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Romania’s Destroyers
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
July 2013

Like many small nations, the Romanian navy had grandiose visions when it set about expansion in the late 1890s. Oil was starting to become a prime industrial resource, and Romania had Europe’s largest reserves by far. The 1899 program called for six coastal battleships and some smaller craft, but only some of the river monitors for the Danube Flotilla would actually be built.

Regele Ferdinand on convoy duty.

In 1912, the cancelled battleships became instead six light cruisers, and there would also be a dozen large destroyers and a submarine. This time the navy actually made some headway, ordering four big destroyers in 1913 from the Pattison yard in Naples, Italy. These four ships, to be named Vifor, Viscol, Vartez and Vijele, were requisitioned by the Italian Navy in June 1915. These appear in Great War at Sea: Mediterranean in both Romanian and Italian colors.

Armed with six-inch guns, the four ships served the Italians as scouts during the First World War. After the war, the Italians returned two of them to Romania, the former Nibbio and Sparviero.


The two ships arrived in Romania in 1921, and were renamed Marasti and Marasesti after two Romanian victories over the Germans in World War I. The Romanians found the six-inch guns too heavy for them, as the Italians had also eventually decided as well. They replaced them with five 120mm guns, removing one during the war to add more anti-aircraft weapons.

The two served throughout the Second World War as convoy escorts, and fought two brief engagements with the far superior Black Sea Fleet but otherwise managed to avoid destruction. For war service they displaced 1,723 tons and carried four 120mm guns and four torpedo tubes, plus anti-aircraft guns. Marasesti could do 34 knots, but Marasti cracked a shaft and by the end of the war could only do 24 knots at best.

The Soviets seized both ships in 1944, incorporating Marasti into the Black Sea Fleet as Lovky and Marasesti as Logkij. They were returned in 1946, and finally scrapped in 1963.

Marasti at pierside, between the wars.

The 1927 program called for a modest increase of four destroyers and some smaller craft. Two of them were begun at the Pattison yard once again, but the Great Depression struck down further expansion before the second pair could be ordered. These were slightly larger than the 1912 destroyers, but carried the same armament and had good speed. They had been designed in Britain and were very similar to the Royal Navy’s Shakespeare class flotilla leaders, but had German and Swedish armament.

Named Regele Ferdinand and Regina Maria, they also had one 120mm gun removed during the war to add more anti-aircraft guns. For war service they displaced 1,850 tons, carried four 120mm guns and six torpedo tubes plus an array of anti-aircraft guns. Like the other two destroyers, they were primarily anti-submarine escorts, and carried 40 depth charges or 50 mines. In 1943, both received German-made S-Gerät submarine detection gear.


The Soviets also seized these two ships. Regele Ferdinand became Likhoi and Regina Maria became Letuchy. More capable than the other Romanian destroyers, these were kept until 1953. They were scrapped in the late 1960s.

During the war all four destroyers carried dazzle camouflage schemes, and were distinguished not by numbers but playing card suits: Regina Maria for example had a spade on her bow, and Marasesti a club.

Regele Ferdinand sank at least one Soviet submarine, the ill-fated M-58. On 11 May 1944 she survived one of the war’s heaviest air attacks against a single ship, as wave after wave of Soviet fighter-bombers attacked her off Sevastopol. Her crew shot down at least half a dozen, and most of her officers were killed. An unexploded bomb in her fuel tanks forced the crew to pass oil from the tanks to the engines in buckets by hand while fires raged around them and Soviet aircraft continued to strafe them, but they saved their ship and brought her back to Constanta, the main Romanian naval base.

Overall, Romanian convoy operations were very successful, losing more ships to mines than to submarine attack. By the time Romania joined the Allied side in August 1944, Regina Maria and Marasti were no longer seaworthy, having been worn out in heavy operations to evacuate Sevastopol in late spring 1944.

Bomb Alley includes a pair of Romanian destroyers, with the rest of the flotilla plus air forces and the projected cruisers, pocket battleships and additional destroyers found in the Black Sea Fleets supplement.

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