Loyal comrades-in-armsship

On the K. u. K. troops on foreign theatres of war during the First World War

Wolfgang Etschmann/Andreas W. Stupka


The great theatres of war where Austria-Hungary fought during the First World War are common currency: the Eastern Front against Russia, the Balkan Front against Serbia, Montenegro and Romania, against allied formations on the Salonika Front, and the Alps and Isonzo Front against Italy. For the Navy, the theatre was the Adriatic Sea, as, after Italy had joined the war in 1915, the entente had closed the Strait of Otranto, thus making an outgoing of the K.u.K Navy impossible. On all these theatres of War Austria did not fight on its own. The German Reich massively supported the K. u. K. troops - with the Alpenkorps from the summer of 1915 until the spring of 1916, and with an army in the course of the Penetration Battle of Flitsch-Tolmein in the autumn of 1917. Above all, however, the Germans supported in the east, where a joint high command of the central powers had controlled the war since the Brussilow-Offensive 1916. On the Balkans, too, Romania was defeated together with German and Bulgarian troops in the autumn of 1916, and the German Alpenkorps fought on the Italian Front. It is, however, scarcely known that Austrian-Hungarian troops were also deployed on foreign theatres of war, sometimes because of the necessity of joint existence, as in the Far East, but mostly as a signal of functioning comrades-in-armsship, or in order to support the alliance partner with relevant expertise. So, for instance, troops of the K. u. K. Army and Navy fought against the Japanese and the British in China in 1914; the Danube Monarchy sent troops to Gallipoli in order to support the Ottoman defence against the British and the French; troops for supporting the Turkish alliance partner were also deployed in the Levant until the end of the war. At the beginning of the war already, Austrian-Hungarian troops were also deployed on the Western Front in Flanders; above all at the end of the war, however, even ample formations were deployed on the Western Front in order to confirm loyal comrades-in-armsship with the German ally, who had been severely tested because of the so-called “Sixtus-Affair”, the secret peace initiatives of Austria-Hungary with the powers of the Entente. Thus, in the following, primarily three theatres of war will be depicted - China, the Near East, and France. In all three foreign theatres of war, the soldiers of the Danube Monarchy fought bravely, and many of them were given the highest distinctions by their “brothers-in-arms”. Their roles in all cases, however, was merely secondary and supporting, and never decisive for the war. Anyhow, thousands of soldiers of the so-called „Old Army“, despite severe deprivations, had been willing to sacrifice their lives for god, emperor and mother country in foreign service, in order to fulfil “loyal comrades-in-armsship” in the war of 1914 -1918.