austrian navy Archives - naval encyclopedia

Radetzky class Frigates (1854)

Radetzky class Frigates (1857)

Austrian Navy 1854-88: SMS Radetzky, Adria, Donau


In 1852, the Austro-Hungarian Navy’s high command proposed the construction of a modern steam frigate, to be declined into a class of three vessels, the first built in Britain and the two others in Austria, bringing with it valuable technological and engineering lessons. SMS Radetzky and her sister ships Donau and Adria were modern frigates of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, a bit wider and shorter than the previous SMS Novara (1850). They were not built in Austria, which lacked large facilities and expertise to make them, but were ordered to Money, Wigram & Sons of London for the lead vessel.
The lead ship was named after nobleman and field marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz and launched in 1854. She participated in the Battle of Heligoland during the Second Schleswig War in 1864 and the Battle of Lissa, but sank due to the explosion of her powder magazine off Vis, Croatia.

Austro-Prussian Squadron after its defeat, in Cuxhaven: SMS Schwarzenberg and Radtesky on the foreground.

The construction of the SMS Adria ordered at the San Marco Shipyard (Tonello brothers, Muggia) started when laid down in 1855. She was launched on 24 November 1856 in presence of Emperor Franz Joseph I and his wife Empress Elisabeth, from the corvette Kaiserin Elisabeth. She was completed in 1857 and entered active service in the k.u.k. Kriegsmarine on 1 July. Like her sisters she had a three square-rigging, bowsprit and mainsail for 2,711 m² total of sail area. She was propelled by the same horizontal cylinder drive unit on three shafts, working at 300 PSi for a top speed of 9.5 knots (17.59 km/h). She was a bit larger than the lead ship at 2,198 tons standard and 2,430 GRT, 64.02 m long for 13.09 m in beam and 5.2 m of draft. Her crew comprised 368 officers and ratings.
Her armament when completed was four 60-pdr howitzers, twenty-four 30-pdr mortars, three breech-loading 24-pdr pieces, and two swivel-mounted 2-pdr for close quarters, plus ample provision of rifles and grenades.

As for SMS Donau, she was also ordered at the San Marco Shipyard, of Tonello bros. in 1853, but laid down in 1855 at the “Squero Cadetti”. She was launched on 20 November 1856 in the presence of Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg. Completed in 1857 she was soon under service. Her specifications were the same as SMS Adria, but with a 2,334 tons displacement, 3 shafts and the same steam engine capable of 9 knots (16.67 km/h) and a Crew of 368. Her armament was the same until upgraded in 1864 (see below).

1857 Specifications
Dimensions 56(wl), 69(oa) x 12 m x 5 m
Displacement 1,570 t
Crew 294
Propulsion 1 shaft HT 2cyl, 2 Boilers 8 kts
Armament 16x 30lb, 4× 60-pdr Paixhans, 2× 24-pdr, 2× 4-pdr

Src/Read More

Adria on
Donau on
“Southampton”. Evening Mail. No. 13153. London. 14 April 1854. p. 5. Retrieved 5 December 2022 – via British Newspaper Archive.
“Nsval and Military Intelligence”. The Sun. No. 20013. London. 11 August 1856. p. 4. Retrieved 5 December 2022 – via British Newspaper Archive.
“Military and Naval Intelligence”. The Times. No. 22488. London. 2 October 1856. p. 10. Retrieved 5 December 2022 – via Gale.
“The Austrian frigate Radetzky”. No. Volume: 54, Issue: 1529. The Illustrated London News. 13 March 1869. p. 269. Retrieved 18 April 2021. “The terrible disaster which happened on the, 20th ult. to the Austrian frigate Radetzky, by the blowing up of the powder-magazine and total destruction of the ship, while cruising off Lissa, in the Adriatic, has been mentioned in this Journal. Only twenty three men were saved, and most of these had suffered more or less injury. The Radetzky, which was built in England, was a wooden frigate of 1826 tons, 300-horse power, and 30 guns, and had 368 men on board, mostly recruits. This ship took an active part in the fight against the Danes before Heligoland in 1864. She was not engaged in the naval battle of Lissa in 1866, but most of the officers on board were; and Captain Danfalik, who commanded, was there on board the ship Donau”
Chesneau, Roger; Kolesni, Eugene. Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1860–1905.
Scotti, Giacomo. Lissa, 1866. La grande battaglia per l’Adriatico. Trieste, Lint.
“SMS Graf Radetzky (+1869)”. Wrecksite. 2017-06-04.
D. Zeljko Selak (2014-04-26). “Commemoration and scientific conference ‘Viški memento’ held”. hrsvijet.
“Last Clash of Wooden Warships: Heligoland 1864”. Iron Mike Magazine.

SMS Radetzky

The construction of SMS Graf Radetsky from the British shipyard Money, Wigram & Sons in London in 1852, was followed by a launch on 13 April 1854, and she entered service in the k.u.k. Kriegsmarine in September 1854, arriving in Trieste on 11 November. She was in maintenance in 1859 and by the autumn of 1860, under command of Lieutenant Commander Wilhelm von Tegetthoff she sailed in Syrian waters.
By 1864, she took part in the Second Schleswig War, in von Tegetthoff’s naval squadron sent in the North Sea to coalize with the Prussians to break Denmark’s naval blockade against Schleswig-Holstein and from March 8, all Prussian ports. With SMS Schwarzenberg which acted as flagship she took part in the battle of Heligoland on May 9 against the Danish naval squadron (Commodore Eduard Suenson).

Later she took part in the third Italian War of Independence, under command of Captain Josef von Aurnhammer, assigned to the 2nd Division (Anton von Petz) of von Tegetthoff’s naval squadron and took part in the battle of Lissa in 1866 (all three of the class took part). She was engaged against Italian units from RADM Admiral Giovanni Vacca’s division. She survived the battle with very few casulaties and returned to her peactime duties.
She was the first of the class to be lost, due to an internal explosion at 10:00 on 20 February 1869, off Lissa Island, killing 344 of her crew of 368. Her wreck was rediscovered by Croatian navy minesweepers HRM Korčula in 2014, under 90 m near the island of Vis.

SMS Adria

On July 20, 1857, Adria left the harbor of Trieste for the squadron’s summer maneuvers, stopping at Brindisi, Naples, Livorno, Alexandria, Corfu, and back to Fiume on 29 september. By April 1859, she took part in the second Italian war of independence, present in the Spignon Canal and Malamocco when blockading Venice. In 1861, she took part in the blockade of Durazzo, and in 1863 became a training ship for naval cadets.
In 1866, she was involved in the Third Italian War of Independence assigned to the Second Division, under command of Commodore Anton von Petz and Rear Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff’s Naval Squadron. On July 20, under command of Fregattenkapitän Adolf Daufalik she took part in the battle of Lissa, firing 221 shots and receivinh 27 hits in return for the loss of only two crewmen, three more seriously injured, two 2 lightly wounded.

On 1 October 1868, she returned to her cadet instructional duties and made a cruise with the Marineakademie in Rijeka. Departing from Fiume, she stopped in Pola, Messina, Naples, Zara, Lissa, and back to her gome port. Later she had her artillery modified with newer guns to serve at the Pola Artillery School as a gunnery training ship. On 1 August 1870 she was disarmed and stricken. Hulked, by December 1872 her boilers machineru and funnel were all removed, the bridge was covered by a fixed wooden roof and she served for 18 years as a floating barrack. By 1st October 1 1888 at last she was sold for BU.

SMS Donau

Her early years of service since 1857 were without notable incident, she took part in cruisers and yearly manoeuvers with the fleet squadron. She underwent a modernization between 1863 and 1864 with an all-new armament of six Paixhans 60-pdr guns, forty 24-pdr smoothbore guns and four 24-pounder breech-loading rifled guns. In 1866 after the outbreak of the Third Italian War of Independence, she was part of the Second Division commanded by Commodore Anton von Petz as part of RADM W. von Tegetthoff’s Naval Squadron.
She was commanded by Maximilian von Pittner during the battle of Lissa, only loosing a single crew member, Marsgast August Arnold.

Between 1868 and 1871, she carried out an educational and diplomatic trip to Japan, with the corvette S.M. Erzherzog Friedrich. She made several Mediterranean cruise, the last being made between 30 June and 15 September 1872 with students of the Naval Academy aboard. When back, she was directly laid up and scrapped.

Novara class steam Frigates (1853)

Novara class Steam Frigates (1857)

Austro-Hungarian Navy 1843-1900, SMS Novara, Schwarzenberg

The Novara class was one of two largely similar, but not sister-ships, two frigates with various interesting backstories and fates, with long and illustrious career for the Austro-Hungarian Navy. At thei design core, two typical sailing frigates whch later received steam engine. Powerfully armed, with a large sail area, and quite large for Mediterranean theater, both took part in the Battle of Lissa, and saw the 1880s an the radical transformation and modernization of the fleet.

SMS Novara

These were the first modern, large steam frigates of the new Austro-Hungarian Navy. But since the rising Empire lacked facilities and expertise for large warship construction, they were built in Venice Naval Yard. The first of the two near-sister, SMS Novara, was in reality the ex-sailing frigate Minerva, laid down on 4 November 1843, but still not launched years after. She was partially completed when renamed “Italia” by Venetian revolutionaries in 1848. Finally she would be launched with the name “Novara” in 1850:

The name commemorated the Austrian Vicory of Novara in March 1849, as following the Austrians’ retaking of Venice in August 1849, Field Marshal Radetzky visited the shipyard and saw the “Italia” in construction there; Officers petitioned him to have the the frigate take for the Austrian Navy and renamed renamed in honour of his victory over King Charles Albert. Construction restarted under Austrian supervision and the completed hull left the slipway in November 1850. Novara entered service for the Austrian Navy and had a ten years sail-only career.

Cutaway, close

Overview of the ship, profiles and deck plans

Novara in 1861 and 1862

Figurehead photo

A world tour under sails

SMS Novara made a circumnavigation of the earth lasting from April 1857 to August 1859. This was an important journey of research and exploration which brought enough material and data to create the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna. A team of brillant natural scientists were part of the trip like Georg Ritter von Frauenfeld, curator in the invertebrate department of the Imperial museums. The volume of materual collected was so important searchers are still making discoveries today.

The Novara expedition of 1857–1859 was also a world’s first: The first large-scale scientific and round-the-world mission of that scale, for the Austrian Imperial navy. One of the goals was to dicover potential colonial investments and interesting trade spots for the young Austrian Trade Company. Authorized aboardnd blessed by Archduke Maximillian, the journey of the largest Austrian Frigate lasted two years three months total.

To be exact, it started on 30 April 1857, until 30 August 1859 under command of Kommodore Bernhard von Wüllerstorf-Urbair. The crew comprised 345 officers and rating but the scientific team comprised seven scientists with a lot of equipments. Preparation were made at the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna. Specialized scholars under the geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter and zoologist Georg von Frauenfeld recruited the scientist and planned the exploration in detail.

Engineer Selleny’s drawing of the interior

During the expedition, the team gathered the first coca plant to be examined, notably when stopping at St. Paul in the Nicobar Islands, and on New Zealand. The latter island received the first thorough and precise first geological mapping by Hochstetter. The oceanographic research done in the South Pacific collected samples at various dephts, made an earl underwater mapping, collected hundreds of species and revolutionized both oceanography and hydrography in their time.

The total of botanical and zoological collections amounted to 26,000 preparations as well as cultural artefacts collected in these islands, which considerably enriched the Austrian museums as a whole. Another scientist of note was Johann Natterer, a veteran scientist whioch already collected specimens for the Viennese Natural Museum for 18 years in South America. Geomagnetic observations all along the expedition boosted the field of study in an unprecedented way, and contributed to scientific knowledge. From the coca plant leaves, the first pure cocaine was produced in 1860.

Expedition book cover

These results were compiled into a 21-binder report, now still exposed at the Viennese Academy of Sciences: The “Reise der österreichischen Fregatte Novara um die Erde (1861–1876)” published several times in various forms and extract along the following decades. The english-language account was published in three volumes by Karl Von Scherzer. Among others, the frigate visited Gibraltar, Madeira, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, St. Paul island, Ceylon, Madras, Nicobar Islands, Singapore, Batavia, Manila, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Puynipet Island, Stewart Island or Stuart Island, Sydney, Auckland, Tahiti, Valparaíso, Gravosa, before heding for Trieste.

In 1856

The result was a book that was very important at the time, reproduced to 30,000 copies and second most successful popular scientific work in German language after von Humboldt’s 5-volume Cosmography. The 1200 pages, richly illustrated were titled: Karl von Scherzer: “Narrative of the Circumnavigation of the Globe by the Austrian Frigate “Novara” (B. von Wullersdorf-Urbair,) Undertaken by Order of the Imperial Government, Under the Immediate Auspices of His I. and R. Highness the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, Commander in-Chief of the Austrian Navy.”


Then, she was towed to Trieste’s San Rocco Naval Yard, to be completed as a steam frigate, screw-driven with the help of STT yard. But the conversion only took place between 1861 and 1865, so ten years after. For this, the Austro-Hungarian yard had to basically cut the hull in the middle to add a large section in order to house the 2-cyclinder horizontal steam engine, single screw, four-bladed. The hull was also much strenghtened to cope with the extra lenght and displacement. She also had an interested mix of armament and the largest crew for an Austrian steam frigate, 550 officers and ratings.

Novara’s career

Novara in Martinique 1864

An important part of her early carrier was to carry in April 1864 Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife Charlotte to Veracruz for their establishment as the new Emperor and Empress of Mexico during the Second Mexican Empire (with the full support of French Emperor Napoleon III). She arrived in port on 28 May 1864 but his reign, back by French troops, was short. The hated regimed ended iona bloody revolution and 3 years later, Maximilian I of Mexico was captured and executed by the constitutional Mexican government headed by Benito Juárez. Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff arrived against with SMS Novara to bring his body to Austria, arriving in Trieste on 16 January 1868.

Noavara at Lissa

But the shining point of her career was incontestably the Battle of Lissa: On 20 July 1866 she was part of the Austrian fleet, formed in a wedge, off the island of Vis, as part of von Tegetthoff’s 2nd Division. She was commanded by Baron Anton von Petz, as flagship, alongside other wooden steam warships and as captain, had a Swedish naval officer named Erik af Klint. The latter was killed during the battle. Indeed, the vessel led the line, and under Kommodor von Petz took the 2nd Division exchanged broadside fire on the Italian rear, in direction of the 3rd Division.

Facing ironclads, Von Petz still hold his formation despite punishing damage and little on Italian vessels. SMS Novara was hit 47 times, killing many gunners, salors, officers includung the captain, and SMS Erzherzog Friedrich took a shell below the waterline while SMS Schwarzenberg eventually was completely destroyed, unable to steer and set afire and adrift.

SMS Novara served afterwards for another decade 1867-1877, and she was eventually examined in 1879, but estimated in poor conditions. She was not to be modernized due to the age of her wooden hull and instead, hulked in 1881, as permanently anchired training ship and broken up 18 years later, in 1899.

Novara 1855 Specifications
Dimensions 76.79 x 14.32 m x 5.8 m
Displacement 2,615 t (2,574 long tons)
Crew 550
Propulsion (1862*) 1 shaft CP 4 Boilers 12 kts 3,300 nm range
Armament 4 × 60-pdr Paixhans, 28 × 30-pdr BL, 2 × 24-pdr BLR

SMS Schwarzenberg

SMS Schwarzenberg, Novara’s near-sister ship

Design and conversion

SMS Schwarzenberg’s design was generally similar to Novara. She came from Venice arsenal too, towed and convered back in Austria, in 1861/62 at the Arsenal of Pola. She had been launched a first time on April 23, 1853, and after conversion was relaunched on April 11, 1862. As modernized, she displaced 1871 tons standard and 2,656 tons fully loaded. After conversion her draft went to 6.20 m and 6.50 fully loaded. She kept her frigate sail so to ensure best performances and sparing for long cruise her engine. The latter was a CP type steam with an output of 400 hp for 11 knots on steam alone. Under sail in optimal conditions she could reach about 12 kts. Before conversion she carried fifty-four 30-pounders, six 60-pounders. After conversion she was rearmed with just four 60-pounders on rails for a 90° arc of fire.

She also had two deck smoothbore 15.0 cm guns, while her main battery deck housed forty two 30-pounders. She also had four towed 24-pounders. From 1866 she carried thirty-six smoothbore 30-pounders, six smoothbore 60-pounders, four rifled 24-pounder breech-loaders, and to arm the crew for landing parties and close battles, some 200 rifles, 100 pistols, 36 revolvers, and 170 sabres. After her 1876 refit she carried eight modern rifled Krupp 15.0 cm guns, two 7.0 cm guns and still a provision of 104 carbines, 24 revolvers and 28 sabers. Her crew comprised 557 men as a sailing frigate, down to 498 as screw frigate alone.

1855 Schwarzenberg Specifications
Dimensions 74 oa/64.40m pp x 14.88 m x 6.50 m
Displacement 2,614/2,800+ t
Crew 547
Propulsion (1862*) 1 shaft 2-cyl H engine 1,700 ihp, 11 kts
Armament (1864) 6× 60-pdr Paixhans, 40× 30-pdr BL, 4× 24-pdr BLR

Career of SMS Schwarzenberg

In Pola in 1955

After her commissioning in 1854, SMS Schwarzenberg served mainly in the eastern Mediterranean. In 1859 she was deployed in the Sardinian War, patrolling the Spignon Canal. In 1860 she was deployed to protect Austrian interests in Sicily and Naples. On October 17, 1861, she was rebuilt at Pola and had for new commander, Wilhelm von Tegetthoff himself. She cruised the eastern Mediterranean and visited Alexandria, Port Said, Jaffa, Beirut, Larnaca and Rhodes.

German-Danish War

Painting of the battle by Ludwig Rubelli von Sturmfest

Closing on Smyrna on February 27, 1864, she met an Austrian Lloyd steamer, from which she received the order to march to the North Sea, for an operation in cooperation with the Prussian Navy against the Danish Navy (German-Danish War). Ammunition and coal were loaded in Corfu in March. She stopped in Malta, then Gibraltar and Algiers. On March 16, she already captured the Danish brig Grethe (Captain Jans Jansen), brought to Pola by a prize crew. She arrived in Cuxhaven on May 4th. Five days later she took part in the battle of Heligoland, as a flagship of the Austrian squadron.

At around 13:59, she opened fore on the Danish line at 3,500 m, and during the fight, closed down to 380 m. She received incendiary shots which set alight her foremast, and the fire rage on until after the battle. The fallen were buried in Ritzebüttel on May 11. On May 24, Max von Sterneck took command in place of Tegetthoff. By July 22-30 she was docked in Bremerhaven, receiving a new foremast. She remained in the North Sea until the end of the war and peace negociations, and orders to get back home in the beginning of October. She arrived in Pola on December 21, 1864 to be drydock for a long maintenance and refit. Her severed mast was recovered and acquired by King George of Hanover, in Herrenhausen and by 1938 taken to Vienna.

In repait in Cuxhaven after the battle

Battle of Lissa and fate

Wilhelm von Tegetthoff and crew, 1864

In 1865, SMS Schwarzenberg was sent in the Levant (Lebanese-Syrian coast) as flagship under overall command of Rear Admiral Tegetthoff. In February 1866 she was refitted in Pola for a long trip to East Asia and South America, later cancelled due to the rise of tensions with Prussia and Italy. On July 20, 1866, indeed war broke with Italy and she took part in the naval battle of Lissa under command of captain Georg Milossich. In the same division as her sister Novara, which was the lead vessel and flagship, she fired 286 rounds but received nine hits from the Italian ironclads, wounding only two. But damage was so considerable she was set adrift and no longer took part in the battle.

In 1869, like her sister but sooner, she was converted as a stationary hulk, a training ship in Pola. She was stricken from the list on November 25, 1890, and broken up.

SMS Schwarzenberg at Heligoland

Src/Read more:


“The Crustacean Collection of the Museum of Natural History in Vienna” (history), Peter C. Dworschak & Verena Stagl, 3rd Zoological Dept., Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna
“Novara-Expedition” (port-by-port description), Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, 2005, webpage: KHM-Novara-Expedition
“The Austrian Imperial Frigate SMS Novara” (history + photos), Michael Organ, 25 October 2006, Australian webpage
Organ, Michael (March 5, 2001). “Incident at Sikayana: A so-called Outrage carried out upon the Inhabitants of the Stewart Islands, by the Crew of the Austrian Frigate Novara, 16-17 October 1858”. Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia: University of Wollongong. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
Scherzer, Karl (1861–1863). Narrative of the circumnavigation of the Globe by the Austrian frigate Novara. London: Saunders, Otley & Co. Available online from copies digitized by various libraries. Biblioteca Brasiliana Guita e José Mindlin (monochrome): BBM
Donko, Wilhelm, “An Austrian View of the Philippines. The Austrian Scientist Karl von Scherzer on his visit in Manila aboard the frigate “Novara” in June 1858″. Published by, Berlin 2012, 176 pages
“Embarkation of the Body of the Late Emperor Maximillian at Vera Cruz, Mexico”, The Illustrated London News, 11 January 1868, p. 32
Sieche, Erwin F. (1990). “Austria-Hungary’s Last Visit to the USA”. Warship International. XXVII (2): 142–164.
Treffer, G. (ed.), Die Weltumseglung der Novara, 1857-1859 (“The Round-the-World Voyage of the Novara”)
Turner, Brian, “Novara: Austria’s Ship of Fate” from “Heligoland Bight – Wooden Ship’s Last Sea Battle (9 May 1864)”


SMS Herzerzog and Novara steam corvettes (1857)

Erzherzog Friedrich class Steam Frigates

Austrian Steam Corvettes (1857)

Design of the Erzherzog Friedrich Class

The construction of these wooden corvettes, SMS Erzherzog Friedrich and her sister ships, was ordered in Venice Arsenal, during the “Italian phase” of the future Austro-Hungarian Imperial Navy. They were designed by the Inspector of Naval Construction Axel Ljungstedt. SMS Erzherzog Friedrich was laid down on February 14, 1854, launched on 11 April 1857, and commissioned in the K.u.k. Kriegsmarine on July 4th, 1857.

Her design was conventional for the time with three square masts, a bowsprit and mainsail, four single 66-pounder smooth-barreled iron guns completed by seventeen 30-pounder in the broadside, all also smooth-barreled iron guns. There was also a single deck-mounted 48-pounder pivot gun on the deck smooth-barreled too. All these were muzzle loaded or course (acronym MLS for Muzzle-Loaded, Smoothbore).


SMS Erzherzog Friedrich was a of mixed construction, a current design at the time, with an external wooden hull, reinforced by an internal iron structure. These were called “composite” at the time in British standards. She displaced 1,570 tons for 56.05 m long at the waterline, 12.16 m wide, for 5.07 m draft, identical to her sister ship SMS Dandolo.

Her propulsion comprised a single shaft driven by a Strudthoff horizontal 2-cylinder machine, fed by two 12-burner boilers. Maximum output was a modest 920 Psi. The single propeller was a Griffith two-blade bronze model. With a sailing area of 1,400 m² she could reach 6-7 knots on sail alone. 8 knots combined with steam. When her amchinery was overhauled and modernized, she reached 9.02 knots on her 1874 trials. Her armament in 1859 was composed of iron smoothbore, muzzle loaded cannons as customary at the time. They fired iron balls, and accuracy was limited to 1,500 m in the best cases. This was modified in 1863 for two 24 lb cannons, four 60 lb, and sixteen 30 lb muzzle loading guns. Like her sister-ship this was revised in 1866 for sixteen 30 lb, four 60 lb, two 24 lb BLR, and the next year in 1877, twelve 6 inches Wahrendorf BLR, one 70 mm BLR and a crew of 294. She was not upgraded further.

SMS Dandolo was also designed by Axel Ljungstedt ordered at the same time the Venice Arsenal, keel laid down on 26 September 1854, launched on 7 August 1857 and entering on 9 August 1859. She was armed the same way exactly and her Technical description was the same as well in many details. She was named after Conte Silvestro Dandolo. Her specs changed however, as she displaced 1,724.77 tons, for 56.05 m long at the waterline, 12.16 m wide, 5.53 m draft. Her propulsion system called for a Strudthoff horizontal 2-cylinder machine like her sister ship, the same boilers and Griffith two-blade propeller, same sail area, and 8 knots top speed. When her amchinery was rebuilt, she became even faster at 9.02 knots (1874). In 1866 her armament was sixteen 30-pounder, four 60-pounder and two 24-pounder guns used for landing parties plus two 4-pounder smoothbore guns also on deck. In 1871 this was again revised for fourteen 24-pounder, still smoothbore guns but Breech loaded (BLM) and a single pivot mounted 3-pounder. In 1877, with her last refit, she was armed with twelve 6-inches (15 cm) long range Wahrendorf breech-loading rifled guns (BLR) plus two deck-mounted pivot 6-inches (7 cm) rifled breech-loading guns (BLR) and a crew that comprised at the start 274, officers and sailors.

SMS Dandolo 1872

1857 Specifications
Dimensions 56 wl/67.80 oa x 12.16 m x 5.20 m
Displacement 1,570 t light/1700 tons FL
Propulsion 1 shaft HT 2cyl Strudthoff, 2×12 fires Boilers, 8 kts
Armament 16x 30-pdr, 4× 60-pdr Paixhans, 2× 24-pdr (+ 2×4-pdr)
Crew 294

wik it Erzherzog_Friedrich
wik it Dandolo

SMS Herzherzog Friedrich

SMS Herzherzog Friedrich started her sea trials on 10 July 1857, during her transfer from Venice to Trieste. Until 1859 she trained by cruising in the Adriatic Sea, but also the Mediterranean and Black Sea, and stopping at numerous ports along the way. On November 25, 1858, she participated in an expedition on the Barbary coast, shelling known Moroccan corsair cities, and rescuing an Austrian crew, and later the merchant ship itselfpreviously captured.

In April 1859, her new captain was the famous Wilhelm von Tegetthoff. She carried out various missions, notably trnasport of military hardware from Trieste to Ancona. She took part in the second Italian war of independence, and made also several training cruises in the Mediterranean. On March 30, 1864, she was sent to the North Sea Squadron, comitted by alliance with Prussia in the war against Denmark. She remained there until May 20, 1866 before departing back to Pola, arriving on the 28.

The third Italian war of independence saw SMS Erzherzog Friedrich assigned to the Second Division, under command of Commodore Anton De Petz, as part of Rear Admiral von Tegetthoff naval squadron. Her new captain was then Fregattenkapitän Marco Florio. She took part in the battle of Lissa, an Austro-Hungarian victory.

There, she fired volleys at Italian vessels but remained unscaved, not loosing a single man. On November 14, 1866, she sailed to Civitavecchia (NW of Rome) to embark Pope Pius IX and his followers, en route to Kumbor and Messina. On March 31, 1867 she entered the drydock in Pola for maintenance. On September 27 1868, back in service she was ordered to Gibraltar before proceeding to Cape Town, reaching it on February 18 1869. She made also a two-year trip on 3 January 1871, being first Austro-Hungarian vessel crossing the the Suez Canal.

Back in Pola on January 20, she was overhauled and the next three years served in the Mediterranean. By May 1874 she headed for the Far East under command ofher new captain Tobias Freiherr von Österreicher, crossing the Suez Canal again, and stopping along the way in many Pacific Ocean ports, until reaching San Francisco. She then depared and crossed the Magellan strait (Good hope), back to the Atlantic Ocean. She arrived on 10 February 1876. She sailed to Gibraltar on June 8, then to Pola for drydock maintenance. This long cruise led to the writing of a famous book in Austria at the time “Um die Erde: Reiseskizzen von der Erdumseglung mit SM Corvette Erzherzog Friedrich in den Jahren 1874-1876”, published two years later.

For her last overhaul, she was decommissioned in December 1880, and reativated on February 4, 1881. She made a training cruiser in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Caribbean, Levant and Black Sea and back to Pola. She was eventuallu stricken on 5 August 1897, becoming a barge to carrying boilers from Trieste to Pola. This went on until May 1899, and she was sold for BU and scrapped in 1900.

SMS Dandolo

During most of her early operational career, SMS Dandolo (named after the famous Venice Dodge, Enrico Dandolo) served in the Adriatic Sea. She was a well-known ship in Corfu, Messina, Gibraltar, Algeciras, Ceuta, and Malaga. In August 1863 for the first time she was scheduled a long cruise to Brazil, but suffering underway a serious engine breakdown, a boiler overheating dangerously bing shut. This was canceled and until 23 November 1863, she was in repairs in Piraeus (Athens).

She stayed in the Mediterranean until January 9, 1865, entered the shipyard for an overhaul and headed for Vera Cruz in Mexico, arriving on May 28 1867. The goal was to support the new alliance fleet pressuring Mexican banks and the government.

She made a two years cruise in South America before heading back to Pola on June 8, 1867.

After shipyard maintenance, she left on June 17, 1869 to be used as cadet ship for the newly created Austro-Hungarian Naval Academy. She made several educational cruises in the Mediterranean. In 1870, she made another cruise in South America, visiting Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, and back, she visited ports on the west coast of Africa, and up to Gibraltar. She was back in Pola on December 27.

After another drydock refit in September-October 1871 she was placed in reserve. She reported for duty on November 4th, and on February 17, the next year, SMS Dandolo started another Cadets cruise. She stopping at Messina, Gibraltar, London, Texel, Den Helder, and Leith, then back to Muggia, on December 14. For three years afterwards, she mostly operated in the confines of the Mediterranean. In January 1875, she departed Gibraltar for Fort-de-France (Martinique, French Carribean). She arrived there on February 22 and was back to Pola.

She made other cruises in North and South America and by January 1879, she was assigned to the Artillery School, in a static role due to her advanced age.

By late 1880, she was laid up and converted into a barge. She made a few utilitarian trips until July 1881, when her machinery was retired. She was by then anchored until July 1882 and transformed into a barracks ships, port guardship, in Pola. By June 1886, she became a floating hospital for cholera patients, transformed as such. In 1887, she became a warehouse to store mines and torpedoes, in Sibenik. She also became the Sibernik students accommodation ship until September 1900. But she would not see WWI. Instead she was discarded and BU in 1901.

SMS Kaiser (1858)

Kaiser (1858)

Austrian Navy, 1858-1920

SMS Kaiser, Austria’s “wooden battleship”.

First article for the 1860 section, the Austrian Navy’s legendary SMS Kaiser: Born as a formidable 2-decker ship of the line, arguably the pride of the Austrian Navy in 1860, she became immortal during the battle of Lissa, being the only sailing ship of the line in history to engage ironclads. She was completely rebuilt as an central battery ironclad in 1873, rebuilt again in 1882, ending her very long career as a barrack ship in WWI.

SMS Kaiser at Lissa, 1866, a legend is born;

By the early 1850s, the Austrian Empire had to face a threatening Kingdom of Sardinia—which which suceeded in unifying most of the Italian peninsula within ten year. It also started to modernize its navy with new steam warships. Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian then ordered a serie of steamships of its own, the first of which was the screw frigate SMS Radetzky in Great Britain, ordered and laid down in 1852. In 1854, Ferdinand Maximilian decided to order a large steamship of the line, as France and Great Britain had, and to gain time, proposed to base it on the British 91-gun HMS Agamemnon. Her plans was provided by the Royal Navy to Austria, in exchange for neutrality during the Crimean War. This war soon showed the performances of the French Napoleon and Algésiras, which prompted the Austrians to have their Agamemnon design incorporating its features. It was made larger and incorporated a much better and larger machinery. A sister-ship, slightly larger 101 guns named “SMS Österreich”, was ordered, then cancelled in 1859 and never laid down.

The Kaiser according to Wilhelm von Rüstow measured 74 meters (242 ft) long and displaced 5,337 long tons (5,423 t) while Andrew Lambert saw her 74.02 metres (242 ft 10 in) long for on 5,194 long tons. Conway’s figures after conversion as a modern ironclad, cetral battery ship in 1871 states 5,720 tons for 77.75 meters at the waterline but her ram must be taken in account. The new displacement included all the weight of the armour, reaching 6 inches, so the original displacement was probably closer to von Rüstow’s figures.

Her beam was however of 16.21 metres (53 ft 2 in) and crew comprised about 900 officers and men, including a small naval infantry coningent for landing parties. Her main battery comprised ninety-two cannons, of various calibers to avoid stability issues as customary of the time: She had sixteen 60-pounder guns at the lower battery deck, close to the waterline, completed by seventy-four 30-pounder smoothbores partly on the upper deck and two 24-pounder breech loaders at the front on the upper deck. She was powered by a Maudslay, Sons and Field two-cylinder horizontal steam engine driving a single screw propeller 5.75 m (18.9 ft) in diameter. Steam came from six coal-fired boilers and twenty-six fireboxes, rated at 800 nominal horsepower. Of course her rigging included a three-mast configuration and large enough sail area to complement her top speed and replace the engine in some occasions. In 1855 indeed, confidence in steam engines was growing but not to the point of dropping sail entirely. This slow transition went on until the early 1890s. SMS Kaiser was laid down on 25 March 1855 in Pola and launched on 4 October 1858.

SMS Kaiser after the battle of Lissa, showing her formast and funnel gone, as well as her hole bow, crushed in her ramming of Re d’Italia she was never designed for.

Second life as an Ironclad (1873-93)

Author’s illustration of SMS Kaiser after conversion as an ironclad, 1873.

Later in her career, Chronic budgetary problems plagued the Austro-Hungarian Empire, admiral Tegetthoff failing to secure funds for new ships. In 1868, a new building program was proposed, rejected by the government. The Parliament however was more generous and at least allocated funds to modernized modernize SMS Kaiser, by then completely obsolete. On 2 February 1869 she was sent into a drydock for her hull to be examined by a commission. She was found to be in good general condition so the project of modernizing her get an approval.

1873 specifications

Dimensions Lenght 75.87 m oa (249ft), Beam 15.25 m (50 ft), Draft 6.15 m (20 ft 2 in)
Displacement 3,548 long tons standard
Crew 400
Propulsion 1 screw, Two 2-cyl. H LP engines, 8? boilers, 2,755 ihp
Speed 13.28 knots ()
Armament 8x 21cm L/20 Krupp BL, 4× 9cm L.24 Uchatius BL, 2x 7cm L/15 Krupp field guns, 6x 4.7cm L/33 QF, 3x 4.7mm Hotchkiss revolver, 2x 25 mm Nordenfelt MGs, 4x 35cm TTs (1 bow, 1 ster, 2 beam)
Armor Belt armor: 200 mm, Bulkheads: 115 mm, Casemate 125mm.

1873 Refit

The plan was to convert her as an ironclad casemate ship, the latest type possible. The old wooden planking below the waterline was entirely replaced and above water, iron was used all around. Her bow notably was cmpletely recast as an iron ram bow and the stern was modified as well, but still including a traditional gallery. Her length went to 77.75 m (255.1 ft) at the waterline, her beam to 17.76 m (58.3 ft) but her draft remained relatively similar at 7.37 m (24.2 ft) with a superior displacement of 5,720 long tons (5,810 t). The machinery was also reviewed with Superheaters installed to boost heroriginal boilers and the steam engine modernized and rerated to reach 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph). Total output was 3,130 ihp (2,330 kW), but with the boiler red hot. In service it was reduced to a more reasonable 11.55 knots (21.39 km/h; 13.29 mph), obtained from 2,786 ihp (2,078 kW). At 10 knots, she still could cover 1,519 nautical miles (2,813 km; 1,748 mi).

Armament-wise, In addition to her eight central battery Krupp breech-loading main guns, 21 cm (8.26 in), she was rearmed with four 9 in (230 mm) 23-pounder muzzle-loading guns (Uchatius), also breech-loaders, placed on railings to increase their traverse. They were all grouped together in a central two-story casemate. The secondary battery in portholes comprised 8-pounder Rifled Muzzle Loaders. Armour-wide, she obtained an armored belt at the waterline while the central citadel protecting machinery spaces was protected by 152 mm (6 in) thick plating. On both ends, the belt was reduced to 102 mm (4 in). The casemate itself was further protected by 127 mm (5 in). There were two rows of armour plates, all other came from old discarded armoured frigates.

SMS Kaiser was eventually re-launched in 1871, so after a year and a half conversion, but again, her completion was plagued by budgetary issues and the armor plate or iron fittings purchased from Britain were not paid, delaying her completion. She was only completed in December 1873, so a good year behind schedule. Sea trials started on 21 December but she was already obsolescent as turret ships became the new norm. The Italians notably just laid down the two steam-only all iron and steel Duilio-class ironclads, armed with the most powerful guns in the Mediterranean, 450 mm (17.7 in) artillery pieces.

1882 refit

Her modernization was in fact gradual. In 1876, she received a 7.62 m (25 ft) propeller, now able to reach 12.72 knots. In 1880, her rigging was completely reduced (still she had three masts). Her decks were cutout ut n drydoc to access and removed her very old boilets; She received modern ones, improving her output greatly, however her new top speed it not known. More importantly during this major refit in 1880-82 she receoved the following armament:

  • Six 9 cm (3.5 in) 24-caliber (cal.) breech-loading guns
  • Two 7 cm (2.8 in) 15-cal. guns
  • Four 47 mm (1.9 in) 33-cal. quick-firing guns
  • Three 47 mm Hotchkiss revolver cannon
  • Four 25 mm (0.98 in) machine guns
  • (From 1885) Three 35 cm (14 in) torpedo tubes, one bow, two broadsides.

Auctioned Postcards of SMS Bellona (former Kaiser) as barrack ship in Pola in 1909 (sold by Darabanth)).

Resources & links

International naval journal 2015
Model kit scratchbuilt

SMS Kaiser in service

SMS Kaiser rammming Re di Portogallo at Lissa, 1866 (Painting by Eduard_Nezbeda)

SMS Kaiser was commissioned into the Austrian Navy in 1859. Her sea trials started on 6 December. She made her first commissioned voyage, from Muggia to Pola, under command of Captain Friedrich von Pöck. In February 1864, she joined the squadron sent to participate to the Second Schleswig War against Denmark, with Prussia. She sailed with the frigate SMS Juan de Austria and two others vessels under command of Vice Admiral Bernhard von Wüllerstorf-Urbair. There she met with the frigates SMS Schwarzenberg and Radetzky (Captain Wilhelm von Tegetthoff). They combined in Den Helder (Netherlands) before heading for Cuxhaven, reaching it on 30June. Both the relatvely small Prussian fleet and the Austro-Hungarians outnumbered the Danish fleet, which was condemned to remain in port until the end of the war. The Austro-Prussian squadron soon imposed a blockade and later provided cover when capturing the islands off the western Danish coast.

Battle of Lissa (1866)

Kaiser surrounded by Italian ironclads at Lissa, by Constantine Volanakis

In June 1866, Italy declared war on Austria (Third Italian War of Independence). It happened right during the Austro-Prussian War. Rear admiral Tegetthoff was given overall command of the fleet. He prepared it and trained the crew hard before heading in Ancona on 27 June. The idea was to draw out the Italians. However Admiral Carlo Pellion di Persano refused to make any move. SMS Kaiser became flagship of the 2nd Division, under command of Baron Anton von Petz. On 16 July, Persano at last was ordred to oust the Austrians from Ancona and sailed with the entire italian fleet, twelve ironclads, and headed for the island of Lissa. They arrived on 18 July, escorting troopships with 3,000 soldiers to occupy the island; The flee then proceeded to shell Austrian fortifications but its landing failed two days after. Tegetthoff was informed of the situation by telegrams on 17-19 July and at first believed it was a feint to draw him away from Pola and Venice. However on the 19 her realized Lissa was the real objective, requested permission to attack and obtained it.

Tegetthoff’s fleet arrived off Lissa on 20 July, catching Persano gearing for another landing attempt, split into three groups surrounding the island. Thus only the first was available to meet the Austrians. Tegetthoff meanwhile arranged his ironclads into a wedge-shaped formation, his wooden warships (2, 3rd Divisions) following behind. SMS Kaiser was the lead ship of the 2nd Division, the center of the line. Persano made the error of transferring from Re d’Italia to Affondatore, leaving a curcial gap in command, allowing Tegetthoff to split and divide the Italian fleet. In the “ramming fest” melee that followed, confusion soon emerged. Petz onboard SMS Kaiser went south to attack the Italian wooden fleet still out of action, but met instead the rear Italian ironclad line. The latter attacked Kaiser, and Petz reacted by reorienting his whole division to face the Italian ironclads, Kaiser leading the charge.

Kaiser in the Melee at Lissa, paintings by Kircher

Castelfidardo, Varese, and Principe di Carignano started a circle in order to ram Kaiser, while broadsiding her. The following long minutes saw both Austrian and Italian vessels trying to get into position to ram each other, recalling the antique galley battles. Persano in Affondatore spotted and tried to ram Kaiser but missed. Kaiser however suceeded to ramm the ironclad Re di Portogallo to protect the Erzherzog Friedrich and Kaiserin Elizabeth of the 2nd division, less protected. It was not an esy decision to make as contrary to ironclads, the all-wooden Kaiser had no dedicated ram or metal prow. Petz only thought the energy of the move would severely harm the ironclad. It only struck a glancing blow and inflicted little damage in the end, while Re di Portogallo replied with its light guns. Kaiser saw a fire reupting while loosing many gunners. Eventually by reversing she was able to break free. Affondatore came bac for a second attempt but missed again. She did score hits however and badly damaging SMS Kaiser, loosing 20 more crewmen. Kaiser’s broadside however was devastating. She fired point-black on Affondatore’s deck, disabling all crew present, starting a fire, blewing holes into her. Kaiser’s riflemen in her fighting tops also scored many kills, in the Trafalgar tradition. A lucky shot from Kaiser struck one of Affondatore’s turrets. The concussion was enough to jam it. Kaiser in this fight lost her foremast while the funnel fell during the collision with Re di Portogallo. Petz eventually ordered to withdraw and limp back to Lissa.

Painting by Carl Berthold Püttner

The Austrian ironclads later disengaged from the melee, trying to protect their own wooden ships, after loosing Re d’Italia (rammed) and Palestro (badly burnt, exploded). Persano had its crew demoralized and eventually decided ot to give prchase and started to withdraw, followed by the Austrians until night fell. Both fleets then departed away for Ancona and Pola. On Kaiser, the quarremaster listed twenty-four killed and thirty-seven wounded, but the battle soon became the stuff of legend, immortalized by paintings. SMS Kaiser would remain the only ship of the line duelling with ironclad in naval history. She later became an ironclad herself.

Even if the battle of Lissa was over, the war was not, and after hasty repairs, Kaiser was maintained as flagship of her division, Tegetthoff keeping his fleet in the northern Adriatic, patrolling against a possible Italian attack which never came. On 12 August, Armistice was signed, and then the Treaty of Vienna. It was crushing for the Austrians depite their victories against the Italians at Lissa and Custoza, as they were decisively defeated by Prussia at Königgrätz. Austria eventually became Austria-Hungary (Ausgleich) in 1867 but was forced to cede Venice to Italy. Soon after this, the entire Austrian fleet was decommissioned and disarmed.

Later career 1873-1920

SMS Kaiser thetefore was mothballed in 1867, seeing no further service. In 1868, a new building program was rejected by the government but some funds were allocated to modernize her. On 2 February 1869 she entered the drydock to be examined by a commission and approval for conversion. She was entirely rebuilt as an ironclad casemate ship and recommissioned in the end of 1873. However she remained laid up from 1875 and spent the first four months of 1876 in the second Reserve. After an overhaul and and modifications she saw naval engineers trying to improve her rather abysmal performance by replacing her original propeller scraw in 1876. This very large, newlt cast propeller had a gargantuan diameter of 7.62 m (25 ft) !

speed tests on 7 December 1876 show her reaching 12.72 knots (23.56 km/h; 14.64 mph), the propeller helping for an extra knot. Back to the II Reserve she served as such until 1880, when her rigging was much reduced. She received new boilers as a complement to her new propeller. Her new secondary battery reduced to 9 cm (3.5 in) breech-loading guns and two 7 cm (2.8 in)/15 plus four 47 mm (1.9 in)/33 QF plus three Hotchkiss revolver, four machine guns. In 1885 she had three 35 cm (14 in) torpedo tubes added, bow and broadsides.

A commission examined again SMS kaiser in 1893. This time her old wooden hull behind was showing her age. The commission recommended she was “not suitable anymore for service”. The government negotiated for a resell to Venezuela in 1895 but this came to nil. In 1897 at least she was stricken and mothballed. She was completely disarmed in 1901. In 1902 her engines were removed. The freed space allowed her to be used as a barracks ship in Pola. She was formally stricken again, and for good, on 4 January 1902. By that time her name was changed to SMS Bellona and she became an utility hulk, still used however as barracks ship during WWI. Until 1917 she even hosted the staff of the II Reserve. In 1918 she hosted the naval training school staff, in addition to the II reserve HQ. After the war she seized by her old nemesis Italy (as war prize) but her fate is completely unknown from that point. It is assumed she was BU in 1920-21.

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