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SMS KAISER, Austria’s “wooden battleship”. (1858)

Posted: Sun Oct 22, 2023 6:02 pm
by Anatol
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.
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.
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;
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. 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.
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.. 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. 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
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 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.
The design stamp is made after painting of Eduard_Nezbeda : “SMS Kaiser rammming Re di Portogallo at Lissa, 1866”
Grenadinas of Grenada 2019; 4$.
Source: ... kaiser.php