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REX

INTRODUCTION

 

“Here she is... Here she is! Papa, Papa! The Rex, the Rex!” The central scene of Amarcord, Fellini's Oscar-winning film, opens with this phrase. The characters have embarked on several small boats to spend the night at sea off the coast of Rimini, awaiting the passage of the almost mythical liner: through the dark night, the Rex appears, glittering with lights, and then, like some constellation or like a dream, she is gone. This celebrated Italian vessel had entered the collective imagination as a symbol of the glamorous liners of the 'Thirties; her fame had already begun in 1929 when the announcement was made of her building. The financial crisis had brought to a standstill the construction of several liners and the news that Italy intended to build one of the largest, most modern, speediest and most luxurious ships ever planned seized the headlines across the World.

On the 1st August, 1931, the new giant of the Italian merchant marine was launched in Genoa in the presence of the country's King and Queen and of a huge crowd of about 100,000. The first bottle of Royal Brut Riserva wine produced by the house of Gancia crashed against the ship's bow: the neck of the bottle, contained in a splendid box with the name of the ship and her profile outlined in diamonds was presented to Queen Elena, the ship's godmother. The Rex was the first transatlantic liner to feature those innovations which would make her a genuine cruise ship: de luxe cabins with private verandahs, air conditioning, huge sports decks and lidos with two permanent open air swimming pools, a spa, a drive-in garage with direct access from the quayside...

The cover signed by Giuseppe Riccobaldi for the NGI brochure celebrating the launch of the Rex.

From a technological point of view, the Rex is remarkable as one of the very first ships to be fitted with a bulbous bow: her extraordinary body lines were developed in the Hamburg test tank and, amazingly, were derived from the shape of a trout! The Rex was a mixture of tradition and innovation: externally, she was both graceful and streamlined, in accordance with the trends of industrial design in the 'Thirties, while her interiors were conservative, inspired by classical historical styles. It should be noted that she was one of the last liners to sport a clipper stern; this shape, although old-fashioned, was dictated by the desire to obtain the greatest possible size for the after decks while taking account of the dimensions of the drydock in Genoa. In March, 1933, she achieved the distinction of sending the first live radio transmission to the United States and to Europe while crossing the Atlantic.

DATA SHEET

 

KEEL LAYING: 04/27/1930

LAUNCH: 08/01/1931

MAIDEN VOYAGE: Genova-New York 09/27/1932

SHIP YARD: Ansaldo S.A., Genova Sestri e 0.A.R.N.

HULL NUMBER: 296

COMPANy: Italia Flotte Riunite (Italian Line), Genova

FLAG: Italian 

DIMENSIONS:

LENGTH OVERALL: 880 ft  

WIDTH: 96.8 ft 

GROSS TONNAGE: 51062 tsl

PROPULSION: 4 steam turbo gearboxes

SERVICE SPEED: 26,00 knots

TOP SPEED:  29,00 knots

POWER: 136.000 horsepower

HOTEL CAPACITY:

FIRST CLASS: 378

SPECIAL CLASS: 378

TURISTIC CLASS: 410

THIRD CLASS: 860

CREW: 880

FATE: 1944 in the port of Trieste september 8th 1944 bombed by the Allies in the Capodistria gulf

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REX SHOP

GENERAL ARRANGEMENT PLANS           

GENERAL ARRANGEMENT PLANS

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CHRONOLOGY

 

1929, 2nd December: the contract is signed between Navigazione Generale Italiana and Ansaldo for the construction of the hull and the machinery of Yard Number 296, already known as the Rex, and with OARN (Officine Allestimento Riparazione Navi) for the outfitting.

1930, 27th April: the keel laying ceremony is attended by Archbishop Bartolomasi.

1931, 1st August: launched in the presence of King Vittorio Emanuele III and Queen Elena. The Queen is the ship's godmother.

1932, 2nd January: the fleet of the Navigazione Generale Italiana is transferred to the new Italia Flotte Riunite and therefore the Rex, which is being fitted out in Genoa, will never carry the NGI colours.

1932, 4th September: preliminary sea trials.

1932, 14th September: official speed trials in the Gulf of Genoa over the measured mile, Punta Chiappa-Punta Mesco, during which the ship reaches “only” 28.20 knots owing to a breakdown of one of her twelve turbines.

1932, 25th September: delivery ceremony in Genoa.

1932, 27th September: sails from Genoa on her maiden crossing to New York; on the 29th September, she is delayed for 48 hours in Gibraltar owing to an electrical breakdown, awaiting the arrival of the Vulcania from Genoa with replacement parts before continuing to New York.

1932, 7th October: first arrival in New York delayed by two days.

1932, 9th October: opened to the public for the first time: 45,000 New Yorkers converge on Pier 86 hoping to visit the new Italian liner and blocking Manhattan traffic between 42nd and 46th Streets; 256 policemen are rushed to the scene and with great difficulty they manage to turn away 25,000 of them while the rest paid 25 cents each.

1932, 19th October: sails for the first eastbound crossing, arriving in Genoa on the 26th.

1932, 24th December: sets sail from New York for her first cruise, to Central America and the West Indies.

1933, 16th March: for the first time, there is a live radio transmission from a ship at sea to both Europe and America. The famous soprano Rosa Ponselle sings Schubert's Ave Maria and is heard by many thousands of people on both sides of the Atlantic.

1933, 16th August: arrives in New York at the end of a record passage from Gibraltar at an average speed of 28.92 knots, thus seizing the Blue Riband of the Atlantic. She is the first holder of this celebrated record actually to hoist a long blue pennant to mark this distinction and the first to receive the Hales Trophy, donated by the British parliamentarian Harold K. Hales.

1935, 27th February: sets sail for her first and only Mediterranean cruise, with calls at Gibraltar, Cannes, Monaco, Genoa, Naples, Haifa, Port Said and Rhodes.

1936, 8th March: sets sail from Genoa for the first time after the combination of the special and the tourist classes.

1936, 26th November: takes part in the Naval Review in the Gulf of Naples in honour of Nicholas Horthy, the Regent of Hungary.

1937, 2nd January: is transferred to the ownership of the newly-formed “Italia Società Anonima di Navigazione” for 150 million lire.

1937, 18th March: in order to attend to the needs of the great number of Jewish passengers fleeing from Europe, the American rabbi Max Green joins the ship's complement together with Philip Klein, a Kosher chef.

1938, 29th January: sets sail from New York for the successful “Rex to Rio” cruise.

1938, 5th May: takes part in the Naval Review held in the Gulf of Naples to mark the state visit of Adolf Hitler.

1938, 12th May: used by the U.S. Air Force as a theoretical target to test their new Flying Fortress bombers, the famous B17s, causing concern among her passengers and provoking diplomatic protests from the Italian government.

1940, 20th May: arrives in Genoa at the end of her final crossing from New York.

1940, 6th June: sets sail from Genoa, heading for Venice where she is supposed to join the Conte di Savoia in lay-up; during the voyage, she is diverted to Pula (Istria) to serve as an accommodation vessel for the workers of the Monfalcone shipyard who are busy reconstructing the battleship Duilio. While she is there, her upperworks are painted grey and anti-aircraft guns are fitted.

1940, 15th August: arrives in Trieste and is placed in long term lay-up. After the Italian Armistice of the 8th September, 1943 she is seized by German forces who slowly gut her of her fittings, furniture, artworks, etc.

1944, 5th September: after the frequent Allied bombings of the port of Trieste started the previous June, the Rex is towed away and anchored off the Istrian coast between Isola and Capodistria where, three days later, she is bombed and sunk by American, British and South African planes.

1947, August: during the fierce controversy between Italy and Jugoslavia over the possession of the area, the Rex becomes a symbol of the situation and of the plight of the refugees fleeing from Istria. The Tito regime commences the scrapping of the wreck, which lasts for a decade. (On the sea bed, a large portion of the hull remains – including one of the four propellers.)

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