Austro-Hungarian Navy

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The Navy of Austro-Hungarian Empire can be traced back to the 16th century and has developed from early beginnings as a small flottila on River Danube to a fleet for employments at the Adriatic Sea, to a versatile fleet of all types of vessels for blue water operations. At the outbreak of World War I the Imperial and Royal (k.u.k.) Navy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was considered to be the sixth or fifth (subject to the approach of comparing) largest Navy of the world.

Emperor Joseph II (1741-1790) is considered to be the founder of the Austro-Hungarian Navy. As a result of the Peace Treaty of Campofornio 1797 the Habsburg Monarchy gained permanent access to the Mediterranean, since Austro-Hungary was given sovereignty over coastal regions at Venice, Istria and Dalmatia, including the Bay of Kola, although the Empire had reigned over some areas at the Adriatic coast as early as the 14th century.

In 1861 the first armoured frigates were built and warships of Austria-Hungary executed journeys to distant shores. Also in the 19th century, first engagements of the Austro-Hungarian Navy made history, such as the bombardement of ports at the Atlantic coast of Morocco in 1829, the expedition of an entire flotilla of warships to the Northsea in 1864 during the German-Danish war, where two Austro-Hungarian frigates and three Prussian corvettes were fighting three Danish frigates off the Island of Heligoland, and the famous battle of Lissa in 1866 with the Italian Navy, the latter two commanded by the renowned Wilhelm of Tegetthoff. The Austro-Hungarian Navy, between 1849 and 1889 still named Imperial-Royal Navy (k.k. Kriegsmarine), after 1889 Imperial and Royal Navy (k.u.k Kriegsmarine), called its ships “Her Majesty´s Ships” (SM).

The successor to throne, the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand (1863-1914), who was murdered at Sarajewo, which led to the outbreak of World War I, had major influence on the creation of a modern, forceful Navy. 1907 – 1910 the first submarines and 1911 – 1914 even Dreadnought battleships were built. 1913, the Austro-Hungarian Navy had a size of some 22.000 men and at the eve of World War I there were almost 60 warships commissioned, among those more than 15 major units, 25 torpedo-destroyers and 6 submarines. 1915, the size of the Navy had grown to more than 33.000 and in the war years an additional 30 more warships were commissioned, above all submarines.

A total of 27 submarines were commissioned by the Austro-Hungarian Navy and 12 more were under construction at the end of World War I. 8 submarines were lost during combat actions.

The defeat of November 1918 of the Central Powers Germany and Austria-Hungary meant also an end to the legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, since the emerging successor state of Austria-Hungary lost all its lands facing the Adriatic Sea. Consequently, the Austro-Hungarian Navy was dissolved and was initially handed over to the new State of Jugoslavia, represented by the South-Slavic National Council. Later the bulk of the former Austro-Hungarian warships were handed over to Great Britain, Italy and France, plus a few remaining to Greece, Romania, Portugal and Jugoslavia.