THE VALLEY BLOCK OF GYIMES
The Hungarian Bibliophile Club published the memoirs of Ödön Sebő in 2001. The book bears the title “The Doomed Battalion”. The young lieutenant served as commander of the marauding company of the 32nd Frontier Guard Battalion in the Gyimesi-defile in 1944. From the point of view of frontier control, the outpost in the Úz-valley belonged to him too. As the front approached, according to the defence conception, a combat team was formed from his company and from a German one, and they held a position in the Gyimesi defile, just on the frontier. His unit was well trained for defensive fights, they had all the necessary equipment for all-round defence and they also had the necessary steadfastness for this kind of combat. The small “bastion position” in front of the fort was fighting for three weeks in a pocket and held back the overwhelming forces of the Soviet assault troops. When the evacuation of the Székelyföld began, they also got orders to withdraw. After a successful night breakout, there were skirmishes with the Soviet troops almost till the end of the war. We do not know too much about the fights of the Gyimes fort company, because the fort had to be given up early on because of the Roumanian defection and the unresolved supply and transport problem. We have data only on the construction of the valley block and about the period just before the Soviet offensive.
The memoirs of Dr. István Magó, engineer:
“The Roumanians defected to the other side on 23rd August. We immediately began to supplement the tank obstacles which were still not closed by V-shaped antitank ditches, local people working day and night. Food was always cooking in the pans and the meals were distributed to the working groups on the spot.
At night we heard the roaring sounds of the wings and standing propellers of the AN two-engined aircraft. We knew that Soviet paratroopers had arrived. They landed on our minefield a few minutes later. The mines went off with terrible bangs in the silence of the night. We were working, and in the morning we could see the unexpected visitors as they were saved from the minefields and caught. They were dressed as railwaymen, postmen and Csángós. Gendarmes led them towards the centre of Középlok.
At that time the gendarme patrol had three members, they were equipped with submachine-guns and combat helmets. They were heading towards Békás on the cart road. The German army flooded on to the slopes of the defile, disorganised, rarely laying mines. A horse-drawn field battery of 10.5 cm calibre howitzers and a mechanised engineer battalion with all its field bridge material came with such discipline as if they were on parade. They had no armoured escort .
I got a command to saw off the 60 mm steel pin of the flexible shark-fin shaped narrowing element of the upper Serb barrier with two helpers so that the lane could be widened. The reason was that the retreat of the German tanks assembled in the foreground of the Carpathians should not be slowed down or blocked. By the way, I saw no more than one towed assault gun retreating.
The last train arrived from the direction of Gyimesbükk. It might have been 3rd September, it was our last night in Középlok. The next day I got an order to take five carts and go to look for the abandoned Finnish tents of the university and empty these tents completely. The university students had been transferred quickly the day before, for fear of partisan attacks. Because of the limited loading capacity of the five carts we had to pack up the materials found there in the following order: about 120 Yugoslav Mauser rifles, 2 boxes of ammunition, boots with black soft and short uppers (they filled up one cart), khaki collars, meat tins, boxes filled with marmalade, instruments, buckets.
Confusion began to develop. Fleeing civilians everywhere. A 75 mm calibre armour-piercing gun towed by a truck was placed behind the first bend of the road after the lower Serb barrier. 5-6 grenades were put down at the shoulder of the road from the truck, then the soldiers tied cut twigs to cover the long gun-barrel. Soon a Hungarian automatic gun was settled on the church hill of Középlok, with abundant ammunition and with Hungarian gunners who were raring to go.
It was very easy to work out our grading level from the fact that the enemy would arrive not from the side of Gyimesbükk but from our rear, from the side of Gyimesfelsőlok, because of the Roumanian defection.
After we returned from the student camp a general service waggon was waiting for us. We got the order from Ensign Lázár saying that my friend, Muzsay and myself should immediately go back to the viaduct of Felsőlok and annihilate the air compressors there. We did not sleep for days because of digging the antitank ditches, but we were so excited or frightened that we did not even think of sleeping.
It was already twilight in the wooden shack, so we lit lamps. I lay down on the small couch and fell asleep; in the meantime the others destroyed the instruments. Seeing the lights, the Russians tried to range fire at the shack. My comrades switched the lights off and dragged me out into the protection of the rocks, where I woke up. Then the firing ceased.
In one of the positions of the fort company we found out that a mounted patrol with 10-15 members had also crossed the Hungarian defensive lines and was in our vicinity. In the morning I looked for the owner of the cart, waiting for it in a well-protected place, and we hurried towardsKözéplok. Suddenly a Hungarian armoured train appeared on the railway lines running parallel with the road. Its gun fired at the enemy attacking from the pine wood forest, which was on fire. The counter-fire threatened not only the armoured train but us too because there was no more than a 25-30 metre distance between the line in the middle of the road and the railway. The train disappeared into a deep railway cutting, and we did not see it any longer. Anyhow, there was no more railway traffic.
We arrived at the construction branch of the 16th Fortification Department of the Hungarian Army about an hour later. A painful sight awaited us. The complete staff of the department: soldiers, employers, foremen, construction labourers, forced labourers and women and children visiting them, together with the carts of the transport column, were ready to set off into the direction of Békás, on the cartways running on the banks of the Hidegség pataka.
I led the outpost of the column on foot, together with 5-6 ground-men from Csongrád, armed with the rifles salvaged from the student camp. 22 carts came behind us, and the forced labourers went on foot with their families behind the carts. My friend, Muzsay was the rearguard together with the foremen.
The increasing tumult of battle with single and prolonged fire, as well as sporadic heavy arms fire, could be heard from the western end of Gyimeslok. We had already left the field sentry post erected at the outskirts of the village when the ensign and the cadet sergeant, who were travelling in the middle of the cart column, observed that a few pans and paramilitary rifles drawn from the authorities against a receipt stayed with them. I got a command and a cart to go back and resolve this problem. The commander of the field outpost was cleverer because, pointing at the houses of the village on fire, he did not let me go back and he verified the receipt by his signature.
We kept advancing on the road line marked on the map of the ensign after that. When it got dark, we heard the clattering of water bottles, mess-tins, bayonets and field spades. We met a Székely frontier guard unit, retreating or advancing into the defence line in the bed of a stream which was running through a small village. The lieutenant, who was commander of the rear guard, made a very pointed remark about the vagabonds115 disturbing the movements of the army. I “humbly reported” our destination to him.
We arrived without human and material losses at Gyergyószentmiklós next day. We camped on the arena of the stadium. Our commander went to report to the 3rd Fortification Group Headquarters. He was received with great rejoicing, and he found out that we were the last unit to come out of Gyimesközzéplok and that we had already been declared missing. My friend and I got were discharged that very afternoon.
I wrote this basic report because these fortification constructors have a role in history as the constructors of the Árpád-line or the Margaret-line. However, these lines were built by fortification units up to the last moment. In my experience, these fortification elements were not utilised. I found a Yugoslav air-cooled machine-gun in such a concrete ring. I did not see Hungarian armour piercing arms at all. At that time the defile did not get any air support. Even before 1st September a Russian reconnaissance aircraft had been circling over the defile without being disturbed; nobody shot at it. When we left Csíkszentdomonkos, we saw 9x3 or 27 Ju-87 dive-bombers flying over the defile and attacking it. We heard terrible sounds from the mountains and were happy to see the return of these circling bombers which also protected us.
We met the German reinforcements on the high road between Gyergyószentmiklós and Marosfő. With twin-barrelled and four-barrelled automatic guns they went to face the Roumanians.”
The Gyimes valley block had to be given up because of the unresolved logistic supply and because it was outflanked, but the surrounding mountains and the defile itself remained in Hungarian hands for more than three weeks.
115 Vagabund: Latin word, used for the tramps in Hungary at that time.