The Monarch Class - 1895/1898

SMS Budapest, accompanied by other Monarch class monitors on maneuvers in the Adriatic, c. 1898
SMS Budapest on patrol.  Panoramic enlargement

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Budapest leads Austria-Hungary's Monarch Class monitors and Franz Josef-class torpedo cruisers on a sweep of the Adriatic, circa 1900. Laid down in 1894 and commissioned late in 1898, she was the last of a 3-ship class of coastal defense monitors, the first modern ironclads in the KuK Kriegsmarine. These modest-sized (under-6,000-ton) ships were armed with four 9.4" (24-cm) Krupp rifled breech-loaders in twin turrets and six 15-cm secondary guns. The main armament guns were identical to those used in the German Kaiser Friedrich III and Wittelsbach class battleships. These 9.4s were imported from Essen, Germany, but the 15-cm weapons (equivalent to about 5.9") were manufactured at the Skoda Works in Plzen, already on its way to becoming the principal provider of arms for the KuK Kriegsmarine -- although it was often to manufacture guns of Krupp design. This was Skoda's first commission to make sizable naval guns; the Czech foundry also produced all the smaller-calibre weapons for the class. Low-freeboard, small target ships, the Monarchs nevertheless had quite large bridgeworks for the monitor type (compare with contemporary U.S. Navy monitors, much closer to their Civil War prototype.)

Monitor BUDAPEST in steamThese ships also marked the debut of Austria-Hungary's chief warship designer, naval architect ing. Siegfried Popper. Popper was the Kriegsmarine's Generalschiffbauingenieur, a title analogous to Chief Constructor in the British Navy. Following the retirement of Josef von Romako, Popper was in overall charge of design and production of all the major warships seen in this site: the Monarchs, the Habsburgs, the Erzherzogs, the Radetzkys; indeed, he was finally yanked out of retirement to produce the Tegetthoff class dreadnoughts in circumstances far from ideal. Popper was so devoted to his country that he sacrificed his last remnaining eyesight to complete this final labor.

But that was 15 years later, at the end of a rapidly accelerating treadmill of shipbuilding and naval buildup, including all the political lobbying and influence favors required to finance the venture. At the beginning end of this continuum, the Monarch-klasse occupied a situation in the Kriegsmarine analogous to that of the ABCD Ships in the U.S. Navy. While they were of slight military value in themselves, they provided a valuable training function and allowed the Habsburg Navy's keen skippers an opportunity to practice maneuvers and tactics as a squadron until more formidable ships became available. They also provided newfound visibility for the somnolent Kriegsmarine and helped to inspire patriotic pride in the fleet. They provided experience in shipbuilding and weapons manufacturing for STT, Skoda, and a host of other subcontractors. And they demonstrated to tightfisted legislators and bureaucrats that all this could be had at reasonable cost.

Plans and Specifications

Schematic plan of the BUDAPEST

Specifications for the Monarchklasse:
Built at Pola Arsenal (Monarch) and STT/Trieste (Budapest, Wien). First ships launched May 9, 1895. Class commissioned: 1897-98.
Dimensions: 325'6" x 55'9" x 21'9"   Displacement: 5,786 tons. Armament: (4) 9.4"/40 cal Krupp guns (2x2), (6) 5.9" quick-firing (QF) guns, (2) 2.75"/44, (10) 2"/44, and (4) 2"/33 guns; (2) 18" torpedo tubes. Armor: Harvey type throughout. Belt 10.63"/4¾"; 8"/5" turret; 8" conn and bulkheads; 10½" barbettes; 2½" deck; 3" redoubt and casemates; 4" secondary conn. Fuel capacity: 300 tons of coal normal; 500 maximum. Propulsion: 12 coal-fired Belleville boilers without economizers (Budapest); coal-fired cylindrical boilers (other 2 ships); (2) inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 8,500-9,185 HP, shafted to twin screw. Maximum speed: 17.4-17.9 knots. Budapest was the fastest ship (17.93 km/hr). Crew: 26 officers, 397 men.

Ships in class: Monarch Wien Budapest.

Metric specifications:
Dimensions: 99.22m x 17m x 6.6 m   Displacement: 5,786 tons. Armament: (4) 24 cm/40 cal Krupp guns (2x2), (6) 152 mm/40 quick-firing (QF) guns, (2) 70 mm/44, (10) 47 mm/44 and (4) 47 mm/33 guns; (2) 45 cm torpedo tubes. Armor: Harvey type throughout. Belt 270/118 mm; 203/127 mm turret; 203 mm, conn and bulkheads; 270 mm barbettes; 64 mm deck; 76 mm redoubt and casemates; 94 mm secondary conn. Fuel capacity: 300 tons of coal normal; 500 maximum. Propulsion: 12 coal-fired Belleville boilers without economizers (Budapest); coal-fired cylindrical boilers (other 2 ships); (2) vertical triple expansion engines developing 6,338-6,850 kW, shafted to twin screw. Maximum speed: 32.2-33.2 km/hr, Budapest being the fastest ship (33.2 km/hr). Crew: 26 officers, 397 men.

Ships' Histories

SMS Budapest, detail of forward guns, c. 1898
The Budapest's forward gun turret and bridge works.

Budapest served as a test bed for water-tube boilers and had a notably larger funnel than her 2 sisters. She also steamed faster and was slightly more economical of fuel than the other two. As a result of the succcess of this experiment, Belleville boilers were selected for the next class of ships, the Habsburg class, with good results. Because of weight and space savings, the Yarrow small-tube type -- first tested in the Erzherzog Karl class of 1905 -- became the preferred boiler solution in all K.u.K. Kriegsmarine battleships, ten years before Yarrows were adopted by Britain. All of the Monarch class ships required end-on positioning to reload their guns (i.e. the guns had to be trained straight-ahead/astern to reload, then re-trained on the target), and all the ammo hoists were hand operated, even on the big guns. On these flush-decked monitors, the big guns rode 16 feet above the waves, making them stable and effective bombardment platforms.

The Monarchs were highly visible in show-the-flag cruises around the Adriatic and Aegean their first years. The three nearly identical ships formed a battleship division in the Kriegsmarine and operated as a group in the fleet maneuvers. As successive waves of new pre-dreadnoughts arrived to build up the navy, beginning less than 5 years after their initial commissioning, they were gradually demoted, eventually serving as harbor guard ships. When WWI began -- very much at Austria's insistence -- they were reactivated (and in the case of the Budapest, renovated) for war service.

The monitors were used quite a bit in shore bombardment rôles throughout the first three years of the War, and from time to time made less glamorous but still important contributions. Budapest's war record was fairly typical:

SMS MONARCH heading into battle - strip graphicAugust 1914: transferred from Pola to Cattaro to shell Mount Lovcen.

Dec. 29, 1915: Despatched from Cattaro to support cruiser Helgoland following raid on Durazzo.

Jan. 8-9, 1916: Shelled Mount Lovcen, supporting XIX Corps from Kukuljina Bay. The ship had to flood some compartments to obtain the necessary gun elevation.

May 15, 1917: Made ready to attack Otranto Barrage.

Aug. 23, 1917: Accidentally rammed SMTb-14 in the Sabbioncello Channel. Torpedo boat towed to Fiume for repairs.

Sept. 12, 1917: Temporarily withdrawn from Trieste to Pola because of air raids.

Nov./Dec. 1917: Shelled Italian positions in Gulf of Trieste.

Nov. 16, 1917: Ship was shelled at Cortellazzo.

Dec. 19-22, 1917: Shelled mouth of Piave R.

From March - May 1918, served as accommodation ship (i.e., floating dormitory) at Pola for German U-Boot crews.

June 1918: Recommissioned following improvements to forward gun turret, but saw no further action. At Pola at end of War.

Late 1919: Awarded as war reparations to Great Britain.

1920: Sold for scrap. Broken up in Italy 1920-22.

WIEN's sternboards, salvaged after 1917 torpedo attackOf the class, only Wien did not survive the conflict. She became a casualty of Italian torpedomen while lying at anchor near Trieste, where she was serving as guardship, On a moonless night in December 1917, she was surprised by torpedo-boat ace Lt. Luigi Rizzo in MAS-15. Wien was hit twice and promptly sank in shallow water, though casualties were mercifully light. Rizzo also claimed a freighter that night. Just 6 months later on June 10, 1918, he notched his most spectacular kill: the Hungarian-built dreadnought Szent István. Wien was hors de combat, but her hulk was salvaged for scrap in 1922.

The other two Monarchs were scrapped in the early 1920s, but their guns were preserved. France received the guns from the Monarch and installed them in her Channel fortifications. So it was that when the Allies came to invade France in 1944, they encountered furious fire from the old 9.4s originally made by Krupp before the turn of the century. The guns of Battery Hamburg which scored two hits on the dreadnought USS Texas, in fact, were the very guns that had been salvaged from the old Monarch to protect France. One of the shells which actually hit the ship's bridge pierced the ship's stout plating, but failed to explode. It could have been a fluke of fortune, but one likes to imagine that slave laborers across Europe, forced to produce projectiles for Hitler, were busily sabotaging his ammunition at every opportunity as shown in Schindler's List. Sic semper tyrannis!

A Monarch Class Picture Album

Painting of WIEN on maneuvers
The Monarch steaming in formation.

Side view of MONARCH at anchor, bald mountainside in background
The Monarch steaming into battle.

Painting of WIEN on maneuvers
A terrific diorama of the Wien at anchor with small boats abroad. Enlarge

Painting of WIEN on maneuvers

Illustration by Alex Kircher shows the Wien on maneuvers with the other Monarch Linienschiffe. This is taken from the artist's excellent series of lithographed battleship cards.

Bow view of WIEN at anchor, forward turret rotated to port
The Wien at anchor in Cattaro.

Side view of MONARCH at anchor, Toulon's Mt. Faron in background
The Monarch visiting Toulon in peacetime.

SMS MONARCH, A-H Monitor of 1895
At H.Q., the Wien and Aspern. Richly atmospheric enlargement

SMS MONARCH, A-H Monitor of 1895
The Monarch steams at high speed through mists and rainbows.

Side view of MONARCH at anchor, bald mountainside in background
The business end of the Monarch recedes, trailing a creamy wake.

Bow view of SMS BUDAPEST on maneuvers
The Budapest cutting along briskly.

SMS WIEN at sea
The Wien in happier times.

BUDAPEST in profile
Deck repairs aboard Wien. Photo reveals a plethora of details.

The WIEN tied up at dock in Trieste

Quarter view of the Wien at dock at Trieste, with an interesting assortment of period shipping in the background: (L-R) an Austrian Lloyd passenger liner, a steam yacht/aviso, and a Habsburg class battleship. Click here to enlarge.

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