SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth sea trials
The first Austrian-built cruisers
The only modern cruisers previously built for the Austro-Hungarian navy were the two Panthers of 1885 from the English Armstrong-Elswick shipyards and typical of this kind of economic export unit. They were replicated by STT with the Tiger in 1887, but the Admiralty wanted a new type of local construction.
Designated as “torpedo cruisers” they were designed to ship the standard heavy parts of the fleet (240mm Krupp guns), receive a larger armor and be faster. Regarding the shielding, the latter was not thicker than 90 mm at the most sensitive places, and because of this, the hull was too little protected and too light to cash bursts 240 mm parts.
SMS Kaiser Franz Joseph I anchored
The Kaiser Franz Joseph I was started at STT in January 1888 and the twin Kaiserin Elisabeth at Pola in July 1888. They were launched respectively in May 1889 and September 1890 and put into service in July 1890 and January 1892.
SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth drawing
Design of the Kaiser Franz Joseph I
The excessive construction time of the Kaiserin Elisabeth led the Admiralty not to entrust any important constructions to the Pola shipyards, which was, however, rewarded with the construction of the three light Zenta class cruisers shortly thereafter.
Their stability and fragility of structure posing a problem, the two units were rebuilt in 1905-1906: The 240 mm pieces were removed (origin: 2 pieces of 240 (1×2), 6 of 150, 2 of 70, 9 of 47, 3 of 37 mm, 4 TLT 400 mm SM (fore, aft, broadside), replaced by 150 mm guns in simple turrets. Their secondary artillery was also cut down.
Career of the Kaiser class
Kaiser Franz Joseph I was deemed obsolete in 1914 and used as a coastguard anchored at Cattaro. In 1917 he was totally disarmed and became a depot ship. Attributed to France in war damage, she sank in October 1919 off Kumbor in the Bay of Cattaro.
The Kaiserin Elisabeth was anchored in Tsing Tao in China in 1914. Her battery was dismantled in favor of the coastal battery “Elisabeth”, defending an area of the colony against the Japanese. It was scuttled two days after the surrender of the port on November 2, 1914.
SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth 1901
Kaiser class specifications
|Dimensions||103,70 x 14,75 x 5,70 m ()|
|Displacement||3970 tonnes standard – 4500 tonnes FL|
|Propulsion||2 hélices, 2 machines HE 3 cylinders, 12 boilers, 8450 cv.|
|Speed||19 knots (36 km/h; 20 mph)|
|Armament||2 x150/40 in barbettes, 6 x 150, 14 x 47, 2 x 70 mm Howitzer, 4 TT 400 mm.|
|Armour||turrets 90 mm, citadel 30, belt 57, blockhaus 50, decks 38 mm|
Author’s illustration of the Kaiser Franz Joseph in 1914