HARD TIMES: THE END OF 1943, THE SPRING OF 1944
The reorganisation of the Hungarian Armed Forces began in 1943, after the annihilation of the Second. Hungarian Army at the Don Bend. According to the judgement of the government and the military leadership the forthcoming German military operations could have no other purpose than delay and gaining time, in other words the prolongation of the military operation up to an acceptable peace treaty for Germany. This thought was expressed by the Chief of Staff, Colonel General Ferenc Szombathelyi at the session of the National Supreme Defence Council on 4 September 1943. Based on this evaluation of the situation the foreign policy of the Kállay government – besides further supporting the Germans - was oriented to the possibility of the organisation of a armed force strong enough to keep the Red Army back on the frontiers until the arrival of the Anglo-Saxon troops. They did their best not to send combat troops to the front again, but they could not avoid the increase of the Hungarian occupation units.
For the sake of ensuring the striking power of the army the government and the military leadership was obliged to relinquish the thought of setting up an armed force planned for 27 divisions because the capacity of the Hungarian war industry – apart from the satisfaction of the German claims – did not prove to be capable of the production of the armament necessary for the war. Besides, the catastrophe alone of the Second Hungarian Army indicated the untenability of the light divisions organised from two infantry regiments. For this reason the battle order decided was eight modern infantry divisions (with 3 regiments), two mountain brigades, an armoured corps, a cavalry division, an Air force division, an air defence brigade and a river force brigade for the autumn of 1943.84
The eight infantry divisions were set up by the concentration of 3-3 independent brigades or light divisions, the two mountain fighter brigades were formed from the 8th Frontier Guard Brigade. The Air Force division was assembled from 3 brigades. The organisation of the armoured corps and the cavalry division did not change. In 1943 the so-called Székely Frontier Defence Headquarters and its subordinated units were organised under the command of the IX. Army Corps.
The organisational instructions of 1943 also contained an internal modernisation of the battle order. In due course the mechanised machine-gun companies were taken out of the organisation of the infantry regiments and replaced with a mine-thrower, and an armour piercing company was set up with 8 mortars or else 8 batteries. The pioneer company was replaced by a pioneer platoon. A mine-thrower platoon with four mortars was organised in the machine-gun companies of each battalion as was a direct armour piercing artillery platoon with 4 batteries.
The measures taken for the internal development of the battle order prove three things, first of all:
The military leadership considered the role of the artillery as subordinated directly to the brigade to be important, because in the course of defensive operations it made the firing system of the infantry troops considerably more effective.
The organisation of the heavy armour-piercing fire system meant an effective defence against the mass application of the Soviet tanks.
The multiplicity of the mine-throwers in the organisation of the brigades and battalions also showed that the army was being prepared for defensive tasks.
The worsening of the situation at the Eastern front and the constant headway of the Soviet troops caused the Hungarian government to send the Chief of the General Headquarters of the Hungarian Royal Army, Colonel General Ferenc Szombathelyi, to the German Supreme Headquarters in order to get to know the further intentions of the Supreme Command of the German Army. At the same time, he had to inform the German General Headquarters about the Hungarian military measures planned for the defence of the Carpathian Mountains. He wanted to bring home silently those nine light divisions, which were executing occupation tasks in Ukraine, but he wanted to do it with the consent of the Germans. The pretext was that the divisions hardened in war should be reorganised for the defence of the Eastern frontiers against the expectable offensive of the Red Army, and also that these units should be reorganised from light divisions (with two regiments) to complete divisions with three regiments.
84 Tóth Sándor: A Horthy-hadsereg szervezete (The organisation of the Horthy-Army). Hadtörténeti Közlemények, 1958, 3-4, 64-98.