Mutiny at Cattaro 1918

Published in History Today

 ‘We don’t want cinemas, we want peace.’ David Woodward introduces a
little-known First World War insurrection in the Austro-Hungarian
fleet, framing it within the context of that empire’s multicultural makeup and the
revolutionary spirit of the times.

At midday on February 1st, 1918, in the fiord at Cattaro (now called Kotor) the officers of the Austro-Hungarian cruiser Sankt Georg, flagship of the Fifth Division, sat down to lunch in the wardroom. In the lobby outside the ship’s orchestra began to play, according to custom; suddenly there was a disturbance on deck, and the ship’s Gesamtdetailoffizier, or second in command, hurried out to investigate and was almost immediately shot and seriously wounded. For some time he lay unconscious on the deck, the mutineers refusing to let the ship’s doctor attend to him.

The men then threw overboard a vaulting horse as a protest against too much physical training, and broke open the ship’s rifle racks. They began to help themselves to weapons, and men who would not help themselves were told that if they did not do so they would be locked up and given nothing to eat. The lead was taken by the Croats and Slovenes, a fact quickly noticed by the German and Hungarian seamen who also helped themselves, saying: ‘If the Turks (as they called their South Slav shipmates) are armed and we are not we will soon be in trouble.’ This, in fact, turned out to be the case.

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