Family of Austrian Naval Hero Von Trapp Inspires Sound of Music

Heroic Austrian naval officer Baron Von Trapp and his family inspire musical Sound of Music


Austrian Baron Georg Johannes von Trapp

commanded Austrian Uboats in World War One

(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Austrian Navy? How is that possible? Isn’t Austria is landlocked? Yes, but it wasn’t when the Austro-Hungarian Empire existed. That multi-ethnic state  collapsed after World War One. Territories ruled by the Austrian Emperor included Slovenia and Croatia which bordered the Adriatic thus giving access to the sea.

Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, in uniform, undated. Credit: Library of Congress

Above is the longest reigning Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph I,  who reigned from 2 December 1848 – 21 November 1916. He was also King of King of Hungary and Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria; and retained the heriditay title of King of Jerusalem one of the kingdoms established by the crusaders in the Middle Ages.

In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire in central Europe, a very loose federation of Germanic states and principalities, finally collapsed. Since the Habsburgs had usually supplied the Holy Roman Empire with its Emperor,  the Austrian Empire, ruled by the Habsburgs, became the successor state. There is an old saying in history that the Holy Roman Empire was neither “Holy” nor “Roman” nor an “Empire,” all of which is substantially true.

Whenever you come across a historical figure whose title was “Elector” then that person was one of the seven princes and kings who elected the Emperor.


Austro-Hungarian main naval base at Pula shown by red arrow on map above


The Austrian Empire or Austro-Hungarian Empire had a substantial navy with almost 36,000 officers and men and a large number of ships, including dreadnoughts and submarines. They did well considering that there wasn’t a common language in the Habsburg Empire. Educated people spoke German like the Austrians do today of course but others refused out of sense of nationalistic identity, the Magyars in Hungary being some of the most uncooperative.

singing von Trapps in Vermont in 1946. While pictured as a sweet and loving person in the Sound of Music, Mrs von Trapp was something of a dragon and ordered everyone around.

The most famous officer of the long defunct Austro-Hungarian Navy is Baron von Trapp. He and the singing Von Trapp family were made famous in the movie “The Sound of Music” which is loosely based on their story. Baron von Trapp was an outstanding Austrian submarine commander in World War One. He made 19 war patrols and sank 11 cargo ships, a French cruiser and an Italian submarine.

After the proclamation of the Dual Monarchy in 1867 with the Emperor of Austria becoming the King of Hungary as well as Austrian Emperor, the fleet was known became known as the “Imperial and Royal War Navy.”

That phrase in German is “kaiserliche und königliche Kriegsmarine,” abbreviated as k.u.k. which how the fleet was known. The k.u.k. operated mainly in the Adriatic Sea but during World War One also positioned itself as a “fleet in being” which could enter the Mediterranean if so chose and dispute French, British and Italian control.



Austro-Hungarian Dreadnoughts At Pula before World War One.

Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum


Austrian battleship Viribus Unitis


The fleet was based at the port of Pola, now Pula, in Croatia, then part of Austro-Hungarian Empire. After its defeat in World War One and the collapse of the empire, Hungary was deprived of all of its territory along the Adriatic and hence no longer had ports for Imperial and Royal fleet which was dispersed.



Austro-Hungarian fleet on maneuvers circa 1912

(photo courtesy Wikipedia)

A former commander of the k.u.k. was Admiral Horthy who proclaimed himself Regent of Hungary after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This is how a land locked country of Hungary came to be ruled by an admiral for decades.

If you have an interest in learning more,  substantial detail on the k.u.k. can be found here:

Coastal Command Attacking U-Boats

RAF Coastal Command Attacking German UBoats
Half of German U-Boats destroyed in World War Two were sunk by Allied aircraft.
ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: COASTAL COMMAND (HU 91244) Photograph taken by the rear-facing camera of a No 77 Squadron Whitley during its attack on U-705 in the Bay of Biscay, 3 September 1942. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


Bay of Biscay relatively shallow and U-boats based in French Channel ports had to transit Bay of Biscay to reach Atlantic. Beginning in 1943, RAF Coastal Command began a major campaign to attack U-Boats on surface in Bay of Biscay. A tough fight because planes had to come in low to drop their depth charges and by that time U-Boats had far better anti-aircraft armament.

ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: COASTAL COMMAND (HU 91259) Photograph taken by the rear-facing camera of a No 77 Squadron Whitley during its attack on U-705 in the Bay of Biscay, 3 September 1942. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


Most of the anti-submarine aircraft under command or seconded to
15 Group RAF Coastal Command HQ co-located with HQ C-in-C Western Approaches Command in secret bunker in Liverpool. Coastal Command under tactical command of Royal Navy in WW Two.

ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: COASTAL COMMAND (HU 91260) Photograph taken by the rear-facing camera of a No 77 Squadron Whitley during its attack on U-705 in the Bay of Biscay, 3 September 1942. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


It took several years and much analysis of attack reports to formulate both a correct attack doctrine and design and manufacture special depth charge bombs for Coastal Command aircraft. But it was done.

ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: COASTAL COMMAND (HU 91261) Photograph taken by the rear-facing camera of a No 77 Squadron Whitley during its attack on U-705 in the Bay of Biscay, 3 September 1942. Here the U-boat is sinking, leaving a patch of oil and air bubbles. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


U-705 meets its end during Coastal Command offensive in Bay of Biscay. In spite of after war memoirs and recollections, morale of UBoat crews very low by this point according to interrogation reports of Uboat crew rescued by Royal Navy and US Navy. The men knew their chances of survival by this point in the war very low.

Further, the statement by UBoat men and many historians that UBoat crews were all volunteers has been completely disproven by memoirs from several UBoat men as well as interrogation reports.

Below, U751 sinking after coordinated Coastal Command attack by several aircraft.

ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: COASTAL COMMAND (HU 91243) Photograph looking back over the starboard wing of a Lancaster of No 61 Squadron, Bomber Command, after an attack on U-751 in the Bay of Biscay, 17 July 1942. The U-boat had been attacked and crippled by a Whitley of No 502 Squadron earlier, before being finally sunk by depth charges dropped by the Lancaster. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Royal Indian Navy Fighting World War Two


The Royal Indian Navy was one of the armed forces of British India. Created by the East India Company in the early 1700s, it was subsequently absorbed into the armed forces of British India. The British expanded the Royal Indian Navy in World War Two. This navy formed the basis of the modern Indian Navy.


C IN C EASTERN FLEET VISITS HIS SHIPS. 2 OCTOBER 1944, COLOMBO, CEYLON. ADMIRAL SIR BRUCE FRASER, GCB, KBE, COMMANDER IN CHIEF EASTERN FLEET PAID HIS FIRST VISIT TO SHIPS UNDER HIS COMMAND, INCLUDING SHIPS OF THE ROYAL INDIAN NAVY, AND INSPECTED OFFICERS AND MEN. AMONG THE SHIPS VISITED WAS THE CARNATIC OF THE ROYAL INDIAN NAVY. (A 26325) The C in C inspecting members of the CARNATIC’s company. Left to right: Able Seaman Muhammed Yusuf Khan, of Murree, Rawalpindi; Able Seaman (ST) James Vanspall, of Madura, Trichnopoly; Able Seaman (ST) Karunskaran Maniath, of Dharmadam, Malabar; Able Seaman Amarijit Singh Bakshi, of Ghun Grila, Rawalpindi. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:




ON BOARD THE INDIAN SLOOP KRISTNA. 21 OCTOBER 1943, LONDONDERRY. (A 19999) The Shipwright Abdol Khalio, who comes from Gujrat, Punjab, with a wooden model of HMIS KRISTNA, the sloop in which he is serving. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


THE ROYAL INDIAN NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (IB 1535) A portrait by Cecil Beaton of an Indian naval rating operating a signal lamp on the sloop SUTLEJ at the Royal Indian Naval Station at Calcutta. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


ROYAL INDIAN NAVY AND EASTERN FLEET HARASS JAPANESE FORCES, BURMA, FEBRUARY – MARCH 1944 (A 23453) A Royal Indian Navy rating, Vincent, of Travencore, sitting on the deck of a ship collects up empty 20 mm cartridge cases and puts them into a hessian bag. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE, THE UNDER SECRETARY FOR INDIA, VISITS MEMBERS OF HM ROYAL INDIAN NAVY, AT A BASE. 1941. (A 3307) The Duke of Devonshire inspecting sailors of the Royal Indian Navy. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 23449) As darkness falls the bombardment of Japanese positions begins during a typical operation by Coastal Forces of the Royal Indian Navy, which include units of the Royal Navy, South African Naval Forces and Burma RNVR. Here the forward gun of one of the coastal forces boats is being fired. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


INDIAN WRENS VISIT ROSYTH, 3 JUNE 1945 (A 29070) Chief Officer Margaret L Cooper, Deputy Director of the Women’s Royal Indian Naval Service (WRINS), with Second Officer Kalyani Sen, WRINS at Rosyth during their two month study visit to Britain. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:






We May Lose War Comment Shows Prescience


20 APril 1945  Deputy Cheif Of Operations of German armed forces high command “…mentions the possibility that the war could have a negative outcome.”

If only I could foretell events with the accuracy of Wehrmacht Major-General August Winter my life would be so much better!

According to Official War Diary of the the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (German Armed Forces High Commmand):

“…on the morning of 20 April 1945, the Deputy-Chief of Wehrmacht Operations Staff, Major General Winter, gives an address on the occasion of Hitler’s birthday and mentions the possibility that the war could have a negative outcome.”

When he gave this brief talk, the Russians were less than 18 kilometers from the HQ of the German Armed Forces High Command and most of the officers left the facilities shortly thereafter.

These facilities were massive underground bunkers completely bombproof and camoflauged. Remnants of the complex still exist.

A telephone exchange of the complex, 1942. The two huge underground complexes were known as Maybach I and Maybach II located in Zossen, thirty kilometers from Berlin.


2 May 1945     orders to berlin garrsion:
“…Together with the commander-in-chief of the Soviet forces I order you to stop fighting immediately.” WEIDLING, General of Artillery, Commandant of the Berlin Defence Zone.”

8 May 1945 Germans surrender unconditionally on all fronts to the Allied powers and the Soviet Union.