Sunday, 14 September 2014

(1914-1940) Cruiser "Elli"

Cruiser Elli border=Built by New York Shipbuilding, Elli was originally ordered by the Chinese as the Fei Hung, but the order was cancelled due to the Nationalist Revolution of 1912-13. The Greeks bought it in 1914 as part of a naval expansion program following the Balkan wars. As Greece was neutral at the beginning of World War I, the French confiscated the Greek ships, including Elli, which they used in convoy escort and patrol duties in the Aegean Sea until the Greeks sided with the Entente in June 1917. Until the end of the war, Elli continued its operations in the Aegean as part of the Greek navy. In 1925-27, she was modernized in France, where she acquired modern antiaircraft armament and minelaying equipment. Elli is best known for having been sunk by an Italian submarine in peacetime. After the war, as part of the war reparations for the sinking of Elli, the Greeks received from Italy the cruiser "Eugenio di Savoia", which they renamed "Elli" (II). 47 m below the surface, Elli (I) was scavenged in the 1950s over a period of two years by a private company (presumably with the tolerance if not bribing of the local authorities), and as a result only a few pieces of her remain in the sea off Tinos today.

Operational History
14 June 1911 - Laid down.
4 May 1912 - Launched.
November 1913 - Completed and looking for alternative buyers after the Chinese order is cancelled due to the 1912-13 Nationalist Revolution. (The photos below are from Fei Hung being built and then on trials in 1913)

1914 - Purchased by the Greeks and commissioned in the Greek Navy.
November 1916 - Seized by the French, with whom Elli takes part in convoy escort and patrol duties in the Aegean (photo below is of Elli in French service; Corfu, 1917).

June 1917 - Elli is returned to the Greeks, and continues operations in the Aegean until the end of World War I.
1925 - 1927 - Undergoes major alterations in France, where she acquires modern antiaircraft armament and minelaying equipment for 100 mines.
15 August 1940 Elli lays at anchor off the island of Tinos, participating in the island's religious festivities, when at 06:45 an Italian spotter plane (with its markings painted over) flies over the harbour. Elli's antiaircraft guns are trained on the plane, but hold fire. The pilgrims on the island wave at the plane thinking that it is a Greek plane that has also come for the festivities. Two hours later, Italian Submarine Delfino (commanded by G. Aicardi) launches four torpedoes, one finding Elli below the active boiler, which explodes and causes a fire to spread. Without propulsion, the crew tries to use the help of nearby merchant ships to beach Elli in shallow waters, but fails and abandons ship. Elli begins to sink at 09:45, with nine crew killed and 24 wounded due to the explosion and the fire. The other three torpedoes have missed their target, two having exploded on the harbour's jetty (causing a woman to die of heart attack) and one having changed course and headed out to sea. The following days, fragments of the torpedoes are recovered and identified as Italian, but the Greek government announces instead that the submarine's nationality is unknown so as to delay the beginning of the Greco-Italian War

According to the early reports:
Dead or missing: Engine Chief Petty Officer Papanicolaou, Engine Petty Officer Mantouvalos, Firemen Sailors Anastelopoulos, Grivas and Bonos
Wounded: Petty Officer Electrician Kimoulis; Chief P.O. Engine Papadopoulos; P.O. Engine Syrigos; P.O. Engine Eugenopoulos; P.O. Torpedoes Rakkas; P.O. Fireman Kokoras; P.O. Signalman Anagnostopoulos; Warrant Officer Fireman Mammis; Chief P.O. Bossn's mate Tsirigotis; Sailors Argyriou, Aggeloudis, Anthoulis, Panagos, Hatzispyrou, Mantzouranis, Apostolakos, Synodinos, Pallis, Dendrinos, Giannakis, Mavromatis and Hatzidemetriou.

Chao Ho class Protected Cruiser "Elli"
Displacement: (standard) 2,149 t, (full) 2,642 t
Length: 98 m (321 ft 6 in)
Beam: 12 m (39 ft 4 in)
Draft: 4.3 m (14 ft 1 in)
Propulsion: 3 propellers
Speed: (1914) 26 knots, (1940) 18 knots
Complement: 238
Armament: 3×6-inch (152 mm), 2×3-inch (76 mm), 3×40mm AA, 2x19-inch (483 mm) Torpedo Tubes, 100 mines

For Gamers and Game designers
By 1940, Elli was too slow and underarmed to be of significant use to the Greek navy, except for minelaying. Her sinking though, in peacetime and on the day of a major Greek Orthodox festivity, increased the resolve of the Greeks. The photo below shows a captured Italian L3-35 tankette with "Elli's avenger" written on it.

For Modellers

A profile by Chadoulas:

Models of Elli from the Chania Maritime Museum and the Hellenic Maritime Museum:

Additional photos of Elli:

A documentary (in Greek) of all that is left of Elli.