Sunday, March 22, 2009

Kolourful Kaiserliks

One of my concerns with doing late war Austro-Hungarians has always been that they would look too much like Germans. I don't really want "generic" Central Power infantry, no do I want people to look at the minis and just say "nice Germans".

That would "torque my gears" somewhat, in the same way that it does when people here immediately assume I'm American rather than the fine, upstanding Canadian citizen that I am (!).

So what can make a late-war Austrian infantryman look different? Well, quite a lot really once I look into it. Take a look at these photos from a re-enactor supply site.

Here is an Austrian field grey uniform from 1916. The only allowance for colour is the red facing colour stripe on the collar, and the helmet is covered in a plain cloth cover, no doubt soon covered with grime and dirt. Looks pretty German to me. It appears that the Austrian-made helmet was painted brown, which was certainly the case with the ones that I saw when I visited the Austrian Army Museum (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) in Vienna.

Much more "Austrian" looking is this soldier from a mountain infantry regiment, also 1916. He wears the distinct Austrian cap with the collar badge of the Tyrolean jagers. This cap is the first thing that sets him apart from his Imperial German allies. Fortunately the Scarab miniatures include a fair number of minis wearing this headgear. There were instance of coloured pompoms in the caps for the Alpine troops, which can also add a bit of colour- although I imagine these were removed for field service.

Now this is where I can add variety! This fellow is wearing the pre-war pike grey infantry uniform, a light blue-grey somewhat darker than the horizon bleu worn by the French infantry post-1914. Illustrations in a number of books I've read in the past have got this colour wrong, usually by making it too much of a light grey with not enough blue in it. But the shade shown here is a bang-on likeness to an actual uniform of the time that I saw at the museum in Vienna, as well as to the ones seen in the following early colour photo of Austrian prisoners of the Russian Army taken early in the war by this chap.

Now this uniform was replaced by the field grey version not long after the war broke out, but I will have about 1/8th of the men wearing at least this early-pattern jacket, not inconceivable given the supply woes of the Austro-Hungarian empire of the time.

Furthermore, there is some evidence that the field-grey blouse was not always consistent in colour, ranging from a dark grey, through brownish-grey all the way to an almost off-white shade, rather like ACW Confederates. Not to mention some items of German uniform and equipment which seem to have crept in.

So while I'm still researching the topic, and have really so far only scratched the surface, it looks like there may be more of a kaleidoscope of colour (if muted!) available to a late war Austro-Hungarian army than I first anticipated, and that it will not have to end up looking the same as German infantry but in waltz-time.

And here is a very atmospheric photo of what the Kaiserliks looked like in action, here with some battle-fatigued Sturmtruppen guarding Italian prisoners after Caporetto in 1917.


  1. Agreed Robert, something is needed to distinguish the Austrians. I've gone for mostly Brown helmets with a scattering of Grey/green helmets. Also using the early war tunics on a few veterans. Nice blog.


  2. Hi, enjoyed reading your article - I'm currently in the middle of making my own 1/6 scale Austrian Stormtrooper as there's nothing available off the shelf- it's been quite a challenge.
    To mix things up a bit, you could also try painting some of your Austrian troops in the mysterious "Nettle Green" which seems to have been introduced around mid 1917, although I personally don't have much of a clue as to its exact shade; did you see anything in that colour in those Austrian museums?