The Czech Contribution to the Most Embarrassing Defeat of the Austrian Army

Austrian Army
The Austrian army, in a better condition.

Is it possible that Czech soldiers have played a key role in the most embarrassing defeat of the Austrian army –  when it attacked itself? The Battle of Karánsebes – that neat white page in Austrian history books – was reportedly triggered by drunk soldiers who refused to share their booze and, in the heated dispute, fired a shot.

Some infantry soldiers panicked and began shouting “Turci! Turci!”1 – which sounds very Czech to my ears. Austrian soldiers then tried to stop them with the command “Halt! Halt!” – which again was misheard by the soldiers (who probably skipped their German lessons – it’s not one of the most difficult German words) as “Allah! Allah!”

According to the legend, the friendly fire caused a loss of 10,000 men.

Lesson learned?

 


PS: If you fancy reading an original quote:

Um Mitternacht kamen viele Walachen mit großem Geschrei: die Türken! die Türken! Von diesem falschen Lärm erschreckt fuhr alles auf und dachte an Rettung. Ein paar Häuser, welche von eben diesen Walachen in Brand gesteckt wurden, vermehrten den Schrecken. Die Verwirrung war unbeschreiblich. … Unsere Mannschaft stieß in der Finsterniss auf ein anders Regiment. Die Offiziere des erstern riefen halt! halt! die zweiten glaubten den türkischen Ruf allah! zu hören, feuerten und erlegten viele ihrer Kameraden.

Real-Zeitung auf das Jahr 1788

Alcoholism, xenophobia, communication gaps, arson, mass panic … not just problems of today.

  1. “Turks! Turks!”

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