Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

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Sid Guttridge
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Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 11 Apr 2021 15:40

There seem to have been a number of armed clashes on the Hungarian-Ruthenian border over 1938-39.

In mid 1938 Hungary recreated an irregular unit, the Ragged Guard, to harass the Czechoslovak forces and these tried to penetrate Ruthenia.

I am aware of a claim by the Hungarians to have destroyed some Czech aircraft on Uzhorod airfield on 28 October 1938. Is there any conformation from the Czechoslovak side?

Probably a few days later the Czechs had a major success, capturing nearly 300 Ragged Guards some 12 kilometres east of Berehovo. Is there a date for this?

There was also an armed clash between their regular forces with fatalities on both sides on the new border north of Mukachevo on 6 January 1939.

Finally, there were clashes as the Czechs finally withdrew from Ruthenia on 16 March 1939.

Can anyone confirm or debunk these or any other such incidents and supply any other details about those that have substance?

Many thanks,

Sid.

CNE503
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Re: Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by CNE503 » 11 Apr 2021 16:05

Leo wrote something about these clashes. See here: http://www.niehorster.org/015_hungary/book/chap-01.htm

Regards,
CNE503
"Sicut Aquila" / "Ils s'instruisent pour vaincre" / "par l'exemple, le coeur et la raison" / "Labor Omnia Vincit"

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 11 Apr 2021 21:38

Hi CNE503,

Sadly Leo is purveying the 1939 Hungarian propaganda line about the Czechs attacking the Hungarians! These were the excuses used for the Hungarian occupation of Ruthenia at the time. They were unlikely even then.

Only on 6 January does it appear that the Czechs attacked the Hungarians. This was because the Hungarians had occupied land beyond a river that the Czechs believed to be the border. Using a cross border shooting incident the night before as their excuse, they launched an attack and the Hungarian Army was evicted. However, the German "arbitrators" came down on the side of their Hungarian allies and the Czechs later had to pull back again.

Cheers,

Sid.

CNE503
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Re: Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by CNE503 » 12 Apr 2021 07:59

Hi Sid,

I don't think so. For instance, he states that just after the Munich Agreement, "Hungary seized the opportunity, and demanded the return of the provinces of Ruthenia and Slovakia — demands so excessive that the Prague government could not possibly acquiesce. Consequently, Czechoslovakia moved troops up to reinforce her common border with Hungary, and began to occupy the bunker systems there. At several points along this border armed clashes took place between Hungarian border forces and Czechoslovakian troops". He also says that "[n]ot long after the German occupation, the Hungarian government sought to test the will of the Czecho-Slovakians to resist further territorial loss. On the morning of 5.10.1938, an armed band of 500 men of the Hungarian Ragged Guard [1] attacked the railway station at Borzava and killed a railway man. The invaders then confidently pitched a tent camp in the nearby woods. The Czech troops reacted quickly. They surrounded the Hungarian camp and after a fierce fight forced its surrender. The Hungarians lost 80 men dead and some 400 were captured".

It appears to me that the Hungarians were at this time the agressive player, not the Czechs.

Or didn't I understand properly?

Regards,
CNE503
"Sicut Aquila" / "Ils s'instruisent pour vaincre" / "par l'exemple, le coeur et la raison" / "Labor Omnia Vincit"

Peter89
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Re: Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by Peter89 » 12 Apr 2021 09:34

The whole issue with the Rongyos Gárda (Ragged Guard) in 1938-1939 is unique, and we have to acknowledge the fact that detailed military reports only exist until December 1938, however, these troops were used in March 1939 when Kárpátalja (Ruthenia) was annexed, and furthermore, when they "pacified" the area, probably committing most of their war crimes "off the record". Thus, most of the sources - ie. memoirs, like those of Miklós Kozma and Valér Stefán - are subjective, and therefore, have to be taken with a pinch of salt. And those in 1939, have to be taken with a pile of salt, because well-known "paramilitary-minded" people like Iván Héjjas were amongst the ranks of this paramilitary group. (In English, see The White Terror: Antisemitic and Political Violence in Hungary, 1919-1921 by Béla Bodó)

Three things must be noted here.

First, the Rongyos Gárda and the interwar Hungarian "paramilitary traditions" always counted on infiltration, diversion, sabotage, and of course, the local ethnic Hungarians. The Gárda / "Guard" designation did not mean any kind of military excellence in either morale, training or equipment.

Second, the exit point of the sabotage missions were Poland, which cooperated with Hungary against Czechoslovakia.

Third, the Rongyos Gárda existed "off the charts" in the Hungarian Royal Army's OOB, and even though it was administered by VKF-5 department (could be translated to something like the High Command Office, 5th department), it was not officially recognized, and immediately after Romanian counter-intelligence discovered its existence in 1940, it ceased to exist.

It also worths to note that the deployment had many distinctive phases:
1938. october 5.–9. Recon and inflitration
1938. october 9.–13. Recon in force
1938. october 13.–november 7. Local skirmishes

These phases were mostly aimed at Hungarian-majority areas, where the troops received substantial local support (pathfinders, food, volunteers - including a few ethnic Ruthenians, gypsies and jews).

After the First Vienna Award, most of the Hungarian-majority areas returned to Hungary, leaving a very small Hungarian minority in the remaining areas of Kárpátalja / Ruthenia.

Between November 1938 and March 1939 the Ragged Guard was renamed Térképhelyesbítők ("Map Correctors") and Időjelzők ("Weather Forecasters"), and usually engaged in propaganda and minor skirmishes.

In March 1939, the Térképhelyesbítők did not lose a single man in the fight, which they've carefully avoided (the only loss was a NC loss from an own hand grenade).

Between March 1939 and July 1939 - under the time of military administration - the Térképhelyesbítők started to employ their usual methods: torture, killing, rounding up political enemies, etc. On July 26 1939, all the former Sic members and political activists were given an amnesty.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 12 Apr 2021 10:03

Hi CNE503,

I am talking about the armed clashes.

Leo writes, "The uneasy peace was soon broken again, when the Sic Guards attacked the city of Munkács on 6.01.1939." This involved no Sic Guards, just Czechoslovak troops and was not an attack on Munkacs itself (see my last post). The Czechoslovaks wouldn't arm the Sic Guard, which then only had a few illegally held pistols, but it was a convenient whipping boy for Hungarian propaganda as it represented Ukrainian nationalism, which was also a threat to the Poles.

He also writes, "The Czech government..... instead ordered its troops to attack the city of Munkács on the morning of 14.03.1939." Is this likely given the weakness of Czech forces in distant Ruthenia and of Czechoslovakia's perilous situation? It was a day of fighting between the Sic Guard and the Czechoslovak Army in Ruthenia's capital, the day Slovakia declared independence at German instigation and just the day before the German occupation of Bohemia-Moravia.

He writes, "The Hungarian Border Guard units stationed around Munkács, after throwing back the attacking Czechs on 14.03.1939, pressed forward in turn....." The Czechoslovaks were in no position to attack Munkacs (see last paragraph). The Hungarian occupation of Ruthenia was co-ordinated with the German occupation of Bohemia-Moravia. The supposed Czechoslovak attack was just a Hungarian invention to justify over running the rest of Ruthenia - something they had been working on for the last year.

He writes, "On the same day, the Sic Guards and Czech nationalist units initiated large scale partisan operations." The Czechs didn't. They were intent on withdrawing from Ruthenia as soon as possible and got out through Slovakia, Romania or Poland. The Sic tried partisan operations, but were under armed because the Czechoslovaks had long refused weapons to them (indeed, they had been suppressed by the Czechoslovak Army on 14 March) and had no friendly borders over which to sustain guerrilla operations.

Given the poverty of information available in the past, it is understandable that Leo used what was available 25 years ago.

By the way, Leo's books on the Hungarian Army are amongst the very best I possess.

Cheers,

Sid.
Last edited by Sid Guttridge on 13 Apr 2021 09:11, edited 2 times in total.

CNE503
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Re: Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by CNE503 » 12 Apr 2021 14:37

Good copy. Very interesting thread!
Thank you Sid.
Regards,

CNE503
"Sicut Aquila" / "Ils s'instruisent pour vaincre" / "par l'exemple, le coeur et la raison" / "Labor Omnia Vincit"

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 12 Apr 2021 15:58

Hi Peter89,

Thanks for the information on the Ragged Guard.

Do you know anything about Hungarian Army operations during the reoccupation of south-western Ruthenia in early November 1938 and of the rest of Ruthenia in March 1939?

Alternatively, could you recommend any sources that might have such information?

Many thanks,

Sid.

Peter89
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Re: Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by Peter89 » 12 Apr 2021 20:26

Sid Guttridge wrote:
12 Apr 2021 15:58
Hi Peter89,

Thanks for the information on the Ragged Guard.

Do you know anything about Hungarian Army operations during the reoccupation of south-western Ruthenia in early November 1938 and of the rest of Ruthenia in March 1939?

Alternatively, could you recommend any sources that might have such information?

Many thanks,

Sid.
What are you interested in exactly, Sid?

The occupation after the First Vienna Award was rather peaceful, more like a parade. I have the units which took part in the occupation, but there wasn't really any fight.

In March 1939 Hungary invaded Ruthenia (March 15-18), but also fought a "petty war" against Slovakia (March 23-April 4).

In any case, I've read nothing in English before; the best WW2 books in Hungary usually start with 1941, and those concerning the occupations in 1938-1941, are usually of political nature.

Some sources I'd recommend to Google Translate (careful though, it doesn't really work well with Hungarian):
http://real.mtak.hu/85560/1/rongyosg%C3 ... 0final.pdf
http://real.mtak.hu/85561/1/rongyosg%C3 ... 0final.pdf
https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/275587962.pdf
http://www.publikon.hu/application/essay/107_1.pdf
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 13 Apr 2021 09:06

Hi Peter89,

Many thanks. I shall be working overtime on Google Translate for the next few days.

A couple of months ago I bought a book called Republic for a Day by Michael Winch. Winch was a British journalist in Ruthenia In early 1939 and the book lead me to enquire further into military events in Ruthenia over 1938-39.

I am trying to disentangle the actions against the Hungarians by the Czecho-Slovak Army from those of the Sic Guard, but without much success. It seems to me that Czech rearguards were more of a problem for the Hungarians than the Sic Guard, except on the approaches to Khost and in the brief mopping up.

The Czech forces in Ruthenia seem to have held together remarkably well given their impossible situation after the Munich Agreement, the Vienna Arbitration, Ruthenian autonomy and Slovak independence. These cost them all their border fortifications, most of their barracks and depots and their only railway connection to the rest of their country. For six months they had the Hungarians harassing them from the south, the Poles from the north and the Sic Guard from their rear.

While hardly a military epic, it is a wonder that there is no Czech account of what seems to be quite a creditable story.

If you have the Hungarian OB for the implementation of the Vienna Award in Ruthenia in November 1938, it would be much appreciated.

Many thanks,

Sid.

Peter89
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Re: Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by Peter89 » 26 Apr 2021 21:07

Sid Guttridge wrote:
13 Apr 2021 09:06
Hi Peter89,

Many thanks. I shall be working overtime on Google Translate for the next few days.

A couple of months ago I bought a book called Republic for a Day by Michael Winch. Winch was a British journalist in Ruthenia In early 1939 and the book lead me to enquire further into military events in Ruthenia over 1938-39.

I am trying to disentangle the actions against the Hungarians by the Czecho-Slovak Army from those of the Sic Guard, but without much success. It seems to me that Czech rearguards were more of a problem for the Hungarians than the Sic Guard, except on the approaches to Khost and in the brief mopping up.

The Czech forces in Ruthenia seem to have held together remarkably well given their impossible situation after the Munich Agreement, the Vienna Arbitration, Ruthenian autonomy and Slovak independence. These cost them all their border fortifications, most of their barracks and depots and their only railway connection to the rest of their country. For six months they had the Hungarians harassing them from the south, the Poles from the north and the Sic Guard from their rear.

While hardly a military epic, it is a wonder that there is no Czech account of what seems to be quite a creditable story.

If you have the Hungarian OB for the implementation of the Vienna Award in Ruthenia in November 1938, it would be much appreciated.

Many thanks,

Sid.
Sorry for the late answer, Sid. My relocation to Spain is not going without hiccups, for example, it seems I have to transfer a lot of data from my old laptop to my new computer, which in turn has some issues with a scratched display.

I'll get back to this topic soon.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

Sid Guttridge
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Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 26 Apr 2021 22:45

Hi peter89,

Thanks. I look forward to it.

I have Google translated your links and have a much clearer picture of Hungarian operations. I am trying to match them with Google translated Czech material.

It seems the much reduced Ragged Guard was not very active in the first ten weeks of 1939. The Czechs report no fatalities to it and in February stood their frontier guards down from the high alert they had been on since the previous September.

Cheers,

Sid.

Peter89
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Re: Hungarian-Czechoslovak clashes in Ruthenia, September 1938 - March 1939?

Post by Peter89 » 27 Apr 2021 09:04

Sid Guttridge wrote:
13 Apr 2021 09:06

If you have the Hungarian OB for the implementation of the Vienna Award in Ruthenia in November 1938, it would be much appreciated.
Now, I found it.

Although the whole HRA was mobilized, only 4 mixed brigades took part in the occupation. These mixed brigades got extra reinforcements on top of their OOB and were renamed to Corps for the time of the occupation (so the Corps in this occupation do not equal the Huba I OOB's Corps, effective from 1st October 1938).

The OOB of the 1938 occupation:

I. Corps (1., 2., 3. infantry brigades, 2. car brigade, 2. cavalry brigade); occupied the region near the Ipoly river

II. Corps (4., 5., 6. infantry brigades.); occupied the Csallóköz / Žitný ostrov region

VI. Corps (17. infantry brigade, 1. cavalry brigade); occupied the region near Munkács / Мукачево and Ungvár /Ужгород

VII. Corps (19., 20., 21. infantry brigades); occupied the region near Kassa / Košice and Rozsnyó / Rožňava

Image

and organic units:
1. Aircraft brigade
1. River guard brigade

The 17. infantry brigade was stationed Miskolc and the 1. cavalry brigade was stationed in Nyíregyháza.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

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