At the Croatian Maritime Museum in Split, the most valuable specimens of torpedo weapons have been being exhibited from the world’s first torpedo factory, in Rijeka. This British-Croatian invention took the world of naval warfare by storm, and its two creators, one from Rijeka in Croatia and the other from Bolton in England, are being honoured.
As Morski writes on the 30th of March, 2019, the museum’s curators Petra Blažević and Ljubomir Radić formed a new museum exhibition of the torpedo collection back in 2016. The occasion was the 150th anniversary of the emergence of torpedoes, which was once the most prominent weapon to have existed in naval warfare, the prototypes of which were created by Giovanni Biagio Luppis Freiherr von Rammer, sometimes also known by the Croatian name of Vukić, a Croat born in Rijeka, who served in the Austro-Hungarian Navy.
We often hear that the torpedo was entirely invented in Croatia, but in terms of international recognition, that honour goes to the the British public, more specifically to Robert Whitehead, an English engineer born in Bolton in northern England, who gained his fame for the development of the very first effective self-propelled naval torpedo.
Luppis, born in Rijeka with family ties to the southern Dalmatian region of Pelješac, had the desire to create the so-called “coast guard,” which was a self-managed ship loaded with an explosive to protect the coast from attacks coming from the sea. Since he had no funds for the development of such a project, nor did he have the proper engineering knowledge for the task, he connected with the manager of the Rijeka metals factory, Robert Whitehead, a Brit.
From their friendship and cooperation there came a weapon called a torpedo, and how frightening it was to gaze upon this newly-made weapon, French travel writer Victor Tissot testifies, who, after his stay in Rijeka, referred to it as “the most terrible of all sea monsters”.
Soon after the ”birth” of the torpedo, Luppis went to live in Italy and sold his share, production remained in the hands of his friend Robert Whitehead, who was still across the Adriatic sea in his factory in Rijeka. By the end of the 19th century, most of the world’s navies started to acquire the Rijeka-made torpedoes and warfare at sea became unthinkable without the use of this weapon, at least until the end of the second world war.
As a natural continuation of the valorisation of this truly outstanding torpedo collection, which has been inherited by the Croatian Maritime Museum in Split, the authors of the exhibition have created a book with a catalog of the collections.
”Both the exhibition and the book bring out the historical context of the torpedo’s creation, the biographies of both Luppis and Whitehead, and a series of interesting uses of torpedoes on torpedo boats. The bilingual book, which in honour of the torpedo’s British and Croatian creators, has been published in Croatian and English, was promoted to the public back in February at the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum in Zagreb and then again in March in Split,” said Radić.
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