Officers of the Austro-Hungarian Navy
in China, Africa and the Pacific 1890s-1914


Austro-Hungarian Naval Officer
SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth
China 1914

The Austro-Hungarian navy wore a uniform very similar to most other European navies of the period. Officers  wore several different uniforms, a blue double breasted jacket, a blue frock coat or a white single breasted tunic. Matching blue or white trousers were worn. Rank was shown in the form of gold bars around the cuff and on the shoulder straps. Headgear consisted of a peaked blue naval cap with a black hatband, a similar white cap or a blue kepi style cap. All of these headgear were worn with a gold embroidered badge showing an anchor surrounded by a laurel wreath below a Hapsburg imperial crown (see below). For formal occasions officers wore a bicorn hat.

The figure on the left is based on a photograph of an Dr Leo Arbesser von Rastburg, an Officer on "SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth" taken onboard in 1914. He wears the blue officer's peaked cap with imperial insignia, blue naval frock coat with his rank indicated on his shoulder straps and by gold bars on his cuffs and blue naval trousers.

Dr Leo Arbesser von Rastburg was a ship's doctor on board the SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth from 1913-14. Throughout his travels in North Africa and Asia with the SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth he took many interesting photographs. The photo on which this illustration is based was taken in Shanghai in January 1914. More of his photos can be seen at Die Fotos von Dr Leo Arbesser Website. In August 1914 he travelled via San Francisco and New York back to Austria, arriving home in November 1914. In the 1960's he was still a member of the Tsingtao Comrades Society (Tsingtau-Kameradschaft).

Officers Cap
Hadtorteneti Muzeum, Budapest

Officers Cap Badge
(See Port Arthur Collection Page)
Photo Copyright Private Collector

Austro-Hungarian Naval Officers Uniform
Hadtorteneti Muzeum, Budapest


A Collection of Austro-Hungarian Naval Uniforms
Photo from the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna / WikiCommons

The photograph on the left shows an Austro-Hungarian Naval Officer, Georg Ritter von Trapp. He wears the dark blue double breasted frock coat with parade epaulettes. Note his impressive medal display.
Photograph originally from WikiCommons

The photograph on the right shows the Austro-Hungarian armoured cruiser SMS Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresia which served during the Boxer Rebellion.
Photograph originally from WikiCommons

Georg Ritter von Trapp (1880-1947) was born in Zadar (in modern Croatia) and in 1894 joined the Austro-Hungarian Navy, as his father had before him. He was decorated for his service during the Boxer Rebellion aboard the SMS Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresia. In 1908 he transferred to the newly formed submarine department of the Austro-Hungarian navy, gaining command of his own submarine, the U-6 in 1910. During the First World War he sunk over 45,000 tons of Entente merchant shipping in the Aegean and Mediterranean as well as the French armoured cruiser Léon Gambetta and the Italian submarine Nereide.  He ended the war as a Korvettenkapitän, holder of the the Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa, and commander of the submarine base in the Gulf of Kotor. When the Central Powers lost the war however, von Trapp found himself unemployed in the new landlocked Austrian Republic. His wife Agathe Whitehead (incidentally, the granddaughter of Robert Whitehead, the inventor of the torpedo) died of Scarlet Fever in 1922, leaving him to look after their seven children. He married his children's hired tutor, Maria Kutschera in 1927, with whom he had another three children and shortly afterwards lost his inherited wealth in an Austrian banking crash. It was then that Maria suggested the family sing for money. Although he was at first reluctant, the family did very well as a singing group and embarked on several international tours. It was while on their way to America for a series of concerts that the Second World War broke out in Europe. The family settled in Vermont and later gained fame as the basis for the film "The Sound of Music", where Christopher Plummer played the part of Georg Ritter von Trapp.


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