KuK Machinegun Detachments in the Austro-Hungarian Army

Although Machine Guns were not new in the beginning of WW1 they were still quite rare in the Austro-Hungarian army with only 2.700 pieces in the entire army.

During the war the importance of the machinegun became clear and many new machineguns were produced and deliverd to the infantry but also to cavalry units (that often became dismounted) during the war and of course the mountain troops. By the end of the war more than 40.500 machineguns would be in use!

Machine gun units could be recognized by the specific collar badge as can be seen above (not my collection) and sometimes also by the clothing in the case of cavalry units as can be seen in the photo’s furher below.

The back from the postcard above, also part of Honvéd Huszar unit!

Cavalry: KuK Dragoons and Honved Hussars

The cavalry units that became dismounted during the war and most often acted as regular infantry. They also had machinegun detachments in their regiments. The collar badge was the same as can be seen with the Huszar in the photo above. But the clothing could be different, specifically the jackets had some different versions.

Honved Cavalry Machinegun detachments Field Grey Fur Jacket (lower photo from the book The Emperor’s Coat).

Dragoon officer of a Machinegun detachment with the regular Dragoon’s fur coat with white lambskin and not the black version. See pictures below from The Emperor’s coat again.

Cavalry Machine Gun unit with a nice variation of all of the coats shown and discussed above! Both the Honvéd and the regular KuK cavalry versions


KUK IR 48 – Machinegun Instruction detachment

And as last picture from my collection the Belobende Anerkennung (Bronze Signum Laudis medal equivalent) or honorable acknowledgment for the Commander of a Machinegun Instruction unit of KuK Infantry Regiment 48, received when he left this command.


Sources: The Emperor’s Coat by Dr. Ortner

All period pictures and the paperwork are part of my collection

Return of Transylvania to Hungary in 1940 – Koloszvár and Nagyvárad

Second Vienna treaty

As a result of the 2nd Vienna treaty Transylvania was returned to Hungary in 1940. It had been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire but became part of Romania in 1920 as a part of the Trianon treaty. In 1940 a large part of the population was still affiliated to Hungary and also many people were of Hungarian decent and language. The return was a military action but without any confrontation.

Photo album

Here some pages from a photo album of an officer (name unknown) that was part of this action. It has been painted to become a work of art in that period. The album also contains some later actions that I will share in another blog soon. The cities of Koloszvár and Nagyvárad are the focus of these pages.


Officers of Marchbatallion XXVI, BH2 – Bosnian Herzegovian Infantry Regiment 2 – Italian Front

These are pictures of an officer from Trautenau who volunteered (1 year volunteer) and became an officer in BH2 together with several of his friends or familiy members. The earlier pictures in this blog came from the same album!

Photo while still as an aspiring officer (so NCO in rank, training as an officer) in 1916
Sitting in the middle
Back row, second from left, now as a decorated officer (in training)
On the right side
And as a decorated officer in 1918

Offensive Group Edelsbrunner BH2 (Bosnian/Bosniaken) – Golden Bravery Medal

Bosnian Herzegovian Infantry

Bosnia Herzegovina became part of the Austro-Hungarian empire only in 1878. Nevertheless its capital Sarajevo would be the scene of the start of World War 1 in 1914 by the assination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand.

The AH regimental system was regional so each regiment would get men from a specific region. This way four Bosnian Herzegovian Infantry Regiment were formed. Officers (on purpose) would come from a different region. These regiments were numbered BH1 to BH4.

Golden Bravery Medals

Despite the fact that they had been linked to the Austro Hungarian empire for a very short time or maybe even because of this the 4 Bosnian Herzegovian Infantry Regiments that were formed in WW1 would get the highest number of gallantry (Golden Bravery) medals in the entire AH army.

The average of these Golden Bravery medals was around 10 per regiment but the BH2 Infantry Regiment would get the highest amount of all, 42! The runner up regiment would get 36 Golden Bravery medals. There was even a saying in the AH army – “The Bosnians are coming” which would bring fear to the enemies as they were seen as fierce fighters.

More about the bravery medals can be found in my earlier blog.

Officers in BH2

As a large part of the Bosnians were Islamic the Fez was worn as the standard hat in these units for all men, independ of belief! Officers not being from the same region could choose if they would wear “normal” officers hats or also the Fez like in the picture below.

An album in my collection has photo’s from several related (two brothers with family name Almasi) and befriended officers coming from the same “German” city of Trautenau in the current Czech Republic.

It seems they al went as volunteer (1 year) officers to the war. Several of them becoming officers in BH2. Below Leopold Erben from Trautenau who also, as an officer in training, would earn a Golden Bravery medal for BH2 in 1918!

Leopold Erben GTM, BH2

Offensive Group Edelsbrunner

One photo has the caption of “Offensivgruppe Edelsbrunner” named after its leading officer, Edmund Edelsbrunner, also from Trautenau! He was also one of the 42 people in BH2 who was awarded the Golden Bravery medal.

He would receive it during his training period for officers (so still NCO for the awarding of medals) in 1915. During the rest of the war he would remain very active even getting an Iron Crown order 3rd class as a lieutenant which is very rare for such a low ranking officer, almost only flight aces would get that honour.

A specific event is mentioned in the book “Die Bosniaken kommen” by Werner Schachinger. In the book his group is mentioned as a “Nachrichten” or reconaissance group. This part is about his role in the 12th and decisive Isonzo battle. Probably this is the action for which he received the Iron Crown order!

“After the arrival of the main group of BH2 1st Lt Edelsbrunner and his men detached themselves again and went north. While two companies of BH2 were involved in heavy streetfights in the city of Forgaria. In the meantime Edelsbrunner circled around the city and went straight for Anduin capturing an Italian Artillery unit in the proces. He captured 7 pieces of artillery, 12 machineguns and other materials but also 600 Italian soldiers. The struggle for the bridge of Cornino was over after this. He earned the title of “Ramssurimann of Anduin” for this from the men of BH2″

All of these pictures come from the same album in my collection. I will publish some more in another blog soon.

Austro-Hungarian Storm Troops, Roham Csapat – 16 Honved Infantry Regiment (HIR)

Elite units of the Austro Hungarian army in WW1

During the first world war the Germans developed a new tactic using assault troops armed with hand grenades and machine guns. These were seen as elite troops and would get new types of equipment first. Based on the good results of these troops on the Western Front the Austro-Hungarians started sending units to the German Storm Courses. In 1917 they also started developing their own courses. Most regiments would have their own Storm Troops.

Before the Storm Troops the Austro-Hungarian army also had “Jagdkommando’s” on the Russian front as a form of elite unit. Their use was not widespread.

Jagd Kommando at the Russian front – using winter camouflage and riflegrenades.
Remembrance of the Hunting commando in Russia

Badges – Kappenabzeichen

As there were no official insignia for regiments an unofficial type of badge was worn on the hats, the so called Kappenabzeichen. Started unofficial the use became widespread and broadly accepted in the entire Austro-Hungarian army. They exist for regiments, divisions, armies but also for special occasions, leaders etc. Most units with Storm Troops would have a specific badge for them but also some generic Storm Troop badges exist.

Kappenabzeichen being worn by an officer.

Group belonging to a 16 HIR Stormtrooper

Group belonging to one man

The group exists of a dog tag, a knife, a small St Christopher statue and a course guide for the complete storm course in Hungarian and the extremely rare cap badge of the Stormtroopers of the 16th Honved Infantry Regiment. It is probably one of the rarest Kappenabzeichen as it was only made in a very small quantity, maybe even in a workshop and not as most by a factory.

Storm Course

Storm Courses would take 12 to 14 days. The programme booklets are very seldomly seen, only in museums as far as I know. Here a page from the inside of the booklet which seems to be a Hungarian language version of the info shown in the book “Storm Troops” by C. Ortner on which it is pictured. Grenade throwing was a important part of the course as can be seen in the photo’s.

In the Hungarian language the Stormtroops are called Roham Csapat or a stormtrooper a Rohamista as can be seen in the document below for the 1914-18 Hungarian medal:

Below some more Storm Troop related pictures. All pictures and materials are from my own collection.

Sources:

“Csak elore, edes fiam…”, Hermann Attila – Szanyi Miklos, Meliusz Kozpont 2012

Storm Troop, M. Christian Ortner, Verlag Militaria 2005E

Broken wings – APRA revolution participants?

Westerling

Captain Westerling had been the commander of the Special Forces (Korps Speciale Troepen) between 1946 and 1948 and had a great impact on these forces for the majority of their existence. In 1949 he had become a private citizen and started a transport company on Java. Although he had left the army he was still a man with infleunce in military circles.

Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1

APRA

Somehere in 1949 he had formed a secret small private army called the APRA, in Malayan: Angketan Perang Ratu Adil or translated “Legion of the Just Ruler”. By the end of 1949 the Dutch had handed over the sovereignty to Indonesia but the situation had not yet stabilized. There was unrest and there were several revolts.

Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1

Revolt

Westerling with his APRA also planned and executed a failed revolt on January 23rd 1950, only a month after the independence of Indonesia. Westerling’s aim was the continuation of the independent region Pasundan on Java. In order to do this he planned to take over the cities Djokjakarta and Bandoeng. His group of around 400 men consisted mainly of former military and police forces. Among these men were around 125 active Special Forces soldiers that had deserted shortly before this planned revolt.

Most of the men that participated in this illegal action were caught. The men that were still officially serving in the Netherlands East Indies Army were sentenced as deserters by the Dutch Military Authorities were interned and not handed over to the Indonesian authorities. Most went to the Netherlands after their sentence.

Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1

Those APRA men that fell in the hands of the Indonesian Authorities were senteced for the participation in a revolt against the state and would have a very different fate with long prison sentences.

Broken Wings hypothesis

From the estate of Sergeant Major Intructor Hans Kloër came a group of wings. These were taken in 1950 from indigenous men of the Special Forces and should have been destroyed the story goes in the family. A small amount of them seem indeed to have been deliberately broken/clipped, roughly in the same location so probably using the same method or tool.

Broken Wings – from the estate of Sergeant Major Intructor Hans Kloër

Why would these wings have been deliberately destroyed? The badge was still in use in 1950 and would remain so untill 1954 in the Dutch army for those that had been qualified. Normally the army does not destroy property that can be re-used!

My hypothesis is that there is a link with the APRA revolt in 1950. Were these wings from some of the 125 men Speciale Troepen that participated in this action? During the action all sorts of uniforms can be seen but none of the men wear a red beret with the wing or any other insignia linking them to the Special Forces.

The breaking of this wing is a very strong symbolic action. Had the APRA men done this themselves before deserting? Has the army done so after they were taken into custody and sentenced as deserters? Maybe we will never know but working from the APRA link hypothesis I will continue to research!

Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1

Sources:

http://www.gahetna.nl/collectie/index/nt00336/achtergrond/andere-groepen/voormalige-apra-militairen

Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1 – all period photo’s are from this album in the museum collection.

More info about the estate in an earlier blog: https://www.erikscollectables.com/2019/01/16/korps-speciale-troepen-para-wings-from-the-estate-of-a-decorated-instructor/

Wing for Combat Jumps – Speciale Troepen KNIL aktiewing

The Netherlands East Indies Army Special Forces made three combat jumps in 1948 and 1949. A special wing to commemorate this was designed and worn.

Djokjakarta

The first and most important combat jump was part of the so called 2nd Politionele Actie. A large scale military action against the Indonesian army. The military aim was to reclaim Djokjakarta that was in Indonesian hands. The action started with a combat jump by the Para Battle Group of the Speciale Troepen on the airfield Magoewo close to Djokjakarta. The action started on December 19th 1948.

The preparations for “Operation Crow” as this large scale airborne operation was called had already started in january of 1948 when the 1st Para Company was combined with the 2nd Para Company of the Korps Speciale Troepen. The unit was renamed in Para Battle Group (para gevechtsgroep) and led by Captain Eekhout. After the airfield was taken from the Indonesian army, planes with the commando’s of the Korps Speciale Troepen and 2 infantry units were flown in to take the whole city of Djokjakarta back.

Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1

The Airborne troops were transported in 16 Dakota C-47 planes and a total of 250 para’s made this combat jump. A very extensive description of the further action can be found in the sources (in Dutch).

Djambi

Shortly after this action the men had to make a second combat jump. This was already on December 29th 1948, only 10 days after the first combat jump. This time the action was on the Island of Sumatra to secure the oil fields of Djambi.

Rengat

Soon again a 3rd combat jump would be made during “Operation Mud (Modder)” in Rengat, again protecting oil fields in Sumatra. This time only the 1st Para Company would make the jump.

In a period spanning less than 3 weeks 3 combat jumps were made by approximately 350 men in total (not all men in all three jumps).

Qualification Wing – with golden laurel for combat jumps

The wing that was used as a qualification wing in 1947 was redesigned in 1949 for those who had particiapted in one or more of these combat jumps. A golden laurel (as in the beret wing) was added to the basic design. As with all badges in the Netherlands East Indies there were metal and cloth versions. The metal versions of the badges were only made and worn in the Netherlands East Indies Army. Of those only around 350 were ever made of which many owners remained in the new Indonesia. This wing is now very rare and highly collectable! There are several versions of this wing of different size and production.

The same design in cloth (with some slight alterations over time) could be worn up to 1985 when the last person that had made combat jumps in Indonesia left the army. More recently Dutch Commando’s made combat jumps in Afghanistan and a new (cloth) wing for combat jumps with the same golden laurel design has come into existence.

Below four period photo’s of the metal wing for combat jumps being worn, all taken from internet sources.

Sources:

https://www.dutchdefencepress.com/vechten-in-een-oorlog-die-zo-niet-mocht-worden-genoemd-%E2%80%93-deel-2/ 

https://www.dutchdefencepress.com/vechten-in-een-oorlog-die-zo-niet-mocht-worden-genoemd-%E2%80%93-deel-3/

Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1

Korps Speciale Troepen para wings from the estate of a decorated Instructor

Hans Ulrich (Boy) Kloër was a Sergeant Major Intructor for the Netherlands East Indies Army Special Forces.

All personell of the School for Airborne Training (SOP – School Opleiding Parachutisten) also were active in the large scale operations of the Special Forces and most importantly directly involved in the three combat jumps that were made by these Special Forces.

Estate

As an Airborne instructor he took in the wings in 1950 from indigenous troops after the colonial army was disbanded. Those who remained in Indonesia had to hand over all their surplus materials. He kept these wings during all his life, he passed away in 2006.

From this estate several wings have come to the market and I have been able to buy some of these for my collection. You can see all three period (silver/bronze/brass) variations of of the wings but in different conditions. Some have been higly polished during a longer time, others are bend to slightly curve in the form of the beret.

Bronze Lion

Kloër was decorated for his role in these combat jumps with the Bronze Lion, the second highest decoration for Gallantry in the Netherlands! Between 1944 and 1963 only 1211 were awarded and more recently for actions in Afghanistan is has been awarded a few times again.

Awarded by Royal Decree No 25 of December 9th 1949:

Has distinguished himself by very brave and faithful service in the face of the enemy.

After having distinguished himself by his cool and brave performance as Commander of a group Airborne Troops on December 19th 1948 by, after having landed on the Magoewo Airfield (Djokjakarta), breaking the enemy resistance and capturing a large quantity of arms and ammunition, after which on December 29th 1948 and January 5th 1949 again participated in an exemplary manner during the capture of the oilfields of Tempino (Djambi) and Rengat.

Due to his brave and resolute performance the drill towers and pumping stations fell into the hands of the Airborne Troops unharmed, although a large and fanatic group of enemies tried to prevent this. Singlehandedly Kloër disarmed the explosives on several of the drill towers. In less than 3 hours 108 drill towers in a range of 1 to 2 kms and also stations for pumps, radio and electricity were saved from destruction and fire and the city cleansed from hostile elements.

Again after the landing on Rengat he showed himself as a brave and persistent leader, who, after breaking the enemy resistance with his Airborne Troops, capturing the electricity plant and without hesitation by himself extinguish the already lit fuses of bombs just in time before exploding.

In the Netherlands with ribbon for the Bronze Lion

Many thanks to the family for allowing me to use these photo’s! All materials apart from the wings are still part of the family estate.

Source:  Erik Müller, 1944-2016 De Bronzen Leeuw. Voor bijzonder moedige en beleidvolle daden

Read also more about some Broken Wings from the same estate: https://www.erikscollectables.com/2019/02/01/broken-wings-apra-revolution-participants/

Special Forces badges of the Netherlands East Indies Army (1946-1950) – KNIL Speciale Troepen KST schild

Short history of the Special Forces of the Netherlands East Indies Army

The Depot Speciale Troepen came into existense in 1946 on the island of Java. It was a commando unit similar to WW2 English units were the intructors had been trained. They wore the green commando beret and would exist of 3 companies. Parallel to this an Airborne unit, the 1st Para Company was established in 1947 wearing the famous red berets and para wing. In 1948 the Depot Speciale Troepen was transformed to the Korps Speciale Troepen which included also one Para-Commando unit called the 2nd Para Company, Green Berets with the para wing!

For “Operation Crow” a large scale airborne operation with combat jump the 1st Para Company and the 2nd Korps Speciale Troepen Para Company were combined in one Para Battle Group. In 1949 all of these units were included in the Regiment Speciale Troepen.

Badges in the 1946-1950 period

In the post 1945 period all Dutch forces in the East Indies designed badges for their units. At first unofficially but soon this custom became official. Most badges were made in metal and coloured with a thin layer of paint/enemal. If used the paint would often chip so to find perfect examples is hard.

Secondary versions were also made in cloth and sometimes even different versions and sizes in metal. The most well known maker was Cordesius & Zn in Batavia but other makers existed andoften used slightly different colours and not always had the same quality.

For the Speciale Troepen a badge was approved in December 1947. Only one metal version is known (version with no maker markings). Several cloth versions exist but the most common version is a high quality version with bullion details, these were locally made.

In 1949 there were three companies of Commando’s, approximately 450 men and two companies op Para’s approximately 350 men. So around 750 men were qualified to wear the Speciale Troepen badge.

Cloth version being worn on the trip to Europe on the English style Battle Dress

Below the metal and cloth version of the badge that probably belonged to the same person. These are probably the best preserved examples I have ever seen.

Also several copies of the cloth insignia exist were the best known version is from the 1980s and is easily recognizable as a fake.

On the trip from Indonesia to the Netherlands the soldiers would get English style battle dresses for use in Europe. On these battle dresses cloth badges would be worn, as can be seen in the first picture of this blog. After 1954 only the cloth jump qualification wings could be worn including those with action jumps. Soon the circle under the parachute would change to a small rectangle as on English jump wings.

Version of the badges being worn are hard to find. In the pictures (from internet) you can see them being worn but none in full view.

Person on the left also wears the badge.
These 2 badges and the beret wing belonged to one person!

Sources: https://www.militairespectator.nl/sites/default/files/bestanden/uitgaven/1997/1997-0149-01-0047.PDF

Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) Reserve badge

In the years leading up to World War 2 the Netherlands East Indies started also making preparations. On of these was extending the amount of men that could be called to arms in the form of a reserve. The largest base for this were former (indigenous) men of the KNIL that had been honorably discharged.

To increase the visibility of the reserve a badge was introduced in November 1939. The badge was worn on the civilian clothing. A version of this badge is shown above. In 1941 the total reserve of former KNIL men amounted to 4700.

How many badges were actually made and handed out remains unclear but looking at the potential number of 4700 and only two years of use of the badge (1940/41) and the fact that the majority of these indigenous reservists became POW’s in 1942/1945 and most of these remained in Indonesia after WW2 it can be considered a rare badge now.

Other versions of reserve badge for the Royal Legions (Surakarta/Jogjakarta/Madura) also exist and can be considered even rarer! So far I have found no pictures of the badges being worn.