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Remembered Today:

For God and Austria


Steven Broomfield
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Bought this today - by Richard Bassett - and not seen it reviewed (as far as i can remember). I came across it by chance in Waterstone's in Winchester and invested the proceeds of my birthday Book Token (it was £4 off, as well).

I found tis review on the ARRSE site: http://www.arrse.co.uk/community/reviews/for-god-and-kaiser-the-imperial-austrian-army.52/ and this in the Speccie http://www.spectator.co.uk/books/9559032/the-honour-of-the-habsburgs-was-all-that-mattered-to-the-imperial-austrian-army/ so it looks as if my money was well spent.

Anyone else read it? (Please don't tell me there's a three-page thread somewhere on the Forum!)

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Fascinating.

34 views of this thread, but no-one seems to have come across a book about one of the most important armies during the GW. I can only assume the publishers decided to keep this on the "hidden gems" list. At £25 for nearly 600 pages it's hardly expensive, either (and Waterstone's had it at £4 off as well).

It'll be a few weeks before I embark on it, but I will try and remember to report back. I'd certainly say the bit of dipping in to I have done is making me shove it higher up the pile.

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There are currently 45 views on this thread http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=230999&hl=but no comments so maybe people are off GW books for the summer and are catching up on the latest Shades Of Grey nonsense or whatever.

I must admit I hadn't heard of it until I saw your second post but I am very glad you have brought it to my attention, it's now on my wish list.

Don't shove too hard/high up the pile(s).

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A pedant writes ' For God and Kaiser' :closedeyes: . I have seen it announced on Amazon while trawling, but haven't bought or read it. I look forward to your review.

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It will be a while: I have about 100 pages of peter Oborne's excellent Wounded Tiger (a history of Pakistan cricket), and then I'm decompressing with some light reading (a novel - I forget the title - by Patrick Mercer, set in the late Victorian NW Frontier). Then, and only then, will I settle down with some Austrians.

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May I tempt you away from the Austrians with something to follow the Wounded Tiger? Have you seen Fire in Babylon?

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It will be a while: I have about 100 pages of peter Oborne's excellent Wounded Tiger (a history of Pakistan cricket), and then I'm decompressing with some light reading (a novel - I forget the title - by Patrick Mercer, set in the late Victorian NW Frontier). Then, and only then, will I settle down with some Austrians.

I shall just have to be patient,

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Never heard of Patrick Mercer or his books. As I have just caught up with the Adrian Goldsworthy novels and am looking for some light reading I will check them out.

Len

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Never heard of Patrick Mercer or his books. As I have just caught up with the Adrian Goldsworthy novels and am looking for some light reading I will check them out.

Len

He's an ex-MP, ex-Army officer.

Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Mercer

The book I have is Red Runs the Helmand

The books by Adrian Galsworthy are quite good; I've read them all to date.

Patrick Mercer's books are also good, although I don't think that I've read "Red Runs the Helmand", which is the third one in the series.

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Thanks for the info guys. Finished all of Cornwell's Sharpe books, Goldswothy's books and re read all the brilliant Patrick O'Brian novels so ready for something else. Even considering the old Hornblower series of which I have only read a few. These all make light reading compared to ploughing through Beevor's D Day and Ardennes books. I know I know not WW1 but I am temporarily fed up reading about WW1 and am having a wee holiday from the trenches.

Len

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  • 5 weeks later...

I have only started on it and it was abandoned whilst I set off for France, but it started off very well indeed - literate and articulate and, above all, interesting. I look forward to reading your thoughts on this one: a promising start from my point of view.

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So far - excellent. I'm up to the reign of Maria Theresa and the book is, as you say, literate and articulate. very readable, and broken down into short sections within each chapter.

Very highly recommended.

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  • 2 months later...

Finished it last night. Here is a review what I wrote.

An excellent book in all respects. In 540 pages, Richard Bassett takes us from the foundation of the Austrian state under the Habsburgs in June 1619 to the very end in the aftermath of the Great War, through a host of campaigns and conflicts, all described through a series of sketches and pen portraits.

As someone who knew nothing of the subject, I found every page fascinating, and the characters we meet on the way are – in many cases - little short of extraordinary, from Ferdinand of Graz to the saintly Emperor Charles.

The author sets out to counter two famous epigrams: “Austria has not been lucky with its biographers” (Hermann Bahr) and, the better-known comment by Talleyrand that “Austria has the tiresome habit of always being beaten” From this book, I think I can say that Bassett more than adequately makes up for the first, though is perhaps less convincing on the second.

It is indeed a wide canvas, covering 300 years, through failure and defeat to glory and victory. The story of Maria Theresa in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48) is little short of unbelievable, and the legacy behind her (including the highest Austro-Hungarian order, the Maria Theresa Order – last awarded to a naval officer, Linienschiffsleutnant Hermann Riegle, for his actions in command of a submarine in the Adriatic in late 1918) persisted to the end. Indeed, some of her work survives today.

Of necessity, battle descriptions are mere sketches, but good enough to understand what happened and why. Campaigns across Europe, into Italy, the Balkans and Russia come and go. Austria was never an inter-continental empire, so we see the same parts of middle Europe time and again.

For members of this Forum, no doubt the actions of the KuK army in the Great War (KuK = Kaiserlich und Königlich, or Imperial and Royal, reflecting the designation of the Emperor of Austria as King of Hungary) are of most interest, and it is a sad story. Huge losses, caused by incompetent generals (such as Conrad) across Russia, Serbia and Italy are only part of the story.

The lead-up to war is well-covered, with some details of events in Sarajevo (and before) whch were new to me (although this is not an area about which I calim much knowledge!). Equally well-described is the Redl affair of 1913 (a spy scandal in which much of the Austrian Order of Battle was passed to the Russians).

It is apparent that for an army so diverse and ill-managed, the men on the ground fought well – in some cases exceptionally. Part of this was the ethos of the KuK army: loyalty not to the state, but to the Emperor. In many ways, this made sense: with no homogenous state to which loyalty could be sworn, the Emperor was always a more tangible being. However, by 1918 the empire was breaking up and the end came swiftly.

Perhaps saddest of all is the knowledge that pretty well throughout the war, and before, Austria’s ally, Germany, was working towards the assimilation of Austria into the german state – probably on a similar basis to Bavaria. Much of what happened in Russia and the Balkans throughout the war was the result of this aim. As war progressed it became more apparent, causing, not unreasonably, extremely difficult relations between the allies.

The betrayal by Italy, too, sat badly with Austria and led to the appalling blood-letting in that theatre. (It would be a nice point to decide whether Conrad or Cadorna was the more incompetent general).

There are a few maps at the beginning, mostly of specific and important battles, but the lack of maps is not something I felt. Illustrations, too, are there, as is a comprehensive index and reference notes.

In conclusion, this is probably not for the general reader (it’s not a difficult read, and is broken down into chapters and sub-chapters, making picking it up and putting it down straightforward), mostly due to the subject matter, but I found it fascinating from start to finish. It also gave me a high regard for the men of the KuK in the Great War: poorly led, with appalling logistics and supply and with an ally as determined as their enemies to see the Emperor they served destroyed, the fact that they endured for as long as they did is little short of incredible.

For God and Kaiser is a fitting tribute to these men. The last word goes to the Emperor Charles, speaking in October 1918, and quoted as the Foreword: “All the peoples of the monarchy have found a common home in the army. For that reason it has been enabled to accomplish so much.”

(“For God and Kaiser”, Richard Bassett, Yale University Press, £25.00 ISBN 978-0-300-17858-6)

And, yes, Mr Granger, I got the title wrong!

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You're forgiven. Good review, I am tempted.

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