At 4 PM on Saturday, January 23rd, 2016, at the Szent Mihály church in Budapest’s 16th district, Sándor Szakály, Director of the VERITAS Research Institute for History, made a presentation titled The Great War – The Role that Vitéz Baron Sándor Szurmay de Uzsok, Royal Hungarian General of the Infantry, Played in Defending the Uzsok Pass.
One hundred fifty-five years ago, on December 19th, 1860, the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s perhaps most famous Hungarian general was born, Vitéz Baron Colonel General Sándor Szurmay de Uzsok, also the onetime Minister of Defense.
In November 1914, at the Uzsok Pass in the Eastern Carpathians, Nicholas II’s troops invaded Hungarian territory. While the leadership was considering withdrawing the 3rd Army, Szurmay, who was at the front, decided to push back. With his surprise attack, Szurmay’s troops found themselves in the rear of the enemy, forcing the Russians to retreat. In his own words: “Things got extremely hot for the Russians at Hommona (today Humenné, SK) and Szinna (Snina, SK) when they heard the sounds of battle to their backs on the 27th.”
His brave and unexpected resolve garnered ample battlefield success thereupon. His troops played a decisive role in the Monarchy’s victory in the clash at Limanowa. In 1915, although outmanned, he successfully defended at tremendous cost the Uzsok Pass against the Russians in the so-called “Easter Battles”, and the homeland, too, as the Russians had been expected by their military leadership to be on the outskirts of Budapest by the time of Orthodox Easter. The outstanding general had this to say about that: “In April 1915, I was told to retreat on four different occasions, but each time I was able to work something out. And so it was that the final decisive phase of the battle, which lasted for four weeks, descended upon us, and which ultimately ended with our victory. My commander had said, ‘Szurmay disobeyed the order to retreat. May God bless him for doing so.’”
(Source: György M. Tóth: The Hero of Uzsok (Part I), December 19th, 2015. www.honvédelem.hu)