Austro-Hungarian Navy in WW1


The Austro-Hungarian navy is often times overlooked
in history as a meager attempt of trying to catch up to the rest of the European powers. However this view isn’t entirely correct,
as the Imperial navy was far from small, and at one point was the 7th largest navy in the
world. Plus the technology used on its ships, like
radios was far from outdated and the naval structure based of off the british navy was
on par with every other super power of the early 20th century. So with all this said, why people today don’t
know much about the Austro-Hungarian navy let alone know that Austria-Hungary even had
a navy. This is mostly due to the fact that even though
the Austro-Hungarian navy was strong in its own right it was always treated as an afterthought
in the Empire. This can be seen through the fact that the
navy was part of the war ministry which was controlled by the military, as such the naval
budget was very small numbering only around 18 million crowns in 1899, this was 5 times
less compared to the Italian naval budget and 30 and a half times less compared to the
British naval budget. However this naval budget would slowly start
to increase going in to World War 1, not only because of the looming threat of war but also
due to the fact that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was very keen on having a large and strong
navy as he saw the benefits such naval power can bring to the country. He heavily campaigned on the side of the navy
and ironically it could be said that without him the Imperial navy wouldn’t even be ready
for world war 1. But the lack of money was far from the only
problem the Austro-Hungarian navy had to face. For one the multicultural nature of the empire
meant that you could hear 8 different languages or more spoken on any given ship and officers
were required to know at least 4 of these languages. Naturally such structure didn’t always result
in the most smoothest of order executions. When it came to the sailors them self, majority
of them in the 19th century came from Croatia and Italy as they were largely the only ethnicities
in the empire that had any extensive sailing experience. However this started to change in the early
20th century when the involvement of minorities became more prominent across the empire and
the naval recruitment and training became more standardized. With this increased recruitment of different
ethnic groups, to avoid any confusions on a ship, people of the same/similar ethnicities
where often times given similar roles so they could communicate orders more easily. I.E. Germans (Austrian), Czechs, and Slovaks where
gunners and machinists, Hungarians where anti-air and machine-gun crew, Croats and Slovenes
where deckhands and stokers, etc. Lastly, probably the most major problem facing
the Austro-Hungarian navy, was in the construction of it’s ships. At first the construction was limited due
to the lack of Hungarian parliamentary support who viewed the navy as a pointless expensive
waist of money. However as an all out war started be more
and more inevitable they backed down with their opposition. But with that another major problem started
to come to light, which was the fact that the double nature of the monarchy meant that
all governmental industrial spending had to be divided between the Hungarian part and
the Austrian part, 34.4% to 65.6% respectively. With that said the 34.4% still proved problematic
for the navy to spend in hungary as majority of the Austro-Hungarian industry was in the
Austrian half of the empire. And whatever little industry was in the Hungarian
part wasn’t up to date to be able to build the high tech ships that the Imperial navy
had designed. So the ship designs had to be altered for
the Hungarian industry to be able to build the 34.4% of the ships. Most notable of these changes was the use
of less powered engines, different electrical wiring, different boilers, the use of different
screws and bolts, etc. These ships would later on prove not as reliable
as the ones build in the Austrian part of the empire, however what was remarkable was
that even due to all these changes the ships build in the Hungarian part weren’t far
behind in benchmarks compared to the Austrian ships. With all that said the limited government
funding and the division of construction between the two parts of the empire resulted in the
fact that the Austro-Hungarian navy had to very heavily budget its operations to remain
relevant on the world stage. Such budgeting included restricted use of
high class ships, lower number of active operational squadrents, building ships with a lower overall
tonnage and mostly inclusive lower wages compared to its rivals. However this budgeting proved to be quite
effective as at the break of World War 1 Austria-Hungary had 110 ships and 5 submarines with 3 extra
dreadnoughts in construction, in comparison the italian navy which was viewed as the main
rival of the Imperial navy, had only 149 ships with 21 submarines and no boats in active
construction. And even though it may be more compared to
what the Imperial navy had, considering how much of a larger budget the Italian navy had
to work with, it wasn’t that big of a difference. Therefor going into world war one the Austro-Hungarian
navy was far from being a pushover and the Allies had to seriously consider the Imperial
navy’s strength especially when it came to planning mediterranean operations. Speaking of which, when it came to the preparations
for WW1 the Imperial navy had three battle strategies in mind. The first was conceived prior to the breakup
of the triple alliance when Italy was still considered a viable ally. This plan involved the Austro-Hungarian navy
and the Italian navy to use Italian bases in Sicily to block the French but mainly the
British from crossing the mediterranean and consequently the suez canal. This would mean that Britain would be cut
off from its fast rout in to the Eastern colonies and would have to use the long way around
which would drastically diminish it’s fighting power especially when it came to a drawn out
war. However this strategy was far from fool prove
as both the Italian and Imperial navies had their doubts about being able to keep the
French and British navies from crossing the mediterranean. As such the back up plan was to use the bases
in Sicily to heavily haras allied shipping in the area so that it proved too costly for
the Allies to use those shipping routes. However this entire naval plan fell through
when it became increasingly clear that Italy wasn’t going to follow through on its promise
to the triple alliance. As such the second plan of the Austro-Hungarian
navy was to do a preemptive strike on the main Italian ports in the Adriatic. Effectively cripeling the Italian ability
to do naval operations in the area and anabeling of the Imperial navy to take full control
of that part of the mediterranean. Third and also the most conservative plan
of the Austro-Hungarian navy was to use its vast number of torpedo boats to focus on the
defence of their Adriatic coast line, protecting valuable ports, towns and shipping, all while
threatening to attack with the rest of its navy at any moment. This way they could keep the much larger french
and italian mediterranean navis in check effectively hindering their actions in other theaters
of the war. When the great war started in 1914 the initial
neutrality of Italy meant that the Imperial navy had to implement their defencive tactic
as they couldn’t execute their preemptive bombardment of the Italian adriatic coastline. When Italy finally joined the war in 1915
the imperial navy executed their second plan however this proved ineffective as their “preemptive”
strike proved not so preemptive as Italy had ample time to prepare for it. With that the Imperial navy went back to their
defencive strategy, which proved effective, because the Allied navies didn’t want to
risk a full on naval battle with them, resorting to small battle missions and the blockade
of the Otranto Straits. This meant that there were continues small
skirmishes/battles throughout the adriatic, like the battle of the Otranto straits where
the Imperial navy manage to score a victory, but that battle just as every other Imperial
naval battle didn’t result any decisive changes. So the Austro Hungarian navy excluding its
submarines was forced to operate only in the adriatic. This stagnation combined with a dwindling
coal supply, meant that the Austro-Hungarian navy didn’t go out with a bang but with
fizzle. Keeping the allied armies at bay in the adriatic
but remaining largely stagnant till the end of the war, after which it got divided between
the Allies and the newly formed Yugoslavia and then mostly disassembled for scrap. And with that the Austro-Hungarian navy which
was able to hold its own against the allied navies got mostly forgotten. Remaining today largely as a small footnote
when talking about the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This videos is part of a much larger youtube
naval history collaboration code named Operation Odysseus involving 17 different history youtube
channels. Out of these youtubers Potential History and
Wartime History have videos set in the 20th century just as mine was so check them out
and if you want to see all the operation odysseus videos there’s a link to a playlist down
in the description. Me and Cogito also have a youtube history
podcast you can check out and my name is M.Laser, see you next time.

100 thoughts on “Austro-Hungarian Navy in WW1

  1. The AH Empire was in a way a foreshadowing of the EU. Economically successful and given languages and cultural differences surprisingly effective – but at the same time struggling to every gain legitimacy and a rather weak military force…

  2. Nicely done. Regarding the Triple Alliance – it was a defensive pact, i.e. if one of the three countries were to be attacked, the other two would come to its defense. As it was, the Axis went on the offensive by declaring war so the terms of the Triple Alliance were never applicable to WW I since it was offensive as far as Germany and Austro-Hungary were concerned, not defensive.

  3. The Austro Hungarian army could be better if they had a law (like the U.S) Every citizen needed to speak German and Hungarian as there second language.
    i mean just like the U.S the Empire could survive for more years having more freedom in the Empire.

  4. Premptive strikes not effektive the bombardment of the venetian railways safed the empire fora short time as the army wasnt really prepared to fight the italians

  5. Portugal got 3 Austro-Hungarian destroyers as war reparations, but they ended up hitting each other and sinking while being towed to Portugal.

  6. My great great uncle served on Viribus Unitis as the first officer under admiral Miklos Horthy actually 😀 Im very proud that my family fought for the Emperor and didnt betray the monarchy unlike some Czechs

  7. Finally! I have been waiting for a video like this to come out.. I think this topic is very underrated, even in my city Pula which was the main naval base for the whole navy.

  8. Be interesting to compare the total naval budget to the miles of coast. They had coast, yes, but they could fight many a war without it being a factor, unlike Italy or England.

  9. Hey, I am ashamed to say I have never come across your channel before, even though I like a lot of similar channels, what a shame! You make excellent videos good sir. I love them!
    Keep em coming, I support you all the way brother!

  10. Fun fact: even landlocked Czechoslovakia had a navy (river navy), it had few patrol boats, few gunboats and some minelayers, everything of it were from WW1 Austro-Hungarian navy. As Cezchoslovakia was a industrial superpower (in WW1 most of ships were build in todays Czech republic) , it even made small ships for export. It's biggest ship called Prsident Masaryk was one of the biggest and heaviest river ships ever build and because of that, Czechoslovakia became a Danube superpower (alongside with Yougoslavia, Hungary and Romania). It was also based on WW1 Austro-Hungarian Wels class monitor. It was captured by Germans and renamed Bechelaren. It's main objective was to protect river convoys in Yougoslavia against the partisans and it's biggest action was in Austria, where it fought with few Soviet gunboats, it sunk 2. After the war, it became a civil ship, as Warsaw pact decided, that only Soviet union will have river navy. In cold war, it was scrapped…

  11. There are so many parts to the World Wars that people are simply never taught about. Thank you for enlightening me on something I was totally ignorant of before. You earned a sub 🙂

  12. As a Danube empire, this video needs to have info or at least mention for Danube river fleet. It was very formidable and first shots of WWI are shot from one of this ships to Belgrade. But great video

  13. For anyone wondering: the first song playing in the background is "Unter der Admiralsflagge" by Julius Fucik and the second is "Unter dem Doppeladler Marsch" by Josef Franz Wagner.

    By the way if you're reading this M.Laser, I loved the video, but if it isn't too much trouble could you put the music you use in the description for those few people like myself? Too many people forget to do so, and I end up spending half an hour trying to find that one song that I can't get out of my head. Anyways, it's your channel so do what you want with it, just thought I'd ask.

  14. When you have two modern dreadnaughts that could seriously damage the Italian navy, but they get sunk by two torpedo boats with displacement of literally 80 tonnes combined

  15. Who else remembers that Daddy Von Trapp in the Sound of Music was a naval hero? When I was a kid, I used to wonder how Austria could have a navy – it's mountainous and landlocked. Later I learned that the Empire was larger than current Austria alone.

  16. Something many YouTube users should understand is that the guy who made this video probably had to read a couple of books in order to get the information he was later able to resume in a 9 minutes video. Great job, my friend! Keep going!

  17. now the US owns the world with it's navies, but a sidenote must be made, you see the invention of the dreadnought was a milestone for naval warfare, no existing ship could even harm it on acount of it not being hindered by the old sails , which allowed it to install massive rotating guns, and since the advances in propeller and turbine technology making them far more efficiant compared to those on old ships,

    but here is the kicker, the brittish navy dwarfed every other navy on earth, maintaining a strategy that revolved around them Always being able to have a bigger navy than the 2 runner up naval powers, when they introduced the dreadnought, a ship that could basicly take half the fleet of a naval power at once, , if they could not board the dreadnought, they ended up ending their own naval superiority, as from that point it did not take long before previously weak naval powers started to just build dreadnoughts, of their own and all they had to do was simply keep up with the brittish number of dreadnoughts

    another point i would like to make is that, if we don't man up again , we wil fall into obscurity as developing nations , with little in the way of socially unacceptable practices, holding them from using certain solutions, will simply overtake us, and we wil be at their mercy

    However i am glad to say that the yought, generation z is as conservative as we were at ww2, people say it is them being rebels, not realy, it is them seeing what is obviously not working, and seeing that millenials and boomers don't listen, either because they are mostly left wing nutjobs indoctrinated since birth as they lacked any means to hear a non mainstream oppinion on tv or school, or anything, or because they grew set in their ways as is the case with most old boomers, lumbering along as they endured as long as they did, what is the point of things changing now

  18. The Ganz Danubius naval yards in Fiume were perfectly capable of constructing state of the art vessels, what the empire lacked was docks of sufficient size for large tonnage battleships. This was remedied with floating docks during the war, but it was much too late by then.

  19. Great video!
    Sorry to poit out, but I am sure that Italy has 3 drednought in active service in1914, 3 more will enter service by the end of the war, and was planning 4 superdrednought (only 1 built by 1919).

  20. As im related to the Habsburgs i find thid very intresting. one thing of note because the Austrians didnt plan to have long distance operations fuel stores were smaller (on dreadnaughts at least) where they carried more guns and more ammunition. not sure why but we chose more guns of smaller calibur to put out more rounds on target vs having larger guns with less ammumition and longer reload. its very intresting

  21. You wrote the 7th largest navy. But on that list. Well, Russian navy were deleted from there after Tsushima. So (as I know) it was the 6th largest. 🙂

  22. Landlocked guys 🇦🇹🇭🇺🇨🇿 you are still welcome to come and visit us in the summer 😉 🇭🇷💪

  23. 4:35 that's wrong. By the outbreak of WW1 the Italians had 4 Dreadnoughts. 1 was in the process of being fitted out and one was under construction.
    In addition, if you show the old ironclad coast defence battleships of the Austrians, well, the Italians also had 4 in limited defence roles and in full commission.
    As well your cruiser numbers are wrong too on the Italian side: 10 Armoured cruisers, 3 Torpedo cruisers and 10, not 11, protected cruisers.
    Worth noting is though, that by the outbreak of WW1, a number of the cruisers were employed in secondary roles: One protected cruiser was a water distilling ship, another was converted into a seaplane tender and a few others became coast/harbour defense vessels.

  24. Weird all the problems multiculturalism caused Austria-Hungary

    Good thing no countries are trying to be as multicultural as possible now days

  25. My grandfather was on a U.S. sub chaser out of Grotton,Conn. during WW1.
    Toward the end of the war, his sub chasers were shipped to the Adriatic.
    At the end of the war, the A-H pre dreadnought Zrinyi surrendered to the Americans.(better than to the Italians)
    He spent the end of 1918 and most of 1919 aboard her.

  26. Austro-Hungarian navy went on patrol all over the world before WW1. They also had a marine detachment in stationed in Peking.

  27. There were more rebellions than battles fought in AH navy… Croatian and montenegrin sailors would often disobey orders. The most important fact is that only those two nations had sailing tradition and often inapropriate german or hungarian commanders were appointed resulting in those rebellions. Contradictory, croatian commanders were, in a mater of fact, never loyal to AH empire such as famous croatian poet P.Preradovic (dude wrote some of the fanciest croatian patriotic lyrics).

  28. "following through on its promise to the triple allaince"

    it was a defensive pact and the austro-hungarian empire was the aggressor. what's so hard to grasp about this?

  29. I was so surprised when i visited Franz Ferdinand museum in Artstetten castle, to find multiple rooms filled with pictures and ship models of the Austro-Hungarian navy. Before that i thought that they had only few small ships. Thank you for this video to let other people know that Austro-Hungaria had a real navy 😀

  30. Worthwhile to mention that with no colonial ambitions, there was little reason for AH to have any significant (well funded) navy

  31. One of my favorite movies is based on a book by Maria von Trapp. She married Admiral von Trapp in 1939 or so. He had been very successful in WWI controlling Austrian subs and was wanted for the navy of the 3rd reich but instead escaped to Switzerland. The movie was called The Sound of Music.

  32. Austria-Hungry didn't need a large navy. It has a small coastline and no colonies. Italy had Libya and was working other parts of Africa by the time WWI rolled around. The only rational for Austria-Hungry to have such a force was because everyone else did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *