Austro-Hungarian Navy22 December, 2007
Few people today realise that Austria Hungary had a significant navy – most of the Dalmatian coastline was Austrian until 1918. My interest dates from my gap year between school and university which I spent living with a family in Linz. The father of the family, Heribert Strobl, was much given to didatic conversation and I learned so much history and geography of Austria while travelling with him.
When my first wife died in 1991 I made a conscious decision to take up a serious hobby, and returned to my childhood hobby of philately. Over the next few years my interest became more and more specialised, centring on the postal history of the Austro-Hungarian Navy.
At that time very little had been published in English on the Austro-Hungarian Navy and almost all of that was out of print. I manged to build up a collection of books in German and in English and set myself an objective of making information about the navy’s ships available in English. The initial idea was to write a book, but getting it published was always going to be a challenge, so I settled on a website – John Beech’s Austro-Hungarian Navy Homepage.
Perhaps surprisingly, this interest has once crossed over to my work world – I made a minor contribution to the Landscapes of War project through my colleague Neil Forbes, which included a look at the material culture of the conflict at sea in the Adriatic during World War I.
My work in this area tempts me to work on the concepts of what I term ‘orphaned heritage’ and ‘lost identity’ – the heritage which no-one today claims and the identity which no longer has any adherents.