Habsburg Subjects in Italian Uniforms

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Orok
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Habsburg Subjects in Italian Uniforms

Post by Orok » 07 Apr 2004 16:56

During the Great War, quite a number of Habsburg subjects defected to the Italian side and fought their native country in enemy uniforms. The most famous would be Cesare Battisti, the famous Trento journalist and a member of Austrian Diet before the war. He was a Company commander in the Alpini Vicenza Battalion when he was captured by his former countrymen on the Trentino Front. He was sentenced to death and executed on July 12, 1916 in his native city of Trento.

These men sacrificed their lives for an idea and did not llive to see their dreams realized. Ironically those of their own nationality who refused to renounce their loyalty to the Habsburgs not only survived the War but prospered in their new country the post-war Italy. One of these loyal Habsburg subjects, Alcide DeGasperi, became Italy's Prime Minister after the WW2! 8)

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Post by Orok » 07 Apr 2004 17:03

The man who was capture together with Battisti, Second Lieutenant Fabio Filzi, was also a Habsburg subject from the Istria. He was sentenced to death and executed with Battisti.

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Post by Orok » 07 Apr 2004 17:12

All these men were Habsburg subjects who fought in Italian uniform against their native country and earned the highest Italian decoration for valor Medaglie d'Oro for given their lives.

As you can tell from their names, ethnically they were mostly from Jewish, German, Slav and Greek background, but culturally they were no doubt assimilated Italians, and having the nationalist fervor frequently seen in new converts! :lol:

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Post by Orok » 07 Apr 2004 17:17

Another trio.

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Post by CMF » 08 Apr 2004 12:29

Hi Orok,

V. interesting thread!

Do you have information about similar defections to the Serbian, Montenegrin, Romanian, Russian or Czech nationalist forces? :D

Best!

Chris

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Post by Orok » 08 Apr 2004 14:40

Hi Chris,

Cheers!

When I come across information concerning individual "defectors" I would start a new thread according to nationalities.

However I do not think these defection provided these allied forces such moral support and real manpower in their respective officer corps as the Trentino-Veneto-Istrian Irredentists did to the Italian nation and Army.


As a starter, defection to Russian side would based either on a vague notion of a abstract "Slavic Brotherhood", or desire to escape the ravage of the war, both sentiments were not shared by officers.

Secondly, officers of Romanian and Serb nationalities would mostly from the Empire's former Grenz military districts, areas where people were fiercely loyal to the House of Austria until the very end. Besides, the then Romanian and Serbian (later Yugoslavian) Governments were notoriously ill trusting their compatriots who had served in the Habsburg Army or beaurocracy. The post war Yugoslav treatment of FM Boroevic and Romanian denial of promotion to Major Constantin Popovici (an MMThO winner on Isonzo) are so typical and representative. So I doubt there was any interests among officers or educated young men to go over to the other sides.

So the only other place one would find a large number of former Austrian officers would be the Czech nationalist forces. But I haven't done any research on this. 8)

Best Regards!

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Post by Victor » 08 Apr 2004 15:51

In 1918, from a part of the Romanians in the Italian POW were created four regiments: 1 Horea, 2 Closca, 3 Crisan, 4 Avram Iancu (the names are of Romanian Transylvanian leaders of the 1787 peasant revolt and 1848 Revolution). These were organized and equipped similarly to Italian Alpini regiments. The difference in the uniforms were the red-yellow-blue patches instead of the mostrina and the red-yellow-blue ribbon on the hat. The regiments were later united in the Romanian Legion in Italy. They did not get to see much action though, because the war ended.

The Romanian POWs in Russia are another interesting case. In August 1916 when Romania entered the war on the Entente side, there were about 120,000 of them in Russian camps. As the news reached them, 40,000 of them asked to be set free to serve in the Romanian army. But as the Russian authorities needed the prisoners for work and there was no convention between the Romanian Kingdom and the Russian Empire on this subject, they were refused. Those who insisted eventually came under worse conditions.

Following the Romanian government's pleas, the Russian government agreed to an exchange: 15,000 Romanians for 15,000 Germans and Austro-Hungarians captured by the Romanian army. The prisoners that were released were gathered in a camp near Kiev, at Darnita. In December 1916, 250 officers and 1,200 NCOs formed the Command of the Corpul de voluntary ardeleni si bucovineni (the Corps of Transaylvanian and Bukovinian Volunteers).
On 8 March 1917, the Romanian General Staff sent lt. col. Constantin Pietraru to Kiev, to take charge of the organization, equipping and transport the Romanian front of the first Romanian volunteer battalions. General Constantin Coanda (the military attaché in St Petersburg) obtained on 15 March the approval of the new Russian government to organize the Romanian Volunteer Corps near Kiev. There was no numerical limit established. The Russian authorities tried however to keep it to a minimum and initially allowed only the recruitment of 5,000 men, from the camps of the Moscow region.
In April the Volunteer Corps moved its headquarters to Kiev, in the Podoli Girls High School.
At the end of May 1917, the first battalion was ready to go to the front (116 officers and 1,250 NCOs and soldiers). On 3 June they left Kiev and on 6 they arrived at Iasi. On 9 June they swore allegiance to the Romanian state and King.
After a second train from Kiev brought 100 officers and 544 soldiers. Until 20 August 1,500 volunteers arrived in Romania from Moscow. After many pleas to the Russian government, the number of recruits allowed was increased to 30,000. Until 8 January 1918, when the recruitment stopped, 450 officers and 8,063 soldiers joined the Romanian army from the Russian POW camps. These men served in the 5th Vanatori, 2nd, 3rd, 19th and 26th Infantry Regiments and gave a good account of themselves.

There was also a Romanian volunteer cops in France, of which I do not know anything.

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Post by Orok » 08 Apr 2004 16:11

Victor,

Great Information. Thank you very much! :lol:

Do you know any case of non-POWs crossed over to the Romanian side and enlisted/commissioned into the Romanian Army just before or during the War as volunteers?

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Post by Victor » 08 Apr 2004 18:07

These were roughly: 1,816 officers and 29,000 enlisted men.

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Post by Orok » 08 Apr 2004 18:11

Hmm, these are significant numbers, especially the number of officers!

Do you know how many of them were former Austro-Hungarian officers or officer cadets?

Thank you and Best Regards!

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Post by Victor » 08 Apr 2004 22:00

No, all I found were these numbers.

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Post by Orok » 08 Apr 2004 22:25

Thanks Victor!

Best Regards!

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Post by Victor » 09 Apr 2004 08:24

Orok wrote: the then Romanian and Serbian (later Yugoslavian) Governments were notoriously ill trusting their compatriots who had served in the Habsburg Army or beaurocracy. The post war Yugoslav treatment of FM Boroevic and Romanian denial of promotion to Major Constantin Popovici (an MMThO winner on Isonzo) are so typical and representative.


Interesting. From what I know only two Romanians won the Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa, of which only one in WWI: gen. Ioan Boieriu. He was received in the Romanian army with full rank and named commander of the 7th Corps, position that he held until 1921, when he retired and he received a pension from the Romanian state. He was the founder of the Infantry Officer School in Sibiu.
Ioan Boieriu was indeed from a village of the former Romanian frontier-guard Regiment (Vaida Recea, where the 9th Company was based), his father being a former frontier-guard. However, the former frontier-guards were only 82 villages. I don't think that the Empire recruited Romanians only from them.

If you have more details on this maj. Popovici and the events which led to his decoration, I know someone who would be very interested to learn more about it, here:
http://www.worldwar2.ro/forum/viewtopic.php?t=939

As a side note, the other Romanian knight of the Military Order of Maria Theresa, col. David Ursu won this award at Solferino.

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Post by Orok » 09 Apr 2004 15:13

Victor,

Major Constantin Popovici was the Commander of the IV Battalion of Infantry Regiment Nr. 39, defending Hill 378 on the Carso on August 21, 1916 during the Eleventh Battle of Isonzo. He led his depleted battalion against the attacks by the whole Italian XXV Corps and successfully held the line and thus prevented a major breakthrough by the Italian 3rd Army on the Carso. For this feat he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the MMThO. See John Schindler, Isonzo, the Forgotten Sacrifice of the Great War, p231.

Glenn Jewison's website on Austro-Hungarian Land Forces shows him as being awarded on the post-war 187th Promotion on June 10, 1921.

As for the treatment of Popovici at the hands of the Romanian Army, see p329 of the Schindler book cited above.

Schindler mentions that Popovici is from "south Hungary", I guess that probably refers to Transylvania.

Those are what little I know about Popovici and their sources.

Another MMThO winner who became a Romanian subject after the war was Captain Peter Roosz. However he was a Magyar and chose not to serve in the Romanian Army.

I hope these help.

Best Regards!

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Post by CMF » 13 Apr 2004 12:31

Hi Orok and Victor :D

Thanks for all the info; sorry for the time gap in replying . . . Easter Bank Holidays . . . :)

Here's another photo of Battisti

Best!

Chris
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