Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino (STT)
(Technical Establishment of Trieste)
The shipbuilding engineer Siegfried Popper was born on 5th January 1848 in Prague. He has worked on modern ships since 1887, beginning with his plane for a light cruiser. On 01 April 1907 he stepped down into the retirement from general shipbuilding engineer, after 36-years of service. However the 60-year old was anything but healthy: He suffered from hardness of hearing of both ears, glass body turbidity in both eyes and extreme myopia. In a word: Popper was nearly deaf and nearly blind. In retirement he changed the sides and became a consulent with Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino (S.T.T.), at that time the only private offerer for large warships in the monarchy.
The largest and best-known shipyard was the Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino in San Rocco (Trieste). Trieste was the first port of Austria, and the principal outlet for the over-sea trade of the monarchy . It may be said nearly to monopolize the trade of the Adriatic, and had long eclipsed itsancient rival Venice. It owed its development to its geographical situation in the north-east angle of the Adriatic Sea at the end of the deeply indented gulf, and to its harbor, which was more accessible to large vessels than that of Venice. Besides, it was declared a free imperial port in 1719, and was therefore released from the obstructions to trade contained in the hampering legislation of the period.
At the head of the industrial establishments of Trieste stand the two ship-building yards of the Austrian Lloyd and of the Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino, which are the largest of their kind in Austria. The Austrian Lloyd, was the principal shipping company of the Dual Monarchy. The Stabilimento Tecnico is also fitted up for the construction of warships. They were equipped with all the latest technical innovations, and employed over 5000 workmen as of around 1910.
The splitting of shipping and shipbuilding worked out as a good idea. As long as both branches had been in one hand there had always been technical and financial difficulties. This problem was solved by Lloyd by abandoning the Lloyd-arsenal with the exception of the repair dock and the dry docks. A new established limited company, in which Lloyd and Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino had equal shares, took over the shipbuilding yard in San Rocco on the condition they would build ships, not only for the Austrian Lloyd, but also for other customers.
The Englishman Robert Whitehead was appointed the technical director of the Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino. It was here in Fiume that he produced the Luppis torpedo, which was later perfected to the free running locomotive torpedo, sold under licence as the Whitehead Torpedo to world fleets including the Royal Navy.
In 1908 when, as a young Lieutenant in the Imperial and Royal Austro- Hungarian Navy, George Ritter von Trapp was sent to Fiume to study torpedoes and submarine construction. The dashing young naval officer soon caught the eye of the young debutantes, but it was the eldest grand daughter of Robert Whitehead, Agathe, residing at Villa Whitehead who became the Baron's companion. They were married in 1911 and moved to the Baron's villa in Pola. Agathe died in 1922 from diphtheria, leaving the Baron to raise seven children. It is from here that the former nun, Baroness Maria Augusta von Katchera, was engaged as governess. Von Trapp married his governess Maria in 1927 and they moved to Salzburg. Their life was simple, with the fledgling Trapp Family Singers supplementing their income until Germany declared war in 1939.
In the early years of World War II Germany did not realize that there were major flaws with their torpedoes. After many complaints of failure to detonate, even after replacing new magnetic pistols and new setting instructions, U-boat commanding officers were still reporting torpedo failures. It was then remembered that the former Austro-Hungarian "Torpedo Ace" and in-law to the famous Whitehead family was quietly enjoying his retirement. The Gestapo was sent to Austria to bring the Baron back to Germany to help sort out the U-boat torpedo problem.
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