Home Page World War II Armed Forces— Orders of Battle and Organizations Last Updated 20.12.2018
The Royal Hungarian Army
1920 - 1945

by Leo W.G. Niehorster

— The River Forces to March 1941 —

The Imperial Austrian-Hungarian Danube Flotilla

When the Austrian-Hungarian Empire collapsed in 1918, the Imperial Danube Flotilla (Kaiserliche- und Königliche-Donau-Flotilla) was stationed mainly in Hungary. By default, Hungary took over those vessels that were in her territory, which meant that she took over virtually the entire flotilla, consisting of eight armored gunboats, the Czuka, Wels, Stör, Vizu, Lachs, Fogas, Barsch, Compó (although a ninth ship, the Bodrog, stayed in Austria), eight armored patrol boats, and 55 miscellaneous unarmored vessels. The nine gunboats were valued at the time at 17.5 million golden crowns, the patrol boats at 9 million, and the rest at a total of 4.5 million golden crowns. Personnel consisted of approximately 1000 officers and men.

As detailed in Chapter 1, Count Mihaly Károlyi's National Council took over the government on 30.10.1918, which then proceeded to turn over the powers of government to the Bolsheviks on 21.03.1919. The Bolsheviks established the Soviet Republic of Hungary. Unfortunately, the Flotilla was also used to fight against soldiers who had turned against the Reds. These were not in fact part of Horthy's "counterrevolutionary center".

In April 1919 the Hungarian government established the Naval Forces (Hadihajós csapat, literally "warship group") under the authority of the Defence Ministry for the purpose of patrolling the Danube. It was replaced on 01.03,1921 by the civilian Royal Hungarian River Guard (Magyar Királyi Folyamorség) under the Interior Ministry.

In November 1919, the Allies transferred all of the fighting vessels in Hungary to the occupying Serbian army, leaving only some tug boats and motor boats in Hungarian hands.

The Treaty of Trianon

After the Serbs returned the ships given to them by the Allies, the Trianon Peace Treaty of 1920 divided the Danube Flotilla between Austria and Hungary. As one of the defeated powers, Hungary was only authorized a small force for police duties on the Danube to consist of eight patrol boats, two launches, and ten motorboats.

The Hungarians got the Czuka, Wels, Viza, and Lachs. The Austrians the other five gun boats. Hungary also received three of the armored patrol boats, the Honvéd, Huszár, and Tüzér. The other vessels were more or less also proportionately divided between Hungary and Austria, although Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia also received a few smaller vessels. The terms allowed the Hungarian "navy" to expand, and the Hungarian ships allocated were four relatively modern patrol boats and four small minesweepers.

However, the Treaty allowed Hungary only three armored ships, so that only the Szeged (ex Wels), the Debrecen (ex Lachs), and the Kecskemét (ex Viza) were kept in commission. The rest were stripped of their armament under the supervision of the Allied Commission and then were supposed to be scrapped.

The Secret River Flotilla

In 1920 the headquarters for the newly designated River Flotilla was raised. Plans were immediately laid for raising several sunken ships, (Munka, Bácska, Janka, and even the ML343, a former British boat). It also proved necessary to repair the vessels returned by the Serbian army, as they had been plundered and severely damaged.

On 01.03.1921, the Hungarians replaced the former River Flotilla and established a civilian Royal Hungarian River Guard,(Magyar Királyi Folyamorség) under the Interior Ministry. The training officers and sailors was initiated. This new organization was to have a mobilized strength of 5000 men. Peacetime strength was authorized at 1620 men and up to 1800 civilians. However, budgetary problems precluded this number being attained.

As with all other branches of the Hungarian military forces, the River Flotilla existed in secret. It was officially known the Royal Hungarian River Guard, (which supposedly consisted of only river and harbor police units). To maintain the pretence, the River Flotilla was even publicly subordinated to the Ministry of the Interior, and was featured in its budget. On the other hand, its organization, training, (all members received regular military training), and equipment were obviously military, including the vessels of the former Austrian-Hungarian Danube Flotilla. In reality it was part of the Hungarian Army, controlled by the Honvéd Ministry through the River Forces Inspectorate. The Ministry of the Interior, through the Inspectorate of the River Police, in fact only controlled the civilian river police and harbor police units.

The gunboat Debrecen on the Danube in Budapest, 30.08.1930 (click for larger image) In 1922, the Hungarian river forces consisted of the gunboats Szeged, Debrecen, Kecskemét , and Siofok (out of commission), all launched between 1915 and 1918. The Hungarians also operated a number of small auxiliary vessels, among them the armored patrol boats Honvéd, Huszár, and Tüzér; two minesweepers, the Maros and Baja, (the Baja was later renamed Hegyalja), equipped for mine laying and mine sweeping; the steamer Badacsony, which was used as a command ship during flotilla exercises, but otherwise served as a supply ship; the supply ship Körös; the armored tug Csobánc; the training ship Csepel, the repair ship Vulkán; and the tanker Bukk. The river and harbor police used about 30 motorboats, four of which were of a larger type (8 to 10 men), armed with a machine gun each.

Reorganization and Expansion

By 1927, supervision by the Control Commission had ceased. The Hungarians proceeded to repair and rearm those hulls that were still available. Economic recovery enabled the purchase from Austria in 1927 of three sister-ships to the boats already in Hungary's possessed, and renamed them as the Györ (ex Stör), Gödöllö (ex Fogas), and Sopron (ex Compó). In 1929, the Siofok (ex Czuka) was repaired. It was traded to the Austrians for their Barsch, which was promptly renamed Baja. [The original Baja having by then been redesignated as Hegyalja]. After its armor was removed it was converted to a minesweeper. After being repaired and rearmed, Sopron and Gödöllö were launched in 1930.

During period of 1928–1930, the River Flotilla was reorganized and expanded. Authorized personnel was increased by 20 percent to approximately 1700 men. The planed number of armored ships was increased to 10, construction of new vessels was started, and a River Flotilla antiaircraft battalion was raised.

The motorized antiaircraft battalion had a headquarters and three batteries, with an authorized strength of 25 officers and 290 other ranks. It was equipped with twelve 80mm guns, 6 heavy machine guns, 15 motorcycles, 4 cars, and 27 trucks. The 1st and 2nd Batteries were stationed in Budapest, the 3rd Battery was at Szeged.

Hungary faced the prospect of defending herself against the combined forces of the members of the Small Entente (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Rumania), who outnumbered her in combined ship strength. The River Flotilla's mine laying capabilities were consequently emphasized, and the minelayer Máros was launched in 1928.

Starting in 1929, barracks, a supply depot, and a repair workshop were built at Csaky, near the end of the Pest docks.

By 1930, the River Flotilla had reached the strength it would be maintained for the rest of its existence, namely 96 officers, 1524 NCO and sailors, (1620 men), plus 147 government service officials, as well as 128 civilian employees. Its strength at this time was 6 armored ships, 3 minelayers, and 3 armored patrol boats.


The national budget did not allow further expansion of the River Forces, so that during the period 1932 through 1938, it was concerned mainly with training. During the occupation of southern Slovakia ceded by Czechoslovakia in accordance with the 1st Vienna Award of 1938, the Ist Battle Group screened the Army while it was crossing the Danube north of Medvedona. The IInd Group was stationed at Komaróm.

On 15 January 1939 the River Guard was renamed the Royal Hungarian Army River Forces (Magyar Királyi Honvéd Folyami Erok) and placed under the Defence Ministry.

River Forces (01.04.1940)
—   Headquarters
       • Maritime Administrative unit
       • Technical unit
       • Training unit
—   River Guard
—   Harbor Police
—   River Police
—   Antiaircraft Battalion
Danube Flotilla
—   Headquarters
       • Quartermaster unit
—   Patrol Boat Regiment (Budapest)
       • I Group
       • II Group
—   River Security Regiment (Újvidék (Novi Sad) after April 1941)
       • 1 Battalion
       • 2 Battalion
       • 3 Battalion
—   Minelayer Group
—   Auxiliary units
—   Motorboat units
—   3 Training Battalions

In 1939, a new series of fast, unarmored minelayers was developed by the Laczkovits, (complete name: Laczkovits József és Tsa Hajó és Kazán Gyár, Budapest) shipyard in Budapest. This type of motorboat was used to lay and sweep mines in the rivers of Hungary, and operated in pairs. A total of 11 boats of the AM (Aknász Motorcsónak) type (AM-1 – AM-11) were built from 1939 to 1944, at the rate of two per year, (AM 1 & 2 —1939; AM 3 & 4 —1940; etc.). The first 4 vessels were ready by March 1941, and participated in the Yugoslavian Campaign in April 1941. A total number of 11 vessels were produced of the planned 12, as events in 1944 prevented the delivery of the AN 12. The mine craft were built in three series, each series differed a little from each other.M 1 and AM 2 had two 75hp engines, whereas AM 3 and AM 4 were equipped with two 90hp MÁVAG-Mercedes Láng diesel engines. They were armed with 34/37.M Gebauer twin machine guns and 8 river mines (two lines of 4 each). Based on the experiences of the previous series, the next six (AM 5, AM 6, AM 7, AM 8, AM 9, AM 10) became slightly longer. They had now two 90hp engines and were armed with 34/37.M Gebauer twin machine guns, 6 river mines (two lines of 3 each) and one 20mm Solothurn 36.M antitank rifle. The AM 11 was even longer and wider than the prevoius vessels, the armament changed to one 34/40A M. Gebauer twin 8mm machine gun, and again carried 6 river mines (two lines of 3 each).
[Retrieved on 19.11.2018 from the Polish Encyklopedia Uzbrojenia II Wojny Swiatowej]

Armored Gunboat on the Sava River, 1941/42 At the same time, Ganz Danuvius shipyard started development of 38ton PM (Páncélozott Motorcsónak) type armored gunboats. These fast boats had three Junkers disel engines of 160hp each, giving 21 km/h. Theboats were and were equipped with two armored turrets, similar to the those on the Turán tank, each with a 41 M. 40mm gun and two 34/40A M. 8mm machine guns each, as well as two Schwarzlose water cooled 7/31 M. 8mm machine guns. They were to be the most modern ships of the Danube Flotilla, and were well armored. At the waterline, the armor was 13mm thick, the superstructure protecting the bases of the turrets, the engine room and the wheelhouse 20mm, the turrets with the armament 40mm in front and the rest 20mm. The prototype (PM 1) was delivered in 1941 and participated in the Yugoslav Campaign. Construction of the other five in this class was delayed until 1944. PM 2 was bombed in the shipyard on 09.08.1944. PM 2 was badly damaged on on 20.09.1944 during a test run when by an American bomb. When finally completed in February 1945, she was without weapons. The PM 3 sunk for unknown reasons in January 1945. PM 4 and PM 5 were taken to Germany in 1945, but only 35–40% finished. PM 6 was never laid down.
[Retrieved on 19.11.2018 from the Polish Encyklopedia Uzbrojenia II Wojny Swiatowej and the War Thunder site]

Two PAM (Páncélozott Aknász Motorcsónak), armored minesweepers, were designed by Balatoni Hajózási RT. Hajóépíto Üzeme, Balatonfüred. The 24ton vessels had a maximum speed of 30km/h, powered by two 90hp MÁVAG-Mercedes Láng engines, and were each equipped with a turret with one 36 M. 20mm gun and two 34/40A M. 8mm machine gun, as well as two Schwarzlose water cooled 7/31 M. 8mm machine guns. The prototype AM 21 was delivered in 1941. The second, PAM 22, was built in 1944.
[Retrieved on 19.11.2018 from the Polish Encyklopedia Uzbrojenia II Wojny Swiatowej]

* * *

Ranks of the Hungarian River Forces
1921 – 1938 1939 – 1944 * 1944* – 1945 US Navy Equivalent
III.          Vezérfökapitány    Vezérfökapitány    Altőbornagy    Vice Admiral
IV.          Vezérkapitány    Vezérkapitány    Vezérőrnagy    RearAdmiral
V.          Fökapitány    Fötörzskapitány    Ezredes    Captain
VI.          I. o. Törzskapitány    Törzskapitány    Alezredes    Commander
VII.          II. o. Törzkapitány    Törzsalkapitány    Őrnagy    Lieutenant Commander
VIII.          Kapitány    Kapitány    Százados    Lieutenant
IX.          Föhajónagy    Föhajónagy    Főhadnagy    Lieutenant (junior grade)
X.          Hajónagy    Hajónagy    Hadnagy    Ensign
XI.          Hajógyakornok    Zászlós    Zászlós    Midshipman
1.          Alhajónagy    Alhajónagy    Alhadnagy    Master Petty Officcer
2.          Tiszthelyettes    Főtörzsőrmester    Főtörzsőrmester    Chief Petty Officer
3.          Törzsőmester    Törzsőmester    Törzsőmester    Petty Officer 1st Class
4.          Hajómester    Hajómester    Őrmester    Petty Officer 2nd Class
5.          Negyedes    Szákasvezető    Szákasvezető    Petty Officer 3rd Class
6.          Rajos    Tizedes    Tizedes    Seaman
7.          I. o. Folyamör    Őrvezető    Őrvezető    Seaman Apprentice
8.          II. o. Folyamör    Honvéd    Honvéd    Seaman Recruit
* The River Forces used the naval ranks until 01.07.1944, when they switched to army ranks.

The ranks from 1918 – 1921 were the old Autro-Hungarian Imperial ranks of Ellenengernagy (Rear Admiral), and Altergernagy (Vice Admiral), which were changed in 1921 to vezérkapitány and vézerfökapitány, respectively.

Royal Hungarian River Forces Uniforms and Ranks
 [Loósy, color poster ... and Czink, Uniforms ...]

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Chapter 4   **   Chapter 6
Glossary   **   Place Names