A different slant on history
Ever thought about how the army of the Austrian Empire actually worked?
Last month, I visited the military museum in Vienna in the old Arsenal building. It's well worth a visit if you're ever in Vienna and interested in history.
It also has a good website at www.hgm.or.at from which you can download information sheets in English (and 9 other languages, to boot).
Among the fascinating exhibits from our period was this:
An example is number 159. The original question, in German, is "How do you feel? Good or bad?" If the doctor wanted to ask that, he had many languages to choose from, as shown at the bottom of each column.
I do find myself wondering what he did with the answers, though, and how much of them he could understand. Still, sign language probably helped.
The second book was issued to field officers so that they could give orders to the troops or ask questions.
This book also, interestingly, provides both written and spoken versions of the foreign languages. So, taking the first line as an example, the German-speaking officer could use "Hey, you! Stand still!" in the original German, in printed or spoken Polish, printed or spoken Ruthenish (a forerunner of modern Ukrainian), or printed or spoken Russian.
Seeing these two small books totally changed my view of the Austrian army. It hadn't occurred to me before that it was a polyglot army and that there must have been huge difficulties of communication between the troops from the various countries of the Empire.
Imagine giving orders in the middle of a battle. Someone has to look up the translations in the book, but there's so much gunsmoke around that you can't really read the words, and the messenger is waiting to take the dispatch to the troops on the ground... It gives the "fog of war" a totally new meaning.
Isn't history fascinating? Can't you feel just what it would be like to be there?