May 27 - June 2, 1919. The Northern Campaign's first successful missions

The Campaign, which started on May 30, 1919 was a real success story for the Hungarian Soviet Republic and the new age of Hungarian military history. But soldiers fighting on the front would have never imagined that less than two weeks later the Governing Council would be forced to give back the territories they took.

First days of the Northern Campaign

On May 22, 1919 - a day after the Red Army successfully took back Miskolc - the following report was published by MTI"We were facing intense attacks by the enemy in the Szécsény-Fülek area, but after successful battles at Fülek and Diósgyőr we managed to capture some territories yet again. Operations North from Miskolc and Diósgyőr are going as planned. No news from the other fronts.” But the Czech army was not going to let this slide, losing the battle and their crucial strategic bases, and launched several attacks against the Hungarians. The Romanians helped them above Miskolc, so their army became two times larger than the Reds'. Two days after they lost Miskolc, the allies were trying to take the city back with a powerful counter-attack, but the workers of Budapest and Miskolc managed to fight back the overpowering enemy and win the second Miskolc battle.

Then a debate started both amongst members of the Governing Council and the military about further attacks. Military leadership decided to try and break the Czech-Romanian army's inner units and first beat the Czechs then the Romanians after crossing the river Tisza. Aurél Stromfeld did not appreciate this plan and found taking Felvidék a more reasonable goal. The first day of the Northern Campaign was already successful. At the end of the day, Vilmos Böhm Commander-in-Chief sent the following telegram from the frontline to Béla Kun:

„I'm happy to inform you that our proletarian army took Ipolyság, Rimaszombat, Losonc, Edelény and  Szikszó and the occupied territories North of the area. We are chasing the enemy out from every corner. Our troops: the Red Army infantry, artillery, tech teams, the Danube flotilla and the airplanes were tirelessly competing with each other. The proletariat will always be thankful for the International-, Budapest- and country units, and soldiers from the occupied territories for fighting with such determination. Leadership from highest to lowest ranks were all precise, deliberate, managed to remain calm, and achieved  results with the least amount of casualties. I would also like to thank the commanders and ex-officers, who led the heroic red soldiers with determination and proletarian unselfishness. They also deserve the proletariat's gratefulness. We are chasing the enemy on the entire frontline, and have minimal casualties. We continue operations according to plan.”

The 30 ½  cannons

On the first day on May 30, the Red Army managed to reoccupy territories in the Northern and North-Western areas, while in the North-Eastern area, the Czech-Romanian armies were much more vigilant. The next day, the Hungarian artillery unit deployed one of their most terrifying weapons against them. A reporter from Népszava wrote about the experience: „Saturday, 15:00. We drive to ..., where we are told, that they are just getting ready to put the earth-shattering monster in action. We climb up to the church tower on the creaking, dark stairs as quickly as possible, where a wonderful sight welcomes us: tree-covered roads on left and right, plains on the front and blue mountains in the back with light gray fog-covered forests. The roads are busy filled with troops. There is an empty area a little further away where people are crawling and stumbling in the trenches, cornfields and improvised shooting pits. Above them, a bluish, dirty black smoke-cloud appears following the exploding shrapnels and grenades. The air rumbles and the tower is shaking under us. Navigators are standing in the window behind the periscope, one of them is drawing on a board next to the bell. He measures and calculates: distance: 8, height: 3400, directions this and that. — Ready! Fire! — says someone in the phone. After a couple of gripping seconds, we hear a giant ban coming from the right. Everybody hold their breaths while counting back the seconds and concentrating on the two white towers in the distance, where we should see the impact. Something cries in the air for a long time and suddenly a giant black smoke-column emerges next to the two towers. Shortly after, the wind carries a blunt, frightening rumble towards us: the moment of explosion. Then commands, navigation, corrections follow, and they are getting ready for another round. The second monster flies in the air roaring. We quickly run down from our spot and leave to the next town. We arrive just when they get ready to fire the third round. The steel giant yawns and lifts its head up with an open mouth. Soldiers of the red artillery unit suddenly realize the presence of the Commander-in-Chief and start proudly and cheerfully hailing their superior and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat while firing at the Soviet Republic's enemy. —Ready! Back! Stand back! Get behind cover! We all run to the back and duck next to the railways. An artilleryman jerks the end of the long rope. The giant breathes fire and the detonation rumbles the earth and the air around us, something lets out a long cry in the air, then we hear a deep, blunt bang in the distance.”

The Austrian and Hungarian armies were the first to experiment with the 30 ½ mortars manufactured in the Czech town of Pilsen, in the beginning of World War I. Although they were the heaviest cannons, they were easy to transport and could be set up in an hour. The 3 1/3 meter, 5 ton cannon was made with a special steel-mixture of two components: an inner and a cover barrel. They were mounted on the cannon-stand in a way so that the inner barrel could run back after being fired, than slide back to its place. One cannonball was 385 kilograms - a pointed head bomb filled with powerful explosives and a base fuse. The gunpowder was filled into individual copper cartridges. Wherever these bombs fell, they destroyed everything with their heavy weight and gigantic blast.

 

 

The armored train's succes

The other insuperable weapon of the Red Army against the Czechs were the armored trains 

On the turn of the century, during the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, military leaders quickly recognized the value of the rapidly developing railways, as they could easily transport personnel and equipment via trains in wartime, so they already planned the new railroads with the additional service of future military operations in mind. They also wanted to supply the army with gears that would allow them to guard the railroads. That is how the armored trains consisting of only a couple cars but covered entirely with armor plates, cannons and machine guns were born. The first car, the "flat wagon" was designed to swallow an explosion if the train would run on mines, so that the other cars could remain intact. Behind that was the "fort wagon" with mobile navy cannons and a machine gun wagon. The locomotive was in the middle, connected to another gunner wagon, and the last one in the end was the supply wagon with food supplies, a kitchen, weapon supplies and railroad repairing equipment. The Monarchy's joint army had 12 armored trains that were used in World War I. at the Polish-Russian and Romanian battles on the East. Most of them were destroyed, so in 1919 they were still being repaired while the Red Army started their battles.  

Due to the lack of materials and time, they decided to construct lighter armored trains, which were less effective and looked a little gawky, but four of them were up and running by April. In early May, newspapers published an announcement that all officers familiar with armored trains and 30 ½ cannons, and would be willing to serve on them/use those, should apply immediately. The 4th and 8th armored trains were deployed first, the 12th was used in the Miskolc battle, and after May 31 the 1st was also fighting on the front, which used to serve in Budapest prior to that. Although the trains' quality was much worse than the originals, their crew was significantly more resourceful. The Czechs did everything to destroy them, but all of their efforts remained fruitless. At the first Miskolc battle, the 12th armored train came face-to-face with a high speed locomotive. When the crew realized what's happening, they immediately jumped down to tear up the tracks, so the locomotive derailed in front of their eyes. They say that the red artillery unit managed to remain so calm and focused, that they even let out the steam to prevent an explosion.