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Austro-Hungarian Army


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#51 jhill

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 12:52 AM

I congratulate everyone contributing to this thoughtful and informative thread. Although I cannot add any solid information I would like to comment on the difficulty, as suggested by some of the posters!, on the difficulty of discounting popular national stereotypes. War is a nasty business, and one of the things soldiers are taught as part of their formation, is how to build up their own self confidence by developing contempt for their enemies. This often involves exaggerating national and racial stereotypes. In the era of total war this practice extends to civilian society. For example, in 1914-1918 we all learned that Germans were over-fed pleasure-loving autocrats, rigid in practice, whose other ranks feared to question their overlords. Even allies were not spared; the British often had contempt for the French, and vice versa, and when the Americans joined the war, the Brits and the French had a low opinion of them, and the Americans rubbished both the British and the French.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire in the Great War, alas, is described in the public mind, for the most part, by works such as "The Good Soldier Svejk" by Jaroslav Hasek, one of whose illustrations I post here. Regardless of what we write here, the public will continue to base their opinions on the story of Jozef Svejk. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Austro-Hungarian Empire no longer exists, so there is no one to defend them anymore. The fans of Svejk are legion, but I point out that Hasek is the last author one should use as an objective observer.

Regardless of the military record, I point out that this was still the Austria-Hungary of Mozart and Beethoven. Vienna is one of my favourite cities (although I have never been there!), and I highly regard their public inscriptions like "Make Music, not War".

I apologize for taking us off topic. For Svejk fans, I notice that someone has placed one of the old Svejk movies (with English subtitles!) on Youtube. We can take a peek here.

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#52 mconrad

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 09:58 PM

From what I've been reading, the pre-war Russian general staff was thoroughly confident of their army's ability to handle the Austrians. Indeed, the Russian military near contempt for the Habsburg empire's armed forces went back at least of couple of generations to 1849. But the prospect of fighting the German army gave the Russian high command the willies. They would never have considered it without the French alliance. I don't think the Great War experience changed their minds.

#53 Jan Szkudlinski

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 09:37 PM

At this point, again i claim that it was not really the Austrian weakness, but the impossibility of the circumstances. The Russian army was always superior in numbers.
And all those widely known and accepted reasons for Habsburg weakness, such as inhomogenous forces, bad austrian officer corps and so on...are more a side effect than a real reason.


I'd rather say that a major factor of all the Austro-Hungarian defeats listed above was the commander who preferred to fight frontal battles and had no understanding of the economy of force.

#54 JesseM88

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 05:13 PM

Rankings in my opinion:
Germany
Britain
France
Russia
Austria-Hungary
Italy
Ottoman Empire-Serbia-Bulgaria (tied)


Just curious as to why you list the Ottomans and Bulgarians beneath the Italians and AH? I would rank them both in a tie with Russia. I'm not saying you are wrong, I'm just curious as to your reasoning.

Romania also needs to be included in its rightful place at the bottom.



#55 bob lembke

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 01:41 AM

Just curious as to why you list the Ottomans and Bulgarians beneath the Italians and AH? I would rank them both in a tie with Russia. I'm not saying you are wrong, I'm just curious as to your reasoning.

Romania also needs to be included in its rightful place at the bottom.


Probably uniquely for the Pals of this Forum, my father fought in the Turkish Army in 1915, and he rated them as about the "best soldiers", not technically, but in spirit. The only units he rated higher were two German units that he fought in later, probably the two best German storm units, Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer), and Sturm=Batallion Nr. 5 (Rohr). He looked down on most units of all armies, including most German units.

But the Turks were very well motivated at Gallipoli, and the Turkish Army had considerable variability. They had tremendous problems that are largely under-rated. Non-Turkish units seemed to have often been problematic. (As, allegedly, non-German Austro-Hungarian units, allegedly for similar reasons.)

I have been serially non-PC. I shall retreat to my bombproof.

Bob Lembke

#56 JesseM88

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 02:57 AM

Probably uniquely for the Pals of this Forum, my father fought in the Turkish Army in 1915, and he rated them as about the "best soldiers", not technically, but in spirit. The only units he rated higher were two German units that he fought in later, probably the two best German storm units, Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer), and Sturm=Batallion Nr. 5 (Rohr). He looked down on most units of all armies, including most German units.

But the Turks were very well motivated at Gallipoli, and the Turkish Army had considerable variability. They had tremendous problems that are largely under-rated. Non-Turkish units seemed to have often been problematic. (As, allegedly, non-German Austro-Hungarian units, allegedly for similar reasons.)

I have been serially non-PC. I shall retreat to my bombproof.

Bob Lembke


Interesting story. From what I've read the Turks were usually very under-rated, and performed way better than they were expected to or received credit for. But I guess it varied a lot depending on what battle and on what front.




#57 Tom W.

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 04:06 AM

Just curious as to why you list the Ottomans and Bulgarians beneath the Italians and AH? I would rank them both in a tie with Russia. I'm not saying you are wrong, I'm just curious as to your reasoning.

When properly equipped, the Bulgarians and Turks fought as well as the Germans. On May 18, 1917, the Bulgarians wiped out two entire French infantry regiments at Monastir. In the Battle of Doiran, September 18, 1918, the British and Greeks suffered heavy losses against fierce Bulgarian resistance.

The Turkish XV Corps on the Galician front also performed well against the Russians.

The problem for both Bulgarians and Turks was lack of equipment. In terms of fighting prowess, I would imagine that the best Bulgarian and Turkish units were superior to the best Italian and Austro-Hungarian units.

#58 bob lembke

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 11:52 AM

When properly equipped, the Bulgarians and Turks fought as well as the Germans. On May 18, 1917, the Bulgarians wiped out two entire French infantry regiments at Monastir. In the Battle of Doiran, September 18, 1918, the British and Greeks suffered heavy losses against fierce Bulgarian resistance.

The Turkish XV Corps on the Galician front also performed well against the Russians.

The problem for both Bulgarians and Turks was lack of equipment. In terms of fighting prowess, I would imagine that the best Bulgarian and Turkish units were superior to the best Italian and Austro-Hungarian units.


I agree with everything that Tom has said. The Turkish Army had tremendous problems that few people seem to appreciate. I think that they were usually outnumbered at Gallipoli, while the popular perception was that there were masses of Turks, mass attacks (there was one very large Turkish charge where thousands died, probably helping create that impression.) Despite a lot of German help, they could make shells that would generally fire, but rarely exploded at the other end. (Liman von Sanders estimated a 95% dud rate.) When they did explode, since the Turks could not roll steel shell bodies, but had to cast them, the shells blew out rather non-lethal sand-like cast iron "dust", rather than lethal razor-sharp steel splinters. You almost had to be hit by a shell in the forehead to be killed. The troops could not be equipped with sand-bags, as as they arrived they were cut up to replace and repair the rag-like Turkish uniforms.

The Turkish immams, who served at the battalion level, were very useful. Sometimes the German officers wanted to attack, but the pre-attack speeches of the immams went on and on, but the Germans knew that these speeches were powerful incentives, and tolerated them. Sometimes all Turkish officers were killed, and the Immams bravely and skillfully led the men. At Gallipoli the Turks were defending their homeland, and probably fought better than, say, in Mesopotamia, part of the Empire, but Arab, not Turkish land. (Of course there were a lot of Greeks living at Gallipoli as well; I think that they were shipped off. They tended to be a source of intelligence for the Allies.)

Bob

#59 JesseM88

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 04:23 PM

I agree with everything that Tom has said. The Turkish Army had tremendous problems that few people seem to appreciate. I think that they were usually outnumbered at Gallipoli, while the popular perception was that there were masses of Turks, mass attacks (there was one very large Turkish charge where thousands died, probably helping create that impression.) Despite a lot of German help, they could make shells that would generally fire, but rarely exploded at the other end. (Liman von Sanders estimated a 95% dud rate.) When they did explode, since the Turks could not roll steel shell bodies, but had to cast them, the shells blew out rather non-lethal sand-like cast iron "dust", rather than lethal razor-sharp steel splinters. You almost had to be hit by a shell in the forehead to be killed. The troops could not be equipped with sand-bags, as as they arrived they were cut up to replace and repair the rag-like Turkish uniforms.


Did this situation with the artillery ever get any better? I'm pretty sure the only active combat duty Ataturk had during the War of Independence (other than official C in C) was commanding an artillery unit. The Nationalist leaders had stock-piled massive amounts of arms and ammunition throughout 1918-1920 (roughly), so it would be a shame to think that most of the shells were effectively useless.

#60 bob lembke

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 09:39 PM

Did this situation with the artillery ever get any better? I'm pretty sure the only active combat duty Ataturk had during the War of Independence (other than official C in C) was commanding an artillery unit. The Nationalist leaders had stock-piled massive amounts of arms and ammunition throughout 1918-1920 (roughly), so it would be a shame to think that most of the shells were effectively useless.


In 1915 the Germans took over Turkish armamemts production, which was then managed by a German naval captain who was headed for military prison for the manner in which he lost his ship in the North Sea, but was instead sent to Turkey as a naval gunnery expert. (Capt. Peiper, I believe.) The Germans also sent about 1500 military and civilian experts, tool-makers, skilled workers, etc. But there was almost no physical connection to Austria and German, due to the Balkans situation. They could not make fuzes that would reliably explode, and several desperate measures were considered. (Do you know that a great deal of UK shell in WW I used a Krupp fuze design, licensed before the war, and about 1925 Krupp was able to convince the Brits to pay the license fees, but I have to add that they badly cheated Krupp, claiming a rediculously low number of shells fired. What I am getting at is that shell fuze design is very tricky.

In November 1915 two Austrian batteries appeared at Gallipoli (the rail lines were not fully restored, but the guns and good shell were able to get thru with a difficult rail - Danube shipping - Bulgarian rail - Turkish rail - 100 mile road trip route.) Serb rail sabotage was corrected by about March 1916, and thru traffic was restored. Germany planned to pull out about six Turkish divisions and equip and train them as shock divisions, and bring in 20 heavy batteries and a lot of shell, and would probably have pushed the Allies off Gallipoli in Spring 1916, so it is just as well that the Allies left when they did.

So starting in Spring 1916 the Turkish artillery situation must have been better. The Turks ordered 50 batteries of artillery in 1916, some heavy, including some batteries of the famed Skoda 30.5 cm Motor Mortar, but the latter were not delivered, but there were a few batteries of the Austrian 24 cm Motor Mortars and possibly the 30.5 cm also detailed to the Turks for the rest of the war. One battery of motorized 24 cm reached Gallipoli, and my father saw it in action at ANZAC, he thought that it was fine, indeed. There is an example of the 30.5 cm gun at Fortress Kalamagden at Belgrade, but I don't know its history and how it got there.

I don't know how the Turks would have stockpiled massive amounts of weapons in 1918-1920. (But I am not expert on this period, but somewhat knowledgable.) They must have been broke, and no one would tell them the time of day, never mind sell them arms. My father did a bit of gun-running to Turkey in 1922, but just a bit of small arms; he was happy to help them.

Bob

#61 James A Pratt III

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 06:46 PM

The Turks got the weaponry to defeat the Greeks in the 1920-22 war from the French and Russians. The Greeks did go into Asia minor with the backing of the Allies. However, King Alexander died of a monkey bite (I am not making this up) and in the elections that followed the Prime Minester Venizlos was vote out and exiled King Constantine I was back. Since this man was possibly one of the most hated man in Europe for being "Nuetral" during WW I the allies dropped all support for the Greeks and started supporting the Turks instead. i hope this of some help.

#62 bob lembke

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 10:00 PM

The Turks got the weaponry to defeat the Greeks in the 1920-22 war from the French and Russians. The Greeks did go into Asia minor with the backing of the Allies. However, King Alexander died of a monkey bite (I am not making this up) and in the elections that followed the Prime Minester Venizlos was vote out and exiled King Constantine I was back. Since this man was possibly one of the most hated man in Europe for being "Nuetral" during WW I the allies dropped all support for the Greeks and started supporting the Turks instead. i hope this of some help.


Very interesting. I only have a very spotty knowledge of the period. The Russians had been the enemy of the Turks for ages, but I guess that the Bolshiviks quickly changed that. It is surprising that the Allies supported the Turks against the Christian Greeks. Much of Europe and America had a big-time antipity for the Turks for generations.

Bob

The Turks got the weaponry to defeat the Greeks in the 1920-22 war from the French and Russians. The Greeks did go into Asia minor with the backing of the Allies. However, King Alexander died of a monkey bite (I am not making this up) and in the elections that followed the Prime Minester Venizlos was vote out and exiled King Constantine I was back. Since this man was possibly one of the most hated man in Europe for being "Nuetral" during WW I the allies dropped all support for the Greeks and started supporting the Turks instead. i hope this of some help.


Was Constantine's wife the sister of the Kaiser, or something like that?

Bob

#63 James A Pratt III

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Posted 03 March 2012 - 07:06 PM

Yes the king Constantine I wife was a sister of the kaiser and he got his military schooling in Germany. You can check him out on his wiki bio and go from there. Books: "the Gardeners of Salonika", The World Crisis Volume 5, and Smyrna 1922 deal with this subject and the king.

#64 Latze

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 09:02 AM

Concerning the question of military effectiveness there are the three books by Alan Millett and Williamson Murray "On the effectiveness of military institutions". There are three volumes with the first dealing with the Great War. It is dry and scientific and thorough and balanced... Ah, the joy of it. It can be legally downloaded here:
http://www.dtic.mil/...oc=GetTRDoc.pdf

All necessary evidence for the fighting qualities of the Ottoman army can be found in Edward Erickson's "Ottoman Army Effectiveness in World War I". It is full of interesting details because the author had access to the archives of the Turkish general staff. Unfortunately it is rather expensive. I would recommend it only to people really interested in the topic.

A last point concerning the informal ranking of the armies - and I hope to not opening a hornets nest here: Almost all German period accounts I read say that the effectiveness of the French army was higher than the BEF. While they almost ever stress the endurance and courage of the individual British soldier (often in contrast to the French poliou) they observe deficits in the handling of larger operations which the French did not have...

regards
Matt

#65 JesseM88

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 04:12 AM

The Turks got the weaponry to defeat the Greeks in the 1920-22 war from the French and Russians. The Greeks did go into Asia minor with the backing of the Allies. However, King Alexander died of a monkey bite (I am not making this up) and in the elections that followed the Prime Minester Venizlos was vote out and exiled King Constantine I was back. Since this man was possibly one of the most hated man in Europe for being "Nuetral" during WW I the allies dropped all support for the Greeks and started supporting the Turks instead. i hope this of some help.


Good points that you bring up.

I'm actually writing an essay on this right now. The British were the ones backing the Greeks, and they had worshipped Venizelos (seriously, it's almost amusing the level to which they venerated him). But once he lost the election, support waned, though it did not immediately evaporate. Ultimately the British gave up and recognized Mustafa Kemal's Nationalist regime at the Lausanne Conference of 1923 because they wanted to make the best out of a bad situation, which they had got themselves into. The defeat of the Greeks by the Turks on the battlefield came as a surprise, but the British knew they lacked the military strength at this point to really enforce their will in the carving up of former Ottoman territories. War-weariness was a huge factor here, as the Nationalist Turks were pretty much the only troops left willing to fight and die.

The French and Russians were supplying the Turkish Nationalists for their own complicated reasons. But in a nutshell, the French were manoeuvring politically to undermine British imperial interests, and the Russians were not fighting wars all over the place any more and needed to establish some allies in a largely hostile world (and were still kind of pissed with the British for the whole 'intervention' thing).

#66 KGB

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 06:38 PM

Many Poles deserted the Austro-Hungarian lines as to them it was a "foreign" army.

#67 Jan Szkudlinski

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 04:54 PM

Many Poles deserted the Austro-Hungarian lines as to them it was a "foreign" army.


Most notorious and numerous deserters from the Austro-Hungarian Army to the Russians seem to be the Czechs. The reason being that they had no grudge against the Russians. As Austria-Hungary was by far the most lenient of the three partition powers (as opposed to Russia), granting autonomy to Polish lands and opening their military and administration to Poles, there were not so many cases of desertion, at least not early in the war. Units of Austro-Hungarian common army with large percentage of Polish recruits rather gave good account of themselves, eg. the 12th Infantry Division.

The whole case of the "Legions" is a separate and a very interesting matter.

#68 KGB

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 06:15 PM

Czechs and Slovaks were heavily influenced by pan slavism.



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