The 35cm guns of the “Improved TEGETTHOFF Class Battleship” :

1997 Erwin F. Sieche, Vienna, Austria

Anton Haus

Above: The 'improved TEGETTHOFF'-class battleships were to be built during the eriod of navy commander admiral Anton Haus. This is one of the few photographs showing Haus bareheaded, it was taken in 1900 when Haus held therank of a Linienschiffskapitaen (Captain)

First there was only an idea and a slogan ...

On 2 March 1911 the mutual financial delegations of Austria-Hungary approved a big naval budget allowing the construction of the four dreadnoughts of the TEGETTHOFF-class, 3 scout cruisers and 6 modern turbine destroyers. Very soon after this approval first ideas for the next class of battleships came up. Since long the Austrian Naval League (Oesterreichischer Flottenverein) had advertised in his monthly magazine "Die Flagge": "The MONARCH-class must be replaced". Therefore this next class of battleships often is called the 'Ersatz MONARCH-class'. In the official files, anyway, this design was first given project numbers (project I, II, III and so on) or tonnage designations (22.000 ton battleship, 23.400 ton battleship and the final variant 24.500 t battleship), finally they were referred to as the 'improved TEGETTHOFF-Class', which might be the historical correct label. It is remarkably that the desire of building a new group of dreadnoughts first came from the Skoda Werke AG and not from the Austro-Hungarian Navy. While completing the 30,5 cm triple turrets of the TEGETTHOFF-class Skoda was asking for follow up business arguing with the necessity of securing high skilled jobs and ensuring development continuity. So 18 April 1911 Skoda submitted to the Naval Section detailed plans for 34,5 cm twin and triple turrets. They had thought in advance for the Austro-Hungarian naval architects and proposed triple turrets and superimposed twins in the centreline. This design had a remarkably resemblance to contemporary British turrets.

35cm gun turrets35cm gun turrets

Above: Demonstration model of the forward turret group of a 'improved TEGETTHOFF' type battleship showing superimposed twin.

The Naval Section rejected this design for some technical reasons and to counter predomination by Skoda, Austro-Hungarian naval authorities ordered on 3 June 1911 the preparatory designs for the next Austro-Hungarian dreadnought generation to the following alternative particulars:

A)      23.000 t metric, 10 x 30,5 cm cal 45, 18 x 15 cm, 24 x 7,5 cm

B)      24.600 t metric, 10 x 34,5 cm cal 45, 18 x 15 cm, 24 x 7,5 cm

35cm gun barrel

Above: One of the manufactured 35 cm barrels. The particular spur-gear typical for a turret mounted naval gun is clearly visible. Most probably this photograph has been taken at an artillery proving ground.

The displacement limit was caused by the need to fit the future ship (with half consumption supplies and full ammunition load) into the floating drydock No 1, which had a lifting power of 23.800 metric tons. It was believed, nevertheless, that such a design could match contemporary opponents by cutting down the cruising radius, e.g. saving fuel weight, regarding the geo-strategic situation of the Adriatic Sea. The most remarkable fact was the desire for an alternative design for both Diesel and turbine propulsion. But soon Diesel was rejected against conventional mixed coal/oil burning boilers. 

December 1911 the Austro-Hungarian Naval Technical Committee (MTK = Marinetechnisches Komitee) presented its design for both variants A and B (see table). The demand for more secondary armament - 15 cm - was solved by using twin casemates. The surmounting of the strict tonnage limit which turned out after exact displacement calculations led to a series of sub-variants with reduced poop-deck and other measures to save weight dating from February to May 1912 (see table).

Competitive designs:

Also in December 1911 the private owned yard industry tried to demonstrate once again their predominance in design questions and the firms Ganz éz társa -Danubius, Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino, Cantiere Navale Triestino and the naval architect Silvius Morin presented no less than 26 alternative designs. But Poppers successor, Oberster Schiffbauingenieur (supreme naval architect) Franz Pitzinger did not want to be overruled a second time like in the TEGETTHOFF-class and all other designs were rejected. 

In the mean time Skoda was asked to to work out new desings for the 34,5 cm turrets. A board held 12 May 1912 increased the final calibre to 35 cm to match the loss of penetration power given by the new standard shell to be developed. A secon reason might have been the compatibility with German ammunition: compare the German battlecruisers of the MACKENSEN class. January 1913 the Naval Technical Committee presented its next design (see table).

The dreadnoughts that were never built:

Caused by the strict weight limit the designers had to save every ton possible and therefore reduced the secondary artillery, ommitted the aft conning tower and the mainmast and designed the heavy guns in triple turrets superimposed over the twins to better follow the curve of the hull. As this obviously inflicted stability the ammunition load was reduced and in July exactly the same ship was presented with superimposed twins. Apparently the Austro-Hungarian naval architects felt that such a stripped down design would not be well balanced and presented two enlarged alternative designs in January 1914, showing that more displacement was necessary to make up a well balanced dreadnought with the benefit of a speed increasement of two knots. 

Pre-project I 29.600 t/23 kts, 12 x 35 cm, 18 x 15 cm

Pre-project II 32.000 ts/23 kts, 13 x 35 cm, 18 x 15 cm 


But the tonnage limit was kept upright so in July 1914 the last design variant was presented. For weight reasons the number of secondary guns was reduced to 14 x 15 cm. This is the last existing design variant tho which the 'improved TEGETTHOFFs' obviously would have been constructed. A secret schedule dated 12.1.1914 proposed the following building dates 

Number Builder Laying down Completion
No VIII STT 1.7.1914 30.6.1917
No IX Danubius 1.1.1915 31.12.1917
No X STT 1.6.1916 31.5.1919
No XI Danubius 1.6.1916 31.5.1919


This is only a first draft, but it shows the estimated building times and the intended distribution between the Hungarian and the Austrian yards. 

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Fundraising and politics:

From the political point of view the history of the 'improved TEGETTHOFFs' was not a repeat of the story of the TEGETTHOFFs although the industry wanted for a second time to start construction on credit. In March 1913 the Heir of the throne, archduke Franz Ferdinand, urged the new head of the Austro-Hungarian navy, admiral Anton Haus, to order the new dreadnoughts because the last of the STT built TEGETTHOFFs, the PRINZ EUGEN, had been launched since four months and the yard needed urgently a follow up contract. But the Hungarian authorities headed by primeminister Wekerle refused to start building on credit, arguing that the only legal way would be providing funds in the 1914/15 budget. Even the Emperor himself tried without result to convince the Hungarian minister of finance, Dr. Teleszky, to start construction before the budget was approved. But Weckerle refused. And not before 28 May 1914 the 1914/15 budget was approved by the mutual delegations. This included a special credit of 426,8 million Crowns, enough to built the new battleships VIII - XI. End of June STT was ordered  to build No VIII and Ganz éz társa - Danubius to build No IX. As we all  know just in the same time the fatal murder of Sarajevo set an abrupt  end to all ship construction because of the outbreak of World War I. On  3 February 1915 the Austro-Hungarian navy administration definitely  declared in a meeting of the ministers for mutual affairs (Ministerrat  für gemeinsame Angelegenheiten) to 'freeze' this money and present a new fleet program to the mutual delegations after the end of the war.

Date Displacement constraints Armament
December 1911
Dimensions
22.000 t
161 x 27,6 x 8,4 m
22 x 15 cm cal 50
24 x 7,5 cm cal 50
4 twin-casemates fore
2 twin-casemates aft
only triple turrets
12 x 30,5 cm cal 45
December 1911
Dimensions
23.400 t
165 x 27,8 x 8,4 m
22 x 15 cm cal 50
24 x 7,5 cm cal 45
4 twin-casemates fore
2 twin-casemates aft
twins superimposed
over triple turrets
10 x 34,5 cm cal 45
December 1911
Dimensions
24.500 t
165 x 27,8 x 84 m
22 x 15 cm cal 50
24 x 7,5 cm cal.
4 twin-casemates fore
2 twin-casemates aft
twins superimposed
over triple turrets
10 x 34,5 cm cal
December 1911
Dimensions
23.400 t
165 x 27,8 x 8,4 m
22 x 15 cm cal 50
24 x 7,5 cm cal 45
twins superimposed
over triple turrets
10 x 34,5 cm cal 45
February 1912
Dimensions
22.000 t
161 x 27,6 x 8,4 m
22 x 15 cm cal 50
24 x 7,5 cm cal 50
4 twin-casemates fore
2 twin-casemates aft
partially reduced poop deck
only triple turrets
12 x 30,5 cm cal 45
May 1912
Dimensions
25.200 t
175 x 28,5 x 8,5 m
16 x 15 cm cal 50
18 x 7,5 cm cal 50
one double story casemate fore
focsle extending until fore funnel
1 triple, 4 twin turrets
11 x 34,5 cm cal 45
May 1912
Dimensions
25.200 t
175 x 28,5 x 8,5 m
16 x 15 cm cal 50
18 x 7,5 cm cal 50
one double story casemate fore
focsle extending until fore funnel
only triple turrets
12 x 34,5 cm cal 45
May 1912
Dimensions
25.200 t
175 x 28,5 x 8,5 m
16 x 15 cm cal 50
18 x 7,5 cm cal 50
one double story casemate fore
focsle extending until fore funnel
3 triple, 2 twin turrets
13 x 34,5 cm cal 45
May 1912
Dimensions
25.200 t
175 x 28,5 x 8,5 m
14 x 15 cm cal 50
18 x 7,5 cm cal 50
one double story casemate fore
focsle extending until fore funnel
2 triple, 3 twin turrets
12 x 34,5 cm cal 45
January 1913
Dimensions
24.500 t
172 x 28,5 x 8,4 m
18 x 15 cm cal 50
22 x 9 cm cal 45,
including 6 AA guns
double story casemates fore
triple superimposed
over twin turrets
10 x 35 cm cal 45
April 1913
Dimensions
24.500 t
172 x 28,5 x 8,4 m
18 x 15 cm cal 50
20 x 9 cm cal 45,
including 4 AA guns
double story casemates fore
twins superimposed
over triple turrets
10 x 35 cm cal 45
January 1914
Preproject
Dimensions
29.600 t
194 x 29 x 8,5 m
18 x 15 cm cal 50
18 x 9 cm cal 45,
including 10 AA guns
double story casemates fore
only 4 triple turrets
12 x 35 cm cal 45
January 1914
Preproject
Dimensions
32.000 t
196,5 x 29,5 x 8,4 m
18 x 15 cm cal 50
18 x 9 cm cal 45,
including 10 AA guns
double story casemates fore
twins superimposed
over triples,
3 triples, 2 twins
13 x 35 cm cal 45
January 1914
Dimensions
24.500 t
172 x 28,5 x 8,4 m
14 x 15 cm cal 50
22 x 9 cm cal 45,
including 12 AA guns
double story casemates fore
triple superimposed
over twin turrets
10 x 35 cm cal 45
July 1914
Dimensions
24.500 t
172 x 28,5 x 8,4 m
14 x 15 cm cal 50
20 x 9 cm cal 45,
including 12 AA guns
twins superimposed
over triple turrets
10 x 35 cm cal 45

The last approved design of the improved TEGETTHOFF-class dated July 1914

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The 35 cm gun cal 45:

The 'Waffenfabrik der Skodawerke AG' received the contract for the first batch of guns for the 'improved TEGETTHOFFs' 24 July 1914: 10 guns plus one spare barrel for the first unit. 22 November 1914 a 35 cm trials barrel was tested at the Skoda gunnery proving ground at Bolewetz. On 28 May 1915 Skoda reported that gun No 1 plus cradle is ready for delivery. On 9 March 1916 gun No 2 was tested at the Skoda gunnery ground at Bolewetz. In April 1916 gun No 1 was tested at the Hungarian gunnery proving ground at Hajmaskér and achieved a range of 35 kms. The same month the gun is going to the Italian front to form a mixed battery together with a 38 cm cal 15 howitzer. It has often been published that this gun was named 'Georg', but there is no proof in the official files, maybe it was an inofficial name given by the field troops. 10 April 1916 the Heir of the throne, archduke Karl, the later Emperor Karl I., inspected the battery. 16 to 22nd of May 1916 gun No 1 fired against targets near Asiago, Fondi, Gallioand Camporovere. A total of 122 shots was fired at ranges of 25 kms until the aiming error became so significant that the gun had to be returned to Skoda for refurbishing. 30 May 1916 gun No 1 returned to Skoda to be changed against gun No 2, but this never happened because No 2 had been sent to the Bulgarian front. It's goal was to destroy Romanian fortifications on the Danube when Marshal Mackensen's Army crossed that river attempting to encircle the retreating and defeated Romanian army near Bucharest. So on 23 and 24 November 1916 gun No 2 was in action near Svistov, but only a few rounds were fired. 

18 May 1917 gun No 3 was tested at the Skoda proving ground Bolewetz.
A status report by Skoda dated May 1917 reads as follows:

Gun No 1 returned from the front.
Gun No 2 delivered as B.K. L 45/No 2. (B.L. means Belagerungskanone, e.g. siege gun).
Gun No 3 is completed at Skoda.
Gun No 4 is in the final stage of completion.
Guns No 5-11 are in different stages of completion

Gun No 2 was later sent to the Italian front and installed end of August 1917 at Santa Croce near Opcina/Opicina above the city of Trieste. 23 September 1917 it was ready to fire against the long range Italian coastal batteries situated between Grado and the Isonzo estuary. 18 October gun No 2 fired the first shot over the gulf of Trieste against Grado. The final fate of these guns is not really clear. It is said that gun No 2 returned from the Italian front to Skoda while No 3 was sent from Plzen via the Vienna Artillery Arsenal to the front. According to one source it reached the front and was in action up to the Austrian collapse end of October 1918 when it was captured by the Italians. According to another source it was left in Yugoslavia just behind the new Italo-Yugoslav frontier. According to a third source the gun left in Yugoslavia was not No 3 but No 4 which had been delivered to the Vienna Artillery Arsenal just before end of World War I. At any rate, the Yugoslavs possessed one 35 cm cal Skoda gun in the interwar period. Another 35 cm gun fell into French hands, and it was most likely gun No 4 which they had sized in Austria.

Historical problems:

The table shows that 15 different designs studies were submitted by the Naval Technical Committee during the three year design process. As all these were presented with a full set of plans, researchers and naval historians asking for those plans at the Oesterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv, Vienna, Austria, were often supplied with one of the different versions by pure chance. Since the twenties we find different drawings in the reference books, each one claiming to be the 'real' one. This lead to great confusion about the final appearance of the 'improved TEGETTHOFFs'. Especially the question of superimposed twin or superimposed triple turrets was never really clear for a long time. But the date of issue clearly shows that the design of July 1914 with superimposed twins would have been the final choice.

Erwin Sieche

Above: The collection of the future Museo della Guerra per la Pace at Padriciano near Trieste, Italy, holds two cartridges of Austro-Hangarian naval guns. The greater one has the dimensions 1440 mm, diameter 360 mm, inscription on the base reads 'Berndorf 1916 / 342'. Berndorf is the manufacturer. Most probably it comes from gun No 2 which was posted at Santa Croce near Opicina/Opcina in fall of 1917. The second cartridge has the dimensions 1280 mm, diameter 310 mm, inscription on the base reads 'Berndorf 1906 / I 58'. Most probably it comes from a battleship of the RADETZKY-class. The author is in the picture for size comparison.

Technical particulars of the gun 35 cm cal 45 

Caliber: 350 mm
Powderload: 193 kg
Projective's weight: 700 kg
Vo: 770 m/sec
Normal pressure: 2.800 atmospheres
max: 2.900 atmospheres
1 kg powder brings: 112,9 mt.

Official files and plans:

Oesterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv, Vienna
Files II GG 1911 4D/4 2/7, 2/21, 7/9; I GG 1913 I-4/11; II GG 1914 47 C
6/4-9/5, II GG 1914 IV B 1/7
Collection of ship's plans
Sch IV/1-2 to Sch IV/1-6

Reference books:

Gray Randal (Editor), Conway's all the World's Fighting Ships 1906-1921,London 1985, page 335
Prasil, Michal, Skoda Heavy Guns, Atglen, PA/USA, 1997
Schirmer, Hermann, Das Geraet der schweren Artillerie vor, in und nach
dem Weltkrieg, Berlin 1937, page 374

Periodicals:

Die Flagge, Vienna, August 1913, pages 294, 295
HADITECHNIKA, Budapest, 3/1972, page 54
MARINE - Gestern, Heute, Vienna, 4/1977, page 118
Marine Rundschau, Germany, October 1938, page 752f
Warship International, Toledo USA, 2/1971, page 186, 1/1972, page 85,4/1972, page 443, 2/1974, page 173ff, 3/1980, page 281, 1/1984, page 120f, 3/1985 page 320f

Note on crest:

The official emblem of the Austro-Hungarian Navy shows the Habsburg crown decorated with two cap ribbons and a naval anchor.

Austro-Hungarian Naval Emblem

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