The Osprey Men-at-Arms series recent volumes on various armies of the First World War, while brief, have helped to shed some light on the more neglected military forces that participated in that conflict. Dr. Peter Jung, who works at the Austrian War Archives, brings his professional knowledge to bear in the first of two volumes on the Austro-Hungarian army in the First World War. The first volume covers the period 1914-1916. Overall, this volume is decent but not great, while the color plates make this volume an essential purchase for any student of the First World War.
After a short introduction, Dr. Jung has a brief section on the organization of the Austro-Hungarian army, followed by eight pages on major operations in 1914-1916. A 26-page section on uniforms, equipment, the branches and volunteer units comprises the bulk of the volume. Most welcome is the author's inclusion of a map of corps districts in 1914, a detailed order of battle for August 1914, a chart of rank insignia, and lists of the infantry and cavalry regiments in 1914. These charts alone make this volume useful. As usual, the color plates are the main effort in this thin volume and these include: officers in 1914, infantry in 1914, cavalry in 1914, winter uniforms, mountain troops, specialist troops, foreign volunteers and Austrian troops serving in Gallipoli and Palestine. While the Austro-Hungarian Army may not have won many battles, they certainly had some of the most attractive uniforms of any combatant in the First World War.
Dr. Jung does pack a fair amount of information into this 48-page format, but his coverage is sometimes uneven. The discussion of the organization of Austrian divisions is overly succinct; although he notes that the Austrian divisions had only 46 artillery pieces compared to 50-72 for everybody else, it is unclear what size weapons were in their divisional artillery (plus he notes that Austrians had six gun batteries, but 46 is not divisible by 6, so the organization is unclear). Dr. Jung also pretty much ignores the Austrian artillery contribution on the Western Front in 1914, but then gets rather blabby about the minor operations in Albania and Palestine. Nor is there any discussion of tactical or operational doctrines.
There's also an obvious bias in these pages - not unexpected from someone working in the Austrian archives - to sugarcoat some of the worst aspects of this misfortune-plagued army. Dr. Jung's description of the campaigns in Serbia and Galicia make it sound like the Austrians did pretty well and were only occasionally forced to give up some ground. The author admits that the 1916 Brusilov Offensive did some damage but downplays the fact that the Austrian army virtually disintegrated and were saved only by Russian mistakes and quick German reinforcements. There is also very little mention of tactical innovation or assistance from the Germans in this volume. Obviously, a 48-page account has to be concise and skim over much ground (although it seems that no uniform detail - however trivial - must be omitted), and Dr. Jung achieves the main objective of providing a summary of Austrian forces in 1914-1916.