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Austrian Imperial and Royal Army
Österreichisches kaiserlich und königliche Armee
Austrian war flag.png
War Ensign
Active 1920–1941
Country Greater Austria
Type Army
Headquarters Vienna
Engagements July Revolt of 1927
February Uprising
European War
Commander-in-Chief Emperor of Austria

The Imperial and Royal Army of Austria (German: Österreichisches kaiserlich und königliche Armee) was the ground force of the United States of Greater Austria. It was formed from the Common Army of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on 18 March 1920. Greater Austria collapsed following the fall of Budapest and subsequent invasion by Germany. The military units still active after these events fell under the command of the German Wehrmacht.



Until 1889 the armed forces of Austria-Hungary bore the title "k.k." (kaiserlich-königlich i.e. "Imperial-Royal", which was technically incorrect after 1867 for a common institution of both Austrian and Hungarian halves of the Empire), as they had done before 1867. Only on the express wish of the Kingdom of Hungary was the designation "k.u.k." (kaiserlich und königlich i.e. "Imperial and Royal") introduced in order to make the distinction clearer between the new Austrian army, the k.k. Landwehr, and the new Hungarian force, the k.u. Honved. The navy did not use "k.u.k." as often, because there were few other naval forces apart from the main navy.

In the decades leading up to the World War, the army and navy were severely neglected. While there was also the common use of the German language for universal command many units spoke what ever language the majority of the units spoke creating a huge logistics problem. While a victorious power in the World War, the "k.u.k." had hardly grown at all in the immediate post-war years thanks to the chaos of civil unrest and government reforms through out the empire.

Early years

File:Nagy Pal GDI 1864 1927 photo1914.jpg

General Pál Nagy, the first commander of the Royal Hungarian Army

On 4 January 1922 the "k.u.k." was renamed the Imperial and Royal Army of Austria. The length of military service was three years. Pre-military training under the supervision of army officers was conducted in the various youth organisations, founded in 1920's. From the age of ten, boys who wanted to pursue an officer's career, could attend a military middle school. Potential officers were then trained at the Ludovica Military Academy in Budapest (for infantry or cavalry) or the János Bolyai College of Military Technology (for artillery, engineering and intelligence troops). Secret general staff courses were run at the War College in Vienna.

In addition to the army there were other armed organisations that were partly used to create a cadre of training military reservists. The most important of these was the gendarmerie (German: Bundesgendarmerie) which was subordinated to the Interior Ministry and was organised in the same way as the military districts and whose strength in places clearly exceeded that of the regular armed forces. Other organisations that took on ex-soldiers were the police, the customs and border guards and the treasury guard. The river police (German: Wasserschutzpolizei) who monitored traffic on the River Danube with patrol boats initially worked to the Interior Ministry until it was subordinated in January 1939 to the Defence Ministry as a corps of river troops. In the years that followed the armament of the army, which had hitherto still consisted of wartime and pre-war stock, was modernised and, especially under Richard Schilhawsky, defence minister from 1929, clandestinely expanded.

The establishment of an air force had been planned as early as 1920 by the Ministry of Transport and, from 1925, by the Air Office of the Ministry of Trade. On 6 December 1928 the Imperial Air Force (German: Kaiserliche Luftstreitkräfte) was founded.

European War

Unlike their partner, the British Empire, Germany did not envisage Austria going to war with the Soviet Union and, as a consequence, it was not directly involved in the preparations for the operations that followed. The Chief of the General Staff, Alfred Jansa von Tannenau, pressed however for Austrian participation in the defense of Ukraine, supported by the Chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg. On 13 August, as a gesture to Ukraine, Austria reinforced its 1921 alliance when they signed an alliance with Germany. Schushnigg had previously reached an agreement during a meeting with Andriy Melnyk to provide five Austrian divisions to protect the hinterland in exchange for the operational control of the Ukrainian Army.

The army took part in the autum counter attack, that began in September 1939, reached Kiev and secured the left bank of the Dnieper river in November, where it moved into defensive positions. Kaiser Otto issued a standing order of no retreat, due to this the army was withered down by the attacks of the Red Army. In January 1940, the defense was shattered by a major attack on the Dnipeper front (the Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive). The remnants were forced from the front and into home territory around Lemberg. In spring 1940, a wide-ranging re-organization of the army was introduced. Light divisions were largely disbanded and in their place fully fledged infantry and reserve divisions were formed. At the admistrative level Jansa was sacked, for his failure not only in Ukraine but for Soviets gaining a foot hold in Galicia, and replaced by Franz Böhme.

Imperial and Royal Army soldiers in the Carpathian Mountains in 1940.

In April the 1st Hungarian Army under Géza Lakatos de Csíkszentsimon was sent to the front in East Galicia, in order to prevent the Soviets seizing the Carpathian passes. With the help of a newly established line of defence it was able to hold here until July 1940, before it had to pull back into the Carpathians in the face of the Lemberg–Sandomierz Offensive. At the end of August 1940, the 2nd and 3rd Armies were mobilised, in order to defend Transylvania and South Hungary following Romania's change of sides. The 2nd Army was subordinated to Army Group Fretter-Pico. In the wake of the Carpatho-Dukla Offensive and Battle of Debrecen, the Austrian armies were pushed back during September and October into the Great Hungarian Plain. During these battles, uprisings in Slovakia were barely put down.

A 102-day-long Siege of Budapest by troops of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts began on 3 November 1940 and they invested the city until 26 December. The encircled troops there surrendered on 13 February 1941, this convinced the Germans and Italians that the Austrian Army was finished. The 1st Hungarian Army pulled back to Bohemia after the fall of Budapest. The final action of the Austrian Army was in March in the abortive Plattensee Offensive, after which German troops entered Austria and the Army was ordered to stand down. The entire Austrian military was disbanded in April 1940 after suffering heavy losses in the recapture of Hungary and the remaining units absorbed into the Wehrmacht.

Ranks and rank insignia of the Imperial Army

Enlisted men and NCOs

Rank Translation Approx. US/UK equivalent Insignia
Soldat Soldier Private (OR-1 equivalent British Army ranks) File:Soldat der k.u.k Infanterie mit Lichtdrap Egalisierung.png
Gefreiter Exempted Private (OR-2 equivalent British Army ranks) File:Patrouilleführer k.u.k.Jäger & k.k. Landwehr.png
Korporal Corporal Lance corporal (OR-3 equivalent British Army ranks) File:ArtGeschützVormeister.PNG
Zugsführer Platoon Leader Corporal (OR-4 equivalent British Army ranks) File:ZugsführerKrapprot.PNG
Feldwebel Field Usher (OR-5 equivalent) File:K.u.k. Feldwebel.png