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Royal Yugoslav Navy
Кpaљeвcкa Југословенска Pатна Морнарица
Kraljevska Jugoslovenska Ratna Mornarica
Active 1918–1941
Disbanded 17 April 1941
Country Yugoslavia
Allegiance King of Yugoslavia
Type Navy
Role Coastal defence
Size 32 ships
150 seaplanes
Part of Yugoslav Royal Armed Forces
H/Q Split
Engagements Invasion of Yugoslavia
Decorations See article
Kiril Metod Koch,[1]
Dragutin Prica[1]
Naval Ensign (1922–1941) Naval Ensign of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.svg
Naval Ensign (1918–1922) Naval Ensign of Yugoslavia 1920.svg

The Royal Yugoslav Navy (Serbo-Croatian: Кpaљeвcкa Југословенска Pатна Морнарица; Kraljevska Jugoslovenska Ratna Mornarica), was the navy of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

This navy existed since the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918, which was changed in 1929 to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It was disbanded after the Axis invasion in April 1941.



Yugoslavia rose from the ashes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, destroyed by the First World War. The new state, officially the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, was proclaimed on 1 December 1918, prior to which date there had been a degree of chaos in the region, following the Armistice, when numerous "sailor's councils" and splinter factions had taken over many of the former Austro-Hungarian warships. Yugoslavia made demands for a large proportion of the former Empire's fleet.[2] However, the Italians were extremely uneasy about the rise of a new naval power in the Adriatic area and pressed the Allies to distribute the Austro-Hungarian fleet among the victors. This was done, and only scraps of the former navy were allocated to Yugoslavia. The ships received were 12 modern torpedo-boats, four obsolete minesweepers, four armoured river monitors and a number of auxiliaries. The fleet was further strengthened during the 1920s, when six minesweepers of the German "M" class and the old cruiser SMS Niobe were bought.[3]

Before the April 1941 invasion

On the eve of the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia, the Royal Yugoslav Navy was equipped with one elderly ex-German light cruiser (suitable only for training purposes), one large modern destroyer flotilla leader of British design, three modern destroyers of French design (two built in Yugoslavia plus another still under construction), one seaplane tender, four modern submarines (two older French-built and two British-built) and 10 modern motor torpedo boats (MTBs). Of the older vessels, there were six ex-Austrian Navy medium torpedo boats, six ex-German Navy minesweepers, five small minelayers, four large armoured river monitors and various auxiliary craft.[4]

Naval Operations during the Invasion of Yugoslavia

When Germany and Italy attacked Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, The Royal Yugoslavian Navy had available three destroyers, two submarines and 10 MTBs as the most effective units of the fleet. One other destroyer, the Ljubljana, was in dry-dock at the time of the invasion and she and her anti-aircraft guns were used in defence of the fleet base at Kotor. The remainder of the fleet was useful only for coastal defence and local escort and patrol work.

Kotor was close to the Albanian border and the Italo-Greek front there, but Zara (Zadar), an Italian enclave, was to the north-west of the coast and to prevent a bridgehead being established, the destroyer Beograd, four of the old torpedo boats and six MTBs were despatched to Šibenik, 80 km to the south of Zara, in preparation for an attack. The attack was to be coordinated with the 12th "Jadranska" Infantry Division and two "Odred" (combined regiments) of the Royal Yugoslav Army attacking from the Benkovac area, supported by air attacks by the 81st Bomber Group of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force. The Yugoslav forces launched their attack on 9 April, but by 13 April the Italian forces had counter-attacked and were in Benkovac by 14 April.[5] The naval prong to this attack faltered when the destroyer Beograd was damaged by near misses from Italian aircraft off Šibenik when her starboard engine was put out of action, after which she limped to Kotor, escorted by the remainder of the force, for repairs.[6]

The maritime patrol float-planes of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force flew reconnaissance and attack missions during the campaign, as well as providing air cover for mine-laying operations off Zara (Zadar). Some of their successes included an Italian tanker being damaged by a near miss off the Italian coast near Bari, attacks on the Albanian port of Durrës, as well as strikes against Italian re-supply convoys to Albania. On 9 April, one Dornier Do 22K floatplane notably took on an Italian convoy of 12 steamers with an escort of eight destroyers crossing the Adriatic during the day, attacking single-handed in the face of intense AA fire.[7]

The Royal Yugoslav Navy also had at its disposal four large, heavily armed and armoured river monitors in its riverine flotilla. They were used to patrol the Danube, Drava and Sava rivers in the northern parts of Yugoslavia and its border with Hungary. These monitors, the Drava, Sava, Morava and Vardar had been inherited from the Austro-Hungarian Navy at the end of the First World War. All were of around 400-500t with a main armament of two 120mm guns, two or three 66mm guns, 120mm mortars, 40mm AA guns and machine guns. At the start of the campaign they had carried out offensive operations by shelling the airfield at Mohács in Hungary on the 6th of April and again two days later, but had to begin withdrawing towards Novi Sad by the 11th of April after coming under repeated attack by German dive-bombers. Early in the morning of 12 April, a squadron of German Junkers Ju 87 dive-bombers attacked the Yugoslav monitors on the Danube. The Drava was hit by several of them but they were unable to penetrate the Drava's 300mm thick deck armour, until, by chance, one put a bomb straight down the funnel, killing 54 of the 67 man crew. During the attack anti-aircraft gunners on the monitors claimed three dive-bombers shot down. The remaining three monitors were scuttled by their crews later on 12 April as German and Hungarian forces had occupied the bases and the river systems upon which they operated.[8]


The Italians captured most of the Yugoslav Navy (one of its four destroyers, the Ljubljana, had spent the campaign in dry-dock).[6] However, another destroyer, the Zagreb, was blown up at Kotor by its officers Mašera and Spasić to prevent capture and one of the British-built submarines and two MTBs succeeded in escaping to Alexandria in Egypt to continue to serve with the Allied cause.[4] It should also be noted that a fourth destroyer was captured while under construction in the Cattaro shipyard, the Split, but the Regia Marina was not able to finish her before the armistice in 1943. Eventually, she was recovered after the war by the Yugoslavians and completed under the original name.[9] Ten Yugoslav Navy maritime patrol float-planes escaped to Greece, with nine making it to Egypt, where they formed a squadron under RAF command. A number of the surviving Yugoslav warships, notably the destroyers Dubrovnik, Beograd and the repaired Ljubljana, were used by the Regia Marina until the Italian Armistice of September 1943, whereupon the Kriegsmarine and, to a lesser extent, the Navy of the Independent State of Croatia Croatian Forces appropriated the survivors for their own fleets. The destroyer Ljubljana was wrecked on a shoal near the Gulf of Tunis whilst in Italian service in April 1943, but the Dubrovnik and Beograd were not sunk by Allied forces until April and May 1945 respectively. The light cruiser Dalmacija entered German service with the old name Niobe. Beached on Silba it was destroyed by British MTB 276 and MTB 298 in December 1943. Several ships which survived the war continued their service with the Navy of Democratic Federal Yugoslavia.[4]


Yugoslav Navy ships captured by the Italian Regia Marina in April 1941. They are, from left, a Malinska-class mine-layer, the light cruiser Dalmacija and the submarine depot ship Hvar.

Yugoslav Navy destroyers captured by the Italian Regia Marina in April 1941. They are, from left, the Dubrovnik and the Beograd.

  • Navy Fleet
    • Command Ship Dalmacija (former German Niobe) - Bay of Kotor
    • 1st Torpedo Division - Bay of Kotor
    • 2nd Torpedo Division - Šibenik
    • 3rd Torpedo Division - Šibenik
    • Submarine fleet - Bay of Kotor
    • Hydroplane Depot Ship Zmaj - Šibenik
  • Naval Coastal Command
    • Northern sector of coastal defense - Selce
    • Middle sector of coastal defense - Šibenik
    • Southern sector of coastal defense - Đenovic, Dubrovnik, Kumbor and Đenovic
    • Rescue ship Spasilac - Split
  • River Flotilla
    • Command Ship Cer - Novi Sad
    • 1st Monitor Group - Dubovac
    • 1st Mining-Barrage Group - Bezdan
    • 2nd Mining-Barrage Group - Stara Kanjiza and Senta
    • 3rd Mining-Barrage Group - Sremski Karlovci
    • 4th Mining-Barrage Group - Smederevo
    • Đerdap sector command - Tekija and Donji Milanovac

Naval Aviation

  • 1st Hydroplane Command
    • 1st Hydroplane Group
      • 1st Hydroplane Squadron (5 SIM-XIV) - Bay of Kotor
      • 11th Hydroplane Squadron (10 seaplanes) - Rose
    • 2nd Hydroplane Group
  • 2nd Hydroplane Command
    • 3rd Hydroplane Group
      • 25th Hydroplane Squadron (6 Do 22) - Zlarin and Višovac
      • 26th Hydroplane Squadron (6 Do Wal) - Krapanj and Jadrtovac
    • 4th Hydroplane Group
      • 5th Hydroplane Squadron (5 SIM-XIV) - Tijesno and Murter
      • 15th Hydroplane Squadron (10 seaplanes) - Vodice
  • Hydroplane Training Squadron (20 seaplanes) - Trogir



  • Conways All The World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946, - Conway Maritime Press, London,1980. ISBN 0-85177-146-7
  • Fatutta, F. and Covelli, L. 1941: Attack on Yugoslavia, in The International Magazine of Armies & Weapons, Year IV - Nos. 15 and 17, January and May 1975, Lugano, Switzerland.
  • Shores, C., Cull, B. and Malizia, N., Air War for Yugoslavia, Greece & Crete – 1940-41, Grub Street, London, 1987. ISBN 0-948817-07-0
  • Whitely, M.J., Destroyers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia, US Naval Institute Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-87021-326-7
  1. 1.0 1.1 "Admiralty JKRM" (in Croatian). Paluba info.;wap2. Retrieved 03. 01. 2013. 
  2. Whitely, 2001, p. 311.
  3. Conways, 1980, p. 355.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Conways, 1980.
  5. Fatutta, et al., 1975.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Whitely, 2001, p. 312.
  7. Shores, et al., 1987, p. 218.
  8. Shores, et al., 1987, p. 224.
  9. Whitely, 2001, p. 313.

See also

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