In April 1919 the Hungarian government established the Naval Forces (Hadihajós csapat, literally “warship group”) under the authority of the Defence Ministry for the purpose of patrolling the Danube. It was replaced on 1 March 1921 by the civilian Royal Hungarian River Guard (Magyar Királyi Folyamőrség) under the Interior Ministry. Between March 1927 and May 1930 it expanded to about 1700 men personnel, a number that remained until the end of World War II. On January 15th 1939 the River Guard was renamed the Royal Hungarian Army River Forces (Magyar Királyi Honvéd Folyami Erők) and placed under the Defence Ministry. It used naval ranks until July 1944, when it switched to army ranks. In April 1941 it took part in the annexation of Yugoslavia. From April 1944 onwards its minesweepers assisted the Kriegsmarine (German navy) in clearing the Danube of aerial mines.
Order of battle (1 April 1940):
Patrol Boat Regiment (Budapest)
River Security Regiment in Ujvidek/Novi Sad after April 1941)
Staff Captain Varga
The items shown here in photo’s come from the estate of Staff Captain (equivalent of Major in the army) Varga who emigrated to the US after WW2. Currently I have no photo’s or other info apart from what I will show below.
From the ranklist of officers of the Hungarian forces the above picture. It shows he participated in the (re)annexation of Transylvania and Yugoslavia with his ship.
And a copy (with thanks to the Hungarian Military Archives) of his basic information as stated in the Military Archives.
The generic Hungarian flag that was used on all boats of the River Guard. As there were few boats they are very rare today. Probably he took this from the last boat he was stationed on. I hope to find out which boat that was.
Next to his flag also his parade belt with hangers for the Navy dagger has survived and a set of shoulder boards with his final rank of Captain.
These items were part of the Otto Friedrich collection from Cleveland.
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).
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.
Leo W.G. Niehorster – The Royal Hungarian Army 1920-1945
Several websites for photo’s and general information.
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.
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.