Foreword and acknowledgements
As I visited Vis or Lissa for the first time as 13 years old, I was ignorant about its centuries of history. For me, it was just another leave on the sea, and Vis seemed to me less interesting than Brač, where I spent several vacancies with my parents and sister in the small town of Milna.
I knew only that Vis was a “militarized Island”, without foreign tourists, and I was surprised to meet a lot of voyagers from Czechoslovakia on the ship to Vis, who were permitted to visit this Adriatic “fortress”. From my earliest days I was enraptured with everything that navigated, and I was hoping to see a lot of warships on Vis, that wasn´t true too. Vis was a “military” island, but not a naval base. One could see a lot of Army uniforms and not a trace of the Navy, except the small over-aged water-carrier, already seen by myself on Brač, when summers were hot and dry.
Touristic offers were at this time, in 1968, as TV was rare and personal computers were to be seen only in Sci-Fi novels and movies, together with cell phones and other “impossible gadgets”, still very rich. One could go swimming or sun-bathing or make excursions, from which the most interesting was with a boat around the island; from the harbour of Vis (former San Giorgio) to the West over Komiza, and then back around the southern and eastern coast. We visited the island of Biševo (Busi) with the Blue Grotto, took a bath on a beautiful sand strand and made acquaintances with other tourists. Not knowing it, I repeated a tour made by a part of the Italian fleet in 1866, looking reluctantly for the best place for a landing.
Among other contacts with the townspeople, we learned to know the local vicar, who immediately discovered my interest in books and maritime matters. He lent me a new book written by a group of authors and published in 1966 to commemorate the 100th Jubilee of the Battle of Lissa. I “swallowed” the book in several afternoons, as it was too hot to go to the strand (and in the evening it wasn´t permitted to read, because of electricity savings and the mosquitoes). Afterwards I began to form different fleets from water melon pips. It was also possible too overview the whole harbour and to see where Italian ironclads were making circles in the harbour, attacking the harbour fortifications and escaping to the sea. My enthusiasm about the naval history brought our hosts to the idea, to present me with an Austro-Hungarian naval sabre from the family inheritance. Unfortunately it was prohibited by my parents, who were thinking that I was too young for this “toy”. Afterwards I remembered that during the return voyage many Czechoslovakian tourists on the ship were depressed and sad, returning to their country after the “Prague Spring” was quenched, and not knowing what was awaiting them.
Thus Vis remained imprinted in my memory as a historical site, and I “stumbled” often over this island during my own studies of naval history. In early 1980s I came to Germany, to discover lots of literature about the naval matters, including original literature about Lissa written by Austrian and Italian authors. In 1996 I published a longer article on the Battle of Lissa in the Croatian military magazine “Hrvatski vojnik”, which served, with several corrections and additions, as a foundation for this manuscript. Later I found other newer and older books on this theme, including the Attlmayr book listed in the literature, and finally found and bought my own specimen of the Croatian book from 1966, considered by myself to be written by Petar Mardešić, but he was only one of the authors. I wrote several more articles on the Battle of Lissa and the discovery of the wreck of Re d´Italia that were published in Austria and Poland. Now, almost fifty years after my first visit to Vis, I´m coming back to my “historical roots” and the Battle of Lissa.
In the meantime I get many friends and people with same “ship-lover” interests, in Croatia, Europe and worldwide. Some of these are unfortunately not among us anymore, but I´m deeply thankful to all of them, for the help, advices and photographs from their collections, being given to me for later publication. I´d like to mention some of them by name, like deceased Mr. Karl Schrott from Arnstadt, Germany, Mr. Albin Unger from Zagreb, Croatia, Dr. Achille Rastelli from Milan, Italy, Dr. Lothar Baumgartner from Vienna, Austria and Colonel Alexander Sixtus von Reden from the “Militärkanzlei” Association from Vienna. From my active friends and researchers, I´d like to thank to Eng. Danijel Frka, a diver and underwater researcher from Kraljevica, Croatia, who in 2005 participated in the search for and discovery of the wreck of Re d´Italia, and in the documentary film that was later made about it. There are also Mr. Dražen Gorički, who with other divers discovered the wreck of Palestro, and my colleague Dr. Alan Meniga, who put a ship from his firm “Meniga Marine” at their disposal as a diving mother ship, and who later informed me about this discovery. I owe my thanks also to Mr. Sergio Gobbo from Grožnjan/Grisignano, the founder and director of the “Gallerion” collection from Novigrad/ Cittanova at Novigrad in Istria, mostly dedicated to the history of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, who let me use some of photographs from his museum for this book. I´m thankful also to Eng. Franz Selinger from Ulm, Germany, Dr. Wladimir Aichelburg from Vienna, Prof. Dr. Bruno Dobrić and all other members of the Association “Viribus Unitis” from Pola, and to Dr. Davorin Mandić, former director of the Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria at Pola (PPMI), who already in 1992 has shown me four beautiful albums with photographs of Austrian and Austro-Hungarian warships at Pola, newly acquired by him for the Museum. Im deeply obliged to Mr. Graciano Kešac, Director of the PPMI, who permitted the publication of some of these photos – showing ships and scenes from the Battle of Lissa – in this book, together with Mrs Lana Skuljan Bilić, responsible fot the photo section of the Museum who organized these photos to be copied for Eng. Frka and myself, to be published here. To Eng. Frka I´m thanking again for some of his paintings, which are making this book more attractive.
I´m very grateful to my editor, Mr. Zvonimir Despot, and to his publishing house “Despot Infinitus” for the trust and readiness to publish this manuscript as a book, to present in a broader and objective form the events that happened 150 years ago, when the Battle of Lissa saved Lissa, Dalmatia and whole Eastern Adriatic coast from the Italian invasion, and postponed the occupation of Istria and parts of Dalmatia for several decades. I´m also very thankful to the Ministry for Culture of the Republic of Croatia, which was willing to approve a part of financial means needed to publish this book.
Coburg/Zagreb, 16. July 2016
FOREWORD AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
- THE AUSTRO-PRUSSIAN-ITALIAN WAR OF 1866
- THE WAR BEGINS
- THE BATTLE
- AFTER THE BATTLE
- WARSHIPS OF THE BATTLE OF LISSA
- SOURCES OF ILLUSTRATIONS