The Hungarian WW2 Saint László Division badge

This badge is the only (official) Hungarian divisional badge that was in use during the second world war, it was intended for wear on the left breast pocket but can also be seen worn on the cap in period photo’s.

The Szent László Division was formed in October 1944. It is often named and seen as an elite unit because it was made up of the remainders of the Parachute regiment and several other “elite” units from both army and air force and even gendarmerie (rural police forces that were semi military).

The division was named after the Hungarian Saint László, king of Hungary 1077-1095 and patron saint of military men and exiles. A most fitting name for this unit as most of the surviving members became exiles.

It was commanded by Brigadier General Zoltán Szügyi (from 12th Oct 1944 until May 8th 1945). He can be seen in the photo (from the internet) below in the center. Before commanding the St. Laszlo Division he was commander of the Para Regiment. He is wearing the badge on the right breast pocket (sports badge under and para qualification badge above).

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Elements of the division saw action for the first time on the 19th of December in 1944 when they were used as emergency troops to plug gaps in the front. They suffered heavy losses during the defense of Hungary and did not fight as a whole division until April 1945 when it had received manpower again from several other units, to cover the earlier losses. The division continued to fight until ending the war in northern Croatia and southern Austria. When the war ended they crossed the Alps and entered Carinthia where they surrendered to the British forces. Something very rare occurred then, they were initially allowed to keep their weapons until a discussion with Tito’s partisans had been settled. After that they were soon disarmed and transferred to regular POW camps in Germany and Austria.

Most of these men did not return to Hungary or other locations occupied by Russia in fear of repercussions and very long periods of forced labour in Russian POW camps. The western occupational forces released them much sooner. Of the Saint László Division many chose to emigrate to the US. This making the unit insignia quite rare and found mostly outside of Hungary. Either from emigrants or found in the ground on places where they fell during the war.

The soldier on the left in the photo below (taken from the internet) wears the badge on his cap. The soldier in the middle also wears his para qualification badge on his side cap. Both insignia are officially worn on the right breast.

The badge itself is a simple aluminium cast with 4 drilled holes to sew it on clothing.

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Sources:

  • Leo W.G. Niehorster – The Royal Hungarian Army 1920-1945
  • Several websites for photo’s and general information.

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!

KuK Machinegun Detachments in the Austro-Hungarian Army, WW1

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

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

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

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

Cavalry: KuK Dragoons and Honved Hussars

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

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

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

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


KUK IR 48 – Machinegun Instruction detachment

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


Sources: The Emperor’s Coat by Dr. Ortner

All period pictures and the paperwork are part of my collection

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.


Hungarian Military (Honvéd) Uniforms of WW2

As most books regarding Hungary in WW2 regarding the history, uniforms and medals are in Hungarian I want to add a series of short descriptions in English in this blog.

The 1939M tunic (zubbony in Hungarian) was a modernization of the earlier 1926M version. The most notable difference being the collar which was a standing collar in the earlier version. The 1939M came with a so called stand and fall collar (so a collar that folds like on a shirt).

The same style of uniform was used both by officers and men. The basic material of the tunic is wool but many variations exist in both quality of the material and details. Most officers bought a private, tailor made version of the tunic in a fine quality of wool “kammgarn”.

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The officers version as seen above can be recognized by the details in gold: the buttons, the collar insignia “paroli” and the shoulder loops. The collar insignia give information about rank and branch. In this case a colonel of the infantry. The stars are made of bullion. The collar loops are the same for officers of all ranks and all branches of the army, a small loop of gold material.

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The ranks below officer had most often a tunic in coarser wool “poszto”. Most professional soldiers would also have a tailor made in a finer version of wool like the one above. The distinctive difference with officers is that the details are in silver, buttons and collar insignia and the shoulder loops are of cloth and give the branch of the army as do the collar insignia. In this case a sergeant of the Gendarmes. The stars for the rank are made out of solid aluminum.

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The arm of the officers tunic ends with three (non-functional) buttons which the lower ranks tunic does not have.

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The back of the tunic shows a minor difference again, a single split for the officer and a double for the NCO.

Normally medals were worn on the uniform, even in the field in the first years of the war. Later in the war most men wore ribbons only and sometimes not even those. The colonel is showing a ribbon series fitting his rank and a career spanning two wars. Behind the ribbons also the loops for medals can be seen. The sergeant is wearing three medals on loops, also spanning a period of two wars.

The Hungarian WW2 Air Force officers 1930M tunic (zubbony)

The 1930M uniform was the standard Air Force officers uniform from 1930 until 1945. The only variations are in material and color. Green for regular use, white for the summer and black as the dress version. Within the green colour also many variations exist.  Officers could buy their own tailor made versions with more luxurious materials like gabardine in place of the regular wool version.

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Example of a flight officer wearing a tailor made version

This specific version is a coarse wool (poszto) version as was handed out by the Air Force. This variation is called the front version that has brown metal buttons in place of the regular gold coloured buttons and made of poszto.

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Example of a front version being worn by an Air Force lieutenant

Unlike on the army tunic the shoulder boards are detachable (which was also the case with the river forces). If the officer was an aviator the pilot wing would be worn on the right breast just above the top pocket.

This tunic like eg the German and English ones were also worn as part of the actual flight gear. Often with a leather coat over the tunic.

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Pilots with flight jacket over the tunic (photo from internet)

The Hungarian WW2 army officers 1931M dress tunic (társasági zubbony)

The first type of dress tunic of the Hungarian army, after World War one, was the 1926 Model which was a classic atilla style tunic which was in use in many armies up to World War one.

This was replaced by a more modern but still typical Hungarian dress tunic in 1931, hence the model name 1931M. This model was in use until 1945 and was never changed in that period. Where the regular officers uniform changed the collar in 1939 this remained a standing collar.

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Some colour variations exist based on the branch of the army – this one is the infantry green version. General officers had a light blue one (like the WW1 hechtgrau colour), darker blue for the cavalry etc. This version is for a Lieutenant Colonel of the Infantry. The loops on the left breast are for medals, in this case 9 loops. The combination of rank and medals hint at an officer that already started his career in the first World War.

Sources:

  • A Magyar Királyi Honvédség Egyenruhái 1926 – 1945, dr. Tóth László, Huniform, 2007
  • Video on youtube by Decker’s Militaria: https://youtu.be/QrlaTfwqG40