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Fiume (Rijeka)

There were two schools for the navy ; one at Fiume for sub-officers, the other at Pola for the higher officers.

In spite of the indefatigable solicitude with which the Austrian Government watched over its port of Trieste, created by so many sacrifices, Fiume began to compete with it successfully. This town also was declared a free port by Charles the Sixth in 1725, and in 1776 was assigned to Hungary by Maria Theresa. It was not, however, until that country had attained an independent development that Fiume began to grow into an important place. The harbor works, upon which seventeen millions of florins were expended between the years 1872 and 1892, completely altered the appearance of the shore. Large warehouses with an elevator keep the grain in readiness for exportation.

In almost every department of seafaring, commercial, or industrial activity, Hungary had established in Fiume undertakings that compete with those of Trieste. The shipping, however, is organised with special reference to the west. The population is predominantly Croatian and Italian. The place was in course of rapid growth, and was extending the circle of its inland influence not only into the cornfields of Hungary and the forests of Croatia, but also into Bosnia. This development, too, of Fiume is a triumph of modern industry. Nature did not favor the approaches. The waters of the Quarnero are stormy and inhospitable.

The Kvarner Riviera is located next to Istria and is centerd on the main Croatian port of Rijeka, the busiest port on the Adriatic. At the end of the 19th Century the coastal strip of land at the then leading Hungarian port, Fiume [now Rijeka, Croatia] the largest town on Kvarner, was dotted with dozens of factory chimneys, poking up into the sky and doing what chimneys have always done: belching out smoke. These chimneys indicated the energetic industrial life going on beneath them, for this was the western industrial zone of the town. And they were tall, visible symbols of the fact that Kvarner was one of the most important industrial areas in Croatia. To be more accurate, Rijeka was Croatia's industrial heart at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, the town where 50 percent of Croatia's industry was then concentrated.

If you walked the same path again today, bearing in mind what you have just read, you would be surprised yet again, maybe even more than before. What used to be the outskirts of the town are now its centre. And the skyline of chimneys has also changed - very few of them are still there; so few in fact that you could count them on the fingers of one hand. And the smoke? You can spot it only on rare occasions. What were the reasons for this change of scenery? In the 1990s, the years of transition, and at the beginning of the new millennium, most of Croatia's industrial plants disappeared forever. Even the mighty industrial plants on Kvarner could not avoid that destiny. And the factories in Rijeka were the first to go.

Many of these industrial achievements had to do with the sea. This coastal area had always been steeped in maritime history, which resulted in many shipyards across the region. Almost every coastal town had one, and they were kept very busy: in a period of some ten years, from 1850 to 1861, 301 sailing ships were launched in the shipyards in Rijeka alone, with a capacity of 110 thousand tons. These were ships of extraordinary quality. One of them became the flagship of the Argentinean navy under the name Restaurador Rosas. Another sailing ship, the Splendido, sailed around the globe between 1851 and 1859 under Captain Ivan Visin. Also connected to the sea was the Rijeka sailcloth factory, the only one of its kind in Croatia. Rijeka was also the location of the three most important Croatian rope factories.

The tradition of shipbuilding on Kvarner has a long tradition and goes back to the times of the Liburnians, an Illyrian tribe. Their ships, the "Liburnian galleys", were the elite sailing vessels of the Roman imperial fleet because of their quality. In more recent times, shipbuilding flourished again on the island of Losinj in 1824. The town of Mali Losinj had six shipyards in the 19th century. Because of that, Mali Losinj became a European centre of shipbuilding and shipping - for some time it held second place in the Austro-Hungarian Empire for the number of long-distance sailing ships that were made there. By the second half of the 19th century it had almost 150 sailing ships, more than the whole of neighbouring Istria. Sailing reached its peak in the period between 1855 and 1870, when 1,400 captains and sailors from Losinj were working away at sea. Some of the most renowned shipbuilders and shippers from Losinj were the families of Karatanich, Tarabochia, Martinolich (who later founded the shipyards in Monfalcone), and Cosulich (present owners of a shipping company in Trieste). In Punat on the island of Krk, a shipyard that produces wooden ships from 1922 is still operating and is today the largest shipyard of its kind on the Croatian Adriatic.

Beside ropes, ships need metal, lost of metal. And not only ships. With that in mind, of Croatia's six foundries in the mid-19th century, five were opened in Rijeka. The largest among these employed four hundred workers in 1854. The Rijeka chemicals factory was the only one of its kind in Croatia in 1852. At that time, the town had a soap factory, a candles factory and four leather works, as well as 98 flourmills, including Croatia's first steam-powered mill, which was commissioned in 1853. Many factories sprang up in the second half of the 19th century: a furniture factory, parquet flooring factory and steam sawmill, trunks and barrels factory. Furthermore, there were fabrics, chemical fertilisers, marine coatings, bricks and cement products, cognac, ice, chocolate and sweets, and two oil factories. Of Rijeka's twenty thousand inhabitants, five thousand worked in industry. At the end of the 19th century, Rijeka and its surroundings became one of Europe's most strongly concentrated industrial zones.

The Torpedo Factory in Rijeka came into being thanks to Giovanni Luppis from Rijeka who came up with the idea for a naval defence weapon that would "guard the coast". Luppis had that idea in the early 1860s, but had not enough technical knowledge and means to put it into practice. Robert Whitehead, manager of the firm Stabilimento tecnico fiumano, got interested in Luppis's idea and made and tested a prototype on 20th December 1866. For the test launchings, he installed his invention, the launching tube, on the gunboat Gemse in 1868. This was done in the Rijeka shipyard of Schiavon Brothers, making Gemse the first torpedo ship in the world. In 1875, Stabilimento became the Torpedo Factory R. Whitehead & Co., the first torpedo factory in the world, with an annual production of 800 torpedoes for customers from Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Argentina, Russia etc. The factory opened production works abroad, and later licensed production worldwide. Production of this weapon continued in Rijeka until 1966. At the site of the former Torpedo factory there is still a launching ramp from the 1930s.

An official Austrian communication of 08 June 1915 said: 'The Italian airship Citta di Ferrar, returning from Fiume this morning, was attacked, set on fire and destroyed by naval aeroplane L-48, commanded by Lieutenant Glasing and with Naval Cadet von Fritsch as observer. Two officers and five men of the crew were captured by an Austrian torpedo boat. Official announcement was made in Venice June ID that the Italian airship Citta di Ferrara was set on fire by its crew to avoid the Austrian aeroplane from above, and to prevent its falling into the hands of Austrian torpedo boats pursuing it by sea. This step was not taken before the oil tanks of the dirigible were empty. "The raid of this airship over Fiume was successful," the statement continued. "Bombs were dropped on the Whitehead Torpedo Works and the submarine works at Fiume, as well as on the navy yards where Austrian dreadnoughts had been built and where German submarines sent overland had been assembled."

The Allied armistice terms, amounting to complete surrender, had been made known but were not accepted by the Austrian High Command until 04 November 1918. Hostilities then ceased in the Italian field, and Italian land and naval forces entered Trieste, the goal of Italian Irridentist hopes for generations. Fiume, Hungary's chief Adriatic port, was handed over to a Croatian Local Government on friendly terms with the Allies, and was ready to surrender to the Allied fleet the remainder of the Austro-Hungarian navy assembled in Fiume harbor.

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