Monday, 16 August 2010

The Yugoslav/Croatian Cruiser Dalmacija

The one model I saw during my visit to the Croatian Maritime Museum (Hrvatski Pomorski Musej) in Split that really interested me was that of the cruiser Dalmacija.

She began life as SMS Niobe, one of the ten Gazelle class cruisers built for the Imperial German Navy at the turn of the twentieth century. Her general characteristics at the time she was launched were:
  • Displacement: 2,916 tons, 3,033 tons full load
  • Length (overall): 344 ft/105.1 metres
  • Beam: 40 ft/12.2 metres
  • Draught: 18 ft/5.4 metres
  • Propulsion: 2-shaft triple expansion engines (8,000 ihp)
  • Speed: 21.5 knots
  • Complement: 249
  • Armament: 10 × 4.1-inch/105mm QF Guns; 10 x MGs; 3 x 17.7-inch/450mm torpedo tubes
SMS Niobe was already obsolete by the time that the First World War broke out, and she saw limited service during the War. As a result of her obsolescence, the Navy of the new German Republic was allowed to retain her as part of the post-War fleet.

In 1925 she was sold to Yugoslavia, renamed Dalmacija, and she was refitted at Kiel to prepare her for her new role as flagship (and training ship) of the Royal Yugoslav Navy. Her former 'ram' bow was replaced by one with a more modern shape and the armament was changed. She now carried 6 x 3.5-inch/83.5mm QF Guns, 4 x 47mm QF Guns, 2 x 15mm AA MGs, and 2 x 17.7-inch/450mm torpedo tubes.

After the invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, she was captured by the Italians at Kotor. They promptly renamed her Cattaro (the Italian name for Kotor) and commissioned her as a training cruiser. The only changes they made to her armament was to replace the 15mm AA MGs with 20mm Breda AA Guns.

After the Italian capitulation in 1943 she was incorporated into the German navy (again!) and recommissioned with her original name, Niobe. They enhanced her armament by adding 2 x 20mm Flakvierling (i.e. 2 x 4 x 20mm AA Guns). The Germans used her offensively against the Yugoslav partisans, but eventually they handed her over to the newly formed Croatian Navy (most of her crew whilst she had been part of the German Navy had been Croat), and she may have been renamed Dalmacija yet again.

She was lost on 22nd December 1943 as a result of running aground whilst returning from an aborted mission and subsequently being torpedoed by two British Motor Torpedo Boats.


  1. As a fan of the Pre-Dreadnought period, I thank you for the history of this cruiser.

    -- Jeff

  2. Bluebear Jeff,

    It was my pleasure!

    I find the history of ships – particularly those with unusual histories – fascinating.

    All the best,