The Hungarian Vitéz Order (Vitézi Rend)

One of my main collecting themes used to be this Vitéz order. At that time I even ran a quite extensive website with information on the order, variations etc. This is very short, condensed version of that information.

Hungary was a defeated country after the Great War. The war was lost, neighboring countries invaded and a communist revolution took place, and a for Hungary very unfortunate Trianon treaty was signed. Admiral Horthy became the Regent (a historic Hungarian title) of this nation in 1920.

This was the moment for a new order to celebrate the heroes of a lost war and re-establish a feeling of pride. The Order of the Valiant* (in Hungarian, Vitézi Rend) or Knighthood of the Heroes was the first and probably the most important Hungarian order established after the Great War with a substantial social impact.

*(The word vitéz has several meanings in the dictionary. As noun: warrior, soldier, champion, hero, knight and as adjective: valiant, gallant, brave, fearless of danger. Therefore giving the name of the order an exact translation is difficult. The two translations used here I have seen used in several documents therefore I use them as well.)

Some awardees, first one in the interwar Hungarian uniform and the last in the veterans organization uniform (and based on the medals officer during part of WW1)

Two badges of the order made by two different makers. There were more makers but these are the two most common variations by Boczán and Jerouschek. The badges were not numbered but many were privately named or numbered. They started with two sets of numbers one for officers and one for other ranks and the numbering system changed in the 1930s when many awardees also received a new certificate with a different number. That way a badge with only a number often will leave several possibilities open.

The order was established in 1920 (Prime Ministerial Edict Nr 6650/1920) by the Government under Prime Minister Count Teleki and Admiral Horthy, the Regent of Hungary from 1920 till 1945. The latter also became the Captain of the order from its institution till its formal ending in 1945 (According to the rule 529/1945 but it was 1948 before it was practically disbanded).

The order has been re-instituted after the war (first in exile and later also in Hungary) but this is only about the historic order.

Diploma of the award, handsigned by Horthy

One of the main differences with most other awards that it is based on the requirement that the awardees had received a certain level of medal during the last war. At the beginning this would be for WW1 but later in WW2 the same requirements would have to be fulfilled.

This way of working made if possible to acknowledge exceptional deeds of Bravery from a previous period as part of an empire that no longer existed. These deeds would otherwise have passed unknown and unrewarded in a country that fought on the losing side of the war.

The medal requirements were more or less the same for both world wars. The small silver medal for bravery (96.000 awarded in WW1 for Hungarians) in the case of enlisted men, and the large silver medal for bravery (26.000 awarded in WW1 to Hungarians) for the rank of NCO. The Signum Laudis was minimal requirement for the rank of Lieutenant and this goes on, for higher ranks higher grades of medals were expected. The small silver medal for bravery only very seldom led to actual awards of the vitéz order. It was too common to bestow the title on all owners of these. It was just that, a minimal requirement.

Below a WW2 period officer and a nco, both meeting the criteria based on their own medals.

Part of the award of the order was the granting of a title: vitéz. This title was used as a prefix to the name as can be seen in the namecards below.

This title also could be inherited by the oldest son. If this oldest son was of sound physical and mental condition he would inherit the title at the age of 17. In this way the order can be compared to a noble title especially as the title was accompanied by a grant of land of approximately 10 hectares.

Group of new, mainly inherited, awardees

The award were granted in a great yearly ceremony by the Regent, Admiral Horthy himself. The ceremony took originally place in Budapest on the Margit Sziget, a small island in the Danube, located between Buda and Pest. Later this changes to a more symbolic location. This was in Székesfehervar, a city renowned as this was the place were the early kings of Hungary were crowned and buried. The ceremony was at the exact same place, in the ruins of the original church where these crownings took place. During the war the ceremonies were much smaller and held in different locations.

Below two invitations for award ceremonies in 1943. Left the central one of 1943 and right a local version held in Transylvania in 1943! As you can see the war years 41/42/43 had only very small amounts of awards. For 1943 in total 300 awardees. Many of these were for people from the regained territories like Transylvania who could not have applied before 1941 which is the case in both invitations below!

Each award would exist out of the actual award (to be paid by the awardee), a full size diploma in colour as shown earlier in this blog and a certificate. Below 4 examples of the certificate or in Hungarian: igazolvány. The first one is to an officer which is not visible on the document itself.

The granting of land to the vitéz members was part of a land reform executed by István Nagyatádi Szabó. In the early ’20s much land was still in the hands of few and it was part of a modernization of land ownership that was badly needed to become a more balanced and modern nation.  The actual grants were quite limited thought, around 20% would actually get the grant of land (roughly 5500 grants of land of the almost 24.000 total awards).

The grant of land received its own diploma as seen left and next to it a replacement document for a lost original diploma.

There was even a course for new land owners as shown by the document below. Designed by the same person as the diploma of the order.

Some statistics about the number of orders, reproduced with kind permission of vitéz Dr. János Szentváry-Lukács.

Officers 4.358 awards, NCO’s 11.136 awards, Enlisted Men 7.326 awards.

The number of estates granted to award winners was only 5561 which amounted to a total of 88.000 hectares. This was mainly due to the low amount of land available for the new vitéz knights. Land was donated on a voluntary basis by landowners and local governments. Overview of the number of awards per year and the cumulative total per year.

Two more Jerouschek variations of the award, first marked under the prongs and the second with a different naming than the version above on the prong.

And two version that seem to be unmarked where the first one also has a different way of attachment of the prongs.

And a group of vitéz wearing the formal uniforms of the order.

And as last a few examples that show the title did not immediately disappeared after the war was over, the title still appears as a prefix on these communist party booklets….

If you have a name of a vitéz you can research some more on this page

Vervalste persoonsbewijzen!

Raadsel. Deze groep is nog steeds een beetje een raadsel. Een set van drie persoonsbewijzen en wat foto’s van dezelfde man als een officier (in opleiding) voor de oorlog.

De foto’s van hem als officier zijn de sleutel naar zijn naam. Hij is een deelnemer aan de internationale militaire vijfkamp en de bijbehorende medaille helpt om de juiste man te vinden.

Het is G. Struijs en hij is geboren in 1911. Voor de oorlog wordt hij opgeleid tot officier, reserve 1e Luitenant der Artillerie per 1 januari 1937. Na de oorlog doet hij wederom dienst, dit keer in Indonesië. Zijn laatste rang is die van reserve Majoor der Artillerie per 1 november 1949.

De oorlogsperiode zelf blijft een raadsel. Geen van de PB’s bevat zijn echte naam alhoewel er één wel in de buurt komt.

pb

Alles roept actief verzet maar verdere informatie is er niet. De rechter variant (Gemeente Smallingerland) heeft een controlezegel die bij Amsterdam hoort en is daardoor herkenbaar als een vervalsing. Ook het watermerk is zwakker dan bij de twee andere PB’s. Of de andere twee “origineel” zijn met alleen een “nieuwe” persoon of dat het volledige vervalsingen zijn is nog niet duidelijk.

Tijdens zijn dienst als officier kreeg hij de volgende medailles:

– Vijfkampkruis NOC
– Bronzen NOC medaille
– Oorlogsherinneringskruis met gesp ‘Nederland Mei 1940’
– Ereteken voor Orde en Vrede met 3 gespen
– Officierskruis XX

Verder is er nog een G Struijs die het Verzetsherdenkingskruis gekregen heeft maar dat blijkt niet om dezelfde persoon te gaan!

Met dank aan John Stienen en Theo Schalke voor de input!

Voor mij is de speurtocht hier doodgelopen maar als er mensen zijn met meer info dan houd ik mij aanbevolen!

Austro-Hungarian WW1 Airforce officer painting – Flying Ace Rudolf Szepessy-Sokoll?

A painting of a WW1 Hungarian Airforce 1st Lt. with a high level of decorations. The painting is dated 1938 and by the Hungarian artist Csermely János.

He wears the uniform of a Hussar with the additions of the flying balloon insignia. He looks in that respect very much like flying ace Szepessy Sokoll. He is often depicted in the same Hussar uniform but the medals do not fully match. The silver bravery medal first class is missing and the German cross that is visible on the painting left. The other medals are correct for him including the Iron Crown order he received posthumously also the rank is correct!

I think the officer probably died in WW1 and this painting is based on a photo and the medals are added with the info available to the painter. So it might be Szepessy-Sokoll only the medals are not complete?!

The level of decorations on the painting suggest that the officer is a very succesfull pilot, maybe even an ace. The Iron Crown order 3rd class was very rarely given to low ranking officers. Normally Lt-Col or above although in war cricumstances the actual acts of bravery or merit were leading. So in all likelyhood it is him with a misstake in the medals.

If you have additional info please contact me!

Austro-Hungarian Mountain Artillery grouping

This small grouping to one man, KuK mountain artillery. Gebirgs-Artillerieabteilung Nr 206, Batterie 1.

The papers are for his bronze bravery medal and his Karl Troop cross.

His leave paper from 1919 and based on the last paper in this group he also came into action during the Hungarian 1941 Erdély campaign as part of the artillery.

Including pictures of a ski trip on the well known Bosnian Bjelasnica mountain.

Up to the observatory. This mountain was an important strategic location and even was used in the last Bosnian war 1992-’95. At the top there is still an observatory today.

The postcard came with the group. It always nice to have a known reference point to a group of pictures!

Austro-Hungarian Bandmaster (Regimentstambour) photo’s identified!

With the help of several researchers and the Facebook group “The Austro-Hungarian Army in the great War” these photo’s now have a name attached!

Regiments Tambour (sergeant)
And the back of the card where the IR number unfortunately cannot be read.
Regimentstambour (Sergeant bandmaster) of a KuK Infantry Regiment with bronze bravery medal and iron merit cross with crown, photo from 1918. The same as in the group photo above, left side.

The stamp on the back reads Feldpost Nr. 109. This means ID17 which consisted of IR39, IR43, IR46 and IR61 . In february of 1916 this division was on the Italian front, Doberdo plateau, south of Mt. San Michele, somwhere around Devetachi.

Photo taken from facebook

Another contributer researched the name and came up with the person likely to be this sergeant. The card is signed Simon and send to a Doszai in Szabadka. The combination of Simon Dozsai and Szbabadka leads to this information

Shotwound in the back

The announcement of being wounded in combat for a Sergeant of IR 46 (part of ID 17 which is linked to Feldpost 109 on the card. The sergeant is part of the staff of the regiment (which is logical for a bandmaster) but aslo saw action and was wounded twice (he appears on another date also as wounded) and even received a bravery medal!

And shot in the shoulder, also in 1915

Many thanks to Kajon Árpád and Tóth Marcell for their help in researching and identifying the man in these photo’s!

KuK WW1 unusual Austro-Hungarian photo’s

Here some interesting, original WW1 pictures all from my private collection that do not warrant their own blog but are worth sharing. Will add more on a regular basis!

The information about these pictures came from several Facebook groups in which I shared these photo’s. Many thanks to the contributors for their knowledge!

Wreck of an English aircraft visited by Ferdinand of Bulgaria
Detail of the same photo, right Ferdinand and left probably a general
KuK protective or observation balloon of the Parseval type
Honvéd corporal in front of a field movie theater
Dignitaries visiting M1911 Skoda 305mm Morser. Right officer possibly Erzherzog Albrecht
Austro-Hungarian NCO in pre war uniform with letters PG (Prisonnier de Guerre) on his uniform. So a prisoner of war in a French speaking location. Some A-H PoWs were moved from different warzones to French camps and a few units (mainly artillery) actually fought on the Western front.
Leide tab (Josef Leide von Dolina, feldmarschallleutnant in 1918) – at the moment of this picture commander of Infantry Bridage 30. – Hellmer alezred (lt col Hellmer, commanding officer of IR 66) The other two have names written on them as well but are hard to decipher. My guess the general and his aide in the middle with the commander of IR 66 and his second man to the sides. Picture is dated november 1916 and states it was made in honour of taking the oath at IR 66.
Field made picture with some nice details. Kappenabzeichen of Hussar Regiment 6, so dismounted cavalry, trench knife M1917 and bravery medal with repeat bar!
Two one year volunteers (officers in training) and their “helpers”, right man front with two kappenabzeichen unusually on his chest. High boots with mountain style hardware. The volunteers wear the button (Hoffnungsknopf) and band around the arm. This is double, when the button was introduced in 1915 the earlier band was officially discontinued but in this photo from early 1916 both are being worn.
Field mass for the Kings nameday 1917
Soldiers humor, Hotel Granatsplitter – Shrapnel Hotel
On the reverse in Hungarian: as propaganda officer with Russians, december 1917.

WW2 Hungarian Air Defense Artillery paper group – and some rare signatures!

This is the entire paper group to Artillery (Air Defense) captain Karleusa Iván (with the noble nemes prefix and from borynia as second prefix). Up to 1944 the activities of these forces were limited and for the 1944/45 period when they were very active few records survived and it was not the time anymore for new awards. Below his overview from the 1944 rank list as a captain.

Commisioned in 1933 he turned out to be the best student of the Ludovika Academy of his final year 1932. Below a picture of the silver cup with his name.

Picture from internet source.

He was awarded only 2 medals for his participation in two of the three annexations Hungary was active in between 1938 en 1941, the action in 1938 for Transylvania and the 1940 action for Southern Hungary.

Both documents are not the standard award document (igazolvany) version but commendations for his participation on top of the award of the 2 medals. The commendations are a distinct level below the actual award of a Signum Laudis (merit) medal. The first is the more or less standard paper for these and the second is one specifically made for the Air Defense so both relatively rare documents in this form.

Also he received 3 other commendations not linked to specific actions as the ones above. None of these resulted in the award of actual medals.

So a nice but not so important paper group. What makes it interesting?

The signatures are more or less a who is who from the Hungarian military in th 1930s to early 1940s. With thanks to Péter for the help with the signatures. In order of appearance in the pictures above (and the names in Hungarian order, family name first and then given name):

General of the Infantry (3 star equivalent), Sónyi Hugó (gyalogsági tábornok) Commander in Chief of the Hungarian Army 1936-1940.

General (3 stars) Justy Emil (vézerezredes) – commander of the Air Defense.

General (3 stars) Ternegg Kálmán (vezérezredes)

General Ternegg with signature (photo from Facebook, not my collection).

General (2 stars) Jány Gusztáv (altábornagy) – commander of the Hungarian 2nd army on the Don, winner of the German Knights cross. For WW2 one of the most important operational Generals.

General Jány, photo from internet

General (3 stars) Farkas Ferenc (vézerezredes), commander of the 6th army in 1944

General Farkas, photo from internet

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.

Marine H. Jansma MWO4, Atjeh 1874 – paybook

This is the original paybook of the Dutch Marine (naval infanterist) H. Jansma (1854-1931) who was awarded the Military order of William 4th class and the Honorable Mention (Mention in Despatches) for his actions during the 2nd Atjeh war.

Jansma as a civillian in the 1920s

His blue paybook is covered in leather (pigskin) with his name on both sides.

In the paybook all his decorations are noted as well the Honorable Mention two times! First the actual MiD is mentioned and later the award of the crown device or in Dutch kroon is mentioned as such. These crowns were only introduced in 1878 and the MiD was already awarded in 1876 so before the actual device. The crowns were retrospectively awarded/added!

Here the citation of his award:

“On November 7th, as part of the Marine landing division in Atjeh, participated in battles distincting himself and especially excellent in the taking of the reinforced village of Lemboe by, together with two of his comrades being the first to penetrate the main stronghold on the Northwestern side.”

This type of citation, first over the wall, first entering a dangerous place etc. were typical of 19th century awards of the Military order of William.

Somehow I have only seen very few of such early “paybooks” with important gallantry decorations. They appear neither in private collections nor musea. The actual award documents are seen more often.

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.