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….

Namecard of Arthur Giesl Freiherr von Gieslingen

Sometimes as a collector you find unexpected treasures. Years ago I bought some paperwork with which came a group of namecards from the Pehm family. Going through the cards one stuck out:

Feldmarschallleutnant Arthur Freiherr Giesl v. Gieslingen

Based on the rank the card dates between November 1907 and Oktober 1912. He used this card as a quick thank you note/letter to a Pehm, referring to him and other students he comes across in the field and that are doing well. He was the commander of the Theresian Officers Academy between 1905 and 1910 so this must refer to his activities there where this Pehm (and a Krainz he mentions) were his students.

In the collection there are two Pehms with officers ranks so I am not sure which one is adressed here?

Mayerling and Redl

Von Gieslingen had a long career but two incidents are notable. He was attached to Crownprince Rudolph at the moment he commited suicide in the Mayerling hunting lodge. The whole affair was handled by Von Gieslingen.

His impact in the Redl affair could be even greater. He brought Redl as a young Russian speaking officer into the Evidenz bureau (Military Intelligence) of which Von Gieslingen was the commander at that moment. Later he made him his Chief of Staff of the 8th Corps in Prague. Redl as spy for the Russians probably gave all detailed plans for war to the Russians. The poor handling of the Redl case might even have been a main reason for the extremely poor performance of the AH army in the first war year. The plans most likely fell in the hands of the Russians but were not altered as Von Gieslingen claimed they had not been compromized. His own releive of command in 1914 due to poor performance might have been a result of this too.

A great short bio about Von Gieslingen can be found here:

http://www.austro-hungarian-army.co.uk/biog/giesla.htm

The Austro-Hungarian Bravery Medals in WW1

Three earlier blogs now combined into 1 complete blog covering medals, paperwork, amounts awarded and equivalents.

History before WW1

The basis for this medal was made in 1789 in the form of the  Ehren-Denkmünze für Tapferkeit (honor remembrance coin for bravery) by the Habsburg emperor Joseph II. In its original form it had two classes, gold and silver, for ranks below officer who had distinguished themselves in combat. In 1809 by Emperor Franz II the form was changed to make it a wearable medal that was also renamed in Tapferkeitsmedaille – Bravery Medal. Then again in 1848 the silver class was split into two classes. Next to the original Silver class (40mm in diameter) a second class was added that was smaller in size (31mm in diameter). Emperor Franz-Joseph I in Februari 1915 added a Bronze class with the same size as the silver medal 2nd class (also 31mm in diameter).

The four classes with FJI with his last variation of the observe

A last change was made by Emperor Karl in 1917 in making the Golden class and the Silver 1st class medal available to officers. Until then officers had no specific gallantry medals apart from the Military Maria Theresia order that was only very rarely awarded for extreme examples of gallantry. Most officers received the regular medals that were available for officers that were awarded for gallantry but also other other forms of distinguished service.

Three classes with Emperor Karls’s head

In all these periods the medal would have the ruling Emperor of that moment on the observe and the words “Der Tapferkeit” (The Bravery) on the reverse. Karl would change the text on the reverse to the Latin text “FORTITVDINI” as that language was neutral in an empire where the first languange of many people was not German.

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The two reverse variations

The Bravery medal in WW1

With two emperors during the war there were also two versions of all medals from gold to bronze with either Franz Joseph I and from 1917 onward Karl on the observe of the medal. Franz Joseph had 3 versions of his head on the medals during his very long reign. The third version was the regular one for WW1 but the 2nd and even the 1st version could still be awarded if available. This was mainly the case with early awards of the Golden Bravery Medal.

A novelty in WW1 was that all classes could be worn next to each other. Before that period only the highest award of the medal would have been worn. For each next award in the same class a clasp (introduced in October 1915) could be worn on the medal ribbon with 4 bars as the maximum (which obviously was extremely rare in any class).

Version of a single and triple bar (so for second and fourth award)

As officers also could get an award of the Golden and 1st class Silver medal from late 1917 onwards a difference had to be made. This was done in the form of a capital K letter on the triangular ribbon. These existed in both gold (gilded) and silver. An officer could wear both medals of the same class, one with the K device and one without the K device (so awarded as an officer and nco for different occasions).

The official announcement of the K device for officers bravery Medals

As all officers in training went through the non-commissioned ranks before becoming commissioned they were during this training period also eligible for the Bravery Medals. So WW1 Austro-Hungarian officers groups often have Bravery Medals in the group. This is just a sign that the officers was not yet commissioned when he received the medal. The ones with the K on the ribbon are much rarer.

Nice selection of Bravery Medals to officers (all without K device)

Payment

The winners of the Gold and both classes of Silver medals also received an additional monthly payment. The Bronze class was excluded from this so it was also of financial interest to soldiers to receive the highest possible level of Bravery Medal as the payment was doubled for each higher class. Only the highest class was paid and only for one instance of the award. Multiple awards did not multiply the amount received.

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Announcement of the amount paid per class

Variations

Before WW1 all medals would have a fixed eye for the ribbon. Only during the war this was replaced with the more standard moveable eye for the ribbon fixture. The only exception to this would be the Golden Bravery Medal that would remain using the fixed (Henkelöse) version. This makes it relatively easy to recognize the non official version of the Golden version. Private/non-official versions of all medals would be made during and after the war. These are not “fake” but bought examples of these medals. Especially real Golden Bravery Medals were often sold for the gold value in the post war period and replaced with a privately purchased gilded version.

Well worn example of the Golden Bravery Medal (gilded bronze, stamped BRONZE on rim. The majority of FJI examples were gold (14/15), the majority of Karl examples were gilded bronze (17/18). Gold versions of Karl are the rarest and gilded bronze versions of FJI (16/17) are the second rarest.

The official versions can also be recognized by the name of the artist below the head of the Emperor. On most private versions this name was not copied! Three names can be found. Two for the FJ versions: Tautenheyn and Leisek. The Karl versions all have Kautsch.

From 1916 onward the Golden version became to expensive to be awarded. A gilded bronze version was made that would have BRONZE stamped in the rim of the medal. These medals were planned to be exchanged for real gold after the war. As the war was lost this never happened nor would the winners get their additional payment for the new Governments in the countries that would come into being after the war. Karl was on the front often, also for award ceremonies. He only handed out real gold versions. These are the rarest variation of the Golden Bravery Medal.

It was also possible to replace the golden medal when lost or to get a second version. These are marked with the HMA (Hauptmunzamt) stamp next to the material stamp.

Award Certificates and other paperwork

The Austro-Hungarian army was well organized in its paperwork. Each request for a medal would go through the hierarchy and be kept in the personal record when awarded. It would depend on the level of the medal in which stage of the hierarchy the decision would finally be made.  For the Golden Bravery Medal a separate register was kept that still is available as a reference in the Vienna Military Archives. 

After the medal was awarded the person would receive  an award paper (Legitimation) confirming the award which should be worn on the person (to be able to proof the medals that were actually worn in the field). The standard place to keep these papers were the small ID capsules each person would wear. This made it necessary to make the documents very small. Here are some examples.

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Bronze
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Silver IInd Class
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Silver Ist Class

Some units made more elaborate documents available for their men in a larger size. These are not standard and not official but relatively rare and desirable.

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Full size award paper for a Ist Class Silver Bravery Medal

Personell files were partially lost in the 2nd world war and also these were split between the different states that resulted from the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Honvéd related files are mostly in the Hungarian Military Archives in Budapest and most others in Vienna and some in the other states. Here an example of Bravery medal related request as found in the Hungarian archive.

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An interesting secondary source for Hungarian WW1 bravery medals related info are the Vitezi rend yearbooks in which also medal lists are published. 

Amounts awarded and exchange with the German Iron Cross

The German Iron Cross is probably the most iconic award in the world. As part of the same coalition an exchange agreement between Germany and Austro-Hungaria was made for their armies. Were the German award system is the same for all ranks this is not the case in the Austro-Hungarian (AH) award system were there are specific medals for officers and different medals for the nco ranks. For the Germans the Iron Cross was the most general medal for gallantry so a good basis for exchange. But this would not fit the AH system. Therefore the choice was made to make the German Iron Cross only available to the officers in the AH army. The 2nd class for troop officers and the 1st class only for high ranking officers which can be seen in the extreme low amounts awarded. This only began to change slightly in the last year of the war.

For the ranks below officer a different solution had to be found. This came in the form of the Prussian Warriors Merit Medal (Krieger Verdienstmedaille) that always had been intended for foreign soldiers of ranks below officer. It was worn on the same ribbon as the Iron Cross which made the distinction between officers and men a bit more tolerable.

The Iron Cross could be awarded to the lowest rank of officer (Fahnrich) and also to Officer replacements. Most officers that became an officer during the war had gone through the nco ranks as part of their officers training and often had been awarded medals for the nco ranks in that period. As soon as they were officers they would be eligable to receive the German Iron Cross. So in mixed groups (officers that had been a nco before) both officers and nco medals can be found. This often leeds to the misunderstanding that the German Iron Cross could be awarded the nco’s as well in the AH army – which is not the case.

Officers medals, Bravery Medals for NCO and Iron Cross in a mixed NCO/Officer group

Statistics

The award criteria for gallantry medals are very different in each country as is the structure of the army and the processes to award medals. So a comparison of “level” is not possible. But a comparison of relative numbers of awards should be possible.

To do this I have taken some data from online sources and combined those. I have taken the number of men mobilized between 1914 and 1918. Further I have taken the number of awards per class and compared these with the number of mobilized men. Both as an percentage and as 1 decoration awarded per how many mobilized men.

There are several reasons why this comparison is not “fair”. The AH Bravery Medals were aimed at the men below the rank of officer. No other gallantry medals could be given to them. The German Iron Cross in the German army was open to all ranks. Next to this there were many other awards for gallantry/bravery from the different states within Imperial Germany. Those facts are not taken into account – it is a simple, straightforward comparison of numbers only!

Nevertheless I have made the comparison in numbers and found to my surprise that even the total relative amount of Iron Crosses is way bigger than that of Bravery Medals. Even the “unpopular” Bronze Bravery Medal is relatively rarer than an Iron Cross 2nd Class. And the Silver Bravery Medal 1st class can be compared to the Iron Cross 1st class in relative amounts.

The last part of the statistics show the numbers I have taken from the reference below and state the amount of German Iron Crosses (IC) and Prussian Warriors Merit Medals (WMM) that were awarded to members of the Austro-Hungarian army.

Reference: Steiner, J.C. (2010) Heldenwerk 1914-1918. Vienna, Austria

Now also available as an online source: http://www.heldenwerk.info

Colonel Miklósy – Commander of Honvéd Infantry Regiment 32 (gyalogezred), Eastern Front 1942-43, Hungarian Army, WW2

This is a compilation of several blogs that I had on another website.

His medal entitlement from the Vitéz yearbook (foreign awards not mentioned here)

Some time ago I was able to acquire a medal group with papers (not complete but most was there) of a Hungarian officer who saw service in both world wars and the interbellum.

Although the materials came directly from the family no additional information was there so this was the start of my research in which I tried to reconstruct his career based on his medals and archive materials.

Excerpt from the Hungarian officers archives

For service in World War 1 as an officer he received:

Merit Cross 3rd class, Silver Merit Medal, Bronze Merit Medal, Wounded Medal with three stripes on the ribbon, Karl Troop Cross and the remembrance medals of Hungary, Austria and Bulgaria. Basically the set of a lower ranking officer with good (brave) performance. Only of one of these medals the story could be reconstructed based on the Medal Request Form that was found in the Hungarian Military Archives

Silver Military Merit Medal

This is the Silver Military Merit Medal with swords in its original box and with the 1917 award paper to the (then) Lieutenant Nikolajevics in the 301st Honved Infantry Regiment – his name would be changed to Miklosy only in 1932.

Medal in box with the award paper in the background

In the morning hours of the 5th of March, 1917 when superior enemy units attacked our positions on the Vinot heights, he distinguished himself with death-defying behavior and with energetic actions of the machineguns by, at the right moment giving strong fire against the flanks of the enemy attack causing strong losses, in which he contributed strongly in the repelling of the attack. He continued with his men, throughout the day, in killing enemy artillery fire that destroyed our positions almost entirely, to stand his ground.

The 301st Honved Infantry Regiment was in 1917 part of the Austro-Hungarian 7th Army that fought in the Russo-Romanian front in these beginning days of the Russian revolution that would change the war.

With my sincere thanks to the Hungarian Military Archives who provided me with the citation!

Interwar Period

In the interwar period he continued his service with succes based on his medals in that period, a bronze merit medal and a merit cross and continuing his rise through the officers ranks reaching the rank of lieutenant-colonel at the beginning of the re-annexations of lost territories. One medals is peculiar.

Bulgarian St. Alexander Order, 4th class

Although this medal came with the official document it would have impossible to determine the reason behing it if not another piece of paper had accompanied it. The official report of the formal, military Hungarian participation in the opening in 1935 of a Mausoleum in Varna, Bulgaria.

The Mausoleum was made in honour of the Polish / Hungarian / Croatian King Vladyslaw III. The Mausoleum was placed in Varna, the city in Bulgaria where history places his untimely death at the age of 20 in a battle against the Turks in 1444.

A group of 4 Hungarian officers participated as the Hungarian delegation in this opening of which Miklosy was one. All participants received Bulgarian orders for their participation in the opening according to rank.

Order, award paper and report.

Vitéz order – change of names in 1935

One of the requirements for the Hungarian Vitéz order was having a Hungarian name. For Hungarians of other descent like German or Slavic this was a big obstacle. Many officers with a non-Hungarian name decided not to apply for the Vitéz order or only very late like this officer only in 1932 (the order was started in in 1922). Probably he did this to improve his chances to further advance his career. His name changed from Nikolajevics into Miklósy!

Zrínyi Miklós 7th Honvéd Infantry Regiment (gyalogezred)

From 1939 up to 1941 Miklosy served as Lt-Colonel in the 7th Honved Infantry Regiment. This regiment is named after the Hungarian poet and military leader Zrínyi Miklós. Upon his transfer to the 9th Regiment he received a formal commendation for his work in the unit which was accompanied by this very nice table medal in it’s original presentation box.

Return of Erdély and Felvidék to Hungary

Both, the ranklist and the officers record (that is kept in the military archives)  regarding Miklosy state that he received the Erdély (Transylvania) medal. This is shown with the sign of an encircled E. The medal was in the estate too but to my own surprise there was this paper that states he received the Military Merit Medal for the action in Felvidék (Southern Hungary) but he has not been awarded the corresponding medal for actual participation in that action in Felvidék.

So a separate Medal for Merit regarding that action but no medal for the participation – did he do staff prepatory work? It will be impossible to tell what is the story here I am afraid.

Commander of the 32nd HIR – Eastern Front 1942-43

In the second world war Hungary was an unwilling, but nevertheless active, part of the Axis forces. Their participation on the Eastern Front with a hardly trained and poorly equipped army resulted in an enormous bloodshed. Miklosy was a part of this as commander of the 32nd Honved Infantry Regiment from October 1942 up to October 1943.

With his staff on the Eastern Front as commander of HIR 32

In 1942 he got promoted to Colonel – in Hungarian Ezredes – literally 1000, so the leader of 1000 men. In Hungarian the word for Regiment is Ezred – so 1000 men. So it follows a colonel belongs to a regiment.

Because of the war effort many Regiments were split. In this case the 2nd Honved Infantry Regiment was split in two with both officers and men and then officers and men were added to both units. So the half of a trained regiment with backfill of additional officers and troops. The so-called brother regiment would have the same number +30 so in the case the 2nd and the 32nd were brother regiments.

Miklosy with his promotion to Colonel became eligible for the position of Regimental Commander and received the 32nd as his new unit to command in oktober 1942.

From that period up to 1943 they were on the Eastern Front as part of the Hungarian 2nd Army near the Don bend, south of Voronezh. Miklosy was a replacement after the initial battles that cost more than 20% of the officers lives. They served next to the Italian 8th Army.

Colonel Miklosy would “only” receive the Iron Class 2nd class from his German allies. A relatively low award for a colonel with one year service in the Eastern Front. Maybe he was not as co operative as they wished?

From the Hungarians he would receive the Officers cross for the Order of Merit , with wreath and swords, a level up from his earlier peace time award. A rare order with only 215 awarded during the war. Unfortunately both the order and document are missing.

His career after the Eastern Front was shortlived. He got involved in the Hungarian youth movement, the Levente. His commander saw him as unfit for further commands and promotions so he retired. This might have to do with the change in politics in Hungary in 1944 but the exact circumstances are unclear. At the end of the war he was taken back into the army with his rank of colonel to defend Hungary against the Russian enemy that was at the gates….

Due to this he ended his career as a prisoner of war of the Russians where he spend several years in their camps before being released.

Medalgroup of Colonel Miklosy (missing one medal: the Hungarian Order of Merit Cross – officer with swords and laurels) 

Hungarian Merit Order, officers cross. I am looking for an original as replacement for the missing one in this group!

WW2 Hungarian Gendarme (Csendőr) tunic

The word Gendarme is an old word, used in slightly different versions (Csendőr in Hungarian) all over Europe and has a similar meaning in all those languages. It was a military styled police force that acted in the rural areas. In Hungary cities had the right to set up a local police force (which they also had to fund in that case). All other areas (including cities that did not choose to have their own police force) were served / regulated by the Csendőr that were state funded. They were somewhere in between the army and the city police forces and brought law and order to the more remote areas.

In Hungary they also used the same uniform as the regular army (Honved) but could be distinguished by the colour of the shoulder and collar tabs: red on a green basis. Next to this they wore a very distinctive black hat with a rooster feather.

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In times of war the Gendarme / Csendőr would also act as military police or more correctly as Field Gendarmes. Within regular army units there were also Military Police men but these were not regular Gendarme / Csendőr and did not have the same extensive level of specialized police training. Such MP men wore regular uniforms but could be distinguished by a special badge (period 1942/44) that was worn on the left breast pocket.

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During the war, as late as 1944 – when the Germans had taken over practical control of Hungary,  a German style gorget (metal plate hanging from a chain on the front of the uniform) was introduced to make it more visible that a person was a Gendarme. As these were used only late in the war only few photo’s of them being worn exist.

This tunic was probably made in the 1930s and altered after the introduction of the M1940 type of uniform where a different type of collar was used (stand and fall type as now seen on this tunic). The rank is that of sergeant and also the silver buttons indicate it is an NCO rank (gold buttons for officers). The 3 medals indicate that the man served also in WW1 and participated in of two of the three re-annexation campaigns of areas lost in the Trianon treaty.

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

Chris Navis: from WW2 resistance hero to cold war secret (Gladio) agent?

OK this is a stretch for me as a researcher. I like to stick to facts only. Not that I cannot enjoy a nice conspiracy theory related movie or book but for historical publications it is not my “thing”. In this case I have a working hypothesis that may raise some eyebrows.

What I will do is state facts that have been published before. The limitation to facts is difficult in this specific case as the most relevant archives have either been destroyed or will not be open to public for a long time to come. So I will add some interpretation of information as well. Anything that is not a fact comes in the last part of the article and is clearly stated as such!.

So please read and judge for yourself and if you have facts to add please feel free to contact me!

This story is about some paper materials from the estate of Chris Navis. Some I bought, others I received as a gift through a collecting friend (thanks again Henk-Willem) in 2010. The materials came on the market when a house was cleared out, probably that of the late Chris Navis. The stack of papers were very diverse. Before the war Navis was an officer. During the war he had an important role in the Dutch resistance against the German occupation. And after the war he was an officer again, now in the Dutch East Indies. The papers cover a period from the late 1930s into the 1950s and relate to different themes. From congratulations upon his receipt of the US Medal of Freedom with Palm but also buying an officers saddle and some strange papers that are the reason for this article.

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For his work in the resistance he received the Military Order of William 4th class (MWO4). The highest Dutch decoration for (military) bravery. A true rarity and one of my main research interests. So reason for me to be very happy with this paperwork that I  am now the custodian of.

His citation for the MWO4 is an interesting but somewhat difficult text, even in my native Dutch, so I have tried to translate it here to the best of my ability:

“Has distinguished himself during the German occupation by showing excellent deeds of courage, conduct and loyalty by, from August 1941 to September 1944 at first for a paramilitary resistance group and so for the Interior Forces (Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten, the national resistance), fully independently and across the country with great risks as a consequence of frequent enemy infiltration and because he was wanted by the Gestapo, to make and activate the indispensable contacts for the building of the interior military resistance. Due to his uncommonly great experience and critical insight has been able on multiple occasions during his dangerous travels and meetings to barely escape arrest, and on the other hand has been able to warn many for imminent threats and thereby diminishing the vulnerability of the internal connections within the underground resistance.

Thereby and specifically by his outstanding conduct he has highly contributed to the building of a widely extended and safe resistance, that contributed in the fields of espionage and sabotage and other important services to the allied warfare,

Despite his seriously detoriated health as a consequence of his restless activity, tension and starvation, he completed in September 1944 an important mission by moving south and make contact with the Commander of the Interior Forces, the Intelligence Service and the Chief of Staff of the Military Authority.

He was an example of the never selfsparing spirit of resistance.”

Stay Behind network in the Netherlands – not Gladio!

Gladio is a name that rings a bell to many people. Few know exactly what it was but it became a synonym for all Stay Behind networks in Europe. In fact it was the name of the Italian Stay Behind organization that received very negative publicity. Similar Stay Behind networks in other countries also received a negative name due to this and often were wrongfully attached to the same name. I will discuss some basic information regarding the Dutch Stay Behind organization here. My text is based on both the academic and the state publication mentioned in the sources so “facts” not “conspiracy theory” as there seem to be many of these as soon as the Gladio name comes up. These publications only mention names of the leadership of the related organizations who already have passed away and whose names were already known to the public. Names of other members for as far as they have been archived were secret and remain so.

After WW2 the fear for another war was widespread both in Europe and in the US and the risk of a war with Russia was seen as realistic. Experiences in Europe with the resistance, espionage and counter espionage (such as the infamous Englandspiel that caused many casulties) had a strong impact on the steps that would be taken as a precaution for that anticipated war.

As early as 1946 the Dutch Intelligence community started with, what later would be known as, the Stay Behind organization that would be active up to 1992. Most of that period the existence was largely unknown to the general public and kept out of the papers.

In 1946 a main person of the Dutch resistance Dr. Henk Veeneklaas (also knight MWO4!) contacted Prince Bernhard as head of the Interior Forces regarding the forming of a Stay Behind network. The Prince brought him in contact with L. Eindhoven the head of Dutch Intelligence who was soon convinced of the use of such a network. The network would, in case of an occupation by presumably the Russians, be the foundation of the new resistance, espionage and sabotage. No such organization was in place at the start of the German occupation despite plans to do so dating from before the war. The complete resistance, communication etc. had to be organized during the war from scratch by people like Navis. They did so at great personal risk and with many casualties in the process.

Veeneklaas was backed by the Dutch Minister President of that moment and started the training of new agents for this new organization. For the organization he sought mainly agents and instructors that had participated in the resistance in occupied Holland. The organizations official name would, like its Anglo-Saxon counterparts,  be an acronym I&O, for Intelligence and Operations (Inlichtingen en Operaties).

Chris Navis – I&O /Stay Behind agent or instructor?

The above mentioned characteristics would have made Navis a very fitting candidate for a role as agent and/or instructor in the new I&O / Stay Behind organization. Reading his MWO4 citation he was an accomplished agent during the war with loads of actual experience that only a few survivors could boast and on top of that a military background and training.

The names of the agents and instructors of this organization are still secret today and unfortunately most documents were destroyed and not archived so the question of who were part of the I&O organization may never be fully answered.

But there are some documents in this group of papers that caught my interest. To be honest I did not know what to think of them at all until I started reading about the Dutch I&O / Stay Behind organization a few years later.

My working hypothesis is that Navis was an agent/instructor in the I&O organization

So from here onward it is speculation, based on a few documents that were part of this larger group of papers. No  hard facts but only circumstantial information!

So let’s start with reviewing some of these papers. First two small letters signed by a person named Van Eyk. They indicate some sort of working relationship that existed between March 30th 1951 and February 2nd 1953.

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The first is the planning of an appointment. The second letter states that this Van Eyk is sorry for the loss of energy spent by both sides (he indicates the receipt of a letter, probably a resignation) but that the content of the statement made on March 30, 1951 (the date of the meeting in the first letter) will be unabated applicable to him. 

Ok any significance? Maybe. Van Eyk was the alias Veeneklaas used during the WW2.. Based on the Pivot report (see sources) he continued to use this name during his role in the post war Stay Behind operation. So is the Van Eyk of these letters Dr. Veeneklaas or is the name just a coincidence? And what is the statement Navis will be held to, one of secrecy?

And than the typewritten text below:

“You will sit on the given date at 20.00 hrs in the 2nd class restaurant of the Central Station in Utrecht. In front of you on the table you will have a copy of ELSEVIER while you are reading a copy of LIFE yourself, of which the cover will be clearly folded outward.

You will be spoken to with the words “Have you been waiting here long?” on which you will reply “four minutes”.

You will use an alias.”

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Ok any significance? Maybe. The text is not for a normal meeting I would say. And it is not a wartime text either as LIFE was not available in German occupied Holland. It sounds like a secret agent type of meeting. Maybe training? If I had found this paper outside of this Navis collection I would probably  have laughed about it because of this stereotype spy text. Maybe not so stereotype yet in the 1950s?

Next two letter covers. Of what they exactly are I have no clue.

Ok any significance? Maybe. What I found interesting is that both were sent from Utrecht Central Station. The location of the meet up above. And who sends letters from a Railway Station anyway? Not the most regular location. You write a lettercover with a typewriter (at home or in an office) and then you carry it to the railway station to send it away? It is a neutral location in a big city so not traceable, very spylike again?

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And what is going on with the material of these envelopes? Made of maps? Wartime surplus stock maps recycled? I honestly do not know. I do know I have not seen such covers before or after and none of the other period covers in the group are like this or have a railway station stamp.

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And finally a 4 page questionnaire with the most amazing questions. Way to much to translate but with questions that I cannot place in any regular environment apart from a secret organization. And the heading is clearly very organized too.

A quotes from the starting text:

“The information you will give will be considered secret and be viewed by 2 persons only, namely the boss of the organization and the memeber of the staff that will review if you are qualified for the service and for the task that you will recieve there. This information is also aimed at use in the case of operational circumstances”

The organization – without naming it that is a bit peculiar, right? Secret and only viewed by 2 people, that does not seem to be for a regular job interview? And what are operational circumstances? After that loads of questions regarding military service and resistance work like below:

39. have you in any way done resistance work. if so in which form and when.

40. in which special operations have you, in regard to this, had experience (courier/espionage/sabotage/coding/falsifying papers etc)

Questions about personality, spouse and her personality, family etc etc. totaling to 125 separate questions.

Conclusion?

No conclusion – but my working hypothesis remains that Navis was a member of the I&O / Dutch Stay Behind organization in the 1950s.

His wartime experience would have made him an ideal candidate, the timing fits with the building up phase of the I&O organization and these additional papers seem to hint at such a type of organization. Together they make it a distinct possibility. And so far no facts have come to light to dismiss the hypothesis…..

What do you think? Do let me know!

Sources:

KuK Machinegun Detachments in the Austro-Hungarian Army, WW1

Although Machine Guns were not new in the beginning of WW1 they were still quite rare in the Austro-Hungarian army with only 2.700 pieces in the entire army.

During the war the importance of the machinegun became clear and many new machineguns were produced and deliverd to the infantry but also to cavalry units (that often became dismounted) during the war and of course the mountain troops. By the end of the war more than 40.500 machineguns would be in use!

Machine gun units could be recognized by the specific collar badge as can be seen above (not my collection) and sometimes also by the clothing in the case of cavalry units as can be seen in the photo’s furher below.

The back from the postcard above, also part of Honvéd Huszar unit!

Cavalry: KuK Dragoons and Honved Hussars

The cavalry units that became dismounted during the war and most often acted as regular infantry. They also had machinegun detachments in their regiments. The collar badge was the same as can be seen with the Huszar in the photo above. But the clothing could be different, specifically the jackets had some different versions.

Honved Cavalry Machinegun detachments Field Grey Fur Jacket (lower photo from the book The Emperor’s Coat).

Dragoon officer of a Machinegun detachment with the regular Dragoon’s fur coat with white lambskin and not the black version. See pictures below from The Emperor’s coat again.

Cavalry Machine Gun unit with a nice variation of all of the coats shown and discussed above! Both the Honvéd and the regular KuK cavalry versions


KUK IR 48 – Machinegun Instruction detachment

And as last picture from my collection the Belobende Anerkennung (Bronze Signum Laudis medal equivalent) or honorable acknowledgment for the Commander of a Machinegun Instruction unit of KuK Infantry Regiment 48, received when he left this command.


Sources: The Emperor’s Coat by Dr. Ortner

All period pictures and the paperwork are part of my collection