Greek battleship Kilkis
Kilkis, while still in US Navy service
|Namesake:||Battle of Kilkis-Lahanas|
|Laid down:||12 May 1904|
|Launched:||30 September 1905|
|Commissioned:||22 July 1914|
|Fate:||Sunk on 23 April 1941 near Salamis.|
|Status:||Salvaged in the 1950s|
|Notes:||previously USS Mississippi (BB-23)|
|Class and type:||Mississippi-class battleship|
|Length:||382 ft (116.4 m)|
|Beam:||77 ft (23.5 m)|
|Draft:||24 ft 8 in (7.5 m)|
|Installed power:||10,000 ihp (7,500 kW)|
|Speed:||17-knot (31 km/h; 20 mph) maximum|
Kilkis (Greek: Θ/Κ Κιλκίς) was a 13,000 ton Mississippi-class battleship originally built by the US Navy in 1904–1908. As Mississippi she was purchased by the Hellenic Navy of Greece in 1914, and renamed her Kilkis, along with her sister Idaho, renamed Lemnos. Kilkis was named for the Battle of Kilkis-Lahanas, a crucial engagement of the Second Balkan War. Armed with a main battery of four 12 in (305 mm) guns, Kilkis and her sister were the most powerful vessels in the Greek fleet.
The ship saw limited action during World War I. Greece's pro-German monarch, Constantine I opted to remain neutral until October 1916, when pressure from the Triple Entente forced him to abdicate in favor of a pro-Entente government. For the remainder of the war, Kilkis operated solely as a harbor defense ship. In the immediately ensuing Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, Kilkis supported Greek landings in Turkey and participated in the final Greek sea-borne withdrawal in 1922. She remained in service into the early 1930s, when she was used for a training ship. During the German invasion of Greece in 1941, she and her sister were sunk in Salamis by German Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers. The two ships were ultimately raised in the 1950s and broken up for scrap.
Kilkis was 382 feet (116 m) long overall and had a beam of 77 ft (23 m) and a draft of 24 ft 8 in (7.52 m). She displaced 13,000 metric tons (13,000 long tons; 14,000 short tons) as designed and up to 14,465 t (14,237 long tons; 15,945 short tons) at full combat load. The ship was powered by two-shaft vertical triple expansion engines and eight coal-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers rated at 10,000 indicated horsepower (7,500 kW) and a top speed of 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph). Lattice masts were installed in 1909. She had a crew of 744 officers and enlisted men.
The ship was armed with a main battery of four 12 in (305 mm) L/45 guns in two twin turrets, one on either end of the superstructure. Eight 8 in (203 mm) L/45 guns were mounted in four twin turrets, two on other side of the vessel amidships. The secondary battery was rounded out with eight 7 in (178 mm) L/45 guns mounted individually in casemates along the length of the hull. Close-range defense against torpedo boats was protected by a battery of twelve 3 in (76 mm) L/50 guns, six 3-pounder guns and two 1-pounder guns. The ship's armament system was completed by two 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes submerged in her hull. Kilkis and Lemnos were the most powerful vessels in the Hellenic Navy.
Laid down on 12 May 1904, the ship was launched on 30 September 1905 and commissioned into the United States Navy on 1 January 1908 as USS Mississippi. Greece became engaged in a naval arms race with the Ottoman Empire at the time; the Ottomans had purchased a pair of German pre-dreadnoughts—Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm and Weissenburg in 1910—and ordered dreadnought battleships from Britain in 1911 and 1914. The Hellenic Navy ordered the dreadnought Salamis from Germany in 1913 and the dreadnought Basileus Konstantinos from France. As a stop-gap measure, the Greeks purchased Mississippi and Idaho from the US Navy, for the sum of $12,535,276.58, on 30 June 1914., The two ships were transferred to the Hellenic Navy in Newport News, Virginia the following month. Kilkis and Lemnos quickly left the United States after their transfer in July, due to the rising tensions in Europe following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria the previous month. After arriving in Greece, Kilkis became the flagship of the Greek fleet.
At the outbreak of World War I in July 1914, Greece's pro-German monarch, Constantine I, decided to remain neutral. The Entente powers landed troops in Salonika in 1915, which was a source of tension between France and Greece. Ultimately, the French seized the Hellenic Navy on 19 October 1916 (see Noemvriana and National Schism). Kilkis was reduced to a skeleton crew and had the breech blocks for her guns removed to render them inoperable. All ammunition and torpedoes were also removed. Ultimately, a pro-Entente government replaced Constantine and declared war on the Central Powers. Kilkis, however, did not see active service with Greece's new allies, and instead was used solely for harbor defense until the end of the war.
After the end of World War I Kilkis saw service during the Greco-Turkish War, where she supported landings to seize Ottoman territory. These operations also included actions to support the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War in the Black Sea. While supporting the French and British forces defending Sevastopol in April 1919, Kilkis observed mutinies on several French battleships. Her crew taunted the French mutineers by hanging a dummy from the yardarm. Kilkis then returned to Greece; on 5 May 1919, she and a pair of destroyers escorted a convoy of six troop transports to Smyrna, where the soldiers were disembarked. Kilkis carried Rear Admiral Kaloulides, who thereafter served as the military governor of the city. The Ottoman Navy had been interned by the Allies after the end of World War I, and so provided no opposition to the Hellenic Navy's activities.
In March 1920, Kilkis was stationed in Constantinople as part of an Allied fleet, which was composed primarily of British warhips. The ships' crews practiced landing operations to support the garrison occupying the city, but in the event only crews from the British ships went ashore. Kilkis left the theater to represent Greece during the Fleet Review in Spithead to honor King George V on his birthday, 3 June 1920. In July, Kilkis and a pair of destroyers escorted a convoy carrying 7,000 infantrymen, 1,000 artillerists, and 4,000 mules to Panderma. Among the Greek naval vessels that supported the landings with Kilkis were the armored cruiser Georgios Averof and the destroyers Aetos, Leon, and Ierax, and a hospital ship. Landings also took place at Eregli on the other side of the Sea of Marmora. On 19 July, Kilkis departed with several transport ships and the British seaplane carrier HMS Ark Royal, which provided aerial reconnaissance for the Greek forces. Operations came to a close in September 1922 when the Greek Army was forced to evacuate by sea, along with a sizable number of civilians, from Asia Minor. The fleet transported a total of 250,000 soldiers and civilians during the evacuation. Kilkis and Lemnos departed Smyrna on the evening of 8 September.
Kilkis underwent repairs and upgrades in 1926–1928 but was already obsolete due to low speed and low freeboard. The ship had her boilers re-tubed during this refit. On 29 November 1929, the Hellenic Navy announced that Kilkis would be withdrawn from service and broken up for scrap. Consequently, in 1930, Georgios Averof replaced her as the fleet flagship. Nevertheless, Kilkis remained in service with the fleet until 1932. The ship was then withdrawn from the active fleet and used as a training ship. A failed insurrection in the Greek fleet in March 1935 led to a reduction in the number of personnel in the Navy. As a result, Kilkis and Georgios Averof were removed from active service. After the revolt, Kilkis was used as a training ship for anti-aircraft gunners.
World War II
On 28 October 1940, Italy invaded Greece, initiating the Greco-Italian War as part of the Italian dictactor Benito Mussolini's expansionist program. The Greek army quickly defeated the Italians and pushed them back to Albania. Less than two weeks later, the Italian fleet was badly damaged in the British Raid on Taranto, which significantly reduced the threat the Italian Regia Marina posed to the Greek fleet. From the start of the conflict, Kilkis was used as a floating battery based in Salamis. Spare guns from Kilkis and Lemnos were employed as coastal batteries throughout Greece.
On 6 April 1941, the German Wehrmacht invaded Greece to support its Italian ally in the stalemated conflict. British planners suggested using the ship to block the Corinth Canal by scuttling her at the southern entrance to the canal, but the Hellenic Navy refused, preferring to use the ship as a barracks ship if they should have to retreat from Salamis. The ship was attacked in Salamis Naval Base by Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers on 23 April 1941, during the German invasion. Kilkis attempted to get underway to evade the attacks, but she was hit by several bombs and sank in the harbor. Her wreck was refloated and broken up for scrap in the 1950s.
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