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Old 07-22-2009, 03:31 PM
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Default Austro-Hungarian uniforms

Early War uniforms (1914-15)
The Austro-Hungarian Army was long known for its dashing and colourful uniforms, but in 1908, after studying recent conflicts, the people in charge reluctantly introduced a new field uniform, in a new and less conspicuous colour: hechtgrau, i.e. pike-grey”, a grey-lightblue hue.

1-Dragoon, 2-Infantry Officer, 3-General, 4-Hussar, 5-Field Marshal, 6-Uhlan, 7-Hussar, trumpeter, 8-Hungarian Infantry, pre-1908 style uniform, 9-Infantry M1908 uniform
As can also be surmised from the contemporary print above from the start of the war, the proud Austro-Hungarian cavalry long resisted the hechtgrau, actually until late 1915. Also many officers, in all arms, wore privately purchased uniforms and equipment, meaning that the variations were enormous.
The most important of the figures in the plan above is of course no.9, showing an infantry man in the new M1908 uniform - although the colour is a bit off: it should have more of light-blue in it. With this new uniform came, as can be seen, a soft, high-crowned field cap with a visor, often of black material, plus side flap fastened by two buttons up front, which could be let down in cold weather to shield the face and the neck. On the front of the crown was fastened a national cockade in plain yellowish metal, pierced with the monogram of the emperor. (The cavalry were equipped with a sort of sidecap, without visor.)
The jacket of this uniform came in two variants: first standard version in wool with a standing collar, and then a linen version, intended for summer use, and with a stand-and-fall collar. The wool version was worn in the summer as well. Both variants had breast and hip pockets with scalloped flaps. The trousers came in several patterns, with Hungarian units having trousers with a special lace trim. Non-riding troops wore straight, loose trousers gathered at the ankle by gaiters. Mountain troops and Landwehr wore knee breeches with long stockings. Foot artillery were equipped with pantaloons, big in the thigh but tight below the knee. Mounted units had breeches.
In winter conditions, officers often donned special fur coats, very stylish, with large foldable fur collar, the coat itself in varying lengths.
Units fighting in more extreme winter conditions, like in the Dolomites, were issued snow camo gear, most of the time simple "snow shirts" or cape, to wear on top of the standard uniform, plus snow goggles.
With this new field uniform came a new leather equipment, for the most time a natural light redbrown. That goes for most of the boots as well, although they were sometimes blackened with shoe polish. Pioneers wore German style jackboots. The field gear consisted of a waist belt with four or two cartridge pouches, a bayonet, a knapsack in natural hide, with the big upper part holding the greatcoat, extra clothing and food, the small lower part ammunition reserve and more rations. Often a tent section with pegs and poles were strapped to the knapsack. A bread bag could be slung round the body or attached to the belt with loops and hooks, had an interior divided into compartments, to take the green enameled metal water bottle, eating gear, the bread ration and diverse personal things. To all this was often added either a spade, a pick or a wire-cutter.
In practice this new uniform was only gradually introduced and received in the Army. Also at the outset the hechtgrau uniforms were only used by first line troops of the. Landsturm units usually wore old, pre-1908 darkblue uniforms (see figure 8 in the plate above) and in August 1914 some units even marched into battle wearing civilian clothing with only a brassard on their left arm to show that they were in fact regular troops.
Many officers went into action in early 1914 in full parade gear, but soon bitter combat experiences, not least in the hands of serbian marksmen, forced most of them to drop their cherished distinctions, like sashes or sabres. Soon another Austro-Hungarian peculiarity also disappeared: the traditional field sign, which was either an oak leaf or a fir twig. But it’s place was soon taken over by a new peculiarity: the use of special metal badges on the left side of the cap. They were often connected either to special units or special campaigns or special commanders, and it was not uncommon for a soldier to wear several, plus war souvenirs, like bullets.
One of the biggest problems of Austria-Hungary in the Great War, was it’s weak industrial base, which gave problems when it came to supporting the armed forces in a costly and protracted war on several fronts. This soon became obvious in many facets, including that of uniforms. Because of lack of proper equipment it soon became troublesome to follow the given regulations to the letter, and instead the units and the soldiers became more or less dependent on using the things that they could lay their hands on, meaning that the soldiers could sometimes display a rather motley appearance, especially since some formations, like the elite Bosnian Infantry, had special uniform items of their own, in the case of the Bosnians their Fez - either in red or hechtgrau.
In an attempt to come to grips with all this this, standardization was introduced, starting with the adaption in 1915 of the Kniehose (“knee trousers”) of the Landwehr as a standard garment for all – these could be worn both with long wool stockings or puttees. Soon even more changes were made, eventually leading to the uniform wore during the later years of the war.
The rank insignia system of the Austro-Hungarian Army is a very complex issue, and can here only be dealt in a very schematic way. First: all the central information was carried on the collar patch.
Putting it simply, first the collar patch had its special colour (egalisirungs-farbe) often a single colour, but not seldom a combination, with added stripes etc, denoting either the regiment or the branch. Over this the rank insignia themselves were added, privates and NCO's having white stars - or no star at all - while officers had gold or silver stars (in the lower officer grades from first liutenant to captain), to which were added zig-zag lace and/or golden embroidery in the higher ranks. To this sometimes special abzeichen were carried, denoting special units or branches, say, Luftfahrtruppe or Feldgendarmerie. Then often, but not always, simple units codes were embroidered on the shoulder boards and sides of the field cap - see the two contemporary plates below.

Late War Uniforms (ca 1916-1918)
Shortages, combat experiences and the above mentioned drive towards standardization prompted more changes to the uniforms of the Austro-Hungarian Army. Alternatives to the pike-grey uniform M1908 was tested and introduced, although they never totally replaced the hechtgrau variant. The most important was the M1916 tunic in woollen cloth of a “nettle green” or “feldgrün” shade. This tunic was a typical wartime manufacture item, being simplified in many details. It had a more comfortable soft stand-and-fall collar, five unconcealed front buttons, and four front pockets with box pleats and three-point flaps. Many variations of both cloth and colour are known, including field grey, a yellowish brown, and even “grigio-verde” examples made from the enormous quantities of uniform cloth taken from the Italians after the big victory at Caporetto in 1917. The new trousers had two tightening buttons below the knee, and were eventually replaced by semi-breeches as worn by mountain troops. (Shortages of coloured cloth forced a reduction in size of the collar patches in regimental facing colours (egalisirungs-farben) and in the late war these had shrunk to simple vertical stripes behind the rank insignias, as can be seen below.)
Newly raised units were for the most time given this new greenish uniform, while old units got it as a replacement item only. This meant that all types of combinations of pike-grey and field-green could be seen, especially, say, late 1915 and most of 1916.
Another new item was the “Tyrolian” rucksack, which gradually replaced the old rigid hide knapsack from the year 1916 and on. It was a practical and comfortable item, with a large carrying capacity, and it was made in strong green or brown canvas. The broad straps had front braces which hooked to rings on the rear face of the ammunition pouches, which helped to distribute the weight of the pack. The cartridge pouched were pretty much the same: each of the four pouches held two five-round charger clips of 8mm ammunition, giving 40 rounds in all. However, versions in various ersatz materials, for example canvas, became more and more common as the war wore on. Another item often seen in simplified wartime variants was the belt with the brass buckle plate (bearing the classical Imperial Austro-Hungarian double­headed eagle). The brass buckle was often replaced by an an ersatz grey-painted iron plate buckle, and the leather substituted for canvas.
Yet another new item, characteristic of the later years of the war, was of course the Steel Helmet. During late 1916 these began to be used in the trenches. A number of types were tested, but two major models came into general use: it was the Austrian­ “Berndorfer” or M16, which looked were much like the German M16 type, except that the brim of the Berndorfer was smaller than the German type, it was not as high, had a fabric chinstrap, and a light brown paint scheme, plus that it also had a special ventilation hole on the top, covered by a small button-like disc. But as the Berndorfer was complex to produce, massive amounts of German M16’s was also purchased and used. Also, the M1916 gasmask, an Austrian version of the German “Gummimaske”, or the M1917 version in leather, was carried, either in a cylindrical darkgreen metal canister, or in a canister in heavy light-brown cardboard – both had a sling of light drab fabric.
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