Austria’s navy in modern times: The Patrol Boats Niederösterreich

In a peaceful sidling on the river Danube, in Korneuberg, lined with weekend fishermen, is berthed the last symbols of a once great naval power, the river patrol boats Niederösterreich(pictured above) and Oberst Brecht. Their decommissioning in 2006 and 2010 signalled a poignant end to Austria’s naval heritage. Although a bare shadow of its former glory, these naval vessels provided valuable service and reassurance during the precarious coldwar period. A part of Austria’s HGM - Military History Museum, the boats are lovingly cared for by veterans and volunteers of the Marinekameradschaft Admiral Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand. An interesting fact is that the diesel powered Niederösterreich was actually built here at this shipyard in 1970, which in her golden years she now calls home.

View of Oberst Brecht from the deck of Niederösterreich
PHOTOGRAPH BY Oliver Dorrell

Situated just 12km north of the capitol, a visit makes a good excuse to get out of the city and see the green Donau for an hour or two, although looking around the boats themselves only took me about half an hour. I say museum in its loosest term as the attraction is a series of information boards as well as the boats, which you can climb aboard and wander around. The staff are friendly and give you an introduction tour where hence you are welcome to look around by yourself. The larger vessel, from an original order of 9 to be named after the country’s regions, although only one was eventually built, is the most interesting to explore. Climbing down to the engine room, up to the bridge, Captain’s cabin, down to the toilet, NCOs quarters, galley, mess, and crew bunks gives you a slight glimpse into the life of the ten crew… And I must say, the Niederösterreich has a surprising amount of headroom. The highlights of my trip was the honest and no fuss aspect of the “museum”. I enjoyed negotiating the twisting steps and experiencing all aspects of the larger vessel at close quarters. Its great to see these boats being preserved and especially more so knowing that they are still in perfectly good working order.

Niederösterreich’s view to the engine room
PHOTOGRAPH BY Oliver Dorrell
Niederösterreich’s bridge
PHOTOGRAPH BY Oliver Dorrell
Niederösterreich’s crew mess
PHOTOGRAPH BY Oliver Dorrell

Boarding is along a narrow gangplank down to a floating platform, where you can then step onto the vessels. So wheelchair access is limited to viewing the information boards and boats from the distance of the dock. There are no refreshments and toilet facilities either, although the neighbouring beach club or city centre cafes would no doubt address that.

The museum is currently open from 9am till 12, on the first Sunday of each month with free admission. However, I would recommend consulting the HGM social media pages for up-to-date opening times and prices, before making any travel plans.

I arrived by car, although getting there by train from Vienna is straight forward with the S3, followed by a little walk. Driving from Vienna, take the A22 motorway exit Knoten Korneuberg Ost then turn left onto Wiener Straße street. Follow the road a short distance and turn left into Wien Ring road, (it should be the 5th turning on the left, just before entering the actual town centre). When you get to the roundabout, take the second exit and pass under the railway bridge, following the road down and under the motorway overpass. Take the next right into Am Hafen lane then the first left and follow the road around down to the end. I parked opposite the Korneuberg Anlegestelle Werft entrance. You then need to walk parallel next to the boat crane and beach club until you see a large red brick warehouse with red doors and large frontal windows. The museum is just off to its left.

The museum is hidden just around the corner of this period warehouse
PHOTOGRAPH BY Oliver Dorrell

Whilst the museum wouldn’t fill a day trip, it would make a great opportunity to see outside of Vienna. Korneuberg’s Town hall is beautiful and situated between Korneuberg and Stockerau is Burg Kreuzenstein castle, with tours and a bird of prey display, but that is the subject for a later article. Or why not combine your visit with an afternoon’s trip to Vienna’s HGM itself?

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Olivier C Dorrell

Olivier C Dorrell is the author of British Officer’s Peak Caps of the Second World War (Schiffer Books, 2014) and is the Webmaster of the Worcestershire Militaria Museum, virtual museum. He is interested in art and history, military history in particular, and is a keen visitor and supporter of museums and the unique experiences they offer.