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Coordinates: 45°32′56″N 13°41′31″E / 45.54889°N 13.69194°E / 45.54889; 13.69194

B-17s flyby Rex.jpg
Interception of Rex by U.S. YB-17 bombers in 1938.
Name: Rex
Owner: Italian Line
Port of registry: Genoa, Italy
Builder: G. Ansaldo & Co. of Sestri Ponente, Genoa, Italy
Launched: August 1, 1931
Maiden voyage: September 27, 1932
Fate: Destroyed September 8, 1944, by Allied bombers.
General characteristics
Class and type: Ocean liner
Tonnage: 51,062 gross tons
Displacement: 45,800 tons[1]
  • 880 feet (270 m) overall
  • 831.25 feet (253.37 m) waterline
Beam: 96 feet 9 inches (29.49 m)
Draught: 33 feet (10 m)
Depth: 79 feet 9 inches (24.31 m) @ promenade deck
Installed power: 4 sets of geared steam turbines producing 120,000 SHP (design power)
Propulsion: Quadruple propellers
Speed: 27 kts (design speed); 28 kts+ (maximum speed)
Capacity: 2,042 total passengers: 408 first-class, 358 second-class, 410 tourist-class, 866 third-class

The SS Rex was an Italian ocean liner launched in 1931.[2] She held the westbound Blue Riband between 1933 and 1935. Originally built for the Navigazione Generale Italiana (NGI) as SS Guglielmo Marconi, its state-ordered merger with the Lloyd Sabaudo line meant that the ship sailed for the newly created Italia Flotta Riunite (Italian Line).

Rex operated transatlantic crossings from Italy with its running mate, the Conte di Savoia prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. Rex maintained a commercial service in the Mediterranean for a short period, but when Italy entered the war in June 1940 Rex was laid up for safe-keeping. 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.


First class grand staircase

Following North German Lloyd's successful capture of the Blue Riband with its Bremen and Europa duo of ocean liners, Rex was intended to be Italy's effort to do the same. Amid intense competition from other steamship companies, the Italian Line carried out an extensive publicity campaign for its two largest liners, 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.[3] Rex was decorated in a classical style while the norm of the time was the Art Deco or the so-called "Liner Style" that had been premiered on board the French Line’s Ile de France in 1927, Rex sister ship Conte Di Savoia followed this rule, but also had rooms with classic style like the her First Class Social Room also known as "Colonial Hall" . The ship's exterior design had followed the trend set by Germany's Bremen and Europa. 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 Olympic and Aquitania.

The Rex was the first to be completed and was christened Rex in August 1, 1931, in the presence of King Victor Emmanuel III and Queen Elena. She was both larger and faster than Conte di Savoia. Her goal of a record-breaking maiden voyage was a dismal failure. She sailed from Genoa in September, 1932, after a send off from Premier Benito Mussolini, with a passenger list of international celebrities. While approaching Gibraltar, serious mechanical difficulties arose. Repairs took three days. Half her passengers requested to leave, preferring to reach Germany's coasts and take the Europa; arriving in New York they found Rex already into the dock. Lengthy repairs were required in New York before returning to Europe.[4] She arrived in Genoa on October 26, 1932, making her first west-to-east crossing in six and a half days.[5]

In August 1933, Rex fulfilled the promises of her 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.[6] This record would last until 1935 when it was captured by the French Line's Normandie.

On May 12, 1938, in a demonstration of U.S. air power, three YB-17 bombers of the U.S. Army Air Corps intercepted Rex 620 nautical miles (1,100 km) at sea in a highly publicized event.[7]

World War IIEdit

A 272 Squadron Beaufighter climbs away after attacking Rex, (September 8, 1944)
Rex capsized and burning after the RAF attack.

Following the outbreak of war, both 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 at Genoa, but after a bombing of the city, the Italian Line decided to move it to Trieste. To prevent German forces from using the liner to blockade the harbor entrance, Rex was moved near Pola coast, where she lay for some time.

On September 6, 1944, Rex was spotted under tow south of Trieste, by a R.A.F. pilot, and showed a slight list.[8]

On September 8, 1944, she was attacked by 12 Royal Air Force Beaufighters of 272 Squadron at Capodistria Bay south of Trieste. She was listing and on-fire after being struck by 59 rockets and numerous cannon-shells. A second attack, later that day, by 12 more Beaufighters of RAF 39 Squadron and South African Air Force 16 Squadron resulted in her turning over and sinking in shallow water.[9]


Welcome Flier for Tourist Class of Conte di Savoia and Rex, 1932

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, which blocked any recovery. The remains of Rex - about one third of the ship, including double bottom, boilers, and engines - are located off the Slovenian 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.[10] Since 1954, after the formal annexation of Zone B of the Free Territory of Trieste to Yugoslavia, an anchor claimed to be from Rex has been on display in Congress Square of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana to symbolize the defeat of Fascist expansionism. Though claimed to be from the liner, this anchor is not of the dreadnought style that Rex had.[citation needed]

The victory of Rex heralded a peak in Italy's cultural emergence; a lasting source of inspiration and national pride. In 1963 Peroni Nastro Azzurro was named for the "Blue Ribbon" which Rex won (nastro azzurro means "blue ribbon" in Italian.)[11]


  1. ^[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Time Magazine - report on Rex Blue Riband capture, 1933
  3. ^ Classic Liners of Long Ago Archived 2008-01-10 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Great Luxury Liners 1927-1954, A Photographic Record by William H. Miller, Jr.
  5. ^ Wire service, "Completes Voyage", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Thursday 27 October 1932, Volume 39, page 2.
  6. ^ "".
  7. ^ John T. Correll, "Rendezvous With the Rex", AIR FORCE Magazine December 2008, Vol. 91 No. 12, p. 56. The Rex was 725 nautical miles (1,300 km) offshore on her last position report as the B-17s were taxiing for takeoff four hours before interception.
  8. ^ Associated Press, “Giant Liner Rex Left Burning in North Adriatic”, The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Sunday 10 September 1944, Volume 51, page 1.
  9. ^ "ROYAL AIR FORCE OPERATIONS IN MALTA, GIBRALTAR AND THE MEDITERRANEAN, 1940-1945". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved April 3, 2013.
  10. ^ Kralj M. Rex Archived 2008-07-24 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 2008-07-18. (in Slovene)
  11. ^ [1][permanent dead link] Peroni Nastro Azzurro Campaigns. Retrieved on 4 April 2013.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Holder of the Blue Riband (Westbound)
1933 – 1935
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Holder of the Hales Trophy
August 1935 – October 1935
Succeeded by