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János Gabányi of Olysó and Héthárs

first Director of the Royal Hungarian Military History Archives

Szatmár (today Satu Mare, Romania), 27 July 1871 – Budapest, 13 December 1934


At the age of 22, on 1 October 1893, he joined the Royal Hungarian 12th Infantry Regiment as a one-year volunteer. He was appointed to lieutenant on 1 June 1896. He completed several military courses, including the 1900–1902 Vienna Military School. 

He served as general staff officer of the Royal Hungarian 102nd Territorial Infantry Brigade between 28 July and 15 September 1914 at the Eastern front, and from March 1917 at the Italian front as Commander of the II battalion of the Royal Hungarian 12th Infantry Regiment. He performed very well as battalion commander in the 10th Battle of the Isonzo and the following trench fights.

He was promoted to major on 1 May 1915, to lieutenant colonel on 1 May 1917, to colonel on 1 May 1920 and became brevet general on 1 January 1924.

He was chief of staff of the Military District Command in Szeged in 1915, and then of the one in Pozsony in 1917, then at the Italian front deputy commander of the training group of the Imperial and Royal VII Corps.

His medals (3rd Class of the Order of the Iron Crown, Knight’s Cross of the Order of Franz Joseph, 3rd Class of the Military Merit Cross, Charles’ Troops’ Cross) prove his excellent service.

His spiritual inspirations bonded him with the memories of Hungarian military history. His organizational and writer’s skills and his extensive knowledge of languages (besides German he understood French, Romanian and Latin) lead him to Department 1/a of the Ministry of Defence. Subgroups of archives, statistics, military history, library and photography were gradually formed within this department during the First World War according to a ministerial edict ordering the collecting and sending of battlefield records of Royal Hungarian units to the Hungarian Ministry of Defence. After the downfall of the Monarchy János Gabányi, as the leader of the military history subgroup, started the unification of the subgroups as an organic whole on the first days of November 1918. The unit created this way was named Military History Archives and Museum, and he became its first leader until 30 September 1920.

He was Deputy Director-General of the Archives from 12 May 1924, president of the editorial board of Magyar Katonai Közlöny (“Hungarian Military Newsletter”), which was published by the Military History Archives.

János Gabányi can be described as the harmonic unity of man, soldier, historian, writer and sportsman. 

He retired after more than 30 years of service on 31 December 1925, but he continued to lead an active life.

From 1911, he was assistant member of the Military History Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. As a historian, he was interested in several topics and periods: army organization, Hungarian military language, legends of Hungarian border castles, psychology of fighting and armed conflicts.

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