Austro-Hungarian War Cross for Civil Merit to German Police Commisioner Theodor Dix, Leipzig

The name of this decoration tells exactly what it is, a cross for civilians that showed merit during war time assisting the Austro-Hungarian empire. The cross existed in four classes and could be awarded both to foreigners and citizens.

The third class was in silver, 2nd class gilded and 4th class bronze. The document are related to the 3rd class so a silver one as pictured above (photo from internet).

Letter that accompanied the actual award document

The documents in this blog are made out to a German police commisioner (Polizeirat) from Leipzig named Theodor Dix. And as it often happens with researching civilians that is where it more or less stops…

With the development of online research possibilities more and more sources are available. So maybe in the future I hope to extend this short blog.

So far only this showed up:

It states that Dix held a presentation for a society regarding “Use and succes of our Medical dogs on the battlefields. So my working hypothesis is that he was in his role of police commisioner involved in these sanitary dogs that were used by many armies at that time including the German and Austro-Hungarian forces. Photo’s below from the internet, not my collection.

Hungarian porcelain parachutist statue, WW2 period

The Hungarian para’s were a small elite group about whom only little has been written in English but most information can be found in this nice blog.

Photo from my own collection, see this blog for more details

They existed as a unit from 1938 up to 1944 at which moment theyre remaining men became integrated in the Saint László Division in which they fought untill the end of the war.

Recently I was able to acquire a porcelain statue that depicts a WW2 period para. Possibly it was made as a promotion item for the Hungarian Parachute manufacturer in Debrecen. It supposedly was made by the Hollohaza porcelain company but has not visible markings and also the exact period of production is unknown.

Photo from https://mult-kor.hu/az-orszag-elso-katonaja-feltarul-a-magyar-katonai-ejtoernyozes-szazeves-trtenelme-20180815

It turns out a variation of this statue also exists which was fully coloured! It is not exactly the same statue but very close, maybe a different porcelain producer? Several details show it was not based on the same mold.

Bronze plaque of an unknown Hungarian sergeant – by Turáni Kovács Imre, dated 1938

As the title states this plaque is of a, so far unknown, sergeant of the Hungarian army. It has a diameter of almost 33cm and weighs 5kg! Any help with establishing who the sergeant is would be most welcome!!!

The artist who designed it is Turáni Kovács Imre who was born in 1910 and died in 1975. More details about his career you can find here.

The foundry that produced the plaque is also given on the bronze!

The front seems to have some old damage that was there when the plaque was repatinated or gilded at the outside again. This also seems to have been done a long time ago. My guess this plaque was placed at a house but where and why is unknown.

Autograph of Erzherzog Joseph – KuK General, 1916

A full bio can be found here – it is in German though! He was an important member of the Hungarian branch of the Austro-Hungarian royal family of Habsburg -Lotharingen.

Born in 1872 in Hungary he had a military career spanning form lieutenant in 1890 up to full Field Marshall and the royal representative for Hungary in 1918.

The collecting of autographs is not a new trend but already existed in the late 19th and early 20th century and even before. This autograph was send to a Austrian collector, Fritz Wölfler, of autographs op public people of the Austro-Hungarian empire in the early 20th century. The collection was sold by a dealer in 2007 on Ebay in Austria.

FH Joseph GdK (föherceg Joseph General der Kavelerie)

It seems to be a short version of his autograph. The full version can be seen below (photo taken from Facebook – not my collection).

Hussar Attack, 1915 Bronze by Szamosi, Huszár Roham

This bronze is titled “Huszár Roham” (in Hungarian) which translates in “Attack of the Hussars”. The Hussars are the traditional Hungarian horse cavalry and has become a generic name for light cavalry units in all armies in Europe in the 19th and early 20th century. During WW1 horses bacame outdated in the course of the war and many cavalry units became “dismounted”, so on foot, without their horses. In 1915, the date of this work, the Hussars were still very much in action with their horses. Especially on the Eastern front, fighting against the Russians over large areas with relatively few people.

This original bronze (probably the only existing example) was made by the Hungarian artist Szamosi. It took me years to find this out. I always thought the first letter was a R in place of the actual SZ.  Szamosi lived between 1885 and 1971 and specialized in medals and plaquettes. This one is of a formidable size, 30 cm in diameter.

When I found it I had a difficult time to establish how to display this work of art. Finally I decided to have it framed as a “painting” with the 2 screws it has on the back.

Not sure where and how is was placed originally, maybe on a wall? Before the war Szamosi was already active both as an artist and as an educator at the Arts Academy.

His most famous works are from the 1910s and 1920s. During the first world war he made several works of art related to the war like this one.

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Reference: Szamosi Soos

The Hungarian Medal for Bravery in WW2 – a Magyar Vitézségi Érem

Both the medal and the regulations are a copy of the Austro-Hungarian bravery medal in WW1 as I described in my earlier blog. The medal consists of 4 grades, Bronze, Small Silver (or second class silver), Large Silver (first class silver) and Gold.

Bronze, Small Silver and Large Silver (second and first class Silver)

The medal was aimed at ranks below officer but the Gold grade could also be awarded to officers who would receive a special device to the ribbon. Officers in training could be awarded all grades of the medal untill they would get commissioned.

Officer in training with Small Silver and Bronze grade

The Bronze and Small Silver grade had the same size of 35mm and the Large Silver and Gold grade both measure 40mm. For the silver grades I have so far found three materials – real hallmarked silver, silvered bronze which also has the word BRONZ impressed on the rim and the war metal version without any markings.

It seems the silvered bronze version had a regular problem with the eyelet as I have two version where it came off and I have seen several more on the market. These all seem to be the version with BRONZ stamped in the rim.

So far I have not handled a gold one but as far as I understand both hallmarked gold and a gilded bronze versions exist.

The front bears the bust of Regent Horthy Miklós. The reverse shows the national symbol of Hungary with crossed swords behind and the word VITÉZSÉGÉRT – bravery.

The ribbon is the standard triangular form and could have tow types of devices. A bar for repeat awards (up to three bars!) and a golden device for officers.

Repeat bar on Silver first class (war metal)

The award paper is basically the same for all grades with the different grade being mentioned.

Document for a Bronze grade Bravery Medal

The large silver grade has become quite rare and is sought after. Copies do exist for all grades using the same mold. A comparison can be found here, the website is in Hungarian but has great content!

Four version of the Silver first class Bravery medal

Compiled from the same website a quick overview of the amounts awarded per year. It seems many men who died in combat also received the bronze or silver 2nd class medal posthumously.

 193919401941194219431944Total
Bronze24401721229915541603725842
Small Silver19317221725406014928193
Large Silver12922634535462781671
Gold      39
Officers Gold      21

Reference: https://kituntetes.webnode.hu/en/

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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In remembrance of all participants and victims of the 1956 revolution!

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 (photo from an internet source):

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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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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:

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…..