the scrapbook of diving history


The Austrian Navy

Today Austria is fully surrounded by land and has no direct access to the sea, so you would not think of an ‘Austrian Navy’. But there was a time that Austria did  have a coast, harbors and a navy. Austria once lost this access to the sea and its navy after it lost the war with Italy in 1918. Loosing the war meant the end of the so called ‘Österreichische-Ungarischen Monarchie’ ( Austrian Hungarian Monarchy ) Part of this kingdom were todays’ Austria, Hungary, Bosnia, Herzogovina, Croatia, Czechia, Slovakia, parts of Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Rumania, Servia en the Ukraine. This huge kingdom had the sixth largest Navy in the world ...

This empire existed since 1804 as ‘Kaisertum Österreich’ ( ‘Austrian Empire’ ) ruling over Hungary and the other countries which were part of it. When referring to the empire the abbreviation K.K. was used, which stands for ( ‘Kaiserlich Königlich’ / Imperial Royal )  The first ‘K’ stands for ‘Kaiserlich’ ( Imperial ) a status which Austria once had received from the ‘Römische Kaiser’ ( Roman Emperor ) and the second ‘K’ stands for ‘Königlich’ ( Royal ) which referred to the Habsburger Kingdom. So since 1804 the Austrian navy was called ‘K.K.Kriegsmarine’ ( Kaiserlich Königliche Kriegsmarine / Imperial Royal Navy ) But in 1867 after many years of struggles between the two countries, Austria was forced to give Hungary the same status as itself. As a result the ‘K.K.’ became ‘K.u.K’ which stands for ‘Kaiserliche und Königlich’ ( Imperial and Royal ) From then on the Austrian navy was known as the ‘K.u.K. Kriegsmarine’ ( Imperial and Royal Navy ) 

Not sure about the origin of the helmet Marko sent me some photographs. The helmet had the looks of a Ludwig von Bremen helmet which was modified into a 12 bolt helmet, but it was not a Ludwig von Bremen because the 3 bolt flange and the grill of the top window was completely different from any von Bremen helmet I had seen before.        Photograph Marko Hranilovich

1866. A Rouquayrol - Denayrouze Diving Apparatus imported

Several years ago I was lucky to obtain a set of documents for my collection, these documents show the purchase of the very first diving apparatus by the Austrian ‘K.K. Kriegsmarine’, in  1866. The diving apparatus purchased was a French ‘Rouquayrol - Denayrouze’ regulator equipment ( check HERE for more info on this apparatus ) The documents included some early sales leaflets from ‘Rouquarol - Denayrouze’ in Paris, the shipping bill which shows that the apparatus was shipped with the English steamer ‘Samson’ to Pola, Austria. It includes detailed handwritten descriptions of tests performed with the apparatus with the Austrian navy in Pola and the under water work performed with it. Initially a French diver, Claude Louis Hiou from Paris demonstrated the apparatus for 6 days diving 6 hours per day. And also instructions were given for the use of the French apparatus, to the 3 divers from the arsenal in Pola, the divers of the K.K. frigates ‘Schwarzenberg’ and ‘Obresa’, and 2 volunteers. The trainees dived up to 7 hours per day, initially at depths of 30 to 40 feet, later 90 to 100 feet.

On the 24th of october 1866 the navy comes to the following conclusions:

‘Bei Allen, wärend dieser Tage angestellten Versuche und Arbeiten mit diesem Taucher Apparate, hat der selbe sich auf das beste und für die Untertauchenden als ein verlässlich sicheres und leicht zu handhabendes Apparat bewährt; ferner wegen seiner einfachheit und Leichteren Handhabung, gegenüber dem bis jetzt bestehenden englischen, der vorzug gegeben werden kann.’

‘With all tests performed with this diving apparatus during these days, the apparatus proved to the divers to be reliable, safe and easy to handle. Further, because of its simplicity and easier handling it can be preferred above the already existing English apparatus.’

The Austrian K.u.K. Kriegsmarine Helmet

1859. Austria’s Navy Base in Pola

The Istrian town of Pola had been in the hands of the Austrian Habsburgers since 1797 when it became Austria’s main navy base and shipbuilding center in 1859. In 1918 the K.u.K empire came to an end after Austria lost the war with Italy. The local governments in Budapest and Prague had called back their men from the Austrian army, causing a collapse of the Austrian military forces. Istria and Pola then came under Italian rule. In WW2 it was occupied by the Germans who used it as a base for their U-boats. Since 1947 Pola is Croatia.

The scan from an illustration in the Austrian Diving Manual ‘K.u.K. Taucherdienst’ of 1895 here below, shows that the air pump has a badge on it which read ‘L.v.Bremen, Kiel’. After the tests with the original French diving apparatus in 1866 the Navy had purchased more of this equipment from the German company ‘Ludwig von Bremen’. Von Bremen initially retailed the French equipment in Germany but later manufactured it, under license of the French Rouquayrol - Denayrouze.

Above: the Rouquayrol - Denayrouze apparatus illustrated in a later Austrian Navy diving manual ‘K.u.K. Taucherdienst’ of 1895. Since this manual dates from an era that Austria bought its diving equipment from ‘Ludwig von Bremen’ in Kiel, Germany it is most likely that the apparatus shown here is made in Germany. Also were the original french regulator apparatus made of iron ( which was painted black with tar to prevent it from rusting ) The Germans built those apparatus from brass and bronze. The  illustration shows an apparatus which is rather made of brass and bronze.

For many years this documentation led to the believe that the K.u.K. Kriegsmarine was equipped with ‘Ludwig von Bremen’ diving equipment, until a few months ago professional diver and historical diving enthusiast Marko Hranilovich made an amazing discovery. On holidays in Croatia he found a very old diving helmet ( see here below )

I went through my records and much to my surprise I found several photographs showing exactly the same helmet. Photo’s which I had filed under ‘Ludwig von Bremen’ appeared to have exactly the same strange grill on the top window ( see below ) and these photo’s came from the K.u.K. Kriegsmarine(!) This lead to the conclusion that at some stage the K.u.K. Kriegsmarine must have made their own diving helmets.                                                                                                                                                                   Photograph Marko Hranilovich

When enlarging some of the photographs they show that the helmets have badges which are not 100 % identical, we think that these badges carry the name of the K.u.K. ship or unit where the helmet belongs to, but we are not 100% sure about it. We are now searching for more info on the divers of the K.u.K. Kriegsmarine and their diving apparatus. When you have anything you want to share then pls do not hesitate.

With special thanks to Anna O. for decrypting the hand written documents

A second Austrian K.u.K. Kriegsmarine Helmet located

Another ‘amazing discovery’ by historical diving enthusiast Marko Hranilovich: Marko spottted another K.u.K. Kriegsmarine helmet(!) When visiting a museum in Croatia he found a helmet in display with exactly the same bonnet as his own old Austrian helmet. The helmet was put on an old Draeger breastplate so unfortunately we cannot inspect the badge which would have been on the original breastplate. This find confirms that more of these helmets were made ...

The breastplate under this helmet is also of interest: it is an early Draeger and it once had a rectangular company badge soldered onto it. The serial number is ‘2’(!) When you check the chapter ‘Draeger Helmet Serial Numbers’ of this site you can see the first Draeger helmet, with serial number 1 ...

We are now searching for more info on the divers of the K.u.K. Kriegsmarine and their diving apparatus. When you have anything you want to share then pls do not hesitate.