Austria-Hungarian Naval Aviation on the Adriatic during World War 1

by Al Kugel

This web page is about the seaplane stations operated by the Austro-Hungarian Navy in 1915-1918 during World War I. Located along that part of the Adriatic Coast under control of the Dual Monarchy, these extended from near Trieste in the north to Durazzo in occupied Albania at the south. Prior to the war there were only three such stations: the headquarters at Pola, the training center at nearby Cosada and the operating base at Kumbor in the Bay of Cattaro. More than a dozen additional sites were opened during the hostilities. At maximum there were 300 naval planes, that mostly operated as scouts for the fleet. In addition, attacks were made on Italian troops threatening Trieste as well as bombing raids on Venice and on Allied surface ships and submarines.

Official markings, generally unit cachets or censor marks, are recorded from twelve of the bases, although they should theoretically exist from others. The bulk of the seaplanes were assigned to four locations: Pola (Puntisella), Kumbor, Trieste (Grado), and the flight school at Cosada. Most of the other bases had six or fewer aircraft, which accounts for the scarcity of their markings. Some official mail and a modest amount of normal fieldpost is known to have been flown between bases on the seaplanes mostly to or from Fiume -- but it received no special markings and is considered very scarce.

[1917 Pola to Vienna cover]

This official registered cover was sent from the Headquarters of the Naval Aviation Corps in Pola to Vienna in November 1917.

It is postmarked at the "Imperial & Royal Naval Fieldpost Office/Pola" with an appropriate registration label being applied.

Here are some examples of covers and postcards bearing official markings of the seaplane bases. They are organized geographically from north to south, starting south Grado and ending at Durazzo. The more active bases often had two or more different markings, which are shown together where available.

The primary information source in English on the Naval Aviation activities is Austro Hungarian APO's 1914-1918, self-published by Keith Tranmer in Hornchurch, England in 1973.

GRADO (TRIESTE) Fliegerstation No. 6
1 August 1917

[1917 Trieste postcard]

The northenmost of the seaplane stations was at Grado near Trieste. One authority believes this previously unrecorded cachet of "Seaplane Station No. 6" was applied at Grado, with the card then being flown to the base at Pola, where it was postmarked and censored.

[1918 Grado cachet]

Picture postcard of a sailor and submarine was postmarked on 2 August 1917 at the "I. & R. Naval Fieldpost Office/Pola" and sent to Prague in Bohemia. An example in red of the cachet of the Naval Station HQ at Grado is shown below on a document.

Note that nearly every marking shown here contains the letters "K.u.K." (the initials for Imperial and Royal in German), thus translating to "I. & R." This wording stems from the fact that in the Dual Monarchy, the Emperor of Austria was also the King of Hungary and the reference to both titles was obligatory.


[1917 Cattaro to Hungary]

This picture postcard (of Dubrovnik) was mailed from FPO 267 located at Cattaro to Hungary. It has a generic seaplane base marking inscribed "I. & R Naval Air Station" without specific location. Nor is a location given in the dateline, which merely reiterates the #267.

17 October 1916

[1916 Durazzo to Vienna]

The final base was opened in the southern part of the Adriatic at Durazzo following the Austro-Hugarian occupation of northern and central Albania in 1916. It used two cachets: a large circular one struck in violet or red, and a single-line marking. (Fieldpost was free of postage so the Albanian stamps were added as souvenirs.)

30 July 1918

[1918 Durazzo to Kispest]

Fieldpost cards mailed from the Army Base Post Office at Durazzo to Austria and to Hungary. The cachets are inscribed "I. & R. Naval Air Base Durazzo." These are among the more elusive of the seaplane base markings.

(Author Al Kugel, Original article appears to be from the year 2002.)

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Updated 22 October 2023