A Quora - Can you put a battleship cannon on a destroyer sized ship?

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Jun 13, 2022, 10:39:32 PMJun 13
I have posted previously on similar ideas,
Big guns on little ships.

Nelson Cunnington
Reads booksMay 17
Can you put a battleship cannon on a destroyer sized ship? If you can,
why did nobody do it?
If you interpret “destroyer-sized” somewhat loosely, it has been done.

Content warning: extremely ugly warships following.

In 1915, the Italian navy laid down a monitor, essentially a barge with
a couple of spare 15″ guns from a cancelled battleship and a couple of
torpedo boat engines, the Faa di Bruno. This was intended to bombard
trenches and fortifications within range of the coast. She displaced
2900 tons, and could make a breathtaking 3.3 knots. As well as the 110mm
turret armour and 40mm deck armour, she was also protected by 3 metres
of concrete attached to the hull.

Launched in 1916, and commissioned in 1917, she took indecisive part in
the Battle of Isonzo. Stricken from the navy lists in 1924, she was
re-commissioned for WWII. In 1941 she fired three shells at British
ships before losing power. After the Italian armistice, she was captured
by the Germans, but they didn’t know what to do with her either, and she
was scuttled at the end of the war, then scrapped.

The Alfredo Cappellini started life as a floating crane in an Italian
shipyard, before being converted into a monitor with the addition of two
15″ battleship guns and a 265-horsepower engine. Although unarmoured,
she did have two anti-torpedo nets, and could barrel along at 3.5 knots.
Total displacement was 1600 tons.

Like the Faa di Bruno, the Alfredo Cappellini took part in the Battle of
Isonzo to not much effect. She was wrecked later in 1917.

So, I guess the results speak for themselves: not very effective, and
not even cost-effective when using spare bits and pieces from around the
ship-yard to build them.

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23 comments from
Michael Malak
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Nawat Nakhon
· May 18
“Content warning: extremely ugly warships following.”
Haha, that is funny :)

Profile photo for David Ecale
David Ecale
· May 19
Much more elegant, don’t you think? From HMS Erebus (I02) - Wikipedia:

She made it throughout two World Wars.

Nick Korotya
· May 18
Those turrets would probably be of better use as coastal defense…

Erik Schlichting
· May 21
I like the “barrel along” before the “3.5 knots”. Really makes the
sentence sing lol

James Trela
· May 22
The U.S. experimented with a gun called “the lightweight 8”, on a
Post-WW II destroyer of -1000 tons in the late 70's. I believe the
barrel had to oriented vertically to load each round. The destroyer was
found not strong enough to handle the gun.

James Spragg
· May 28
The British had monitors in both the first & second world wars,
including submarine monitors, the M class with 12 inch guns.

William Phillips
· May 18
… also common in the Royal Navy.

Nelson Cunnington
· May 19
Well, the RN had a class of monitor ships commissioned in the First
World War, the Lord Clive class.

These eight ships had a turret armed with two 12″ guns, meant for shore
bombardment. Two of the class were upgraded with a single 18″ gun in a
fixed mount pointed to the side:

These were 6000-ton displacement, though, so a bit large for destroyers
of that era, more like light cruisers.

The slightly later Marshal Ney class was armed with two 15″ guns, but
displaced nearly 7000 tons.

After WWI, though, the Royal Navy largely gave up on the idea of
specialised shore bombardment ships, giving the job over to cruisers and
battleships (when they weren’t busy trying to blow up Axis cruisers and
battleships), and specialised rocket-equipped landing craft conversions:

Edit: David Ecale reminds me that there was yet another monitor class,
the Erebus, again commissioned in 1915, and like the two Marshal Ney
vessels, only consisting of two ships, each armed with two 15″ guns.

The Erebus and the Terror lasted a bit longer than the other monitors,
serving in WWII. The Terror was damaged and scuttled off Libya in 1941,
while the Erebus saw action in the Pacific, and went on to support the
invasion of Sicily, the D-Day Landings at Normandy, and the assault on

Again, though, these were much greater displacement than any destroyer,
at over 7000 tons.

HMS Saracen is a fictional version of HMS Erebus, probably

Edit 2: Dammit, Britain did actually commission another pair of monitors
in WWII, the Abercrombie and the Roberts:

Again, armed with 15″ guns as the main armament, and displacing around
8000 tons. HMS Abercrombie was damaged during Sicily, repaired and sent
to the Pacific in time for the end of the war. HMS Roberts took part in
Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, and Westkapelle, and served as a gunnery
training and accommodation vessel until the 1960s.

So, more of them than I thought there were, though I will cavil a bit at
the idea of monitors being “common” in the RN.

Michael Tipton
I was going to mention the Douglas Reeman book. He wrote a book on just
every odd corner of the Royal Navy.

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