Naval history is not usually my thing, but this is an interesting period as navies transitioned from wood to steel. The book culminates with the Battle of Lissa between the Austro-Hungarian and Italian fleets. Lissa is modern day Vis, a lovely island off the coast of Croatia, on which I spent a very pleasant and informative week a few years ago.
The author is Maximilian Rottauscher, who joined the modest Austrian navy in 1861 as a midshipman. This was, even by the standards of the time, a pretty tough life.
He was assigned to a number of ships including the frigate Novara and the schooner Saida, in which he went to Greece in 1863. His first taste of action, albeit limited, was in the North Sea during the Second Schleswig War, aboard the frigate Radetzky.
His memoirs conclude with the Battle of Lissa. Fought on 20 July 1866 during the Seven Weeks War. This was one of the first ironclad battles and the last to include ramming as a deliberate tactic.
He served on the wooden frigate Adria, albeit with some additional protection. He describes his experiences in the battle, which are inevitably as confused as any front line observer. The outnumbered Austrians under Tegetthoff heavily defeated the Italians under Carlo di Persano.
The victory was overshadowed by the defeat to the Prussians and the subsequent loss of Venice to the Italian state. Ironically, the port our author sailed to the battle from, along with a number of Venitian sailors.
The translator helps the general reader with a number of explanatory notes and has produced a very readable book.
|The harbour at Vis (Lissa) today|
|Austrian Fort in Vis|