Vitéz stories III – Sergeant Joföldi, KuK IR 38

These are the documents and medals of sergeant in the reserve vitéz Jóföldi Gábor.

Complete WW1 entitlement including vitéz order and certificate

The following information comes from the history of the 38th KuK regiment by József Doromby :

Photo from the regimental book.

“He was born in 1885 in Bogyiszló. In 1907-09 he fulfilled his military duties in Bilek. He was involved in the mobilization and trained as a reserve NCO until January 15, 1915. After that he went to the Serbian front, and from there on May 13, to the Italian front. He went to Doberdo, Italy and then he was taken back to the Serbian front and then again to the Italian battlefield, from where in April 1916 he was taken sick to the hospital. After his recovery, he was commanded to the Russian, Romanian and finally again to the Italian front. Wife: Judit Bencze; children: Judith, husband. Mrs. János Sánta, Gábor, Lidia, husband. Mrs. Józsefné Németh, Ferenc. “

The piece in the book also give his full medal list as shown above. He did not qualify for the Wounded Medal as his period in hospital was due to illness, not wounds received in battle.

His Silver Bravery Medal 1st class would be the basis for his later (1929) introduction into the vitéz order. Below the full size diploma which is quite rare as most units only handed out the small certificates for in the legitimation capsule.

Below some other papers, his 1919 release from service papers, the certificate for his Karltroop cross and his Hungarian WW1 remembrance medal.

He was mobilized again for WW2 (Igazolvány lap in the top middle) but probably did not see any action due to his age.

All papers and medals came from the family and are a real group. Below a “Kappenabzeichen” of the 38th KuK Infantry Regiment in which he served (my collection but not part of his estate!)

With thanks to Zoltán Sőregi for finding the regimental information!

Vitéz stories II – Sergeant Molnár, KuK IR 48

Due to my interest in the Hungarian vitéz order I bought this document. It is a diploma for participating in a course for land management that was given to members of the order – who also would receive a gift of land as part of the order.

With it came another document. The certifacte for participation in the (re)annexation of Transylvania in 1941. By that time he was a reserve sergeant and aged 51!

Researching him in the 1939 vitéz yearbook gives an overview of his medal entitlement. The second document is key for confirming it is as the name is extremely common in Hungary but it gives his year of birth, 1890, and his domicile, Gyoma.

A short translation of the info: Sergeant-Major in the 48th KuK Infantry Regiment with the following medal entitlement: Silver Bravery Medal 1st class (O1) with 3 bars, Silver Bravery Medal 2nd class (O2) with 2 bars and Bronze Bravery Medal, Karltroop Cross and Wound Medal with 3 stripes.

So 4 times (1 award and 3 bars) of the Silver Bravery Medal 1st class. The highest amount of these in the entire Honvéd part of the Austro-Hungarian army was 3 times and that only once!

Example of a Silver Bravery Medal 1st class (Emperor Karl version) with a device for 3 repeated awards! A repeat of 3 in silver is extremely rare if original!

And 3 times (1 award and 2 bars) of the Silver Bravery Medal 2nd class. In the entire Honvéd part of the Austro-Hungarian army there were only 189 such men!

The numbers of such entitlements for the entire Austro-Hungarian army are not known. The info above comes from this excellent website! But it can be guessed that this combination of 8 Bravery Medals is probably extremely rare and might be unique and certainly much rarer than a Golden Bravery Medal!

It is an honour to have these nice documents to a NCO with an absolutely unique entitlement!

Ottoman yataghan sword

Some time ago I had to buy an entire collection to get hold of two very nice rentjong for my own collection. Most items came from different regions and quickly went to other collections but there was one piece I kep out of fascination with it.

It is a nice yataghan, a typical short sword of the Ottoman empire used for a very long period. This one is probably 19th century.

One side it has an inscription in old Turkish that is quite common on Ottoman yataghans.

Darbından bu bıçağın cümle düşman tar ü mar
İntikam alır aduvvdan sanki misli zülfikar

Which can be roughly translated as:

All the enemies are decimated from the blow of this knife
It takes revenge from enemies as if it was Ali’s (RA) sword Zulfikar

In the middle of the text is a stamp that is probably the makers mark. The other side only has a simple decoration engraved.

The steel is laminated, and might be wootz.

The handle has long “ears” as they are called and it is made of walrus ivory. The fittings of the handle seem to be made of gilded brass with red coral stones in them.

The sheath has a ribbed wooden base covered with very fine leather that is kept together with brass wire. All parts of the yataghan show a high level of craftmanship.

Despite the fact that it does not fit any of my collecting themes it has received a home in my current collection. As this is out of my area of knowledge please let me know if I have made a misstake in the description!

Vitéz stories I – Sergeant Horváth, KuK IR 44

Sergeant in the 44th Infantry Regiment (Erzherzog Albrecht Nr. 44). Awarded with the Austro Hungarian Golden Medal for Bravery. The highest possible award in the Austro-Hungarian Army for ranks below officer.

For his actions he was awarded the Hungarian title vitéz and the order in the interwar period you can read more about the Vitézi Rend in the earlier blog.

Grand diploma of the order, handsigned by Regent Horthy.

Below the excerpt from the 1939 Vitéz Albuma:

Awards as stated in the list in the yearbook:

  • Golden Bravery medal
  • Silver Bravery medal 1st Class, 2 times
  • Bronze Bravery medal
  • Karl Troop cross

The short version of his citation as recorded in the Golden Medal award records in the Austrian Military Records

Im Gefechte vom 12/3 auf den 13/3 (1915) am Brdo Bewies er beispeillose Unerschrockenheit u. heldenhafte Tapferkeit.
Kam bis auf 40x vor der fdl Stellung. Trat den Ruckzug trozt des Befehls erst nach 2 Stunden als letzte abt der Angr. Gruppe an.

Which translates as follows:

In the fights of 12/3 and 13/3 in Brdo he showed unprecedented fearlessness and heroic Bravery.
Came up to 40x before the enemies position. Retreated, despite the order, only after 2 hours as the last of the attacking group.

His feats where also published in a Hungarian book (A MAGYAR NEMZETARANYKONYVE 1914-1918.” Budapest, 1921. – Golden book of the Hungarian nation 1914-1918 ) which describes the action as follows:

“He ran forward in the killing adverse drum-fire of the enemy as the head of his platoon and during the assault he exhorted his comrades. The regiment met irreplaceable and heavy losses, so sergeant Janos Horvath got the order to withdraw his fellows from the first line. Horvath was forty paces off the enemy and he sent back a message that they will not leave the line as long as the wounded comrades of the neighboring unit (3rd Bosnians) have not been recovered. Finally he withdrew his men two hours later and he was the last soldier who left the front line.”

His Vitézi Rend Award which is numbered and has the initials of Horvath.

And the certificate that belongs to the award

Replacement Golden Bravery Medal (gilded bronze in the Karl version, interwar period). This came directly from the family but is a replacement. The original will have been a real gold FJ type that probably was sold for mentary reasons as happened very often. Next to this his large Silver Bravery Medal with bar for the 2nd award. The Bronze Bravery Medal and the Karl Troop cross were no longer part of the group so I have not included them either.

Free public transport travel cards to the winners of the Golden Bravery Medal including his photo ID with signature.

The original award request forms as they remained in the Hungarian military archives!

Group as I had it framed some years ago.

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 a short, condensed, version of that information.

Hungary was a defeated country after the Great War. The war was lost, neighboring countries invaded, 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 troubled 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 national 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 and had 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 an nco in the interwar Hungarian uniform and the last in the veterans organization uniform (and based on the medals he became an officer during WW1).

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 untill its formal ending in 1945 (According to the rule 529/1945 but it was 1948 before it was practically disbanded).

One of the main differences with most other awards that it is based on the requirement of previous award. The awardees needed to have received a certain level of medal before they could apply. 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. Now these same deeds could be used to establish a new “established warrior class” in the post WW1 Hungary.

The medal requirements were more or less the same for both world wars. The small silver medal for bravery (96.000 awarded in WW1 to 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 Merit Medal / Signum Laudis was the minimal requirement for the rank of Lieutenant and this goes up based on rank, 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 so no way of telling if they were inherited vitéz awards or their own.

The men had to apply for the order through a quite extensive procedure at the end of which they would be granted the order when all requirements had been met. One of these requirements that is interesting is the use of Hungarian name. For those applicants having a German or Slavic name (both not uncommon) this would also mean they had to change their name. During research this can be troublesome if the original name is not known!

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

This title could only 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 nobility especially as the title was accompanied by a grant of land of approximately 10 hectares.

Group of new, mainly inherited, awardees

The awards were granted in a great yearly ceremony by the Regent, Admiral Horthy, himself. The ceremony originally took place in Budapest on the Margit Sziget, a small island in the Danube, located between Buda and Pest. Later this was changed to a more symbolic location. This was in Székesfehervar, a city renowned for the coronation of the early kings of Hungary and also as their burial location. The award ceremony was held at the exact same place, in the ruins of the original church of the coronations. The awardees were “knighted” with a large sword during this ceremony. The same sword that is depicted in the badge of the order. During the war the ceremonies were much smaller and held in different locations.

Below two invitations for award ceremonies in 1943. Left for the central one of february 1943 and right a local version held in Transylvania in october 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. This is the case in both invitations below. It also shows the awardee had to pay for the badge themselves!

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 a 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 though, around 20% would actually get the grant of land (roughly 5500 grants of land of the almost 24.000 total awards). The land reform was more difficult and time consuming than was anticipated.

The vitézi rend had a very formalised structure with national and regional chairs, communities and much more, even their own order uniform as can be seen in the photo below.

Badges

There were 5 makers in total but the two most common variations by Boczán Gyula and Jerouschek are shown below. The other, rarer, makers are Gál, Walther and Boczán Károly. The swords of both Boczán makers are silver coloured. There are some other distinguishing factors also next to the actual markings of the maker. In the case of Jerouschek there are several variations of the markings due to the long period of production of more than 20 years.

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. The first one also has a different way of attachment of the prongs which identifies it as a version made by Boczán Károly despite the missing prong with the actual markings. The other is most probably made by Gál and marked under the prongs which is not visible. I do not have a Walther variation in my collection unfortunately.

The badges were not numbered officially but many were privately named or numbered. The numbering of awards started with two sets of numbers, one for officers and one for other ranks. This numbering system changed in the 1930s when many awardees also would receive a new certificate with the new/different number. That way a badge with only a number often will leave several possibilities open. (officer/non officer/first group of numbers/second group of numbers). Only with the higher numbers it is clear it will be a rank below officer and the 2nd group of numbers!

Documents

Each award would exist out of the actual award (to be paid by the awardee) and a full size diploma shown below. There was no distinction between officers and lower ranks in this system, both in the award and the diploma.

Very early 1922 diploma of the award, handsigned by Horthy, to a sergeant.
Another quite early, 1924, diploma of the award to a sergeant.
Diploma to an officer (partially professionally restored) from 1929

Next to the diploma a smaller size certificate was used as proof of ownership of the award/title in daily use. 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, only the number in combination with the date makes this clear.

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

There were even courses for new land owners as shown by the document below. Designed by the same person as the diploma of the order.

Statistics

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.

Post 1945

After the Russians had “liberated” Hungary in 1945 the order no longer fitted the communist views and was disbanded. According to the rule 529/1945 but it was 1948 before it was practically and fully disbanded

A few examples that show the title did not immediately disappear after the war was over. The title is still used as a prefix on these communist party booklets….

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

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

For more info read the Vitéz Stories blogs with some more info on specific members of the order.

Recently a very good and extensive book was published by Szabolcs Árkosi, A Vitézi Rend Nagy Albuma 1920 -1948. The book is in Hungarian but also has great photo content.

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

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

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!

Austro-Hungarian WW1 photo’s – part I

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.
Bosnians were only a small percentage of the total KuK forces but by their Fez very easy to recongnize. Here with non regulation sweaters.
Mixex group including several Bosnians in Sarajevo, might have been a hospital. Below the reverse of the photo postcard.