Landesschützen/Kaiserschützen  

Contemporary illustration showing the last peacetime uniforms of the Landesschützen. Of particular note is the officer on the extreme left of the group wearing the parade uniform as worn when on parade with the troops.

Introduction

The Austro-Hungarian army of the great war fielded two very notable organisations in the defence of the their Southern border with the Kingdom of Italy. These were the Kaiserjäger regiments and the Landesschützen later renamed as the Kaiserschützen regiments. As outlined in the introductory page of this site, the ground forces of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy were not one homogeneous force but in fact three separate armies; the common army of the empire and the two national armies of the principal states within the monarchy - Austria and Hungary known as the Landwehr and Landwehr (Honvéd) respectively. Whereas the Kaiserjäger were a part of the common army, the Landesschützen were regiments of the Austrian Landwehr.

Formation and Pre-war History

The creation of the Tyrolean and Voralberg Landesschützen units was originally ordered in December 1870 at a strength of ten battalions bearing the numbers 1 to 10 ( from 1889 I to X) with a projected wartime establishment of four field and one replacement companies each. The yearly recruiting contingent was set at 413 men per year. According to the statute of 1874, every battalion had in peace-time four field companies. being of predominantly German nationality the command language of the Landesschützen was German and the title of the private soldier was initially Schütze which in 1894 was changed to Landesschütze. The strength of a battalion was comparable to that of common army Feldjäger battalion. The ten battalions were named and garrisoned as follows:

 

Landesschützen-Bataillon Unter-Inn-Thal Nr.I

Landesschützen-Bataillon Innsbruck-Wipp-Thal Nr.II

Landesschützen-Bataillon Ober-Inn-Thal Nr.III

Landesschützen-Bataillon Ober-Etsch-Thal Nr.IV

Landesschützen-Bataillon Etsch und Fleims-Thal Nr.V

Landesschützen-Bataillon Puster-Thal Nr.VI

Landesschützen-Bataillon Noce-Avisio Nr.VII

Landesschützen-Bataillon Trient-Valsugana Nr.VIII

Landesschützen-Bataillon Roveredo-Sarca Nr.IX

Landesschützen-Bataillon Voralberg Nr.X

Schwaz

Innsbruck

Imst

Meran

Bozen

Bruneck

Mezzolombardo

Trient

Riva

Bregenz (1901 Imst)

 

On the 1st of May 1893, the ten battalions were formed into three regiments: Tiroler Landesschützenregiment Nr.I with the regimental staff in Innsbruck, Tiroler Landesschützenregiment Nr.II with regimental staff in Bozen and Tiroler Landesschützenregiment Nr.III with regimental staff in Trient. The regiments were formed from the following battalions:

 

Tiroler Landesschützenregiment Nr.I

Tiroler Landesschützenregiment Nr.II

Tiroler Landesschützenregiment Nr.III

Landesschützen-Bataillon Nr.I, II, III and X

Landesschützen-Bataillon Nr.IV, V and VI

Landesschützen-Bataillon Nr.VII, VIII and IX

 

Tiroler Landesschützenregiment Nr.III was disbanded in 1901 and its battalions transferred to the II. regiment. At the same time the I. and II. regiments were reorganised: The II. and IV. battalions of the I. regiment were disabanded and the III. battalion was renamed as the II. The III. battalion from the k.k.Landwehrinfanterieregiment Nr.2 became the new III. battalion. The newly organised regiments were now known as the k.k.Tiroler Landesschützenregiment Innsbruck Nr.I and k.k.Tiroler Landesschützenregiment Bozen Nr.II respectively and were brigaded together in the k.k.88.Landesschützenbrigade which had its headquarters in Bozen. On the 1st May 1906 the two regiments of landesschützen were officially recognised as high mountain troops and following this the I.regiment moved to and received the name k.k.Tiroler Landesschützenregiment Trient Nr.I. Finally on the 1st of March 1909 the III.regiment was reformed as the k.k.Tiroler Landesschützenregiment Innichen Nr.III.

 

The First World War

 

Mobilisation found all three regiments of Landesschützen serving in Feldmarschalleutnant Heinrich Tschurtschenthaler von Helmheim's 44.Landwehr-Infanterie-Division. The 1st regiment was serving in Generalmajor Ludwig Goiginger's 122.Landwehr-Infanterie-Brigade and the other two regiments under command of Generalmajor Karl Georgi's 88.Landesschützen-Brigade. As a part of XIV.Korps (General der Infanterie Erzherzog Joseph Ferdinand) and General der Kavallerie Rudolf Ritter von Brudermann 's 3.Armee, the specialised high mountain warfare trained soldiers found themselves not fighting in the Dolomites or the Puster Valley but on the relatively flat Galician plains of what is now the Western Ukraine. All three regiments suffered high casualties during that first Summer and Winter campaign on the Russian front in engagements such as Grodek, Rawa-Ruska, Przemysl, Limanowa and the especially difficult fighting in the Carpathian mountains. Following the successful Gorlice-Tarnów offensive in May 1915 and Italy's subsequent entry into the war later that month, all three regiments were moved to the Italian front, where they joined colleagues who had manned the border fortifications since the outbreak of the war. The regiments fought at the Isonzo, Col di Lana, the Trentino offensive of 1916 and in many other bitter engagements during the next three years. The skill and valour of the three regiments would earn them the name of Kaiserschützen on the 16th January 1917, when Kaiser Karl in recognition of their prowess awarded them this new designation. Uniquely among the Austro-Hungarian forces, five officers of the Landesschützen/Kaiserschützen were awarded the Military Maria Theresa Order - Austro-Hungary's highest award for valour during the First World War:

 

Oberst Robert Freiherr von Procházka

Oberleutnant Alfred Enrich

Major Konstantin Valentini

Oberleutnant Wilhelm Licka

Leutnant der Reserve Peter Scheider

Kaiserschützenregiment Nr.II

Kaiserschützenregiment Nr.I

Kaiserschützenregiment Nr.III

Kaiserschützenregiment Nr.I

Kaiserschützenregiment Nr.III

 

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The illustration to the left depicts Leutnant in der Reserve Peter Scheider who won his Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa for the storming of the 2432 metre high Monticello Ridge on the 13th of June 1918 whilst commanding Kaiserschützen of High Mountain Company 17. This post war oil painting of Scheider by Alfons Walde shows him wearing the Maria Theresa Order from his second button hole. He was however not actually awarded the Order until the 31st October 1931 in the last post war "Promotion" (Number 195). His Golden Bravery Medal  was awarded in November 1918 (P.V.Bl. f. d. k.u.k. Heer Nr.200 v. 9. Nov. 1918.)
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Additionally a further 130 officers, NCOs and Schützen were awarded the Golden Bravery Medal with a further 2797 being awarded the 1st class Silver Bravery Medal.

 

Regimental Commanders 1914-1918: The commanders of the three individual regiments during the First World War were as follows:
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KSchR.I:
Oberst Adolf Słoninka von Hołodów Aug 14 - Mar 15
Major Ludwig Nechi (Interim) Mar 15 - Jun 15
Oberst Adolf Słoninka von Hołodów Jun 15 - Mar 16
Oberstleutnant/Oberst Rudolf Florio Mar 16 - Aug 18
Oberstleutnant/Oberst Ludwig Nechi Aug 18 - Nov 18
KSchR.II:
Oberstleutnant/Oberst Josef Stiller Nov 12 - Oct 14
Oberstleutnant Theodor Spiegel  Oct 14 - Nov 14
Oberst Hugo Schönherr Nov 14 - Dec 14
Oberstleutnant/Oberst Friedrich Ritter von Mülleitner Dec 14 - Mar 17
Oberstleutnant/Oberst Emil Busch Mar 17 - Nov 18
KSchR.III:
Oberstleutnant/Oberst Hugo Schönherr Apr 14 - Sep 14
Oberstleutnant Theodor Spiegel  Sep 14 - Oct 14
Oberst Josef Stiller Oct 14 - Dec 14
Oberstleutnant/Oberst Josef Hadaszczok Dec 14 - Mar 18
Oberst Gabriel Graf von Gudenus Mar 18 - Nov 18
 

The war's end found the majority of all three regiments entering Italian captivity and thus ended the relatively short existence of Austria's first and most famous mountain troops. During the course of the First World War the total fatal casualties suffered by the three regiments came to some 15,500. 


 

Landesschützen/Kaiserschützen Major's left hand collar patchInsignia

The most distinguishing marks of the Landesschützen/Kaiserschützen were the wearing of a cock feather plume or "Spielhahnstoß" on the left side of the cap and the Edelweiß badge worn on the collar patch. Both of these distinctions had been introduced in June 1907. The badge for NCOs and Schützen was in metal and embroidered on grass-green badge cloth for commissioned officers. The collar patches were grass-green and the button colour was white. Uniquely Landesschützen commissioned officers were further distinguished by the wearing of shoulder straps. On the service dress tunic these were grass-green cloth edged with silver lace and surmounted by a Kaiser's cypher and crown. The illustration above shows a major's left hand patch. This illustrates well the contrasting star and lace colours of a field officer. Additionally commissioned officers and the senior officer aspirants (Fähnrich) wore a gold-plated  tombac Imperial cypher instead of the normal circular bullion badge on the field cap.

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Shoulder strap of a Lieutenant or Captain as worn on the service dress blouse. The strap is made of grass-green badge cloth 5cm in width with a gold embroidered Kaiser's cypher and crown on a red silk underlay. The strap of the field officers was 6cm wide with a larger cypher and crown.
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The Cypher as worn by Commissioned Officers and Senior Officer Aspirants (Fähnrich) on the pike grey field service dress Kappe and the black service dress Kappe. It was manufactured in matt gold embroidery for officers and in yellow silk for the Fähnrich on a grass-green badge cloth underlay with a height of 4.5cm and a width of 3cm.

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