“The White Arrow”, “The Dove of the Orient”, “The Ship of Maharajahs”... these were some of the epithets which were given to the motorship Victoria of the Lloyd Triestino. At the end of the 'Twenties, the company's technical office was faced with a complex but obvious problem: the design of a new liner which would replace the two already obsolete vessels Helouan and Vienna, born before the First World War which, with the exception of those wartime years, had served with dignity on the express route between Italy and Alexandria in Egypt.
The higher speeds obtainable with the latest generation of propulsion machinery, the competition posed by the Società Italiana di Servizi Marittimi (SITMAR) of Genoa which was running its two most recent steamships, Esperia and Ausonia, on the same route, a worrying contraction in traffic and, finally, the restructuring of the Lloyd Triestino by Lloyd Sabaudo, persuaded the company to order just a single ship; the possibility of a sister ship would have to wait for more favourable economic times. Following a favourable experience with some diesel-driven combi-ships, it was decided that the new flagship should be a motor vessel: four powerful Sulzer diesels, built at the famous Fabbrica Macchine Sant'Andrea of Trieste, were connected directly to the same number of propellers with the intention of giving the ship a service speed of 20 knots.
An oil on canvas by Paolo Klodic painted in 1931 on the occasion of the entry into service of the ship (Maurizio Eliseo Collection).
The Victoria (a name chosen after consideration had been given to Alessandrina and Cleopatra) was also one of the very first passenger ships in the World built to the new standards of Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS 1929); in addition to a cellular double bottom which extended from the fore to the stern peak, she was divided into eleven watertight compartments with the engine room in the middle section and the forward and aft sections devoted to cargo. There was also a garage for cars accessible over a ramp connected to the quay. Despite being much smaller than the great transatlantic liners, the Victoria attracted international attention for several reasons: apart from her speed, she had a particularly graceful and streamlined appearance, her interiors were in the Modern style and the first class main lounge was fitted with air-conditioning: she was indeed the first passenger ship in the World to have this amenity thanks to a plant designed by the Carrier company of America and built in England.
KEEL LAYING: 05/03/1930
MADEN VOYAGE: Trieste-Alexandria 06/27/1931
SHIP YARD: Cantiere San Marco, Trieste
HULL NUMBER: 782
COMPANy: Lloyd Triestino, Trieste
LENGTH OVERALL: 540 ft
WIDTH: 70 ft
GROSS TONNAGE: 13062 tsl
PROPULSION: Sulzer diesel , quadruple screw
SERVICE SPEED: 20,50 knots
TOP SPEED: 23,26 knots
POWER: 18.660 horsepower
FIRST CLASS: 239
SECOND CLASS: 245
THIRD CLASS: 100
FOURTH CLASS: 82
FATE: 1942 January 24 attacked and sunk by British torpedo - carrying aircraft in the gulf of Sidrea.
GENERAL ARRANGEMENT PLANS
GENERAL ARRANGEMENT PLANS
1930, 3rd May: keel laid at the San Marco shipyard at Trieste as Yard No. 782.
1930, 6th December: is launched by Donna Carolina, wife of the Minister of Communications, Costanzo Ciano.
1931, 30th April: leaves the yard for the first time, sailing to the floating dry dock at Pula.
1931, 22nd May: returns to her builders after preliminary sea trials.
1931, 20th June: speed trials in the Adriatic during which she proves to be the fastest motorship in the World, exceeding 23 knots.
1931, 21st June: delivered to Lloyd Triestino.
1931, 27th June: a large crowd cheers the ship as she leaves the port of Trieste for her maiden voyage to Alexandria in Egypt, with intermediate calls at Venice and Brindisi.
1932, 24th January: as a result of the first reorganisation of the national shipping lines, the Sitmar Line of Genoa, previously belonging to NGI, is dissolved and its fleets is transferred to Lloyd Triestino. The former Sitmar's Esperia and Ausonia continue the service to Alexandria while the Victoria is transferred to the express route from Genoa to Bombay with intermediate calls at Naples, Port Said and Aden.
1935: revamped in Genoa; an open-air swimming pool is added for the first class and the gross tonnage is increased to 13,098 tons.
1935, October: on her usual route she now makes an additional call at Alexandria in replacement of the Ausonia, which has been destroyed by fire.
1936, January: she replaces the Conte Rosso on her regular service to Shanghai while she is undergoing a refit in Trieste; along the route, the Victoria stops at Venice, Brindisi, Port Said, Aden, Bombay, Colombo, Singapore and Hong Kong.
1936, April: resumes her previous service between Italy and India.
1936, June: her line is extended to Shanghai with an additional call at Massawa.
1936, October: transferred finally to the Shanghai route after hosting the official party at the celebrations in Trieste for the centenary of the Lloyd Triestino.
1936, 29th December: leaves Genoa for an exceptional voyage to Manila in connection with the International Eucharistic Congress, arriving on the 23rd January, 1937.
1939, 20th November: with neutrality markings on her sides, arrives in Genoa at the end of her final line voyage.
1940, 1st June: makes a voyage as a troop transport for the Ministry of War, concluding at Bari on the 16th.
1940, 25th June: leaves Naples together with the Esperia for the first national wartime convoy to Libya with 437 troops and 2,775 tons of cargo.
1940, 18th July: returns to Genoa and is placed in lay-up.
1941, 22nd January: leaves Naples on the first of her eight trooping voyages to Tripoli.
1941, 3rd June: after sailing from Trapani, has an engine breakdown and is forced to proceed to Naples.
1941, 26th August: arrives at Taranto to have her troop-carrying capacity increased.
1942, 22nd January: after the completion of the works, leaves Naples for Tripoli in Convoy T48.
1942, 24th January: after a first air attack on the previous afternoon, she is hit in the stern at 5.25 pm by a torpedo from a British plane and is immobilised. While being abandoned, she receives a further hit and at around 7 pm she sinks in the Gulf of Sirte, taking 249 men with her.
Immediately on her first entry into the sea, in June 1931, the Victoria astonished the engineers who had designed her and, indeed, the international shipping world as a whole: the contract had specified that her powerful engines should propel her at a maximum speed of about 21.5 knots but, during her sea trials in the Adriatic, she easily exceeded 23 knots, thus becoming the fastest diesel-driven ship in the World.
When, on the 27th June, 1931, the new pride of the Lloyd Triestino slipped her moorings at the Stazione Marittima at Trieste for her inaugural voyage under the command of Captain Giulio Mauri, an enthusiastic crowd had gathered along the waterfront to admire a ship which, according to all the experts, would come to be recognised as a masterpiece of naval architecture. Her profile was a perfect mixture of grace and power thanks to her cruiser stern which tapered towards the waterline; her inclined bow falling away elegantly to the cutwater; two low, raked but substantial funnels of streamlined section; a superstructure sloping down without interruption from its rounded front towards the stern. A couple of kingposts on the substantial forecastle and two inclined masts of moderate size (the foremast rising from the bridge, anticipating the modern masts of the current cruise ships) completed the harmonious and seemingly weightless profile of a vessel which many people, experts or merely observers, regarded as one of the most masterly examples of naval elegance ever seen.
Cover of a booklet devoted to the service to India and the Far East showing the Victoria off Hong Kong; probably painted by Antonio Quaiatti.