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Men-At-Arms 392: The Austro-Hungarian Forces in World War I (1), 1914-16

by Peter Jung with color art by Darko Pavlovic

Published by Osprey Publishing Ltd. Soft covers, 48 pages, 7.25 x 9.75-inches, 34 B&W photos, one map, one Order of Battle chart, one rank chart, two tables, eight pages of color art and index. MBI order number: AO. ISBN 1-84176-594-5 Price: $14.95 USD.


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As a modeler whose interests in the hobby, and military history in general, has its beginnings in the Second World War, I am always seeking to broaden my horizons. So, I have recently taken advantage of the newer titles from Osprey to learn more of the First World War. The subject of this latest mini-series, the Austro-Hungarian armed forces typify an army of that era in transition, although they (and of course, the Empire itself) never quite survived their introduction into the 20th Century’s unique form of industrialized warfare. This was an army that used dog carts and horse cavalry as well as armored cars and aircraft. For modelers, then, especially figure painters, there is a great deal of variety to be seen.

The author (who unfortunately passed away after he completed these two books) was well qualified to tell the story. In this first part he tells of the pre-and early-war organization of the Empire’s armies. I use the plural in this instance, because like much of the rest of the Empire, it’s armies were products of it’s multi-cultural populations and were actually divided along ethnic lines into the k.u.k Heer (Imperial and Royal Common Army), and the k.u.k. Landwehr (Imperial Royal Territorial Force), which were recruited from German-speaking subjects. The Royal Hungarian Honved represented the Hungarian segment of the population. Volunteer units of the Polish, Albanian and Ukrainian Legions, as well as ethnic Italians and Czechs also peopled this diverse group of armies.

The text begins by describing, very briefly, the run up to and mobilization for war, and its sometimes bizarre twists. This is complimented by an Order of Battle for the Empire’s armies as of 1914. The text then describes unit organization, which is backed up by two charts that give such information as the number designation and honorific titles of the various infantry and cavalry regiments, where they were raised and certain uniform distinctions.

The next things to be detailed are the principal campaigns through 1916, against the Russians, Italians, Serbs and Romanians, as well as lesser operations in support of the Empire’s Turkish allies in the Middle East. The relative reliability of certain ethnic groups, notably those of Czech and Italian origin is also telling. Then, uniforms and equipment are briefly outlined. In this, the author is especially revealing regarding the mentality of the officer corps, especially those in horse cavalry units, as they used all their guile to circumvent the introduction of modern “drab” field uniforms.

Weapons and equipment are described and there are a number of photos that depict such things as the Schwarzlos M07/12 machine gun, (both emplaced for firing and broken down for mule transport) an armored train and variations of the so-called heavy “mortars”, notably the classic Skoda 30.5cm M11/16 piece.

All of this is buttressed by a very well-chosen group of photographs, all finely captioned. Reproduction is usually quite good, allowing for excellent reference for figure modelers. As usual, the color art is first rate and should prove to be quite inspirational for those figure painters who wish to venture into this era. The plates depict infantry and mountain troops in the so-called “pike grey” uniforms, as well as cavalrymen in the older, more colorful garb. Uniforms used in service in the Middle East are also illustrated as are those worn by Polish and Ukrainian legionnaires.

Loads of good stuff here! Recommended.

Frank De Sisto

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