Category Archives: Austro-Hungarian Empire

Tool Kits and Uniforms of Austro Hungarian Soldiers

Here is a nice picture of a group of soldiers serving in the Austro Hungarian Army during World War 1, followed by closeups of the men in the picture to show greater detail of their weapons and uniforms.

austrian soldiers  world war 1

world war 1 medalThe man in the center, probably an officer, is wearing a medal on his uniform. He has a handgun tucked into his belt as well as two knives, one in his stockings and the other on his belt. In this type of warfare, you didn’t want to be caught without a weapon.

closeup of the soldiers on the right

Closeup of the Soldiers on the Right of the Photo

The two men on the right of the photo have an interesting assortment of tools and weapons attached to their belts. The man on the left also has a medal.

another closeup of the Austrian WW1 soldier

The second man on the left has two hand grenades attached to his belt as well as several tools.closeup of one of the soldiers on the left of the group photo

The man furthest on the left has a couple of tools on his belt including what looks like a wire cutter.

closup of the soldiers' tool belt

Above is a closeup of the tools and weapons attached to the belts of some of the soldiers. In addition to knives and grenades they both have what appears to be tools used to cut or bend barbed wire. This may have been used to install barbed wire or cut through enemy obstacles. I am not sure what the item shaped a bit like a rolling pin hanging a by a string is for.close up of the soldiers in the center of the group photoA closeup of the two Austrian soldiers in the top center of the picture. The man on the right has two medals on his uniform.

Italian Infantry Charge

Italian Infantry ChargeThis is a really interesting photo of a group of Italian soldiers charging an Austrian position. The date of this photograph is not known but it is likely early in the war, since there are no visible trenches. Early on both sides relied on tactics of maneuver and movement, often charging enemy positions head on with fixed bayonets. Military doctrine held that these charges would sweep the enemy away. Courage and fighting spirit were considered more effective weapons than guns and steel. But in fact these charges often resulted in the attackers being massacred, as they were mowed down by machine gun fire.

 

Contrary to the military doctrine developed by the generals, in actual practice the weapons of world war 1 favoured defence over offence. Barbed wire, trenches, land mines, and machine guns allowed entrenched troops to hold out against attacks and inflict heavy losses on the attackers. Soon both sides realized this and there came into being a vast network of trenches stretching all along the western front and the Italian front.

It is also interesting to note that these Italian soldiers are not wearing any helmets or protective gear. And they are advancing in a very close formation, making them easy targets for a well placed mortar shell or a machine gun nest.

Photograph of a Communications Unit of the Austrian Army in World War 1

telephone communicationPhotograph shows Austrian soldiers on a dusty road on the Eastern Front. Some are on horseback while others are on foot, leading pack horses loaded with equipment and supplies. The troops in this picture are members of an Austro-Hungarian telephone communications division. It was their job to lay down and maintain a field telephone system to allow the commanding officers to communicate with forward troops and receive updated information about the situation.

World War 1 was interesting for its unusual blend of old and new technologies. It was a war in which horses and cavalry men fought along side tanks and aircraft. In the field of communications, as well, the armies of the main combatants made use of what was then cutting edge technology such as telephones but they also relied on antiquated communication systems such as homing pigeons.

Bizarre World War 1 Tactics: The Pole Vaulting Soldiers

World War 1 was an odd combination of rigid and unimaginative strategy (such as suicidal human wave attacks against enemy trenches) and technical innovation and creative ways to kill the enemy (the tank, the airplane, the flamethrower, etc). Sometimes these innovations were quite bizarre, as in the case of this Italian solution to getting past enemy barbed wire.

The standard approach was to try to blow the enemy’s barbed wire to bits with artillery bombardments, or to cut it using special tools. Later in the war, tanks were used successfully to plow through barbed wire.

These Italian troops came up with a unique and surprisingly athletic solution to breaking through the Austrian trenches. Instead of cutting the wire, they would leap over it using a pole vault.

This 1918 article from Leslie’s Weekly, reproduced below, shows elite Italian shock troops training to attack the Austrians. In one picture, an Italian soldier is using the latest flamethrower. That’s fairly mundane compared to the photo in the middle of the page showing leaping soldiers pole vaulting over the enemy trenches.

bizarre world war 1

I am not aware of this method every being used in actual combat, and I suspect that the pole vaulters would have been shot to pieces long before they managed to reach the enemy trenches. I can not even imagine what kind of military genius decided to create a platoon of pole vaulters. Perhaps the plan was to make Austrians die from laughing.