SS Rex
Overview
 

The SS Rex was an Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 ocean liner
Ocean liner
An ocean liner is a ship designed to transport people from one seaport to another along regular long-distance maritime routes according to a schedule. Liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes .Cargo vessels running to a schedule are sometimes referred to as...

 launched in 1931. It held the westbound Blue Riband
Blue Riband
The Blue Riband is an unofficial accolade given to the passenger liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean in regular service with the record highest speed. The term was borrowed from horse racing and was not widely used until after 1910. Under the unwritten rules, the record is based on average speed...

 between 1933 and 1935. Originally built for the Navigazione Generale Italiana (NGI) as the SS Guglielmo Marconi
Guglielmo Marconi
Guglielmo Marconi was an Italian inventor, known as the father of long distance radio transmission and for his development of Marconi's law and a radio telegraph system. Marconi is often credited as the inventor of radio, and indeed he shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand...

, its state-ordered merger with the Lloyd Sabaudo
Lloyd Sabaudo
The Lloyd Sabaudo was formed in Turin in 1906 and began passenger service in 1907, expanding to link Italy to ports in Asia as well as North and South America. In 1932 it merged with several other Italian shipping lines to form the Italian Line.-References:...

 line meant that the ship sailed for the newly created Italia Flotta Riunite (Italian Line
Italian Line
The Italian Line or Italia Line, also known as the Italia di Navigazione S.p.A., was a passenger shipping line that operated regular transatlantic services between Italy and the United States, and Italy and South America...

). On May 12, 1938, in a demonstration of U.S. air power, three YB-17 bombers of the U.S.
Encyclopedia

The SS Rex was an Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 ocean liner
Ocean liner
An ocean liner is a ship designed to transport people from one seaport to another along regular long-distance maritime routes according to a schedule. Liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes .Cargo vessels running to a schedule are sometimes referred to as...

 launched in 1931. It held the westbound Blue Riband
Blue Riband
The Blue Riband is an unofficial accolade given to the passenger liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean in regular service with the record highest speed. The term was borrowed from horse racing and was not widely used until after 1910. Under the unwritten rules, the record is based on average speed...

 between 1933 and 1935. Originally built for the Navigazione Generale Italiana (NGI) as the SS Guglielmo Marconi
Guglielmo Marconi
Guglielmo Marconi was an Italian inventor, known as the father of long distance radio transmission and for his development of Marconi's law and a radio telegraph system. Marconi is often credited as the inventor of radio, and indeed he shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand...

, its state-ordered merger with the Lloyd Sabaudo
Lloyd Sabaudo
The Lloyd Sabaudo was formed in Turin in 1906 and began passenger service in 1907, expanding to link Italy to ports in Asia as well as North and South America. In 1932 it merged with several other Italian shipping lines to form the Italian Line.-References:...

 line meant that the ship sailed for the newly created Italia Flotta Riunite (Italian Line
Italian Line
The Italian Line or Italia Line, also known as the Italia di Navigazione S.p.A., was a passenger shipping line that operated regular transatlantic services between Italy and the United States, and Italy and South America...

). On May 12, 1938, in a demonstration of U.S. air power, three YB-17 bombers of the U.S. Army Air Corps intercepted the Rex
Interception of the Rex
The interception of the Rex was a training exercise and military aviation achievement of the United States Army Air Corps prior to World War II. The tracking and location of an ocean going vessel by B-17 Flying Fortresses in May 1938 was a major event in the development of a doctrine that led to a...

 620 miles at sea in a highly publicized event.

The Rex operated transatlantic crossings from Italy with its running mate, the . On 8 September 1944, off Koper, Rex was hit by 123 rockets launched by RAF aircraft, caught fire from stem to stern. She burned for four days, then rolled onto the port side, and sank in shallow water. The ship was broken up at the site beginning in 1947.

History

Following North German Lloyd's successful capture of the Blue Riband with its and duo of ocean liners, the Rex was intended to be Italy's effort to do the same. Amid great competition from other steamship companies, the Italian Line carried out a very attractive and enthusiastic publicity campaign for its two largest liners, the Rex and the Conte di Savoia.
Both ships were dubbed "The Riviera afloat". To carry the theme even further, sand was scattered in the outdoor swimming pools, creating a beach-like effect highlighted by multicolored umbrellas. Both ships were decorated in a classical style while the norm of the time was the Art Deco
Art Deco
Art deco , or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and...

 or the so called "Liner Style" that had been premiered onboard the French Line
Compagnie Générale Transatlantique
The Compagnie Générale Transatlantique , typically known overseas as the French Line, was a shipping company established during 1861 as an attempt to revive the French merchant marine, the poor state of which was indicated during the Crimean War of 1856...

’s in 1927. The ship’s exterior design had followed the trend set by Germany’s Bremen and Europa
SS Europa
A number of steamships have been named SS Europa after the continent of Europe:, an ocean liner operated by the North German Lloyd 1930–1945, a 16,504-ton ocean liner in Europe—North America immigrant service in 1950–51...

. The Rex sported a long hull with a moderately raked bow, two working funnels, but still featured the old-type overhanging counter stern found on such liners as the and .

The first of this pair to be completed was, appropriately, the largest and fastest. It was christened the Rex in August 1, 1931, in the presence of King Victor Emmanuel III
Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Victor Emmanuel III was a member of the House of Savoy and King of Italy . In addition, he claimed the crowns of Ethiopia and Albania and claimed the titles Emperor of Ethiopia and King of Albania , which were unrecognised by the Great Powers...

 and Queen Elena
Elena of Montenegro
Elena of Montenegro was the daughter of King Nikola I Petrović-Njegoš of Montenegro and his wife, Milena Vukotić...

. In its goal of a record-breaking maiden voyage, its first run was a dismal failure. It sailed from Genoa in September, 1932, after a send off from Premier Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

, with a passenger list of international celebrities. Unfortunately, while approaching Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

, serious mechanical difficulties arose. Repairs took three days. Half its passengers requested to leave, preferring to reach Germany's coasts and take the Europa; arriving in New York they found the Rex already into the dock. Lengthy repairs were required in New York before returning to Europe.
In August 1933, the Rex fulfilled the promises of its designers and captured the Blue Riband on its westbound crossing with a time of four days and thirteen hours, with an average speed of 28.92 knots. This record would last until 1935 when it was captured by the French Line's .
Following the outbreak of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 both the Rex and Conte di Savoia continued regular sailings to the Mediterranean as if totally unaffected by events in Northern Europe. In the end Italian liners proved to be among the final ships trading on a commercial basis. Their sailings ceased in the spring of 1940 and they were returned to Italian ports for safekeeping, with Rex laid up in Bari
Bari
Bari is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas...

. With the surrender of Italy in 1943, the German government seized the Rex and had it towed to Trieste
Trieste
Trieste is a city and seaport in northeastern Italy. It is situated towards the end of a narrow strip of land lying between the Adriatic Sea and Italy's border with Slovenia, which lies almost immediately south and east of the city...

. Ultimately however this effort proved futile as the Rex was destroyed by Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 Beaufighters on September 8, 1944, in a successful effort to prevent German forces from using the liner to blockade the harbor entrance.

In 1946, officials of the Italian steamship line proposed to salvage Rex and recommission it. However the liner had been sunk in a portion of the harbor allocated to Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

, whose government blocked any recovery. The remains of Rex - about one fifth of the ship, mostly unrecognizable metal parts - are located off the Slovenia
Slovenia
Slovenia , officially the Republic of Slovenia , is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north, and also has a small portion of...

n coast in the Gulf of Koper. The rest was scavenged for scrap iron in the 1950s by the local government; it was said that the ship was the largest Slovenian "iron mine" at the time. Since 1954, after the formal annexation of Zone B of the Free Territory of Trieste
Free Territory of Trieste
The Free Territory of Trieste was to be a city-state situated in Central Europe between northern Italy and Yugoslavia, created by the United Nations Security Council in the aftermath of World War II and provisionally administered by an appointed military governor commanding the peacekeeping United...

 to Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

, an anchor of the Rex has been on display in Congress Square
Congress Square
Congress Square is one of the central squares in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.The square was built in 1821 at the site of the ruins of a medieval Capuchin monastery, which had been abolished during the reign of Habsburg Emperor Joseph II. The square was used for ceremonial purposes during...

 of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana
Ljubljana
Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and its largest city. It is the centre of the City Municipality of Ljubljana. It is located in the centre of the country in the Ljubljana Basin, and is a mid-sized city of some 270,000 inhabitants...

 to symbolize the defeat of Fascist expansionism and the reunion of the Slovenian Littoral with the rest of Slovenia.

External links

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