Summary: His Majesty’s Battleship Szent IstvĂˇn - the Hungarian Dreadnought as seen by Time Witness Reports
Dieter Winkler/Erwin Sieche/Walter Blasi
On 17th January 1914 in Bergudi near Fiume the battleship Szent István was launched; it was supposed to provide evidence of the efficiency of Hungarian industry. The launching was ill-fated: It claimed one life and one heavily injured, and she nearly collided with her sister-ship Tegetthoff.
The Dreadnought, which was a sign of a paradigmatic change in shipbuilding, was built by Ganz & Co. Danubius in Bergudi where the performance of the shipyard had to be increased first. The political decision to build her in a Hungarian shipyard was preceded by a long-term tug-of-war. The keel laying of the battleship, which was built in the course of two years, took place on 19th January 1912. It was only in the beginning of the war, on 17th November 1915, that the battleship Szent István was put in service "with reservation”. During the following two days the guns built by the arms manufacturer ©koda A.G. were broken in.
At that time the imperial and royal fleet was in a parlous state, as it was virtually locked in in the Northern Adriatic Sea because of the fact that the allied forces controlled the Strait of Otranto. For this reason the Szent István anchored for more than 94% of the time in Pola, and thus the crew were unable to pick up experience in the course of only 54 at sea.
In the course of the June Offensive of 1918 the navy was supposed to attack the Otranto block vehemently and thus to support the land forces at the South-West front, but the times of attack had not been coordinated. The premature striking of the navy ended up with a disaster. An Italian group of high-speed launches caught sight of the approaching battleships and sank the Szent István with two torpedoes. The Szent István sank killing 89 seamen; survivors of the tragedy wrote down their reminiscences, often many years later, and with these reminiscences the course of events and the throes of death can be understood in detail.
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