THE OCCUPATION FORCES
The construction of the fortifications created the most favourable conditions for defence, but combat had to be joined by the fort soldiers. So there were always differences in how they were trained, what level they drilled to and how well they knew the rules of defensive fight.
There were neither two identical forts nor two identical fort companies. The operational rules of the Hungarian Royal Army always prohibited the schemes and inflexible, stereotyped applications of regulations. The Chief of the General Staff of the Hungarian Royal Army gave only “principles” for the training of the fort companies. The first such directive was issued in the summer of 1943. Earlier the training had taken place according to Practical Infantry Regulations. Training was provided for the fort companies by the corps which supervised the given fortifications. So the training of the fort companies went on under the supervision and professional direction of the Infantry Commander of the VIII and IX Army Corps. However, a fort troop was not only an infantry troop, but also a new branch of the Hungarian Royal Army. Its tactics differed from those of the infantry or even of the mountain fighter troops.
The suggestion for uniform direction of the training of the fort companies had already appeared in the survey report of the Headquarters at the end of 1942. The first such regulation published by the Chief of the General Staff of the Hungarian Royal Army was ruled in this way on 2nd April 1943. It is worth getting to know the whole document to feel the spirit of the training, the aspiration for the education of a new type of soldier, the “fort soldier” in it.80 The General Staff dealt only with the training of the new type of soldiers in their directive. The fort companies remained subordinated to the corps in all other respects of the training, and also in the problems of the everyday life, for example in respect of supply.
“Training Instructions for the fort companies from 1st April 1943.
Budapest, 2nd April 1943.
I. The purpose of training, schedules.
The purpose of summer training is the practical drill of mainly theoretical material studied in the winter season, namely the increase of the defensive capability of the valley block by the training of pioneer works, the perfection of the camouflage of the buildings, the acquaintance of each fort company soldier with the defensive position and its foreground and the drill in of the execution of the defensive fight.
The Fortification Headquarters will order out its experts of the artillery, engineering, and infantry branches under the command of the leader of its training sub-department in order to revise the defensive and firing plans with the help of the commanders of the battalion and of the fort company. They should establish the necessary tactical and engineering supplements; furthermore, they should fix the positions of the obstacles and high-voltage barbed wire entanglements, and record their subsequent suggestions for further development of the valley blocks.
The training should be executed in mixed platoons and mixed companies according to the defensive plan so that their defensive tasks can be drilled in.
Apart from morale education, the emphasis of training should be on drilling in the tactics of the different nests of resistance, of the platoon posts and of the whole valley block.
Endeavour always to execute the training with the possible largest marching staff number. Dispatches, which might still be necessary for mastering professional knowledge, should be terminated while still in the summer training period.
The training must take place on the territory of the valley block under the direction and control of the commanders of the battalions and under the command of the fort company commanders. The members of the fort company should engage in the practices connected with mobile combat of the battalion infantry companies.
Two days should be spent in combat engineering training and all the other weekdays in combat training. The fort companies should take part in route marches at least once a month with gradually increasing march movement together with the other parts of the battalion. The marches should be connected with 1-2 days outplacement and with open-air camps. Moving into the defensive elements of the valley block in alarm simulation should be practised several times and it should be linked with longer (2-3 day) manoeuvres in the territory of the valley block and its vicinity.
II. Directions for the summer training period
I. As general:
As many professional training teams should be created at each fort company as platoon defence sectors can be filled by staff in the valley block, keeping in mind the decrease of the staff caused by guard duties and other dispatchings.
Training is executed by the platoon commanders or company commanders during the training period of the company according to the outlined monthly training plan, and according to the detailed weekly training plan, based on the monthly plan which is always prepared a week beforehand. The subjects which were not handled the week before should always be set into the detailed weekly training plans the next time. The training groups assembled from the platoons should conduct their exercises reinforced by heavy infantry weapons. Give instructions for the movements of defensive fight and drill in the fight against all the possible attack variants of the enemy.
Several platoons should practise together during the training period of the company. Drill in the cooperation and the mutual support of the platoons. Make reciprocal practices, where one of the platoons plays the assaulting troops, and the other one plays the defenders, and vice versa. The whole fort company should repeatedly practise together the defence of the valley block. In these cases other companies should play the attacker according to the instructions given by the battalion commander. Also practise the fight at the forefront of the main resistance line of the valley block. The fort companies should also play the role of the assault troops in the practices in order to acquire profound knowledge in how the foreground can be approached by the enemy.
Often adjust situations during the manoeuvres which would force the commanders of the subordinated small units to act separately and independently. Instruct them to seek connection and possibilities of cooperation and mutual support with the neighbouring units, to feel the need of reporting their situation not only to superiors but also to the neighbours in order to create the proper conditions for cooperation with them.
1. Fire instruction.
The fort companies should practise with live munitions and also with heavy infantry weapons, mainly on the territory of the valley block, in order to get to know the weapons, their effects and also the quick establishment of the target distance, execution of the fire concentration, firing from the loop-holes and from the “Kocsis”-type armour even in peacetime. The platforms necessary for heavy infantry arms will be transported by the Fortification Headquarters according to the speed of their production. Organise manoeuvres with all heavy weapons and with the artillery of the battalion for practising with live munitions in the course of the training of the company. The details of the practices should be regulated by the commanders of the battalions with strict observation of the safety regulations.
2. Engineering training.
This kind of training aims at instructing each soldier of the fort company in the construction of firing positions, trenches, sentry posts, the formation of the walls and floors of the trenches. Train them in carrying out draining, in constructing wire entanglements, in perfectly disguising the constructions, in fast settlement and mine-sweeping. The Fortification Headquarters will hand over the control aerial photographs to the fort companies after the development of these photos. Moreover, practical instruction and money will be given for the best overall implementation. Provision of the proper amount of engineering barrage combat material will also be provided.
Each man in the fort company must know the significance of high voltage barricades. Each man must be able to handle the tools, instruments for earthworks and for cutting and shaping well enough to be able to carry out the necessary field engineering work on the territory of the valley block. Engineering training must not take place at the expense of combat training, and it must not lead to the overburdening of the soldier or to his reduction to the status of a common worker. Two days per week can be spent on engineering work and training.
The formation and training of the combat engineer trainer group necessary for the training of the fort companies was arranged in the winter. This group has been used for professional management and control of the engineer works recently. At the end of the training course each fort company should have several well-trained non-commissioned engineer officers.
3. Signal training
The commanders of the fort companies were informed at a training course about the number of planned staff for the signal units and about the provision of signal technical material by the Fortification Headquarters. The wired engineering material will be at our disposal throughout this year. The signal sub-divisions of the Fortification Headquarters will let the commanders of the fort companies know when construction of the cable-network is completed. The Fortification Headquarters will arrange leadership practice for all commanders of the fort companies before distributing the centres and the sets. Having got the wire communication sets the staff assigned for telephone service will have enough time for practice in peacetime.
Radio and photophone equipment will only be handed over to the fort companies in 1944. However, all the wireless signal instruments will be installed as per the practice of the wire communication sets this year, so the commanders of the fort companies and the future squad leaders will have the opportunity to become familiarised with these instruments. They should have the chance to practise on sets borrowed from the signal company of the supervisor battalion headquarters before the provision of their own signal instruments.”
These “directives” were issued by the Chief of Staff, but he had to issue a separate instruction regarding control. It was obvious that the Chief of the Staff of the Hungarian Royal Army could not direct and control the training of the fort companies personally, so he gave instructions on the final supervision. The Deputy Infantry Supervisor of The Hungarian Royal Army became the supervisor of the fort troops.81
At that time the system of the troop supervisors meant professional supervision over the unified training of the different armed and service branches. The cavalry, field artillery and air defence artillery, the armoured troops, air forces and combat engineer troops, all had different supervisors. Among them only the infantry supervisor had a deputy, because the number of the infantry troops was the largest, and the infantry supervisor’s mandate was the most extensive. In the autumn of 1943 new directives were issued by The Deputy Supervisor of Infantry, but these directives he had signed himself as supervisor of the fort troops. This more detailed regulation makes it clear what was to be understood under the concept of “fort soldiers” and what was expected of them. 82
Here we publish word for word only those new elements of the regulations which were introduced to the reader in the previous document.
“Directives for the training of fort troops in 1943-44.
To the Chief of the Operational Group of the Headquarters
Budapest, 30th September 1943.
I. As general.
Last year we had to resolve many difficult problems regarding fort troop training…
The aim of engineering training is to increase the resistance possibilities of the valley block… It must be clear that our system is not composed of forts like the Maginot Line or the Westwall, but set up from valley blocks constructed like field fortifications, reinforced only by concrete shelters. The sturdiness of the defence is based not upon the concrete shelters but on the striking ability of the defending troops, on their mobility, on the skilful use of the field fortification system, on their steadfast readiness to fight, and on their search for close combat where possible.
It must be fully recognised that apart from the general basic training, fort troop training is training for defence owing to the special localisation of the valley blocks. This does not mean, however, that the fort troops should wait passively until the enemy approaches the valley block, surrounds it and attacks it from this position. The valley must be defended safely, it must be closed off to the enemy. The implementation of this task depends on a specifically selected battle process which must be drilled in during the training.
II. Directions for the implementation of training.
I. Not much talk, the general principle is that the drill must only be practical. Words are cheap, but completed work and the practice leave their marks in people’s minds.
The morale of the troops and the development of a fort troop spirit is a precondition for a successful fight.
3. Firing instruction… The fort companies should usually undertake fire exercises with live ammunition on an easily segregated area of the fort, so that the soldiers can see for themselves the strength of their fire… Execute firing practices with mixed units reinforced by heavy weapons, to practise the fire effect, its possibilities for utilisation and the execution of fire concentrations.
4. The aim of battle training is to educate intelligent, steadfast and independent fort fighters who promptly adapt themselves to given situations…
Each squad should practise alone during a combat practice. In the course of the practices, give tasks to the leaders of the small units to force them to make independent decisions, and force them to block the incursions of the enemy and to maintain an independent continuation of the fight. Train them to be independent and ready to seek connection, mutual support and co-operation with the neighbouring troops…
Emphasise and make felt the importance of an ability for all-round defence! All soldiers must feel that the enemy might arrive not only from the front but also from the flanks and from the rear, and what is more they will try first to break through from these sides into a position. Everybody should be conscious that he has to defend the position even when the enemy passed it a long time ago.
5. Engineer training. Teach the construction of barbed wire entanglements, fencing and binding, because there are many barbed wire entanglements in the valley blocks which cannot offer real resistance in combat. For example, if the iron bars are not embedded deep enough into the concrete, then the barbed wire fields are not firm so they can easily be raised and trampled down without cutting wires and demolition. There are many places where they cannot be observed and strafed by machine-guns. These deficiencies should be addressed gradually during engineer training.
6. Drills in darkness. Flaring bead and notch. Equipment for night combat, moving, getting to predetermined points, marking roads by visual signs, observation, listening, reconnaissance, the assault against the observers and nests of the enemy… Silent transport of heavy arms and ammunition across difficult terrain and obstacles.
7. Physical education. Ju-jitsu and sportslike hand-grenade throwing should be emphasised. Still important for the fort companies: climbing trees, walls, climbing on terrain with slopes of different steepness, among barbed wire entanglements, jumping from a height into trenches with burden on the back, jumping out of a trench with gradually increasing load.
The training for skiing is very important from the point of view of the fort companies because there are valley blocks which can only be accessed by ski or in snowshoes. For this reason give ski training to as many soldiers of the fort companies as possible.
8. As before, the supervising Army Corps takes responsibility for training and extended training of the non-commissioned officers of the fort companies, and also for training the candidate officers serving their year in the ranks.
It is useful to concentrate the cadets in groups in the fort battalions during their theoretical training, marauding and frontier guard troops in the most suitable valley blocks.
Major General Ferenc Bardóczy.”
The fort companies of the Subcarpathian territory were mobilised because of the approach of the front. The training of the staff called in from reserve demanded special solutions, so new directions were issued. The application of well-tested drilling methods by other types of army troops would neither have been possible nor meaningful at the fort companies. The attempt to create a special spirit in the fort companies is emphasised most clearly in the following document. They did their best to eliminate the traditional practices characterised by the following slogan: “the old soldier is allowed to do anything, the rookie nothing”83
“Directions for the training of the mobilised fort companies from 15 12 1943 to 15 II 1944.
Budapest, 14th December 1943.
This instruction orders the mobilisation of some fort companies according to the stationing opportunities from 15 12 1943. Because of this my former training directions issued under the number 85/pres. Er.-1943 shall be supplemented as follows:
The majority of the mobilised reserve staff have still not got their retraining at the fort companies, they are still not acquainted with seized arms or with engineer works around the fortifications. Nor is knowledge of fortification fighting not practised by them. The present military situation shows that the valley blocks may get a role in this war sooner or later. It is therefore very important to ensure the striking ability of the fort companies, and the attainment of this aim depends on the training of the reserve staff which represent most of the soldiery. For this reason, in order to attain training goals and guarantee the employability of the reserved soldiers in the valley block, training shall be carried out painstakingly, under the most rigid winter climate circumstances, by intensive utilisation of the time available.
It serves no use to train the mobilised reserve staff together with the new recruits. They can only be brought together for common practice between 7th-15th February.
The period from the first day of mobilisation to the 2nd January 1944 – including the Christmas holiday – must be used for equipping, grading and accommodating the reserve staff, for the construction of winter accommodation in the zones, for making the shelters fit for accommodation and for the establishment of internal service, discipline and order.
A 2 day, two-sided fort combat practice shall be arranged according to the principle of assumed mutual uninterrupted fort combat in the company before the disarmament of the reserve staff. The other practising party should be a mountain fighter unit, according to the instruction of the supervising mountain fighter brigade headquarters.
Combat training shall be executed as much as possible in the valley block. In the case of the 2/1. Fort Company, where it is impossible to execute regular training in the valley block because of the snow masses in winter, the practice should be executed in the valley block of Majszin, which also belongs to that fort company.
Major General Ferenc Bardóczy”
In these training directives the Fort Troops Supervisor did not keep secret the fact that the fort companies might be sent to the battlefield soon. “As the present military situation shows, the valley blocks may get a role in the war sooner or later ”, so it was very important to give training to the reserve staff and fit them into the regular staff of the fort companies. It is obvious that the training performed in the summer period would have been simpler and more comfortable but the supervisor of the fort troops knew perfectly well that there was no time: the training had to be completed as quickly as possible, in the much more severe winter period.
80 Military Archives. VKF 227/3003.
81 Official instruction for the troop supervisors of the Hungarian Royal Army. A/5b. (Military Library).
82 Military Archives, VKF 2773026-3027 microfilm page.
83 Military Archives, VKF 277/3035 microfilm page.