Magazine article History Today

Postscript on the Szent Istvan

Magazine article History Today

Postscript on the Szent Istvan

Article excerpt

Just before sunrise in the Adriatic on June 10th, 1918, Capitano di Fregata Luigi Rizzo, in command of the Royal Italian Navy's MAS 15, a fragile Motor launch, fired two torpedoes at SMS Szent Istvan, one of the four dreadnoughts in Austria-Hungary's fleet. Both hit the battleship, on the starboard side. Just under three hours later, now turned turtle, she sank, her slow death filmed at length from the air and from her accompanying sister ship, the Tegetthoff. This unique footage is still spliced into documentaries on naval warfare or on the First World War, usually without any attribution.

Now the wreck is being examined. In spring 1995, on the basis of an agreement made between the Hungarian and Croatian ministries of culture, an expedition made an exploratory dive on the wreck, which is nine nautical miles, south-west of the small Croatian island of Premuda. The third expedition, in October 1,997, consisted of six Croats and fourteen Hungarians, The channel where the vessel lies Is deep, and a diver can only work on the ship for a maximum of twenty minutes. The Hungarians are documenting the Istvan with video cameras, arid eventually hope to recover a relief: plaque from the wall of the admiral's saloon, the sole item they will keep.

The Szent Istvan was the only dreadnought to be sunk in action during the First World War (Britain's losses at Jutland were battlecruisers). In the judgement of a French official naval historian, it was the most brilliant success of the whole war in the Adriatic: and Rizzo, not expecting this encounter, only took ten minutes to decide on and execute the attack.

Italy's Festa della Marina now celebrates Rizzo's action on June 10th -- national Navy Day. The sinking of the Szent. Istvan is regarded as a triumph, wiping away the defeat of a far more powerful Italian fleet of modern ironclads by the young Austrian Admiral Tegetthoff's, rag-tag, collection of wooden and iron warships at the battle of Lissa in 1866. It would have been even sweeter for Italy if Rizzo's partnering launch, MAS 21, had succeeded in sinking SMS' Tegetthoff also, but the torpedoes were faulty: Instead, that battleship was captured and became the principal trophy in the Italian navy's victory parade in Venice in 1919. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.