Hungary in World War I: Wikis


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At the outbreak of World War I, Hungary was part of the dualist monarchy, Austria-Hungary. Although there are no significant battles connected to Hungarian regiments, the troops fought trustfully and intrepidly, which was one of the causes of high losses.

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The outbreak of the war

In 1914, Austria-Hungary was one of the most powerful nations of Europe, with area of 676,443 km² and population of 52 million, of which Hungary had 325,400 km² with population of 21 million.

On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Before entering the war, only prime minister Count István Tisza hesitated, unconvinced that it was the best time to engage in battle. As soon as Germany promised to neutralise the Kingdom of Romania and promised that no territories of the Kingdom of Serbia would be annexed to Austria-Hungary, he then decided to support the war.

After the ultimatum sent to Serbia by Franz Josef I, the war broke out and soon spread over much of Europe and beyond.

The army of Austria-Hungary in 1914

The first line of this multi-ethnic army was based on conscription, and was consisted of:

  • The so-called "common" army and "common" navy, where the language was German, and was 87% of the total army
  • The Landwehr of the Austrian army
  • The Royal Hungarian "honvédség", where the language was Hungarian and Croatian.

The second line of the army was the mobilized

  • Landsturm of the Austrians
  • "Népfelkelés" ("Folk uprising") of Hungarians.

In 1914, the Austrian-Hungarian army was facing its greatest challenge so far in history. After mobilisation, the armed forces were grouped to six armies, and summed to 3.2 million soldiers. The size of the army was totally 9 million (fighting forces: 7,8 million) between 1914 and 1918.

If we compare the army to other armies of Europe, we can conclude that looking at the experienced veteran armed forces, the technical equipment, and the military spendings, it was underdeveloped. The artillery was not sufficient, but was heavily developed later in the war. The correct supply of ammunition was not solved even at the end of the war. The armed forces had a lack of airborne divisions, it had only 42 military and 40 sport airplanes before the war. The military leaders had a serious problem to unify the multi-ethic units, too.

During the war, almost 9 million was conscripted, and almost 100,000 women joined the forces.

Hungarian participation

The army of Austria-Hungary was expected to be shattered by its multy-ethicity, but it remained unified. It is true that all successful offensives were carried out by German support (such as Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive, Caporetto), but the army was always capable of intrepid defense on all fronts. After the Austrian and Bosnian units, the Austrian military leaders have selected Hungarian soldiers for their dependability, so in most cases, these units were ordered to the most dangerous front lines. As a result, these units suffered more losses than units of other nations. The Hungarian troops were mostly engaged in the Russian front and Italian front.

In the history of World War I we cannot cite a true Hungarian offensive, however, it is possible to list some battles where the Hungarian forces took stand:

  • In December 3-15. 1914 in Limanowa-Lapanow battle the "Russian steamroller" was held back, especially by the hussars. Lieutenant-general Josef Roth attacked Russian 3rd army, and on the right wing, and cavalry division Budapest 10. and Debrecen 11. engaged in a man-to-man fight and was decisive. On 11th of December, colonel Ottmár Muhr died in a heroic defense leading Sopron 9. cavalry regiment. Lieutenant-general Artur Arz, together with lieutenant-general Imre Hadfy, leading division Kassa 39., had destroyed 15th Russian division in Livno.
  • During the Siege of Przemysl, which defense was commanded by general Hermann Kusmanek, the main defence line built up of Hungarian troops have guarded the fortress for five months from 1915 November. The defendants were commanded by Árpád Tamásy, leading 23. Szeged division. After the depletion of ammunition and food reserves, Przemysl capitulated leaving 120,000 prisoner of war.
  • At the Isonzo front, Hungarian forces participated in all 12 battles. On the Doberdo plateau and near Karst the most serious battles were fought by Hungarians, who composed one third of the total armed forces. In particular, the 20th Nagyvárad and 17th Budapest common regiment distinguished themselves. In June 15, 1918, near river Piave, the 6th army commanded by Archduke József Ágost took over most part of mount Montello and kept it till the end of the war. Decisive fights were carried out by the 31st Budapest common regiment and the 11th Debrecen division.

Most troops were fighting on the fronts near the borders of Austria-Hungary (Balkan, Russian, Italian, Romanian front), but Hungarian troops also took part in other fronts, too. Some fought in Gallipoli, in Sinai Peninsula and Palestine.

Important fact is that Hungarians were almost all times fighting outside of the territory of Kingdom of Hungary. They have fought within the borders only at Brusilov Offensive in June 1916 and few months later, when Romanian army have tried to liberate Transylvania.

Military leaders

Austro-Hungarian mountain corps in Tyrol

Some military leaders who have received the Commander's Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa, the most renowned medal:


Military deaths of the Central Powers.

Out of the 9 million soldiers fought on Austria-Hungary's side, 1.1 million have died, near 2 million were wounded and 1.7 million fell to capture. Hungary at that time lost 600,000 soldiers and the captured summed up to 700,000. In comparison of the total army, the losses were more than any other nation in Austria-Hungary. There are two possible causes: Hungary was an industrialized agricultural country, where it is easier to mobilize forces, rather than from more industrialized territories, and secondly, the Hungarian soldiers were considered to be more trustworthy and disciplined than soldiers from other ethnic groups.


In November 1918, for Austria-Hungary, the "Great War" ended with a complete military loss, even if at the time of the collapse, all forces were standing outside of borders of 1914. In line with the collapse of the army, Austria-Hungary also collapsed, and new nation-states, supported by Entente, have risen up of the ruins of the monarchy (Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and some already existing countries have extended their territories (Italy and Romania). The Treaty of Trianon was signed with Hungary in July 4, 1920. Hungary lost two-third of its territory.

See also


Wiest, Andy; Tibor Balla (addendum: "Magyarország az első világháborúban" 2003.) (2001). The Illustrated History of World War I. London: Amber Books Ltd., reprint in Hungarian by M-érték Kiadó Kft.. ISBN 963 9519 28 6.  



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