Tegetthoff class battleship

Tegetthoff class battleship

The "Tegetthoff" class (sometimes called "Viribus Unitis" class) was the sole class of dreadnought battleship built for the Austro-Hungarian navy. Four ships were built, SMS "Viribus Unitis", SMS "Tegetthoff", SMS "Prinz Eugen" and SMS "Szent Istvan".


The Austrian government ordered the construction of a new fleet in 1908 following the announcement of the start of construction of first dreadnought for the Regia Marina (the Italian navy): the RN "Dante Alighieri". The chief designer of the Austro-Hungarian navy, Siegfried Popper, was nearly blind at this stage (he was retired before the ships were launched), and some have blamed this for design deficiencies of the class of ships. The ships of this class were among the first ships to utilise triple gun turrets for its main armament, the first one being the Italian battleship "Dante Alighieri" whom the Austrian ships were supposed to act against in a war; as for the Italian ship, this choice made it possible to deliver a heavier broadside than other dreadnoughts of a similar size. The triple turret was built at the Škoda Works, in Plzeň, Bohemia, and was available at short notice because Škoda were already working on a design for an order for the Russian navy.

The design of the class had some weaknesses. The absence of a raised forecastle deck, left out to decrease weight, gave the ships worse maritime capabilities than ships equipped with it. A more serious problem was the weak armor below the waterline. The Tegetthoff class had only 2.45 meters between the outer hull and the inner anti-torpedo bulkhead. German battleships from the same period had 4.5 meters. The Tegetthoff also had a complicated, and in emergencies impractical, system of watertight doors between compartments below the waterline. The German counterparts did not have any doors between compartments below the waterline. Instead German sailors had to use stairs and move through compartments above the waterline.

The first unit was to bear the name of Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, an Austrian naval admiral of the 19th century, but Franz Joseph I wanted it to be named after his personal motto, "Viribus Unitis" (Latin: "With united forces"). In any event, the class name remained "Tegetthoff" ref|petkovic_2004.

The first three ships were built at the Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino yard, Trieste, but as a condition of agreeing to the construction of the new fleet, and paying for it, the Hungarian parliament insisted that one of the battleships be built at a Hungarian facility, the Danubius yard, at Fiume (Rijeka), which unfortunately had never built anything bigger than a destroyer before and therefore caused delay in construction as the yard had to be extended first. For this reason the final ship, delivered seventeen months late, was given a Hungarian name, named for Saint Stephen, the first king and patron saint of Hungary.


The Austro-Hungarian navy saw little action during the First World War, spending much of its time in its base at Pola (now Pula, Croatia), but the mere fact of its existence tied up the Italian and French navies in the Mediterranean for the duration of the war. The navy's general inactivity was partly caused by a lack of coal, which as the war progressed became a problem, and partly by a fear of mines in the Adriatic, which also kept the Italian navy in port for most of the war. In 1918 Admiral Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya became rear admiral of the fleet, and he determined to use the fleet to attack the Otranto Barrage. On 8 June 1918 he took the "Viribus Unitis" and "Prinz Eugen" south with a small supporting flotilla; on the evening of 9 June "Szent Istvan" and "Tegetthoff" followed. Unfortunately in trying to make maximum speed in order to catch up, "Szent Istvan's" turbines started to overheat and speed had to be reduced to 12 knots (22 km/h). When an attempt was made to raise more steam in order to increase to 16 knots (30 km/h) "Szent Istvan" produced a lot of smoke, which at 3.20 a.m. on 10 June attracted the attention of a pair of patrolling Italian torpedo boats. "MAS-21" attacked "Tegetthoff", but one of her torpedoes failed to leave the launch tube and the other failed to explode. "MAS-15" however succeeded in striking "Szent Istvan" with two torpedoes at 3:31 a.m. The "Tegetthof" returned to the scene to take the "Szent Istvan" in tow, and an attempt to beach the ship on nearby Molat island (northwest of Zara) was considered, but the ship was shipping too much water, the pumps were unequal to the task, and at 6:12 a.m. "Szent Istvan" capsized, taking 89 of her crew with her. The last half-hour of the sinking was filmed in stages from the "Tegetthoff" (one of only two battleship sinkings on the high seas to ever be filmed, the other being that of the British battleship HMS "Barham" in the Second World War). Fearing further attacks by torpedo boats or destroyers from the Italian navy, his element of surprise now destroyed, Admiral Horthy called off the attack and the fleet returned to base for the rest of the war.

The End

On 6 October 1918 the National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (SCS) was founded in Zagreb. (Note that the Serbs in the council represented the Serbs resident in Croatia, not Serbia). On 29 October the Council cut all political and diplomatic links between Croatia and Austria and Hungary, and established the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, comprising Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia (Drzava SHS, in Croatian). Emperor Charles I took the decision to give the entire Austro-Hungarian navy and merchant fleet, with all harbours, arsenals and shore fortifications to the Council of SCS. On 31 October in Pola harbour the Emperor's Hymn, "Gott erhalte unseren Kaiser" was played for the last time and the Austro-Hungarian flag was replaced by the Croatian flag. At 5 p.m. on 31 October 1918 the commander of "Viribus Unitis", Janko Vukovich de Podkapelski took command of the entire fleet. The National Council of SCS promoted him to rear admiral, and sent diplomatic notes to the governments of France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the United States of America and Russia, to notify them that the State of SCS was not at war with any of them and that the Council had taken over the entire Austro-Hungarian fleet.

Later that night, while the crews were celebrating on their brightly lit ships, at 10:13 p.m. the Italian torpedo boat "MAS-95" a few miles from Pola, sent a tiny vessel towards the harbour. The vessel, called a "Mignatta" (Leech), carried two divers and two 200 kg (400 lb) mines. With some help from Italian agents in Pola, the vessel passed through all the nets, barrages, and other obstacles placed at the harbour entrance. It entered the anchorage, and just before dawn, amongst the brightly lit ships, the divers Rossetti and Paolucci selected the "Viribus Unitis" as their target. At about 5 a.m. on 1 November they were spotted, and a boat from "Viribus Unitis" pulled them out of the water. However the divers had already placed their mines under the flagship. When they were brought aboard, they told everything to the officers and the admiral. The prisoners were transferred to the sister ship, "Tegetthoff".

The mines detonated well below the water-line but, as the ship's coal bunkers were empty coal dust instantly ignited and caused a further explosion. The design features intended to minimise the effect of explosions had not worked. The ship rapidly took in water and at 6:10 a.m. 1 November 1918, the flagship "Viribus Unitis", with the Croatian flag on her mast, capsized and sank quickly with around 300 members of her crew aboard. Admiral Vukovich, who commanded the Croatian fleet for barely twelve hours was last seen standing peacefully on the stern, waiting for death to come.

On 4 November Italian troops entered Pola and seized "Tegetthoff" and "Prinz Eugen". The Italians kept "Tegetthoff" for their own use, although they broke her up in 1924 following the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, but she had first featured in the movie "Eroi di nostri mari" "(Heroes of our seas)" about the sinking of "Szent Istvan". "Prinz Eugen" became French property -- they removed the main armament for inspection and used the ship to test aerial bombardment attacks, before she was finally used as a target ship by the battleships "Paris", "Jean Bart", and "France", and sunk in the Atlantic.

hips in class

="Viribus Unitis"=

* Builder: Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino, Trieste
* Laid down: 24 July 1910
* Launched: 24 June 1911
* Commissioned: 5 December 1912
* Operations:
* Fate: Sunk at anchor at Pola, 1 November 1918


* Builder: Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino, Trieste
* Laid down: 24 September 1910
* Launched: 21 March 1912
* Commissioned: 14 July 1913
* Operations:
* Fate: Broken up in Italy, 1924

="Prinz Eugen"=

* Builder: Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino, Trieste
* Laid down: 16 January 1912
* Launched: 30 November 1912
* Commissioned: 8 July 1914
* Fate: Sunk off Toulon, France - used a gunnery target for French battleships "Paris", "Jean Bart", and "France", June 1922.

"Szent Istvan"

* Builder: Fiume
* Laid down: 29 January 1912
* Launched: 17 January 1914
* Commissioned: 17 November 1915
* Operations: Adriatic sortie
* Fate: Torpedoed by Italian torpedo boat MAS-15 off Molat island, Dalmatia, 10 June 1918.

ee also

* List of ships of the Austro-Hungarian Navy
* List of battleship classes
* Lists of ship launches in: 1911, 1912, and 1914
* Lists of ship commissionings in: 1912, 1913, 1914, and 1915
* Lists of shipwrecks in: 1918 and 1922


* cite book|first=Dario|last=Petković|year=2004|title=Ratna mornarica Austro-Ugarske monarhije: brodovi u K. U. K. Kriegsmarine s prijelaza iz 19. u 20. stoljeće do kraja Prvog svjetskog rata|edition=Biblioteka Histria Croatica|publisher=C.A.S.H.|location=Pula, Croatia|id=ISBN 953-6250-80-2
* Preston, Anthony, World's Worst Warships, 2002, Conway's Maritime Press - A critical appraisal of these ships

External links

* [http://www.geocities.com/tegetthoff66/main.html Tegetthoff class dreadnoughts - the primary online source for this topic since 1998]
* [http://www.viribusunitis.ca/ Computer model of "Viribus Unitis"]
* [http://web.ukonline.co.uk/aj.cashmore/austriahungary/austriahungary-dread.html- page from warships on the web]

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