​​Georg & Agathe FOUNDATION

Submariner Pioneer and Early U-boat Captain
Baron Captain Georg Ritter von Trapp was famous in his day for heroism at sea and highly regarded by his comrades. He never forgot his naval roots and it's core tenants in his life. During WWI, Georg received Austria's highest award, the Military Order of Maria Theresa, bestowing him with the hereditary title 'Baron' for his naval service. In 1995, his memory was honored by the graduating class of Austria's Theresian Military Academy.

As news reached Austria-Hungary that the “Boxer Rebellion” in China was fast getting worse, with Georg on board, the SMS Zenta as the Austrian Empire’s only naval representative in the distance waters, was directed to lend support to the Austrian and foreign legations under attack in Tientsin (Tianjin) and Peking (Beijing). As the situation worsened, the Western powers joined forces, an allegiance of eight nations. As part of the western, international ship delegation, she sailed for Tientsin (Tianjin) where chaos reigned. Leaving Sasebo May 30th, with orders to continue to TAKU (Dagu), her engagement in the Boxer Rebellion had begun. The forts at Taku, across the bay at Pei tang and up river at Schan hai kwan, were approx. 60 km (36 mi.) southeast of the

SM U-14 , circa 1917

Adriatic Sea

 Example of inside a German U-boat 1918

Photo: ©Georg & Agathe Foundation

Submarine Pioneer (1910-1914)

Military Order of Maria Theresa

1915 Baron Title Awarded

​April 21, 1924 Baron Title Granted with Official Petition


  • Aug 24, 1917 
  • Aug 26, 1917
  • Aug 28, 1917 
  • Apr 29, 1917 
  • Oct 19, 1917 
  • Oct 19, 1917 
  • Oct 23, 1917

Georg's First & Second Global Circumnavigation (1898-1901)

Photo: http://flashbak.com/hell-sea-inside-first-world-war-german-u-boat-57614/

End of WWI & Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (1918)

route.  Using the full moon to illuminate his target, he executed the second night time, but first ever night-time underwater attack, in the Adriatic. At a 500 meter distance, 2 torpedos, running at 40 knots, were launched. After 2 impacts, 10 seconds apart, the cruiser listed and sank 9 minutes later, beneath the Mediteranean Sea. 

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k.u.k. Marine-Akademie, circa 1900

Fiume (Rijeka, Croatia) Officer Training School of the Austrian-Hungarian Imperial Navy


  • July 1, 1898 - Cadet 2. Class
  • July 1, 1901 - Cadet 1. Class
  • July 1, 1901 - Linienschiffsfaehnrich
  • May 1, 1903 - Fregattenleutnant
  • November 1, 1908 - Linenschiffleutnant
  • May 1, 1918 - Korvettenkapitän

1997 Memorial Badge

From graduating class of the

Austrian Theresian Military Academy

45,669 Gross Nautical Tonnage Sunk 
With the new and improved SM U-14  back in action, from April to October 1917, Georg sank 11 vessels with a total of 45,669 GNT (gross nautical tonnage). On April 28th 1917, while on patrol off the coast of Greece he sank the 5,315-ton British tanker, Teakwood,  which was headed from Port Arthur, Texas, to Port Said. On May 3rd, again on patrol in the same area, he sank the 1,905-ton Italian steamer Antonio Sciesa.  In July, Georg was able to conduct a ruse on the French fleet blocking the harbor at Corfu by hoisting the French tri-color, the Submarines former national flag, and pass unchallenged. Continuing, the SM U-14  was able to sink the Greek steamer Marionga Goulandris, near Cape Matapan. 

On August 20th, again successfully evading the Otranto Barrage, SM U-14  headed through the Straits of Otranto, and over the next 11 days sank five ships, with a combined tonnage of 24,814 GNT (over half of her total tonnage sunk). Departing from the submarine base at Cattaro, Georg and crew headed into the Ionian Sea and sank the French steamer Constance on August 23, northeast of Malta. On August 24, SM U-14  sank the British steamer Kilwinning, loaded with coal and general cargo, heading for Port Said. On August 26th, the British steamer Titian  was sunk while on en route to Alexandria. On the night of 27/28 August, the 3,627-ton turret deck British steamer Nairn  was sunk near Benghazi, on her way from Malta to Port Said with coal. On August 29, the Italian steamer cargo ship Milazzo  was sunk east of Malta. At 11,744 tons, the Milazzo  was the largest ship sunk by SM U-14  and the largest cargo ship sunk by an Austro-Hungarian submarine. On September 1st,  Georg concluded his patrol and returned to Cattaro.

During a five-day span in October, three more ships fell to the young Captain's skill. On October 19, 1917, 150 nautical miles (280 km; 170 mi) from Malta, the British ship Elsiston  carrying military stores between Malta and Suda Bay, was sunk. On the same day, the 3,618-ton British ship Good Hope, laden with iron ore for Middleborough, was sunk. The Italian steamer Capo di Monte, met its end 100 nautical miles (190 km; 120 mi) from Candia, while on her way from Karachi to Malta.

​Fort Pei Tang
Georg as part of a 100 strong detachment of Austro Hungarian sailors, and an allied force of 8500 men comprised of approximately 1800 Germans, 1500 French and 5000 Russians was ordered to take the fort. After an early morning heated exchange of ship to shore shelling they advanced under heavy fire. Wading through mud and running across mined land, they stormed toward the fort. Most men were injured and killed from the exploding landmines. Not even the cavalry was spared. Finally scaling its mudbrick wall defenses, the fighting was over by late evening. Allied flags hoisted over the captured fort.

For his part in the fort Pei Tang offensive, Georg was awarded the Military Merit Medal 2. Class and Military Merit Cross 2. Class on board the SMS Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresia, which, together with the SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth, SMS Aspern and a company of 160 Austrian marines had arrived to assist. This force went on to help bring the situation in Peking under control. Dowager Empress Cixi surrendered, finally bringing the bloodshed to an end.

With the boxer uprising over, the SMS Zenta completed its East Asia mission. In late July 1901, she departed Chefu (Zhifu) to the sounds of the Radetzky march being played. Finally arriving back in Pola on October 1, 1901 (almost 2 years after her departure) a hero’s welcome and award of the silk Flag of Honour, for her Chinese actions, awaited her and her crew. 

Georg never shared much of this experience with his children; what he did share were some interesting anecdotes from a short furlough into the Chinese countryside.

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  • July 1, 1910-1913 - SM U-6
  • July 28, 1914 - Torpedo Boat 52
  • April 17, 1915 - SM U-5
  • October 14, 1915 - SM U-14

           (ex- French submarine Curie)

Boxer Rebellion (1899)


“Seine Majestäts Uboote” – means His Majesty’s U-boats; majesty: Emperor of Austro-Hungary

of "Our Navy" by Alfred Freiherr von Koudelka, Vienna 1899 


- SM U-14, British ship Kilwinning, 3,071 GRT

- SM U-14, British ship Titian, 4,170 GRT

- SM U-14, British ship Nairn, 3,627 GRT

- SM U-14, Italian ship Milazzo, 11,477 GRT

- SM U-14, British ship Elsiston, 2,908 GRT

- SM U-14, British ship Good Hope, 3,618 GRT

- SM U-14, Italian ship Capo Di Monte, 5,902 GRT 

Photo: Public Domain

Map of TAKU Forts, 1899

China coastline


The Greek ship Cefalonia was not sunk, but taken as a war prize

Torpedo Boat 52  & U-boats
After the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Austria-Hungary declared war against the Kingdom of Serbia, on July  28, 1914. Stationed in the Bocche di Cattaro, Georg he had been given command of Torpedo boat 52, which was part of a 10 torpedo boat fleet patrolling the Straights of Otranto, the crucial entrance, from the Mediterranean, into the Adriatic Sea.

Whoever held this stretch of ocean commanded the Adriatic. Allied cruisers had been spotted entering Otranto, but not challenged as of yet. Discussions among the crews inevitably touched on U-boat warfare, which Georg felt would give the Austrian navy an edge in defending their coastline. On the evening of April 16, 1915, he was given the unexpected order, to give over his command and return to Pola. The next day, Georg received his new commission as captain of U-boat SM U-5, christened 6 years earlier by Agathe Whitehead, by now his wife of 4 years.

In 1914, the Austro-Hungarian U-boat fleet commanded by Franz Ritter von Thierry, consisted of 7 largely experimental craft. Operating mainly in the Adriatic Sea, they seldom ventured outside of Otranto. Their limited range and small size were capable of only few day missions. They were the ‘stepchildren’ of the Imperial High Command who was mainly interested in dreadnaughts and found it difficult to fund the new invention. This deplorable state of affairs meant captain and crew had to rely on their own ingenuity to maintain their craft, even make their own spare parts. 

SMS Monarch
In the spring of 1914, Georg was part of the staff on board the SMS Monarch  which was on a mediteranean training mission with the Austro-Hungarian navy dreadnoughts Viribus Unitis, Tegetthoff  and the pre-dreadnought Zrínyi. Amongst other ports of call were Egypt and the Holy Land, with a visit to the Austro-Hungarian hospiz in Jerusalem. A few months later, the tragic assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie took place on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo, lighting a match to the arms race that had been building up in the various Empires worldwide.

Photo: Public Domain

Photo: Courtesy of von Trapp family

SM U-6 with Georg and Crew, circa 1913

Adriatic Sea

While still in the South China Sea, Georg graduated to Cadet 1. Class on July 1, 1901, celebrated two birthdays, and rang in the new century 1900.  Continuing his training in Fiume, he was promoted to Linienschiffsfaehnrich (ship of the line lieutenant) on May 1, 1903. In 1904, he completed the officer’s sea-mine course, 1907 the officer’s torpedo course, as well as a course on “how to fly a hot air balloon”. 
 On November 1, 1908 at age 28, he became Linienschiffsleutnant stationed to Fiume where the first U-boats (submarines) were being built at the Whitehead Torpedo Factory. He had volunteered to train in this new craft which initially was meant to only defend the coastline. The Whitehead Torpedo Factory had built two Holland Class submarines, SM U-5  and SM U-6, as part of a plan to evaluate foreign submarine design.

Early U-Boats

Both U-boats were commissioned into the Austro-Hungarian Navy in the early 1900s and served as training vessels - making up to ten cruises a month, for the next 4 years. The double-hulled, tear dropped shaped submarines, were just over 105 feet (32 m) long, and depending on whether surfaced or submerged, displaced between 240 and 273 metric tons (265 and 301 short tons). They were powered by twin gasoline engines and battery powered electric motors when diving. The two 45-centimeter (17.7 in) bow torpedo tubes featured a unique, cloverleaf-shaped hatch design that rotated on a central axis. The submarine could carry up to 4 torpedoes.

Sinking the Léon Gambetta (1915)

Photo: ©Bundesheer

In 1935, Georg wrote and published his WWI memoir Bis zum letzten Flaggenschuss  (To the Last Salute) describing his submarine experiences. It became the most widely read book on the Austro-Hungarian Navy within Europe, even read by the past German Kaiser Wilhelm I. For a time, it was required reading for Austrian High School history. From 1925 to 1938, he lectured and gave radio interviews about his naval career.

Honored & Remembered
In 1995 the only Austrian military officers training institute, the Theresianischen Militärakademie  (Theresian Military Academy), selected to honor Baron Captain Georg von Trapp for its Academy Battalion Company A's graduating class. Academy tradition is that every graduating class chooses a person from Austrian war history as their inspiration and name for their class. Eighty-eight graduates chose "Ritter von Trapp" as their example of: personal bravery in the face of the enemy (for which Georg received the military of the Maria Theresa), leadership as a U-boat commander and military know-how during WWI. The official graduation was January 18, 1995. Two years later, July 11-15, 1997, the graduates attended an offical ceremony and celebration in Stowe, Vermont.

​SM U-6
On July 1, 1910, two years after arriving in Fiume, Georg was given the command of SM U-6  which he held until 1913. He came to know the capabilities of the Holland type U-boats, and what it took to command them, intimately.


Gross Registered Tonnage is a ship's total 

internal volume expressed in "registered tons". ​Each ton is equal to 100 cubic feet (2.83 m3). Gross registered tonnage measures the total permanently enclosed capacity of a vessel as its basis for volume.

Georg's Naval Training
In 1894, at age 14, Georg Ritter (Knight) von Trapp followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the k.u.k. Kriegsmarine stationed in the Adriatic Sea. He was accepted into the Maritime-Academy at Fiume (today Rijeka, Croatia), called k.u.k. Marine-Akademie, the officer training school of the Austrian-Hungarian Imperial Navy. To qualify, one had to have graduated with honors from middle school and pass an entrance exam.  

The Academy taught thirty-one subjects including German, Italian, French, English, oceanography, meteorology, shipbuilding, ship machine building, naval tactics, naval law, naval signals, ship maneuvers, sailing vessel rigging, etiquette, as well as learning to play an instrument. Georg chose the violin. Further lessons included the importance of valor and honor, which were to become the cornerstone of conduct for life as a naval officer.

Photo: Public Domain

French Submarine Curie Becomes SM U-14
In an effort to replace the five larger, undelivered U-7  Class submarines (that the Austrians had to sell to the Germans at the outset of the war) the Austro-Hungarian Navy now focused on salvaging the largely intact French submarine Curie sunk in Pola harbor after getting entangled in the harbor defenses. On December 21, 1914, the day after her sinking, the salvage crews raised the submarine in five stages. Finally brought to the surface on February 2, 1915, she was cleaned refurbished, renamed SM U-14  and ready for service. 

From mid-October 1915 to January 1918 Georg von Trapp took over the SM U-14  command. As second commander after its rechristening he was its most successful. In early February 1916, SM U-14 and SM U-4  were on joint patrol near Durazzo. On February 7, SM U-4 missed scoring a hit on the Britisch Birmingham-class cruiser, HMS Lowestoft, who subsequently released a depth charge that damaged SM U-14. With both fuel tanks leaking and all of her externally mounted torpedoes crushed, Georg and crew  just made it back to port and put in for needed repairs. 

For 8 months, from February to November 1916, SM U-14  went through an extensive refit and modernization. A new, German-style, conning tower replaced the French-designed wet lookout platform. She was equipped with more powerful diesel engines, increasing her power output from 480 to 840 brake horsepower (360 to 630 kW). Larger fuel tanks were installed, nearly quadrupling her range, up from her former maximum of 1,700 nautical miles (3,100 km), to 6,500 nautical miles (12,000 km). After a cost of 655,000 Kronen it became the Austro-Hungarian navy’s largest submarine.

Baron Captain Georg von Trapp, circa 1915

Submarine conning tower

Last Days & Last Salute
By end of 1917, even though the Austro-Hungarian Empire was looking to end the war, the German Empire insisted that “surrender would only be in victory” and so WWI dragged on. Conditions for civilians and the Austro-Hungarian forces became increasingly dire. Food shortages across the crown states created gangs of local bandits and defections from the navy. Slow chaos was taking place across the Adriatic coast. Officers and crew were very aware of the increasingly dire situation.

While waiting to command one of the two new U-boats being built in Fiume, May 1, 1918, Georg was made Korvettenkapitaen (Corvette Captain) and took over as commander of the U-boat Station in the Bocche di Cattaro. Here, seven months later, after having fulfilled their sworn duty and given all to crown and country, on November 1, 1918 the surrender order of the “K.u.K. Kriegsmarine” came. Captain Georg Ritter von Trapp had the honor of raising and lowering the naval flag in Cattaro for the very last time. A 21 cannon salute ended the 140 year old Austian Imperial Navy. In a bitter sweet moment, at the very last, SM U-14  entered the Bocche (harbor) flag waving, one last time. It was time to go home. An era had ended.

Georg stood as one of the most successful and decorated submarine captains of the WWI Austro-Hungarian Navy. All the torpedoes he fired were Whitehead torpedos which by now were installed in all the navies around the world. His multi-ethnic crew from across the Empire felt a close bond and respected and loved their captain. The record he was most proud of, was that, not one officer or sailor died under his command. The Austro-Hungarian naval flag, given in honor to him, stayed proudly displayed in his homes throughout the rest of his life. Despite his profession, he was a proponent of peace over war.

Photo: ©newspapers.com

The sinking of the battleship-cruiser Léon Gambetta, 1915

German postcard from a picture of German-Austrian painter, Alexander (Alex) Kircher

protected torpedo cruiser, SMS Zenta. On his second circumnavigation, Georg’s training was moving into the new maritime age of iron and steam. Leaving Pola on November 10, 1899, calling on Port Said, Suez, Aden and Colombo they reached Singapore on January 3, 1900, continuing on to Hong Kong, January 22nd. Here news of the unrest in China caused a change of travels plans to stay in Asia. Passing through the strait of Formosa (today Taiwan Strait) the SMS Zenta survived a typhoon, arriving late in Shanghai harbor to a cheering reception. With orders, to continue north for coal refueling she continued onwards. Her ships log finds her in Nagasaki, Kagoshima and Sasebo from May 25th to May 30th.

FAMILY HISTORY: Georg's Naval Career

The Evening Republican, April 30, 1915

Meadville, Pennsylvania, USA

Corvette SMS Saida II

Watercolor by artist August Freiherr von Ramberg

© 2015-2019 Stichting Georg & Agathe Foundation. All rights reserved.

Netherlands KvK-nummer 63503336 | Terms of use and disclaimer

Baron Captain Georg Ritter (Knight) von Trapp

-  SM U-5, French ship Léon Gambetta, 12,416 GRT

- SM U-5, Italian ship Nereide, 225 GRT

- SM U-5, Greek ship Cefalonia, 1,034 GRT (Prize)

- SM U-14, British ship Teakwood, 5,315 GRT

- SM U-14, Italian ship Antonio Sciesa, 1,905 GRT

SM U-14, Greek ship Marionga Goulandris, 3,191 GRT

​- SM U-14, French ship Constance, 2,469 GRT

Georg's WWI Stats

       U-boats commanded by Captain Georg von Trapp & the ships he and his crew sank (1 prize):

  • April 27, 1915 
  • Aug 5, 1915
  • Aug 29, 1915 
  • Apr 28, 1917 
  • May 3, 1917 
  • Jul 5, 1917 
  • Aug 23, 1917

Austro-Hungarian Navy U-boat Captains, circa 1917 

Captain Georg von Trapp, second row from the bottom, sixth man in on the left, from left to right

​​Austro-Hungarian Navy Coat-of-Arms


Georg's years of experience and mature, well trained crew had successfully tracked und sunk the French armored cruiser, Léon Gambetta. The ensuing tragedy for the sailors could have been avoided, had the French cruiser not left without an accompanying ship, whose job it was to help with rescue operations.  Consequently there was no one to aid the sailors. Seeing the tragedy unfold, Georg scanned the horizon through his periscope, but the sea was empty of any possible help. His small U boat could not take on more weight!SM U-5  dove beneath the waves, where the exhausted crew was left to take in what had just occurred.  With two well placed torpedo hits, SM U-5  had further proven the viability of submarine warfare as a stealth craft with destructive power. It was to become the new maritime defence strategy for the ages. 

Captain Georg von Trapp was honored with the Austro Hungarian Empire’s Knight's Cross and Baron title of the Military Order of Maria Theresa, one of the last who would receive this distinction before the Empire fell. Soon celebrated and promoted by the Austrian press, he found his image printed on postcards and youngsters wore sailor’s hats embroidered with his name. He, on the other hand, confronted the true cost of war - having watched fellow navy men drown from SM U-5’s  action.  Georg tremendously regretted not being able to help in the rescue effort. In his book “Biss zu letzten Flaggenschuss” (To the Last Salute), written in 1935, it muses: “So this is what the war looks like! Here behind him are hundreds of drowned sailors, people who have done nothing to him, who have fulfilled their duty as he himself has, against whom he has nothing personal, with whom, on the contrary - already through their same profession - he feels himself connected”. With his second in command, Hugo von Seyfferditz, Georg shares: “…our handiwork is horrible….”….. “Now, we have the ‘salad’ – (mess)….What will we now do with these Frenchman? Couldn’t they even take along one vessel? It’s unbelievable irresponsibility. How should we now help them? What a hudge mess!”

Four years later, on July 1, 1898, at the age of 18, Georg graduated Cadet 2. Class. Together with his class mates, he was assigned to a schooling ship, the corvette SMS Saida II. She carried 42 officers and 313 seamen. Her world circumnavigation, took them from Malta through the Suez Canal, heading east through the Indian Ocean, the Marquesas Islands and on to Australia. This wooden sailing ship, represented a fighting ship from a bygone era and was quite a sight to behold in foreign ports.

She was welcomed with open arms wherever she docked. The Melbourne newspaper ‘The Argus’ wrote upon her arrival there: “At 2,400 tons, she is a wooden vessel of the old-fashioned type of naval architecture. She is armed with 11 large guns and three rapid-firing guns. She possesses great breadth of beam, high bulwarks, large roomy decks, tall raking masts, and can spread large quantities of canvas. She has however, auxiliary power in the shape of steam engines of 1,200 horse power… After the anchors were dropped last night the Austrian Consul and various naval officers made the usual complimentary visit to the commandant and officers”. 

At the request of the SMS SAIDA II’s  Fregatten Kapitaen Guido Couarde, she was granted an extention of her trip, by Emperor Franz Josef I. The excitement of the cadets was cut short when the first rumblings of unrest on mainland China of the secret ‘Boxer’ society began. On June 9, 1899, orders were sent to return to home port at Pola, Austro-Hungarian Empire (today Pula, Croatia).

Iron & Steam  
Georg’s subsequent furlough was followed by an assignment to the navigation staff, on the 


      Prior to WWI: 

  • Order of St. Stanislaus - Russian
  • 1900 - Military Merit Medal 2. Class (Boxer Rebellion)
  • 1900 - Military Merit Cross 2. Class (Boxer Rebellion)

    During  WWI:

  • 1915 - Austro-Hungarian Military Order of Maria Theresa - sinking the Léon Gambetta
  • 1915 - Kingdom of Prussia & German Empire's (1871–1918) Iron Cross - sinking the
    ​Léon Gambetta

  • Circa 1916 - 'Liyakat Madalyasi' - Liakat Medal
  • January 1, 1916 - 'Militärverdienstkreuz' - Military Merit Cross
  • Military Merit Cross 1. Class
  • Imperial Order of Leopold-Knight
  • Imperial Order of the Iron Crown-Knight Third Class

Ships Effected:

14 ships, total tonnage of 61,328 GRT: Sunk 60,294 GRT (11 ships 47,653 GRT & 2 warships 12,641 GRT) and Prize 1,034 GRT (1 ship)

Archduke Ferdinand & wife Sophie Assassination

June 28, 1914 Sarajevo

Decorated WWI Hero...
​Baron Captain Georg von Trapp served the 20th century Austro-Hungarian Navy for 24 years and was one of their most decorated commanders.

13th-19th Century Austrian Imperial Navy

Between the 13th - 18th century, there had been only minor attempts to establish an Austrian Navy mainly focused on defending its waterways. In 1797, with the Treaty of Campo Formio, the Venetian naval fleet and facilities came under Austrian Imperial rule and was the foundation of the future Austrian Navy. 

19th-20th Century k.u.k. Kriegsmarine

In 1867, the Imperial Navy became the Austro-Hungarian Navy after the formation of the Dual Monarchy, formally the Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal War Navy (in German: kaiserliche und königliche Kriegsmarine, abbreviated as k.u.k. Kriegsmarine, in Hungarian: Császári és Királyi Haditengerészet, abbreviated as Cs. és Kir. Haditengerészet). In the later part of the 19th century, the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Navy was in the process of modernizing its fleet. The new innovations of the industrial age of coal fired steam engines, torpedo boats, iron cruisers and eventually ironclads with gigantic mounted turrets, were the wave of the future. Vessels with more speed, firepower and stronger hulls were being built. Empires the world over were each revamping their navies to reflect the new might of the ages. Engineers found themselves inventing ever newer ideas to present to the Admiralties. The last wooden ships had been turned into schooling vessels that circumnavigated the globe a few last times.

SM U-5

Returning to the aging, U-boats, Georg saw that SM U-5 still needed regular venting from the gasoline fumes. Her speeds under water were still slow, and the periscopes still did not retract quickly enough. Operating them was a constant balancing act of vigilance and tricky choices. Nonetheless he understand the viability of the submarine as an attack craft and hoped to use the SM U-5  successfully to help bring an early end to the war.

On April 27, 1915 he got his chance.  Out on patrol, after days of searching, he and his crew discovered the unidentified cruiser that had been spotted - a French “Victor Hugo” type - using the cover of darkness to evade detection. For 4 days Georg stalked and calculated the cruisers

Photo: ©Georg & Agathe Foundation

Photo: Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University

SM U-14  (1917-1918)


In these early days, Georg's time was filled with intense, dedicated training in this new defensive craft.  As a pioneer and first generation submariner trainee, it took immense courage and a sense of adventure to volunteer for this naval technology in its infancy. The mechanics and operating procedures were learned in real time.

The invention was so new that no one understood its abilities. Without an existing training manual, each day was a learning curve and the continued near mishaps became the guidelines for manufacturing improvements. The early submarine designers had given very little thought to the operating crews.

SM U-5 and SM U-6  were incredibly uncomfortable as well as dangerous. The gasoline motors ventilated into the craft threatening the crew with carbon monoxide stupor. Some submarines kept white mice in cages to warn of impending danger (like canaries in a coal mine). Entire crews often succumbed and only had one man left standing to get the U-boat back into harbor.

Navigational maps of underwater obstructions were nonexistent and commanders had to receive orders, by relay flags, viewed through the thick glassed periscopes. For diving emergencies, early submarines were equipped with a phone buoy that would be floated to the top to establish contact. Later models offered a device that made oxygen to prolong the survival rate below, to 72 hours, eventually 96.

Great War / WWI Begins (1914)

Photo: SM U-5, circa 1915, Courtesy of von Trapp family

Photo: Die k.u.k. Kriegsmarine, Edition Winkler Hermaden, reprint

SMS Zenta, circa 1899

After Commissioning​

Photo: DNS  May 31, 1900

The Capture of the Forts at TAKU

Early 20th Century by Fritz Neumann

Photo: Public Domain

Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal War Navy & 4 Years Training

Photo: Kriegsarchiv Wien (War Archive Vienna)

Photo: Public Domain

​​SMS Zenta

The SMS Zenta had been launched in 1897 and represented one of the new iron ships in the Austro Hungarian fleet, a transition away from wooden vessels. Her overall length was 96.88 meters (317 ft 10 in) and a beam of 11.73 meters (38 ft 6 in). Her two four-cylinder vertical triple-expansion steam engines, each drove a single propeller shaft with eight Yarrow boilers for an average total of 8,160 indicated horsepower (6,080 kW),  achieving a maximum speed of 21.87 knots (40.50 km/h; 25.17 mph).

She also had extra protection of an armor deck, two layers of 12.5 millimeter (0.49 in) plates and 50 millimeters (2.0 in) over the engine and boiler rooms. Further, she was armed with two 45 centimeter (17.7 in) torpedo tubes, eight 40-caliber Škoda 12 centimeter (4.7 in) quick-firing guns, eight 44-caliber 4.7 centimeter (1.9 in) Škoda guns, and two 33-caliber 4.7 centimeter Hotchkiss guns.

 city of Tientsin (Tianjin) in defense of the Peiho River delta, the coastal gateway to Peking. Taking Tientsin, upstream, was crucial to freeing the embattled Westerners, still further up river, in the capital city. June 3rd, upon arriving at TAKU, the captain and a detachment of one officer, two midshipmen and 30 sailors took the train to Peking, for a requested meeting with the legations.  Behind them, the railway lines came under attack, cutting off their return route. Marooned in the capital, as hostilities escalated, the French, Austro-Hungarian and Italian legations decided to evacuate to the defendable French Embassy. The following day the Austrian legation buildings were set a fire by the “Boxers”. On June 7th, the SMS Zenta sent a further detachment of 73 men to Tientsin, to help hold the railway against Boxer forces. On July 8th, Eduard Thomann Edler von Montalmar, captain of the SMS Zenta, was wounded by handgranade shrapnel and died of his injuries in Peking. In the effort to bring the rebellion to an end, another detachment from the SMS Zenta’s crew took part in the September 22nd, storming and taking of fort Pei tang. Of all their engagements, the Austro-Hungarian seamen fought the most bitter combats in the attacks against the fort of Pei Tang. 

U-boat Classes:

Stationed in the Adriatic Sea, the Austro-Hungarian U-boat fleet during WWI consisted mainly of units manufactured in Kiel, Germany, and Pola (Pula) & Fiume (Rijeka), Austro-Hungary. They were in service throughout the war against Italian, French, and British shipping in the Mediterranean Sea.

Photo: Public Domain

1901-1909 Making Lieutenant & U-boat Beginnings

Five months later, August 5, 1915 Georg went on to sink the Italian submarine Nereide  off the island of Pelagosa after the Nereide’s  failed torpedo attack on the SM U-5.  On August 29, 1915, while on patrol, Georg was able to capture, as a prize, the 1,034 ton Greek steamer Cefalonia  off Durazzo. 

Honoring the von Trapp 
​and Whitehead Heritage