SMS Kaiser (1858)

Kaiser after conversion to a central battery ironclad. Arrigo Barilli photo, via US Navy History & Heritage Command.

Laid Down

SMS Kaiser was originally a 92-gun Austro-Hungarian ship of the line, laid down in 1855. Commissioned in 1859, she was the only ship of the line completed by Austria with screw propulsion. Kaiser was sent to the North Sea in 1864, during the Second Schleswig War, but saw no action during the conflict. Two years later, however, she was part of the fleet at the Battle of Lissa, 20 July, 1866. While the battle was dominated by the more modern ironclads, Kaiser showed she was still capable, engaging multiple Italian ironclads at once, and ramming Re di Portogallo. Kaiser come out of the Battle with heavy damage to her masts and the loss of her funnel, but as the only ship of the line to ever fight an ironclad, she gave a phenomenal account of herself. In 1869, Kaiser was herself rebuilt into a central battery ironclad. Work was completed in 1873, but she was already heading into obsolescence again as turrets become more common. Kaiser was kept in reserve from 1875 to 1902. Renamed Bellona, her guns and engines were removed and she was used as a barracks ship in Pola until she was seized as a War prize by Italy in 1918. While her ultimate fate is unknown, in all likelihood Bellona was broken up, along with the bulk of the Austro-Hungarian Navy.