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Friday, January 15, 2016

Bolt Action - Hungarian Paratroopers. Who?

By Anthony "Anfernee" Mason

  If you've listened to any of the Ghost Army Podcast episodes where I have managed to talk about the Royal Hungarian Army, you may have heard me wax about the Hungarian Paratroopers. When researching my list, I began to find small snippets of information on this elusive unit and they soon became one of my favourite units in the Hungarian army. Having just finished painting up a squad, I decided to delve into their history and how I plan to use them in my games of Bolt Action.




  Created in 1938, the Hungarian Parachute Battalion began life as a small group of soldiers equipped with a variety of foreign made parachutes, jumping out of out-dated, Italian-made civilian aircraft. Within a year, Hungary began producing it's own locally made parachute equipment and updated its aircraft with my modern Italian made planes. Despite this, it was not until 1941 that the Battalion was full-strength, at 410 men.

  Their first operational use, was in 1941, during the Invasion of Yugoslavia, when they were to be dropped behind the retreating Yugoslavian army and captured two important bridges over the Franz Josef Canal. They successfully made the 30km march and captured their objectives after brief battles against the Yugoslavian forces there, but during take-off, one of their transport planes crashed, killing the battalion's commanding officer, Major Arpad Bertalan.


  The Parachute Battalion's new commander, Colonel Zoltan Szugyi, along with a small cadre of officers was sent to the Eastern Front during 1942-43 in an advisory role, but the bulk of the unit was held in Hungary during the Invasion of the Soviet Union. Here they would wait, until 1944, when Romania defected from the Axis and moved with the Soviet Union to invade into Hungary proper where they would spend the rest of the war acting as ground forces, very much like the late-war German Fallschirmjager. The battalion was rushed to south-eastern Hungary, to the Carpathian Mountains to hold these enemies out of the Hungarian homeland. The Carpathians were eventually overran and the Parachute Battalion, along with personel from several other units were formed into the St. Laszlo Division, named after the victorious medieval king, Saint Ladislas I.


  They were pulled back to the Budapest area where they were used as a fire brigade in the defenses surrounding the Hungarian capital. Whenever a gap opened up in the defense lines around Budapest, the Parachute Battalion was one of the first Hungarian units thrown in to shore up the line. It was here that they stood out as an elite unit, often retaking lost ground against overwhelming odds or holding off superior Soviet forces. Here is an exert from the book, Battle of Budapest: 100 Days of World War II by Krisztin Ungvry;

"The Hungarian 12th Reserve Division, consisting of some 2000 infantry with 20 guns and still in the process of restructuring, had been deployed early in November to cut off the approach to Budapest along a line between Pécel, Isaszeg and, slightly further to the south, Dány. As this proved insufficient, the Hungarian 1/I Parachute Battalion, commanded by Major Edömér Tassonyi, was also deployed on 13 November. Until a reinforcement of 600 men arrived on 15 November, the paratroopers, with well-organised artillery support, held a defence sector between 5 and 6 kilometres in length by themselves, rebuffing a series of fierce Soviet attacks. On one occasion the onslaught of the Soviet infantry reached the Hungarian positions. Tassonyi recalls: I turned to the German artillery observer: ‘Shoot to kill at reference point A, at once!’ – ‘But that’s your own position.’ – ‘Never mind, at once!’ I looked at my stop watch. 17 seconds later our position and the area in front of it were under fire from 52 barrels, which gradually slowed down and which after a few minutes decreased in range. This barrage scored a direct hit on the Russian infantry within assault distance. When I went (more accurately, leapt) out after the repulsion of the attack, the paratroopers told me they had known that the second barrage was their own and there was nothing they could do about it. As the firing abated, some had peeped out and seen Russian bodies flying through the air and Russians in panic trying to dig themselves in. Miraculously, our company lost only seven dead and a few wounded in the murderous barrage; although a few soldiers had been buried by earth they escaped unscathed."

  They were unable to stop the relentless Red Army and Budapest was eventually encircled and fell to the Soviets by the end of December. General Szugyi (promoted as the war progressed) and the last surviving paratroopers who made it out of Budapest, surrendered to the British Army at the start of May, 1945.



  So you may be asking, what is this unit's stats in Bolt Action? Well, sadly, they are not in the Hungarian army list but if you use the Unofficial Hungarian Army List pdf put out by us here at WWPD, you'll find them there. They are listed as veterans with the Stubborn special rule (like most Paratrooper units), with the option of 0-1 LMGs, 0-1 Panzerfausts and 0-4 SMGs. By the time of Budapest, the Parachute Battalion used more automatic weapons like the Danuvia 43M submachine gun and had access to anti-tank weapons like the Panzerfaust. If you are using the official army list, you could run your paratroopers as a veteran squad, although they will lack Stubborn and be restricted to only 2 SMGs.

Hungarian Paratrooper Section (from the unofficial addition Hungarian units pdf)
Cost: 70pts (Veteran)
Team: 1 NCO and 4 men
Weapons: The NCO is armed with a pistol, all others with
rifles
Options:
• Add up to 8 additional men with rifles for +14pts each
• One soldier may have a light machine gun for +20pts – another soldier becomes the loader
• Equip the NCO and up to three other soldiers with a submachine gun for +3pts each
• Arm one soldier with a Panzerfaust for +10pts
• Equip the entire squad with anti-tank grenades for +2pts per model
Special Rules:
• Tank Hunters if unit is equipped with a Panzerfaust or anti-tank grenades
• Stubborn. Paratroopers don’t give in easily! All paratroopers count as stubborn. If forced to check their morale when reduced to half strength then they always test on their full morale value ignoring any pin markers.


  I have made my paratroopers out of the Warlord Games plastic Fallschirmjager and Blitzkrieg German kits. While the uniforms are not 100% perfect, I find the FJ smocks work at a table-top level for the Hungarian camouflage smocks that their veterans often had privately tailored in the official Hungarian camouflage scheme, as seen in some of the photos above.


  I've started with an 8 man squad, but will add some more soldiers in the typical khaki uniform at a later date to diversify the squad. They are painted with the green collar tabs of the Infantry and have a mixture of Stahlhelms and caps. The majority of the squad are in their camo smocks. 


This squad has four SMGs. Two are German MP40s, as many were in circulation within the Hungarian army. The other two are the Hungarian made Danuvia 43M (pictured below). My homemade Danuvia's are not 100% accurate, as I converted them out of a Kar98k with a MP40 mag stuck on. Not a very complex conversion but at tabletop distances it works. The hardest part is trying to locate your SMG-armed troops among their rifle-armed compatriots.




  So those are my Hungarian paratroopers. I hope they live up to the legacy of the elite men of the Parachute Battalion. In my games with them so far, they have done well. A squad of sturdy veterans with Stubborn and a handful of SMGs provides a good solid backbone to any army list.

  If you want to find more information on the Hungarian Parachute Battalion, I'd highly recommend the following resources, which is where I got a lot of my information. If there are any other unique units you'd like us to cover in an article like this, let us know on the forums.

Battle of Budapest: 100 Days of World War II by Krisztin Urgvry

Hungary's Airborne Forces of the Second World War by Michael M. van Lauesen


"Anf" is a long-time gamer from Down Under, who currently focuses his hobby time on Bolt Action.
With an equal love of rockets and Ice Hockey, he constantly explores weird and wonderful army lists
in his never-ending quest to collect them all.


3 comments:

Don M said...

Very interesting, I had no idea of their existence!

Skorpious said...

Yeah, finding information on the Hungarian army during World War II in English can be challenging, but thankfully there are a few really good books on the matter, with more coming out. After reading about them, I knew I had to include these guys into my Bolt Action army. - Anf

Unknown said...

German para's can easily be used as stand in's as the Hungarians used the same pattern, if not the colours.. incl helmets etc.

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