Home Page World War II Armed Forces — Orders of Battle and Organizations Last Updated 17.11.2018
The Royal Hungarian Army
1920 - 1945

by Leo W.G. Niehorster

— Military Organization and the Armed Forces —
First Steps Towards Rearmament

Part V of the Treaty of Trianon [External link to WikiSource] which is the relevant part to this study abolished general military service (conscription) and set the total strength of the Hungarian Army at no more than 35,000 volunteers of all ranks. This force was to be limited to the maintenance of internal order and the guarding of the national borders. Heavy armaments were limited to 105 light cannon and 140 trench mortars. Even these consisted of reserve stocks from the First World War, and were not of the best, being inferior material which the K.u.K. (Kaiserliche- und Königliche, i.e. the Imperial Austrian) Army had doled out to the second-line Hungarian Army.

The Treaty also proscribed the most minute organizational details:
  • the officer corps was numerically fixed at 1,750 men;
  • the armaments industry was totally dismantled;
  • stockpiling for and equipment of the army was exactly described;
  • the maintenance of an air force was forbidden.
  • the creation of a tank force was also strictly forbidden;
  • the production of antitank guns, antiaircraft guns, heavy artillery, etc. was not allowed;
  • only the manufacture of light weapons such as pistols and rifles was allowed.

Hungary was allowed 12 armored cars used for internal security duties, consisting of several Italian Bianchi and Fiats, and German Erhardt M-17's. The rest were more modern Vickers, built especially in England for Hungary, which were added 1926 [Page 236, Icks, Tanks and Armored Vehicles.] [1].

An Allied Commission was established to watch over the compliance with the Treaty's terms. The 52 member Commission consisted of representatives from the U.S.A., England, France, and Italy.

As even the wear and tear of equipment was predetermined under the terms of the Treaty, it proved to be extremely difficult to establish and maintain an effective field force, let alone stockpile equipment for a larger army – which was exactly the object of the Treaty.

During the 1920's and 1930's, Hungary made consistent attempts and used ingenuous means to circumvent the terms of the Treaty of Trianon. With regards to the military restrictions, she was only partially successful. Although officers and NCO's were kept on the active lists in far greater numbers than the small Hungarian Army warranted, Hungary was initially not able to overcome the arms and equipment limitations imposed by the Treaty. The newly created and enlarged nations in the Balkans were eager to keep Hungary weak, especially as they owed their present status to the parcelling of Hungarian territories. They willingly and ably assisted the Control Commission to make certain that the Trianon Treaty was adhered to. A severe handicap was the very nature of Trianon Hungary itself. The flat countryside, as well as the concentration of nearly all the industry around Budapest made production of forbidden equipment next to impossible during the 1920's.

Early attempts to avoid the constricting terms of the treaty, therefore, were foiled by the group of nations known as the "Small Entente". This was the name given to the alliance between Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Rumania, sponsored by France, with the object of maintaining the status quo in the Danube Basin, of preventing the resurrection of the House of Hapsburg Monarchy, and of warding off Hungarian claims relating to its onetime territories. Naturally, this interest extended to keeping the Hungarian Army weak. After 1926 the importance of the Small Entente diminished, and it virtually ceased to exist after 1928, as the Control Commission had been dissolved on 31.03.1927 [Page 17, Wimpfen, Die 2. ungarische Armee... ] [2].

After control was relaxed somewhat, Hungary began in 1927 — surreptitiously — to experiment with new weapons, to expand her army and her armaments industry slightly, to prolong the basic training period for the lower ranks, and to perfect the training of the officers.

In 1927 the army was reorganized. It still very much reflected the limitations imposed by the Treaty of Trianon.

There were now seven mixed brigades [Page 115, Adonyi-Naredy, Ungarns Armee ... & page 18, Wimpfen, Die 2. ungarische Armee... ] [3]:
1. (Budapest),
2. (Székésfehérvár),
3. (Szombathely),
4. (Pécs),
5. (Szeged),
6. (Debrecen),
7. (Miskolc);
and two cavalry brigades:
1. (Budapest),
2. (Nylregyháza).

The armed forces now slowly began to expand. The infantry and cavalry were reorganized, some heavy artillery batteries were added to the artillery corps, and a few airplanes were bought from Italy in secret. The manufacture of airplane engines was also started on a small scale.

There was also a small force of Border Guards, and the Danube Flotilla consisting of vessels awarded by the peace treaty. In spite of the prohibition against conscription, the able-bodied male population was called up on reaching military age and passed through a form of military basic training, while a thorough pre-military training scheme was enacted for all boys, known as the Youth Organization (Levente). All these expedients, however, still left Hungary in a state of vast military inferiority, both actual and potential, compared with her neighbors. At this time, Hungary had about 35,000 men under arms, as allowed for by the Treaty of Trianon [Page 87, Macartney, October Fifteenth, Part I. ] [4].

After 1928, it was obvious that it might soon be possible to pay less attention to the limitations imposed on Hungary's armed forces by the Treaty of Trianon and the "Small Entente".

The Elöd Plan The Elöd Plan
Hungarian Military Organizational Symbols

After several minor reorganizations, it became clear that a long-range plan was called for. The first of these plans was known as the Elöd Plan of 24.10.1932. The Elöd Plan provided for:
  • the raising of 21 infantry divisions (each with 9 infantry battalions and 12 artillery batteries),
  • the mobile units to be increased in quantity, combining them into larger units,
  • Border Guard units to be increased and strengthened,
  • the modernization of all equipment.

These objectives were only slowly achieved. The Small Entente was still a looming shadow, even if it no longer had a fierce bite [5].

Over the next six years the Hungarian Army was slowly built up again. Standardization of equipment and training was inadequate. Most equipment was still left over from World War I, and from various other sources.

By buying from Italy in 1935, Hungary was able to obtain weapons not allowed to be produced within its own borders. Initially, there was much controversy within the military as to the source of weapons to be bought for Hungary, but the political and economic ties, as well as Italian membership in the victorious dictating nations of Trianon, decided the matter in favor of the Italians.

Made bold by these unsanctioned purchases of armaments, as well as by the example of the German rearmament programs begun after Hitler came to power, the Hungarian government announced a five-year plan on 15.03.1938 for the rearmament and industrial expansion of Hungary, as well as an increase in the size of the armed forces.

The Army Reform Plan of 1938

The old Elöd Plan was revised by the Huba Army Expansion and Mobilization Plan, enacted 5.03.1938 as part of the Army Reform Plan. It set the development of the Hungarian Army in three stages:
   Huba I, to become effective on 1.04.1940
   Huba II, to become effective on 1.03.1941
   Huba III, to become effective on 1.03.1942
Political and military events were to influence this timetable to some extent, but without drastically altering the aims of the Plan. Major stumbling blocks in the path of the Elöd Plan were the equipping of all units with heavy weapons, the creation of the armored and motorized units, as well as acquiring of sufficient modern aircraft [6].

The Huba Plan emphasized increasing the size of the armored and motorized units troops, expanding and strengthening the Border Guards, and generally modernizing the organization, administration and order of battle of the Hungarian Army itself.
The Huba Army Expansion and Mobilization Plan foresaw the following order of battle for the Hungarian Army by 1943 [7]:
  • 25 light infantry divisions
  • 1 cavalry division
  • 2 armored divisions
  • 2 mountain brigades
  • 1 border guard brigade
  • 1 river brigade
  • 2 air force brigades

In the spring of 1938 the organization of the Armed Forces was still governed by the Elöd Plan, in which a Field Corps was supposed to have a mobilized strength of 36,000 men, and an infantry brigade 9,000 men. A study by the Honvéd Ministry regarding general mobilization, concluded that the personnel requirements for 266 infantry battalions could, in an emergency, only be fulfilled after December 1938. The material requirements would take longer.

The international situation in 1938 made it desirable to the Hungarian Government that the pace of rearmament be increased so that the organization of the Armed Forces correspond to the guidelines laid down by the Huba Plan.

To allow a relatively uninterrupted mobilization, the Huba Plan specified that the units of the Border Guard be the first to be strengthened to allow time for the mobilization within Hungary without exterior interruption. The mobile troops were also to be strengthened to have a highly mobile, rapid reaction force available in case the enemy broke through the Border Guard units. Accordingly, the 1st Mobile Brigade was quickly built up to full strength, and provided with almost its full complement of supply elements. (These were usually only provided to units upon mobilization). This would enable the 1st Mobile Brigade to be ready to move out within 12 hours of receiving mobilization orders. [8].

The continuing tensions in the international situation caused the cadre of the 2nd Mobile Brigade to be raised in 1938, (also with its full complement of weapons, personnel, and support services), while the heavy infantry weapons allotted to the infantry brigades were further increased.

At this point in Hungarian history, the main military goal was to achieve a qualitative and quantitative parity with armies of the former "Small Entente" nations, (Rumania, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia). By 1940, this objective can be said to have been achieved.

On 1.10.1938, the seven mixed brigades, (created in 1927), were used as the basis for the expansion of the Hungarian Army. Each brigade had been located in a specific region of Hungary. This region was redesignated as a Corps, and received the number of the mixed brigade (I – VII). In these corps-sized administrative areas, the headquarters of each Corps was in the same location as that of the old mixed brigades. In effect, the brigades became corps. It was planned that each corps should have three brigades. Two brigades were to be based on the regular army regiments, while the third was to be raised from the Border Guard units within the Corps.

Although this was theoretically possible at the time from a future manpower point of view, there had been barely enough equipment to supply the original seven brigades, let alone 24 new ones. (A new VIII Corps headquarters was raised in 1938 at Kassa, after the award of the territories of southern Slovakia). What in fact happened, is that each Corps only set up two active brigades. The third brigade existed, but only on paper. In fact, this third Brigade became the infantry replacement unit of each Corps.

Hungarian Military Districts (Click for larger image) The mixed brigades, originally intended to be expanded only to divisional size, now became Corps (I – VIII), each with three independent brigades. When Hungary regained Transylvania, another (IX) Corps was organized at Kolozsvár in this new territory. The VIII and IX Corps, in addition to their normal three (i.e. two) brigade organization, had one active mountain brigade or one Border Guard brigade. (Later, the 8th Border Guard Brigade was converted into the 2nd Mountain Brigade).

The raising of the new Corps could only be at the cost of transferring already existing units to the new territories, and in no way increase the size of the Hungarian Army.

The Brigades were merely redesignated as Corps. Equipment was still in short supply, no new material available to equip the new units, and the Hungarian Army in no way stronger than it had been as an army of seven brigades. The nine Corps were probably weaker than the seven mixed brigades, due to the increase in manpower, administrative red tape, and the increased number of command echelons [9].

The active infantry brigades (as the subordinate units were now called), were supposed to have two full-strength infantry regiments. Each Brigade had six infantry battalions, four to five artillery batteries, one cavalry company, and one signal company. Without any antiaircraft or engineers, lacking heavy infantry weapon firepower, not motorized, the brigades could not by any stretch of the imagination be called modern combat units. In actual fact, both active brigades in the Corps maintained only one "peace time strength" regiment each. This situation, as indicated above, was the result of the scarcity of weapons and equipment that existed in the Hungarian Army. Mobilization indicated that these regiments were brought up to "enlarged peace time strength". For the brigades, mobilization meant that the service units — which existed in peace time only as cadres — were filled up.

As the Hungarian Army grew, only one of the two active brigades tended to acquire all the new equipment and the better troops, while the other infantry brigade merely got the remnants, or nothing at all. This practice led to there being only one first-rate infantry unit in each Corps, plus one "reserve", and one "training" unit.

The nine (I – IX) Corps were assigned to three (First, Second, and Third) Army Headquarters, each with three corps.

The most noticeable change was the establishment of the Mobile Corps on 1.10.1940. Independent of the three Army Headquarters, it was directly subordinate to the GHQ. It had the 1st and 2nd motorized Infantry Brigades, as well as the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades.

Scarcity of equipment, especially of motor vehicles, was quite noticeable in these four units as about 40% of the infantry battalions were equipped with bicycles. Nevertheless, the Mobile Corps units, and in particular the cavalry, were considered to be the elite troops of the Hungarian Army.

Although peacetime housekeeping might justify the grouping of cavalry, motor vehicles and bicycles together, the different speeds alone indicated that the motorized brigades be joined into a mechanized division, and the cavalry brigades into a cavalry division.

Although the Mobile Corps was riddled with deficiencies, it was still the most modern and best equipped unit in the Hungarian Army.

The Hungarian border was controlled by Border Police, Customs Police, (both under the Minister of the Interior), and the Border Guards, (regular Hungarian Army units). The Carpathian Mountains were defended only at the passes. Each pass was occupied by a battalion of two or three Border Guard companies. Certain areas where there were several passes, or in sections where there were no mountains, battalions were placed under the command of group headquarters. Along hostile borders, especially the Rumanian one, these groups were reinforced by additional troops, in particular artillery, and designated as brigades. Border Guard brigades were stationed along and in the immediate vicinity of the Hungarian borders. The brigades were intended as defense forces.

At the beginning of the war Border Guard troops were also considered to be elite troops, along with the Mobile Corps. Their equipment was good, units were filled up to strength, and the cream of the new recruits was assigned to them. As the war progressed, the Border Guard battalions, although still considered as elite troops, received replacements and equipment of lesser quality as the situation became more and more desperate.

On 5.12.1938, the Armed Forces Act [10] was passed to provide the necessary manpower. It enacted
  • compulsory military service for all men between 18 and 60, and
  • compulsory service in the Levente.
The Act also entitled the Government to proclaim a state of national emergency, and upon doing so, could assume certain emergency powers, the more important of which were:
  • to restrict the right of assembly and combination,
  • to place under police supervision, or to intern, any person whose conduct rendered such measures desirable,
  • to suspend provisionally the application of certain laws, in particular those restricting the output of labor,
  • to place under police supervision, or to intern, any person whose conduct rendered such measures desirable,
  • to control wages, profits, and prices,
  • to block stocks of commodities.

By spring of 1940, a large proportion of the adult male population had undergone some sort of military training. The lack of officers and NCO's was still felt, so that the lower ranks received only two years' training as opposed to the three years provided for in the Act. On the other hand, all male youths received some form of military instruction through service in the Levente [11].

This meant that the manpower pool in Hungary of trained soldiers was adequate, as full mobilization would produce some 450,000 men. The major weakness was still, of course, equipment, and was to remain so although foreign suppliers were used to the limit. But these, mainly Germany, proved unreliable. [12].

Germany had a tendency to withhold shipments of materials whenever she was at odds with Hungary over some political matter or other. Especially after the Hungarians refused to assist in the invasion of Poland, Hitler was reluctant to further assist the rearmament of the Hungarian Army. Hungary's efforts to become independent of foreign sources for equipment were very determined, but were often frustrated by her inability to manufacture certain essential items and products herself. Certain industries necessary to modern technology were totally lacking, e.g. Hungary had no capability for producing gasoline or fine oil, nor the industry to manufacture ball-bearings. For these critical items, she was utterly dependent on Germany, as well as lead, copper, nickel, etc.. [13].

As Germany was able to control the flow of these goods, Hungary was virtually at the mercy of the Germans for modern equipment, whether self-produced or imported. In addition, much of the Hungarian armaments industry was tied down with German production orders, and could not be delivered to Hungary itself on pain of having the very sanctions imposed that it would be trying to circumvent.

On the other side of the ledger, Hungary was able to produce its own explosives, cannon, (including antiaircraft guns), rifles and pistols, armored cars, light tanks, and ammunition.

On 1.10.1940, the Antiaircraft Corps, with the 101st – 105th Battalions, as well as the cadres of three new infantry brigades (25th, 26th, and 27th) of the new IX Corps were established.

The formation of the new IX Corps, (with Headquarters at Koloszvár), following the repossession of the territories to the East did not actually change the Hungarian Army too much, as personnel and equipment was provided initially at the expense of Border Guard and local border defense units. This had the advantage that it did not overly tax the military budget as the formation of the three brigades merely involved moving some units around and renaming them.

The peacetime organization of the I – IX Corps consisted of 3 infantry brigades with one infantry regiment each. In wartime, these regiments were expected to split (bud) into two. In addition, there was one horse-drawn artillery battalion, one cavalry company, one motorized artillery battalion, as well as supply and support units.

The II, VII, and VIII Corps had one bicycle battalion each. The VI Corps was assigned the 66th Border Guard Group; the IX Corps had the 9th Border Guard Brigade and the 69th Border Guard Group; and the VIII Corps had the 8th Border Guard Brigade.

The nine regular Army Corps had no armor or other mechanized troops. Corps troops were not sufficient to permit the corps to form concentrations or mass troops at critical points, nor to form effective reserves. The great majority of the supply and support trains were horse-drawn, which exposed the trains excessively to air attacks, impeded the proper supply function of the Corps, delayed rapid supply, lengthened the supply columns, and made them more vulnerable to partisan attacks.

The organizational measures described for the Mobile Corps and the other units in the Hungarian Army were obviously in advance of new equipment expected to become available, such as the Toldi light tanks, the Csaba armored cars, or the antitank guns to come from Germany.

See Annex: Huba Mobilization Plan for the I Corps 

The principle behind the Hungarian mobilization plan was based on the "twining" system, whereby all units, through use of the 1st and 2nd Reserves, budded another unit, identical, for all intents and purposes, to the first. Exceptions were the cavalry and motorized infantry brigades, the Air Force, as well as the Danube Flotilla. [14].

This doubling of units was not possible right at the start. The program progressed slowly, with many problems and delays, handicapped by Hungary's miserable financial and political situation.

Equipment for the "twin" units was stored in the mobilization depots. Vehicles and horses were to be provided by the local population and industry. Specially trained troops, such as engineers, communications technicians, etc., had to come from the private industry and civilian government sectors.

The independent brigades had to be ready to move out within three days of mobilization, while the mobile troops were required to move out in a day and a half.

As training facilities were limited, mobilization had to be staggered. Mobilized troops consisted for the most part of those reservists called up for active duty and new recruits who had been called up by active duty orders from the corresponding Corps. The reservists were given refresher training, and the new recruits were started on their basic combat training.

By the spring of 1940, thanks to the Levente, a large proportion of the adult male population had undergone some sort of basic military training.

The lack of officers and NCO's also allowed the Army to give recruits only two years' training instead of the three years as foreseen in the Armed Forces Act. This meant that by 1940 the manpower pool in Hungary of trained soldiers enabled full mobilization of some 450,000 men.

To give the regular peacetime army enough time to "bud" into a war-strength army, five stages of mobilization had been established. This system was a leftover from the time when mobilization had been forbidden by the Treaty of Trianon. The stages were:
  • Alert (készültség)
  • General Alert (szigorn készültség)
  • Reserve Call-up (felemelt állomány)
  • Mobilization, partial (felriasztás)
  • Mobilization, full (mozgósitás)

The system, which was maintained until 1943, was, of course, merely a theoretical exercise, as over 66% of the units were not combat ready even on paper owing to a lack of specialized personnel and equipment. It was hoped that time would ease the bottlenecks, so the entire system was left as it was [15].

It was only in the summer of 1942, after the dispatch of the Second Army to the East Front, that most units that could not be made combat ready were disbanded, with the personnel and equipment, (if any), reassigned to other units [16].


At the start of World War II the Hungarian Army organization was based on a well thought out personnel concept, which had been encoded in the Armed Forces Act of 5.12.1938. This act laid down compulsory military service for all males aged between 18 and 60. Military service itself was to last three years. All Hungarian males were made liable for the Levente. Besides military service, a Honvéd Labor obligation for all Hungarian citizens, including women, from the ages of 14 through 70 was imposed. For militarily unfit youths, a three-month service in a labor unit was laid down.

The combat arms, (Army, Air Force, and River Flotilla), included the Magyar ("real" Hungarian) and Germanic parts of the population. The Magyárs made up approximately 81% of the population. The Germanic made up 4%. Of the remaining ethnic groups, initially only those considered "politically reliable" were admitted to the Military Labor force. Later, the remaining ethnic groups were also admitted into the Military Labor units. (Distribution of minorities was a bit arbitrary. For instance the 1/I Tank Regiment had many Rumanians and Gypsies). The Military Labor forces were an integral part of the Hungarian Army, based on the national labor obligation, and was subordinate to the Defense Ministry [17].

Of those units that were actually dispatched to the East Front, it appears that the Honvéd Ministry included a somewhat – although not disproportionately – high number of those minorities that could be expected to fight at all. Such nationalities as were considered politically unreliable, or those whose "level of education was so low that they were not worth training, especially if they did not speak Magyar (Hungarian)", were drafted into the Military Labor battalions. Interestingly enough, the latter excuse was alleged particularly in the case of the Rumanians, but on the other hand, the Ruthenes were called up freely. By the summer of 1941, there were 37,200 persons serving in the Military Labor battalions. It was only after in 1942 that the Jewish citizens of Hungary were also drafted into the Military Labor battalions.

^ Levente

All boys from the age of 12 were enrolled in the youth organization known as the Levente. Upon reaching 18, a three-week military exercise was completed. Membership was compulsory for all males up to the age of 35. Although membership was only made compulsory by the Armed Forces Act of 1938, in effect the Levente had been secretly practiced for several year proceeding this date. The Levente consisted of military training for 4 hours a week on Sundays for 10 months a year.

Training was given by reserve officers and NCO's according to a schedule prepared by Corps headquarters and controlled by the Bureau of Pre-Military Training in the Honvéd Ministry. It consisted of basic infantry training including the manual of arms, close-order drill, marksmanship, customs and courtesies of the service, combat tactics for small units, maneuvers that usually lasted more than four hours, etc.


The Levente organization kept very accurate records of all young men who drilled within it, and every year submitted to the Corps headquarters a listing of those young men who had attained the conscription age of 21. During the war, that age was gradually lowered to 19.

In the months of May, June, and July, draft boards met in each district of the counties. These draft boards consisted of two company-grade officers and one medical officer. The young men were interviewed and then assigned to a branch of service according to their qualifications and the needs of the service. The draftees then returned home and awaited the notice to report for duty. The notification usually arrived in October, after the harvest. At least two classes of conscripts were in active service, and sometimes, depending upon the degree of mobilization, more.

The Cavalry, Artillery, Mobile Troops, Air Force, and the River Forces, having elite status, were composed of specially selected volunteers, and never had to rely on the draft. [Page 76, Kern, Die letzte Schlacht]

The active military service obligation for enlisted men was to last for three years in peace time. Owing to a lack of officers and NCO's, the actual time spent by these men on active duty was often reduced to two years. Training took place during the annual training period of 20 weeks during the summer months. After this active duty period, soldiers were assigned to the 1st Reserve.

Replacement Training System

The replacement training system was based on two aspects:
  • The permanent affiliation of the conscript with the brigade (and from 1942, with the division).
  • The rotation of active duty amongst classes of reserves.

Men who had been trained in one formation were always called up to that same formation either with the rest of their class, or individually, for active duty when they were needed.

At the same time, men of other classes were usually released from that formation and returned to inactive status, (i.e., 1st Reserve). Replacements for combat units engaged on the East Front did not go directly to their "parent" formation, but were given refresher courses in training formations (from mid-1944 known as replacement divisions) in Hungary. As replacements were needed, these troops were gathered into "march" battalions and sent to the front. March battalions were poorly equipped. Officers and NCO's had weapons, the troops usually did not. If a march battalion was to go through an area frequented by partisans, the troops were equipped with rifles and ammunition at the point just before this area, and the then disarmed after passing through it. These weapons were then issued there to other battalions going in the opposite direction.

After spending the required time at the front, soldiers were sent on extended leave to Hungary, or placed on the inactive list (1st Reserves).


In the event of mobilization, conscripts were called up by classes or individually. The class of 1924, for example, was scheduled to be called up in 1943. Men in the 1st Reserve were called up as needed rather than by classes. There were four categories of troops:
  • Active service personnel,
  • 1st Reserve personnel, who had a military obligation until the age of 42, and were required to participate in a total of six military exercises by the time he reached that age. 1st Reserve personnel were also liable to be called up at any time for guard duty within their district.
  • 2nd Reserve, containing all trained men between the ages of 42 and 48.
  • 3rd Reserve, comprising all trained men older than 48, but yet 65.
In an emergency, men were called up for special service until the age of 70.

Enlisted Men and Non-Commissioned Officers
[Pages 12–15, Part C, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee.] Enlisted Career System (Click for larger image)

Because of budget problems, planning, and a general lack of insight, the Honvéd Ministry in 1932 decided to discharge many professional NCO's and soldiers. This proved later to be a grave mistake, as the "backbone" that any army needs in the form of the "old-timers" was henceforth missing, and would be severely felt in the coming conflicts.

Professional sergeants were also trained to fulfill the duties of lower-rank officers in case of need, and had the skill to become officers. Yet, even if they studied in their spare time and obtained a high school diploma, they could not enter the officer corps. Instead, they were transferred to civil servant status and worked there as clerks. Thus, the troops lost the most talented, educated and ambitious sergeants.

Training of the lower ranks left much to be desired. The younger generation of officers attempted in vain to reform and modernize the Army. Unfortunately, the training received by the Hungarian soldier remained largely that of the soldier of World War I. Trench warfare remained the basic precept, with strong emphasis on close-combat training (bayonets). Modern mobile warfare with assault groups, strong points, all-round defense, attacking and retreat, were initially all unknown concepts for the troops, and were only learned in the bitter forge of combat. [Page 77, Kern, Die letzte Schlacht]

Discipline was harsh and – by late 20th Century standards – could be cruel. Pillorying was a standard form of punishment, albeit only applicable to the lower ranks. This particular form of extreme punishment consisted of hoisting the culprit up on a tree with his hands bound behind his back, and leaving him to hang for up to two hours. This sort of punishment was supposed to be applied only to troops in combat areas. [Page 480, footnote 81, Gosztony, Hitlers fremde Heere]

The Hungarian soldier was taught that he fought for ideals, not for territorial gains, that he fought to avert the Communist catastrophe which had threatened to overwhelm his nation. Neither the Hungarian Government nor the military authorities thought to inform their troops about the real reasons for which Hungary went to war with Russia. Hence the general consensus amongst the troops at the front was that the war was a German one. The troops believed that they had been sent to fight and die because Horthy had a contract with Hitler. Indeed, it was common to hear Hungarian soldiers say that Horthy had sold them to the Germans. [Page 78, Kern, Die letzte Schlacht]

This feeling was reinforced because the Hungarian troops were issued German rations and equipment (the latter usually second-rate) upon their arrival on the East Front. The Hungarian soldier had quite different ideas regarding the type and consistency of the food that he should be have been issued. The "Honvéd" — as the Hungarian solder was known — coming literally from a land of milk and honey, (and he was often a farmer), did not relish the dried vegetables, herrings in tomato sauce, and other such standard rations that German troops were issued. In particular, marmalade was thought to be an insult. The Hungarian Army yearned for the accustomed fatty foods such as bacon and fresh meat to sustain him. In the Winter of 1942/43 the Hungarian Government was finally forced to ship out supplementary rations to the East Front, consisting of fat, bacon, spices, and strong spirits in order to get any sort of decent effort from their troops at all, and, not too surprisingly, to avoid a general uprising!

Morale varied greatly. In some infantry units it was very high. It was generally high in the tank and Air Force units, but varied from time and place to place. The Hungarian soldier in the Second Army on the East Front between 1942 and 1943 had an extremely low state of morale. Real motivation was not offered to him, and he often asked of himself why he particularly had been selected to fight this war. (This attitude was heightened by the fact that Hungary did not completely mobilize until March/April 1944). The Hungarian Government attempted to rectify this situation by rotating battalions at the front. These attempts were often frustrated, as the relief troops were frequently thrown into the fray alongside those battalions they had been sent to replace.

Half starving, freezing in the winter, dressed in rags, equipped with obsolete foreign arms, frequently shattered by the appearance of Russian armor, to a large degree written off by their own country, and in many ways the dregs and sweepings of the Hungarian Army, it was close to a miracle that Second Hungarian Army units were able to fight, let alone on rare occasions soundly thrash larger tank-equipped Soviet units.

General F.W. von Mellenthin states in his 'Panzer Battles', that "the Hungarian troops were of a better quality than the Rumanians and the Italians". One dreads to think about the state of the other Axis allies. [Page 250, Mellenthin, Panzer Battles]

Soldiers who did not have a school-leaving certificate could not aspire to officer's rank. Instead, they were trained at the NCO school at Jutas. The highest rank an NCO could reach was alhadnagy (Regimental Sergeant Major). Therefore the difference between a karp. NCO and a regular NCO was the "braided" NCO could apply and aspire to be an officer, while the others could not. [Page 14, Part C, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee]

All military schools in Greater Hungary had been disbanded in 1918, and all student/cadets released. Only four (unofficial) military schools were reopened in 1919. They were the
  • Bocskai István Royal Military School in Budapest,
  • Zrinyi Miklós Royal Military School in Pécs,
  • Hunyadi Mátyás Royal Military School in Köszeg, and
  • Rákóczi Ferenc Royal Military School in Sopron.
Owing to the Trianon Peace Treaty, these institutions were now no longer under army control, but were now under the Ministry for Culture and Education, although they employed the personnel of the former military schools, and maintained the military traditions and discipline. They were prepared for military careers, so that besides the normal curriculum the students received military basic training, albeit without weapons. The four schools together had about 290 students. Upon graduating they were automatically admitted to the Ludovika Academy. In 1938, these schools were officially recognized as military institutions and placed under the supervision of the Honvéd Ministry. (Pages 9–10, Darnoy, Part C)

Starting in 1941, cadet academies were established, partially by taking over the personnel and facilities of the military schools. They were the
  • Rákóczi Ferenc Royal Infantry Cadet Academy in Sopron;
  • Zrinyi Miklós Royal Infantry Cadet Academy in Pécs, (opened in 1942);
  • Csaba királyfi Royal Mobile Troops Cadet Academy in Marosvásárhely, which included the horse-drawn and motorized train services;
  • Gábor Àron Royal Artillery Cadet Academy in Nagyvárad, which trained for field, heavy, and antiaircraft artillery arms;
  • Görgey Arthur Royal Technical Cadet Academy in Budapest, which was associated with the Bólyai Technical Academy, and encompassed engineers and signal troops, as well as river forces;
  • Horthy Air Force Cadet Academy in Kassa, which was associated with the Horthy Pilot Academy. This academy was closed in the winter 1942/43.
Obviously these cadet academies could not influence the officer situation during the war, as the first class was scheduled to graduate in 1946. Interestingly enough, with the reduction of the curriculum of the military academies from four to three to two years in 1942, training in all types of institutions was of about the same level. (Page 11, Darnoy, Part C)

All soldiers who had a school-leaving certificate (equivalent of the US High School graduation) automatically received the karpaszomány (kar = arm, paszomány = braid) arm-braid. They did not have to become officers, and only those who had graduated from high school could apply for any kind of officer training. They were called karp for short. All forms of high-schools (technical, academic, commercial, teacher's training college) were accepted. Only soldiers who had finished high school could apply for officer training, and soldiers who did not have a school-leaving certificate could not aspire to officer's [Szabo, letter dated 10.01.1997].

Those who failed the courses were normally designated as "Squad Leader", (i.e., Corporal, szakaszvezetú). Those with the karp designation, were called karpaszományos szakaszvezetú. (karp. szkv.). There even were cases of soldiers who were karp. honvéd. It was possible to reapply for admission to the reserve officers's course after dropping out.

When the soldiers finished their Second Reserve Officer Training Course, they received the unique rank of hadapród úrmester. ("candidate officer-sergeant"). Then, only after finishing the second probationary period with the troops in the field, did they get promoted to zászlós, 3rd Lieutenant. (Although in many cases, this promotion did not happen immediately. Some officers were promoted later, at the front) [Szabo, letter dated 10.01.1997].

Military Academies

Students either went at the age of 12 to a military schools where they were trained to be soldiers, and on completion of their studies applied to one of the Military Academies. Or they graduated from a regular, recognized high school, applied to the Academy – and if accepted – did the same training as the reserves for the first year, i.e., basic combat training, Officer's Course I, and Squad leader. Basic training in the military academies took place during the first year. Once completed, the candidate then went on to 2nd year of the Academy.

Initailly, all Regular Army officers graduated from the Ludovika Academy, which was founded in 1808 and named after Queen Maria Ludovika (wife of King Francis I of Hungary and Emperor of Austria) because she gave a grant of 50,000 Gold Florins to the academy. [Page 55, Siposné Kecskeméthy, "Ludovika Academy ... ]

Furthermore, in her article Siposné Kecskeméthy writes:
"In the 1931/32 school year, the defence minister ordered the setting up of the Ludovika Academy I and II. At the Ludovika I infantry, cavalry and artillery cadets', while at the Ludovika II engineering, flotilla, aviation, signalling, train troop cadets' training went on. In autumn 1939 the Ludovika II split into two institutions, the Royal Hungarian Bolyai János Technical Academy in Budapest-Hűvösvölgy, and, in Kassa, the Royal Hungarian Horthy Miklós (from 1942 Horthy István) Air Force Academy.
The last officer commissioning ceremony of the Ludovika Academy was held on 15 November 1944 in Körmend Batthyányi Castle Garden and Hajmáskér, and then the institution moved to Germany. On April 25, 1945, the Academy ceased operating. At the Ludovika Academy the officers' training had triple function: education, training and socialization."
[ Pages 57–58, Siposné Kecskeméthy, "Ludovika Academy ... ]

During the war, the military academies shortened the duration of the courses from four years to three and later to two years, so that military education received by all two types of officers (RA, AR) was virtually identical.

Officers and the Combat Arms — Distribution on 1.02.1944
Infantry 269 382 117 860 1028 397
Motorized Infantry 11 12 19 59 64 36
Bicycle Infantry 10 22 6 33 36 22
Tank 11 33 36 91 42 124
Cavalry 46 75 31 104 58 43
Artillery 98 95 59 257 323 173
Antiaircraft 40 48 19 85 118 84
Air Force 24 29 49 183 147 239
Technical 37 39 48 163 104 71
Signal 22 53 20 102 68 50
River Forces 12 20 4 29 2 9
Logistics 37 42 11 84 49 30
Support 4 21 4 28 60 26
General Staff 42 40 62 70 20
Engineer Staff 17 31 21 6 11
Totals    6 19 81 680 942 506 2154 2130 1304

Before World War I, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire maintained three armies. The Landwehr of Austria and the Honvédseg of Hungary. The two national armies were to be used within the respective kingdoms, (a sort of national guard), and were considered as second-line forces.

The Imperial Austrian Army (Kaiserliche und Königliche = K.u.K.) was the first-line force. It was recruited and stationed in 15 military districts throughout the Austrian Empire. The K.u.K. had consisted of officers and men drawn from both kingdoms. Its official language was German and its military traditions Austrian.

After the collapse of the communist dictatorship of Béla Kun, many ex-officers of the Austrian Imperial Army enlisted in the new Hungarian Army in droves — civilian life had not agreed with them. [Page 75, Kern, Die letzte Schlacht]

Many officers aspired to the 1,750 positions permitted by the Trianon Treaty. The majority of these officers were from the Hungarian part of the dual-monarchy. They were of Austrian-German descent, their forefathers had originally come from Germany and Austria. These German-speaking descendants formed the mainstay of the new Hungarian Army officers corps, while the remainder of the officer corps composed of Székels [*] from Transylvania, as well as small portion of Serbs and Croats from the former Austrian-Hungarian military frontier – the Krajina. The Krajina is in Croatia, and was first formed by Emperor Leopold II of Austria in the 1700's [Page 19, Macartney, October Fifteenth, Part I].

The Honvédseg, (i.e. militia) of the defunct dual monarchy, had been officered mostly by Hungarians of Magyár decent. When the K.u.K. army was dissolved, those Hungarian officers – many of Germanic descent – who had been in the first line units of the K.u.K. drifted back to Hungary. Enhanced by the general political situation and the long years of Austrian rule, these officers brought with them the traditions and ideas of the Imperial Army, and contributed to the perpetuation of a Germanic influence within the Hungarian Army. These officers contributed greatly to the reconstruction and reorganization of the fledgling Hungarian Army [Page 76, Kern, Die letzte Schlacht].

However, this meant that the higher positions in the new Honvédseg were occupied by the higher-ranking officers of the former K.u.K. Army, most of whom were of Austrian-German nationality. The middle positions were awarded by and large to the proteges of the first group. This meant that the upper part of the new Honvéd was an exclusive club for the aristochracy and the large landowners. The lower positions were filled with ranking officers of the old Honvédseg and with Hungarian graduates of the Ludovika Academy. Thus, it was impossible to create an officer corps with a unified spirit. Under such conditions professional achievements of the new Honvéd were remarkable [Page 75, Kern, Die letzte Schlacht].

There were two sources for new officers for the Army:
  • The officer academy, the Ludovika Academy in Budapest.
  • The National War College (established as a covert operation in 1923 under the name "Course for the Study of Regulations (Szabalyzatismerteto Tanfolyam) No. 10".

New officers were drawn mainly of the rural and urban intelligentsia. By the beginning of WWII the Army was no longer in the hands of feudal lords. In fact, not a single member of the Hungarian aristocracy in the Army held a rank higher than Captain. The aristocracy and the major landowners were not a factor in Hungary World War II army.

Premier Julius Gömbös, himself a former high officer, recognized the dangers of a tradition-bound system and attempted to reorganize the Hungarian Army into a modern fighting force with all means at his disposal. Unfortunately for the Hungarian Army, he died in 1936, his aspirations stillborn [Pages 75–76, Kern, Die letzte Schlacht].

The border incidents with Czechoslovakia demonstrated that the new army needed good junior officers and NCO's. It was clear that things could not remain as they were and that a corps of qualified, solid officers must come into being that could be relied on in an emergency [Page 76, Kern, Die letzte Schlacht].

It should be mentioned here that the Hungarian officer, trained in the Imperial Austrian way of thinking, had little or no contact with the rank and file as such. He was educated to the fact that soldiers and officers did not intermingle. This viewpoint might have had its merits in the past, but in the World War II era, where small combat units predominated, this state of mind was a severe handicap [Page 76, Kern, Die letzte Schlacht].

Beginning in 1939, the Hungarian Army began desperately to seek new sources of officers. Particularly civil servants and intellectuals were recruited, (not only by appealing to their patriotism, but also by offering them higher salaries), and put through the shorter Army Reserve training periods. These officers were primarily assigned to the infantry and service arms. The Hussars (cavalry), artillery and mobile arms, as well as the Air Force were not particularly effected by these "lesser-quality" officers. An overly-large proportion of ex-K.u.K. colonels were found in the cavalry, and many had also found employment in rear area and administrative roles. Levente and the reserve organizations were also full of former K.u.K. officers.

During the war, the Hungarian Officer corps consisted of the following components:

The Regular Army (RA) officers. Graduates of one of the Military Academies. In addition, exceptional Army Reserve (AR) officers were offered the chance to become Regular Army. The Regular Army Officers were called – and still are – hivatásos;. Which comes from the word hivat´ss meaning "calling" in the religious sense. It has come to mean "professional". (A profession in Hungarian is called a hivatás.) The abbreviation was h.t. or hivatásos tiszt. It was not used for the RA officer. A Captain was automatically an RA Captain. Only the Army Reserve officers had to be designated. [Szabo, letter dated 10.01.1997]

The Army Reserve (AR) officers. These were men who had received military training after graduating from High School. It was possible to complete this training either as a continuing process, or by interspacing their military training with a civilian education or even occupation. The Hungarian equivalent of the Reserve Officers Training Corps, although the AR officer program also included young men not in university as well as those in university. They remained available for call up (in the reserves) until reaching the age of 35. [Szabo, letter dated 10.01.1997]

Reserve Officers were generally able to advance to 1st Lieutenant, more rarely to the rank of Captain. Although there was no formal limit to how far they could go, in practical terms, once they reached the position of Company Commander, they would have had to attend one of the Staff Officer's courses, and in effect, would have had to go back to an Academy. In practice, this didn't happen. Reserve Officers were called tartalékos, (abbreviated to tart. or t.). A tartalékos zászlós (t. zls.) was a Reserve 3rd Lieutenant). [Szabo, letter dated 10.01.1997]

The Hostilities Only Officers. There was not really a category in the Royal Hungarian Army for Hostilities Only officers. An officer could only be a Regular Officer or a Reserve Officer. However, when an officer completed his military training, but had not yet attended or completed the Academy, he was offered a position in the Regular Army. Those who accepted this "short-term" Regular Officer status were called "továbbszolgáló" (lit., further-servers), and were promoted on merit, on considerations of length of service, etc. When they retired after completing the normal 30 years, they were considered as retired Regular Army Officers. [Szabo, letter dated 10.01.1997]

Direct Commissioned Officers. There was no provision for direct commissions for civilian experts, with the only exception being the clergy, who – if they were ordained priests or ministers – could be commissioned as 1st Lieutenants. The Chief of the Army Chaplains was equivalent in rank to a Major-General. [Szabo, letter dated 10.01.1997]

Many of the old officer corps felt that the admission of reserve officers to the professional officer corps weakened morale and discipline because many of these activated reserve officers joined the army only for better pay and job security. At the same time, some of them brought into a formerly apolitical officer corps diverse political views.

Gaps in the ranks of the lower officers, sometimes triggered heated political arguments (naturally always hidden from the eyes and ears of superiors), destroyed unity and divided the younger officers into pro-German and anti-German camps. The army also had to deal with problems created by outdated or newly-introduced laws. The two most damaging laws were those which regulated the selection and promotion of reserve officers, promotion of sergeants to officer ranks, and the codicil to the Military Service Law of 1939.

The codicil to the Military Service Law of 1939 was the military version of the anti-Jewish laws passed by the government under Minister-President Béla Imredy in the early days of January, 1939. If officers had one parent who followed the Jewish faith and the parents had married after 1.08.1919 (even if they had married according to Christian rites), they were forced into retirement or placed on an "out of service" status. Jews who served in the rank and file were made to serve in separate formations (the Military Labor units). With the above laws, the weak Hungarian Army was weakened even further.

There were shortages in the officer corps (as well as in the General Staff Corps). The esprit de corps declined, and the standards and requirements for officers were lowered. These conditions, in light of the lack of modernization and armament, justified the frustrated and bitter exclamation from General Ferenc Szombathelyi: "But, we do not really have an army. To start a war with such a badly equipped, armed and trained army would be a crime".

The prerequisites for entering the reserve officer corps were: a high school diploma and the successful completion of a four to six-month-long reserve officer course. The reserve officer candidates, (paszomany), who wore a special insignia on their sleeves, were the envy by the rank and file, and of jealousy on the part of the sergeants. This system secured (on paper) a great number of reserve officers for the army, but their training was too short to provide them with the necessary knowledge. In practice, they were inferior even to professional sergeants. At the same time the system openly recognized class distinctions and created class antagonism within the army.

Non-Regular Army Officers, (including those AR officers that had been called to active duty), increased the proportion of non-RA officers to the point where RA captains were outnumbered 5 to 2, RA first lieutenants by 3 to 2, and RA second lieutenants by 3 to 1. Promotion for all officers above 3rd Lieutenant was based on merit and other considerations, such as length of service. [Annex IX, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee]

Officer Career and Training System (Click for larger image)
Officer Career and Training System
Notes for Chart
AR = Army Reserve
AR officer candidates who failed the Officer Training Course I were withdrawn from the candidate status, and received the rank of probationary squad leader (karpaszományos szakasvezetö) and could be promoted to Corporal after 12 months. If they so desired, they could re-apply to become AR officer candidates again at a later date.

After completing 12 months training, exceptionally gifted AR officer candidates could be sent to one of the military academies, where they started at the beginning of the second year.

AR officer candidates failing the Office Training Course II received the rank of Probationary Platoon Leader and could be promoted to Sergeant after 9 months. If they passed the Office Training Course II they were promoted to Candidate Officer-Sergeant (hadaprod örmester).

AR 3rd Lieutenants had a 3 to 5 year military obligation.

The rank which most AR officers normally could attain was that of 1st Lieutenant, exceptionally, Captain. Should they wish to advance further they had to change to RA status. If AR lieutenants chose at any time to change status to Regular Army, they were sent to special courses, and, providing they were suitably qualified, were inducted into the RA, thereby accepting a 30 to 35 year military commitment.

RA = Regular Army
RA 2nd Lieutenants had a 30 to 35 year military obligation.

Only Company Grade RA officers with company command experience were eligible to take the qualifying exams for one of the military colleges. The rank held determined the time the officer had to attend the selected college.

The 1st year in the War College consisted of on the job training in a General Staff position the troops.

Engineer Staff 1st Lieutenants, (who had a degree approximately equivalent to a Masters in Engineering), after having passed their first engineer staff exam, could apply to be transferred to the General Staff College, where, upon being accepted, they joined at the beginning of the second year.

General Staff Majors, Lieutenant Colonels, and Colonels could transfer to the Regular Army. Quartermaster and Engineer field grade officers could not.

Promotion for all officers above the rank of 3rd Lieutenant was based on merit and other considerations, such as length of service.
[Annex VIII, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee]

General Staff Corps

The General Staff Corps consisted of specially selected and carefully trained officers who filled the most important command and staff positions throughout the Hungarian Army. All General Staff officers were trained at the Royal Hungarian War College in Budapest. It must be noted, that the General Staff was a relatively closed, elite-forming and career-supporting body. Ference Legyel writes:
      In all, General Staff was an exclusive organization to which an ordinary line officer could not have much access. Never was a General Staff officer exposed to outsiders. Even those serving in field units remained in double subordination, that is they were in direct subordination to their commanders but they also had the opportunity to submit reports to the Chief of General Staff of the Royal Hungarian Honvédség."
[Page 229, Lengyel, Some details for the judgment on the higher military leadership...]

Up to 1938 only unmarried officers in good standing, of the corresponding birth year, and with at least four years active service were allowed to take the admittance test – after 1939, taking the test was obligatory for all officers reaching company grade rank (2nd Lieutenants, 1st Lieutenants, and Captains).

General Staff Corps candidates who passed the exams were detached to a combat arm other that their own before starting their training. During the summer months, all students were again attached to another combat arm for troop service.

On 23.10.1942 admittance criteria was once again changed so that officers had to have at least 8 years time in service before being qualified to take the exams, and be at least a lieutenant colonel before being admitted to the final test. By default, no students took the final test in 1943.

Until 1937, General Staff Corps students had to spend the first year with a foreign army. (Those of Italy, Germany, France, and Austria). From 1938, the first year was spent with Hungarian troops instead.

After the first year, all officers were sent to an aerial observer course with the Air Force. They were assigned provisional positions in staffs under the mobilization plans, such as to Brigade Headquarters, etc. Each academic year was rounded off by an eight-week tactical exercise.

The number of students in the War Academy was small. Until 1938 there were 10 to 12 officers enrolled per year. After 1938, this was increased to 30 per year. The curriculum was reduced to two years in 1943. In 1944, it was further shortened to one and a half years and the General Staff Corps test was postponed for the duration of the war. The last qualified and fully trained General Staff officers graduated in April 1942. [Page 50, Part B, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee]

In 1942, the War Academy was sent to the Second Army on the East Front to gather experience.

After graduating from the War Academy, all officers had to undergo one-year trail period with the troops. In war time, this phase was reduced to six months. A fully trained General Staff Corps officer was expected to be qualified to assume any General Staff position he was assigned to. As it was desired that General Staff Corps officers not loose contact with the field forces, every fourth year they were posted to a field unit for practical experience.

Those General Staff officers detached to field duty wore the corresponding arms or service colors of that unit.

A specialization in different specialities for General Staff Corps officers while attending the course was not possible owing to the small number of officers. The lack of qualified GSC officers became ever greater with the increasing size of the wartime Hungarian Army.

Besides those officers directly in the Hungarian Army General Staff itself, the Chief-of-Staff positions in the Headquarters of the Armies (with the rank of Brigadier General) were also to be filled by General Staff officers.

General Staff Corps colonels assigned to command brigades and divisions, or artillery commands, were removed from the General Staff and placed on the roles of Regular Army colonels. However, the suffix of GSC (i.e., General Staff Corps) appended to their ranks was maintained.

Air Force General Staff Corps officers underwent the same training as ground forces officers. It was not until late 1941 that the War Academy opened a special department for Air Force. It offered a specialized curriculum for Air Force officers as of 1942.

Many General Staff Corps officers who were in the Air Force were basically regular General Staff officers who had completed an air observer course and then transferred to the Air Force. Most did not apply for flight training. (Page 50, Darnoy, Part B)

Staring on 1.10.1943, a specialized General Staff Corps course for Air Force officers was offered. Officers of the birth years 1933, 1934, and 1935 with at least seven years service with the Air Force were admitted.

The War College courses were discontinued in October 1944, and the students were sent to the staffs of the brigades and divisions. [Pages 48–50, Part B, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee]

Engineer Staff Corps

The Engineer Staff Corps (Hadimüszaki Törzskar) consisted of specially selected and carefully trained professional officers, who had had at least four years time in service before being admitted to the Technical Institute. Before completing the Engineer Staff exam, they had already acquired the equivalent of a Masters Degree in a technical subject. After the successful completion of a two-year trail period they were admitted to the Engineer Staff Corps.

They were assigned to staff positions with the Quartermasters General of the Armies and Corps, and were responsible for weapons, ammunition, and equipment.

Engineer Staff Corps officers were also given other assignments, such as commanding specialized units, including technical troops, transport units, bridge construction, and heavy bridge construction battalions.

In 1938/1939, the Hungarian Army ordered that all Engineer Staff Corps candidates spend the first year in the War Academy before being admitted to the Military Technical Institute. The Engineer Staff Corps was based on the traditions of the former Imperial Austrian K.u.K. Genie- und Artillerie Stab, into which the Hungarian Engineer Corps had been absorbed in 1848/49. The Engineer Staff Corps was recreated secretly in 1930 by the establishment of the HTI (Haditchnikal Intezeto – the Military Technical Institute) in Budapest.

The commandant of HTI was at the same time the Chief of the Engineer Staff. He was responsible for the training at the HTI, and being up to date on the latest military technology in all sectors of the national and foreign military industries. He made recommendations to the General Staff and the Honvéd Ministry; and converted the wishes and orders of these bodies into technical terms that could be understood by technical personnel and the industry.

One of his main duties was to test national and foreign equipment in close cooperation with the troops regarding field usability and practicality. He was responsible for the supervision of all weapons and military purchasing, (both foreign and national). He was furthermore charged with supervising and inspecting equipment produced by the Hungarian armaments industry for the Army.

The Hungarian Army also had other well qualified engineer officers who had acquired their expertise in civilian life, and had gone through the Army Reserve training. They were highly appreciated, but were not part of the Engineer Staff Corps. [Pages 50–50, Part B, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee.]

Military Hierarchy

The Supreme Commander in both peace and war was the head of state. Since Hungary did not have a monarch, this position was assumed by the Regent, Admiral Horthy.

All awards, decorations, officer promotions and the allocating all command positions were carried out in his name.

In military matters, Admiral Horthy was advised by the Hungarian Military Chancellery of the Regent (Magyarország Kormányzójának Katonai Irodája).

Questions of grave national consequence were handled by the Crown Council (Korona Tanács), a non-military advisory group headed by the Regent. It consisted of leading members of government as well as several senior generals including the Chief of the General Staff.

According to the Hungarian Constitution, the Prime Minister had to be designated by Parliament and confirmed by Horthy.

Among the Prime Minister's many responsibilities was national defense, complemented by the Honvéd Minister, who in turn was responsible for the purely military aspects of defense.

For the broader aspects of this subject (both civilian and military), the Prime Minister had the advice of the Supreme National Defense Council (legfelsöbb honvédelmi tanács – LHT), a body of military experts and politicians. (Even including representation from the opposition.) The Council also coordinated military and civilian defense measures.

All decisions regarding either the declaration of war or its ending needed the approval of parliament.

Up to 1940, the Hungarian Army had a Supreme Command, headed by the Commander-In-Chief. On 1.03.1940, the Commander-In-Chief slot was eliminated as a separate position, and all its military authority was combined with that of the Chief-of-Staff of the General Staff.

Hungarian Army Command Structure Command Structure (Click for larger image)

The command structure for the defense of Hungary were clearly defined, based on the traditions carried forward from World War I and even from earlier traditions of the 19th Century.

The Regent — as Supreme Commander — was responsible for national defense in both war and peace and appointed the two highest military positions in the land:
  • The Commander-In-Chief
  • The Chief of the General Staff

In crisis situations, operational responsibility was handed over to the Chief of the General Staff. The Honvéd Ministry was solely responsible for organizational matters such as maneuvers, replacements, armaments, administration, etc.

As with all military institutions based on the Germanic tradition, the Hungarian Army considered itself above politics. During the years between the wars, Honvéd Ministers and Chiefs-of-Staff were able to prevent the Hungarian Army from becoming identified with any political party, and to avoid the appearance of any political leanings whatsoever. This neutrality was reinforced by the strict split roles that the Honvéd Ministry and the General Staff traditionally played in national defense.

The Honvéd Ministry (H.M.)
See diagram in Chapter 17

The Royal Hungarian Honvéd Minister (Magyar Király Honvédelmi Miniszter) (i.e., Minister of Defense / War), was designated by parliament and confirmed by Horthy. (During the war this procedure changed. Horthy's appointment of General Lakatos was unconstitutional, but so were many other things necessary during the war!).

The Honvéd Minister was bound by directives from the cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister, who in turn was responsible to parliament.

The Honvéd Ministry administered the armed forces and formed policies dealing with possible war efforts of the country. The Honvéd Ministry was composed largely of active and retired officers, although some civilians were included. The Honvéd Minister himself was usually, (but not necessarily), a former senior General of considerable experience and popularity. Once appointed to his post, he was taken off the active roster of officers. The Deputy Honvéd Minister was always a serving senior General.

All legal and military matters related to national defense were the responsibility of the Honvéd Minister. The nine Military Districts, as well as the four major components of the Hungarian Army, namely the Ground Forces, the Air Force, the River Forces, and Military Labor Forces, as well as all commands and formations (Armies, Corps, Brigades, independent commands, Border Guards, etc.) were directly subordinated to the ministry until 1.03.1940. On this day, Group VI (Civil Defense) of the Ministry became the Royal Hungarian General Staff (until then "unofficial"), and all field commands and inspectorates were transferred to it. The Military Districts, on the other hand, remained under the Honvéd Ministry.

A dual structure for the Armed Forces by the creation of a separate Air Force was rejected as being too cumbersome for a such a small army. However, the very nature of these two services precluded a complete non-differentiation, and the Honvéd Ministry had a separate Bureau for the air components of the Hungarian Army. However, the Air Force was considered an integral part of the Army, at least until 1943.

Royal Hungarian Army Supreme Command (HFP)
See chart in Capter 17

The Hungarian Army Supreme Command (Honvédség Föparancsnokság – HFP) was the highest command echelon in the Hungarian Army. The designation Fövezérség (FÖV) was also used, but not as the formal designation. It was headed by the Commander-In-Chief (Magyar Király Honvédség Föparancsnoka – HFPK), who was responsible for assuring that the Hungarian Army was prepared to carry out its purpose in war. This included training, combat readiness, and discipline. For this purpose, it controlled the Court of Honor, the Arms Inspectorates, the military courts, as well as all military training institutions and schools.

In accordance with the Huba Plan, the Hungarian Army High Command was dissolved on 1.03.1940, and all authority, powers, and subordinated organizations were transferred from the Commander-In-Chief to the Chief-of-Staff of the Hungarian Army General Staff.

The Hungarian General Staff
See diagram in Chapter 17

The Royal Hungarian Army General Staff (Magyar Király Honvéd Vezérkar), planned, determined, implemented, and controlled all strategic and operational guidelines for the Hungarian Armed Forces. It was also charged with coordinating all military matters with the Hungarian Army and civilian authorities when they concerned national defense.

It was headed up by the Chief of the Royal Hungarian General Staff (Magyar Király Honvéd Vezérkar Fönöke, usually referred to as Vezér Kari Fönök (VKF), i.e. Chief-of-Staff for short). After 1.03.40, The Chief-of-Staff also assumed the title and powers of the Commander-In-Chief.

After March 1941, the Chief-of-Staff was the highest military commander in the Hungarian Army. As a member of the Supreme National Defense Council, the Chief-of-Staff advised the Prime Minister concerning all military aspects of national defense.

During the period between 1921 and 1939, Group I (Executive Staff) was hidden in the Honvéd Ministry as "Group VI". On 1.03.1940, it was officially separated from the Ministry and now appeared openly as part of the General Staff. A new Group VI was formed to replace it in the Honvéd Ministry.

The Chief-of-Staff, as of 1.03.1940, was also the Inspector General of the Army, (which was one of the functions the Commander-In-Chief). The matter was somewhat simplified in that some of the Arms Inspectors were also the commanding generals of corresponding commands. For example, the Mobile Corps (and later the I Armored Corps) commander was the Inspector of the Mobile Troops; as of 1942, the Cavalry Inspector was also the commander of the Cavalry Division. The same applied for the Inspectors of the Rivers Forces and the Air Force.

Upon mobilization, the General Staff formed a new Hungarian Army High Command, which was manned by General Staff officers. For example, the Section 3. Chief became the Quartermaster General, Section 7./k Chief became the Chief of Transport (HFF), and the Section 7./ö Chief became the Chief of Field Communications (HHF), etc.

Logistics Commands

The Chief of Transport's authority was limited to the confines of the Hungarian borders. He was responsible only for river and railroad transportation.

All war plans the General Staff had prepared up to 1941 had only been conceived for use in greater Hungary, including the Carpathians. Operations outside of this region were not planned. Hence, the transport organizations were not set up for any operations outside of Hungary.

Movement on the Danube River was controlled by the Chief of Transport through the Royal Hungarian Danube Shipping Company. The Danube was a major factor in the transportation network. It was an important link between the Balkans and the Black Sea, as well as between the Rumanian oil fields and Germany.

Transport on the Tizsa and the Drave Rivers was less important owing to the variable water level, although there were small, strictly local routes used to supply some units south of Szolnok along the Tizsa River, and along the mouth of the Drave River at Eszék.

Air transport in Hungary was undeveloped and unimportant. There were a mere five cargo aircraft (Italian SM75) available before the war, and these belonged to MALÉRT, the Hungarian national airlines. In any case, these aircraft were transferred to the Air Force upon mobilization and out of the competence of the Chief of Transport. They were used to transport paratroopers, and later carried mail to and from the East Front.

Transport by road was the responsibility of the corresponding command echelon. For example, the corps adjutant was responsible for personnel transport, the quartermaster for supply movement, etc., for corps units.

When portions of the Hungarian Army left Hungary, transport staffs accompanied them. They were responsible for liaison between the Hungarian Army and the German military and civilian transport authorities.

The geographical location of Budapest concentrated the major road and railroad networks at a central point. This and the relatively short distances within Hungary allowed central control of transport, its priorities, destinations, etc.

For operational and strategic transport, the Central Transport Department (KSZV) was responsible. It had a section of technical civil servants – formerly of the Royal Hungarian Railways and the Danube Shipping Company. Organization, planning, expansion of the transport network, administration of the transport sections, the transport troops, and purchasing was the responsibility of the General Staff 7./k Section Transport.

The Territorial Transport Offices (Vp) were the link between the corps, railroads and river departments. Their territories were identical with those of the railway departments with which they liaised. In case of mobilization, these civilian departments were placed directly under the Transport Section.

The mission of the Transport Offices, directed by the General Staff 7./k Section Transport, was to coordinate transport movements of strategic military importance, as well as to prepare mobilization movements. The General Staff 7./k Section Transport also had Transport Sub-Offices which were already manned by General Staff Corps officers in peace time. These were placed within the staffs of the corps headquarters, and were responsible for maintaining direct contact to the various departments, as well as the safety – including air defense – of the transport facilities within their region, including bridges and tunnels. They had Transport Security units and Railroad Antiaircraft units to assist them with their mission.

The General Staff 7./k Section maintained its own communications network within Hungary along side those of the railway, river, and postal organizations. The Signal Officer of the Chief of Transport was responsible for its maintenance. For this purpose he had a Signal Battalion assigned.

The Royal Hungarian Railroad Engineers came into being in 1920. The Hungarian remnants of the Imperial Austrian Railroad and Telegraph Regiment were formed into bridge platoons at Szentendre on the Danube, equipped with heavy bridging and railroad bridging equipment (Roth-Wagner, Herbert, etc.), as well as portable railroad material that had been scavenged from the former Imperial Austrian Railways. In order to avoid the location by the members of the Allied Commission, much equipment was transferred to the civilian economy – mainly sugar beet and mining enterprises. It consisting mainly of narrow gauge and even cable way equipment. It was lent on the condition that it could be recalled in case of need by the Hungarian Army.

During 1923 through 1936, these units formed the basis for the "Transport Regiment". They were disguised as emergency and catastrophe relief units, and were officially under the Chief of Transport (Ministry of the Interior) until 1938. Training took place under the guise of the building and reconstruction program subordinated to the Royal Hungarian Railways and the River Construction Department. Starting in 1938, these units were openly carried on the Hungarian Army order of battle as Railroad Construction Troops.

Since finances dictated that new, modern equipment had to come second place to the combat forces, railroad engineer equipment remained mostly World War I leftovers until the end of World War II.

Personnel and equipment for the operation of field railroads were provided by the Royal Hungarian Railways upon mobilization. These civilians were reserve officers functioning as civil servants.

Personnel and equipment for the heavy engineers would be provided by the River Construction and the River Shipping Departments of the Traffic Ministry upon mobilization. NCO's and officers were again mostly reserve personnel in civilian clothes. This close cooperation was beneficial, as these departments were engaged in harbor repair and maintenance, river security duties, etc.

Another group under the Chief of Transport were the River Security Troops (in actual fact riverine engineers) of the Royal Hungarian River Guard, who worked in close cooperation with the Central Transport Department (ZTL).

In peace time there was the 101st Railroad Regiment (three battalions with a total of seven companies). Upon mobilization, it raised 6 battalions with a total of 12 railroad construction, 12 railroad superstructure construction, and 5 equipment companies. In addition, 24 railroad labor companies were raised.

There were 18 railroad loading companies, equipped with special collapsible ramps of 50 meters length. There were 12 railroad operations companies, 2 harbor construction companies, and 2 harbor operations companies. The personnel of the Royal Hungarian Railways were militarized, and hence subordinate to military authority while working for the Hungarian Army.

* * *

^  [*] Székels
The Székely people are a very ancient Turkic people, who have strong traditions based on Attila and the Huns. Hungarian historians believe they arrived in Hungary around 670 A.D., and were from the Onogur Turkic tribal confederation. They are mentioned in the earliest Hungarian chronicles, and they are found all over the kingdom of St. Stephen in the capacity of light cavalry. In the battle of Olshova (1116 A.D.) and that of the Lajta (Leithe) in 1146 A.D., they formed — together with the Besenyó (Petchenegs) — the light cavalry screen that was always sent ahead of the main Hungarian force (which was composed of knights). Later kings removed them to the present Székelyföld between 1220 and 1256 A.D. from roughly the Aranyos River to the Háromszék region, (the mountains of south eastern Transylvania). The Székely people, like the Petchenegs, the Kumans, some Bulgars, as well as the Huns and Avars all eventually absorbed the Magyár language, although they kept some aspects of their ancient Turkic languages and culture.
^  [1] Page 236, Icks, Tanks and Armored Vehicles.
^  [2] Page 17, Wimpfen, Die 2. ungarische Armee...
^  [3] Page 115, Adonyi-Naredy, Ungarns Armee ... & page 18, Wimpfen, Die 2. ungarische Armee...
^  [4] Page 87, Macartney, October Fifteenth, Part I.
^  [5] Page 20, Part A, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee.
^  [6] Page 30, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee.
^  [7] Page 31 Part A, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee.
^  [8] Page 34 Part A, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee.
^  [9] Page 37, Part A, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee.
^  [10] Page 383, Macarthey, October Fifteenth, Part I.
^  [11] Page 383, Macarthey, October Fifteenth, Part I.
^  [12] Page 383, Macarthey, October Fifteenth, Part I.
^  [13] Page 26, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee.
^  [14] Page 26, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee.
^  [15] Page 27, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee.
^  [16] Page 29, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee.
^  [17] Page 4, Part E, Darnoy, Organisation der kgl.ung. Honvéd Armee.

^  [x] Page 55, Siposné Kecskeméthy, "Ludovika Academy ...
^  [y] Pages 57–58, Siposné Kecskeméthy, "Ludovika Academy ...

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Chapter 1   **   Chapter 3
Glossary   **   Place Names