MS Augustus (1926)

Augustus in the 1930s, before her conversion was begun. Original in the public domain.

Ship Class

Launched 13 December, 1926, MV Augustus was part of the post-World War I attempt by shipping companies to get back up to strength. Her maiden voyage was in November, 1927, and was able to sail between Italy and South America in five days. Capable of carrying 1,600 passengers, she was the largest liner fitted with diesel engines at the time of her completion. Augustus mainly operated in the North Atlantic, but began a series of world cruises in 1933. Due to the small size of the Mediterranean, Italy never considered aircraft carriers a priority. It was assumed that the fleet would be within range of air cover at all times. However, by the late 1930s, they began to get some "carrier envy" as France and Britain began laying down more modern carriers, and Italy began work converting two liners. Augustus was chosen as the second of these, and was acquired in 1939. Renamed Falco, when work began, and Sparviero, the following year, the intended flight deck was to have been narrow, and end about 135 feet short of the bow. Capacity would have been up to thirty-four aircraft, but probably closer to twenty-five, making her a poor match for almost any Allied carrier. Worse, her machinery was not to have been updated, limiting the top speed to 20 knots. Conversion work was not begun until September, 1942, and proceeded slowly, with the flight deck never being installed. She was captured by the Germans after Italy surrendered, and they scuttled her to block the harbor of Genoa in October, 1944. The wreck was raised post-War, and scrapped in 1951.

Bonus Photos

Sparviero undergoing conversion, c.1943. Regia Marina photo, now in the public domain.