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Max Freiherr von Sterneck

Admiral Maximilian Daublebsky von Sterneck, commander of the navy from 1883 to 1897, was the officer most associated with implementing the ideas of the Jeune Ecole in the navy of the Dual Monarchy. Sterneck was a close follower of Aube, and he had his navy test many of Aube's tactics while they were still being debated in France. Sterneck wrote of his relationship with Aube: "It appears as if we have had the same ideas simultaneously, with the difference that I can put them into action immediately." Under the leadership of Admiral Max von Sterneck after 1883, the Austro-Hungarian navy hosted many French visitors at its base in Pola.

Maximilian Freiherr [baron] Doublesky von Sterneck was born on 14 February 1829 at Krastowitz Schloss. At the age of 14 years his military career began as a pupil of the Venetian Marine Kollegiums. After successful completing his studies, he served as a naval cadet on different ships over four years. He took command of a steamerfor for the first time in the year 1859 with the Imperial and Royal Escadre, a naval force, in Dalmatian waters. In the same year he attained the rank of a staff officer, when he was appointed a commander [Fregattenkapitän]. In May 1864 Tegetthoff appointed him to be to the commander of the "Schwarzenberg" and to the rank of flag captain. In the Danish War Maximilian von Sterneck accounted himself well, despite the bad condition of his ship.

In the consequence he received the command over a new Panzerfregatte, which he led on 20 July 1866 with large success into the legendary battle with Lissa, with which Austrian naval forces carried off the victory over the Italian fleet. Baron de Sterneck distinguished himself at the battle of Lissa by ramming the Re d'ltalia, which sank at once. His ship was very slow, but coming down with a fair wind increased her ordinary speed. Accounts of this incident vary. The superior power of the Italians ought finally to have had the advantage, when the Austrian flag-ship Ferdinand Max and the Re d'ltalia encountered each other. On Baron Sterneck, the captain of the Ferdinand Max observing the grey bioadside in a suitable position for the purpose, he executed his daring and perfect maneuver of ramming the enemy ship. The engineer of the Ferdinand Max put on full steam, and the ship shot through the water at a speed of eleven and a half knots, and ran stem on to the enemy's side close to the foremast. The whole bow groaned and cracked, and the shock was so violent as to lift up both ships. The Re d'ltalia heeled over, the strong iron casing detached itself, and the ship's bottom turned up towards the assaulter, who shoving her bow over her, came down again cracking through plates, planks and beams. In ramming the Re d'ltalia he actually ran through her ; the most horrible sight that Admiral Tegetthoff ever saw, he said, was the severed parts sinking, with hundreds of men struggling in the water, most of whom were drowned.

On 1 November 1868 he was appointed to the commander of all school ships, and on 17 December 1869 he was appointed to be harbor master at Pola. In the year 1871 unexpected death of Tegetthoff, with whom he had a friendly relationship, was a heavy impact for Maximilian von Sterneck. He strove to continue his service along the lines of the deceased, and in the subsequent year he was appointed to the rank of Rear Admiral. On 12 December 1873 hewas appointed the commander of the Standing Escadre appointed and was thus, after its activity as a harbor master, again in the active sea service. At the beginning of of 1876 Maximilian von Sterneck was given the command of the sea-arsenal, which he continued for the following 8 years.

On 17 November 1883 the Emperor promoted him to Vice Admiral and naval commander, i.e. to the head of the entire navy of the monarchy. This was the last station his life. The Austrian Government had not kept pace with other governments in naval development since the days when Tegetthoff covered the Austrian navy with glory at Helgoland and Lissa. Baron von Pockh, who succeeded Tegetthoff in the command of the navy in 1871, retired on account of sickness in November, 1883. His successor, Rear-Admiral Sterneck, one of Tegetthoff's most efficient subordinates, was appointed, with the hope of infusing new life into the neglected and sluggish naval service. The first act of the new commander was to form tho ironclads into a squadron, nnd put them through elaborate manouvres to exercise the officers in the principal design of the present naval armament, which is to keep the Adriatic clear in case of war. The ironclads were then placed out of commission, and four corvettes sent out on cruises to distant parts of the world for tho technical improvement of the officers and crews, and for the sake of the commercial advantage of showing the Austrian flag on distant coasts where there are consular agents, or any Austro-Hungarian trading interests.

The disinclination of the Austrian public to make any considerable pecuniary sacrifices in support of its naval power has led to the adoption of the cruiser and the torpedo as a means of supplementing the weak armourclad squadron. Some time before Admiral Aube claimed for the torpedo the foremost place in the French navy, Vice-Admiral Freiherr von Sterneck had pledged himself to a similar programme for Austria. It is in pursuance of his plans that such vessels as the Panther and Leopard, the Adler and Falke have been built.

The naval program of Austria, so far as such a thing may be said to exist, may be gathered from the proposals of the Minister of Marine, Vice-Admiral Freiherr von Sterneck, which were laid before the Delegations in November 1884. Speaking to the Delegates in their session, Vice-Admiral Baron von Ehrenstein Sterneck unfolded the plans he hoped to adopt for putting the Austro-Hungarian Navy on a footing that would enable it to fullfill all the requirements of the future, and explained all the reasons he had for rejecting the program of his predecessor, Tegetthoff. This program had been drawn up at a time when ironclads were the preponderating naval force, thereby making the possession of numerous squadrons essential. Now this is all changed.

Austria fully realised that the ironclad was outstripped by the torpedo-boat, therefore the Naval Minister has determined to divide the shores of tho Empire into several districts, and specially to appoint a flotilla of torpedo-boats for each district. Four flotillas of this description will suffice for the whole Empire. They will not leave the coasts. There will be sea-going torpedo-boats to escort the fleets, and these will chiefly consist of swift despatch- vessels ; it is hoped that private yards will be able to assure a speed of twenty miles an hour to these despatch-vessels, and, of course, the torpedo-boats for the open sea will not be less swift.

But it will be the task of the coast torpedo-boats to secure protection for the ports and roadsteads. After Baron de Sterneck had explained his views, Count Hohenwart recalled tho fact that in 1859 two French frigates before Fiurae had sufficed to force the garrison of that town to quit it and to leave the shores undefended. For the future, hostile frigates will be prevented approaching Fiume by the torpedo-boats, on which Austro-Huugary places the utmost reliance to preserve her from all danger.

The navy seems, in their opinion, as in that of Russia and Germany, to be the best and only guarantee for the safety of her coasts against those powers overlooking the seas on any part of her territory. And France, which is washed by three seas, which may be attacked on three sides at a time, still believes herself safe from harm because her ports are surrounded by fortresses, where the guns are placed at such elevations that they would be unable to bear on a vessel passing close in shore, and because these each have a few badly-armed or unarmed torpedo-boats.

In the 1890s Austria-Hungary had only 2 obsolescent battleships (the Rudolph and Stephanie). In 1893 Sterneck, the commander-in-chief of the navy, could acquire enough funds to build three new more powerful ships. But the two parliaments only agreed to smaller, so-called coastal defence battleships. They expressed that Austria-Hungary was not interested in conquering colonies, and that the country only wanted to defend himself. The three ships were not identical, the Budapest received more modern and more powerful engines.

After more as 14 years in the service as a Vice Admiral and starting from 1888 as admiral, Admiral Baron von Ehrenstein Sterneck died on the 4th or 5th of December 1897, at Vienna, aged 67.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:51:20 ZULU