Wednesday, April 22, 2015



The 1. Rohamtûzer Osztaly (1. RO) was the 1st Assault Artillery Unit raised and then enlisted into by the Honvéd.
It is at the end of 1942 that the Hungarian Chief of Staff took the first decision to introduce into the Hungarian Army the weapon that the Wehrmacht had already used with success in 1940 during the campaign in France.
At the end of February 1943, three officers chosen by the Hungarian Artillery Inspectorate came to the end of a training course that lasted six weeks in Jüterborg near Berlin at the instruction centre of the Sturmartillerie (VI. / Artillerie-Lehr-Regiment (mot.) 2). The commander of the small group was Százados (Captain) József Barankay, the creator of the Hungarian Assault Artillery, on his return to Hungary, the captain surrounded by a team of young enthusiastic officers, devoted himself passionately to preparing courses destined to train the first volunteers.
The instruction methods largely inspired from the new German methods, contributed to the formation of a true espirt de corps.
The 1st October 1943 sees the start of official construction of a further seven new RO. Unfortunately it becomes clear that the only Hungarian production plant (Manfred Weiss) would not be capable of meeting the needs of 8 RO. The German allies assure Hungary that it will provide equipment for the other RO in the form of Sturmgeshütze providing the personnel can be raised for these units. The 1. RO is exclusively equipped with Zrinyi, conversely the support elements consist of a great deal of German produced equipment, Opel Blitz, Krupp Protze, and R75 BMW motorcycle’s.

The 12th April 1944, three rail convoys, respectively transporting the 2. and 3 Üteg (Batteries) and also the HQ elements of the 1. RO (commanded by now (Major) Ornagy József Barankay) depart for the Galizian Front, prior to this in May 1944 they participated in a combined demonstration exercise in front of the Artillery Inspector and Regent Horthy, the 1st Üteg remains stationed in Hajmáskér. It did not join the rest of the RO until two months later during June 1944.

The Assault Howitzers of the 2nd Üteg (temporarily commanded by 1st Lieutenant Röder - the actual commander; 1st Lieutenant Kulifay, convalescing at the time) moved off from the Stanislau plateau on the evening of the 16th April (now called Ivano-Frankousk) where the RO commander sets up his HQ. The 3rd Üteg arrives in Stanislau 3 days later.
The Zrinyis of the 1. RO were engaged in combat in Galizia for more than 3 months with the 1st Hungarian Army, itself subordinated to the Heeresgruppe Nordukraine.

Mobilised on the 6th January 1944, the Hungarian government had originally planned to use the 1st Hungarian Army for the defence of the national borders in the North-eastern Carpathians, however the German High Command would not allow this and used the Army in Polish Galizia to fill a gap in the front line between the Carpathians and the Dniester. This ‘hole’ was located between the 1st German Pz. Army (Right flank of Heeresgruppe Nordukraine) and the 8th German Army (Left flank of Heeresgruppe Südukraine).
The 1. RO arrived in Galizia on the evening of the attack by the 1st Hungarian Army, the Army had limited objectives (Then commanded by General Lakatos) which had been set by the Germans. These were to take the Army to the Kolomea-Obertyn-Ottynia-Stanislau line to re-establish contact between the Heeresgruppe Norukraine and Südukraine and establish a continual frontline.

An attack started between the Pruth and the Dneister on the 17th April 1944 at 14:00hrs, on the left flank of the Army the VIIth Hungarian Corps (16th and 18th Infantry Divisions) were tasked with the objective of capturing the towns of Ottynia and Obertyn, by the evening of the 20th April the 16th Infantry Division had seized Ottynia with negligible losses, however Soviet resistance hardened quickly and by the 22nd April the 16th Infantry Division were reporting the first counter attacks.

A little after his arrival in Stanislau, Ornagy Barankay contacted the 301st Sturmgeschütz-Brigade that was operating in the sector. He followed on foot with some of his subordinates the Sturmgeschütz-Brigade during an engagement to observe the tactics and unit operation.

The Assault Howitzers of the 1. RO received their baptism of fire on the 21st April 1944 in the Bohorodyczyn sector on the left flank of the 16th Infantry Division, only the 2. Üteg took part in this engagement, supporting infantry of the 18th Hungarian Infantry Division who were tasked in capturing the town of Bohorodyczyn where the Soviets were entrenched. The ground was in the Soviets favour; they had concentrated a great deal of men and material in the area. The town could not be taken on the first day by the Hungarians, several anti-tank guns and a dug-in T-34 were destroyed by the Zrinyi’s, during the fighting the battery had two of its three platoon commanders seriously injured and their vehicles damaged.
On the 23rd April the 101st Jäger Division moved into the offensive on the left flank of the 18th Infantry Division, again they were met with fierce enemy resistance, supported by Sturmgeshütze of the 301st Sturmgeschütz-Brigade and a combat group from the 16th Panzer Division, they managed to progress only a few kilometers.
On the 28th April, the combined efforts of the Hungarians and Germans allowed the 2. Üteg to capture Bohorodyczyn, where surprised from the flank several Soviet Anti-tank guns were captured intact with their American made M3 half-tracks.
A few days after its first engagement, where they destroyed two T-34’s, the 3rd Üteg on the 27/28th lost their commander, 1st Lieutenant Waczek, he sustained a fatal head wound, the commander of the second platoon was also killed in this action. Ornagy Barankay took command of the Üteg until the end of the engagement, which was a success. 1st Lieutenant Rátz became the Üteg commander at this time.
On the 30th April the 2. Üteg received the order to withdraw to Stanislau, that same day General Lakatos gave the order to stop the advance of the Hungarian 1st Army without all the objectives being achieved, the VIIth corps did not capture Obertyn and the front was stabilised on the Peczenyczyn-Kolomea, South-west Ottynia East Tlumacz line, the Hungarians and Germans now preparing defensive positions.
Two months of relative calm follow in the sector of the VIIth corps after the Hungarian offensive.
On May 19th the 3. Üteg was transferred South of Pruth, where it operated as an independent unit within the XIth corps which was part of the 1st Hungarian Army. In this region, the 3. Üteg is engaged for the first time on the 20th May in the area of Peczenyczyn, Captain Barankay who took part in this engagement was moved back to Stanislau with his Zrinyi riddled with holes after the engagement.
In mid-June the 1st Üteg commanded by 1st Lieutenant Sandor rejoined the RO at the front with its 10 Zrinyi.
With Captain Barankay remaining with the 3rd Battery, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Rátz it was again involved in violent defensive actions on the 7th, 8th and 9th of July in the Peczenyczyn sector. On the 9th of July at the end of the engagement a Zrinyi had to be abandoned after becoming stuck in an infantry trench, this was later recovered under enemy fire during the 9th and 10th of July, this recovery was led by 1st Lieutenant Rátz for which he received the Iron Cross 2nd class on the 11th of July 1944.

While 1st Lieutenant Rátz’s assault guns had been engaged several times South of the river Pruth, it was only from the 13th of July 1944 that Soviet activity in the sector of the 1. and 2. Üteg increased.
After the Soviet offensive on the 22nd June broke through the lines of Heeresgruppe Mitte it was the 1st Ukrainian Front of Marshall Koniev who pressed on with the offensive. Opposing the 1st Ukrainian front were Heeresgruppe Nordukraine comprising of 4th Pz. Army on the left flank, 1st Pz. Army in the center and the 1st Hungarian Army on the right flank.
As the Soviet advance concentrated its efforts on Lemberg (Today L’vov) which was defended by the 1st Pz. Army, the OKH was forced the commit the armoured units (German) who were fighting with the Hungarian 1st Army to this sector. This move affected the VIIth Hungarian Corps, which was in contact with the right flank of the German 1st Pz. Army leaving them exposed. In the Corps sector the Soviet activity intensified from the 13th July, 10 days later the left flank of the 1st Ukrainian Front (North of the 1st Guard Army, South of the 18th Army) gets into the action.
On the morning of the 13th July 1944 the 1. RO is placed on alert; the Zrinyis of the 1. and 2. Üteg are prepared for combat to the East of Ottynia. On that day, the aerial activity increased in the sector, during the move of the 1st Üteg towards Ottynia the Üteg came under aerial attack, with the commander of the 1st platoon being the first casualty. Once the Üteg was underway again it encountered the vehicle that was transporting the body of Ornagy Barankay commander of the 1. RO himself a casualty of a bombing raid on the town of Targowica which was behind the front lines, he had been following the engagements of the 2. Üteg by radio from here.
Captain Barankay was buried in the military cemetery in Stanislau, in the position he had reserved for himself between the first two men killed from his unit.
Ornagy (Major) Doóry arrived from Hungary at the end of July to assume command of the 1. RO.
The Soviet offensive in the sector of the VIIth Hungarian Corps concentrated all its efforts on Ottynia, the combined efforts of the 16th and 7th Infantry Divisions along with the Hungarian 2. Páncéloshadosztály (2nd Armoured Division) was unable to prevent a Soviet breakthrough. The Hungarian withdrawal started in the direction of the Carpathains. On the 23rd July, Ottynia fell to the 18th Soviet Army who, advancing on Nadvorna threatened to take the VIIth Hungarian Corps from behind from the South, on the 25th July Nadvorna fell, at this time the VIIth Corps was cut off from the 1st Hungarian Army and the 1st RO from its 3.Üteg.
During the retreat, the 1. and 2 Üteg of the 1st RO completed a number of hard fought rearguard actions, which allowed a number of units to withdraw and escape complete destruction.
The route followed by the 1. and 2. Üteg was Ottynia-Winograd-Lachowca-Lukwa-Krasna-Rozniatow-Dolina-Wygoda.
On the 24th July, a reconnaissance patrol from the 2nd Üteg destroyed three T-34 during an ambush in the area of Winograd, that same day 2nd Lieutenant Buszek (2nd Üteg) under his own initiative led an action that liberated a unit of field artillery that had been surrounded by the Soviets, after this action a German Hauptmann took down 2nd Lieutenant Buszek’s details and location, he later received the Iron Cross 2nd class for his actions.
The combat elements of the 1. RO on the 27th July were attached to the 2. Páncéloshadosztály, under the orders from Major Doóry and 1st Lieutenant Kulifay they were forced to stop their westward march, the only safe route of withdrawal. The valley of Lukwa was blocked by retreating forces, the valley was under fire from the Soviets. The RO received the order to open the road at all costs, they were forced to push/shove or crush any obstacle in their path. Every Zrinyi carried around 10 wounded soldiers on route. The 1. and 2 Üteg lost more than 2/3 of their assault howitzers during the retreat.
On the 28th July the 1. and 2. Üteg along with the RO commander crossed the Hungarian border by the Toronya pass in the Northeastern Carpathians.
The RO established itself at Felsöveresmo (near to Hust where the Hungarian 1st Army Chief of Staff had previously arrived) they remained here until the end of September.

The 3rd Üteg of 1st Lieutenant Rátz, was operating in a less exposed sector and returned to Hungary with all of his Zrinyi’s by means of the pass at Tatàr, however while the support vehicles of the battery could still cross the River Pruth by the bridge of Deatyn, the tracked vehicles had to ford the river further south.
On arrival in Hungary the battery billeted at Korosme.
At the end of September 1944, the RO was embarked for Hajmáskér, however before leaving the 3. Üteg was involved in the last engagement in Transylvania. Following the failure of the Romanians to hold the Soviets on the 23rd August a breach was opened in Translavania on the right flank of the Heersegruppe Südukraine. On the 13th of September 1944 the 3rd Hungarian Army launched a general offensive against the 1st Romanian Army (now allied to the Soviets) so that they could partially close the breach. Transported by rail until Nagyvárad (Today Oradea in Romania), the 3rd Battery of 1st Lieutenant Rátz were engaged around mid-September on the left flank of the 3rd Hungarian Army with the VIIth Corps. The intervention of the 3rd Üteg forced the Romanians from the town of Belenyes, unfortunately the Zrinyi of 1st Lieutenant Rátz fell victim to a mine in front of Belenyes, and the vehicle was irreparable and abandoned. The battery was withdrawn from the front after releasing all its equipment to an Üteg from the 10th RO who at that time were also in Transalvania.
After two weeks of rest the 1. RO was again placed on alert at Hajmáskér for the defence of Budapest, which the Soviet advance was now threatening, again after disposing of a battery of equipment (The Rátz Battery rearmed) the unit was attached to ‘Csoport Billnitzer, essentially constituted of assault artillery fighting on foot.
During the months of November and December 1944 the assault gunners of the 1. RO were engaged on foot (mostly) in the sector of Vecsés-Maglad-Ecser (around Pest) attached to the 1st Hungarian Armoured Division. Assigned to another position, Ornagy Doóry was replaced by 1st Lieutenant Wáczek having recovered from his wounds. He was gravely wounded again on the 19th November North of Vecsés during a reconnaissance mission, 1st Lieutenant Sándor who was to be the last commander of the RO replaced him.
On the 4th of December 1944, from the island of Csepel, the Soviets achieved a foothold on the West shore of the Danube with the intention of rapidly breaking through the Margarete line to take Budapest from behind. They threw themselves against the defenses of the 271st Volksgrenadier Division and of the 239th Sturmartillerie-Brigade. On the 5th December at sunrise, without receiving orders to do so 1st Lieutenant Rátz led his Battery out of the sector he was assigned to join with the 10th RO (commanded by Százados (Captain) Sándor Hanák) at Székesfehérvár. This unconventional initiative provoked the wrath of the General-Major Billnitzer, however no charges were brought to 1st Lieutenant Rátz

On the 8th December 1944, attached to the 271st Volksgrenadier Division, the 10th RO were engaged south of Baracsta, with the Üteg of 1st Lieutenant Rátz, in all 10 Zrinyi took part in the engagement, the close protection of the assault howitzers was provided by the 10th Motorised Assault Company of Lieutenant Harkay (A special unit organically attached to the 10th RO and mostly constituted of soldiers from destroyed or routed units armed with sub machine guns) and German ground forces.

That evening the Soviets sustained heavy losses, the RO with Captain Hanák as its commander returned to Martonvásár where the RO and German Divisional headquarters were located with several prisoners and considerable amounts of captured material (according to documents of the time). No less than 7x 76.2mm antitank guns were captured, 1 x heavy howitzer, 6 x 76.2mm antitank guns and an antitank gun of inferior caliber were amongst others destroyed. The officers were commended by the commander of the 271st Volksgrenadier Division, some receiving the Iron Cross for their actions.
On the same day the 8th Pz. Division had also been engaged in the Martonvásár sector carrying out a counter attack which failed in its objectives, the following day with 65 armoured vehicles the 8th Pz. Division was again denied its objectives. On the 11th December1944 the Üteg of 1st Lieutenant Rátz and the 10th RO were again engaged in the streets of the town of Erd (Southwest of Budapest). The Zrinyi of the commander of the 2. platoon of the Rátz Battery was hit and destroyed by an antitank gun hidden in the higher parts of the town, Erd was cleared and the Soviets lost several heavy weapons including antitank guns, which had been crewed by women.

On the 26th December the 1. RO as the other units of the 1st Hungarian Army and IX SS. Gebirgskorps found themselves trapped the Hungarian capital after the link up of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian fronts in the area of Esztergom. This date marked the beginning of the siege of Budapest, which was to last more than 6 weeks. Around the turn of the New Year, 1st Lieutenant Kulifay commander of the 2. Üteg partially re-equipped with Turan 41M died in his command tank after being hit by an antitank gun.
The 1. RO was finally destroyed in the street fighting of Budapest in January-February 1945.

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