Yugoslav destroyer Zagreb

The Yugoslav destroyer Zagreb was the second of three Beograd-class destroyers built for the Royal Yugoslav Navy (Serbo-Croatian: Kraljevska Jugoslovenska Ratna Mornarica, KJRM) in the late 1930s. Her main armament consisted of four Škoda 120 mm (4.7 in) guns. When Yugoslavia entered World War II due to the German-led Axis invasion of that country in April 1941, two of her officers scuttled her at the Bay of Kotor on 17 April 1941 to prevent her capture by approaching Italian forces. Both officers were killed by the explosion of the scuttling charges. A French film was made about her demise and the deaths of the two officers. In 1973, on the thirtieth anniversary of the formation of the Yugoslav Navy, both men were posthumously awarded the Order of the People's Hero by President Josip Broz Tito.

Zagreb's sister ship Beograd (right) and Dubrovnik (left) in the Bay of Kotor after being captured by Italy
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Name: Zagreb
Namesake: Zagreb
Commissioned: August 1939
Out of service: 17 April 1941
Fate: Scuttled by crew on 17 April 1941
General characteristics
Class and type: Beograd-class destroyer
  • 1,210 tonnes (1,190 long tons) (standard)
  • 1,655 tonnes (1,629 long tons) (full load)
Length: 98 m (321 ft 6 in)
Beam: 9.45 m (31 ft)
Draught: 3.18 m (10 ft 5 in)
Installed power:
Speed: 38 knots (70 km/h; 44 mph)
Complement: 145


In the early 1930s, the Royal Yugoslav Navy (Serbo-Croatian: Kraljevska Jugoslavenska Ratna Mornarica, KJRM) pursued the flotilla leader concept, which involved building large destroyers similar to the World War I Royal Navy V and W-class destroyers.[1] In the interwar French Navy, these ships were intended to operate as half-flotillas of three ships, or with one flotilla leader operating alongside several smaller destroyers. The KJRM decided to build three such flotilla leaders, ships that could reach high speeds and would have long endurance. The endurance requirement reflected Yugoslav plans to deploy the ships to the central Mediterranean, where they would be able to operate alongside French and British warships. This resulted in the construction of the destroyer Dubrovnik in 1930–1931. Soon after she was ordered, the onset of the Great Depression meant that only one ship of the planned half-flotilla was ever built.[2] Despite the fact that the other two large destroyers were not going to be built, the idea persisted that Dubrovnik might lead a flotilla consisting of several smaller destroyers. In 1934, the KJRM decided to acquire three such destroyers to operate in a division led by Dubrovnik.[3]

Description and construction

The Beograd class was developed from a French design, and the second ship of the class, Zagreb, was built by Jadranska brodogradilišta at Split, Yugoslavia, under French supervision.[4] The ship had an overall length of 98 m (321 ft 6 in), a beam of 9.45 m (31 ft), and a normal draught of 3.18 m (10 ft 5 in). Her standard displacement was 1,210 tonnes (1,190 long tons), and she displaced 1,655 tonnes (1,629 long tons) at full load. The ship was powered by Parsons geared steam turbines driving two propellers, using steam generated by three Yarrow water-tube boilers. Her turbines were rated at 40,000 shp (30,000 kW) and she was designed to reach a top speed of 38 knots (70 km/h; 44 mph). She carried 120 tonnes (120 long tons) of fuel oil.[5] Although data is not available for Zagreb, her sister ship Beograd had a radius of action of 1,000 nautical miles (1,900 km; 1,200 mi).[6] The crew consisted of 145 officers and enlisted men.[5]

Her main armament consisted of four Škoda 120 mm (4.7 in) L/46[lower-alpha 1] superfiring guns in single mounts, two forward of the superstructure and two aft, protected by gun shields. Her secondary armament consisted of four Bofors 40 mm (1.6 in) anti-aircraft guns in two twin mounts,[5][7][8] located on either side of the aft shelter deck.[9] She was also equipped with two triple mounts of 550 mm (22 in) torpedo tubes and two machine guns.[5] Her fire-control system was provided by the Dutch firm of Hazemayer.[7] As built, she could also carry 30 naval mines.[5] She was laid down in 1936,[7][10] launched on 30 March 1938,[5] and was commissioned into the KJRM in August 1939.[9]


At the time of the German-led Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, Zagreb and her sister ship Beograd were allocated to the 1st Torpedo Division at the Bay of Kotor.[11] From the outbreak of war on 6 April, there were air attacks on the ships and shore installations in the Bay of Kotor, but despite near misses Zagreb was not hit by any bombs. During the days following the invasion, Zagreb and other ships were moved to different locations within the bay and camouflaged. On 16 April, the ship's crew were informed of the imminent surrender of the Yugoslav armed forces, and were ordered not to resist the enemy any further.[12] The following day, with Italian forces closing on the Bay of Kotor, two junior officers, Milan Spasić and Sergej Mašera, removed the captain and crew from the ship and set scuttling charges to prevent her capture. Both officers were killed in the explosions.[13] Spasić's remains washed ashore on 21 April, and were given a full military funeral by Italian forces on 5 May. Mašera's severed head washed up and was secretly buried by locals.[12]

The destruction of Zagreb was portrayed in the 1967 French film Flammes sur l'Adriatique (Adriatic Sea of Fire), which was directed by Alexandre Astruc, and starred Gérard Barray. The film was partly filmed on location in Yugoslavia, and was released in France in 1968.[14] In 1973, on the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of the Yugoslav Navy, the President of Yugoslavia and wartime Partisan leader Josip Broz Tito posthumously awarded both officers the Order of the People's Hero for their courage. In the mid-1980s, Mašera's head was disinterred and forensically identified, after which it was buried at a cemetery in Ljubljana.[12]


  1. L/46 denotes the length of the gun. In this case, the L/46 gun is 46 calibre, meaning that the gun was 46 times as long as the diameter of its bore.



Books and journals

  • Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. London, England: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-85177-329-2.
  • Freivogel, Zvonimir (2014). "From Glasgow to Genoa under Three Flags – The Yugoslav Flotilla Leader Dubrovnik" (PDF). Voennyi Sbornik. 4 (2): 83–88. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  • Cernuschi, Enrico & O'Hara, Vincent O. (2005). "The Star-Crossed Split". In Jordan, John (ed.). Warship 2005. London, England: Conway Maritime Press. pp. 97–110. ISBN 1-84486-003-5.
  • Chesneau, Roger, ed. (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922–1946. London, England: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-85177-146-5.
  • Jarman, Robert L., ed. (1997). Yugoslavia Political Diaries 1918–1965. 2. Slough, Berkshire: Archives Edition. ISBN 978-1-85207-950-5.
  • Lenton, H.T. (1975). German Warships of the Second World War. London, England: Macdonald and Jane's. ISBN 978-0-356-04661-7.
  • Whitley, M. J. (1988). Destroyers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-326-7.


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