by: Adam Berhidi [ ]
Originally published on:
The Kingdom of Hungary was an ally to the Axis forces before and during the Second World War, and eventually joined the fight on the side of the Germans in July, 1941 penetrating into the southern part of the Soviet Union. After the initial success, the tide of war turned, and the Hungarian forces suffered heavy losses while protecting the flanks of the German forces (who were fighting the Battle of Stalingrad) and holding River Don. The surviving units retreated in a chaotic way and shortly were pulled from the front lines. In March 1944 Hitler launched Operation Margarethe to gain control over Hungary in order to put an end to the leadership’s secret peace negotiations with the Allies. In September the Soviet forces crossed the borders and from that point Hungarian troops had a new motive – to protect their country from the occupation. On the 15th of October Regent Miklós Horthy announced an armistice with the Soviet forces (as by then it was obvious that Hungary will be ”liberated” by them and not the US/UK forces) but his intentions failed on the resistance of pro-German army officers and communication issues. Horthy was forced to resign. The German and Hungarian forces continued their fight against the Soviets and the frontline move through the country and several fierce battles were fought: the (tank) Battle of Debrecen, the Siege of Budapest or the Lake Balaton Offensive. By the time the latter was over (March 1945) most of the Hungarian forces were completely destroyed.
The Hungarian military industry developed a couple of tanks, armored cars, assault and air defense guns and luckily some of these are available now in mass production in 1/35th scale (Toldi light tank series, Tas heavy tank and Nimrod AA gun from HobbyBoss, two versions of the Zrínyi assault gun from Bronco) making many hobby fans more than happy – especially in Hungary and Europe. And to provide some additional background, a new book just has hit the shelves: Huns on Wheels by Peter Mujzer.
The book in general
Peter Mujzer has a degree in law and foreign affairs and served in the Army for 20 years. He always had a keen interest in military history, especially the WW2 phase of the Hungarian forces as during the communist era this was a topic to be avoided. Currently a freelancer, he is actively researching this field. Huns on Wheels is a work of a lifetime for him but it should be noted that writing this book was much more of a hobby for Mr. Mujzer. Thus all the work was done by him and friends, including editing, printing and publishing.
The full title is Huns on Wheels – Hungarian Mobiles Forces in WWII, Armoured, Cavalry, Bicycle Troops, Motorised Rifle. The book is hardbound in A4 size with 284 predominantly black and white pages. The layout of the text is pretty straightforward, with two columns per page in clear and standard Times New Roman font of size 12. The language is clear and concise with good English, although I have run into some errors during my review. A huge number of black and white photos are found in this book (385) which are nicely printed and approximately 12cm x 10cm in size. These were carefully selected from original sources to be a good companion to the text and all of them have detailed captions. The majority features armored or other military vehicles and provides a good source for modelers.
The book is divided into 9 chapters (see below) and features 11 annexes packed with loads of goodies for military enthusiasts.
A brief introduction with some historical background, mainly focusing on the restrictions and consequences of the Treaty of Trianon and how the Hungarians secretly circumvented these and started the rearmament. If one wants a better understanding of the historical/political/diplomatic background, further reading is advised.
2) Hungarian Mobile troops
This chapter deals with the Cavalry, Light Infantry, Bicycle and Motorized Rifle troops as to how these were founded, organized and equipped and what ideas, strategies laid in the background (and how these changed with time). Four orders of battle complement these pages.
3) Hungarian Armoured Troops in the Early Years
These pages give an insight into the first steps of the rearmament of the armored forces of Hungary after the Treaty of Trianon, and to the efforts to keep these concealed. For example, 14 LK II tanks were purchased via Sweden and shipped down on the Danube on barges, covered in wheat. As these were not allowed to be used due to the regulations, the vehicles were constantly being transported on train within the country in order to hide them from the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control. The early trainings were held within the police who were allowed to purchase two Armstrong-Vickers armored cars. To accompany these, several trucks were modified as armored cars or dummy tanks for practice purposes. The turning point was the delivery of 150 Italian CV-33 Fiat Ansaldo tankettes in 1935-36 (the Hungarian designation for these was 35M Fiat Ansaldo tankette). In 1936 the license of the Swedish Landsverk Factory’s L-60 light tank was purchased (instead of the German Pz.Kpfw. I A and the locally designed V-4), and with some minor modifications and new armament, the 38M Toldi light tank was born. This was followed by other versions and locally produced vehicles: the 39M Csaba armored car, the 40M Nimród self-propelled AA gun, and later the 40M Turán medium tank.
This chapter also explains how the armored forces were organized over the years
4) Final Organization
Based on combat experience gained in 1941, the organization of the Mobile Branch was modified as it became clear that the deployment of different kinds of troops (motorized, cavalry, bicycle) in one unit was not satisfactory. These pages deal with the changes that were made, complemented by three orders of battle.
This chapter briefly describes how and where the Hungarian officers (including armored cadets) and NCOs were trained.
6) Hungarian Mobile Forces During the Second World War
This is the largest chapter of the book with more than 100 pages, describing the activities of the Hungarian Mobile Forces between 1938 and 1945. What we get here is a well-researched and detailed description of objectives, battles, troop movements, gains and losses, vehicles used, individual deeds, etc. accompanied by interesting pieces of trivia, like how a T-34 was knocked out by a 40M Nimród that hit the Soviet tank through its open drivers’ hatch. Several maps complement the text and the pictures.
The first pages cover the reoccupation of parts of the territories lost due to the Treaty of Trianon: Upper Hungary (Felvidék) in 1938, Subcarpathia (Kárpátalja) in 1939, Transylvania (Erdély) in 1940 and parts of Norhtern-Yugoslavia in 1941 (6.1 – 6.4).
Initially Hungary was not to join the campaign against the Soviet Union, until an attack of three unidentified twin-engine bombers on Kassa (26 June 1941). As of the next day, Hungary was at war and organized a retribution campaign that reached until the River Donets by the end of October. In November the Mobile Corps returned to Hungary (6.5 – Soviet Campaign 1941).
In 1942 due to the growing demand from Germany, after long and not too friendly negotiations, the complete 2nd Army was offered. Since they lacked the appropriate number of tanks, Skoda 38(t)s and Pz.Kpfw. IVs were supplied by Germany. The main objective was to support the left wing of the advancing German units (aimed at Stalingrad) by overcoming the Red Army forces, reaching River Don and establishing a line of defense along the it. During the fierce battles approximately 127,000 – 128,000 soldiers were either killed, wounded or captured and 80% of their equipment was lost (6.6 – Mobile Troops on the Eastern Front 1942/43).
Chapter 6.7 – Mobile Troops with the Occupation Forces in the Ukraine, 1941-44 is a very short one with one page of text and 9 photos. It is interesting to read that in this role two Somua S-35s and 15 Hotchkiss H35s were also used, originally from France, handed over by the Germans.
After the failed attempt to quit from the alliance with Germany in the autumn of 1944 and the resignation of Miklós Horthy, the Hungarian army (just like the government) was basically under German control. As the tide of the war turned, the Hungarian forces were sent to fight against the Red Army in defense operations and counterattacks. Some of these were fought alongside their “allies” who also supplied the Hungarian army with some pieces of more modern weaponry (such as Tiger and Panther tanks) as the outdated locally manufactured tanks could not match their Soviet counterparts – except for the 40/43M Zrínyi assault howitzers.
The next chapters tell the history of the 2nd Armored Division in Galicia and Transylvania in 1944 (6.8 and 6.11), Hungary in 1944/45 (6.12); The 1st Cavalry Division on the Eastern Front 1944 (6.9) and in Hungary 1944/45 (6.10); The 1st Armoured Division in 1944/45 (6.13). Two short chapters deal with the Siege of Budapest (6.14) and the Final Battles (6.15).
6.16 and 6.17 are kind of additional sections, the first one tells briefly the story of Hungarian tank crews sent to Germany in 1944 for training (and in the hopes of receiving German vehicles and fighting against the Soviet forces later), the second one is about the use of armored trains in the Hungarian army (of Hungarian, Polish and Russian origin).
The chapters describing the activities of the different units are accompanied by a huge number of black and white photos related to the text, as well as by a couple of maps. They present an excellent insight into the history of the Hungarian forces with some very interesting shots, such as a 31M light machine gun on an AA mount on a standard army horse-drawn carriage, or a makeshift armored train comprising of a damaged Turán tank placed on a flat wagon.
7) Armaments of the Hungarian Mobile Forces
The first part of this chapter is dedicated to the locally manufactured armored vehicles, such as the V-3/V-4 light tanks, the Toldi light tank series (based on the Swedish Landsverk L-60), the 40M Nimród self-propelled AA gun (based on the Landsverk L-62), the 40M and 41M Turán, the 43M and 44M Zrínyi assault howitzer (both based on the Czech T-21), the 39M Csaba armored car and its commander version (40M Csaba). Each has an approximately one page long description and line drawings, and complemented by plenty of photos. Two “paper panzers” are also briefly mentioned: the 44M Tas heavy tank (one half-build prototype) and the Tas assault gun (never built). Some charts describe the official ammunition carrying capacities, the prices and the produced totals of the various Hungarian-made vehicles. Another handy table helps to clarify the names used for the different versions.
The second part presents a wide array of armored vehicles from foreign origins, each with a short description as to how these were received and used, including the TKS tankette, the R-35 light tank (both from Poland) the T-27 tankette (captured from Soviet forces), as well as German Panzers just to name a few.
8) Camouflage and Markings
These six pages might be very useful for the modelers as it gives useful information for painting the armored vehicles of the Hungarian forces, and it also details the national military insignias and the unit insignias as well – both with graphics in color. A short section also deals briefly with the license plates, the tactical numbering and the individual markings.
Chapter 9 is the Closing remarks while Chapter 10 is a detailed bibliography of published books, articles and other sources.
Annex 1: portrays the lives of four famous personalities of the mobile troops, including Ervin Tarczay, a Hungarian panzer ace.
Annex 2: a short briefing on how the Soviet forces used (and evaluated) captured Hungarian armor.
Annex 3: a short description of the uniform and equipment of the mobile troops.
Annex 4: is a compendium of the armament used by the Hungarian forces, including artillery (both AT and AA, and mortars) and infantry weapons (pistols, rifles, sub-machine guns, light and heavy machine guns, anti-tank rifles, flame throwers and hand grenades). Basic description and specifications are present for all, as well as some line drawings.
Annex 5: a detailed list of units and commanders of the mobile troops.
Annex 6: two tables comparing the planned and actual strength of the 1st Armored Corps.
Annex 7: is a table comparing the armored divisions of some of the belligerent forces in the Second World War.
Annex 8: info graphical images of the mobile battalions between 1940 and 1945, these 20 images show the composition of various units in an easy to overview format.
Annex 9: 11 pages of drawings in color (sideways) of various armored vehicles and trucks used by the Hungarian Army, with short comments. Very useful for modelers.
Annex 10: high quality paintings of four soldiers, again with short comments. Figure painters will appreciate these.
All in all I’d say this is a well written and researched book that covers a wide range of topics and would please most military enthusiasts who are interested in this topic, packed with loads of details. It has some minor teething issues in the form of grammatical errors and design flaws but in my opinion we can overlook these as this title is the first edition of a self-edited and published book.
Modelers also will find it very useful due to the huge number of photos, the vehicle descriptions and the additional information on painting/markings.
The price of the book is EUR 58 within Europe and EUR 62 overseas, including registered priority shipping. It can be ordered directly from the author via firstname.lastname@example.org. Further details are available on Facebook (just search for Huns on Wheels) where additional images can be found as well as colorized versions of the pictures of the book.
Please note that the book's images are not as dark as they appear on the photos.