SMS Niobe in 1902
|Launched:||18 July 1899|
|Commissioned:||25 June 1900|
|Out of service:||Sold to Yugoslavia|
|Kingdom of Yugoslavia|
|Acquired:||26 June 1925|
|Captured:||25 April 1941|
|Acquired:||25 April 1941|
|Captured:||11 September 1943|
|Acquired:||11 September 1943|
|Fate:||Beached on Silba and destroyed by British torpedo boats in December 1943|
|Class & type:||Gazelle-class light cruiser|
|Displacement:||2,963 tonnes (2,916 long tons)|
|Length:||105 m (344.5 ft) overall|
|Beam:||12.2 m (40.0 ft)|
|Draft:||5.03 m (16.5 ft)|
|Installed power:||8,000 ihp (6,000 kW)|
|Propulsion:||2 shafts, 2 Triple-expansion steam engines|
|Speed:||21.5 knots (39.8 km/h; 24.7 mph)|
|Range:||3,570 nmi (6,610 km; 4,110 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)|
|Armor:||Deck: 20 to 25 mm (0.79 to 0.98 in)|
SMS Niobe ("His Majesty's Ship Niobe")[a] was the second member of the ten-ship Gazelle class of light cruisers built by the Imperial German Navy. She was built by the AG Weser shipyard in Bremen, laid down in 1898, launched in July 1899, and commissioned into the High Seas Fleet in June 1900. She was named after Niobe, a figure from Greek mythology. Armed with a main battery of ten 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns and two 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, Niobe was capable of a top speed of 21.5 knots (39.8 km/h; 24.7 mph). The ship had a long career, serving in all three German navies, along with the Yugoslav and Italian fleets over the span of over 40 years in service.
Niobe served in both home and overseas waters in the Imperial Navy, before being reduced to a coastal defense ship after the outbreak of World War I. She survived the conflict and was one of six cruisers permitted to the Reichsmarine by the Treaty of Versailles. In 1925, the German Navy sold the ship to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia). There, she was renamed Dalmacija and served until April 1941, when she was captured by the Italians during the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia. Renamed Cattaro, she served in the Italian Regia Marina until the Italian surrender in September 1943. She was then seized by the German occupiers of Italy, who restored her original name. She was used in the Adriatic briefly until December 1943, when she ran aground on the island of Silba, and was subsequently destroyed by British Motor Torpedo Boats. The wreck was ultimately salvaged and broken up for scrap in 1947–49.
Niobe was ordered under the contract name "B" and was laid down at the AG Weser shipyard in Bremen in 1898 and launched on 18 July 1899, after which fitting-out work commenced. She was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet on 25 June 1900. The ship was 105 meters (344 ft) long overall and had a beam of 12.2 m (40 ft) and a draft of 5.03 m (16.5 ft) forward. She displaced 2,963 t (2,916 long tons; 3,266 short tons) at full combat load. Her propulsion system consisted of two triple-expansion engines manufactured by AG-Germania. They were designed to give 8,000 shaft horsepower (6,000 kW), for a top speed of 21.5 knots (39.8 km/h; 24.7 mph). The engines were powered by eight coal-fired Thornycroft water-tube boilers. Niobe carried 500 tonnes (490 long tons) of coal, which gave her a range of 3,570 nautical miles (6,610 km; 4,110 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). She had a crew of 14 officers and 243 enlisted men.
The ship was armed with ten 10.5 cm SK L/40 guns in single mounts. Two were placed side by side forward on the forecastle, six were located amidships, three on either side, and two were placed side by side aft. The guns could engage targets out to 12,200 m (40,000 ft). They were supplied with 1,000 rounds of ammunition, for 100 shells per gun. She was also equipped with two 45 cm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes with five torpedoes. They were submerged in the hull on the broadside. The ship was protected by an armored deck that was 20 to 25 mm (0.79 to 0.98 in) thick. The conning tower had 80 mm (3.1 in) thick sides, and the guns were protected by 50 mm (2.0 in) thick shields.
After her commissioning, Niobe served with the fleet in German waters. In 1902, Niobe was assigned to the Cruiser Division of the I Squadron of the German home fleet. The Division consisted of the armored cruiser Prinz Heinrich, the flagship, Freya, Victoria Louise, and the light cruisers Hela and Amazone. The Division participated in the summer fleet maneuvers of August–September 1902. Starting in October of that year, she served as the flagship of Franz von Hipper, who at the time commanded the Second Torpedo Unit. In 1906, she was sent overseas and remained on colonial duties until 1909, when she returned to Germany. After the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, she was reduced to a coastal defense ship. She served in this role until 1915, when she was converted into a floating office in Wilhelmshaven. During this period, she again served under Hipper, who used her as his headquarters. In 1917, she was disarmed so her guns could be used to reinforce the defenses of Wilhelmshaven.
Niobe was among the ships permitted by the Treaty of Versailles after the end of the war, and so she continued on in service with the newly reorganized Reichsmarine. During this period, she was significantly modernized; her old ram bow was replaced with a clipper bow. Her old 10.5 cm SK L/40 guns were replaced with newer SK L/45 guns in U-boat mountings and two 50 cm (20 in) torpedo tubes in deck-mounted launchers were installed. On 26 June 1925, Niobe was stricken from the naval register and sold to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia).
Yugoslavia had initially been given the old Austro-Hungarian Navy after the dissolution of the Empire in the closing days of World War I, but the Allied powers quickly seized the majority of the ships and allocated them to the various Allied countries. Left with only twelve modern torpedo boats, Yugoslavia sought more powerful vessels. The Yugoslav Royal Navy therefore purchased Niobe when Germany placed her for sale in 1925. Renamed Dalmacija (Dalmatia), she was completely rearmed in 1926 before she entered Yugoslavian service. She was equipped with six Škoda 8.5 cm /55 quick-firing guns, and initially four and later six 2 cm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft guns were added. After entering service, Dalmacija was employed as a gunnery training ship.
In April 1941, during the Axis Invasion of Yugoslavia, Dalmacija remained in harbor and did not see action. Following the Yugoslavian surrender, the ship was captured by the Italians in Kotor on 25 April. Renamed Cattaro, the ship was placed in service with the Regia Marina. On 31 July 1942, the cruiser was attacked by the British submarine HMS Traveller south of Premantura but all of the torpedoes missed.
Return to German service
After the Italian capitulation she was captured by the Germans on 11 September 1943, and renamed Niobe. Her armament was again revised, this time consisting of six 8.4 cm (3.3 in) anti-aircraft guns, four 4.7 cm (1.9 in) anti-aircraft guns, four 20 mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns, and twenty-six 20 mm Breda anti-aircraft guns, and she was commissioned on 8 November. On the night of 21–22 September, while she was still refitting, two British Motor Torpedo Boats—MTB 226 and MTB 228—attacked the ship to the northwest of Zara without success. On 13 November, Niobe escorted several transports carrying units from the 7th Infantry Division to the islands of Cres, Krk, and Lussino.
On 19 December, Niobe ran aground on the island of Silba. Three days later, the British Motor Torpedo Boats MTB 276 and MTB 298 attacked the ship and hit her with two torpedoes; nineteen men were killed in the attack. The Germans then abandoned the wreck, which was later cannibalized for spare parts by the Yugoslav Partisans. The wreck remained on Silba until 1947, when salvage operations began. She was raised and broken up for scrap by 1949.
- "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" (German: His Majesty's Ship).
- Gröner, pp. 99–101
- Gröner, p. 100
- Gröner, p. 101
- Gröner, p. 99
- Brassey, p. 155
- Philbin, p. 15
- Philbin, p. 48
- Philbin, pp. 59–60
- Gardiner & Chesneau, p. 355
- Gardiner & Gray, p. 357
- Rohwer, p. 67
- Rohwer, p. 181
- Rohwer, p. 272
- Rohwer, p. 277
- Rohwer, p. 288
- Rohwer, p. 294
- Brassey, T.A., ed. (1903). Brassey's Naval Annual. London: J. Griffin & Co.
- Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922–1946. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0870219138.
- Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-790-9.
- Philbin, Tobias R., III (1982). Admiral von Hipper: The Inconvenient Hero. Amsterdam: B. R. Grüner Publishing Co. ISBN 90-6032-200-2.
- Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two. Annapolis, MD: US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2.