Tag Archives: GTM

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.




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.


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.


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



Vitéz Horvath Janos winner of the Golden Medal for Bravery, WW1 Austro-Hungarian Army

Published before on my Vitezi Rend website

Sergeant in the 44th Infantry Regiment (Erzherzog Albrecht Nr. 44). Awarded with the Austro- Hungarian Golden Medal for Bravery, the highest possible award in the  Austro-Hungarian Army for non commanding officers. 


  • Golden Bravery medal
  • Silver Bravery medal 1st Class, 2 times
  • Bronze Bravery medal
  • Karl Troop cross

The short version of his citation as recorded in the Golden Medal award records in the Austrian Military Records.

Im Gefechte vom 12/3 auf den 13/3 (1915) am Brdo Bewies er beispeillose unerschrockenheit u. heldenhafte Tapferkeit. Kam bis auf 40x vor der fdl Stellung. Trat den Ruckzug trozt des Befehls erst nach 2 Stunden als letzte abt der Angr. Gruppe an.

Which translates into: In the fights of 12/3 and 13/3 in Brdo he showed unprecedented fearlessness and heroic Bravery. Came up to 40x before the enemy position. Retreated, despite the order, only after 2 hours as the last of the attacking group.

His feats where also published in a Hungarian book (A MAGYAR NEMZET ARANYKONYVE 1914-1918.” Budapest, 1921 – Golden book of the Hungarian nation 1914-1918 )

“He ran forward in the killing adverse drum-fire of the enemy as the head of his platoon and during the assault he exhorted his comrades. The regiment met irreplaceable and heavy losses, so sergeant Janos Horvath got the order to withdraw his fellows from the first line. Horvath was forty paces off the enemy and he sent back a message that they would not leave the line as long as the wounded comrades of the neighbouring Regiment (3rd Bosnians) could not be retrieved. Finally he withdrew his men two hours later, him being the last soldier to leave the front line.”

Replacement Golden Bravery Medal (gilded bronze in the Karl version). This came directly from the family but has to be a replacement as he would have been awarded a Franz Joseph version. Maybe the golden version was lost or sold at some moment and this was the replacement.

Hungarian public transport travel pass for winners of the Golden Bravery Medal.


Below the official request for the Golden Bravery Medal to Horvath Janos, this and the following documents are in the Hungarian Military Archives. They were so kind to deliver these pictures free of charge. Many thanks again!

Request for a silver bravery  medal

Request for a bronze bravery medal:

About the Vitézi Rend:

The Order of the Valiant (in Hungarian, Vitézi Rend) or Knighthood of the Heroes was the first and probably the most important Hungarian order established after the Great War. It was established in 1920 (Prime Ministerial Edict Nr 6650/1920) by the Government under Prime Minister Count Teleki and Admiral Horthy, the Regent of Hungary from 1920 till 1945. The latter also became the Captain of the order from its institution till its formal ending in 1945 (According to the rule 529/1945 but it was 1948 before it was practically disbanded).

(The word vitéz has several meanings in the dictionary. As noun: warrior, soldier, champion, hero, knight and as adjective: valiant, gallant, brave, fearless of danger. Therefore giving the name of the order an exact translation is difficult. The two translations used here I have seen used in several documents therefore I use them as well.)

Part of receiving the order was the granting of a title: vitéz. This title was used in front of the name. This title was also made hereditary to the first son in line. If the son were of sound physical and mental condition he would inherit the title at the age of 17.

In this way the order can be compared to a noble title especially as the title was accompanied by a grant of land of approximately 10 hectares, so even landed nobility. The granting of land to the vitéz members was part of a land reform executed by István Nagyatádi Szabó. In the early 20s much land was still in the hands of few and it was part of a modernization of land ownership that was badly needed to become a more balanced and modern nation.

In this way the order had a strong social impact as well. The redistribution of lands was combined with the recognition of individual contributions made by Hungarians for Hungary. This way a new class of “nobility” could be formed that had a very strong tie with the Hungarian nation and its leadership. The new order was bound by sword and land which is represented symbolically in the badge that belongs to the order. The badge will be described in more detail later on.

All the recipients were proven soldiers and there were minimal requirement for obtaining the title vitéz that was linked to the receipt of certain medals. In the beginning of the order this was still linked to medals won in the Austro-Hungarian dual Monarchy, mainly in the Great War that was concluded only two years before. The grants in the 1940s were still linked to obtaining certain medals but now in World War Two.

The medal requirements were more or less the same across those periods. The small silver medal for bravery (96.000 awarded in WW1 for Hungarians) in the case of soldiers, and the large silver medal for bravery (26.000 awarded in WW1 to Hungarians) from the rank of NCO. The Signum Laudis was minimal from the rank of Lieutenant and this continues, for higher ranks higher grades of medals were expected. The small silver medal for bravery only very seldom led to titles. It was too common to bestow the title on all owners of these. It was a minimal requirement.

This way of working made if possible to reward exceptional deeds of a previous period that would otherwise have passed unknown and unrewarded in a country that fought on the losing side of the war.

Below the excerpt from the 1939 Vitéz Albuma:

Large Vitézi Rend diploma


Vitézi Rend Award Certificate

Vitézi Rend Award and miniature. The full size award is numbered and has the initials of Horvath.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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