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Austro-Hungarian Uniforms of World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Austro-Hungarian Uniforms of World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special



It was the most multi-cultural of the European
Empires, with 15 different language versions of its national anthem. I’m talking about the Austro-Hungarian Empire,
and today I’m going to look at the standards and variety of some of its uniforms. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to a Great War
special episode about Austro-Hungarian infantry uniforms of the First World War. The basic uniform and equipment of an Austro-Hungarian
infantryman of 1914 was introduced in 1907 and 1908 as part of a program of modernization. Uniform pieces were made in heavy hechtgrau-
grey- colored wool, while leather items were in natural colors that darkened over time. Reflecting the dual nature of the empire,
there were some differences between Austrian and Hungarian units’ uniforms. Uniform differences were based on things like
a regiment’s origin, traditions, or branch of service. A Slovene regiment, for example, would’ve
worn the “German” uniform since Slovenia was part of the Austrian half of the Empire,
while Uhlan cavalry would’ve had a more “Polish” look, since the Uhlans were based
in Galicia and southern Polish regions and had the traditions of the Polish cavalry. The vast majority of the infantry would’ve
worn either the German or Hungarian uniform, but there were exceptions with regard to accessories. The Polish Legions, for example, wore the
Maciejowka Hat, and Bosnian infantry regiments wore the fez. From August 1915, the hechtgrau color began
to be replaced by the more neutral feldgrau- field grey. This was for purposes of concealment and this
color would be in use for the remainder of the war. The feldkappe- the field cap- were also initially
made from hechtgrau wool and also changed to feldgrau in 1915. These usually sported black leather visors,
fastened at the front with two small buttons, and were designed for comfort and protection
from the sun or a light rain and offered little protection from missiles of any sort. On the crown of the cap was a zinc cockade
bearing either FJI- Franz Josef Imperator- or IFJ for Hungarian units. Officers of Jäger units also had a small
jäger horn beneath that badge. These caps were largely replaced by 1917 with
the M17 stahlhelm, which was a copy of the German design with slight modifications to
the color and the chinstrap. But for a time they had their own variants,
most notably the Berndorf-helmet. Although it wasn’t common, some infantry
wore a version of the field service cap without the visor. The Bosnian-Herzegovinian infantry regiments
and Jäger battalions wore two versions of the fez; red-brown for off-duty and parade
wear, and the grey for field service. The fez was made of lamb’s wool and also
had a tassel of lamb’s wool and those tassels were black for the red fez and grey for the
grey fez. Non-Muslim officers of those regiments and
battalions were permitted to wear the standard cap. The soldiers’ tunics were of pretty elegant
appearance, but they were heavy and the standing collar was really uncomfortable on the neck. Later in the war, stand and fall collars would
be introduced for comfort, as well as external pockets for practicability. In 1914, though, a rigid collar was worn under
the tunic to prevent the soldier’s neck from rubbing against the tunic collar. The tunic fastened with a row of six concealed
zinc buttons that were buttoned all the war to the bottom. A shoulder roll was worn on the right shoulder
to prevent the soldier’s rifle from slipping off. Now, on the collar itself, the men wore brightly
colored cloth tabs, which were reduced in size from 1916 on. These were the vestiges of the 18th century
regimental facing colors, and a regiment was meant to be identified by the color of its
collar tabs and buttons, but, you know, this could be a really difficult process. Like, in 1914, they used ten different shades
of red. The Austrian infantrymen were issued with
straight cut woolen trousers. These were supported by braces at the hip
and were ankle-length, where they were fastened by a pair of gaiters. The Hungarian infantry had something different;
they wore tight fitting breeches with a distinctive braided knot- a vitas kortes- upon the thighs. The fly of the trousers was closed by four
zinc buttons and there were two shallow hip pockets. To make these trousers fit better and be more
comfortable to each individual, a waist clasp was located in the rear. The standard boots were heavy leather hobnailed
boots. Other basic leather equipment was the belt,
secured around the waist by a brass buckle bearing the double eagle emblem of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire. On either side of the buckle, the soldier
wore two ammunition pouches. Each of these carried two clips of five rounds,
so there were 40 rounds in total. I have to point out that already by 1915 the
strain of war on the economy was beginning to be a thing and leather items began to be
replaced by canvas or cloth replacements. Food was carried in a cloth haversack suspended
across the man’s chest. In 1914, the infantryman carried a tornister-
a field pack- made of leather on his back. Here he stored his extra ammunition, extra
clothing, and other items that would not be needed on the march. This was expensive and uncomfortable, so in
late 1915 it was replaced by a more durable canvas rucksack. The badges of rank were worn by all of the
land forces of the Empire and were basically identical. Rank was indicated with stars and lace on
a collar patch or directly on the tunic collar. When the war began, officers’ stars were
silver or gold and non commissioned officers’ were of white bone or celluloid, but as the
war progressed and raw materials grew scarcer, these were made of metal or cloth. The lace, originally of metallic thread, was
replaced by yellow or white silk. Collar patches themselves were often replaced
by a narrow vertical strip behind the rank badge in the Corps or regimental colored cloth. Junior NCO’s had white celluloid stars while
senior NCOs had white celluloid stars and yellow lace. The Senior Officer Cadet and the Deputy Officer
also had a metal plated star. Captains and Lieutenants wore silver or gold
embroidered stars in the regimental or branch of service color. The Senior Officers had 3.3 cm of silver or
gold lace on the collar or collar patch which corresponded to the regiment or branch button
color. Embroidered stars were in contrasting colors
to the lace, for example gold stars on silver lace. They also had gold lace on the cuffs of their
service uniforms that was again 3.3 cm wide. For all ranks below general the collar patch
was 8.6 cm long and 4cm high. The Officers of the General Staff had a black
patch over a larger scarlet patch with the scarlet bordering the black. Generals had silver embroidered stars and
3.3 cm of gold lace on the collar or collar patch. That patch was 11.2 cm long and 4cm high. General officers’ patches and field officers’
patches differed because the generals had an extra 2.6 cm of cloth; that was the main
way of telling them apart. On the double breasted service uniform, gold
lace 5.3 cm wide was worn on the cuffs. Of course this is only a very general look
at the Austro-Hungarian infantry uniforms. Other branches of service had other uniforms
and variations. Special branches had theirs. It’s quite interesting to look up, and there
are loads of photos out there so you can see a lot of the differences, lots of paintings
or photos of the officers and the men proudly wearing them, and of course many photos of
the dead soldiers, which was unfortunately the fate of thousands upon thousands of them. Thank you Michael Hayes for helping us with
the research for this episode, but also a big thank to Glenn Jewison and Jörg Steiner
who run the website that documents the AH land forces. You can find the link in the description. If you want to learn more about the Austro-Hungarian
weapons of World War 1, you can click right here for our weapons special.


Reader Comments

  1. Rethink: "Germany must once become the sword of the Catholic Church."
    (Pope Leo XIII in 1888 to Emperor Wilhelm II in Rome – quoted after Walter Löhde, "Papal Rome and the German Empire")
    –> All ways lead to Rome (~Alan Lamont)…..

  2. I found a ww1 uniform with an austro-hungaruian badge on it with arrows on the collar and 1s on the shoulders. It is dark green-ish. What could this be and what is it value?

  3. Hello i love how you presented the situation of Albania in the first world war! Thank you for showing to the world that Albania suffered at the treaty of versallies even more then germany. President Woodrow Wilson on May 6, 1919 deemed that "Albania ought to be independent" tho Albanians wont forget what happened.

  4. The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was the first Union in Eurupe, but the grandfathers of makers of EU destroyed, because was the "jell of people". And today what is making?

  5. And where is Ukrainian Sich Riflemen? They were first ukrainian army since the battle of Poltawa in 1709. They developed their own uniform and hat "Mazepynka" called by the name of Hetman Ivan Mazepa. Even one from imprerial dynasty Wilhelm Franz von Habsburg were soilder in this reggiment.

  6. Austria and France. The two countries in Europe that were arrogant enough to believe they could fight Britain, Prussia and Russia and win. Napoleonic Wars, Franco Prussian war, Austro Prussian War, World War I

  7. Should show more pics instead of you going on and on and on about the dimensions of the uniforms … Guess you love the sound of your own voice.

  8. The insignia and patches on their amazing uniforms are representative of Austria-Hungary's outdated doctrines during the war. Like so many other major European powers they did not anticipate the true realities of modern combat. Mud, rain, flooded trenches, smoke, and the panic of rushing across no man's land under a hail of machine gun fire and falling corpses. It reminds me of how some British admirals were still using flags to communicate when all the smoke during battles made them impossible to see. I can imagine that Austrian-Hungarian insignia and rank badges would have been hard to distinguish in the heat of combat, especially from a moderate distance. Especially if the difference is the material its made of, or something as arbitrary as a centimeter or 2.

  9. Hmm…

    Puts photo of a german soldier in 1914 in a austro hungarian soldier in 1914

    Hmm…seem a bit similar eh?

  10. One hundred and fifty one years ago today, the monarchical union between the Empire of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary was proclaimed by the Austro-Hungarian compromise of 1867 which saw the dual monarchy established with Emperor Franz Joseph at the helm.

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