SMR Dacia
SMR Dacia
The NMS <i>Dacia</i> mine-laying ship in mission
The deck of the mine-laying ship NMS Dacia during an operation on 5 November 1942
The deck of the mine-laying ship NMS Dacia during an operation on 5 November 1942

The passenger ship Dacia was built at Saint Nazaire, in France, and entered the fleet of Serviciului Maritim Roman (SMR) in 1907. Its first cruise was between Constanta-Istanbul-Piraeus-Alexandria and served this "oriental line" during almost its entire life.

In 1916, when Romania a entered WWI, Dacia and the other passenger ships were put at the disposal of the Imperial Russian Navy, which turned them into auxiliary cruisers. It was equipped with four 101 mm naval guns and two 75 mm AA guns, as well as two seaplanes. The ship retained its civilian crew, but it also had onboard a Russian military crew. An officer of the Imperial Navy held the command. In 1917 it took part in the raid of the Ottoman port Ordii in the Caucasus. After the Bolshevik Revolution, the ship remained at Sevastopol, where it was captured in 1918 by German troops. It was then returned to the Romanian authorities following the Buftea Peace Treaty (March 1918) with the Central Powers.

After the war it resumed the trips on the "oriental line", until 1927, when, it caught fire and had to undergo repairs. From 1930 it returned to the Constanta-Istanbul-Piraeus-Beirut-Haifa-Alexandria line, making the trip twice a month until WWII started in 1939.

In 1941 it was requisitioned and transformed into an auxiliary mine-laying ship. It was equipped with three 105 mm naval and AA guns, two 20mm guns and a mine launching installation, which could carry 200 mines.

Dacia entered service in her new form in October 1941, participating together with the NMS Amiral Murgescu si NMS Regele Carol I (which was lost soon after that) mine laying ships in Operation Varna. Seven mine barrages were launched between 8-21 October 1941, creating a continuous anti-submarine protection line between Mangalia and Burgas. These barrages were later the cause of the sinking of several Soviet submarines. S-34 was lost in November 1941 in the Burgas Bay and Sc-204 hit a mine near Varna in December. One year later, In December 1942, L-24 entered the S-15 barrage near Cape Kaliakra and sank.

The ship then took part in the creation of most of the Axis mine barrages in the Black Sea. In 26-28 March 1942 period, together with NMS Amiral Murgescu and a sizeable escort it strengthened the barrages laid in 1941 between Midia and Tuzla. In the last day of the operation, the Romanian ships were attacked by a formation of VVS-ChF DB-3Fs near Gura Portitei. Several bombs fell near it and the ship suffered some damage. Dacia was repaired and on 14 and 15 May it took part in the launching of mine barrages north of Sulina, from Bugaz to the Dniester Liman. Between 24-27 June 1942, together with NMS Amiral Murgescu, as always, it installed two barrages at Odessa, raising the total to 21 to that date. In November 1942 and then in January, April and September 1943 it strengthened the barrages north of Sulina and in the Constanta area, these being its last mine laying missions. Two Soviet submarines were confirmed sunk by the barrages put up by the Dacia and Amiral Murgescu between 1942 and 1943: M-33 and M-60 both near Odessa.

The powerful artillery mounted onboard contributed to the AA defense of the Constanta harbor, which was the target of many Soviet aerial raids during the war. Probably the most daring of them all was the one made by 5 torpedo bombers from 34 MTAP, 3 of which were lost. The 20 mm guns on the Dacia, under the command of ensign Emil Nicolau, were the first to open fire and shot down one of the airplanes, which fell in the Steaua Romana depot, hitting a fuel tank.

The last was mission of NMS Dacia was on 11 and 12 May 1944, during the evacuation of the last elements holding out near Sevastopol at Cape Kerson. The ship was under the command of lt. commander Dumitru "Japonica" Niculescu. It reached the destination around 2100 hours together with the NMS Amiral Murgescu mine laying ship and the NMS Regina Maria destroyer. Because of its size, Dacia remained further out at sea and the soldiers were being brought to it by four German MFPs. While the transfer took place, Soviet aircraft launched flares and then attacked. Several bombs fell close to the ship and the splinters wounded Barbu Radian, a merchant marine officer, who died the following day in a hospital in Constanta. At 0100 hours captain Vasile Panaitescu, the first officer, was also wounded. A bomb fell at stern on a pile of rope, which reduced the effect of the explosion. However, the splinters killed two sailors and wounded another 21. At 0130 hours a malfunction occurred at the engines and the ship was immobilized for 20 minutes. Around 0200 hours, there were already 1,200 people onboard, so it slowly started its trip back to Constanta. After sunrise on 12 May, Dacia was attacked by three waves of Soviet torpedo bombers, but which were scattered from distance by the 105 mm guns and all missed. At 0853 the rudder was damaged following the nearby explosion of a bomb and had to stop for repairs at sea, under the protection of the NMS Regina Maria destroyer. At 0932 hours it resumed the journey and around 1600 hours it had reached Constanta. 25 of the German soldiers onboard were killed during the Soviet air attacks.

Dacia was damaged in port during the Soviet air raids in August 1944 and after Romania quit the Axis and joined the Allies, it was confiscated by the Chernomorsky Flot. It sank soon afterwards, on 10 October, near the Caucasus coast after it hit a mine.

Dispalcement4,515 t
Length108.26 m
Width12.75 m
Cruising speed15 Kn
Maximum speed18 Kn
Artillery3x105 mm; 2x20 mm

Author: Victor Nitu
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