By Willy Wenger
copyright Wilhelm Wenger and Carolyn Yeager
The young Wenger family in 1928 - Bibi is 6, Willy 2
Our father Leopold Wenger was born 1893 in Bad Gleichenberg, Styria, Austria. Our mother Grete was born in 1896 in Marburg, Styria and became a teacher in the primary school in Bad Gleichenberg.
When 14 years old, my father (pictured right) entered into the 4-year technical high school of the Austrian Imperatorial and Royal Navy (Maschinenschule der österr. k+k Kriegsmarine) from where he obtained the license of a leading engineer. The school was located at the Navy's first harbour in Pola (today Pula, Croatia). He took part in the great naval parade in Plymouth during the coronation of George V in June 1911, on board the Austrian battleship “Radetzky.” At that period the Austrian navy was 5th or 6th in the world. More than 200 ships had been anchored in front of the South Coast near Spithead. All maritime nations had been invited to send warships to represent themselves, and it was the most gigantic show of the fleet ever seen.
Above: The Austrian battleship S.M.S. Radetzky arrives to England on May 6, 1911, with Leopold Sr. as part of the crew.
Above: Warships assembled at Spithead for King George's first naval review.
My father was very unhappy when, after WWI, Austria lost its access to the sea. For him the sea had become his homeland. He thus named his small house in Bad Gleichenberg Seemannslos, “the refuge of a sailor,” situated in South-eastern Styria, not far from the Hungarian border to the east and the Slovenian border in the South. The countryside is agreeably hilly, topped by churches, Chateaux, castles—giving an idyllic and romantic look.
At right: The castle of Riegersburg - one of the most beautiful in Europe.
Agriculture is the main industry, with many apple orchards, vineyards in the southern part, corn all over, hot radish, and well known for its pumpkin seeds.