2: New Appointments
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At the end of my leave, in the autumn of 1894, I was appointed to the staff of
Vice-Admiral Baron Spaun(1), the chief of the naval
technical committee. In that post, I gained an insight into a number of important and
interesting questions, but I also came across far too many shortcomings. As a result
either of mistaken opinions or of a shortage of money, the technical committees at Pola
and in Vienna often refused to take up important discoveries, thereby doing considerable
harm. I remember that, in my time, a draughtsman in the torpedo section handed in an
invention which the naval officers recommended without reservation, but it was firmly
rejected by the expert engineer for naval artillery matters. Soon afterwards, that
engineer retired and went into partnership with Obry(2), a
constructional draughtsman. Today every torpedo contains their gyroscope. This invention,
which keeps the torpedo on its set course, has vastly increased the torpedo's range.
The first destroyer of the Austro-Hungarian Navy was built at the Schichau yard at
Elbing(3). I belonged to the crew which was to take her
over. I made use of the occasion to visit the then expanding capital of the German Empire.
If Vienna was the more welcoming and homely city, the ebullient energy of Berlin was more
likely to impress a young man. A trade fair that was being held there at the time of my
visit held a particular interest for me.
The trial trip of the Magnet was most successful. On passing through the newly
opened Kaiser Wilhelm Canal, we received a hearty welcome from the people of
Schleswig-Holstein. In spite of variable weather, our voyage home was smooth. On the way,
we called at Gibraltar and Corfu.
Upon my return, I was fortunate enough to be sent on the torpedo course, which I
preferred by far to the three other possibilities: the writing desk, the artillery, or the
mine-laying service, since it meant that I would remain at sea all the time, as exercises
were frequent. Chances of promotion would also be better. The training, theoretical and
practical, covered a year.
Following upon that course, I was again chosen as one of the crew that was to take over
a ship, and this time we went to England. The Thames Iron Works(4)
had built us two extremely fast deep-torpedo-boats. Once again, I seized the opportunity
of seeing new countries and admiring new towns. I travelled via Mainz and Cologne to
Brussels, and from there, accompanied by a friend, via Ostend, to London. We were very
disappointed to hear from our naval attaché that the transfer was to be made the next
day; it seemed that sojourn in the metropolis would be limited to a Sunday afternoon. On
the first trial trip, however, the condenser casing of the Cobra tore, and her
sister ship, the Boa, had to tow her back to Poplar. Investigation proved that
material of inferior quality had been used and the builders had to foot the bill. What was
more, we had months in which to enjoy the famous sights and traditions of London.
We were put up at a good hotel, and made the most of our sojourn. The mornings were
occupied in Poplar, supervising the work. Names on the Underground like Fenchurch Street
Station and Millwall Junction were difficult for us, but vital. If we missed them were
liable to get lost in the wilds of London. In the afternoon we were free and that gave us
the opportunity to get to know sights of London, and in particular the museums. Their
richness left a deep impression on me. We patronized the theatre box-offices in the
evenings, and though I cannot, after all these years, remember what else we saw, I recall
the brilliance of the famous musical comedy The Belle of New York. We naturally
went to the races, where we saw for the first time the new 'American seat', introduced by
Ted Sloan the jockey, and soon to become universal in England and on the Continent.
I made friends with a very pleasant and intelligent R.N. officer. He gave me a beverage
which he called whisky sour. I liked it and it seemed harmless enough, with its
lemonade taste. Shortly afterwards, when I met several friends at the bar during the
interval at a music-hall, I was several times asked to have a drink, and knowing at the
time the name of no other, I answered "a whisky sour", so that by the
time we went to supper the world was turning rapidly round my head! I beat a quick retreat
and made for the hotel, and for the next three days had to shun all entertainment. We were
not free from money troubles and were more than once obliged to send an S0S to our
respective fathers. The fact is that we were often extravagant through ignorance, as, for
example, when it came to buying seats at the theatre, or hailing a hansom instead of
joining the fashionable mob on the horse-bus, a mode of conveyance which the Prime
Minister of the day did not despise.
Apart from these diversions, we lieutenants and our superiors, the two Lieutenant-
Commanders, made no attempt to take part in London's social life. Even with our own
Embassy, we were careful to deal strictly through the naval attaché. The enjoyment of
those weeks in England has left in me, despite all the unhappy changes that the years
between have wrought, an indelible sense of sympathy as a Magyar with the British nation,
and a conviction that our two peoples share their best ideals in common.
After new trials, we began the journey home, first calling at the French port of Brest.
When, late that night, I returned from town to the harbour, there was no sign of the Boa.
After a while, I recognized a crane near which the ship had moored. And then I saw the Boa,
down in the depths. The rise and fall of the tide at Brest is some forty feet, which I had
not reckoned with, being accustomed to measuring the tide at Pola in inches.
On this occasion, we had singularly bad weather on the way home, especially in the Bay
of Biscay. The waves washed right over the ship, and for days hot meals were out of the
question. It was only just possible to stay on our course. We were extremely relieved to
reach Lisbon, where we could recuperate and at the same time learn to know that beautiful
city. To visit Cintra, the ancient castle of the Braganzas(5),
we had to go on horseback. Along the south bank, there were only a few small clusters of
fishermen's cottages. Little did I guess then in what changed circumstances I should be
returning to Lisbon.
I remember a visit to the Opera, when the King of Portugal(6)
was present. I was surprised at the small amount of notice taken of him in contrast with
the ovation given the entry of a famous bullfighter, which made the auditorium ring with
Although it was customary for non-British ships to anchor in the open roads at
Gibraltar, the Commander of the Home Fleet, Admiral Prince Battenberg(7),
informed us that, on account of the persistent bad weather, we could anchor in a sheltered
position to leeward of his flagship, the Majestic. When we called on him, he was
kind enough to take us over his ship personally and show us every nook and corner.
After visits to Algiers, Palermo and Corfu, we made for Pola, where I was put in charge
of the sailors' training. I cannot say that training recruits filled me with enthusiasm,
but I had no complaint to make, as, a few months later, I was to my surprise given an
appointment as captain of the Artemisia, a sailing ship of the venerable age of
one hundred and fifty years. One of my predecessors as her captain had been Tegetthoff.
She was a remarkably pleasant ship to manoeuvre, one of three training ships manned wholly
by boys, the most suitable of whom were chosen for advanced training as petty officers.
Those boys were resolute, agreeable lads, and it was plain that they had been submitted to
a ruthless discipline at their school.
When I reported for duty to the head of the boys' school at Sebenico, the first officer
told me that there was one boy on board with whom no progress could be made. The son of a
wealthy Hungarian landowner, he had formed a most romantic picture of the Navy from
reading. Reality having proved different from what he had expected, he was unhappy among
people who did not speak his language and he was refusing to obey orders. During a rowing
exercise, he had had his ears boxed for failing to take up his oar and had jumped into the
water. As he could not swim, he was saved with difficulty. It was left to me to see what
could be done with him.
On my arrival on board, I found the lad undergoing punishment: he had been standing in
the rigging for six hours without food or water. I had him called before me and told him
that he would be allowed to leave the school, and that I was prepared to support the
request his father would have to make. The procedure, however, would take time and until
his departure he would have to behave himself and obey orders; otherwise he would find
himself in very hot water. "Can't you see," I said to him, "that the whole
Austro-Hungarian Navy cannot capitulate to the insubordination of one cabin boy?"
He did see that, and promised to obey orders; and he kept his promise. In the course of
a few months, he had mastered German, Italian and a little Croat, had come top of his form
and was generally considered a prodigy. By the time permission for him to leave came
through, he did not wish to avail himself of it. I kept an eye on him then and later, and,
after twelve years' service as a leading seaman, he became skipper of a Danube steamer.
On my return from the practice trip, I was surprised to find awaiting me at Sebenico
instructions to take over the boys' school for a year. I was in despair. Sebenico was a
picturesque little town, but a year's contemplation of the picturesque together with the
necessity of teaching was a form of burial that had no appeal for me. Strangely enough, I
found that I enjoyed the unaccustomed work of teaching, and I was none too pleased when,
after four months, I received an unexpected order to report for duty at the naval section
of the Ministry of Defence in Vienna. I left Trieste in a Lloyd steamer and the boys
escorted the vessel in their boats for a fair distance.
My new work consisted of translating the budget of the Navy from German into Hungarian
and of acting as interpreter at the joint deliberations of the Delegations of the Austrian
and Hungarian parliaments. To interpret accurately is always a responsible and difficult
task. Since Hungarian, like Finnish and Turkish, belongs to the Ural-Altaic family and
not, like German, English, French and Italian, to the Indo-European, special difficulties
tend to arise in translation. It is impossible to translate word for word, and in fact the
interpreter must hear the last word of the sentence before he can even begin.
At the end of the dinner given by His Majesty to the delegates in the Marble Hall of
the Royal Palace in Budapest, I found myself drinking coffee at the table of Count Tisza(8), the Prime Minister, who was an old friend of my family,
together with some of the leading Hungarian politicians. The conversation turned to
Croatia, and as I knew that country and its people very well, I expressed some criticisms
of our policy towards it. It would, I hazarded, be better if Croatia, Dalmatia, Bosnia and
Herzegovina,a homogeneous language community, were to be united and if, above all, a stop
were to be put to the ridiculous and vexatious minor provocations offered the Croats(9). I pointed out, for instance, that their railway stations
had notices in Hungarian only. In such ways, even generous government measures, especially
in financial matters, were often lost to them. The others, however, were of the opinion
that my suggestions would never find favour in Parliament. Later on, during the 1918
disturbances Count Tisza was requested by Emperor Charles to go and investigate conditions
personally, he asked the Navy for a ship to take him from Zara to Cattaro. I sent him our
fastest destroyer and my flag-captain, Vukovic, to act as his interpreter and
aide-de-camp. To Vukovic I entrusted a letter addressed to Tisza in which I reminded him
of that long past conversation and voiced my fears that years of pan-Serbian propaganda
would defeat his efforts to bring the Croats round to a contrary view. Vukovic, who
remained with him throughout the journey, brought me a long letter in reply, written from
Budapest, in which Tisza gave his impressions and regretfully confirmed my views. He
declared the position in Sarajevo to be particularly hopeless.
The sessions of the delegates, and with them my usefulness, came to an end, and I spent
the leave I was given at home. I was then thirty-two years old. I had had thoughts of
marriage, but had decided that a naval officer ought not to marry, a solemn theory that
goes by the board as soon as one meets the right person.
I had intended to visit my sister at Miskolc, but on arriving at the railway station I
was met by my brother-in-law, whose regiment of hussars was stationed there. My sister, it
appeared, had gone to Budapest and he had accepted an invitation to visit some old friends
of my elder brother and had been unable to postpone it. Why should I not go with him?
Thinking it would be no more than an afternoon call, I agreed. I was, therefore, more than
a little surprised to be met at the station by a four-in-hand(10),
which suggested that some distance lay between us and our destination. And, indeed, so it
was. I had to resign myself to spending the night with an unknown host at Hejôbába(11). It was, I thought, an awkward situation, and I had the
impression that the master of the estate, his wife and her remarkably beautiful younger
sister were, in spite of their cordiality, more than a little taken aback to see a
completely strange naval officer step out of the carriage. I begged to be forgiven, but
they would let me make no excuses, and the outcome was that I spent three extremely happy
days with them at Hejôbába.
Chance or design? This visit proved the great turning point in my life. During the
carnival, I went to a ball at Miskolc of which Mrs. Melczer(12),
my charming hostess at Hejôbába, was the lady patroness. A yet more resplendent guest
was her lovely sister, Magda Purgly(13), who was the best
dancer I had ever met. The following year, I was asked to act as escort to the two ladies
and my sister in a journey to Venice. Although I did not consider myself particularly
equipped for the task, as I had never been there myself, I thought my knowledge of Italian
might prove useful, and I had no hesitation in accepting the commission. After an
unforgettably happy week, my mind was made up, and as I had the secret acquiescence of
Miss Purgly, all that remained for me to do was to gain my father's consent, but his views
on the marrying of naval officers were those I had held myself until that moment. He
allowed himself to be won over, however, and Miss Purgly and I travelled to the estate of
my future father-in-law for the celebration of the betrothal.
After I had been given the command of the torpedo-boat Sperber and had
relinquished it again, I went with my staff to Arad. There, on July 22nd, 1901, with all
the customary Hungarian pomp and ceremony, Magda and I were married. We chose Semmering
for our honeymoon.
Even in those days it was not easy to find a house at Pola, the main Hungarian naval
base. After the birth of our first child, a daughter(14),
we had a house built which had a garden and a fine view over the sea. This house saw the
birth of our other children, another girl and two boys.
My chiefs were very considerate. As captain of the first-class torpedo-boat Kranich,
which was used as a training ship for engine-room personnel, I used to return home each
evening at six o'clock. After six months, I was put in charge of a destroyer flotilla and
had to part from my wife for a few months. My next command took me to the Habsburg,
the flagship of our Mediterranean squadron, in which we went on a cruise. Our first port
of call was Smyrna, the present-day Izmir. The Vali and future Grand Vizier, Kiamil Pasha,
returned our Admiral's visit dressed in a gold-embroidered frock coat, in which he looked
most imposing. We found him a very likeable man.
In the wars with the Turks, from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, the Magyars
had often inflicted serious losses on them, but the fate of our country had been sealed
for a hundred and fifty years by the catastrophe of Mohács. There, 25,000 Magyars had
faced 200,000 Turks. The flower of our manhood was taken to Constantinople and trained for
the Sultan's elite corps of janissaries. But by the beginning of the twentieth century,
this ancient enmity had been forgotten. Magyars and Turks, speaking cognate languages, had
learned to appreciate each other, and indeed the two nations have similar characteristics,
both being courtly peoples. Nothing is further from the truth than to regard the Turks as
'Levantines', and to treat them as such is foolish. The German Ambassador, Franz von
Papen, once told me that until the day he left Ankara, there was in the Embassy coffers
one and a half million marks in gold and currency, sent him by Ribbentrop to use in
winning over prominent Turkish politicians to Germany. But von Papen knew the Turks too
well to use such dishonourable methods. He was aware that attempts at bribery would have
seriously damaged the German cause, a fact apparently not known in Berlin.
Smyrna at the time that I was there was a rich and flourishing commercial city, a
centre for the export of tobacco, figs and mohair. Trading, however, as in so many other
Mediterranean harbours, was carried on by the Greeks.
Perpetual shortage of money had compelled Turkey to borrow more and more from abroad,
so that a special international administration had been set up in Paris, the "Dette
Ottomane"(15). Use was made of this by the Great
Powers to exert political pressure on Turkey, and the Ottoman Empire had been placed under
a kind of international receivership. When the financial pressure of the Great Powers
proved unavailing, their demands were emphasized by naval demonstrations, as in 1903 when,
after a meeting of Tsar Nicholas(16) first with Kaiser
Wilhelm II(17) at Wiesbaden and later with Emperor Francis
Joseph at Schloss Mürzsteg, the programme known as the Mürzsteg
Reform Programme was worked out providing for the creation of nationally limited areas
of control in Macedonia. As Austria-Hungary, a neighbour of Turkey, was the party most
interested in Balkan affairs, our armoured cruiser St. Georg, in which I was
torpedo officer, became the flagship of the international fleet that was assembled in the
Piraeus. Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, France and Italy each sent two warships; Russia
contributed one gunboat. The German Empire remained aloof. Our Commander-in-Chief was
Vice-Admiral Ripper(18), an energetic and circumspect
naval officer. Although unaccustomed to manoeuvring with foreign ships, he saw to it that
the squadron became well integrated and he never overlooked the slightest dereliction of
duty. Our first operation was directed against the island of Mitylene; once we had
anchored, the order was given that we were to act as if we were at war. The landing party
was led by the first officer of the British armoured cruiser Lancaster; I was
beach-master and interpreter. There was no resistance; the Turks remained quiet and
behaved as if we did not exist. Lemnos also was occupied. As the Sultan still made no
move, Vice-Admiral Ripper decided to force the Dardanelles. The other commanders were of
the opinion that this would be too dangerous an undertaking on account of that area's
strong defences, and they declared that they would have to consult their respective
Governments. The answers were in the negative. The matter was then again referred to our
diplomats, who found a successful solution, and we were all able to return home. Our ships
reached Pola just before Christmas.
It was written in the stars, however, that I should see Constantinople again. After a
few shore assignments, and after having been in command of the Lacroma, the yacht
of the naval commander Admiral Count Montecuccoli(19), I
became captain of the Taurus, the Embassy yacht. I took over the ship at Tophane,
seventeen years after my first sojourn in Constantinople, on June 8th, 1908.
At the next selamlik, as they called the Friday visit of the Sultan to the
mosque, our Ambassador, Count Pallavicini(20), presented
me to Sultan Abdul Hamid II(21). The impression he made on
me was of a thoroughly suspicious and narrow-minded autocrat who refused to admit, even to
himself, that power had slipped from his hands. He adhered meticulously to the empty
formulae of power. Even when an Embassy yacht went on a cruise, she had, before she could
enter the Bosporus or the Dardanelles, to have a permit signed by the Sultan himself. It
was singularly difficult to obtain such a permit. He was strangely afraid of electricity
in any form: lights, trams or anything else. It was said that this was because he had once
heard the word dynamo and it reminded him of dynamite, a substance he held in dread.
Even we could see that the country was seething beneath the surface. A few weeks after
my arrival, the revolution of the Young Turks broke out. On July 23rd, 1908, at
Salonika, Enver(22) Bey proclaimed afresh the 1876
constitution which Abdul Hamid had abolished soon after his accession to the throne. When
Enver Bey and Nazim(23) Bey, together with their troops,
mutinied, the Sultan gave orders for them to be hanged, and his Grand Vizier had the task
of pointing out to him that his power was insufficient. Elections were proclaimed, which
put Vienna in a difficult predicament. To prevent elections from being held in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, which though actually occupied was still nominally part of the Ottoman
Empire, the Dual Monarchy proclaimed on October 5th, 1908, that Bosnia and Herzegovina
would be added to Austria-Hungary as a corpus separatum, while the Sandjak of
Novibazar would be returned to Turkey.
The annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina was diplomatically ill prepared. Great Britain
protested, on the grounds that it was an infringement of the Berlin Treaty of 1878; Serbia
and Montenegro threatened war. The Turks began a general boycott of our exports, which
caused much hardship, as in those days Austria-Hungary was the main supplier and also the
main customer of Turkey. Our steamers were left with unloaded cargoes; they were no longer
bunkered; and the Austrian firms in Constantinople were either picketed or ostracized.
As the captain of our Embassy yacht, I found this damaging to our prestige, and I
therefore called on our Ambassador to obtain his approval for forcing the transfer of the
cargoes held in the warehouse of the Trieste Lloyd. Count Pallavicini asked me what I
intended to do in face of the armed Kurds, who had hitherto prevented the transfer. I
replied that I intended to make use of gunboats and an armed guard.
"And what if they fire on you?" he asked with an anxious air.
"Then we'll return their fire."
"But that might lead to war, and war must be avoided at all costs."
In the end, he agreed to my proposal, but requested me to be as careful as I could.
Everything went smoothly; the Kurds preferred not to fight.
As Germany had emphatically declared that she would support Austria-Hungary if
necessary, the Great Powers and finally Turkey herself gave way in February, 1909, on the
annexation question. The victory was not wholly to our advantage, as was to be shown a few
years later. But of that we had then no inkling.
The pleasant social life of Constantinople was not dimmed by these political events. I
had taken a villa at Yenikeui on the Bosporus next to the summer residence of our Embassy,
residing there with my wife and four children. Receptions, regattas, polo matches, dances
and similar gaieties made our life pleasant and varied. I had had my sailing boat sent me
from Pola, and I was able to participate in the yachting races; at the end of the season,
I even won the first prize. Twice a week we played polo on the large meadow at
Büyükdere, the site on which Godfrey of Bouillon and his crusaders had once pitched
their tents. On the Atmeidan in Stamboul, I bought a fine Arab stallion, small but swift,
which brought me victory in the Polo Scurry. I also gained the Grand Prix du Bosphore in
the face of fierce competition in a field of twelve; the Krupp representative had asked me
to ride his horse, and I had trained assiduously, following instructions given me by my
brother Stephen in his letters. At that time, Stephen was our champion male horse-rider.
In the obstacle race, the horse of Prince Colonna(24), a
cousin of the wife of the Italian Ambassador, broke its neck and its rider was carried
unconscious from the field. Fortunately, I had my steam launch at hand, so that we were
able to transport him without loss of time to the Italian Embassy. After a few days, I
heard to my great satisfaction that he was out of danger. Twenty-six years later, I met
Prince Colonna again as Italian Ambassador to Hungary.
After such successes, I set my heart on winning the international tennis tournament for
Hungary. When my first officer was recalled, I proposed Lieutenant Árvay(25)
as his successor, for not only was he an excellent seaman but he had, that spring, come
first in our Army and Navy tennis tournament. The captain of the British Embassy ship had,
however, had the same idea; he too acquired as his first officer an Army and Navy tennis
champion, a man we could not defeat in the singles. But Árvay and I were pleased enough
when we carried off the victory in the men's doubles against the British team.
This catalogue of sports victories may have a boastful ring, but I do remember how
proud we were at the time of these triumphs. Indeed, as I look back on them now I still
feel the pleasure I felt then.
As usual, the Embassies moved back to town for the winter months and we weighed anchor
and went to the artillery arsenal Tophane and moored alongside.
After the opening of Parliament, relative peace descended on the political life of the
country. Sultan Abdul Hamid, who had never hitherto ventured outside the Yildiz, apart
from the few hundred yards to the mosque, now began to display an interest in his people.
He even showed himself in Stamboul and was greeted with great respect by the inhabitants.
Even so, he could not resign himself to the loss of absolute power. His wise Grand Vizier,
Kiamil Pasha, who was in favour of retaining the Constitution and the Parliamentary
system, had a difficult time. He was unable to prevent the Sultan himself from fomenting a
mutiny, the preparation of which he entrusted, by the irony of fate, to the unworthy son
of the worthy Kiamil Pasha.
With my father-in-law, my brother-in-law and his wife, all of whom were staying with us
on a visit, we had planned an expedition into Stamboul one morning to see certain mosques
and the bazaar. That day, however, we were woken by the sound of shots. Shops were closed
and armed soldiers were walking singly or in groups through the streets. I made enquiries
at our Embassy to find out what was going on. All they could tell me was that guns were
being placed on the bridge across the Golden Horn between Galata and Stamboul. We decided
to go out of town toward Ejub to the 'sweet waters', but near the palace of Dolmabagché
the street was closed by cavalry. The commanding officer came up to our carriage and asked
us to turn back. He was the son of Djemil Bey, who for years had been the Turkish
Ambassador in Paris, and we knew him, having often met him at receptions. He knew no more
than our Embassy did what exactly was happening. Apparently some troops had mutinied, and
his regiment had received orders to close the roads leading to the Yildiz Kiosk. He
instructed one of his officers to see us safely home.
In the afternoon, the officers were arrested by their own men; many were murdered.
Djemil Bey succeeded in persuading his men to disarm, but preferred himself to seek safety
in flight. The mutineers marched to the Parliament Buildings and demanded the resignation
of the Government. The general in command, Mohammed Mukhtar(26)
Pasha, asked the Sultan for permission to open fire, but received no reply. After the
Minister of Justice and the Minister of Marine had been shot by the rebels, he telephoned
again, declaring that his own loyal troops might begin to waver should he fail to act. He
was then expressly forbidden to make use of his arms.
Mohammed Mukhtar wrote me a note asking me to save Djemil Bey and to let Mukhtar know
where he was hiding. As night fell, I despatched a motor launch, the officer in charge of
which succeeded in making contact with Djemil Bey and in bringing him to the Taurus,
where we gave him the uniform of a naval inspector to wear. Two days later, he was able to
leave for Trieste in one of our Lloyd steamers, together with his wife and child, whom I
had also had brought on board.
Acting on the news that Constantinople was in the hands of the rebels, the commander of
the troops at Salonika, Mohammed Shefket Pasha, rushed his troops to the city to clear it.
He pitched camp outside the walls and waited for the situation to develop in order to shed
as little blood as possible. I had, meanwhile, sent a detachment of sailors to guard the
Embassy. One morning I received the information that a company of Turkish troops had
marched upon the Embassy, whereupon I immediately hastened over, only to find that they
were military cadets who had been sent by Mohammed Shefket Pasha also as a guard. In the
company of our military attaché, I often rode out of town to visit the besiegers. The
officers were naturally very anxious to know what was happening in town. We asked them
when they were going to attack, but they did not know. Rumour had it that Mohammed Shefket
Pasha was waiting for the selamlik, for which the entire garrison was wont to march out.
Opposite the mosque, to which the Sultan was accustomed to drive in the carriage of
state accompanied by the Grand Vizier, who sat facing him, there is a building with large
plate-glass windows, from which the representatives of foreign powers could watch the
ceremony and the parade of troops. This time, I took part in the selamlik, but the
expected attack was not made. In any case, not a single officer was present in the parade;
whole regiments were commanded by old and bearded subalterns. As usual, the Sultan was
driving the fine Lipizzaners which had been a present to him from our monarch, but this
time the Pashas were not walking behind his carriage as was their custom.
At last the day of attack came. We were woken by the thunder of guns. I went at once to
the Embassy. Count Pallavicini told me that a rifle bullet had struck the wall over his
bed, had ricochetted and had fallen on his hand. Although the fighting was taking place
round the arsenal, I succeeded in reaching the Taurus. Shortly afterwards, the
ship's doctor arrived. As he was being rowed to the ship, rifle bullets were hitting the
water all round the boat, and to the general merriment the doctor instinctively opened his
By early afternoon, the outcome of the battle had been decided. General Hussein Hüssni
was given the delicate task of informing the Sultan that he had been deposed. He did this
with great skill, telling the Sultan that he had come to save his life and that the
special court train was waiting to take him and his harem to Salonika. As the Sultan was
in the habit of adding to his harem every year at the feast of Kurban Bairam, the new wife
and her odalisques taking up their abode in the Yildiz Kiosk, it was estimated that there
would be three hundred women to transport. There proved to be only thirty-three left.
On April 27th, 1909, Abdul Hamid's brother, Reshid Effendi, was proclaimed Sultan by
the Parliament and given the appellation of Mohammed V. The storm had subsided and all was
still again. Peace and order were restored. Conscription was introduced and General von
der Goltz(27) was entrusted with the reorganization of the
There was, therefore, no reason why the Taurus should not go on her customary
spring cruise. We sailed, via Varna and Odessa, up the Danube along the Sulina branch as
far as Galatz. On the return voyage we touched at Constantinople and, via Salonika, went
to the Piraeus where our squadron lay. The Taurus was there inspected by the
On my return, I found an official letter awaiting me to say that if I would care to
accept the post of aide-de-camp to His Majesty, Admiral Count Montecuccoli would like to
nominate me. I replied by telegram that I should consider such an appointment a great
honour, but at heart I regretted having to leave the Bosporus so soon. I was not,
therefore, heartbroken to learn by telegram that the post was being provisionally filled
by an officer of the Imperial Rifles. My stay would be prolonged by a few months, at any
The good old Taurus was a paddle-steamer built originally for service on the
Danube. Her fighting value was nil, and, moreover, she lacked suitable accommodation for
the Ambassador when he had to undertake a tour of inspection in the Embassy yacht. For
that reason, I had suggested that a suitable yacht should be procured and my suggestion
was accepted. A French yacht was found that met the necessary requirements and was bought.
I was thus destined to be the last captain of the Taurus, and it was with a
heavy heart that I left Constantinople, where, but for one break, I had spent two and a
half years. I had come to know the Turks in a number of diverse circumstances, and had
grown to like them. They are a people of strong character, a noble, reliable race, and
Nor was parting from Pallavicini, the Ambassador, easy. I respected him as a
high-minded, wise and clearsighted diplomat to whom the other Ambassadors, in those
difficult days of revolution bringing in their train many ambassadorial conferences, were
only too glad to give the leading role. After the death of Aehrenthal, Pallavicini was
offered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but he made conditions which did not prove
acceptable to Vienna. Had it been he who was resident at the Ballhausplatz(28)
at the time, it would not, in my opinion, have come to war. As it was, instead of
Pallavicini, Count Berchtold(29) was appointed the
successor of Aehrenthal.
Two months after I had entered on my duties as general co-ordinating officer on board
the Kaiser Karl VI in the Bocche di Cattaro, my appointment as aide-de-camp to
Emperor Francis Joseph came through. I said goodbye to the sea and exchanged sea breezes
for the air of the court and the big city.
1. Adm. Baron Hermann Spaun (1833-1919).
2. Lajos Obry, chief mechanic at the naval shipyard at Pola.
3. Today Elblag in Poland.
4. Horthy is mistaken here. The original documents and publications
mention Yarrow & Co., not the Thames Iron Works as the manufacturer of these torpedo
5. The Braganza Dynasty reigned in Portugal from 1640 until 1910,
also in Brazil from 1822 until 1889.
6. Charles I (1863-1908).
7. Admiral of the Fleet Prince Louis Alexander Battenberg
(Mountbatten, from 1917) (1854-1921), grandfather of Prince Philip Royal Consort.
8. Count István Tisza (1861-1918) was a long time friend of
Horthy's father and was instrumental in getting Horthy appointed to the position of
aide-de-camp at the Court. (Sakmyster, Thomas: Hungary's Admiral on Horseback: Miklós
Horthy, 1918-1944, Columbia Univ. Press, 1994.)
9. Croatia-Slavonia had a very special status within the Lands of
the Hungarian Holy Crown. According to the 1868 "Nagodba", Constitution, the
Croats were entitled to the use of their own language even in the Hungarian Parliament,
and in the Croatian units of the Hungarian national army. In fact, these regiments were
commanded in Croatian.
10. A four horse landau carriage, 19th century equivalent of a
11. Village near Arad, today in Rumania.
12. Mrs. László Melczer nee. Janka Purgly, future sister-in-law
of Adm. Horthy.
13. Magda Purgly of Jószás (1881-1959).
14. Magdolna (1902-1918) died of scarlet fever, Paula (1903-1940)
died of lung ailment, István (1904-1942) aircraft accident, Miklós (1907-1982).
15. Agency to handle the international indebtedness of Turkey.
16. Russia's Tsar Nicholas I of Romanov (1868-1918)
17. German Kaiser Wilhelm II of Hohenzollern (1859-1941).
18. Rear Admiral Julius von Ripper (1847-1914).
19. Adm. Count Rudolph Montecuccoli (1843-1927),
20. Count János Pallavicini (1848-1945).
22. Enver bey Turkish army commander (1881-1922).
23. Hussein Nazim (1848-1913), army commander, later pasha.
24. Ascanio Colonna, Prince of Paliano (1883- ?).
25. Capt. Frigyes Árvay (1875-1952).
26. General Mohamed Mukhtar (1867-1919).
27. Baron Colmar von der Goltz, "Goltz Pasha"
28. The site of the Foreign Ministry in Vienna.
29. Count Leopold Berchtold (1863-1942).
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