In todays world doing research on the internet often delivers great info. This happened when I was looking into some photo’s of Captain Swoboda who was an engineering officer in the Austro-Hungarian army in WW1.
While his main task was building bridges and such there were also some photo’s of monument for a military cemetery in the group. He built these in the city of Berezhany (today in Ukraina) after the city was captured by Austro-Hungarian forces in 1916 from the Russians that had invaded the city before.
Searching for the cemetery on the internet I found some recent photo’s on Wikipedia with the current situation of these monument so here is a quick comparison – then and now:
Also the central cross still being built in 1916 and how it looks today:
And as the last one a grave for an officer (Oberleutnant Franz Volbrecht of KuK IR Nr 75) that still exists today:
Photo albums can be a great source of historic information but sadly often the context of the photo’s has been lost over time. This blog is in regard to such an album that has been in my collection for a long time. Recently I dove into it again and now with the modern digital sources I found an interesting background.
The photos seem to be of an NCO in a Hungarian military unit that is involved in railway repairs. There is family crest with name in the beginning of the album and next to the military photos there also some pictures of the man with his family but I have not been able to establish anything beyond the family name.
Two groups of photo’s help to establish the exact timeframe and specific context of a part of the album. They show two heavily bombed railway stations in Debrecen and Szolnok and their damaged surroundings, railways and trains.
Both cities were bombed as part of American shuttle raids which were executed during Operation Frantic that took place between June and September of 1944. This was one of the few direct operational cooperations between the Russian and American forces. Bombers of the 8th and 15th US Army Air Force would undertake bombing flights on the way between bases in the UK and Italy to locations in Ukraine where they would reload with bombs and fuel and on the return flight again would bomb targets that were agreed upon between the Russian and US forces. That is why these were called shuttle raids, the planes would shuttle between the bases in Western and Eastern Europe and bomb targets on the way in between.
On the first and the last flight of Operation Frantic there would be also Hungarian targets. On the first flight on June 2nd Debrecen would be one of the targets. On the last flight on September 22nd Szolnok would be one to the targets. In both cases the railway station and the related area would be the main targets as these were of importance to the German military logistics, movement of soldiers and material like tanks to the Eastern front.
The photo’s show people of the Railway repair crew but also labour units working hard to repair the damages. IMostly trains and wreckage of railways and buildings but also some casualties, of which there were many due to the fact that not only railway related buildings were hit in the raids. Please be advised that photo’s of casualties are at the end of the blog.
A total of 130 planes would hit Debrecen with more than 1000 bombs between 8.46 hrs and 9.00 hrs. The damage would be great but the loss of life was also enormous. Whole streets in the proximity of the railway areas would also be destroyed. Almost 1200 death and close to 700 seriously wounded would be the direct human impact of the bombing with hundreds of buildings (including many regular houses) completely destroyed.
Due to the nature of the album the photo’s are mainly of the railway related impact and not the civilian impact.
The last few pictures show casulaties of the bombings and the location were they were found. Probably most casulaties would have been removed before the repair crews started working but I assume these were uncovered during the repair works.
I cannot express the sadness I felt seeing that little shoe sticking out between the big boots of the men under the cover of tent halves…
You can read more about the bombing in Hungarian here that is also the source for the numbers used in my blog.
The next blog will be about Szolnok where the repair crew went next (based on the photo’s in the album at least) which was the last action of Operation Frantic.
There are many more photo’s in the album, this is a selection.
Carl started in the KuK (Schutzen) Landwehr Infanterie Regiment 21 (Sankt Pölten) and later his machinegun group moved to the Landsturm Infanterie Regiment Nr. 51.
Sometimes as a collector you come across a grouping that is quite unique as in this case. At the moment I am still contemplating what my next step will be….A series of blogs, a dedicated website or even a book…
The group contains a photo album with a cover with badges of Carl, many postcards and a short diary. Loads of information on some very relevant moments in WW1 including the Isonzo battles.
Until I have decided what to do only a small placeholder blog with some teaser materials…
The album contains many official photo’s, but also private photo’s and even WW2 related photo’s. Also many captured Italian photo’s and some leaflets (Flugblätter). So for now only this teaser…
This is a group of documents to Adolph Straub from 1851 who was a Stabs Auditor (Military Judge) in the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia which was in Austrian hands at that moment. Fieldmarshall Count Radetzky was the commander / viceroy of that region from 1848 until his death in 1858.
And on the following page from the ranklist of 1851 we find Straub:
Stabs-Auditor (Military Judge) Adolph Straub was awarded the Iron Crown Order 3rd class in 1851. Officially the number of recipients was limited to 50 in the original statutes but this was no longer the case in 1851 nevertheless it still was a rare order.
Below the formal award document signed by the Minister of War Feldzeugmeister Csorich.
Fieldmarschall Radetzky as commander of Straub also communicated with him regarding the award which leads to the letter below to Straub including the original signature of Radetzky and the use of his personally marked paper (often more generic paper was used in general communications!).
So this group of documents if for an important order but also with some very rare signatures in Austro-Hungarian history.
The army did not only exist of Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery but these pictures are the most common ones. This blog is dedicated to some of the other professions in the KuK army. All needed in the war effort but less standard to find pictures of. Here some orignals from my collection.
Communications (signals/telegraph) was an important part of the modernisation of warfare in WW1. Left the armlet with T for Telegraph which was in use before the more generic collar badge was introduced that can be seen on the man right.
And communications in use!
The Medical Corps plays an important role during war. Here some examples starting with the field medics, “sanitäter” in German:
And the hospitals, both in the field and regular military hospitals.
And some rare “action” pictures from the hospital
More medical people below. Based on rank not medics but MDs.
The FieldGendarmes were the military police that had an important role but often not very popular. They had standard KuK uniforms with only an armband as distinction from the regular army. They were the law behind the front lines and in the occupied territories.
Below some variations of the armband in wear from the photo’s above. It seems hard to find two examples that are the same. See also the book “The Emperors coat” (Rest/Ortner/Ilming) for multiple examples.
Worldwar 1 started with the declaration of war against Serbia by the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1914 and was the start of the Serbian campaign. This campaign was largely unseccesfull until the attempt that started on October 7th, 1915. This last campaign ended on November 24th of the same year.
In this last campaign against Serbia were the following forces: the Bulgarian First Army commanded by Kliment Boyadzhiev, the German Eleventh Army commanded by Max von Gallwitz and the Austro-Hungarian Third Army commanded by Hermann Kövess von Kövessháza, all three under the control of the German Field Marshal August von Mackensen.
Until the end of WW1 the Banat region was part of Hungary which was again part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The small city of Fehertemplom, or in German Weisskirchen, was in that region and bordered with Serbia. After the war as a result of the Trianon treaty the region would be split and Fehertemplom would become part of Serbia.
Josef Pártos was a finance official in the rank of Respizient in the Royal Hungarian Finance Commission of the city of Fehertemplom.
He received two separate document for a “Belobende Anerkennung” roughly a “mention in despatches”. This is more or less one step below the merit medal (often known as Signum Laudis based on the text on the reverse of the medal) and in this case also in the face of the enemy. So with wartime ribbon and swords if the medal indeed was given (swords were added only later in the war to the ribbon).
What he exactly did to earn this commendation is a mystery and probaby will remain so (no military records). But it must be quite unique for a finance person to qualify! Based on location and date it most probably was linked to the final Serbian campaign that started on October 7th 1915 especially as the first document is awarded by the 3rd Army command (one of the 3 armies involved in that action as discussed above) and hand signed by its Commander Kövess von Kövessháza!
The second document is from the regional command of Banat.
For this man, sergeant Deli Jószef, I still have to research the background of his medals but below his full entitlement.
Before the war he completed his compulsory service in the 44th KuK Infantry Regiment reaching the rank of sergeant in the reserve and also qualifying as a sharpshooter. His name originally was Doszpod!
Deli and his wife in the first years of the war based on his uniform. He already has the two Silver Bravery Medals.
In 1924 he became a viéz and in that process changed his name to Deli! If the applicant had a non Hungarian name one of the requirements was to change the name to a typical Hungarian one. This was the reason some did not apply as they did not want to change their names! This often leads to difficulties in researching vitéz backgrounds, if the name was changed, as the original name is not recorded!
In the 1920s he became not only a vitéz but he also applied for the grant of land which he indeed received as one of about 5500 of the more than 24.000 vitéz.