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. The official silver versions would be marked with an A in a circle on the rim (for the Vienna Mint).

Below an example of a private production version of the Gold Bravery Medal without the artists name Kautsch below Emperor Karl. Interbellum period replacement for Horváth János.

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 Karl examples in real gold 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.

The overview below is based on the information from the website of Dr. János Szentváry-Lukács, see the reference below. It gives the specific amounts for the Bravery Medals to the Honvéd part of the Austro-Hungarian army!

The award was continued after the war in Hungary (could be worn on the uniform) and a new version with Regent Horthy also came into existence. You can read more about those in this blog.

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

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

Read for some background on a Golden Bravery Medal my other blog.

And this website in Hungarian has also some great info, made by Dr. János Szentváry-Lukács.

Hungarian Colonel Miklósy – Honvéd Infantry Regiment 32, 1942-43 and 23 division, 1944-45

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

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 there was no additional information 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

In the period just before WW1 Miklosy trained to become an officer (the so called one year volunteers) and he was commisioned as Lieutenant in the reserve in 1914, just in time for the Great War. The photo below shows him as sergeant during his training period to become an officer so probably 1913 or 1914.

Photo from the family archives (not my collection)

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 medal is peculiar.

Bulgarian St. Alexander Order, 4th class

Although this medal came with the official document it would have been impossible to determine the reason behind it if not another piece of paper had accompanied it. The official report of the Hungarian military 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 was changed from Nikolajevics into Miklósy as a result!

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 a commendation for merit (on paper, not a 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 commendation 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 the commander of the 32nd Honved Infantry Regiment from October 1942 up to October 1943.

With staff on the Eastern Front as commander of HIR 32 (picture from internet, see reference below*)

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. Miklósy was a replacement after the initial battles that cost more than 20% of the officers lives. They served next to the Italian 8th Army. In January 1943 they would face the Russian attack in their region and the total collapse of the Hungarian 2nd army resulting in 60% casualties of the total strength.

Colonel Miklosy would “only” receive the Iron Class 2nd class from his German allies. A relatively low award for a colonel with one year of service on the Eastern Front. Maybe he was not as co operative as they expected or not as active? What is certain his regiment was part of the 2nd Hungarian army that suffered great losses against the Russian forces during his command of the 32nd regiment and the Germans in general blaimed the Hungarians for the defeat near the Don.

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 so his service there was seen as positive. A rare order with only 215 awarded during the entire war (to Hungarians and around 67 to others, mainly Germans). A substantial amount, around 78 of the total were posthumously which is not strange if you look at the amount of casualties on the Eastern Front. Unfortunately the related documents for this medal are missing.

His career after the Eastern Front seemed shortlived. Upon his return to Hungary he got involved in the Hungarian youth movement, the Levente but his new commander saw him as unfit for further commands and promotions so he had to retire. This might have to do with the change in politics in Hungary in 1944 but the exact circumstances are unclear. Later testomonies do make it clear he did not cooperate with the Arrow Cross leadership so a political retirement does seem realistic.

With the 23rd (reserve) division 1944-45, defense of Hungary

Despite the political (?) differences he was recalled to service in August 1944 and served in the 23rd Honvéd (reserve) Division (hadosztály) in defense of Hungary against the Russian forces that were coming close to the borders. He even became the divisions last commander of the war. The unit defended Hungary and ended up in the Czech republic, surrendering there to the Russians in May 1945 near the city of Bechin with the remaining 2500 men of the division…

More research into this last part of his military career is needed. In post war testimonies (more than 10) it is made clear he viewed it his task to defend Hungary against the Russians but did not cooperate with the Germans more than was needed for this. There is a statement made regarding Labatlán in Hungary that also needs further research.

Colonel Miklósy’s full entitlement by the end of the war.
His medal entitlement on paper (excerpt from the photo at the top of the blog)
His medal entitlement from the Vitéz yearbook (foreign awards not mentioned here)

He spent the next 3 years in Russian POW camps before returning to Hungary in 1948. From that period muliple testimonies exist, as stated above, from other military men that served with him stating that he was not a fascist/ friend of the Germans. He continued to live in Szeged untill his death in 1968.

Although there are many more documents in the group than shown here most of the documents spanning the later part of the war were lost.

Award document signed by Miklósy (as commander of the 32nd HIR 1943)

Years afther the Miklósy group came into my custody I was able to trade this group that links to Miklósy. It is a bronze bravery medal and firecross both with papers to the same soldier. The bravery medal was given out by the Eastern Hungarian Occupation Forces but the firecross was awarded by the 32nd Honvéd Infantry Regiment and is actually signed by Miklósy as commander of the unit! It is hard to read but it says vMiklósy Ezds (vitéz Miklósy Ezredes) and for reference I have a post war signature of him as reference. The same signature but without the titles. A great addition to the Miklósy group, an award document signed by him in his role as the commanding officer of the 32nd HIR during his year on the Don. Synchronicity at its best!

And as reference a postwar autograph (without titles)

The set of Miklósy was inherited by a relative and I was able to buy it in two groups. Not everything had been sorted out when I bought the first batch but obviously the rest of the material was also offered to me. Unfortunately the set was not complete, especially from WW2 materials were missing. What happened to these over time is impossible to tell but if something related to him is for sale do let me know!

The first batch of documents and medals when I added them to my collection

*Reference: Babucs Zoltán – Szabó Péter: “Legyetek eskütökhöz hívek mindhalálig…” A budapesti magyar királyi “József nádor” 2. honvéd gyalogezred a második világháborúban (Puedlo, Budapest-Nagykovácsi, 2013.)

I do not have the book yet but the photo from internet originally came from this source I have learned.

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:

Austro-Hungarian Machinegun Detachments

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!

Badges of the Machinegun Units

Machine gun units could be recognized by the specific collar badge as can be seen above (left and right). It depicts a three headed dragon spraying fire in all directions. The specific cap badge for machine gun units can be seen in the middle between the rank stars.

Badges as mounted on a photo album by the original owner.
The official announcement for the above badges

There was a proficiency badge for machinegun markmanship. The badge also with the dragon. It could be worn on the right breast above the pocket.

Below pictures of the actual badges on the photo album being worn by the original owner who was part of the Machinegun Company II of KuK IR 51.

Below examples of Machinegun collar badges being worn on different uniforms of men of several different units!

The back from the postcard above right, 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 next to it a photo 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.

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 a document 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. He received the document upon his leave of this command.

Machineguns in the field. All period pictures and the paperwork are part of my collection.

Source: The Emperor’s Coat by Dr. Ortner

Hungary return of Transylvania, 1940

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.


Austro-Hungarian Marchbatallion XXVI, BH2 – Bosnian Infantry Regiment 2

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

Austro-Hungarian offensive Group Edelsbrunner BH2 (Bosnian/Bosniaken)

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, HIR 16, Honvéd

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

KNIL – Airforce Wings (ML KNIL)

Even though my focus is on the para wings of the KNIL a small collection of aviation wings is also part of my collection

Today I will describe the few wings of the Airforce (ML KNIL) from my current collection:

Pilot and Navigator (combined) Wing
Bomber Wing
Radio Operator (Telegraphist) Wing

Mechanic Wing

Pilot and Navigator wings

The aviator and navigator wing for the ML KNIL were introduced in 1922 as two seperate wings. From 1932 a combination was made. The basic wing of the aviator now could be combined with that of the navigator by adding the W (waarnemer = navigator) to the pilot wing as most pilots would have the double qualification and no longer needed two wings to show this. The seperate wings for single qualification would stay in use but are relatively rare.

Crew Wings

These models of wings for crew members were introduced in 1940/41. At that moment there was still peace in the Dutch East Indies but the war in the Netherlands already was lost. Wings were produced locally. These all have a dark (bronze) colour and no makers name. These wings are solid (so not impressed on the back).

This changed after the Indies were lost to the Japanese in 1942. All forces and planes evacuated to Australia as far as possible. Troops left behind ended up as Prisoners of War with the Japanese invaders. During the remainder of the war the operations in the pacific were continued from Australia. The education of new pilots and aviation crews for the Dutch East Indies Army was mostly done in the USA. This had as a result that wings were produced in both the USA and Australia.

Unsigned, local version

The Mechanic Wing shown here is of the variation made in the Dutch East Indies and does not have a makers mark. These were made in 1941 according to Rob Vis.

As mentioned before the colour is dark (bronze) and it has a simple closure. Compared with the Stokes versions this one has a flat reverse.

Foreign makers

In the USA one maker was used, Amico. In Australia two makers were used KG Luke and Stokes. All makers have slight differences in the feathers of the wings. Colour is the easiest distinction between the USA and Australian versions. Amico used the dark bronze colour that was also the standard before the war. In Australia the colour (and material?) was brass. Most wings produced after 1941 are also marked by the maker but not all.

Stokes

War period style closure

The Bomber and Radio Operator wings above were made by Stokes but are from different batches. The Bomber is a rare variation with the pre-war style closure (3 hooks placed on the back) where the Radio Operator had a pin as shown. According to Rob Vis (the foremost Dutch Wing Collector) in 1942 when the KNIL had to evacuate to Australia a rush order was placed for some types of wings and these were ordered with the old (then standard) style closure. Later production batches all had the regular pin backs. The bomber is in general quire rare as post 1945 these were no longer produced. The bombers were used as strafers in Indonesia so bomb aimers were no longer trained.

K.C. Luke

K.C. Luke was the second Australian maker of ML KNIL badges as in this example. The propellors were the generic sign for Aviation within the army both for KNIL and the Dutch army. They were worn next to the rank. The typical closure for Luke as seen here was also used on the wings they made.

Amico

Below the reverse of an Aviator combined with Navigator (W for Waarnemer) wing made by Amico in the USA. Note the different style of wing/feathers and the darker colour despite being polished to shine in the past...

1st Lt Samson wearing the Aviator/Navigator wing

Copies

As all of the ML KNIL wings are relatively rare reproductions have been made to fool collectors so please study before buying! According to Mr. Vis reproductions of the Stokes early batch type of wing also exist but are of lower quality. The same goes for regular Stokes, Amico and Luke wings. Most reproductions show differences if you can directly compare them to an original in hand. In photo’s it can be difficult so please act carefully!

Documentation

Each wing would be accompanied by a qualification (brevet) booklet. The pre war version was black with on the front the wing involved. Here is a wartime/postwar example for the Aviator/Navigator Samson.

Pilot/navigator qualification booklet (brevet) for Lt Samson (see link below)

US Navy Wing to Dutch Naval Aviator (started in the Dutch East Indies)

I will give more background on this wing in a dedicated blog but here is short version. There was a group of Naval Aviators (Reserve Officers, AROV) that started their training in 1941 in the Dutch East Indies. They would complete their training in the US in 1943. This wing belonged to an Aviator from that group!

References:

More reading can be done in Tristan Broos his book Het Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch leger (Geschiedenis, uniformering en uitrustingen 1911-1942)

Thanks to Rob Vis for his knowledge and input.

A great overview of all ML KNIL wings can be found here.

Or read about the story behind a Bronze Lion for bomber pilot Lt Samson

And two pages with some background information from the book: Gedenkboek Militaire Luchtvaart 1914-1939 by M. van Haselen. This book I can highly recommend for the prewar history of the ML KNIL.

KNIL – Reserve and Legion badges

In the years leading up to World War 2 the Netherlands East Indies started also making preparations. On of these was extending the amount of men that could be called to arms in the form of a reserve. The largest base for this were former (indigenous) men of the KNIL that had been honorably discharged.

Two variations of the same badge by different makers, note the difference in the sword etc.

To increase the visibility of the reserve a badge was introduced in November 1939. The badge was worn on the civilian clothing. A version of this badge is shown above. In 1941 the total reserve of former KNIL men amounted to 4700.

How many badges were actually made and handed out remains unclear but looking at the potential number of 4700 and only two years of use of the badge (1940/41) and the fact that the majority of these indigenous reservists became POW’s in 1942/1945 and most of these remained in Indonesia after WW2 it can be considered a rare badge now.

Reverse with both types having the same type of closure

Other versions of reserve badges also exist for the Royal Legions Surakarta, Jogjakarta and Madura. These were introduced in 1940 and also intended for use on civilian clothes. The members of these legions were also part-time soldiers. These badges can be considered even rarer! So far I have found no pictures of these badges being worn. All these badges are in the same basic form of a shield with the Red/White/Blue flag on it and a weapon in the centre. They were only for wear on civilian clothes on the left breast.

Badge of the Royal Legion of Mangkoe Negoro (Surakarta), reverse is the same as the other badges.

Somewhat later the Home Guard (Landwacht) was introduced which existed of men not otherwise mobilized for different reasons. The basic badge has the word LANDWACHT at the bottom but versions for specific towns also exist. These amounted to a total of approximately 27.500 men.

The basic Home Guard badge as worn on the Home Guard uniform (so not on civilian clothes)

Sources: B.C. Cats, ‘Hulpkorpsen in voormalig Nederlands-Indië, hun uniformering en onderscheidingstekenen’, in: Armamentaria 23 (1988).