2nd 1916. This did not deter the Italians however, who were unwilling to scrap a ship that was only just over two years old when she was sunk in shallow water, and they are applauded by engineers all round the world for achieving the impossible task. After righting, the ship is moved into dry-dock in Taranto, so that her repairs can be completed.
After its repairs were completed, the Leonardo da Vinci would leave port for the first time in over six years on September 23rd 1922. Although she left port for only a few hours, it was a moment of great celebration for both the Regia Marina and the dockyard workers at Taranto, and also marks the beginning of the end of the repairs on the RM Leonardo da Vinci as she is once again capable of putting to sea.
On March 3rd 1923 the Leonardo da Vinci, fully repaired, left harbor on a series of trials to prove that she was ready to once again serve in the Regia Marina. She completes the sea trials successfully and is recommissioned on April 16th that year. A few hours after the ceremony, she slips her lines and heads out into the Mediterranean Sea on a cruise of the Italian Colonial Empire to show the people what Italian ingenuity can do, even when the odds are against them.