Russian merchant cruiser Ural (1904)

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Career
Name: Spree (1890-1899)
Kaiserin Maria Theresia (1899-1904)
Ural (1904-1905)
Owner: Norddeutscher Lloyd (1890-1904)
Imperial Russian Navy (1904-1905)
Builder: AG Vulcan, Stettin
Launched: 17 May 1890
Fate: Sunk on 27 May 1905
General characteristics
Class & type: Rivers-class ocean liner
Auxiliary cruiser
Tonnage: 6,963 GRT (as built)
7,840 GRT (after 1899)
Length: 463 ft (141 m) (as built)
526 ft (160 m) (after 1899)
Beam: 51.8 ft (15.8 m) (as built)
Propulsion: By 1904:
2 x triple expansion engine
2 screws
dual shaft
3 funnels
two masts
Speed: 18 kn (21 mph) (as built)
20 kn (23 mph) (after 1899)

The Ural was an auxiliary cruiser of the Imperial Russian Navy during the Russo-Japanese War. She was originally a Rivers-class ocean liner for Norddeutscher Lloyd, launched in 1890 under the name Spree. She was renamed Kaiserin Maria Theresia in 1899, before being sold to the Russians in 1904.

Commercial service[edit]

Built in 1890 as the Spree for Norddeutscher Lloyd of Bremen by the AG Vulcan shipyard of Stettin, Germany, she was 6,963 gross tons with a length of 463 ft (141 m) and a beam of 51.8 ft (15.8 m) and a speed of 18 kn (21 mph). She had two funnels, three masts, and a single screw, with accommodation for 244 first-class, 122 second-class and 460 third-class passengers. She made her maiden voyage leaving Bremen for New York on 11 October 1890. She would continue to ply this route for eight years.[1]

Whilst heading west across the Atlantic in November 1892, the Spree's main propeller shaft broke and made a hole in the stern.[2] There was considerable panic amongst the passengers until it became clear that the ship's watertight compartments would keep it afloat. Two days later, the steamship Lake Huron was sighted and was able to tow the Spree back to Ireland. There was only one casualty in the incident: a man who threw himself overboard and was drowned. The event was memorialized in a poem by William McGonagall.[3]

Colourised postcard view of the promenade deck of Kaiserin Maria Theresia

In 1899 she was completely rebuilt by AG Vulcan. She was lengthened to 526 ft (160 m), her tonnage increased to 7,840 GRT, new engines were fitted joined to twin screws to give a speed of 20 kn (23 mph). The number of funnels was increased to three, though she was reduced to two masts. Her accommodation was altered to carry 405 first-class, 114 second-class and 387 third-class passengers, and she was renamed Kaiserin Maria Theresia (some sources say Theresa.)

Wartime service[edit]

She was sold to the Imperial Russian Navy in 1904 for use in the Russo-Japanese War. The Russians rebuilt her as an auxiliary cruiser and renamed her Ural. In October she left Kronstadt to join Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky's fleet on its way to Vladivostok. In May 1905, the Ural was used as a scout ship and was the first ship to sight Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō's fleet at the Battle of Tsushima. In an action with Japanese battleships, she was hit by a 12-inch shell in the engine room and eventually torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "S/S Spree, Norddeutscher Lloyd". Norway Heritage. 
  2. ^ "The Spree's Great Peril". New York Times. 4 December 1892. 
  3. ^ McGonagall, William (1892). "The Foundering of the Steamer "Spree"". McGonagall Online.