Archiver > AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN-MILITARY > 2005-01 > 1104873140

Subject: Aus military academy history
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 16:12:20 EST

Austria's Military Academy Founded By Maria Theresa
Date: Monday, July 12 @ 09:44:37 PDT
Topic: Austria

Wiener Neustadt founded as a fortress
In 1194, Duke Leopold V of Austria and Styria, a member of the Babenberg
dynasty, founded "Nova Civitas", a "new city" (now Wiener Neustadt) on the
northern fringes of his Dukedom of Styria, because the existing border fortress of
Pitten was no longer considered sufficient. The successors of the Babenbergers,
the Habsburgs, remained closely associated with Wiener Neustadt.

King Rudolf of Habsburg, with whom the family's rise started, spent some time
in the city. Another Habsburg, Duke Leopold III (later killed in the battle
of Sempach in 1386) ordered the castle to be rebuilt. Almost a century later,
Duke Frederick V of the Styrian line chose Wiener Neustadt to be his residence.
Even after he had become Emperor as Frederick III, he kept his affection for
Wiener Neustadt, as did his son, Maximilian I. In St. George's Church he had
his personal motto "AEIOU" affixed in a visible place, and in the city's castle
he with his wife, Eleanor of Portugal, withstood the siege by the Styrian
nobles who had rebelled under Andreas Baumkircher. His son Maximilian was born in
Wiener Neustadt. It is to these events that the city owes its sobriquet "The
Ever Faithful One" (Semper Fidelis).
In 1487, the impregnable city was taken for once, by the King of Hungary,
Matthias Corvinus, but the castle as well as the city held fast throughout the
Turkish invasions in the 16th century and especially in the 17th century (when
the Turks laid siege to Vienna in 1683). The castle's towers often served as a
dungeon for important prisoners. The most famous of these was undoubtedly
Ferenc II Rákoczy, the Hungarian rebel leader, who escaped with the help of a
commander of the guard. Earthquakes in the 14th century and big fires in the early
17th century caused heavy damage to the city and the fortifications.
Officer training before Maria Theresa
In the wars of the early Modern Age, some of the traditions of medieval
knighthood lived on, which meant that military training was a normal part of any
young nobleman's education. In case of war, the colonel of each regiment tried
to improve his men's training, especially where technical troops such as the
artillery were concerned. In the course of the 17th century, waging war and
commanding soldiers more and more turned into a craft that had to be learned. So
Prince Eugene of Savoy, based on the experiences of his many campaigns, in 1717
founded an "Academy of Engineers". Other officers received their training in
regimental schools, where they learned to practise knightly virtues and to
handle the various types of troops. Moreover, they were taught languages - a
skill particularly important to an Austrian military man given that the Emperor
ruled over so many different territories in widely dispersed geographical areas.
A woman reforms the military
At the start of Maria Theresa's reign, she had to wage two wars over the
province of Silesia. Although Silesia had to be ceded to Prussia in the end, Maria
Theresia succeeded in saving the bulk of her Habsburg inheritance. In the
years following these wars, she embarked on a fundamental reform of all areas of
government. The Austrian army's performance in the two Silesian wars had not
always been glorious, hence Maria Theresa decided that the military had to be
radically reformed. Officer's commissions were no longer for sale, but military
organisation still had to be placed on uniform footing for the whole of the
Habsburg lands. Military districts were established to ensure the recruitment
of conscripts. Officers - usually expected to come from the nobility - were to
be trained in cadet schools and in a "Noble Military Academy". Future officers
in the Imperial army were expected not only to be military experts but
character building was also to be part of their education. Maria Theresa entrusted
the command of the new Academy to Count Leopold Daun, defining his mission
thus: "Make good officers and honest men out of them for me."
In 1752, the first officer cadets moved into the castle of Wiener Neustadt,
which had been thoroughly renovated. They were taught military theory and
practice as well as languages: French, Italian and Czech. In 1755, the first
graduates left the Academy, soon to see service in the Seven Years' War, which
started in 1756. When the Academy building was heavily damaged in an earthquake in
1768, Maria Theresa commissioned her favourite architect, Nicolaus Pacassi, to
do the restoration. After his work was finished in 1777, the school was
renamed "Maria Theresian Military Academy".
In 1779, Count Franz Joseph Kinsky took over as Commandant. He had studied
similar institutions in other countries and introduced a number of reforms in
the Academy. Already ten years before, priests from the Roman Catholic Order of
Piarists had been called to Wiener Neustadt to teach certain subjects, a step
that had led to an improvement in the officers' intellectual level. Maria
Theresa always kept an eye on her Academy. She came for inspections more than
once, the last time in 1780 to attend the ceremony of "Blessing the Colours".
During the reign of Maria Theresa's son, Joseph II, Pope Pius VI visited the
Academy on his way to Vienna. In 1786, the Academy was given a formal statute,
the "Stiftsbrief", which was to remain in effect right up to the Napoleonic
wars. In that era, boys from impoverished noble families received some
preference. In 1794, a young Italian cadet joined the Academy, receiving an ensign's
commission in 1797. It was only after serving in the field and being wounded
that the officer was found to be a woman named Francesca Scanagatta. The
everyday life of the cadets in those years, with military exercises as well as sports
in their leisure time, is shown in a number of charming gouaches by Bernhard
Albrecht, which the Academy still owns.
New reforms after the French occupation
After Austria's defeat in 1805, the Academy was occupied by French troops,
which stayed on until February 1806. Count Kinsky had died in 1805, and Emperor
Francis I entrusted the direction of the Academy to one of his brothers,
Archduke John, who launched another wave of reforms. Officer training had to be
adapted to the progress of knowledge as well as to political developments in
Europe, such as the fact that, starting with the French Revolution, it was
increasingly popular armies that faced each other on the battlefields.
From 1806, cadets were inducted at the early age of ten to twelve, with the
course taking eight years to complete. However this was reduced by one year in
After the revolution of 1848, the Academy was placed under the direct
authority of the War Ministry in 1849. Discipline was tightened up, with an emphasis
on subordination. The authorities even considered the idea of concentrating
all officer training facilities in one big central Academy. In order to be able
to construct the necessary new buildings in Wiener Neustadt, a special
horse-drawn railway was laid out to transport the building materials. But in the end
the plan was dropped.
In 1866, the year of the war with Prussia, the older cadets received early
commissions. It was only at the end of 1867, however, that the cadets began to
be issued with breech-loading Wenzel rifles. The previous muzzle-loaders had
been one of the causes of the Austrian army's disastrous defeat at Königgrätz
(Sadowa). Training programmes were also reformed. A new classification system
was introduced and the cadets were allowed more freedom. Above all, the
abolition of corporal punishments was an important step towards modernisation. Another
important new objective was that an officer's education was no longer to be
restricted to the purely technical aspects of war but was to include human
resources management. Emperor Francis Joseph was deeply attached to the Academy, a
fact which was reflected in the large number of his inspections.
From Empire to Republic
The Academy's last passing-out ceremony of second lieutenants of the Aust
ro-Hungarian Army took place in August 1918. Some of them were immediately
assigned to combat units where they took part in the last battles of the First World
War. Meanwhile back at the Academy, a mood of hopelessness was spreading. In
October 1918, the cadets were told to wear cockades in their different national
colours. On 4 November, a detachment of 25 cadets was sent to Schönbrunn
Palace to do guard duty for Emperor Charles.
On 12 November 1918, the Republic of Austria was proclaimed. Its new Armed
Forces Department had no use for the graduates of the Emperor's Military
Academy. Lieutenants in the new Popular Defence Force were appointed by decree,
provided their republicanism and democratic credentials were not in doubt. About
100 of them received their commissions over the next few months, until it was
decided to set up a two-year officer training course to improve their
qualifications. But in the new, small Republic of Austria with its much-reduced armed
forces, a career in the military was not very attractive anyway. In 1919, Wiener
Neustadt's Military Academy was handed over to the Interior and Education
Department, which turned it into a government-run boarding school.
In 1920, the new Austrian Federal Army was given an officer training centre
in the Upper Austrian town of Enns. It was only in 1933 that Kurt Schuschnigg,
then Minister of Education, returned the Wiener Neustadt Castle to the
military. In September 1934, officer training started again at Maria Theresa's
Military Academy.
After the Nazis took power in Austria, the Academy was not spared their
attentions. Erwin Rommel (later of "Afrikakorps" fame) took over as Commandant. He
planned large-scale rebuilding work and new constructions. But when the war
broke out, all ambitious plans had to be shelved. In March 1940, a school for
German Army NCOs moved into the Academy's buildings. From December 1942, the
Academy functioned as a "Kriegsschule", an officer training centre on the German
model. In the last days of the Second World War, its students were assigned to
the 6th SS Panzer Army. Insufficiently armed, they went into battle under the
command of their tactics instructor, Captain Rudolf Kirchschläger (later to
become Austrian President). 200 of them lost their lives in the last combats of
the Second World War, in the course of which the Academy building was
destroyed. In early April 1945, the Red Army occupied the Academy.
Officer training after the restoration of full sovereignty to Austria
It was only after the signing in 1955 of the State Treaty which ended the
occupation of Austria, that the Austrian government was able even to think of
reintroducing regular officer training. From 1958, these training programmes once
again were located at the Wiener Neustadt Military Academy. The curriculum
was largely modelled on the Academy's programme in the interwar years. From
1962, the syllabus was greatly enriched by regularly inviting university
professors to lecture on constitutional law, international law and contemporary
history. In 1967, the "Milak", as cognoscenti call it, resumed its old title of
"Theresian Military Academy".
When in the early seventies, after the decision to shorten compulsory
military service, the role of Austria's Federal Armed Forces came to be heatedly
debated, recruitment to the Academy plunged. It was only in the late seventies
that interest in an officer's career revived. The Academy's training programmes
were restructured to meet the requirements of Austria's new strategic defence
doctrine. The next fundamental reforms came in the mid-nineties. In addition to
the emphasis on an excellent general education, a number of new special
subjects were introduced: methods of leading an army in peacetime, international
peace-keeping missions and the implications of Austria's security policy for the
military have been moving to the foreground. Meanwhile, the Academy has been
given the status of Technical College, whose diplomas give its graduates the
option of pursuing other careers than the military. The Academy has also opened
its doors to women.
Dr. Isabella Ackerl
Source: Austrian Federal Press Service (Department III of the Federal

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