Svetozar Boroević von Bojna

Svetozar Boroević von Bojna was born on the 13th December 1856 in Umetić in the Kostajnica district of the Military Border. His father Adam had entered the 2nd Banat Border Regiment (Grenzinfanterie Regiment number 11) on the 1st of November 1845 and had become a Feldwebel by May 1849 after he had received the Silver Bravery Medal 1st class. Subsequently commissioned ten years later as a Leutnant he became an Oberleutnant in 1872. Svetozar Boroević prepared for a military career by attending the Military Educational Establishments (Militär-Obererziehungshaus) in Kemenitz near Peterwardein and at Guns and finally the Infantry Cadet School at Liebenau near Graz where he received the ranks of Korporal (1st September 1872), Feldwebel (21st July 1873) and Kadett (1st November 1874). In January 1875 he was transfered to the troops as a Kadett-Offiziersstellvertreter and commissioned as a Leutnant on the 1st of May 1875 in the 52nd Hungarian Infantry Regiment then stationed in Graz. He participated with his regiment in the Bosnian campaign of 1878 fighting in engagements at Kakany, Kolotić, Visoka and the occupation of Sarejevo. For his outstanding performance during this campaign, especially during the storming of Sarajevo, he was honored with the award of the Military Merit Cross with war decoration on the 20th of October 1878. Promoted to Oberleutnant on the 1st of May 1880 he attended the course at the War School in Vienna from 1st October 1881 from which he entered the General Staff with a posting as a General Staff officer to the 63rd Infantry Brigade in November 1883.  Between 1887 and 1891 he was an instructor at the Theresian Military Academy at Wiener Neustadt where he was honored with the award of the Prussian Order of the Crown 3rd class on the 15th of October 1891. He received promotion to Major on the 1st of May 1892 and to Oberstleutnant on the 1st of May 1895 serving in various staff appointments until appointed to the command of the 4th battalion of the 17th Infantry Regiment on the 16th April 1896. On the 1st of November 1897 he received his promotion to Oberst.

 In 1899 he married Leontine, the daughter of the late Oberst Friedrich Ritter von Rosner, with whom he had a son named Friedrich or "Fritz" after his grandfather. During the year 1900 he received the commanders' cross of the Order Star of Romania (13th April) and the 2nd class of the Persian Order of the Sun and the Lion (27th October). Following his appointments as chief of the general staff of the 19th, 18th and 27th infantry divisions and the important post as chief of the general staff of the 8th corps at Prague between 1898 and 1904, receiving the 3rd class of the Order of the Iron Crown on the 18th of October 1902  he was assigned to the command of the Peterwardein based 14th Infantry Brigade initially still as an Oberst on the 22nd February 1904 with promotion to Generalmajor on the 1st May. In 1905 he was raised to the Hungarian nobility taking the noble predicate von Bojna and was thereafter known as Boroević von Bojna. Following his appointment as the commanding general of the Croatian-Slovenian VII Landwehr District on the 14th April 1907 he was further promoted to Feldmarschalleutnant on the 1st May 1908. He remained at this post until April 1912, receiving the award of the knights' cross of the Order of Leopold on the 26th of September 1909 when he was appointed to the acting command followed by the permanent command of VI Corps at Kassa (Kosice, Slovakia) the following October.   During 1913 he was honored with the title of Geheimer Rat (2nd April) and Oberstinhaber of infantry regiment number 51 (21st December). Promoted to General der Infanterie on the 1st of May 1913 he would take this Corps to war on Mobilization in 1914 as part of General der Infanterie Moritz Ritter von Auffenberg's 4th Army. He would command the Corps during the first Summer of the war in Galicia at the battle of Komarów before assuming the command of 3rd Army in early September. With 3rd Army he defended the Carpathian passes throughout the Winter of 1914-1915 and took part in the initial phase of the Gorlice-Tarnów offensive the following May. 

For his outstanding leadership he was honored with the award of the grand cross of the Order of the Iron Crown with war decoration (20th September 1914), the grand cross of the Order of Leopold with war decoration (30th October 1914) and the 1st class of the Military Merit Cross with war decoration (9th May 1915). Later when the swords were introduced he also received them to his decorations including the Military Merit Cross of 1878. 

He was then assigned to the theatre where he would achieve his greatest fame and success - the Isonzo front on the Italian - Slovenian border. He firstly assumed command of 5th Army in late May 1915 which was renamed as the Isonzo Army in May 1917. Having been promoted to Generaloberst on 1st May 1916 he was appointed to command Army group Boroević in August 1917 with a final promotion to Feldmarschall on 1st February 1918. During these three difficult years he would fight all twelve battles of the Isonzo culminating in the great success of 12th Isonzo or Caporetto in October 1917 and the battles on the Piave that followed. During this period his successful and effective command of the Isonzo theatre was rewarded by the award of the bronze (29th July 1915) the silver (2nd March 1916) and the golden large Military Merit Medal (17th October 1916) with war ribbon and swords. On the 5th of November 1917 he received the large Military Merit Medal (Großes Signum Laudis) a second time, again with swords. On the 31st of May 1915 he received the Merit Star of the Society of the Red Cross with war decoration and on the 15th of November 1915 the neck badge of the Marianerkreuz of the Deutschen Ritterorden. From the allies he was honored with the Prussian Iron Cross 2nd and 1st class (June 1915), the silver and the golden Imtiaz Medal of the Ottoman Empire (April 1916), the 1st and 2nd class of the Military Merit Cross of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1916) and finally the Prussian Order Pour le Mérite on the 26th of November 1917.

 The history of Boroević and his award of the Military Maria Theresian Order presents a delicate story. After the victory of Komarów in 1914 he placed a submission for the award of the knights' cross and after the hard battles in November/December 1914 he again made a further submission to the chapter of the order. On the 2nd of June 1917 Kaiser Karl directly awarded him  the commander's cross of the order for his performance during the 10th battle of the Isonzo. As grandmaster, the Kaiser could make awards independently of the chapter. Erroneously the chapter thought the former submissions were now null and void but just after the war they realized their mistake and posthumously awarded him  the knights' cross of the order in 1931. Consequently Feldmarschall Boroević was the sole officer in the history of the order to receive first a higher and later a lower grade! Another delicate story was that he had the right after receiving the commander's cross of the Military Maria Theresian Order in 1917 of upgrading his nobility to Freiherr or in his case as a "Hungarian" to Baron. But Boroević, commonly well known for his personal vanity, refused this and claimed for the title of a Graf or Count! Of course this was refused by the authorities and latterly by the Kaiser and so he finally received nothing!

In October 1918, after the Hungarian troops had left the lines, he reorganized his troops behind the Tagliamento for the final battle. When the message concerning the armistice was received he took his remaining troops back to Velden and offered Kaiser Karl to march to Vienna to help him to suppress the mob with his loyal troops. The Kaiser however refused this offer. With the final defeat of the monarchy in November 1918 the Field Marshal would retire in the December. After the war he, as a convinced Croat, decided to become a citizen of the new created SHS-state but he was not welcomed there and so he was forced to return to Austria. Considering his first decision he now received a pension from neither Austria nor from Yugoslavia and had to live in somewhat reduced circumstances. His only income was a honorarium from the chapter of the Military Maria Theresian Order. On the 23rd May 1920 Feldmarschall Svetozar Boroević von Bojna died after an apoplexy in a hospital at Klagenfurt. His body was than transported to Vienna where he was laid to rest in a grave paid for by Kaiser Karl in the Viennese Zentralfriedhof. 

Feldmarschall Boroević von Bojna was one of the finest defensive strategists of the First World War. Although his own command was sorely tried during the Isonzo battles, his opponents of the Italian Army suffered horrendously during those two and a half years and completely collapsed in October 1917. With all his soul he was an adherent of offensive leadership but his destiny was to became famous for his outstanding defensive efforts. Apart from his diminutive and weak looking figure he was the personification of a soldier, hard and ruthless with superiors and subordinates alike as well as with himself. In a letter to Generaloberst Sarkotić he wrote about himself and his ideals: "I personify the authority, the discipline and the free self acknowledgment of the same. All my subordinates from the highest to the lowest know and feel this and can depend on it. If I had the power I would knock the whole of mankind into the bond of discipline and force it to work within the same framework. You would see success, it would have to be a hundred times greater than now. Only authority and discipline are suitable, to bind the troops to their colours, to bind them to their duty. The same is true regarding all of mankind. Unfortunately discipline is easily undermined by senseless demands, therefore I ruthlessly get rid of all fools. These then are afraid of me, and also creates enemies for me. On the other hand all efficient people very much respect me."

 

Back to Field Marshals