Tag Archives: Austro-Hungarian

The Austro-Hungarian Bravery medals in WW1 – part 3: 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.

thumb_IMG_6440_1024

thumb_IMG_6444_1024

thumb_IMG_6445_1024

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.

thumb_IMG_6442_1024

Personal 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 Honved 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 these archives.

bronze

More about the research on one person can be found in this earlier blog: Vitéz Horvath Janos winner of the Golden Medal for Bravery, WW1 Austro-Hungarian Army

An interesting secondary source for Hungarian WW1 bravery medals related info are the Vitezi rend yearbooks in which also medal lists are published. 

Go here for part one: The Austro-Hungarian Bravery medals in WW1 – part 1: History and Medals

And here for part two: The Austro-Hungarian Bravery medals in WW1 – part 2: exchange with the German Iron Cross

 

Advertisements

The Austro-Hungarian Bravery medals in WW1 – part 1: History and Medals

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 first class (40mm in diameter) a second class was added that was smaller in size (31mm in diameter). Emperor Franz-Joseph I added in Februari 1915 a Bronze class with the same size as the silver medal 2nd class (also 31mm in diameter). A last change was made by Emperor Karl in 1917 by making the Golden class and the Silver 1st class medal available to officers. Until then officers were expected to show bravery as part of their regular work and 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 bravery but also other other distinguished services.

thumb_IMG_5510_1024

In all these periods the medal would have the ruling Emperor of that moment on the observe and 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.

thumb_IMG_5514_1024

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 and from 1917 onward Karl on the observe of the medal. In the beginning of the war also examples with a younger version of FJ were still awarded as far as they were still available. 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.

thumb_IMG_5511_1024

What was new in WW1 was that all version 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)

As officers also could get an award of the Golden and 1st class Silver medal a difference had to be made which was done in the form of a capital K letter on the triangular ribbon. These existed in both gold (gilded) and silver.

image004

As all officers in training went through the non-commissioned ranks before becoming commissioned they were during this training period also eligible for the nco Bravery medals. So in WW1 Austro-Hungarian officers groups often Bravery medals will be found. 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.

The winners of the Gold and both classes of Silver medals also received an additional 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 more for the higher classes. Only the highest level was paid and multiple awards did not add to the total amount received.

image005

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.

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.

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

For part two follow the link: The Austro-Hungarian Bravery medals in WW1 – part 2: exchange with the German Iron Cross

And for part three: The Austro-Hungarian Bravery medals in WW1 – part 3: paperwork

And for background on a winner of the GTM: Vitéz Horvath Janos winner of the Golden Medal for Bravery, WW1 Austro-Hungarian Army

Historical riddle – Dutch officers on the eastern front in WW1?!

This is adaptation and translation of an article I published in Decorare in 2011

What is this?

After finding the photo that is the theme of this blog I saw myself confronted with something impossible. Dutch military officers among a group of Austro-Hungarian soldiers, so probably on the eastern front in the first Worldwar?

As you may know the Netherlands were a neutral country during the first worldwar (and they tried, unsuccesfully, to do the same in the second worldwar – but that is a different story). Surrounded by warring countries the war had a great impact on the Netherlands but there was no military participation of any kind so the big question that arised is: what is the story of this photo?

The photo had a Hungarian text on the back that helped to shed some light on this. It can be translated as follows: Dutch officers visiting Lieutenant Colonel Safrán. So the Dutch are not participating but visiting the front and we know whom they were visiting, a good starting points for further research.

mm

Timeframe established!

Like most countries the Austro-Hungarian army also published rank lists with information on officers, these are a great source of information. During peacetime the lists (thick books) are almost perfect but during war time with rapid promotions, casulaties and all kinds of unregular changes they become less and less trustwothy. Nevertheless I could find (with the help of some research friends) that he was promoted to full Colonel in November 1917. So the photo must be from before that date. Another clue is the uniform the Dutch officers are wearing – it was only introduced in 1916 so the period is between 1916 and the end of 1917.

Study tours to the frontlines

Why would Dutch neutral officers visit the front of a war they are not part of? Well the First Worldwar changed the face of warfare in a shocking way. A neutral country could not learn from their own experience what this impact was. The only way to learn is by studying the experiences of others. So in that direction goes the second part of the research. There is only one publication on this subject written by Sven Maaskant. He states that between 1914 and 1920 approximately 60 tours were made by Dutch officers to study the effects of the war and the impact for the Dutch armed forces. After some research I succeed in contacting Maaskant and mail him a copy of the photo. He instantly recognized one of the Dutch officers. It is Lieutenant-Colonel T.F.J. Muller Massis who was the Dutch military aide to the Dutch embassies in Germany and Vienna between 1916 and 1920.

With that information he also can determine the specific trip out of the 60. Only one trip fits the participants, timeframe and location. It is a study tour to the Austro-Hungarian front that was made between June 25th and July 31st 1917. The four participants were: Colonel D.G. van der Voort Maarschalk, Lieutenant-Colonels T.F.J. Muller Massis and E.M. Carpentier Alting and Captain W.J. van Breen.

Carpentier Alting, an officer of the Dutch East Indies army is not in this picture, did he make it or was there another reason for his absence? The tour would have been organized by Muller Massis in his capacity of military aide in Berlin and Vienna. An officer that would raise to the rank of General and commander of the Dutch field army from 1922 until his pension in 1928 after which he would become a member of parliament untill 1948.

In 1933  Muller Massis donated a collection of helmets and gasmasks of different countries that participated in the war to the Dutch National Military Museum. He wrote about this: “The object were picked up by me during the visits I made to the battlefields. Further I still have the German gasmaks that was supplied to me in my function as military aide in Germany and that I wore on several fronts.”  The donation also held his collection of Austro-Hungarian distinctives. These are the so called “Kappenabzeichen”, unofficial badges worn on the military caps by Austro-Hungarian troops which he collected during these trips. On the picture in question can be seen that the 3 Dutch officers al wear such insignia on the left breast of their uniform.

What is the unit in the photo?

Some research on the Hungarian officer in the pictures gives the specific unit, the 10th Honved (Hungarian territorial army) Infantry Regiment (HIR) which was part of the 39th Honved Infantry Division which is confirmed by a “Kappenabzeichen” on the breast of one of the Dutch officers which is of this division.

mm5mm2Wy this unit?

In March 1917 the 39th HID waged a very signifact battle against Russian troops on the realively new Rumanian front in which the 10th HIR of which Safrán was the commander played an important role. The entire unit was used as Stormtroops. The use of Stormtroops was a new military development of the Germans that was quickly adopted by their Austro-Hungarian allies. These troops were used mainly to force breaktroughs in the stallmate of trenchwarfare and new tactics and weapons were deployed by them. They were the first to get handgrenades and machine guns but also helmets and gasmasks which were not widely spread yet with the Austro-Hungarian army. They can be seen as an early variation of Special Forces within the army, receiving addtional training and equipment in comparison with the regular infantry.

The entire action of the 39th division would literally become a textbook example for the Hungarian (Ludovika) officers academy of a Stormtroop attack. In the fight for Hill 1504 (Magyaros near the Uz river) there were hardly any Austro-Hungarian casulaties but the Russians sufferend hundreds of casulaties and a multitude of were taken as Prisoners of War. A good reason for a visit of Dutch officers to learn from this example attack only a few months later especially a good promotion for the Austro-Hungarian army that struggled with its performance in other places.

From hypothesis to proof

The Dutch Institute for Military History has the archive of Muller Massis that also contains his (formerly SECRET) report from September 1917 on the “Commission sent to visit the Austro-Hungarian fronts”. It is a sort of diary of the trip with several appendices on specific military themes. In his reports he also describes how they received “Kappenabzeichen” as gifts. Here some translations relevant to this article:

“July 3rd.
With this regiment we learned 
for the first time about regimental and other insignia
which were attached to the headwear.  
As momento of our visit to the 
von Hindenburg regiment we each received
a similar badge with a in white metal
portrait of the “Inhaber” or owner
surrounded by a wreath of laurels and a ribbon 
in enemal with the years 1914, 1915 and 1916
and the words v.hindenburg K.u.K. Inf. Reg. Nr. 69.”

That same badge is depicted below and is still part of the collection of the Dutch National Military Museum today.

073149_jpg_1920x0_q85

The report also confirms date and location of the photo.

“July 7th.
    Guided by several officers
we visited the first line of defense of the 10th
Honved regiment, wich line was a very short
distance away from the enemy line. Here
also the hostilites had not commenced again
which even made it possible to get in front of the trenches.
After visiting some trenches of neighbouring 9th Honved regiment,
we walked down to the customs office
The starting point of a forresttrain (waldbahn) to Rumania.
from here we went back to the headquarters of the 39th division.

Without the mentioning of Safrán in the text we can date the picture to July 7th 1917. Most information was already completed when the confirmation in the form of the original report was found. This shows that with thorough research it is possible to determine much valuable information.

In order to do this I had help from several other researchers, many thanks to my friends in making this article possible!

Sources:

 

Portrait by Austro-Hungarian “war painter” Robert Fuchs

This portrait was made by Robert Fuchs (signed R Fuchs Im Felde 1917) I found it in Hungary some years back. So far I have not been able to establish who this officer is.

Robert Fuchs, “Kriegsmaler”

During the first worldwar the Austro-Hungarian empire used artist to make professional paintings of the war. Not only local but also foreign artists, even a quite famous Dutch artist acted as such, but that is a different story alltogether. These painters did not become part of the army but were paid by it for their services, they were called war painters or in German Kriegsmaler. Sometimes they were attached to a specific unit or a theatre of war.

Robert Fuchs, born in 1896 was such a painter. After the war he went on to become a fulltime professional artist after completing his studies on the Viennese Academy for the Arts. Despite specializing in portraits one of his most famous paintings became the official painting for the 1955 Austrian State treaty pictured below:

Microsoft Word - Fuchs Schaublatt 1.doc

Austro-Hungarian officer – R. Fuchs 1917 Im Felde

This portait is of a still unkown officer. Based on the awards he was quite successful in the war with at least an Austro-Hungarian Iron Crown order 3rd class. (first and highest award of the row of ribbons) which is quite rare for a mere captain. The other ribbons are of generic issue for war related medals. Probably one Military Merit cross 3rd class and two Military Merit medals, both the bronze and the silver version. Next to this he has two ribbons in the button hole. One is clearly for the German Iron Cross second class. The second probably is for the Turkish War medal. Those Iron Crescents are most often seen being worn on the breast and very seldom as here with a ribbon in the buttonhole.

The single loop on his shoulder in combination with the combination of medals hint at the possibility that he was one of the few Austro-Hungarian artillery men sent to fight on the Ottoman front with the Turks and the Germans.

More input for the naming of this officer is more than welcome!

fuchs

 

References: http://neustift-am-w…ler/fuchs1.html