VIENNA--a KuK extravaganza! by Jim Baumann
I recently had the opportunity to visit   Vienna, the beautiful capital city of Austria. This multifaceted city of art and music features a wealth of architectural classical beauty, meticulously rebuilt after being comprehensively flattened by allied bombing towards the end of WW2. It is a progressive multicultural city with enormous reserves of interest for visitors to explore, with world renowned galleries of fine art, classic as well as modern, stunning museums, many theatres and a magnificent Opera house, flanked by mountains and the River Danube.

Today Austria is a central European landlocked state, but in the past Vienna was the political centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which lasted from 1867 to its dissolution at the end of WW1 in 1918, covering a vast area and a considerable coastline of the Adriatic Sea, which required a relatively formidable navy.

Naval matters Austro-Hungarian had always held my interest, and as such when Peter Plattener (WMM) and Robert Toegel (The Modeller) suggested a visit to Vienna to coincide with the the very first modelship exhibition of the FHS (Friends of Historical Ships Society).

Katrin and myself took the opportunity to combine a cultural visit with a naval/model expedition!.... But first a bit of background information

The main strength of Austro Hungarian Naval power at the outbreak of WW2 in 1914 was 16 battleships, 9 cruisers, 25 destroyers and 6 submarines. Austro-Hungary in 1914 only had 35 aircraft and one airship. Additionally there were a  number of obsolete  torpedo boats  and fleet reserve/depot vessels, armed yachts etc.

Apart from one major fleet sortie on the declaration of war between Austria and Italy on the 23rd May 1915as well as  an aborted sortie  in June 1918 when dreadnought 'Szent Istvan' was lost, the Austrian heavy ships spent the entire war as a fleet-in-being within the Adriatic Sea, holding down a large portion of the Italian and French battle fleets as well as units of the Royal Navy. Most of the action in the Adriatic that did take place involved the well-handled destroyers, submarines and to a lesser extent light cruisers of the Austrian Navy.

The initially small Austrian submarine force was unable to play a role outside the Adriatic, and by early 1915 the Germans were sending U-boats into the Mediterranean, in part to attack the Allied fleet off the Dardanelles. As Italy had declared war on Austro-Hungary but not Germany, the German boats operated under the Austrian ensign and were temporarily commissioned into the Austrian Navy. Once Germany and Italy had gone to war in August 1916, German U-boats operated under their own flag. Although the Austrian submarine fleet did not grow to large numbers it had an impressive record - damaging the French dreadnought Jean Bart’, and sinking the Armored cruisers - French 'Leon Gambetta', Italian 'Giuseppe Garibaldi’, Destroyers - British 'Phoenix', French 'Fourche' and 'Renaudin', Italian 'Impetuoso' and 'Nembo'along with Submarines - French 'Circe', Italian 'Nereide'.

Upon the cessation of hostilities in 1918 the navy was re-distributed to the allied powers, some ships ending their careers as targets or scrap, with a few sailing on under other flags.

The very first Modelshow of the FHS was held in a warm, spacious and well-lit hall in the outer Vienna riverside suburb of Korneuburg, home to the Danube shipbuilding yards and as such a fitting choice for such an event!  It was therefore heartening to see a turnout of over   120 modelships of many different types and scales, with good trade support in homegrown modelship manufacturers and dealers.

It is impossible to show every model as some were in glass or Perspex cases and were difficult to photograph due to reflections; and some (I found out later-- back in the UK..!) suffered from  being out of focus.... and as such the images were  unusable.

I brought along two of my own KuK  1/700 models from the UK, SMS Zenta and the sinking Szent Istvan, carefully...-these were housed in their respective glass cases, bases carefully fastened to the case and housed in specially padded  carry-bags of our own manufacture; this was successful as both models  delicate sprue rigging  survived  perfectly intact despite enduring  3 airports, overhead lockers and turbulence, Underground trains, Trams, Taxis and cobbled streets  ...!

 I hope you all will be equally enthused  with images of the vessels of the  fascinating erstwhile  naval power  which is somewhat  neglected by modellers .

Suppliers of some  KuK  models....

Robert Toegel--The Modeller

Wiener Modellbau Manufaktur






























100_7957 -- -- 2005