Friday, August 15, 2014

Czechoslovak legions in WWI. and database of legionaries

As I wrote a post about Czech military service in the past I decided to add one more post with similar topic, this time about Czech legionaries serving in the World War I. Many of Czech soldiers decided (or were forced) to leave Austrian army during the "Great War" - how is WWI. called in their memories - and join foreign legions in France, Italy or Russia. And there is database of these legionaries available online.

So let's take a look. The database is available on website of Military Historical Archives (Vojenský historický archiv): There are four different databases available there - legionaries, soldiers fallen in the WWI., soldiers fallen in WWII. and members of Czechoslovak units in abroad during WWII. Many men who left to U.S. (and not only there) after WWI. were serving in the legions - so let's focus on this database only. But first of all - what were the legions?

Postcard with legions theme. Source.

Czechoslovak legions
There were many post and articles written about the Czechoslovak legions during WWI. Wikipedia have three of them - about legions in Russia, France and Italy. Legions were composed of Czech and Slovak volunteers, often deserters from the Austrian army or captives from the battles. Main goal of those volunteers was independent Czechoslovak state. 

About 90 thousands men served in the Czechoslovak legions - which isn't so many if we compare them to abt 1.2 to 1.5 million of Czchoslovak men serving in Austrian army. But they branded into the history thanks to their bravery and also thanks to their fight against communists in Russia after 1917. 

Database of legionaries
Website is available in Czech only, so I have prepared a quick guide to it with screenshots to make everything clear. I'll try to explain all the information in the database but some of it is a bit complicated. When you open a link to the database and you scroll down the page, you'll see a form as follows:

You can use three searching options - Příjmení (surname), Jméno (first name) and Místo narození (place of birth). The last field, "Zadejte kde voják sloužil" (choose where the soldier served) is clickable and you can choose from four possibilities - Legionáři (legionaries), Padlí v 1. světové válce (soldiers fallen in WWI.), Padlí v 2. světové válce (soldiers fallen in WWII.) and Příslušníci čs. vojenských jednotek v zahraničí (members of Czechoslovak military units in abroad). 

Searching for the surname is the easiest way. You can use surname without diacritics so you can write Cerny instead of correct Černý or Vavra instead of Vávra. Let's take Cerny as an example. Write it to the Příjmení field and press enter (or click on the magnifier below the fields). This is the result:

Now you see a table with names (Příjmení, Jméno), ranks (Hodnost), date of birth (Datum narození) and place of birth (Místo narození). All field are quite clear, Czech military ranks and their translation to English can be found on the website of Ministry of Defense.

You can click on the surname of person which is interesting for you. I chose the first Adolf Černý as an example - you'll get a soldier's record (Záznam vojáka) which looks as follows:

Here is translation of the general information: 
První hodnost v legiích - first rank in legions
Poslední hodnost v legiích - last rank in legions
Hodnost Rakousko-Uherské armády - rank in Austrian-Hungarian army
Příjmení - surname
Jméno - first name
Bydliště - residence
Datum narození - date of birth
Místo narození - place of birth
Datum a místo přihlášení do legie - date and place of enrollment to legion
Datum zařazení do jiné (další) legie - date of submission to another (next) legion
Konec v legiích - exit date from the legions
Zkratky armád, u kterých sloužil - abbrev of armies he served in
První útvar Rakousko-Uherské armády - first unit in Austrian-Hungarian army
Poslední útvar Rakousko-Uherské armády - last unit in Austrian-Hungarian army
První útvar v legiích - first unit in legions
Poslední útvar v legiích - last unit in legions
Zajetí - captivity
Kód - code
Prameny - sources

All this information relates to the service in army of the soldier. There are many abbreviations and codes which need explanation, so some of them follows. 

Abbreviations of armies the soldiers served in: A - Australian army, B - British army, D - home defense in Italy, DK - Děnikin's army, F - French army, I - Italian army, K - Canadian army, KO - Kolčak's army, KR - Kornilov's army, LC - Foreign Legion, LF - Czechoslovak legion in France, LI - Czechoslovak legion in Italy, LR - Czechoslova legion in Russia, P - Polish legion, R - Russian army, RM - Romanian army, S - Serbian legion, US - U.S. army.

Codes: B - died in battle, ČSA - server in Czechoslova army after 1918, D - escaped from the army, DM - demobilised, N - missing in battle, NS - unable to service, P - executed, S - died, V - returned to the home land, X - see notes, Z - died due to injury.

I hope you'll be able to find your ancestors who served in the Czechoslovak legions. :)

1 comment:

  1. There is a CODE VX - I know the X means "see note" but any idea what the "V" is for (in my ancestors instance, there is no note to be viewed. From what I've read, he was excused from active service, but I believe he had some other assignment which eventually led to his being on a committee with Thomas Masaryk which negotiated the travels of the Legionnaires through Russia (I have proof of that). SO any idea what the "V" in VX is??