Cold War

The Allied occupation of Austria

Background

This is a brief page based around events during the British participation in the Allied occupation of Austria after World War II, if you have a specific event or some detail to add please email james@britains-smallwars.com.

In 1938, Nazi Germany absorbed Austria as part of the Greater Reich with little reaction from the other European powers and the German army marched into Austria on March 12th.

Seven years later, the Soviet army entered Austrian territory on 30th March 1945 and captured Vienna on 13th April. US forces entered Austria on 30th April, with French and British troops following soon after. On 8th May 1945, Germany surrendered bringing an end to World War Two in Europe.

In the Soviet occupied eastern half of the country, the Soviets asked Karl Renner, a Socialist leader, to form and head a provisional government whom the Soviets believed they would be able to manipulate. Renner recruited the leaders of the three nonfascist parties and established a city administration in Vienna in early April 1945.

On 27th April 1945, the provisional government issued a decree nullifying the Anschluss and reestablishing an independent, democratic Republic of Austria. The formation of the provisional government in the Soviet-occupied part of Austria surprised the Western Allies and they declined to recognise it, fearing a Soviet puppet government. As political figures became active in the western occupied sectors of Austria, the Soviet allow the provisional government to establish contact with them.

In early July 1945, the Allies agreed the borders dividing the country into the occupations zones, which had not been set beforehand unlike those of Germany. Vienna's city center came under four power control, but the remainder as divided into specific occupation zones. The Allied Council held ultimate authority in Austria, each power was represented by its Zonal commanders. Each power had the power of veto on decisions of the council.

The council first met in early September of 1945, but the Western Allies continued to decline to recognize the Renner government. Soon after, the government met in Vienna with parties from all the occupation zones. The representatives agreed to national elections and the provisional government expanded to accommodate national representatives. Due to these moves, the Allied Council recognized the government on 20th October 1945.

On 25th November 1945 the first national elections since 1930 were held, the Nazi party was banned from participating and the nationalist camp was sharply curtailed by this.

The Austrian People's Party (Österreichische Volkspartei/ÖVP) gained 50% and eighty-five seats in the Nationalrat, Socialist Party of Austria (Sozialistische Partei Österreichs/SPÖ) received 45% and seventy-six seats and the Communist Party of Austria (Kommunistische Partei Österreichs/KPÖ) received 5% of the vote and four seats.

The government preserved the three-party coalition with the distribution of cabinet seats adjusted, the KPO received only the Ministry for Electrification. Renner was elected to the position of President of the republic, although this was largely ceremonial.

In 1946 a new control agreement was agreed between the four powers, weakening the Allied influence on Austria as it became apparent that Austria was pursuing a democratic route. The allied members veto power over Austrian legislation was replaced with the need for a unanimous vote by the council to reject any legislation. Agreements between one of the occupying powers and Austria would not be subject to a veto, but constitutional laws required the approval of the Allied council. All others laws would take effect in 31 days unless rejected by the council.

Between 1946 and 1953 the Austrian government implemented more than 550 laws over the objection of the Soviet Union. One such measure was the Soviet seizure of German assets in July 1946 as war reparations. To protect the Austrian economy the Austrian government nationalized all German assets, but when the Soviet Union attempted to veto the nationalisation law it was overruled by the western allies. This did not prevent the Soviet Union from seizing assets in its occupation zone.

The Soviet Union attempted to block Austria's participation in the Marshall Plan and the KPO pulled out of the government over the issue. However, 1946 Control Agreement enabled Austria to freely sign up to the plan and also join the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation.

In 1955, the State Treaty was sign which restored Austria's sovereignty and ended the Allied occupation. The country effectively became a neutral, much like Switzerland. Negotiations began in January 1947 and in 1948 the Soviet Union dropped its support for Yugoslavian claims against Austrian territory. In 1953, after Stalin died, the Austrian government sought to break the stalemate by proposing Austrian neutrality between the western and eastern military blocs. The Indian ambassador to Moscow acted as an intermediary between Austria and Moscow and the Soviet Union continued to insist that the fate of Germany be decided first.

In February 1955, the Soviet Union became willing to settle the Austrian question. Fours day or intense Austrian-Moscow negotiations produced a draft treaty based on Austrian neutrality. The Western Allies accepted, but grudgingly as they feared this would become a model for Germany and objected to a proposed four-power guarantee of Austrian neutrality, which they feared would allow Soviet intervention in Austria. This proposal was dropped under strong Western opposition.

The final treaty, signed on 15th May 1955 forbade unification with Germany or restoration of the Habsburgs and provided safeguards for Austria's Croat and Slovene minorities. Austrian neutrality and a ban on foreign military bases in Austria were later incorporated into the Austrian constitution by the Law of 26th October 26 1955. 40,000 Soviet troops in Austria were withdrawn by late September and the small number of Western troops that remained were withdrawn by late October 1955.

The British Zone of Occupation

The British zone of occupation was mainly the southern part of Austria including Eastern Tirol, Carinthia and Styria. The British Forces Network maintained radio stations in Graz, Vienna and Klagenfurt.

Part of Britains zone of occupation in Austria was Carinthia, which was freed on 8th may 1945 the day the German Wehrmacht capitulated. However a new threat emerged almost immediately despite a provisional government being set up only the day before. Tito's partisan army marched into Carinthia from Yugoslavia, proclaiming Yugoslavian military control. British forces rolled into Carinthia and brought the Yugoslav control in southern Carinthia to an end on 20th May 1945.

The partisans had arrested 263 Carinthia civilians, only a few were Nazis and transported to Yugoslavia only a handful ever returned. The British urged the Yugoslav partisans to withdraw until they finally did, preventing more bloodshed.

Yugoslavia pursued its claim against Carinthia until 1949, when the Allies overruled Yugoslavia's claims at the Paris conference in June of that year and proclaimed Austria's borders were to remain the same as at the beginning of 1938.


 

British senior military figures in Austria 1945-1955

British High Commissioner in Austria

Lieutenant-General Sir Richard McCreery - July 1945 to 1946
General Sir James S Steele - 1946 to October 1947
Major General Sir Alexander Galloway - October 1947 to 1st January 1950
General Thomas J.W. Winterton - 1st January 1950 to 12th June 1950
Sir Harold Caccia - 12th June 1950 to 4th February 1954
Sir Geoffrey Wallinger - 4th February 1954 to 1955

Commander in Chief British Troops Austria

Lieutenant-General Sir Richard McCreery - July 1945 to 1946
General Sir James S Steele - 1946 to October 1947
Major General Sir Alexander Galloway - October 1947 to 1st January 1950
General Thomas J.W. Winterton - 1st January 1950 to 12th June 1950
Major-General Robert E. Urquart - 1952-1955

Commandant of Vienna, Austria

George V. Palmer - July 1945 to November 1945
Major-General Gerald L. Verney - November 1945 to May 1946
S.W. Gordon-Smith - June 1946 to December 1946
John Harold Hogshaw - December 1946 to November 1949
Cyril Knowles - November 1949 to 1952
A.E. Howard - 1952 to September 1955

British Units deployed to Austria

This page will feature a list of units which served in Austria during the decade of the occupation. If you wish to add a unit to this list, please email james@britains-smallwars.com. We hope to include all units eventually, please include dates and commanding officers if possible.

3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards 1945
1 Bn Dorsetshire Regiment 1952
1 Bn The Green Howards, stationed in Graz in 1953 and moved to Minden, Germany later. CO was Lt COl Miller.
1st Royal Gloucestershire Hussars 1945 to 1948, returning to the UK.
2nd Bn Royal Hampshire Regt. 1947/48, CO Lt Col Robinson
16th Bn DLI 1945 to Unzmarkt, disbanded 1946?
2nd Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, commanded by Lieut. Colonel J F Snow was in Carinthia, Austria, from February 1947 to February 1948. Their Headquarters were in Volkermarkt.
1st Bn Middlesex Regt. 1952/3
1 Bn East Yorkshire Regiment, posted to Austria in 1945. Amalgamated with 2nd Battalion 14th September 1948, billetted in what had previously been an SS barracks, in Wetzelsdorf a suburb of Graz. The East Yorks were based in Austria until at least August 1949.
1 Bn West Yorkshire Regiment, posted to Austria in 1948. Amalgamated with 1st Battalion 14th September 1948, then went onto either Egypt or Palestine.
Royal Irish Fusiliers, in Austria at Volkermarkt. (dates unclear at least 1946).
1st BN Royal Ulster Rifles until 1/1948.

2 Calibration Troop, RA. September 1945 under Command of Capt.S.R. Worthy.
Edelscrott-Salla Artillery Calibration Range
5th Survey regiment, R.A. in Austria May-Oct 1945
Commanders:
   1943- July 1945 Lt. Col A. Wedgwood, O.B.E.
   July-Aug 1945 Lt. Col. H.R. Elmes, M.B.E
   Aug-Oct 1945 A/CO Maj. M.R. Draycott, M.B.E.
BC 49 Bty
   1944-45 Maj M.R. Draycott
   1945 Sept Maj. W.H.M. Baker, M.C.
BC 50 Bty
   1944 Aug Maj. W.H. Stair
   1945 Aug Maj I.L.F. Mackay
Adjutant
   1943 Sept Capt. P.W. Tagney
   1945 June Capt. E.W. Brantingham
Regiment was involved in taking over camps of PoWs and DPs, May-June Reichenfels, Odbach and Smetz,July Gros Reifling. Sept Mautern & St Michael
49 Supply Depot
117 Coy RASC(MT)
FS Carinthia
Royal Signals (8th Army Signals Regiment), during 1946 and 1947 I served in Vienna with the Royal Signals (8th Army Signals Regiment ). I was part of 4 High Speed Wireless Troop - we operated wireless and teleprinter links mainly with the War Office in London. We were billeted in Schoenbrun Barracks and ou r signals office was in the palace.
North Irish Horse, 1945. Vienna november 1945, moved to Germany 13/1/1946.

43 Squadron, RAF. Spitfire VIIIs at Klagenfurt, 11th May 1945 to 10th September 1945. Moved from Klagenfurt to Zeltweg as part of 324 wing.
72 Squadron, RAF. Spitfire LF IX's at Kagenfurt, 11th May 1945 to 8th September 1945. Moved from Klagenfurt to Zeltweg as part of 324 wing.
93 Squadron, RAF. Spitfire IXs at Klagenfurt 16th May 1945 to 5th September 1945 when disbanded.
111 Squadron, RAF. Spitfire IXEs at Klagenfurt , 16th May 1945 to 12th September 1945. Moved from Klagenfurt to Zeltweg as part of 324 wing.
Detachment from 187 Squadron, RAF. Dakotas at Schwecat (Vienna) October to December 1946.
225 Squadron, RAF. Spitfire IXs at Klagenfurt 11th October 1945 to 11th June 1946.
Detachment from 238 Squadron, RAF. Dakotas at Schwecat (Vienna) December 1946 to November 1947.
Detachment from 525 Squadron, RAF. Warwick IIIs at Schwecat (Vienna) July 1945 to December 1946.
651 Squadron, RAF. Auster Vs at Klagenfurt 10th May 1945 to 7th October 1945. 

LINKS:

Big Four End Austria Rule
Districts of Greater Vienna - Occupation 1945

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