SMS Niobe (1899)
SMS Niobe before the First World War
|Career (German Empire)||60px|
|Builder:||A.G. Weser Bremen,|
|Launched:||18 July 1899|
|Commissioned:||25 June 1900|
|Out of service:||Sold to Yugoslavia (1925)|
|Career (Kingdom of Yugoslavia)||60px|
|Namesake:||Region of Dalmatia|
|Acquired:||17 April 1941|
|Acquired:||11 September 1943|
|Fate:||Beached on Silba and destroyed by British MTB 276 and MTB 298 in December 1943|
|Class and type:||Gazelle-class light cruiser|
|Propulsion:||2 shaft triple expansion engines, 8,113 ihp,|
22,1 kt (1914)|
|Range:||4000 miles at 11 Knotes|
|Complement:||14 Officers and 248 Men|
|Armour:||belt 50 mm|
SMS Niobe was a Gazelle-class light cruiser that served with the Kaiserliche Marine during First World War, and the Kriegsmarine during Second World War in a long career that also involved sailing with the Yugoslavian and Italian navies. She was sunk in the harbour on the Dalmatian island of Silba in 1943, in a major episode of the Adriatic Campaign of World War II
She was one of the first class of German light cruisers, modeled after a series of Avisos to which the class bore a resemblance. They set the basic pattern for future German light cruisers. Niobe was built by A.G. Weser, Bremen, commissioned in 1900 and served as a "fleet cruiser". Her first commandant was Korvettenkapitän Reinhard Scheer, future commander of the German High Seas Fleet. Niobe completed missions in Far East and Polynesia between 1906 and 1909. With the outbreak of the First World War she was classified as obsolete and relegated to coastal defence. She saw no action during the war, but three of her class, Ariadne, Undine and Frauenlob) were lost in the first years of the war, all the others were decommissioned. For this reason and because of her age SMS Niobe was one of the eight cruisers that were not confiscated from the German navy after the end of the war.
She was sold to Yugoslavia on 24 June 1925 and named Dalmacija (Dalmatia). She was refitted in Kiel during 1925 and 1926, and after the first trials, was transferred to the Yugoslav Royal Navy on 7 August 1926. After 14 days the ship arrived in her homeport of Tivat. One of the main reasons why the Yugoslavia navy acquired such an old ship lay in her copper-plated bottom intended for operations in tropical seas. This was important since Yugoslavia did not possess a port with adequate docking capabilities. The ship was used for schooling and training purposes, as a flagship and as an anti-aircraft cruiser. Initially she was not fitted with weapons and during a refitting in Tivat in 1928 new Škoda guns were mounted. (six 83,5 mm/D55 Škoda type M.27 and four 47 mm/44). For AA purposes two 15 mm automatic guns Česká Zbrojovka were installed.
In April 1941 after the Axis Invasion of Yugoslavia the ship was captured by the Italians in Kotor. The Italians renamed the ship Cattaro (Kotor). Given her age the ship was sent for artillery schooling purposes in Pula. The only change in armament was the mounting of 20 mm Bredas instead of the 15 mm automatic guns. On 31 July 1942 the cruiser was attacked by the British submarine HMS Traveller south of Premantura but all of the torpedoes missed. During 1942-43 she shelled Yugoslav partisan positions along the coastline.
After the Italian capitulation she was captured by the Germans on 11 September 1943. Initially she was attached to the 11th Sicherungsflotille, under the command of Hoffmeyer-Zlottnik. Intended to protect marine communications in the Adriatic, the cruiser was named Niobe again and together with the auxiliary cruiser Ramb III participated in the first phase of Operation Herbstgewitter. This consisted of landing German troops on the islands of Krk, Cres and Lošinj in November 1943. During the action the islands were cleared of partisan forces and the Niobe with two S-boats managed to capture a British military mission on the island of Lošinj.
After that action on December 1943 the cruiser was ordered to head south to support the next phase of Operation Herbstgewitter, the landings on the island of Korčula. On the night of 17 December 1943 Niobe left the naval base at Pula together with the Torpedoboot Ausland TA 20 (the former Italian Audace), TA 22 (the former Italian Giuseppe Missori) and TA 21 (the former Insidioso) torpedo boats , who joined the naval squadron in the vicinity of the island of Pašman. The mission was cancelled because of the partisan landings on Korčula, and the bad weather which impeded the Luftwaffe air support. The naval squadron was ordered to head back to Pula. Since Niobe was the slowest of the vessels, only TA 20 was left to escort her. On 19 December fog and bad weather, as well as a mistake in navigation caused the ship to run aground on the island of Silba. The tugboats Nettuno, Parenzo and Constante, and the ship Martha were sent from Trieste and Fiume to assist the beached cruiser. On the night of 22 December two British Motor Torpedo Boats (the MTB 298 and MTB 276), based in Vis, attacked and hit the ship with two torpedoes, and also hit the Parenzo with one torpedo. The ship sank in shallow water, with the shipwreck being used for spare parts by partisan forces on the island. She began to be scrapped after the end of the war, a process completed by 1952.