Austro-Hungarian Battleships 1914-18

Published: November 22nd, 2012     
Author: Ryan Noppen
Reviewed by: Steve Zajac - IPMS# 34937
ISBN #: 978-1-84908-688-2
Other Publication Information: Softcover, 48 pages, black & white photos with color illustrations and paintings
Price: $18.95
Product / Stock #: New Vanguard 193
Product provided by: Osprey Publishing

Osprey Publishing's latest monograph focuses on the waning years of the Habsburg Empire, and the Kaiserliche und Konigliche (k.u.k) Kriegsmarine's effort to protect its southern coast on the Adriatic Sea before and during WWI. Today, the coast and the cities along the coast, Trieste, Pola, and Fiume, among others, are parts of present day Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The book features fine illustrations of the 5 ship classes, 2 "in action" paintings, and many sharp black and white photos, sure to be of interest to ship modelers. The only weakness is the lack of a map of the 1914 Habsburg Empire's coast, and theater of operations during WWI.

As the book notes, Admiral von Tegetthoff's victory against Italy in the Battle of Lissa in 1866 was celebrated as the "greatest maritime event in the history of the Habsburg Empire," but marked the beginning of the Kriegsmarine's decline. Part of the decline was due to the establishment of the Austria-Hungary dual-monarchy that gave the Hungarian parliament an equal say in governing the empire, as the parliament usually refused to grant funds for the imperial navy. The other cause was the formation of the Triple Alliance in 1882 between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. With no prospect of conflict with the rival Italian navy, the Kreigsmarine stagnated. Thanks to Archduke Franz Ferdinand and admirals von Spaun and von Montecuccoli degli Erri, the navy enjoyed a renaissance at the turn of the century, joining the other Western powers in building larger capital ships and specifically met the challenge of the Italian navy. This was accomplished despite meager budgets and stern political opposition. All of this background is described in one page. In the next section, the book is organized into the 5 ship classes of the 1914 Kriegsmarine: Monarch, Habsburg, Erzherzog Karl, Radetzky, and Tegetthoff, the last of which was a true dreadnought-class ship. The author provides detailed accounts of the design issues that resulted from lack of finances, as well as full details about armament, armor, and machinery. In the final section, WWI is covered: the Kriegsmarine's successes in securing its Bocche di Cattaro base in 1914 from Montenegrin shelling, the 1915 bombardment of the Italian coastal city of Ancona, and the 1917 Cortellazzo bombardment. The tide turned, however, with long periods of inactivity - mutinies occurred, and the Kriegsmarine faced the loss of the Monarch class Wien as an Italian torpedo boat was able to penetrate harbor defenses in 1917. In June, 1918, Italian torpedo boats, again led by the intrepid Lt Cmdr Liugi Rizzo, sank the dreadnought Szent Istvan. This was the last WWI naval action of the Kriegsmarine. With the collapse of the Habsburg empire, the fleet was initially turned over to the South Slav National Council. However, the Italian navy would soon after sink the Viribus Unitis along with the South Slav Admiral Vukovic, and control of the remaining fleet was turned over to the Italians. By 1919, most of the former Kriegsmarine fleet was scrapped by the Italians, Great Britain, and France, ending the Habsburg Empire's naval history.

An enjoyable and educational read, highly recommended for naval buffs and modelers. Thanks to Osprey Publishing for the review copy, and thanks to IPMS USA for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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