SS Rex

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SS Rex liner launched in 1931, history and images.




AUGUST 1st 1931




51,062 TONS


879 FEET









Rex was built for the Italian shipping company Navigazione Generale Italiana. The Italian government subsidized the building of this ship with one of the conditions being, she would be fast enough to win the Blue Riband for Italy. Due to the depression, and before Rex entered service, Mussolini forced the merger of the three largest Italian shipping companies, Cosulich, Lloyd Sabaudo and Navigazione Generale Italiana. These three lines were from then on referred to as the Italia Line. At that time, Lloyd Sabaudo were awaiting the completion of their largest ever liner, the 48,500-ton Conti De Savoi. After Rex and Conti De Savoi entered service, instead of being operated by rival companies, they were used by the Italia Line to provide an alternating service between Genoa and New York.

Rex liner image

Capable of carrying 604 1st, 378 2nd and 1,276 3rd class passengers, Rex set out on her maiden voyage from Genoa - New York September 27th 1932. Engine problems on that voyage forced her to have a three-day stopover at Gibraltar for repairs. As all attempts to capture the Blue Riband over the following months were also plagued by mechanical failures, it took Rex until August 1933 to take the westbound record from the North German Lloyd Line’s Europa by crossing from Gibraltar - New York in 4 days, 13 hours and 58 minutes, increasing the average speed from 27.92 to 28.92 knots. The Italia Line was disappointed she never managed to take the Blue Riband from the North German Lloyd Line’s Bremen on the eastbound run.

SS Rex in port image

Rex was advertised as crossing the sunny southern route with brochures showing her outdoor swimming pools surrounded by multi colored parasols. As she attracted fewer first class passengers than anticipated, the Italia Line had to rely on the transportation of westbound immigrants to run her at a profit.

Italian shipping companies continued operating their ships after the outbreak of the Second World War to show Italy’s neutrality in the conflict. After Italy entered the war in support of Germany in the spring of 1940, Italian shipping companies withdrew their ships from service, this leading to Rex being laid up at Bari on the Adriatic coast.

SS Conti de Savoia in port image

British pilots spotted Rex being towed from Bari - Trieste September 7th 1943. As commanders in the area believed the German Army intended sinking her in Trieste Harbor to form a blockade, they gave orders for the defenseless ship to be attacked. British aircraft made numerous attacks over the following two days firing rockets into her hull until she finally sank.

The extensively damaged Rex was re-floated in 1947 so she could be cut up for scrap. All the Italia Line received of their only ship to have won the Blue Riband was her half ton bronze bell.

American bombers sunk the Italia Line’s other large liner Conte de Savoia during an attack on Venice September 11th 1943.

Liner Rex on fire image

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