A wedding procession of a Gendarmerie master sergeant is ready to leave, but a final photograph has to be made before everything else. Unknown place, unknown date and people, but still an interesting glimpse of a precious moment of their lives.
Royal Hungarian Ludovika Military Academy
Lieutenant general Gábor Faragho visiting the Gendarmerie barracks and training centre in Galánta in early 1944.
"A small photograph as a memory"
This small photograph came to me recently in a batch together with other various military photos. Usually not much can be found out from photos like this. The image where probably made during a day in town, by some friend of the soldiers, and a copy where to one of the lads on the photo. He them sent it to his girlfriend as a memory..
The reverse says; "As a memory to my Bözsike" (Elisabeth) from Peti (Péter), Szeged 1943-05-22
As with most photos like this, unfortunately the fate of the people depicted, is hidden in the many decades passed.
This date is forever imprinted as the start of the annihilation and demise of the II. Hungarian army on the eastern-front. On night to 13 January 1943, the Soviets began the second stage of Little Saturn, the Voronezh–Kharkov Offensive. The Bryansk Front, Voronezh Front, and Southwestern Front attacked simultaneously.
The Hungarian Second Army's losses were made especially severe by the severe winter conditions and the lengthy lack of supply's, equipment and ammunitions for the fighting troops. Most units of the Second Army was encircled and either annihilated or succumbed to the extreme cold (-30°C – -40°C) while trying to escape in the following weeks of heavy combat.
This tremendous loss of military manpower, more or less settled Hungary's participation of WW2 and effected many families over the nation. During The Hungarian Second Army's twelve months of activity on the Eastern Front, the Army's losses were enormous. Of an initial force of about 200,000 Hungarian soldiers and 50,000 Jewish forced labourers, about 100,000 were dead, 35,000 wounded, and 60,000 taken prisoners of war. Only about 40,000 men returned to Hungary, scapegoated by Hitler for the catastrophic Axis defeat.
Artillery and Air-Defence are among the troops on parade on one of the Budapest boulevards. Two snap-shots, in probably a series, made by a bystander watching the event. The two small photographs came among many more various photographs in a bundle to this collector, and I'm very careful not to separate the photos since they clearly belong to the same series and moment.
" Ready to Fire! "
Hungarian soldiers use the Schwarzlose M7 machine-gun as an anti-aircraft gun, a complete crew and the Zászlós officer stands with the binoculars ready to direct the fire.
" Memories from the Artillery "
Some photographs is all that's left for the future, some images from the past taken by a soldier at the Royal Hungarian "Count Miklós Bercsény" Artillery regiment. Four album pages of photographs of the daily life and some group-photographs.
No name, just the year 1935 1st. squad, II. company. The owner took for granted that the names of his comrades, the time and date will stay with him for as long as he knows, just like many soldiers do, putting together the album with the freshly developed photos. Nobody thinks about the historic value when Your are young.
It still makes a really interesting glimpse of the feeling of the conscripted artillery soldier with a camera, making this photo series for himself and his comrades to preserve the time in the army. Often the privately taken photos give a more accurate picture of the soldiers everyday, then the official assigned army-photographers.
Looking out from a possible castle ruin, the photographer captures the perfect frame for a nice photo. With the binocular ready, and the medals on his chest, the Hungarian sergeant makes the best target for the perfect picture.
I recently visited the Ljungbyhed museum of the Scania Cavalry Regiment, the Royal Swedish Fifth Air Regiment and place for The first flight-school in Swedish aviation history in the south part of Sweden, to photograph a certain portrait painting for a project a friend of mine are working on. It was a quite and calm Saturday afternoon and I had plenty of time, just like my friend and man responsible for the museum. Most museums have been hit hard by the consequences of the resent pandemic and the visitors have naturally been kept away. So we had plenty of time, and the man at the museum enjoyed himself talking to the two interested visitors (and my wife who isn't the regular military buff, but very interested likewise).
Walking around the museum, I noted the lack of everyday photographs taken by the soldiers and officers themselves. The photographs where mostly great quality images taken by the official staff-photographer and had officers, NCO's and soldiers on stiff poses with horses, vehicles, royalties and visiting dignitaries. All in the great manners representative for a proud regiment. Talking to the man at the museum, I brought up the subject of private photographs, and that my collection (of Hungarian) military photo materials contains mostly privately taken images in great contrast to most museums I have visited.
He then told me that it's one dilemma most military museums (that cares about true history) struggles with. Since most of the existing historical photo-materials where taken at special events, by assigned photographers, the everyday life where documented by the by the soldiers and disappeared into their private photo albums, never to be accessed by the museums. Only in rare cases are great photo material presented to museums and ends up in the hands of collectors.
I left the museum in Ljungbyhed after few intense hours with great memories and a great feeling for the acquired knowledge of their history. The humour and enthusiasm of our guide left me with new inspiration for my own research, and strive to continue the historical work I do. But the most important lessons learned where the immense importance of privately taken photographs by the soldiers in their everyday life. Like the photograph above, soldiers goofing around, out of order, playing like the young men (kids) they are in that age. A moment surely not ending up in any museum, but still a glimpse of the everyday life.
Two Hungarian soldiers looking out form the barrack window. The photographer down on the street, who may or may not know them, captures the moment. It becomes a small 6x9 faded photograph 70+ years later, and it catches my attention while scanning a bunch of random photos. Because of it's simplicity, the photographed moment deserves a spot on this page!
A Hungarian officer with his German made MP-40 (Maschinenpistole 40) submachine gun in a trench somwhere along the first lines on the Eastern Front in the fall of 1942. The photograph is from a small series front-line photographs depicting this unknown officer.
The photograph is from a 1941 Air Force soldiers photo-album.