This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Music on Skis

20 December 2016

Zum Neuen Jahre
herzliche Glückwünsche!

To the New Year
hearty congratulations!

This charming illustration
of a horse pulling
a small band
of musicians on skis
comes from a vintage Swiss postcard.

It was posted
on 6 January 1938
and addressed
to Herrn Joh. Jos. Zihlmann
of Willisau, a small town
in the Lucerne canton, of Switzerland.
Herrn Zihlmann lived
at the landwirtschaftsschule
which was a vocational school
for agricultural occupations.

Salü Hanssep!
Habe deine Karte mit Freuden
erhalten. Bin immer lustig
u. fidel. Gerne wäre ich
am 3 Nov. in den 2 Kurs(?)
eingetreten, aber die Zeit erlaubte
es mir nicht. Wie lebst
Du immer, hoffentlich. bist  Du
gesund und fröhlich.
Viel Glück im neuen Jahr wünscht Du.
Alois Wechsler

Salut Hannseep!
Got your card with pleasure.
I am always funny and jolly.
I would be happy
on 3rd Nov. when the 2nd course
occurred but time
did not allow me.
Hopefully you always live
healthy and happy.
I wish you Good luck in the new year.
Alois Wechsler

{My thanks for any offers of better translations of Schweizerdeutsch}

The horse pictured on the card
looks to be stout enough
to pull three musical skiers
even while carrying a trumpeter.

 But horses come in different sizes
and even small ones
can trot pretty fast
through the snow.
Here is a thrilling video
a sport known as skijoring,that demonstrates what it's like
to ski behind a smaller,
but still very enthusiastic horse.
However the skier
is not playing an accordion
at the same time.



And for a special Swiss treat,
though without skis,
here is a video from August 2013
when 508 alphorn players
assembled on the Gornergrat ridge
to break the world record
for the largest alphorn group performance.



Click this link to hear
a more complete concert.

On the whole,
I think massed alphorns
are to be preferred
over massed accordions.
But that's just my opinion.

I wish everyone
much joy and happiness
in 2017!

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
which celebrates the best photos of the Holiday Season!

The Snowman

09 December 2016

Fresh snowfall
is a timeless universal wonder.
Its sculptural and architectural qualities
surely stimulated prehistoric man
to roll balls of soft snow
into a giant pile.
Inspiring a kind of test statue
for the ancient megaliths
that celebrated the dark winter solstice.
 This monstrous snowman
probably lasted until the spring thaw.

Such a fierce man of snow
required a fanfare from the band.

It's the New Year!

Prosit Neujahr!

The artist's intention may have been jolly,
but this formidable snowman
seems chilling to me,
and not in a cold way.
His icy grin conveys foreboding,
dread, even menace.

And why the man in the lower corner
is cavorting with a sheep
must remain a mystery.

This postcard was sent from
Wien, Austria on 31 XII 1915.
It was the second winter of the Great War.
The writer, Theresia Božek, addressed it
to Wohlgeb. Frau Mize Zpiser(?)
of Bielitz, Schlesien,
a town which was then in Austria
but is now known as Bielsko, Poland.
The honorific stands for Wohlgeboren - Well born.
Which I believe is a mark of minor royalty or upper class.

The stamp on the postcard is of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830-1916). The postmark date shows 31 XII 1(5) with another penciled date of 2/I.1916.  The old Kaiser would not see another new year as he died on November 21, 1916 at the age of 86. Throughout his long reign, Franz Joseph remained a mostly aloof but benevolent figure to the people of his vast empire. Nonetheless his decision to seek retribution from Serbia for the assassination of his nephew Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the spark that started the Great War of 1914-18. 

Physically he was hardly a menacing figure. But when his visage was chiseled into white marble, his bald pate, big ears, and bristly muttonchops do make him resemble a snowman. A snowman with medals instead of lumps of coal.

Bust of Kaiser Franz Joseph I.
2 December 1848 – 21 November 1916
Source: Wikimedia

For something more cheerful, watch this exceptional restored silent film which is accompanied by spirited march music. It begins with Kaiser Franz Joseph walking down a street with an entourage of men, all dressed in wonderful uniforms. Note the variety of hat feathers and plumes. In the middle is a charming group of schoolgirls doing a kind of precision march/dance, and I think they are also singing. Then the Kaiser reviews some cadets and rides in a carriage. There is a brass band at about 3:00. I believe the film was taken in 1910, a few years before the war, on the occasion former President Theodore Roosevelt's tour of Europe. However, the president is not in the film.

It looks better when expanded to full screen.

* * *

* * *

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where Snowwomen always get equal time.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum?

03 December 2016

'Twas a midsummer day
in the town of Loon Lake
when arose such a sound
only a melodeon could make.

The chords were all wrong
but old Jim didn't care.
He picked out a tune
that his cornet could blare.

The neighbors were startled
from their afternoon rest
by a horn blowing fanfares
with boisterous zest.

With a huff and a puff
that made people talk,
Uncle Gus loved to make
his clarinet squawk.

A trumpet and sax
joined in on the chorus
with a noise that wasn't
a little bit raucous.

Though deaf as a post
was poor Grandma Sadie,
she tightened her grip
on a very small pine tree.

Only one music instrument
Aunt Bertha could play.
It had just two notes
but it blew you away.

The clamor was much too much
noise for the dog
who howled in a key
that was not in the song.

It's like Christmas in July
when the band comes to play
in Loon Lake, Wisconsin
on a midsummer day.

* * *

The names of the musicians and ladies
on this photo postcard
are unknown. 

Only the photographer's caption
helps identify the time and place.

Loon Lake – Wis.

The rest of their story
is left to our imagination.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where every day counts.

The Quedlinburg POW Camp Orchestra

26 November 2016

Dressed in long military overcoats,
we can see that they are soldiers.
But as they are armed
with musical instruments,
they are musicians too.

Yet they are not a military band.
With six violins and one contrabass
they are instead a kind of small orchestra.

Their concerts were not open to the public.
They played for a very select
as these musical soldiers were
Prisonniers de guerre,
Prisoners of War.

These 21 musicians carefully posed
outdoors for the photographer,
next to some crude barracks.
Attached to their uniform coats
are nonmilitary badges and armbands,
clues that distinguish them as enemy captives.

Fortunately we do not have to guess where they are,
as this photo postcard was posted
on 1"-9-15,  1st September 1915,
printed by Otto Wendt,
and stamped Geprüft! - Examined!
by the censors
of the prisoner of war camp,
of Quedlinburg, Germany.

The card was addressed to:
Monsieur - Madame
R. Couaillet
St. Nicolas d' Aliermont

Affection Sincère
?ensies constantes

Sincere affection
? constant


The third word of the greeting looks like
but according to online dictionaries
that is not a valid French word.

Even using a French version of a Scrabble word finder
did not produce a suitable match.
Any suggestion from my readers would be much appreciated.

Carriage Clock manufactured by Armand Couaillet Co.
of Saint-Nicolas d'Aliermont, France
Source: Wikipedia

A simple internet search for the name Couaillet and the address, Saint-Nicolas d'Aliermont, produced an interesting result. This small town near Dieppe on the English Channel is known for carriage clocks and watches produced by Armand Couaillet (1865-1954). Armand developed his company with his brothers Henri and Ernest. Together their firm of about 150 employees manufactured fine clocks that are highly prized today. However as the  addressee name is R. Couaillet, there is no way to know if there is a direct family connection.

* *

One man in the photo particularly caught my attention as he holds a woodwind instrument that is very rare to find in old photographs. It is an oboe, or hautbois in French. This double reed instrument with its high nasal voice was one of the first instruments of the military band. But by the 1900s, it was not so common, being supplanted by more durable clarinets and saxophones. French army bands however maintained the old tradition, and this oboist wears the regiment number 36 on his collar.

His dark hair and dashing goateee gives him a kind of debonair movie star look. It made him easy to spot in a second postcard photo of the orchestra.

This group of musicians are dressed
in a strange mixture of uniforms and hats,
with some French, some British,
and even some civilian fashions.
The jaunty French oboe player
now sports a soft cap.

The string section has added a British cello.
The conductor leans back
in a crudely made arm chair.
His mustache looks English,
but the light grey tone of his jacket
and his tall boots suggests a Russian soldier.

This international soldier's orchestra has 24 musicians.
The two men in woolly sweaters and caps
may be merchant seamen taken
from British or French commercial ships
that were either sunk or captured by the Imperial German Navy.  

This postcard was sent on 1er Juni 1917, 1st June 1917,
twenty one months after the 1915 photo.
Though it is not postmarked from Quedlinburg
the addressee and writer's name on the back is the same as the first card.

Like the other postcard, this was sent to:

Monsieur - Madame
R. Couaillet
St. Nicolas d' Aliermont

Embrassements affectueux



Though the greetings are very brief, it seems reasonable to assume that the writer was related to Monsieur and Madame R. Couaillet. Now almost a century after the end of  World War One, it is astonishing to me that written records from 1914-18 have survived. Even more thrilling is that the ICRC or International Committee of the Red Cross keeps an online database these records available to anyone around the world with an internet browser. During the war the Red Cross collected thousands of names of British, French, Belgium, Italian, and Sebian prisoners of war. Each name was written onto a simple paper card which was used to cross-index names with camp documents. With a name that has more vowels than consonants, it did not take long to find this prisoner of war on a German military index card.


Soldat Inf reg 36

* *

The code number of Emile Couaillet's card refers to page 13576 of a large German military account book of captured soldiers. His name was entered at the top on 27 JAN 1915 as a Franzosen - French soldier.


24. Couaillet, Emile  Soldat Inf. Reg. 36 Bétheny  Gefglg. Quedlinburg

The list identifies where each man was captured, and in which POW Camp they are held. In Emile's case, he was being held at Quedlinburg, and taken in Bétheny, a town in the region of the First Battle of the Marne. This battle from September 7-12, 1914 stopped the initial German advance on Paris and forced the war into the trenches, where so many men lost their lives over the next 4 years.


A third index card was complied by the French military and added enough information for a confirmation of his identity.

Couaillet Emile F BB 502

Musicien brancardier, 36me d'
Inf., 3me Corps Disparu depuis
le 12 septembre environs de Reims.
Rép. M. Couaillet, St. Nico-
las d'Aloermont. (Seine Inf.)

P. 13576 C.E. sold. 36e Puis Bétheny
Gef.lag Quedlinburg

Communiqué famille
12/2. 15

The writer Emile Couaillet was a Musicien, a Bandsman in the French Army's 36th Infantry regimental band. He was also a brancardier, a stretcher bearer, responsible for transporting any casualties off the battlefield. He was reported Disparu depuis, missing since the 12th September 1914 in the region of Reims, France. The village of Bétheny is only 4.4 km away by bicycle.  The French department in charge of notifying the families of servicemen who were killed, wounded, or missing in action, added Couaillet's location at the Quedlinburg POW camp and a date when they contacted the family 12-2-15, 12 February 1915.

* *

So was the hautboïste, the oboist with the affable smile,
the bandsman, Emile Couaillet?

 I'd like to think so,
but I believe he is another man.

In searching for Couaillet's name and the Quedlinburg camp, I came across a website called Le camp de prisonniers de guerre de Quedlinburg, devoted to the history of this POW camp. There are numerous web pages, (in French) describing the conditions of the camp and the life of the soldiers imprisoned there. One page even has a different photo of the camp orchestra, taken in about 1915 as they perform a concert for the other soldiers. The soldiers in the camp organized many activities to cope with boredom and low morale. They had a men's choir and a theater for entertainment. They put on boxing matches and various sports games. Despite their containment, the men could earn small wages for camp work that was paid in special camp currency. The German military guards did not seem to mind cameras and the POWs probably paid for photographs like these to send home. This was undoubtedly a propaganda move by the German government who used postcards to influence both the patriotic public opinion in the German homeland, and the enemy opposition to the war by inculcating resentment and dissent amongst the Allied troops.  

Page from the 1914-15 Red Cross Report
on POW camps in Germany
Quedlinburg is a small town in the Harz district of Saxony-Anhalt, more of less the center of Germany. At the beginning of the war, none of the belligerent nations had anticipated the numbers of enemy soldiers that would be captured. Quedlinburg was one of the first prisoner camps built in Germany. It was designed for 15,000 men. By late 1915, the Red Cross had made two trips to inspect camps and reported that Quedlinburg held 4,285 French; 5,521 Russian; 100 Beligian; and 65 English soldiers, for a total of 9,971 prisoners of war.

The total for both inspection tours was 236,880 officers and soldiers distributed over about 14 camps. But there were more camps uncounted in 1915. Many, many more.  The war would continue for three more years, during which Germany maintained POW camps for 2,500,000 captive soldiers. 

* *

The Quedlinburg POW Camp, or Kriegsgefangenenlager as it was called in German, allowed the prisoners to send and receive mail, but of course under strict rules and always subject to military censors. Usually one postcard per week and one letter ever two weeks. Evidently early in 1915, the prisoners could receive packages which included unusual musical instruments like a trombone or a cello. The website on the history of the Quedlinburg camp included several transcriptions of the camp's newspaper, le Tuyau, or The Pipe. On page 5 of the first edition of the paper, printed in July 1915, there was an announcement about the camp orchestra.

Notre Musique
Un orchestre…? Charme pour des captifs! Quelle imagination féconde eut osé rêver la possibilité d'une telle récréation en septembre dernier lorsque, (censure) exténués, malades, nous arrivâmes au Camp des prisonniers.

C'est aujourd'hui la réalité! Dès l'autorisation obtenue de nos gardiens, un comité se forma, son premier devoir fut de se procurer des fonds. Les sommes rapidement récoltées prouvèrent l'enthousiasme du public. Les exécutants, pour leur part s'infligèrent de gros sacrifices, ceux-ci ont permis la formation d'un orchestre satisfaisant. Pourtant les choses traînent et l'on dit….que le public s'impatiente! Il a tort. S'il a fait beaucoup pour nous, n'avons-nous pas fait autant pour lui permettre d'attendre la date du premier concert. Les auditions musicales du dimanche ne lui suffisent pas. Il veut plus, il est très exigeant; cela est bon signe, c'est qu'il s'intéresse à "notre musique", celle du camp, l'œuvre de tous. Il veut assister à la moindre de nos répétitions. Cela est hélas impossible. Nous ne pouvons lui donner satisfaction, autant pour la bonne exécution des auditions actuelles que pour celle des concerts futurs. A l'heure actuelle, nous manquons de partitions. Nous en attendons beaucoup de France. Nous en avons commandé en Allemagne, elles ne viennent pas. C'est long et nous en sommes les premiers privés. Nous ne restons pas pourtant dans l'inactivité. Grâce au zèle de notre distingué contre bassiste, Mr L. Kircher qui, de mémoire ou à l'aide de médiocres documents, a adapté pour "notre musique" presque tous les morceaux exécutés jusqu'à présent. Des dévouements plus obscurs, mais non moins appréciables complètent l'œuvre entreprise et aucun exécutant ne se refuse à copier et à transposer même après les longues heures de labeur individuel et de répétitions.

Lorsque nos lecteurs, qui ne peuvent dans la salle de répétition, liront ces détails, ils comprendront qu'il est inadmissible d'exiger de nous plus d'une heure de musique par semaine. Il est matériellement impossible que nous fassions plus. Comme nous ils se résigneront et attendront.

Le temps heureux des concerts ne peut plus tarder. Un instrument vient d'arriver de France, c'est le premier et son propriétaire, le hautboiste renommé Mr Marson, prix du conservatoire, s'est fait entendre dès le lendemain au cours de la répétition générale du Grand Concert populaire annoncé pour la fête Nationale de 14 juillet. Ce concert hors série précédera de peu, nous l'espérons le Grand concert d'inauguration.

Celui-ci est encore différé par suite du départ annoncé des brancardiers. Des commandes de musique et d'instruments ont été suspendues, causant ainsi un nouveau retard d'une semaine au moins. Nous attendons incessamment de nouveaux instruments. L'arrivée du trombone à coulisses est imminente. Le fournisseur nous apprend qu'il est au polissage! L'impatience est maintenant fébrile. A bientôt donc pour le premier concert; une grande assistance nous encouragera!


     A Google Translation     

Our music

An orchestra…? Charm for captives! What fertile imagination would have dared to dream of the possibility of such recreation in September when, (censored) exhausted, sick, we arrived at the Prisoner Camp.

Today is the reality! As soon as we obtained permission from our guards, a committee was formed, its first duty was to raise funds. The money quickly gathered proved the enthusiasm of the public. The performers, for their part, inflicted great sacrifices, these allowed the formation of a satisfactory orchestra. Yet things drag and it is said ... .the public is impatient! He is wrong. If he did much for us, did not we do as much to allow him to wait for the date of the first concert. Sunday's musical auditions do not suffice. He wants more, he is very demanding; This is a good sign, it is that he is interested in "our music", that of the camp, the work of all. He wants to attend the least of our rehearsals. This is unfortunately impossible. We can not give him satisfaction, as much for the proper execution of the current hearings as for that of the future concerts. At present, we lack scores. We expect a lot from France. We ordered from Germany, they do not come. It is long and we are the first private. We do not, however, remain in inactivity. Thanks to the zeal of our distinguished bassist, Mr L. Kircher, who, from memory or with the help of mediocre documents, adapted for our "music" almost all the pieces executed until now. More obscure but no less appreciable devotions complement the work undertaken and no performer refuses to copy and transpose even after long hours of individual labor and repetition.

When our readers can not read the details in the rehearsal room, they will understand that it is inadmissible to require more than one hour of music per week. It is materially impossible for us to do more. As they will resign themselves and wait.

The happy time of the concerts can not be long. An instrument has just arrived from France, it is the first and its owner, the renowned oboe Mr Marson, prize of the conservatory, was heard the very next day during the rehearsal of the Grand Concert Populaire announced for the celebration National of 14 July. This special concert will precede, hopefully, the Grand Concert inauguration.

This is still delayed by the announced departure of the stretcher-bearers. Music and instrument controls were suspended, causing a further delay of at least one week. We are constantly awaiting new instruments. The arrival of the trombone slide is imminent. The supplier tells us that he is polishing! Impatience is now feverish. See you soon for the first concert; Great assistance will encourage us!



The name of the oboist, Mr. Marson, was found on the next page of the Quedlinburg prisoner log where Emile Couaillet was listed. His full name was Ernest Marson and like Emile, he was a Musicien-brancardier in the 36e Infantry Regiment band. 

His hometown was further west in Normandy where his family contact was M. Ch. Marson, 51 rue de Vancelles, Caen, France.

The bottom note: À retourner à la Trésorerie - To be returned to the Treasury, is unclear as to its purpose. It may be in regards to a pension application.

* *

The Quedlinburg newspaper's report also gives us a clue, L. Kircher to search for the name of the contrabass player, , who provided much of the first music for the orchestra. His nane, Lucien Kircher, was also listed on the same page of the January 1915 Quedlinburg Camp log as Ernest Marson. He also was a soldier in the 36e Infantry regiment.. He is the man standing behind the oboist Marson in the 1917 photo.  

On page 6 of the July 1915 edition of The Quedlinburg newspaper there was a review of the orchestra's first concert. The director was named Chatenet and he received some criticism.

Si ces premières auditions ne pouvaient prétendre à la perfection elles nous permettent du moins d'espérer pour de fort bonnes séances musicales lorsque les conditions matérielles seront plus favorables l'orchestre plus complet, un plus grand nombre de partitions intéressantes arrivé. Les instrumentistes sont pour la plupart de bons musiciens et d'acharnés travailleurs.

Le geste un peu hésitant au début ( Mr Chatenet n'avait jamais conduit avant d'être à Quedlinburg) s'assure peu à peu, il est élégant et prend de l'ampleur. Peut-être la main gauche est-elle encore un peu hésitante, elle aurait besoin de plus de fermeté pour retenir parfois les musiciens qui ont tendance à trop jouer uniquement en forte. Au reste le goût très sur et la grande autorité de Monsieur Chatenet sont le meilleur garant que l'on fera d'ici peu de la fort bonne musique à Quedlinburg

If these first auditions could not pretend to perfection, they at least allow us to hope for very good musical performances when the material conditions are more favorable to the more complete orchestra, a greater number of interesting scores have arrived. The instrumentalists are for the most part good musicians and hard-working workers.

The gesture a little hesitant at first (Mr Chatenet had never conducted before being in Quedlinburg) secures little by little, it is elegant and grows. Maybe the left hand is still a little hesitant, it would need more firmness to retain sometimes the musicians who tend to play too strongly. Besides, the great taste and the great authority of Monsieur Chatenet are the best guarantor that will be made soon of the very good music in Quedlinburg


So can we identify Emile Couaillet?

Perhaps he is the horn player who appears in both photos.

Or one of the two violinists.

Or the young violinist
who was also
a member of the 36e Infantry regiment.

Or the snare drummer
who may have been one of the field musicians
the 36e Infantry regiment.

In the end it doesn't matter. A century later, Emile Couailette did his duty to posterity by sending two postcards that give us a glimpse of musical life in a WW1 prisoner of war camp. The POW camps were improvised prisons of course, so the food, sanitation, medical care, and general conditions caused a great deal of privation for the soldiers. But in September 1914 when he and his compatriots of the 36e Inf. reg. were captured, it was still very early in a very long war, so in a sense they were saved from the horrors to come. They needed a different kind of endurance to survive.

They surely felt anguish and fear for their families back home. And as soldiers, the news of the war certainly gave them great distress over the fate of their old army comrades still valiantly carrying on the fight. Though the camps were run with German military regulations, the men followed their own army's discipline and were allowed to create a prison life that offered the soldiers a semblance of a proper army base if not a civilian town. In this context, music was more than mere entertainment. It allowed the men to use their artistic skills to express self-worth and human dignity even while imprisoned. It added value to the other prisoners' lives too.

During the four years that the camp operated, many men succumbed to disease and ill health. Quedlinburg, like most of the POW camps, had its own cemetery. In January 1917 the Red Cross report noted 144 deaths but this is very likely lower than the actual number of deaths. 

Towards the end of the war in June 1918 the soldiers erected a monument which they designed and paid for. There was a dedication ceremony which included all the camp's nationalities including the German military camp guards. The Quedlinburg prisonniers de guerre camp orchestra and choir performed for the service. The memorial was made to honor the fallen, that is their fellow prisoners who had died not in combat but in prison.

The monumnet still stands in Quedlinburg and on its columns are 444 names of English, Italian, French, Belgian and Russian prisoners who died there during the war years. In fact the archives later brought the total to 703 deaths.

Engraved on the Quedlinburg monumemt are the words:
"À ceux qui ne reverront plus leurs patrie"
"To those who will no longer see their homeland"

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone loves the sound of peace

Music on the Eastern Front

18 November 2016

His young eyes stare directly at us,
his cheeks dark with grime,
his lips expressionless.

He is a soldier
but he is also just a boy.

His age, 17 ?
Maybe 16.
Surely no more than 19.

He plays the bass trumpet.

His fellow bandsmen gaze at us
with a mixture of fatigue and resignation.

They have the look
of soldiers weary of war.
Tired of marching.
Wasted from playing jaunty tunes
when their spirits were overwhelmed
by cold, hunger, and thirst.

The bandmaster stoically sits in the center
casually holding his drum major baton,
while at his feet
lie spent artillery shells
and rifle cartridges.

It must be cold as
the men wear heavy wool overcoats

with blanket rolls on their backpacks.
Unlike most military bands,
this group does have some weapons.
One soldier lays prone
with a short sword
along side his battered tenor tuba.

In the top corner of the photo postcard
is a mark:

K u K.
I. R. No.

They are band musicians of the
kaiserlich und königliche Armee
Imperial and Royal Army
also known as the Austro-Hungarian Army of 1914-1918.
Specifically they are Hungarian soldiers of the
 k.u.k. Ungarisches Infanterie Regiment
„Freiherr von Reicher“ Nr. 68.

Twenty eight soldiers posed for a camera
outside an unknown courtyard.
Were they about to depart for the frontlines?
That might account for some of their anxious faces.
If so, it probably was not their first deployment.

The card back confirms more details.
The postmark is from Szolnok,
a city in central Hungary,
15 APR 26 – 26 April, 1915,
with a postage stamp from Hungary.
It was sent to someone whose name is unclear to me,
care of Theodor Nemeček of Prostějov, Mähren,
a small city in the Moravia area
of what was once the Czech region of Austria. 

The men had endured nine months of war.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a vast multi-cultural country in central Europe, second in size only to Imperial Russia. Sometimes called the Dual Monarchy, it came about through the Hungarian Compromise of 1867 which restored The Kingdom of Hungary's sovereignty as a quasi-equal to Austria's Hapsburg Empire. Though the two countries shared the same king, Austria's Franz Joseph I, they each had separate parliaments, separate laws, and even separate passports. Scattered around this duality of Austria and Hungary were numerous small kingdoms and duchies, the autonomous Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, and the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose capital was Sarajevo, and which were annexed in 1908. The empire contained dozens of ethnic peoples, each with their own language, religious and cultural traditions. It was a very large and very complicated nation. So when Serbian assassins murdered Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the presumptive heir to the dual throne, in June 1914, it took a few weeks to sort out what should be done. The foreign ministers and military leaders of  the Austro-Hungarian Empire chose war.  Within months Austria-Hungary mobilized 3.35 million men to engage Russian and Serbia forces.

Ethnic Groups of Austria-Hungary in 1911

The First World War was not confined to the trenches of Flanders. The Eastern Front was a much larger and dynamic battle zone. It pitted the enormous forces of the two Kaisers, Wilhelm II of Germany, and Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary against a third emperor Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Unlike the static battle lines of the Western Front, the armies on the Eastern Front initially were always on the move, trying to out flank their adversaries. By the end of 1915, the Austrian army was battling Serbs and Rumanians in the south, Russians to the north, and Italians in the southwest.

When Serbia failed to satisfy Austria's ultimatum, Austria responded with shelling Belgrade on 28 July 1914. According to the history on this website, the Infanterie Regiment Nr. 68 was stationed in Zemun, a Belgrade district town that then belonged to Austria. It was assigned to monitor the boat traffic on the Sava River and the railway bridge that linked Austria to Serbia. When Serbia mounted a strong defense, the first soldiers killed in the war reportedly belonged to the k.u.k. Ungarisches Infanterie Regiment Nr. 68. Whether the regiment's band was there is unknown.

Nearly every Austrian-Hungarian Regiment had a name of royalty attached. The Infanterie Regiment Freiherr von Reicher Nr. 68 was garrisoned in Szolnok prior to when the war began. The soldiers were 98% Magyaren (Hungarian), 2% Other. Their dress uniform was colored red brown with gold buttons. Probably very few spoke German.

According to the website,, the regiment's march tune was called the Reicher-Marsch, composed by Stefan Bacho von Dezser.   

As you listen to this jolly march.
Go back and look at the faces one more time.

* * *

* * *

Between 1914 and 1918
Serbia lost 300,000 to 450,000 soldiers
and even more civilians.
Austria-Hungary saw
1,200,000 to 1,495,000 soldiers killed
and 495,000 civilian deaths.

 The Great War does not deserve such lighthearted music
but the memory of these bandsmen does.

This is my contribution to the November edition of Sepia Saturday
click the link for more stories of the Great War of 1914-18.


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