Battle of Antivari

Battle of Antivari
Part of the Mediterranean Theater of World War I
SMS Zenta
The Austro-Hungarian protected cruiser SMS Zenta was sunk in the battle by French battleships.
Date 16 August 1914
Result Anglo-French victory
 United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Augustin Lapeyrère Paul Pachner
2 dreadnoughts
10 pre-dreadnoughts
4 armoured cruisers
1 protected cruisers
20+ destroyers
1 protected cruiser
1 destroyer
Casualties and losses
None 173 killed
50+ wounded
1 destroyer damaged
1 protected cruiser sunk

The Battle of Antivari or Action off Antivari was a naval engagement between a large fleet of French and British warships and two ships of the Austro-Hungarian navy at the start of World War I. The old Austrian protected cruiser SMS Zenta and the destroyer SMS Ulan were blockading the Montenegrin port of Antivari, when on 16 August 1914 they were surprised and cut off by a large Anglo-French force that had sortied into the Adriatic. The Austrian warships were forced to fight an engagement in an attempt to let the destroyer escape. Although Zenta was destroyed, Ulan escaped and those ships of the Austrian fleet which were at Cattaro, unaware of events, did not come out of port to meet the Allied fleet. After blockading the Adriatic for a short while the French were forced to withdraw due to lack of supplies.


When war broke out between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Montenegro, the Austro-Hungarians began a blockade of the Montenegrin coast as well as several bombardments of the various towns there including the port of Antivari (today Bar), where the protected cruiser SMS Zenta and destroyer SMS Ulan were stationed.

Meanwhile the French Navy had decided to try to force the Austro-Hungarian Navy into a decisive fleet action by making a sortie into the Adriatic and bait the Austrians into engaging them. The Allied force consisted of two dreadnought battleships, 10 pre-dreadnought battleships, four armoured cruisers, one protected cruiser and more than 20 destroyers. However, according to Austro-Hungarian naval records they were unaware of the Allied presence until SMS Ulan radioed them as she escaped from the battle.


The Allied Fleet managed to cut off Zenta from escaping back to the main Austro-Hungarian naval base at Cattaro. Badly outnumbered, Zenta's commander, Captain Paul Paschner, decided to fight in order to allow Ulan to escape. Zenta also had a serious disadvantage: her 120 mm guns were significantly outranged by the heavier enemy batteries. As an inevitable result, the French battleships scored many hits on their target without taking any damage themselves. Eventually, Zenta sank with 173 men killed and over 50 wounded, but she did succeed in buying enough time for Ulan to escape.[1]


Unaware of the situation outside Antivari until it was virtually all over, that part of the Austro-Hungarian fleet stationed at Cattaro did not sortie out to do battle as the French had hoped. Still, the action had, for the moment, ended the blockade on Montenegro.[2]

The French fleet did not have the logistical support to remain in the Adriatic for very long and so were forced to return to Malta periodically to resupply.[3]

Order of battle

French Navy

Royal Navy

Austro-Hungarian Navy

  • SMS Zenta, protected cruiser
  • SMS Ulan, destroyer