The Conte Biancamano in her modernised post-war guise.

There have been numerous collective nouns to describe liners over the years, amongst the most prominent being ’the Cunard Queens’, North German Lloyd’s ‘Schnelldampfers’ and Albert Ballin’s ’Big three’. Nevertheless perhaps none have been quite as evocative as Lloyd Sabaudo‘s ‘Conti’.

Lloyd Sabaudo traced its origins back to June 1906 but despite its royal patronage subsequently endured a turbulent career until the Marquis Renzo Durand De La Penne, in collaboration with his friend Guglielmo Marconi and Sir William Beardmore, owner of the eponymous Scottish shipyard, revitalised the line shortly before World War I. Previously Lloyd Sabaudo had been a small player on the Atlantic but in the immediate post-war era invested significantly in new tonnage. Most conspicuous were a pair of new liners for the Genoa to New York service built at Beardmore‘s Dalmuir facility. Despite their lengthy gestation the Conte Rosso and Conte Verde symbolised the company‘s new found confidence and were briefly the largest Italian passenger ships afloat. Nevertheless Lloyd Sabaudo did not rest on its laurels and just a year after Conte Verde’s delayed introduction, in May 1924, a contract was signed with William Beardmore & Company for a larger consort. The contract also provided an option for a second vessel.

Shipwrecked Mariners Xmas

The 18,383grt Conte Verde was built in 1923 by Wm. Beardmore at Dalmuir. In 1943, when Italy surrendered, her Italian crew scuttled her off Shanghai. In 1944, the Japanese raised her and renamed her Kotobuki Maru. In December 1944 Kotobuki Maru was sunk by a US air attack near Kyoto. She was raised in 1949 and broken up at Tamano in 1951. She made a particularly noteworthy journey. On 21st June 1930, shortly before the first World Cup in Uruguay, she set sail from Genoa heading for South America, with the Romanian national team onboard. She stopped off at Villefranche-sur-Mer, where she picked up the French squad, three referees and a group of officials including Jules Rimet himself, who packed the trophy in his suitcase. In Barcelona they were joined by the Belgian team, and finally they picked up the Brazilian delegation in Rio de Janeiro. She is seen here arriving at Montevideo with the teams onboard on 4th July 1930.

The selection of Beardmore to construct the new ship was controversial. Not only had labour and funding issues plagued and significantly delayed her predecessors but the growing political imperative from Rome was for Italian lines to support the nascent national shipbuilding industry. Nevertheless, overriding these objections the Scottish yard was chosen on the basis of both cost and expertise. Construction was heavily subsidised under the British Trade Facilities Act, a means of protecting vulnerable businesses considered important to the national interest. Additional funds came from the sale of Lloyd Sabaudo’s interest in Marittima Italiana, a line that operated to India and was acquired by Lloyd Triestino. The fact that Sir William Beardmore, by then Baron Invernairn, still sat on the company board may also have been a factor.

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