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Yugoslav monitor Sava

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Title: Yugoslav monitor Sava  
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Yugoslav monitor Sava

Yugoslav monitor Sava
a black and white photograph of a shallow draught ship alongside a dock
SMS Bodrog on the Danube river in 1914
Name: Bodrog
Namesake: Bodrog River
In service: March 1904
Out of service: 1918
Fate: Assigned to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (KSCS)
KSCS/Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Name: Sava
Namesake: Sava River
Acquired: 1920
Fate: Scuttled by her crew on 11/12 April 1941
Independent State of Croatia
Name: Sava
Acquired: Raised and repaired
Fate: Scuttled by her crew 8/9 September 1944
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Name: Sava
Acquired: Raised and repaired
Reinstated: 1952
Fate: Transferred to state-run company
Status: Serving as gravel barge in Serbia (2014)
Notes: Naval service ended in 1962
General characteristics
Class & type: Temes-class river monitor
Displacement: 440 long tons (450 t)
Length: 57.7 m (189 ft)
Beam: 9.5 m (31 ft)
Draught: 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in)
Installed power:
Propulsion: 2 triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph)
Complement: 86 officers and enlisted
  • 2 × 120 mm (4.7 in)/L35 guns (2 × 1)
  • 1 × 120 mm (4.7 in)/L10 howitzer
  • 1 × 66 mm (2.6 in)/L18 gun
  • 3 × machine guns

The Yugoslav monitor Sava was a Temes-class river monitor built for the Austro-Hungarian Navy as SMS Bodrog. She fired the first shots of World War I on the night of 28 July 1914, when she and two other monitors shelled Serbian defences near Belgrade. During World War I she was part of the Danube Flotilla, and fought the Serbian and Romanian armies from Belgrade to the mouth of the Danube. In the closing stages of the war, she was the last monitor to withdraw towards Budapest, but was captured by the Serbs when she grounded on a sandbank downstream from Belgrade. After the war, she was transferred to the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia), and renamed Sava.

During the German-led Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, she served with the 1st Monitor Division. Along with her fellow monitor Vardar, she laid mines in the Danube near the Romanian border during the first few days of the invasion. The two monitors fought off several attacks by the Luftwaffe, but were forced to withdraw to Belgrade. Due to high river levels and low bridges, navigation was difficult, and Sava was scuttled by her crew on 11 April. Some of her crew tried to escape cross-country towards the southern Adriatic coast, but most were obliged to surrender on 14 April. The remainder made their way to the Bay of Kotor, which was captured by the Italian XVII Corps on 17 April. Sava was later raised by the navy of the Axis puppet state known as the Independent State of Croatia and continued to serve as Sava until the night of 8 September 1944 when she was again scuttled.

Following World War II, Sava was raised once again, and was refurbished to serve in the Yugoslav Navy from 1952 to 1962. She was then transferred to a state-owned company which was eventually privatised. As of 2014, Sava was still in service as a gravel barge. In 2005, the government of Serbia granted her limited heritage protection after citizens demanded that she be preserved as a floating museum, but little else has been done to restore her.

Description and construction

The ship was a Temes-class river monitor built for the Austro-Hungarian Navy by H. Schönichen and was originally named SMS Bodrog. She was laid down at Neupest in 1903, and along with her sister ship SMS Temes, she had an overall length of 57.7 m (189 ft 4 in), a beam of 9.5 m (31 ft 2 in), and a normal draught of 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in). Her standard displacement was 440 tonnes (430 long tons), and her crew consisted of 86 officers and enlisted men. Bodrog had two triple-expansion steam engines, each driving a single propeller shaft. Steam for the engines was provided by two Yarrow water-tube boilers, and her engines were rated at 1,400 indicated horsepower (1,000 kW). As designed, she had a maximum speed of 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph),[1] and carried 62 tonnes (61 long tons) of coal.[2]

Bodrog was armed with two single gun turrets of 120 mm (4.7 in)L/35[1] guns, a single 120 mm (4.7 in)L/10 howitzer, a single 66 mm (2.6 in)L/18 gun, and three machine guns.[1] The maximum range of her Škoda 120 mm (4.7 in)L/35 guns was 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), and her howitzer could fire its 20 kg (44 lb) shell a maximum of 6.2 km (3.9 mi).[3] Her armour consisted of belt, bulkheads and gun turrets 40 mm (1.6 in) thick and deck armour 25 mm (0.98 in) thick, and her conning tower was 75 mm (3.0 in) thick. Bodrog was launched on 12 April 1904 and completed on 10 November 1904.[1]


World War I

Serbian campaign

Bodrog was commissioned into the Danube Flotilla, and at the start of World War I she was based in Zemun, just upstream from Belgrade on the Danube, with another three monitors and three patrol boats.[4] Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914, and that night Bodrog and two other monitors fired the first shots of the war against fortifications at the Zemun–Belgrade railway bridge over the Sava and on the Topčider Hill. The Serbs were outgunned by the monitors, and by August began to receive assistance from the Russians. This support included the supply and emplacement of naval guns and the establishment of river obstacles and mines.[5]

The Austro-Hungarian base at Zemun was briefly evacuated due to a Serbian counterattack in September.[6] In November, French artillery support arrived in Belgrade, endangering the monitor's anchorage.[7] The stalemate continued until December 1914 when the Serbs briefly evacuated Belgrade in the face of an Austro-Hungarian assault. After less than two weeks, the Austrians had to withdraw from Belgrade, and it was soon recaptured by the Serbs with Russian and French reinforcements. Bodrog continued in action against Serbia and her allies at Belgrade until December, when her base was withdrawn to Petrovaradin for the winter.[8]

The Germans and Austrians wanted to transport munitions down the Danube to the Smederevo it received information that the Russians has established a minefield and log barrier just south of the Iron Gates. It turned back under heavy fire, and withdrew as far as Pančevo without serious damage to any vessel. Bodrog returned to base, and the monitor SMS Inn was sent to guard the munitions and escort the convoy back to Petrovaradin.[9]

In January 1915, British artillery arrived in Belgrade, further bolstering its defences.[10] Following the commencement of the Gallipoli campaign, munitions supply to the Ottomans became critical, so another attempt was planned. On 30 March, another steamer left Zemun, escorted by Bodrog and the monitor SMS Enns. The convoy was undetected as it sailed past Belgrade at night during a storm, but after the monitors returned to base, the steamer struck a mine near Vinča, and after coming under heavy artillery, exploded near Ritopek.[9] On 22 April 1915, a British picket boat that had been brought overland by rail from Salonika was used to attack the Danube Flotilla anchorage at Zemun, firing two torpedoes without success.[11]

In September 1915, the Central Powers were joined by Bulgaria, and the Serbian Army soon faced an overwhelming Austro-Hungarian, German and Bulgarian ground invasion. In early October, the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army attacked Belgrade, and Bodrog, along with the majority of the flotilla, was heavily engaged in support of the crossings near the Belgrade Fortress and Ada Ciganlija island.[12]

Romanian campaign

a map showing the locations of towns on the Danube along the Romanian border with Bulgaria
The Danube along the Romanian-Bulgarian border, showing the locations of Orșova, Giurgiu, Turnu Măgurele and Zimnicea

Following the capture of Belgrade on 11 October and the initial clearance of mines and other obstacles, the flotilla sailed downstream to Orșova near the Hungarian–Romanian border and waited for the lower Danube to be swept for mines. Commencing on 30 October 1915, they escorted a series of munitions convoys down the Danube to Lom where they were transferred to the Bulgarian railway system for shipment to the Ottoman Empire.[13]

In November 1915, Bodrog and the other monitors were assembled at Rustschuk, Bulgaria.[13] The Central Powers were aware that the Romanians were negotiating to enter the war on the side of the Entente, so the flotilla established a sheltered base in the Belene Canal to protect the 480-kilometre (300 mi) Danube border between Romania and Bulgaria.[14]

When the Romanians entered the war on 27 August 1916, the monitors were again at Rustschuk, and were immediately attacked by three improvised torpedo boats operating out of the Romanian river port of Giurgiu. The torpedoes that were fired missed the monitors but struck a lighter loaded with fuel. Tasked with shelling Giurgiu, the Second Monitor Division, consisting of Bodrog and three other monitors, set fire to oil storage tanks, the railway station and magazines, and sank several Romanian lighters. While the attack was underway, the First Monitor Division escorted supply ships back to the Belene anchorage. Bodrog and her companions then destroyed two Romanian patrol boats and an improvised minelayer on their way back to Belene. This was followed by forays of the Division both east and west of Belene, during which both Turnu Măgurele and Zimnicea were shelled.[15]

Bodrog was sent to the mouth of the Danube to protect withdrawing Austro-Hungarian troops towards the end of the war. She was the last Austro-Hungarian monitor to withdraw towards Budapest and was the only one that failed to reach the city. On 31 October 1918, Bodrog collided with a sand bank while navigating through heavy fog near Vinča,[16] and was later captured by the Serbian Army.[17]

Interwar period and World War II

a black and white photograph of aircraft flying with a mountainous backdrop
During their withdrawal towards Belgrade, Sava and Vardar were repeatedly attacked by German Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers.

From the Armistice to September 1919, Bodrog was crewed by sailors of the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Serbo-Croatian: Kraljevina Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca, KSCS; later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia). Under the terms of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Bodrog was transferred to the KSCS along with a range of other vessels, including three other river monitors,[18] but was officially handed over to the KSCS Navy and renamed Sava in 1920.[19] Her sister ship Temes was transferred to Romania and renamed Ardeal.[1]

Sava was based at Dubovac when the German-led Axis invasion of Yugoslavia began on 6 April 1941. She was assigned to the 1st Monitor Division,[20] and was responsible for the Romanian border on the Danube, under the operational control of the 3rd Infantry Division Dunavska.[21] Her commander was S. Rojos.[20][2]

On that day, Sava and her fellow monitor Vardar fought off several attacks by individual Luftwaffe aircraft on their base.[23] Over the next three days, the two monitors laid mines in the Danube near the Romanian border.[24] On 11 April, they were forced to withdraw from Dubovac towards Belgrade.[25] During their withdrawal, they came under repeated attacks by Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers.[26] Sava and her fellow monitor were undamaged, and anchored at the confluence of the Danube and Sava near Belgrade at about 20:00, where they were joined by the Morava. The three captains conferred, and decided to scuttle their vessels due to the high water levels in the rivers and low bridges, which meant there was insufficient clearance for the monitors to navigate freely. The crews of the monitors were then transshipped to two tugboats, but when one of the tugboats was passing under a railway bridge, charges on the bridge accidentally exploded and the bridge fell onto the tugboat. Of the 110 officers and men aboard the vessel, 95 were killed.[25][27]

After the scuttling of the monitors, around 450 officers and men from the Sava and various other riverine vessels gathered at Obrenovac. Armed only with personal weapons and some machine guns stripped from the scuttled vessels, started towards the Bay of Kotor in the southern Adriatic in two groups. The smaller of the two groups reached its objective,[28] but the larger group only made it as far as Sarajevo by 14 April before they were obliged to surrender.[28][29] The remainder made their way to the Bay of Kotor, which was captured by the Italian XVII Corps on 17 April.[30]

Sava was raised and repaired by the [32]

Post-war period

Sava was again raised and refurbished after World War II. Armed with two single 105 mm (4.1 in) gun turrets, three single 40 mm (1.6 in) gun mounts and six 20 mm (0.79 in) weapons,[33] she served in the Yugoslav Navy from 1952 to 1962 and was then placed into the hands of a state-owned company which was privatised after the breakup of Yugoslavia. As of 2014, Sava was serving as a gravel barge. In 2005, the government of Serbia granted her limited heritage protection after citizens demanded that she be preserved as a floating museum, though little else has been done to restore her as of 2014.[16] The ship is one of only two surviving Austro-Hungarian river monitors from World War I,[34] the other being SMS Leitha, a much older monitor, which has been a museum ship anchored alongside the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest since 2014.[35]


  1. ^ L/35 denotes the length of the gun. In this case, the L/35 gun is calibre, meaning that the gun was 35 times as long as the diameter of its bore.
  2. ^ His rank was Poručnik bojnog broda, equivalent to a United States Navy lieutenant commander.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d Greger 1976, p. 141.
  2. ^ Jane's Information Group 1989, p. 315.
  3. ^ Greger 1976, p. 10.
  4. ^ Halpern 2012, pp. 261–262.
  5. ^ Halpern 2012, pp. 263–265.
  6. ^ Halpern 2012, p. 263.
  7. ^ Halpern 2012, p. 265.
  8. ^ Halpern 2012, pp. 265–266.
  9. ^ a b Halpern 2012, p. 267.
  10. ^ Halpern 2012, p. 266.
  11. ^ Halpern 2012, pp. 270–271.
  12. ^ Halpern 2012, p. 272.
  13. ^ a b Halpern 2012, p. 274.
  14. ^ Halpern 2012, p. 275.
  15. ^ Halpern 2012, p. 277.
  16. ^ a b Fox News 14 April 2014.
  17. ^ Fitzsimons 1977, p. 843.
  18. ^ Gardiner 1985, p. 422.
  19. ^ Gardiner 1985, p. 426.
  20. ^ a b Niehorster 2013a.
  21. ^ Terzić 1982, p. 168.
  22. ^ Niehorster 2013b.
  23. ^ Terzić 1982, p. 297.
  24. ^ Terzić 1982, pp. 333–334.
  25. ^ a b Terzić 1982, pp. 391–392.
  26. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1987, p. 222.
  27. ^ a b Chesneau 1980, p. 357.
  28. ^ a b Terzić 1982, p. 432.
  29. ^ Terzić 1982, p. 405.
  30. ^ Terzić 1982, p. 457.
  31. ^ Chesneau 1980, p. 359.
  32. ^ International Naval Research Organization 1965, p. 44.
  33. ^ Gardiner 1983, p. 392.
  34. ^ Zarić 27 April 2014.
  35. ^ Daily News Hungary 15 August 2014.





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