Árpád Bertalan

Bertalan pictured as a Captain in the Hungarian ArmyÁrpád Bertalan was born in Pozsony (Bratislava) in 1898 as the son of an officer. After attending the Infantry Cadet School in Budapest he was appointed as a Fähnrich in the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Feldjäger Battalion Number 3 on the 18th of August 1916 which was at that time in action on the Isonzo front. He was soon appointed as the leader of the assault group of the battalion's third company by the company commander with which he soon proved himself in action by the execution of numerous successful assault operations. 

At the opening of the 12th Battle of the Isonzo or Caporetto on the 24th of October 1917, Bertalan's battalion (commanded by Major Otto Riedl Edler von Leuenstern) was a part of Oberst Raimund von Budiner's 7th Mountain Brigade in Feldmarschalleutnant Josef Metzger's 1st Infantry Division in Gruppe Scotti (Feldmarschalleutnant Karl Scotti's XV Corps) which held the Tolmein (Tolmino) sector opposite the Italian XXVII Corps. Leutnant Bertalan's task was to occupy by evening the Italian positions on the ridge to the west of Santa Lucia in the vicinity of Srednje by moving rapidly across the rugged terrain  west to Ostry Kras and thence south to Sredny.

After crossing the start line at 08:15 hours his 15 man group was initially held up by two well camouflaged enemy machine gun posts. Bertalan's group however quickly moved through the undergrowth supported by an assault group under the command of Fähnrich Mendel and succeeded in overrunning the Italian positions with hand grenades and taking the surviving enemy soldiers prisoner. Parting company with Mendel's group, Bertalan's assault group pressed on and took the first outposts of the forward Italian positions at about 10:30 hours. He rapidly extended the break-in and rolled up the enemy positions to a width of 300 metres and took in the process some ten Italian Officers and 500 NCOs and men prisoner. The yawning gap in the enemy positions was further extended with the hurried appearance of another assault group under the command of Fähnrich Julius Kemény and consequently the area of operations for the leading battalion of the brigade was now secured.

Without waiting for the arrival of the leading battalion, Bertalan now pressed on to the west with his remaining eight men, the remainder either having been wounded or left to guard the prisoners of war , until he reached a clearing and came across a resting infantry detachment next to a first aid post. Surprising the enemy infantry with a rapid hand grenade attack, they quickly scattered in panic leaving three medical officers, medical personnel and the wounded. In the meantime the assault group under Fähnrich Kemény appeared and Bertalan decided to continue towards the second Italian position at Ostry Kras. Both assault groups broke through the wire entanglements and after a short fire fight penetrated the enemy trenches where a further two officers and fifty NCOs and men were captured.

It was now 15:30 hours and the small group had lost contact the other elements of the brigade and the approaching dusk complicated the guarding of the prisoners of war particularly since they had to be constantly expectant of being being attacked by strong enemy forces in the broken terrain. It would have been prudent to wait for the arrival of reinforcements, however the flash of Italian artillery fire from the direction of Srednje immediately prompted him to attack the Italian battery position with hand grenades and within a few minutes he had captured six enemy heavy mortars.

Although it was now not possible to accurately orientate himself, it was clear to Bertalan that he must now be in the rear of the second enemy position and he was of the opinion that the fire he could hear to the east was that of his own brigade and that Srednje was not too distant.. He immediately assembled his Bosnians and assaulted with his last hand grenades the rear of the enemy positions just as the Jäger Battalion was attacking from the front. The success of the short attack in the darkness was overwhelming; nearly a 1000 men were captured, the village of Srednje and the entire second Italian line were in Austro-Hungarian hands. The brigade's mission had been accomplished. Major von Riedl wrote of his enterprising subordinate: He was always known as the most determined and bravest officer, but what he achieved on the 24th of October 1917 placed everything before far in the shadows.

For his resolute conduct during 12th Isonzo Leutnant Bertalan was awarded the Golden Bravery Medal for Officers. The following year he saw further action on the Piave and lastly in Albania. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresia at the 193rd Promotion on the 25th of October 1927, by that time serving as an officer in the army of the new independent state of Hungary. He had additionally been awarded the Bronze Military Merit Medal (Signum Laudis) and the Karl Troop Cross. Árpád Bertalan died of his injuries following an air crash during the invasion of Yugoslavia on the 12th of April 1941. He had been a Major and commander of the Hungarian Parachute Battalion at the time.

Back to Miscellaneous Biographies