Captain Varga of the Hungarian River Guard, WW2

Naval Forces of Hungary in WW2

In April 1919 the Hungarian government established the Naval Forces (Hadihajós csapat, literally “warship group”) under the authority of the Defence Ministry for the purpose of patrolling the Danube. It was replaced on 1 March 1921 by the civilian Royal Hungarian River Guard (Magyar Királyi Folyamőrség) under the Interior Ministry. Between March 1927 and May 1930 it expanded to about 1700 personnel, a number that held until the end of World War II. On 15 January 1939 the River Guard was renamed the Royal Hungarian Army River Forces (Magyar Királyi Honvéd Folyami Erők) and placed under the Defence Ministry. It used naval ranks until 1 July 1944, when it switched to army ranks. In April 1941 it took part in the annexation of Yugoslavia. From April 1944 on its minesweepers assisted the Kriegsmarine (German navy) in clearing the Danube of aerial mines.Order of battle (1 April 1940)

  • Patrol Boat Regiment (Budapest)
    • I Group
    • II Group
  • River Security Regiment in Ujvidek/Novi Sad after April 1941)
    • 1 Battalion
    • 2 Battalion
    • 3 Battalion

The above was copied from Wikipedia

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Staff Captain Varga

The items shown here in photo’s come from the estate of Staff Captain (equivalent of Major in the army) Varga who emigrated to the US after WW2. Currently I have no photo’s or other info apart from what I will show below. The research has just started so I expect to update this page soon!

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From the ranklist of officers of the Hungarian forces the above picture. It shows he participated in the (re)annexation of Transylvania and Yugoslavia with his ship.

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And a copy (with thanks to the Hungarian Military Archives) of his basic information as stated in the Military Archives.

The generic Hungarian flag that was used on all boats of the River Guard. As there were few boats they are very rare today. Probably he took this from the last boat he was stationed on. I hope to find out which boat that was.

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Next to his flag also his parade belt with hangers for the Navy dagger has survived and a set of shoulder boards with his final rank of Captain.

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These items were part of the Otto Friedrich collection from Cleveland.

1956 – The Hungarian Revolution remembered in photo’s

This group of photo’s in my collection originates from a Hungarian refugee in Canada. After he or she passed away the photo’s were sold but the seller was not willing to release the name of the original owner/photographer. So here I present a group of never published photo’s of the Hungarian revolution.

Please be aware some of the photo’s are shocking and not proper for children. Some of the photo’s have captions stating the location. As far as available I will add them too. Other than that I will let the photo’s speak for themselves.

The Revolution of 1956 should never be forgotten and the participants deserve to be remembered by the current and future generations, both Hungarian and internationally. Freedom is worth fighting for!

Kalvin square with broken down street cars

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Soldiers, tanks and casualties on Tisza Kalman square

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A communist statue taken down!

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Broken down tank with Freedom fighter in front

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Canon in the damaged streets of Budapest

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A badly damaged streetcar

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The canon of the first photo from the other side?

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Barricades in the street with the text “Russians go home” in Hungarian and Russian…

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Portrait by Austro-Hungarian “war painter” Robert Fuchs, WW1

This portrait was made by Robert Fuchs (signed R Fuchs Im Felde 1917) I found it in Hungary some years back. So far I have not been able to establish who this officer is.

Robert Fuchs, “Kriegsmaler”

During the first worldwar the Austro-Hungarian empire used artist to make professional paintings of the war. Not only local but also foreign artists, even a quite famous Dutch artist acted as such, but that is a different story alltogether. These painters did not become part of the army but were paid by it for their services, they were called war painters or in German Kriegsmaler. Sometimes they were attached to a specific unit or a theatre of war.

See for pictures of a war painter at work my other blog!

Robert Fuchs, born in 1896 was such a painter. After the war he went on to become a fulltime professional artist after completing his studies on the Viennese Academy for the Arts. Despite specializing in portraits one of his most famous paintings became the official painting for the 1955 Austrian State treaty pictured below:

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Austro-Hungarian officer – R. Fuchs 1917 Im Felde

This portait is of a still unkown officer. Based on the awards he was quite successful in the war with at least an Austro-Hungarian Iron Crown order 3rd class. (first and highest award of the row of ribbons) which is quite rare for a mere captain. The other ribbons are of generic issue for war related medals. Probably one Military Merit cross 3rd class and two Military Merit medals, both the bronze and the silver version. Next to this he has two ribbons in the button hole. One is clearly for the German Iron Cross second class. The second probably is for the Turkish War medal. Those Iron Crescents are most often seen being worn on the breast and very seldom as here with a ribbon in the buttonhole.

The single loop on his shoulder in combination with the combination of medals hint at the possibility that he was one of the few Austro-Hungarian artillery men sent to fight on the Ottoman front with the Turks and the Germans.

More input for the naming of this officer is more than welcome!

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References: http://neustift-am-w…ler/fuchs1.html

Historical riddle – Dutch (neutral) officers on the Eastern front in WW1?

This is adapted and translated version of an article I published in Decorare in 2011

What is this photo?

After finding the photo that is the theme of this blog I saw myself confronted with something impossible. Dutch military officers among a group of Austro-Hungarian soldiers, so probably on the eastern front in the first World War?

As you may know the Netherlands were a neutral country during the first worldwar (and they tried, unsuccesfully, to do the same in the second world war – but that is a different story). Surrounded by warring countries the war had a great impact on the Netherlands but there was no military participation of any kind so the big question that arised is: what is the story of this photo?

The photo had a Hungarian text on the back that helped to shed some light on this. It can be translated as follows: Dutch officers visiting Lieutenant Colonel Safrán. So the Dutch are not participating but visiting the front and we know whom they were visiting, a good starting points for further research.

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Timeframe established!

Like most countries the Austro-Hungarian army also published rank lists with information on officers, these are a great source of information. During peacetime the lists (thick books) are almost perfect but during war time with rapid promotions, casulaties and all kinds of unregular changes they become less and less trustwothy. Nevertheless I could find (with the help of some research friends) that he was promoted to full Colonel in November 1917. So the photo must be from before that date. Another clue is the uniform the Dutch officers are wearing – it was only introduced in 1916 so the period is between 1916 and the end of 1917.

Study tours to the frontlines

Why would Dutch neutral officers visit the front of a war they are not part of? Well the First Worldwar changed the face of warfare in a shocking way. A neutral country could not learn from their own experience what this impact was. The only way to learn is by studying the experiences of others. So in that direction goes the second part of the research. There is only one publication on this subject written by Sven Maaskant. He states that between 1914 and 1920 approximately 60 tours were made by Dutch officers to study the effects of the war and the impact for the Dutch armed forces. After some research I succeed in contacting Maaskant and mail him a copy of the photo. He instantly recognized one of the Dutch officers. It is Lieutenant-Colonel T.F.J. Muller Massis who was the Dutch military aide to the Dutch embassies in Germany and Vienna between 1916 and 1920.

With that information he also can determine the specific trip out of the 60. Only one trip fits the participants, timeframe and location. It is a study tour to the Austro-Hungarian front that was made between June 25th and July 31st 1917. The four participants were: Colonel D.G. van der Voort Maarschalk, Lieutenant-Colonels T.F.J. Muller Massis and E.M. Carpentier Alting and Captain W.J. van Breen.

Carpentier Alting, an officer of the Dutch East Indies army is not in this picture, did he make it or was there another reason for his absence? The tour would have been organized by Muller Massis in his capacity of military aide in Berlin and Vienna. An officer that would raise to the rank of General and commander of the Dutch field army from 1922 until his pension in 1928 after which he would become a member of parliament untill 1948.

In 1933  Muller Massis donated a collection of helmets and gasmasks of different countries that participated in the war to the Dutch National Military Museum. He wrote about this: “The object were picked up by me during the visits I made to the battlefields. Further I still have the German gasmaks that was supplied to me in my function as military aide in Germany and that I wore on several fronts.”  The donation also held his collection of Austro-Hungarian distinctives. These are the so called “Kappenabzeichen”, unofficial badges worn on the military caps by Austro-Hungarian troops which he collected during these trips. On the picture in question can be seen that the 3 Dutch officers al wear such insignia on the left breast of their uniform.

What is the unit in the photo?

Some research on the Hungarian officer in the pictures gives the specific unit, the 10th Honved (Hungarian territorial army) Infantry Regiment (HIR) which was part of the 39th Honved Infantry Division which is confirmed by a “Kappenabzeichen” on the breast of one of the Dutch officers which is of this division.

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Wy this unit?

In March 1917 the 39th HID waged a very signifact battle against Russian troops on the realively new Rumanian front in which the 10th HIR of which Safrán was the commander played an important role. The entire unit was used as Stormtroops. The use of Stormtroops was a new military development of the Germans that was quickly adopted by their Austro-Hungarian allies. These troops were used mainly to force breaktroughs in the stallmate of trenchwarfare and new tactics and weapons were deployed by them. They were the first to get handgrenades and machine guns but also helmets and gasmasks which were not widely spread yet with the Austro-Hungarian army. They can be seen as an early variation of Special Forces within the army, receiving addtional training and equipment in comparison with the regular infantry.

The entire action of the 39th division would literally become a textbook example for the Hungarian (Ludovika) officers academy of a Stormtroop attack. In the fight for Hill 1504 (Magyaros near the Uz river) there were hardly any Austro-Hungarian casulaties but the Russians sufferend hundreds of casulaties and a multitude of were taken as Prisoners of War. A good reason for a visit of Dutch officers to learn from this example attack only a few months later especially a good promotion for the Austro-Hungarian army that struggled with its performance in other places.

From hypothesis to proof

The Dutch Institute for Military History has the archive of Muller Massis that also contains his (formerly SECRET) report from September 1917 on the “Commission sent to visit the Austro-Hungarian fronts”. It is a sort of diary of the trip with several appendices on specific military themes. In his reports he also describes how they received “Kappenabzeichen” as gifts. Here some translations relevant to this article:

“July 3rd.
With this regiment we learned 
for the first time about regimental and other insignia 
which were attached to the headwear.  
As momento of our visit to the  
von Hindenburg regiment we each received
a similar badge with a in white metal
portrait of the “Inhaber” or owner
surrounded by a wreath of laurels and a ribbon 
in enemal with the years 1914, 1915 and 1916
and the words v.hindenburg K.u.K. Inf. Reg. Nr. 69.”

That same badge is depicted below and is still part of the collection of the Dutch National Military Museum today.

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The report also confirms date and location of the photo.

“July 7th. 
    Guided by several officers
we visited the first line of defense of the 10th
Honved regiment, wich line was a very short
distance away from the enemy line. Here 
also the hostilites had not commenced again
which even made it possible to get in front of the trenches.
After visiting some trenches of neighbouring 9th Honved regiment,
we walked down to the customs office
The starting point of a forresttrain (waldbahn) to Rumania. 
from here we went back to the headquarters of the 39th division.

Without the mentioning of Safrán in the text we can date the picture to July 7th 1917. Most information was already completed when the confirmation in the form of the original report was found. This shows that with thorough research it is possible to determine much valuable information.

In order to do this I had help from several other researchers, many thanks to my friends in making this article possible!

Sources:

Hungarian Air Force WW2: pilot wings and cap badges

The Hungarian Air Force was built up in secret during the 1930s. Officially this was not allowed based on the Trianon treaty that was a result of World War 1. Also when the war started and they could openly built the Air Force further it remained rather small compared to other forces in the war making all insignia quite rare.

In most countries a pair of wings has become the standard symbol for an aviators qualification. In the Hungarian Air Force this was no different. What makes it a a bit more interesting is that almost the same design was used for cap badges. This leads to many mistakes by collectors, pilots wings are seen as cap badges and vice versa.

The distinction is actually quite easy. For the qualification badge the wings are straight and for the cap badges the wings are curved. Otherwise they are the same.

Pilot wings

There are basically two types of wings that were used in World War 2 by the Hungarian Air Force. One for the pilot and another for the observer (navigator). The only difference between these is that the pilot has a crown above the eagle and the observer not.

The wings are made of cloth with gold bullion stitching. There is no difference in rank visible in the badge – which makes it different from most Hungarian badges like on the cap badges we will discuss next.

The wings were worn (sewn on) on the right breast above the top pocket of the 1930M Air Force officers uniform (that I will discuss in another blog).

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 Worn version of the pilot wings, front and back below

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Metal versions of these wings were also officially made but these seem to have only been given to non-Hungarian pilots as “exchange” badges.Metal version awarded to a german pilot (photo from the internet, not my collection)

The observer wings were introduced later in the war and were worn by the officer with this task in the crew of a bomber. These are very rare and also exist in metal for foreign observers but I have not found a photo of one being worn or a confirmed original.

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        Lieutenant with the observer wings (photo from internet)

Cap badges

For the cap badges the story is interesting too as some more variations exist. The basis is again cloth with bullion stitching. Silver for ranks below officer and gold for officers. But more variations exist. A more ornate version on a red cloth background for general officers exists which is very rare. Also a version for officers in training. For use on the side cap for common soldiers a metal version was in use that later became standard for all ranks. All variations of course with the curved wings!

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NCO cap badge in silver bullion, top is worn, bottom one new old stock

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The NOS one even has the makers label still attached!

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Officers ID of an officer in training (zaszlos) with cap badge

Period overview of Air Force badges and ranks:

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The Hungarian Rongyos Garda – 1938

The Rongyos Garda – freely translated as “ragged guard” – was a paramilitary group of Hungarian volunteers. The name was based on the chosen uniform, consisting of a simple civilian coverall and a Swiss style cap.

In 1938 they were used to pressure Czechoslovakia during the negotiations in which Hungary sought to regain territories that were lost during the Trianon treaty. These were not all territories that were lost but those mainly inhabited by ethnic Hungarians.

The Guard was used to do some commandolike clandestine actions in southern Slovakia and in the Carpathian mountains. They created unrest in the area. The Hungarian state could use “military” pressure with the Guard without using their official army. Use of the army might have ended in a war as the French and English were still heavily involved in the regional politics next to Germany of course.

Some members of the Guard were killed and also some were captured. The captured ones were not treated as prisoners of war as the were not officially military and would not treated as such.

The negotiations with Czechoslovakia were concluded with the support of Germany and Italy and it became known as the 1st Vienna Award. As a result of the treaty a large part of Southern Slovakia was returned to Hungary in 1938.

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The Rongyos Garda participants were awarded the same medal for their activities as their military counterparts. The rather common 1938 medal for the “Liberation of Southern Slovakia”. The only difference I have been able to establish is in the paperwork.

In this specific case the man received two different award papers from the Hungarian army for the same award. One from the Honved (Army) Headquarters, 5th department and one from a unit (in which he did not actually serve during the actions).

Although research is now possible into the actions of that period (which was impossible during the Russian occupation period) obviously not much is left to go by as these actions were “unofficial” but clearly supported by Hungary. So an interesting period with little hard information to research.

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Medal and paper group for a Rongyos Garda man (only one of the two documents for the 1938 Liberation of Southern Slovakia medals is framed top right).

And below the second award document awarded by the Army HQ, 5th department. From what I understood from a Hungarian researcher in this theme is that all Rongyos Garda men received this specific version of the award document for the 1938 action. It is dated November 22nd 1939 where the other document is dated December 6th of that year. Quite surprising they did this as it obviously left a paper trail and made the action at least semi official.

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The Ragged Guard saw no further action as such during the Horthy government, most men became part of the regular army that was allowed to grow again in the years leading up to the second worldwar.

This concludes a rare story for a common medal…..

The Hungarian WW2 Saint László Division badge

This badge is the only (official) Hungarian divisional badge that was in use during the second world war, it was intended for wear on the left breast pocket but can also be seen worn on the cap in period photo’s.

The Szent László Division was formed in October 1944. It is often named and seen as an elite unit because it was made up of the remainders of the Parachute regiment and several other “elite” units from both army and air force and even gendarmerie (rural police forces that were semi military).

The division was named after the Hungarian Saint László, king of Hungary 1077-1095 and patron saint of military men and exiles. A most fitting name for this unit as most of the surviving members became exiles.

It was commanded by Brigadier General Zoltán Szügyi (from 12th Oct 1944 until May 8th 1945). He can be seen in the photo (from the internet) below in the center. Before commanding the St. Laszlo Division he was commander of the Para Regiment. He is wearing the badge on the right breast pocket (sports badge under and para qualification badge above).

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Elements of the division saw action for the first time on the 19th of December in 1944 when they were used as emergency troops to plug gaps in the front. They suffered heavy losses during the defense of Hungary and did not fight as a whole division until April 1945 when it had received manpower again from several other units, to cover the earlier losses. The division continued to fight until ending the war in northern Croatia and southern Austria. When the war ended they crossed the Alps and entered Carinthia where they surrendered to the British forces. Something very rare occurred then, they were initially allowed to keep their weapons until a discussion with Tito’s partisans had been settled. After that they were soon disarmed and transferred to regular POW camps in Germany and Austria.

Most of these men did not return to Hungary or other locations occupied by Russia in fear of repercussions and very long periods of forced labour in Russian POW camps. The western occupational forces released them much sooner. Of the Saint László Division many chose to emigrate to the US. This making the unit insignia quite rare and found mostly outside of Hungary. Either from emigrants or found in the ground on places where they fell during the war.

The soldier on the left in the photo below (taken from the internet) wears the badge on his cap. The soldier in the middle also wears his para qualification badge on his side cap. Both insignia are officially worn on the right breast.

The badge itself is a simple aluminium cast with 4 drilled holes to sew it on clothing.

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Sources:

  • Leo W.G. Niehorster – The Royal Hungarian Army 1920-1945
  • Several websites for photo’s and general information.

Austro-Hungarian War painter, KuK Kriegsmaler, WW1

During the first worldwar the Austro-Hungarian empire used artists to make professional paintings of the war. These painters did not become part of the army but were paid by it for their services, they were called war painters or in German Kriegsmaler. Sometimes they were attached to a specific unit or a theatre of war.

In an album from my collection there are is a picture of a Kriegsmaler at work and also two pictures of the results of his work. Such pictures are hard to find.

For a portrait of an officer (in my collection) made by a Kriegsmaler go to this blog

Austro-Hungarian Kaiser Karl visiting the front WW1

Karl was a well known visitor to the front like many others from the royal family. There are many photo’s of him visiting the front. Especially from the period before he became the Austro-Hungarian Kaiser so up to 1916.

These few all come from one album of an officer in the 306th Honvéd Infantry Regiment (Honvéd Gyalóg Ézred)

And below my favorite of this small series. Karl needs a table for his map so he uses a decorated Huszar officer for this….