Who's Who - Svetozar Boroevic von Bojna

Svetozar Boroevic von Bojna Field Marshal Svetozar Boroevic von Bojna (1856-1920), although regarded as overtly defeatist and wanting in nerve by his commanding officers during the First World War, was in fact one of Austria-Hungary's more able commanders who suffered from his ability to view matters as they stood rather than as Chief of Staff Conrad would have preferred to believe.

Notwithstanding the irritation he caused to Conrad and others, Boroevic nevertheless distinguished himself in the opening year of the war with his defence against markedly superior forces in the Carpathians.  Defensive fighting, as was the nature of conflict in the Carpathian mountains, ideally suited Boroevic's temperament in any case; it became his trademark throughout the war.

Earlier in 1914 he had similarly shone when commanding VI Corps with General Dankl's Austro-Hungarian First Army in Galicia, and while leading Third Army through the Battle of Komarow and the relief of Przemsyl.

Remarkably, Boroevic took part in all eleven (or twelve, depending upon your viewpoint) interminable Isonzo battles when transferred to command Fifth Army on the Italian front from 1915 onwards.

He was less impressive conducting offensive operations, where his forces generally suffered heavily - unusually for Boroevic on account of over-ambitious attacks and a reliance on manifestly unsuccessful breakthrough tactics.

With his Isonzo Army (renamed from Fifth Army in May 1917) playing a minor role (and none too well at that) in the great German-Austrian Caporetto victory in October-November 1917 (where the Germans made extensive use of the rather more successful infiltration tactics), Boroevic was tasked with the destruction of the retreating Italian army; he signally failed to do so.

Perhaps surprisingly in light of this Boroevic was made Field Marshal on 1 February 1918 for his role in the latter campaign (having earlier been promoted to Generaloberst on 1 May 1916 and as commander of Army Group Boroevic in August 1917).

Recovering from the Caporetto setback, Boroevic returned to the defensive strategy he knew best in the final year of the war.  Opposing the planned Austrian offensive on the Piave (Conrad's replacement as Chief of Staff, Arz von Straussenberg, was not especially optimistic over its prospects either but both were over-ruled by the Emperor, Karl I), the crossing predictably ended in defeat.

The Piave fiasco brought final inevitable disintegration to the Austro-Hungarian army.  Trying and failing to interest the Emperor in a royalist counter-revolution in early November 1918, Boroevic offered his services to Croat representatives in Belgrade.  However he was regarded as too popular to be reliable; he therefore retired from public life to live in reduced circumstances until his death the following year.

Having been awarded the prestigious German Pour le Merite, and the only holder of both the Commanders' and Knights' Cross of the Military Maria Theresa Order, and having been awarded the Grand Cross of the Military Merit Cross on two separate occasions (among numerous other honours), this most highly decorated of commanders died in 1920 at the age of 63.

A Battery was a group of six guns or howitzers.

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