The history project will, I hope, eventually provide a historical narrative that will add meaning and context to the list of unannotated newsreel and text links (see below) I inherited as webmaster when I began updating the club’s old website in late 2022.
The goal of the project is to publish texts and stories (they can be personal stories) to illustrate the history of the British military and post-war presence in Carinthia.
The project is open to all club members who feel they have a story to contribute to the narrative or who would like to work on developing existing material. We’re particularly interested in recording the stories of members who have personal memories of the days of the British military presence and documenting locations in Carinthia that bear testimony to the British presence here.
The foundation of the Austro-British Society of Carinthia in 1946 was a direct result of World War II and the British military occupation of Carinthia, which began almost immediately after the war and ended when British troops left a newly sovereign and independent Austria in October 1955.
The purpose of the society was to promote mutual understanding between the Austrian and British people, a task that has been undertaken since by generations of British speakers and Austrians and continues to this day, more than 70 years later.
The British military presence in Carinthia proper, if that’s the right word, began on May 8, 1945, when British and Commonwealth troops advancing northwards from Italy occupied the state. But they were preceded by others – mainly, and involuntarily, by the British and Commonwealth prisoners of war captured by German forces during the campaigns in Greece and Crete, and later North Africa and Italy, who were transferred to the Stalag XVIII A prisoner of camp in Wolfsberg and its associated work camps around Carinthia. (See our Stalag XVIII A page for more info and stories.)
Then there were the more fleeting but very real agents of UK military intelligence who liaised with Yugoslav partisans in the clandestine fight against the Nazis and their allies. The vast majority will remain invisible and nameless, but one of them, Major “Alfgar” Hesketh-Prichard, is commemorated by name on a memorial – in the Carinthian town of Völkermarkt, east of Klagenfurt – dedicated to partisans killed fighting against the Germans. There is no doubt that Hesketh-Prichard is not buried there, but the circumstances of his death and his fate remain shrouded in mystery. We will be publishing what is known about the partisan memorial and Hesketh-Prichard’s fate in the near future as part of the project.
While there may be few physical reminders of the British presence in Carinthia, there is one huge exception, and that is the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Klagenfurt, which contains mainly the graves of servicemen who died in captivity, airmen who were shot down or crashed while flying over the country, and those who died while serving with the army of occupation after the war. We have added a separate page on the War Cemetery that will eventually contain photos, more history, and stories about some of the soldiers buried there.
The bottom line of the British miliary presence in Carinthia (and neighbouring Styria) during and after World War II, is that the British may have come first as prisoners of war and then victors, but they left ten years later as the best of friends.
The History Project is very much a work in progress. You’re very welcome to join us. If you’d like to, and you can’t make it to the next club night, send a message using the Contact form above or on our Facebook page.
And finally, here are the links I mentioned above. Enjoy!
1945 – 1955 British Troops in Austria
Montgomery in Austria – 1944 (Pathé, YouTube)
The footage of Monty cannot possibly be from 1944. Initial research, courtesy of Austrian and UK newspaper archives, suggests Monty travelled to Carinthia from Athens, via Trieste and Udine in December 1946 to visit British troops stationed here. There will be a story here soon with details some of the places he visited, including Klagenfurt, Pörtschach, Spittal, and the Loibl Pass.
Austria to Charing Cross (Pathé, YouTube)
Weekly Review No. 205 (1945) (900 Ex-Kriegies Home)
(NZ archive news on Stalag18A POWs preparing to return home via Klagenfurt)
Victory Parade In Vienna (1945) (British Pathé)
WW2 Food For Viennese School Children, Vienna, Austria, 09/17/1945
British troops occupy Austria (Graz and Vienna) (1945)
Imperial War Museum – Photos of Carinthia (search link does not work; probably needs updating with a new search)
BAOR (British Army of the Rhine) Locations Austria
BMH Klagenfurt Austria – 31st British General Hospital (photographs, memories and information about the 31st BGH that was at Jäger Barracks in Lendorf, just outside Klagenfurt in Austria)
Robert GI Maxwell- Austria, 1945-50 (link does not work; wonder what that was all about?)
Nachkriegsalltag in Kärnten 1945–1955 (link does not work; ask KLA what it might have been)
Austria Wochenschau – Leaving Austria
Unterzeichnung des Österreichischen Staatsvertrags / Signing of the Austrian State Treaty (May 13th 1955)