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!

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.

Hussar, see for details the reverse 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 being worn in the photo above and below aphoto from the book The Emperor’s Coat describing this type of 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

Photo probably of Husaren Regiment 14, HR14 based on the Kappenabzeichen of the officer in the middle (recognized by Hermann Attila)

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

Return of Transylvania to Hungary in 1940 – Hungarian Army WW2

Second Vienna treaty

As a result of the 2nd Vienna treaty Transylvania was returned to Hungary in 1940. It had been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire but became part of Romania in 1920 as a part of the Trianon treaty. In 1940 a large part of the population was still affiliated to Hungary and also many people were of Hungarian decent and language. The return was a military action but without any confrontation.

Photo album

Here some pages from a photo album of an officer (name unknown) that was part of this action. It has been painted to become a work of art in that period. The album also contains some later actions that I will share in another blog soon. The cities of Koloszvár and Nagyvárad are the focus of these pages.


KuK Officers of Marchbatallion XXVI, BH2 – Bosnian Herzegovian Infantry Regiment 2 – Italian Front, Austro-Hungarian army WW1

These are pictures of an officer from Trautenau who volunteered (1 year volunteer) and became an officer in BH2 together with several of his friends or familiy members. The earlier pictures in this blog came from the same album!

Photo while still as an aspiring officer (so NCO in rank, training as an officer) in 1916
Sitting in the middle
Back row, second from left, now as a decorated officer (in training)
On the right side
And as a decorated officer in 1918

KuK Offensive Group Edelsbrunner BH2 (Bosnian/Bosniaken) – Golden Bravery Medal, Austro-Hungarian army WW1

Bosnian Herzegovian Infantry

Bosnia Herzegovina became part of the Austro-Hungarian empire only in 1878. Nevertheless its capital Sarajevo would be the scene of the start of World War 1 in 1914, by the assination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand.

The AH regimental system was regional, each regiment would get men from a specific region. This way four Bosnian Herzegovian Infantry Regiments were formed. Officers (on purpose) would come from a different region. The Bosnian regiments were numbered BH1 through to BH4.

Golden Bravery Medals

Despite the fact that the Bosnians had been linked to the Austro Hungarian empire for only a very short time or maybe even because of this the 4 Bosnian Herzegovian Infantry Regiments that were formed in WW1 would get the highest number of gallantry (Golden Bravery) medals in the entire AH army.

The average of these Golden Bravery medals was around 10 per regiment but the BH2 Infantry Regiment would get the highest amount of all, 42! The runner up regiment would get 36 Golden Bravery medals. There was even a saying in the AH army – “The Bosnians are coming” which would bring fear to the enemies as they were seen as fierce fighters.

More about the bravery medals can be found in my earlier blog.

Officers in BH2

As a large part of the Bosnians were Islamic the Fez was worn as the standard headgear in these units for all men, independend of their belief! Officers not being from the same region could choose if they would wear “standard” officers headgear or also the Fez like in the picture below.

An album in my collection has photo’s from several related (two brothers with family name Almasi) and befriended officers coming from the same “German” city of Trautenau in the current Czech Republic.

It seems they al went as volunteer (1 year) officers to the war. Several of them becoming officers in BH2. Below Leopold Erben from Trautenau who also, as an officer in training, would earn a Golden Bravery medal for BH2 in 1918!

Leopold Erben GTM, BH2

Offensive Group Edelsbrunner

One photo has the caption of “Offensivgruppe Edelsbrunner” named after its leading officer, Edmund Edelsbrunner, also from Trautenau! He was also one of the 42 people in BH2 who was awarded the Golden Bravery medal.

He would receive it during his training period as an officers (so still NCO for the awarding of medals) in 1915. During the rest of the war he would remain very active even getting an Iron Crown order 3rd class as a lieutenant. This is very rare for such a junior officer. Almost only flight aces would get that honour.

A specific event is mentioned in the book “Die Bosniaken kommen” by Werner Schachinger. In the book his group is mentioned as a “Nachrichten” or reconaissance group. The part is about his role in the 12th and decisive Isonzo battle. Probably this is the action for which he received the Iron Crown order!

“After the arrival of the main group of BH2 1st Lt Edelsbrunner and his men detached themselves again and went north. Two companies of BH2 were involved in heavy streetfighting in the city of Forgaria at that moment. In the meantime Edelsbrunner circled around the city and went straight for Anduin capturing an Italian Artillery unit in the process. He captured 7 pieces of artillery, 12 machineguns and other materials but also 600 Italian soldiers. The struggle for the bridge of Cornino was over after this. He earned the title of “Ramssurimann of Anduin” for this from the men of BH2″

All of these pictures come from the same album in my collection. I will publish some more in another blog soon.

Austro-Hungarian Storm Troops, Roham Csapat – 16 Honved Infantry Regiment (HIR), WW1 KuK

Elite units of the Austro Hungarian army in WW1

During the first world war the Germans developed a new tactic using assault troops armed with hand grenades and machine guns. These were seen as elite troops and would get new types of equipment first. Based on the good results of these troops on the Western Front the Austro-Hungarians started sending units to the German Storm Courses. In 1917 they also started developing their own courses. Most regiments would have their own Storm Troops.

Before the Storm Troops the Austro-Hungarian army also had “Jagdkommando’s” on the Russian front as a form of elite unit. Their use was not widespread.

Jagd Kommando at the Russian front – using winter camouflage and riflegrenades.
Remembrance of the Hunting commando in Russia

Badges – Kappenabzeichen

As there were no official insignia for regiments an unofficial type of badge was worn on the hats, the so called Kappenabzeichen. Started unofficial the use became widespread and broadly accepted in the entire Austro-Hungarian army. They exist for regiments, divisions, armies but also for special occasions, leaders etc. Most units with Storm Troops would have a specific badge for them but also some generic Storm Troop badges exist.

Kappenabzeichen being worn by an officer.

Group belonging to a 16 HIR Stormtrooper

Group belonging to one man

The group exists of a dog tag, a knife, a small St Christopher statue and a course guide for the complete storm course in Hungarian and the extremely rare cap badge of the Stormtroopers of the 16th Honved Infantry Regiment. It is probably one of the rarest Kappenabzeichen as it was only made in a very small quantity, maybe even in a workshop and not as most by a factory.

Storm Course

Storm Courses would take 12 to 14 days. The programme booklets are very seldomly seen, only in museums as far as I know. Here a page from the inside of the booklet which seems to be a Hungarian language version of the info shown in the book “Storm Troops” by C. Ortner on which it is pictured. Grenade throwing was a important part of the course as can be seen in the photo’s.

In the Hungarian language the Stormtroops are called Roham Csapat or a stormtrooper a Rohamista as can be seen in the document below for the 1914-18 Hungarian medal:

Below some more Storm Troop related pictures. All pictures and materials are from my own collection.

Sources:

“Csak elore, edes fiam…”, Hermann Attila – Szanyi Miklos, Meliusz Kozpont 2012

Storm Troop, M. Christian Ortner, Verlag Militaria 2005E

Wing for Combat Jumps – Speciale Troepen KNIL actiewing

The Netherlands East Indies Army Special Forces made four combat jumps in december 1948 and early 1949. A special wing to commemorate this was designed and worn in 1949/50.

Photo: collection Theo Jacobs through S.Postma
An action wing as seen above in the picture of Jacobs (not his)

Djokjakarta

The first and most important combat jump was part of the so called 2nd Politionele Actie. A large scale military action against the Indonesian army. The military aim was to reclaim Djokjakarta that was in Indonesian hands. The action started with a combat jump by the Para Battle Group of the Speciale Troepen on the airfield Magoewo close to Djokjakarta. The action started on December 19th 1948.

Photo from the NIMH collection

The preparations for “Operation Crow” as this large scale airborne operation was called had already started in january of 1948 when the 1st Para Company (app 250 men including the staff of the Airborne School, SOP) was combined with the 2nd Para Company (app 150 men) of the Korps Speciale Troepen. The unit was renamed in Para Battle Group (para gevechtsgroep of app 400 men) and led by Captain Eekhout. After the airfield was taken from the Indonesian army, planes with the commando’s of the Korps Speciale Troepen and 2 infantry units were flown in to take the whole city of Djokjakarta back.

Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1

The Airborne troops were transported in 16 Dakota C-47 planes and a total of 370 para’s made this combat jump. A very extensive description of the further action can be found in the sources (in Dutch).

Djambi

Shortly after this action the men had to make a second combat jump. This was already on December 29th 1948, only 10 days after the first combat jump. This time the action was on the Island of Sumatra to secure the oil fields of Djambi.

Photo from the NIMH collection .

Rengat

Soon again a 3rd combat jump would be made during “Operation Mud (Modder)” in Rengat, again protecting oil fields in Sumatra. This time only the 1st Para Company would make the jump.

In a period spanning less than 3 weeks 3 combat jumps were made by approximately 370 men in total (not all men in all three jumps).

Gading

March 1949 was the last of four combat jumps. This one was on Java again and aimed at a large group of resistance fighters. After the jump it turned out the intelligence was outdated and the group had already left the region.

Qualification Wing – with golden laurel for combat jumps

The wing that was used as a qualification wing in 1947 was redesigned in 1949 for those who had particiapted in one or more of these combat jumps.

The 1947 qualification wing in metal (ex Bob Cats collection)
This type of qualification wing being worn by the para to the right. Photo from the NIMH collection.

A golden laurel (as in the beret wing) was added to the basic design. As with all badges in the Netherlands East Indies there were metal and cloth versions. The metal versions of the badges were only made and worn in the Netherlands East Indies Army in 1949 and early 1950. Of those only around 400 (all men of the para battle group, 370, that made combat jumps and the staff of the SOP that also participated in the combat jumps) were ever made.

Many para’s of Indonesian descent chose to remain in the new Indonesia but the wing could no longer be worn/shown as they were seen as signs of the colonial oppression! The metal version could no longer be worn in the Netherlands only cloth wings were officially allowed to be worn on the uniform. This type of metal wing is now very rare and highly collectable!

The 1949 Action Wing in metal

There are two versions of this metal wing the one shown below (both same type) is the larger of the two variations. It has been thinly painted (most often worn off) and it has a non standard closure on the back. This seems to be the official version.

Reverse of the Action Wing in a very good condition
And a version of the same wing where the paint is worn down (typical for this variant)

The other type is in the Cordesius style both with the closure and the thicker enamel style painting that chips but does not wear down so much and a less shiny type of metal is used. It is much rarer so probably a privately purchased item.

The difference between these two wings can mainly be seen by the size and paint quality. And of course the type of closure. Below the standard type of closure that is used on the smaller version (not my collection).

Variation 2 which is slightly smaller and has a different metal and closure

The same design in cloth (with some slight alterations over time) could be worn up to 1985 when the last person that had made combat jumps in Indonesia left the army. More recently Dutch Commando’s made combat jumps in Afghanistan and a new (cloth) wing for combat jumps with the same golden laurel design has come into existence.

Below two period photo’s of the metal wing for combat jumps being worn.

Bronbeek has a very similar example in their collection with the same non standard closure on the back! Unfortunately that example has lost all colour. This is the only example in their collection! The National Military Museum does not have a wing with combat jumps in their collection!

This Korea veteran is wearing a similarly fully discoloured version upon his return from Korea in 1951!

Officially the metal variation was for use in the Netherlands East Indies only but as the photo above shows, personal preferences could make an exception.

Oilfields of Djambi after the combat jump. Photo from the NIMH collection

And as last two photo’s that I was allowed to use here in the blog by the family of one of the para’s in the photo’s.

These photo’s cannot be reproduced without the consent of the owner!

Several metal and cloth actionwings can be seen in this group! (copyright)
Detail of the photo above with action wing in metal.
And here a metal wing with action jumps and a regular qualification wing in cloth. (copyright)

If you have additional info please let me know so I can update my blog!

If you have an example of this wing for sale or trade please do contact me at info@erikscollectables.com with a photo and the relevant info!

Sources:

https://www.dutchdefencepress.com/vechten-in-een-oorlog-die-zo-niet-mocht-worden-genoemd-%E2%80%93-deel-2/ 

https://www.dutchdefencepress.com/vechten-in-een-oorlog-die-zo-niet-mocht-worden-genoemd-%E2%80%93-deel-3/

Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1

https://www.noviomagus.nl/h1.php?p=Gastredactie/Meijer/BronzenKruisdragers/TheoJacobs.htm

Main photo from the NIMH collection.

Korps Speciale Troepen para wings from the estate of a decorated Instructor

Hans Ulrich (Boy) Kloër was a Sergeant Major Intructor for the Netherlands East Indies Army Special Forces Airborne School (SOP) and served as a commando before that within the Speciale Troepen.

All personell of the School for Airborne Training (SOP – School Opleiding voor Parachutisten) also were active in the large scale operations of the Special Forces and most importantly directly involved in the three combat jumps that were made by the Airborne Troops.

Estate

As an Airborne School (SOP) Sergeant Major Instructor and one of the last SOP staff members in Indonesia he took in the wings in 1950 from indigenous troops who did not want to go to the Netherlands after the colonial army was disbanded.

The para’s who remained in Indonesia had to hand over all their surplus materials, uniforms and badges. He kept these wings during all his life, never touching them again untill he passed away in 2006.

From his estate several wings have come to the market and I have been able to buy some of these for my collection. You can see all three period (silver, bronze and brass) variations of of the first model wings but in different conditions. Some have been higly polished during a longer period of time, others are bend to slightly curve in the form of the beret or have period repairs and some are still in great and complete condition.

The unique provenance of these wings make them very interesting to the collector as these are all worn originals from the active period in the Dutch East Indies and give a perfect overview of what was in use at that moment. It is a time capsule!

An overview of the subtle colour variations in this group. From gilded, real silver to brass, copper and bronze colours!

Bronze Lion

Kloër was decorated for his role in these combat jumps with the Bronze Lion, the second highest decoration for Gallantry in the Netherlands! Between 1944 and 1963 only 1211 were awarded and more recently for actions in Afghanistan is has been awarded a few times again.

Awarded by Royal Decree No 25 of December 9th 1949:

Has distinguished himself by very brave and faithful service in the face of the enemy.

After having distinguished himself by his cool and brave performance as Commander of a group Airborne Troops on December 19th 1948 by, after having landed on the Magoewo Airfield (Djokjakarta), breaking the enemy resistance and capturing a large quantity of arms and ammunition, after which on December 29th 1948 and January 5th 1949 again participated in an exemplary manner during the capture of the oilfields of Tempino (Djambi) and Rengat.

Due to his brave and resolute performance the drill towers and pumping stations fell into the hands of the Airborne Troops unharmed, although a large and fanatic group of enemies tried to prevent this. Singlehandedly Kloër disarmed the explosives on several of the drill towers. In less than 3 hours 108 drill towers in a range of 1 to 2 kms and also stations for pumps, radio and electricity were saved from destruction and fire and the city cleansed from hostile elements.

Again after the landing on Rengat he showed himself as a brave and persistent leader, who, after breaking the enemy resistance with his Airborne Troops, capturing the electricity plant and without hesitation by himself extinguish the already lit fuses of bombs just in time before exploding.

In the Netherlands with ribbon for the Bronze Lion

Many thanks to the family for allowing me to use these photo’s! All materials apart from the wings are still part of the family estate.

Source:  Erik Müller, 1944-2016 De Bronzen Leeuw. Voor bijzonder moedige en beleidvolle daden