R.N. Cesare Rossarol
During the two World Wars, the strategic location of the Adriatic Sea
made it the site of many naval fights, raids and losses. At the outset
of World War I, in an attempt to defend its coasts, elements of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire set up extensive minefields around the waters of Istra. Given that
only they knew of their precise location, these minefields became the
cause of countless losses, both to friend and foe, military and civilian.
Following the Armistice of 4 November 1918, no attempt was made to eradicate
these minefields; as a result, the Istrian sea floor is now littered with
wrecks resulting from both military operations and post-war collisions
with devices left over from the war. The R.N. Cesare Rossarol, a scout
cruiser ("esploratore leggero") belonging to the Italian Royal Navy, was
one of the casualties of one of these forsaken mines in the days immediately
following the armistice.
The R.N. Cesare Rossarol was launched by S.A.I. Gio. Ansaldo & C., Liguria,
Italy, in 1914. She was a scout cruiser, a slender, fast vessel, measuring
85 meters in length; she had the ability to fight while maintaining a
speed of over 30 knots. Designed to measure up to the Austro-Hungarian
light cruisers of the “Spaun” class, she carried six guns and was outfitted
to launch torpedoes. During World War I she took part in several battle
operations, laid minefields and escorted battleships.
Like her sister ships, the Alessandro Poerio and Guglielmo Pepe, the Cesare
Rossarol was named after a famous Neapolitan who, in 1848, helped to bravely
defend the Republic of Venice from attacks by the Austro-Hungarian Army.
She began her service in November of 1915 patrolling the lower Adriatic
Sea; she would later on join her sister ships to form the Second Group
of the Fourth Division. Together they patrolled the upper Adriatic. In
June 1917 she was transferred to Brindisi (Southern Italy), where she
was incorporated into the Fourth Group of the Fourth Division; she stayed
there until the end of the war. She was renowned for her many missions.
The final days of the war found the Cesare Rossarol in Istrian waters,
off Pola, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy’s principal naval harbor and arsenal.
She was assigned to antisubmarine patrol service after supporting the
landing and occupation of the city. On 5 November 1918, the day after
the Austro-Hungarian Armistice, Italian forces, having already occupied
several Albanian and Istrian cities, moved in to occupy the great naval
base of Pola. Though it was here that the greater units of the Austro-Hungarian
Navy were anchored, the collapse of the Empire, and the power vacuum that
this had caused, had left this fleet in total disarray.