Warship Wednesday January 6, 2016: The wandering Italian of Montevideo
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, January 6, 2016: The wandering Italian of Montevideo
Here we see the Hellenic Navy’s one-of-a-kind protected cruiser Salamis, err, make that the Regina Marina’s cruiser (ariete torpediniere) Admiral Angelo Emo, or is it Dogali, or is it the Uruguayan Navy’s ROU 25 de Agosto?
Well, about that…
Designed by British naval architect Sir William Henry White, who served as Chief Constructor at the Admiralty, the ship was in good company. Sir William came up with the plans for the Royal Sovereign-class and King Edward VII-class battleships, the royal yacht HMY Victoria and Albert III, and the liner RMS Mauretania among his designs for 43 battleships, 26 armored cruisers, 102 protected cruisers, and 74 unarmored warships. Suffice to say, Sir William knew a thing or three about cranking out a decent ship.
Salamis (“ΣΑΛΑΜΙΣ”), a 2260-ton warship of 266-feet in length, carried an impressive half-dozen good Armstrong 15 cm (5.9 in) L/40 guns single mounts with two side by side forward, two astern, and one amidships on each broadside– and was the only such ship to carry these particular guns. Further, making a very sporty 19.66 knots on trials, she was among the fastest major warship in any fleet on that day.
Ordered for the Hellenic Navy on 12 February 1884 at Armstrong Whitworth in Elswick (BuNo.482), she was laid down the next year. She was contracted under the government of Prime Minister Charilaos Trikoupis who, with tensions brewing with the Ottomans that were lead to war in 1897, was keen on beefing up the Greek Navy. However, when Trikoupis was ushered out of office in May of that year, the new government of Theodoros Deligiannis, not so keen on buying new warships, canceled the contract for Salamis while still on the builder’s ways and Armstrong promptly offered her to Turkey!
(*Trikoupis would return to power and in 1889 buy the new battleships Hydra, Spetsai, and Psara from France, but that’s another story.)
Luckily for the Greeks, the Turkish sale fell through and the Kingdom of Italy, who intended to name her Angelo Emo after the 18th century Grand Admiral of the Republic of Venice and launched her as such, purchased the clearance sale cruiser on 12 February 1887.
The Italian Regina Marina nonetheless commissioned their new cruiser on 28 April 1887 with– instead of Emo’s name– the monicker Dogali to commemorate the slaughter of Colonel Tommaso De Cristoforis’ 500-man battalion by Ras Alula Engida’s 7,000 Ethiopian troops near Massawa in what is now Eritrea in January of that year. This produced the oddity of naming her after a stunning Italian defeat chalked up there with such colonial shellackings as the Battle of Isandlwana (see, Zulu Dawn) and Adwa (like Dogali but way, way worse for the Italians).
Serving first with the First Squadron, then after 1897 with the Cruiser Squadron, Dogali was a happy ship despite her namesake and, with her relatively long sea legs (capable of over 4,000 nm range at 10 knots), ventured to the U.S. for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition where she was reviewed along with the other Italian cruisers Etna and Giovanni Bausan in the Hudson, then down to Rio where she stood by in an international armada to protect Italian citizens during a revolt there.
As a training ship for the Italian Navy, Dogali spent most of her career on cruises for naval cadets.
Continuing her overseas work, she waved the flag in the Pacific, spending a few wild nights in Vancouver and later the Gulf of Mexico where her crew enjoyed New Orleans and Pensacola. Again, she visited New York in 1897 for the occasion of the unveiling of Grant’s Tomb.
In 1902, during the Venezuela Crisis, Dogali sailed up the Amazon to Santa Fe in Peru accompanied by the German cruiser SMS Falke (at the time Italy, Germany, and Austria were allies).
In 1908, with her unique power plant and armament something of a logistical sore thumb to the Italians, and with a looming refit on her 20-year old high-mileage machinery, Rome approached Peru for a possible sale which fell through then, in the end, sold her off to the Armada Nacional del Uruguay, who commissioned her first as República Oriental del Uruguay’s 25 de Agosto after the date of the country’s independence from Spain and then later as ROU Montevideo after the capital– though she never did get that refit.
At over 2,000-tons and mounting 6×5.9-inchers, she far eclipsed anything the Uruguayan navy had ever owned and was part of the tiny service’s early 20th Century naval build-up that included the armed steamer Vanguardia, the brand-new 1,400-ton German-built gunboat Uruguay (2×4.7-inch guns), and the dispatch boat Oriental.
The problem was, there just weren’t enough seasoned jacks and officers (the Uruguayan naval academy was only just founded in 1907) to man all these ships.
Before the big (for Uruguay) Italian cruiser joining the fleet, the largest ship the Armada had ever operated was the elderly 127-foot French-built wooden gunboat General Suárez (ex-Tactique) which had locomotive boilers and a crew of just 65 officers and rates. To jump from that to a cruiser that required a crew of over 200 to make way was a stretch.
With the addition of the ex-Dogali to the fleet, the Uruguayans discarded Suarez as well as the old Austrian-built gunboat General Artigas (300-tons) and the German-built armed merchant steamer Malvinas (400-tons) while transferring the paddle-wheel river gunboat Barón de Río Branco (300-tons) to the Ministry of the Interior– then took all of their crews and piled them up on the much larger new ship. Talk about Brady Bunch.
With that in mind, after 1910, when the new and less labor-intensive ROU Uruguay arrived from Germany, our aging cruiser Montevideo rarely left port. ROU Uruguay did most of the “at sea” work for the Armada after that date (and they only got rid of this relic from Imperial Germany in 1962!)
Montevideo remained as a “fleet in being” for another two decades at her dock, still flying the flag and giving and receiving salutes, though largely unmanned.
In 1912, while on a short sea cruise Montevideo nearly foundered near the Brazilian coast and had to be towed back, an ignoble fate for a once-proud vessel.
In 1914, Montevideo was disarmed and served as a stationary training and receiving ship (crucero escuela) for the Armada.
During World War I, Uruguay sided against Germany and broke off diplomatic relations, though never entered the war, thus ensuring our elderly cruiser had very limited use during the Great War that ensnared all of her former officials and potential owners and builders up to that time.
Finally, in 1932 she was sold for scrap at age 45, to make room at the wayside for three new 180-ton gunboats and a three-masted sail-training/survey ship which better suited the nation’s needs.
Montevideo would arguably be the most powerful warship to ever sail under the flag of Uruguay and was the only cruiser ever operated by that country. And after all, in a fleet with no battleships or carriers, the cruiser is king!
Montevideo was also the largest Uruguayan naval ship until the Armada picked up a pre-owned trio of 1960s-era Commandant Rivière-class sloops (frigates) from France (2,230-tons/321-feet oal/ 3×4-inch guns) at the end of the Cold War, which in turn replaced a pair of smaller WWII-era Cannon-class destroyer escorts. While the old cruiser has a few tons on these craft, they are some 60+ feet longer.
As a note, just two of the trio of French frigates remain in some sort of nominal service, and one of these, the former Admiral Charner (F727) has carried the name ROU Montevideo (F3) since 1991, keeping our subject’s memory alive.
Displacement: 2,050 t (2,020 long tons; 2,260 short tons)
Length: 76.2 m (250 ft.) waterline, 266.75 oal.
Beam: 11.28 m (37.0 ft.)
Draft: 4.42 m (14.5 ft.)
Propulsion: 2-shaft triple expansion engines 7197 shp.
Speed: 17.68 knots (32.74 km/h; 20.35 mph)
Range: 4,000 nmi (7,400 km; 4,600 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) with 430 tons of coal
Complement: 12 officers 232 crew, though in Italian service was more and in Uruguayan much less.
Armament: (most removed 1914)
6 × 152mm (5.9 in) L/40 guns
9 × 57 mm (2.2 in) guns
6 × Gatling guns
4 × 356 mm (14.0 in) torpedo tubes
1 75mm gun added 1898.
Deck: 50 mm (2.0 in)
Conning tower: 50 mm
Gun shields: 110 mm (4.3 in)
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