Austro-Hungarian Army

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Austro-Hungarian Army
War flag of Austria-Hungary (1918).svg
War Ensign
Active1867 to 1918
Allegiance Austria-Hungary
Size450,000 active personnel (1914)
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Austro-Hungarian Army
War flag of Austria-Hungary (1918).svg
War Ensign
Active1867 to 1918
Allegiance Austria-Hungary
Size450,000 active personnel (1914)
Commander in Chief,
Emperor Franz Joseph I
Soldier of the Landwehr-Regiment Nr. 6 in Battledress

The Austro-Hungarian Army was the ground force of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy from 1867 to 1918. It was composed of three parts: the joint army (Gemeinsame Armee, "Common Army", recruited from all parts of the country), the Imperial Austrian Landwehr (recruited from Cisleithania), and the Royal Hungarian Honved (recruited from Transleithania).

In the wake of fighting between the Austrian Empire and the Hungarian rebels during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, and the two decades of uneasy co-existence following, Hungarian soldiers served either in mixed units or were stationed away from Hungarian areas. With the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 the new tripartite army was brought into being. It existed until the disestablishment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following World War I in 1918.

The joint "Imperial and Royal Army" (kaiserlich und königliche Armee or k.u.k.) units were generally poorly trained and had very limited access to new equipment because the governments of the Austrian and Hungarian parts of the empire often preferred to generously fund their own units instead of outfitting all three army branches equally. All of the Honvédség and the Landwehr regiments were composed of three battalions, while the joint army k.u.k. regiments had four.

The long standing white infantry uniforms were replaced in the latter half of the 19th century with dark blue tunics,[1] which in turn were replaced by a pike grey uniform used in the initial stages of World War I. In September 1915, field gray was adopted as the new official uniform color.[2]

The last known surviving member of the Austro-Hungarian Army was World War I veteran Franz Künstler, who died in May 2008 at the age of 107.

From the Compromise of 1867 to the World War[edit]

Planning and operations[edit]

Austria-Hungary avoided major wars in the era between 1867 and 1914 but engaged in a number of minor military actions. Nevertheless, the general staff maintained plans for major wars against neighboring powers, especially Italy, Serbia and Russia.[3]

In the late 19th century the army was used to suppress unrest in urban areas of the empire: in 1882 and 1887 in Vienna[4] and notably against German nationalists at Graz and Czech nationalists in Prague in November 1897.[5] Soldiers under the command of Conrad von Hotzendorf were also used against Italian rioters in Trieste in 1902.[6]

The most significant action by soldiers of the Dual Monarchy in this period was the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the summer of 1878. When troops under the command of Josip Filipović and Stjepan Jovanović entered the provinces expecting little or no resistance, they were met with ferocious opposition from elements of both Muslim and Orthodox populations there. Despite setbacks at Maglaj and Tuzla, Sarajevo was occupied in October. Austro-Hungarian casualties amounted to over 5,000 and the unexpected violence of the campaign led to recriminations between commanders and political leaders.[7]

Size and ethnic and religious composition[edit]

In 1868, the number of active-duty troops in the army was 255,000, and the total could be expanded to 800,000 upon mobilization. However, this was significantly less than the European powers of France, the North German Confederation and Russia, each of which could field more than one million men.[8] Though the population of the empire had risen to nearly 50 million by 1900, the size of the army was tied to ceilings established in 1889. Thus, at the start of the 20th century, Austria-Hungary conscripted only 0.29% of its population, compared to 0.47% in Germany, 0.35% in Russia and 0.75% in France.[9] The 1889 army law was not revised until 1912, which allowed for an increase in annual conscriptions.[10]

The ethnic make-up of the enlisted ranks reflected the diversity of the empire the army served; in 1906, out of every 1000 enlisted men, there were 267 Germans, 223 Hungarians, 135 Czechs, 85 Poles, 81 Ruthenians (or Ukrainians), 67 Croats and Serbs, 64 Romanians, 38 Slovaks, 26 Slovenes, and 14 Italians.[11]

From a religious standpoint, the Austro-Hungarian army officer corps was dominated by Roman Catholics. In 1896, out of 1000 officers, 791 were Roman Catholics, 86 Protestants, 84 Jews, 39 Greek-Orthodox, and one Uniate. Of the pre–World War military forces of the major European powers, the Austro-Hungarian army was almost alone in its regular promotion of Jews to positions of command.[12] While the Jewish population of the lands of the Dual Monarchy was about 5%, Jews made up nearly 18% of the reserve officer corps.[11] There were no official barriers to military service for Jews, but in later years this tolerance eroded to some extent, as important figures such as Conrad von Hötzendorf and Archduke Franz Ferdinand sometimes expressed anti-Jewish sentiments. Franz Ferdinand was also accused (by Conrad) of discriminating against Protestant officers.[13]

Funding and equipment[edit]

Following the 1867 constitutional arrangements, the Reichsrat was dominated by German Liberals, who generally regarded the army as a relic of feudalism. In Budapest, legislators were reluctant to authorize funds for the joint army but were generous with the Hungarian branch of the army, the Honvédség. In 1867 the military budget accounted for about 25% of all government spending, but the economic crash of 1873 hit Austria-Hungary hard and foreign observers questioned whether the Dual Monarchy could manage a major war without subsidies.[14] Despite increases throughout the 1850s and 1860s, in the latter half of the century Austria-Hungary was still spending less on its army than were other major European powers.[14] While the budget continued to rise—from 262 million crowns in 1895 to 306 million in 1906—this was still far less per capita than for other major European states, including Italy, and about on par with Russia, which had a much larger population.[15] Further contributing to the monarchy's military weakness was the low rate of conscription: Austria-Hungary conscripted only 0.29% of its population, compared to 0.47% in Germany and 0.75% in France. Attempts to increase the yearly intake of recruits were proposed but repeatedly blocked by officials in Budapest until an agreement was reached in 1912.[9]

In the emerging field of military aviation, Austria-Hungary lagged behind other European states. While balloon detachments had been established in 1893, they were mostly assigned to the fortress artillery, except for a brief period from 1909 to 1911 when they were under command of the multifaceted Verkehrs Brigade.[16] Realization that heavier-than-air machines were necessary or useful came late, and Austria-Hungary acquired only five airplanes by 1911. In 1914 the budget for military aviation was approximately 125th the amount spent by France. Austria-Hungary entered the war with only 48 first-line aircraft.[16]

Austro-Hungarian Army in July 1914[edit]

Austro-Hungarian POWs in Russia; a 1915 photo by Prokudin-Gorskii

Official designations were as follows:

After war was declared, 3.35 million men (including the first call-up of the reserves and the 1914 recruits) gathered for action.

The Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army was officially under the control of the Commander-in-Chief, Emperor Franz Josef. By 1914, however, Franz Josef was 84 years old and the chief of staff, Count Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, effectively had more power over the armed forces. Conrad favored an aggressive foreign policy and advocated the use of military action to solve Austro-Hungary's territorial disputes with Italy and Serbia.[17]

Archduke Friedrich, Duke of Teschen was appointed Supreme Commander of the Austro-Hungarian army by Franz Joseph on July 11, 1914. It was thought he would not interfere with the operational and tactical plans of Conrad von Hötzendorf. Friedrich remained Supreme Commander until February 1917, when Emperor Charles I decided to assume the office himself.

Common Army[edit]

Corps areas in the Austro-Hungarian Army
Main article: Common Army

The Common Army (k.u.k.—kaiserlich und königlich) consisted of:

Imperial-Royal Landwehr[edit]

Officer's helmet, Imperial and Royal Dragoons

The Imperial-Royal Landwehr (k.k. or kaiserlich österreichisch/königlich böhmisch) was the standing army of Austria responsible for the defence of Austria itself.

The mountain infantry had the following units:

Royal Hungarian Landwehr[edit]

Officer's Czapka (cap), 2nd Landwehr Lancers

The Royal Hungarian Landwehr (königlich ungarische Landwehr) or Royal Hungarian Honved (k.u. Honvéd) was the standing army of Hungary. A part of the Honved was the Royal Croatian Landwehr (Kraljevsko hrvatsko domobranstvo), which consisted of 1 infantry division (out of 7 in Honved) and 1 cavalry regiment (out of 10 in the Honved).

The infantry regiments of the k.u.k. army had four battalions each; the infantry regiments of the k.k. and k.u. Landwehr had three battalions each, except the 3rd Regiment of the "Tiroler Landesschützen" (Tyrolian fusiliers), that had also four battalions.

In 1915 units that had nicknames or names of honour lost them by order of the War Ministry. Thereafter units were designated only by number. For instance, the k.u.k. Infanterie-Regiment (Hoch und Deutschmeister) Nr. 4 became Infanterie-Regiment No. 4 (4th Infantry Regiment).


The Landsturm consisted of men aged 34 to 55 who belonged to the Austria k.k. Landsturm and the Hungarian k.u. Landsturm. The Landsturm formed 40 regiments totaling 136 battalions in Austria and 32 regiments totaling 97 battalions in Hungary. The Landsturm was a reserve force intended to provide replacements for the first line units. However, the Landsturm provided 20 brigades who took to the field with the rest of the army.

Medals (example)[edit]

Medals for valour 1914–1918

The following were the medals awarded to a Zugsführer (Staff-Sergeant) of the 2nd Regiment of the Tyrolian Imperial Rifles (later transferred to the 30th High Mountain Company), who saw action at:

He received the following decorations:

Ranks and rank insignia of the Austro-Hungarian Army[edit]

k.u.k. Cavalry 1898
k.u.k. Infantry 1898
The different colors of the rank patches and buttons on the tunic are the marks for identifying the infantry regiments (except Generals)
InfantryCavalryArtilleryRiflesRank insigniasRank insignias mountain rifles
Infanterist /
Honvéd (Hung.)
Szeregowy (Polish)/Vojín (Czech)
Soldat (Romanian)
KanonierJäger Myslivec
K.k. Jäger GebTrp 1906-18.png
Gefreiter /
Őrvezető (Hung.)/
Svobodník (Czech)/
Fruntaș (Romanian)
Caporale (Italian)
(Private 1st Class/Lance Corporal)
K.k. Patrouillenführer GebTrp 1906-18.png
Non-Commissioned Officers
Korporal /
Tizedes (Hung.)/
Kapral (Polish)/Desátník (Czech)
Caporal (Romanian)
Korporal Apfelgrün.png
K.k. Unterjäger GebTrp 1906-18.png
Zugsführer /
Szakaszvezető (Hung.)
Sierżant (Polish)/Četař (Czech)
Sergent (Romanian)
(Master Corporal/Lance Sergeant)
K.k. Zugsführer GebTrp 1906-18.png
Feldwebel /
Őrmester (Hung.)
Šikovatel (Czech)
Plutonier (Romanian)/
Starszy Sierzant (Polish)
K.u.k. Feldwebel.png
K.k. Oberjäger2 GebTrp 1906-18.png
Kadett-Feldwebel / Kadétőrmester (Hung.)
(Cadet Sergeant; Cadet after 1908)
K.u.k. Kadett 1908-14.png
K.k. Kadett-GebTrp 1908-14.png
Stabs-Feldwebel /
Törzsőrmester (Hung.) /
Štábní šikovatel (Czech)/
(Staff Sergeant after 1913 - rank badges until 1914)
K.u.k. Stabsfeldwebel 1913-14.png
K.k. Stabsoberjäger GebTrp 1908-14.png
Stabs-Feldwebel /
Törzsőrmester (Hung.) /
Štábní šikovatel(Czech)/
Plutonier-major (Romanian)
Sierżant-Major (Polish)(Staff Sergeant, rank badges after 1914)
K.u.k. Stabsfeldwebel 1914-18.png
K.k. Stabsoberjäger 1914-18.png
Offiziersstellvertreter (seit dem 6. Juni 1915) /
Tiszthelyettes (Hung.)/
Důstojnický zástupce(Czech)
Locțiitor de ofițer (Romanian)
(Warrant Officer [II])
K.u.k. OffzStv 1915-1918.png
K.k. OffzStv GebTrp 1915-18.png
Hadapród-Tiszthelyettes (Hung.)
(Cadet Warrant Officer or Warrant Officer I) (until 1908)
K.u.k. Fähnrich 1908-18.png
K.k. Fähnrich GebTrp 1908-18.png
Fähnrich (ab 1908) /
Zászlós (Hung.)
Stegar (Romanian)/
Praporčík (Czech) /
Zastavnik (Croatian)/
Chorazy (Polish)
(Ensign or Officer Cadet) (from 1908 - replaced the CWO/WO I)
K.u.k. Fähnrich 1908-18.png
K.k. Fähnrich GebTrp 1908-18.png
Low Grade Officers
Leutnant /
Hadnagy (Hung.)/
Locotenent (Romanian)
(Lieutenant/2nd Lieutenant)
K.u.k. Lt orangegelb-1918.png
K.k. Lt GebTrp 1906-18.png
Oberleutnant /
Főhadnagy (Hung.)
Locotenent-major (Romanian) /
(First Lieutenant/Lieutenant)
K.u.k. Olt Infanterie - 1918.png
K.k. OLt GebTrp 1906-18.png
Hauptmann /
Százados (Hung.)/
Kapitan (Polish)
Căpitan (Romanian)/
Capitano (Italian)
K.u.k. Hptm Infanterie.png
K.k. Hptm GebTrp 1906-18.png
Major /
Őrnagy (Hung.)/
Maior (Romanian)
Maggiore (Italian)
K.u.k. Major.png
K.k. Major GebTrp 1906-18.png
Oberstleutnant /
Alezredes (Hung.)
Locotenent-colonel (Romanian) /
Potpukovnik (Croatian)
(Lieutenant Colonel)
K.u.k. Oberstlt.png
K.k. Oberstlt GebTrp 1906-1918.png
Oberst /
Ezredes (Hung.)/
Colonel (Romanian)/
K.u.k. Oberst.png
K.k. Oberst GebTrp 1906-18.png
Generalmajor /
Vezérőrnagy (Hung.)
General-maior (Romanian)/
Maggiore Generale (Italian)
(Major General equiv. to Brigadier General/Brigadier)
K.u.k. GenMajor.png
Feldmarschalleutnant /
Altábornagy (Hung.)
(Lieutenant Field Marshal equiv. to Major General)
K.u.k. Feldmarschall-Lt -1918.png
General der Infanterie
Gyalogsági tábornok (Hung.)
(General of Infantry)
General der Kavallerie
Lovassági tábornok
(General of Cavalry)
Feldzeugmeister /
(General of Artillery)
K.u.k. Gen d Infanterie.png
Generaloberst /
Vezérezredes (Hung.)
(Colonel General) (since 1915)
K.u.k. Generaloberst 1915-1918.png
Feldmarschall /
Tábornagy (Hung.)
Mareșal (Romanian)
(Field Marshal)
K.u.k. Feldmarschall -1918.png

The ranks displayed after the "/" are the Hungarian equivalents of the Austrian ranks, since they were used in this format in the Magyar Királyi Honvédség / königlich ungarische Landwehr (Royal Hungarian Home Defence Forces).

The English equivalents are from the Austrian Bundesheer's homepage. The general ranks are equivalent of today's NATO standard.

Types of uniforms[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rothenberg, G. (1976). The Army of Francis Joseph. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press. p. 83. ISBN 0911198415. 
  2. ^ Rothenberg 1976, p. 193.
  3. ^ Rothenberg 1976, pp. 97, 99, 113–17, 124–25, 159.
  4. ^ Rothenberg 1976, p. 121.
  5. ^ Rothenberg 1976, p. 130.
  6. ^ Rothenberg 1976, p. 143.
  7. ^ Rothenberg 1976, pp. 101–02.
  8. ^ Rothenberg 1976, p. 81.
  9. ^ a b Rothenberg 1976, p. 126.
  10. ^ Rothenberg 1976.
  11. ^ a b Rothenberg 1976, p. 128.
  12. ^ Rothenberg 1976, p. 118.
  13. ^ Rothenberg 1976, p. 142, 151.
  14. ^ a b Rothenberg 1976, p. 78.
  15. ^ Rothenberg 1976, pp. 125–26.
  16. ^ a b Rothenberg 1976, p. 175.
  17. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]