The Hungarian Rongyos Garda

The Hungarian Rongyos Garda – 1938

The Rongyos Garda – freely translated as “ragged guard” – was a paramilitary group of Hungarian volunteers. The name was based on the chosen uniform, consisting of a simple civilian coverall and a Swiss style cap.

In 1938 they were used to pressure Czechoslovakia during the negotiations in which Hungary sought to regain territories that were lost during the Trianon treaty. These were not all territories that were lost but those mainly inhabited by ethnic Hungarians.

The Guard was used to do some commandolike clandestine actions in southern Slovakia and in the Carpathian mountains. They created unrest in the area. The Hungarian state could use “military” pressure with the Guard without using their official army. Use of the army might have ended in a war as the French and English were still heavily involved in the regional politics next to Germany of course.

Some members of the Guard were killed and also some were captured. The captured ones were not treated as prisoners of war as the were not officially military and would not treated as such.

The negotiations with Czechoslovakia were concluded with the support of Germany and Italy and it became known as the 1st Vienna Award. As a result of the treaty a large part of Southern Slovakia was returned to Hungary in 1938.

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The Rongyos Garda participants were awarded the same medal for their activities as their military counterparts. The rather common 1938 medal for the “Liberation of Southern Slovakia”. The only difference I have been able to establish is in the paperwork.

In this specific case the man received two different award papers from the Hungarian army for the same award. One from the Honved (Army) Headquarters, 5th department and one from a unit (in which he did not actually serve during the actions).

Although research is now possible into the actions of that period (which was impossible during the Russian occupation period) obviously not much is left to go by as these actions were “unofficial” but clearly supported by Hungary. So an interesting period with little hard information to research.

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Medal and paper group for a Rongyos Garda man (only one of the two documents for the 1938 Liberation of Southern Slovakia medals is framed top right).

And below the second award document awarded by the Army HQ, 5th department. From what I understood from a Hungarian researcher in this theme is that all Rongyos Garda men received this specific version of the award document for the 1938 action. It is dated November 22nd 1939 where the other document is dated December 6th of that year. Quite surprising they did this as it obviously left a paper trail and made the action at least semi official.

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The Ragged Guard saw no further action as such during the Horthy government, most men became part of the regular army that was allowed to grow again in the years leading up to the second worldwar.

This concludes a rare story for a common medal…..

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