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During World War One on the Western Front I know from my military history that the Allies, Britain and France not only had units from their own countries and colonies but even Imperial Russian, then under the rule of Czar Nicholas, provided a token force in that theatre of war and perhaps even Imperial Japan, which was allied with the afore-mentioned nations in that conflict.  Question, did any of Imperial Germany’s allies, Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire, send any military units to that front as a token gesture of support?

Michael Hitchens

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Dear Mr. Hitchens,

Allied contingents, some token, some more significant, appeared on all fronts throughout the world war. At Tsingtao in August 1914, British naval and ground units fought under Japanese command, while the Austro-Hungarian armored cruiser, caught in harbor, aided in the German defense and after being scuttled its men fought until Tsingtao surrendered in November. In 1917 Japan stationed a destroyer squadron in the Mediterranean to assist the French, British and Italians against Austro-Hungarian U-boats—joined in 1918 by some U.S. Navy units based at Porto Corsini and a contingent of U.S. Army Air Service trainees at Foggia.

Arguably the most significant act of assistance within the Central Powers was the  transfer to Galicia in August 1916 of the Turkish XV Corps (19th and 20th Divisions), veterans of Gallipoli who held the line there after the mauling suffered by the Austro-Hungarian First Army under the hammer blows of General Aleksei Brusilov’s June 1916 offensive. The Turks kept the Galician front from hemorrhaging until the Austro-Hungarians replaced their losses, finally returning to Palestine in December 1917. By then they had suffered about 25,000 casualties, 480 of whom (including 11 unknowns) are known to have been buried in the Budapest Turkish Memorial Cemetery in the New Public Cemetery.

Some 40,000 Russians and a 55,000-man Corpo Expedicionário Portugués served on the Western Front, though the Portuguese were smashed with 35 percent casualties during the German spring offensive of 1918. In 1914 Austria-Hungary sent four batteries of heavy artillery to assist the Germans in Belgium, taking part in the battles of Namur, Antwerp and First Ypres before being transferred to the Russian Front in 1915 due to the deteriorating situation there. A token Austro-Hungarian contingent returned to the Verdun sector in 1918, but in spite of German training to deal with Western Front conditions, the Austro-Hungarians suffered badly during the joint Franco-American offensives of September-November.

An Austro-Hungarian battery was encountered by the British during the Battle of Haifa and the British and their allies fought Austro-Hungarian engineers and other troops in the course of General Edmund Allenby’s final campaigns in Palestine and Syria in 1918.

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Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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