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This work grew from the conviction that I could get more fun out of my collection of Austro-Hungarian military mail of 1914-18 if I could find out more about the army that used and received the items. The existing authorities listed the field post offices but failed to say much about where each was and who it served; and the history of the war and the organization of the army that fought it was not dealt with. Values appeared to be allotted on the basis of the length of time a field post office was open, and on that alone. In my view this led collectors to concentrate solely on getting one of each field post office cancellation. I believe there is more to collecting these field post items than just that.
|A Field Post Office at work|
|This Feldpost card shows FPO 52. It is cancelled K.u.K. FELDPOSTAMT 52 and dated 21.IX.15. on the reverse, which also has a cachet 'K.k.L.I.R.No13'. According to Chapter 8 below, FPO52 operated between Sep 1914 and Aug 1916, and was part of 46SchD (very roughly, a Division of territorial army mounted rifle troops more often used dismounted). This comprised (in Sep 1915) 91 and 92 SchBrigades and 43 FABrigade, and formed part of 1 Korps which was in turn part of 1 Army, then at Lemberg.|
It seemed to me, when I began, that study of the available sources should provide the information that would enliven the items and eventually allow a different set of values to be allotted to them, based on wider factors than just the post office used. So, my aim in writing the followinq pages is to provide the collector of Austro-Hungarian Army postal items 1914-18 with sufficient background material to enable him or her to get more entertainment from them. I was fortunate in timing and circumstances. An illness gave me the time, and my long service with two armies has given me the knowledge to interpret army organizations. And I was more than lucky to be placed near to libraries and individuals with the reference material I sought. I originally set out to use the results solely with my own collection, but quickly came to the conclusion that it would be better to let others have the use of them. Correspondence and meetings have proved the wisdom of that decision whilst these pages have been prepared, over a period of nearly four years.
I warn that what I say is my own interpretation of sources and events recorded by others, often in German and other languages. I do not regard the finished work as 'finished'. It is a start, and no doubt I and anyone who reads and uses these pages, will add to what is there. With that in mind I say clearly that I claim no copyright for the following pages and hope that they will be used, amended and copied as others wish, so adding to knowledge.
The subject of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1914 is so vast and complex that even to consider a small part of it leads one into all manner of interesting byroads, like the Gassen of Wien that wind about and lead one into such fascinating corners of the inner city. I have included some general background that appears essential. I have used sources mainly in German, and if the result seems to be biassed that way I must ask readers to forgive me. If my place names and other titles are in German, forgive me. To give the modern equivalent would be asking too much. I have great respect for the peoples of east-central Europe and hope that any of them who read these words will forgive me for any unintentional disrespect. In any event historical facts cannot be wiped out.
I have limited myself to writing about the Army of Austria-Hungary and its mail service. So do not look for more - there is no time. If you want it, my reader friend, then you must write it up for us all.
I have tried to be logical in my approach to this subject. I begin by offering an introduction to the Austria-Hungary of 1914, and then write about military service in that Monarchy. Then, because some facts about the Army of Austria-Hungary and how it was run and organized are essential, I give enough to enlighten, and hopefully not to muddle, the non-military reader. Nevertheless, an explanation of how that army operated in the field has to follow, and that is the next chapter. This is followed by a chapter telling of the organization and development of the three main arms - infantry, cavalry and artillery - as the war progressed. After that is the large chapter that is the core of my work. There will be found the disposition of the Austro- Hungarian Army from August 1914 to October 1918 taken solely from published orders of battle, in appendices according to formation and part of the army. A chapter on engineer troops follows and to close I offer my views on the postal service of the army in the field, where the reader can add his or her own opinions and findings as much as he or she wishes.
I would like to thank all those who have helped me in this work. The Librarians of both the Royal Military Academy and of the Ministry of Defence London; James Lucas formerly of the Imperial War Museum; (the late) Peter Collins and Alf Swan, both of Bournemouth, whose enthusiasm and searching enquiries spurred me on when I flagged; Beryl Fletcher, sometime President of the Hungarian Philatelic Society of Great Britain who loaned me her collection; Dr Zoltan Palotas of Budapest whose wise comments have been most invaluable; Janos Cserkuti, also of Budapest, who has let me see many items; Titus Oradean of Bucharest, who has sent me some interesting items and much information; and members of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Österr. Feld- und Zensurpost 1914-18, the leader of which ARGE - Herwig Rainer - has been a true colleague. If I leave anybody out, please forgive me.
I must also offer a debt of gratitude to those who have gone before me along parts of the way I have taken. Alfred Clement, who died before his great work could be completed; Viktor Majetic and Keith Tranmer too. Their works, and others which I have referred to in preparing these pages are listed in the Bibliography at the very end of this work.
I should also like to thank all those men and women who unwittingly provided the items I own and have seen, by writing and mailing them so many years ago. If I were to add a Dedication to these pages, it would be 'To those who fought in the cause of Austria-Hungary 1914-13 - You are not forgotten'.
I am conscious of the fact that this work is complicated. That being so I have taken some items from my collection as examples, and have added explanations of each, with references to the relevant pages of my work. These follow this Foreword. I recommend the reader to work through them before using the following chapters. These examples have been chosen to illustrate the scope of information in these pages, as well as to help the reader to find the source of such information. None of the illustrations have been ‘improved’, so their quality may not be of the best. Nevertheless the explanations after each make the facts shown on them clear to the reader.
Woolwich, London, February 1990
Minor additions, and some retyping for clarity, as a result of advice and further research, have been made.
JFD-N, Eastbourne, February 1993
Scanned and reformatted for web: M Brumby and A Taylor, 2000
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Last updated 18 Nov 2000