Between 10 and 15 august 2015 we explored the Romanian Mures County, where the village of Oarba de Mures is located. There, in the fall of 1944, the Romanian troop joined the Soviets, in the common purpose to set the territories free from nazi troops, which only 2 weeks before were the Romanian’s allies in the fight against the Soviets. Continue reading “15.08.15 Oarba de Mures”
We started the Romanian Military Archeology adventure, mainly having in mind the interest for Romanian history and its related events. So, we began our quest with this mental setup, which proved generous in Romanian artefacts and relics coming from both WW1 and WW2.
In the 2015 – 2016 time frame, we have managed to gather unique and rare items, most of them being dug by us in Romania, few of them coming from private collections or from fellow diggers who operate in areas where the Romanian army had activity, like the Don / Stalingrad areas.
We have found items on the border between equipment and trench art, from common to strange and further to unique. We have a WW2 M39 Romanian helmet with Royal cipher, which has an engraved cross in the middle of the cipher, probably drawn by the soldier as lucky charm. An identification tag from the ‘’Calarasi’’ Regiment with a condom glued on its back, probably the soldier kept them together in his wallet or pocket…and more helmets, including WW1 ’’Adrian’’ type, some of them in relic condition, others recovered in very good shape, of different provenance.
Also related to the helmets&headwear section, we managed to find a WW1 Romanian Royal badge for military hats. The winter hat was actually part of the Md.1895, which was out of use by WW1, but many have been reissued. The writings on it says ‘’Nimic far Dumnedeu’’ – Nihil Sine Deo (Nothing without God). After a few weeks from the badge discover, we found its ‘’brother’’, the cockade with the regiment number. Both belong to the winter wool hat introduced with the model 1895 uniform.
Also a pristine M39 helmet with original interior and period marks, another one coming from Stalingrad and having some sort of protection goggles (very probably hand made out of a Russian gas mask).
From time to time, we have stumbled onto many Romanian identification tags, coming from all sort of situations and sources. Among them, we found some rare ones, like a set of two WW1 pieces assigned to second lieutenant Caton Ion, from the 14 Reg. Artillery. Interesting to observe how the smaller cross is a silver one, which would confirm the officers’ habit to manufacture their id-tags differently from the rest of the troops. Another WW1 silver one, this time round, is assigned to Haim Hers Schargel, from the Reg.41 Craiova; an enlisted Romanian soldier, with Jewish origin. One WW2 rounded aluminum id-tag, bullet pierced exactly in the area where it was tied to the soldier’s neck and another one, this time from WW1, comes from a soldier who fought in the Reg.45 Infanterie, which was an infantry regiment heavily deployed in the Battle for Brasov; the 45 Infantry Regiment being also quoted in a memorial monument in Brasov.
Also in the personal items series, we have found medals, belt-buckles, a part of a leather wallet together with some coins (maybe representing part of the soldier’s pay), water canteens with names and drawings, a phonetic table for the campaign phone, bayonets and many more, other items.
Some items were donated to local history museums, none of them are for sale.
In each war background, beside the standard and well known equipment, there are unique objects coming from each soldier’s needs, from his intimacy and, why not, boredom. These objects forms into the ‘’Trench Art’’ category, which presume ‘’any decorative item made by soldiers, prisoners of war or civilians where the manufacture is directly linked to armed conflict or its consequences. It offers an insight not only to their feelings and emotions about the war, but also their surroundings and the materials they had available to them.’’ (quote from the New Zeland Army Museum). We must add that these improvised items, doesn’t have just a decorative role, but they are more likely functional items decorated in a second phase, or totally improvised items made with the intention to function, and becoming decorative by their unique form and construction.
In the last two years, we have managed to collect various objects, including some Italian mess tins coming from the ‘’Fronte Russo’’ battlefields, more exactly from the Arbuzovka area: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Arbuzovka . Judging the writings, we concluded that the tins were used by the assault unit CC.NN Camice Nere (Black Shirts) 30 BTG ‘’Montebello’’(the mess tin has the writing ”Molti Nemici, Molto Onore” – ”Many enemies, a lot of Honor”), another one by a soldier from the 3 Reg Bersaglieri, another by the ”Alpini” units, and another one, also Italian, probably captured by a Russian soldier and reused (it has Russian writings). Another of our mess tins, the one with the drawing of a soldier reading a letter, comes from the P.O.W. camp III-C stalag in Alt Drewitz https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalag_III-C
We have put together also a small grouping of items obtained from empty cartridges cases (ring, brush, bottle opener, lighter and whistle), and collected many items reporting the owners names or other infos. For example, we have found near Bucharest a lighter with the writings ”1943 Sevastopol Crimea”, so we concluded that very probably it was lost by a Russian soldier during his 1945 occupation campaing in Romania, soldier who fought also at Sevastopol. All the names and writings and details, helps to draw some aspect of the owner’s personal history, but also of a larger History, tracing the items route through sevelar countries and situations. The trench-art items in our collection, are both recovered by us in Romania or collected from other diggers and other countries; anyway, all of them are from Europe and the Eastern Front
In the last days of October, we had the occasion to visit some friends of ours located in Iasi, so we had three days of prospecting on the battlefields of their area. All the region is crossed by trenches, both in the open on the hills, and in the woods. The area hosted the first phase of what is known as ‘’The battle for Romania’’, a context where the Soviet troops after having forced the retreat of the Wehrmacht, targeted to break the defensive line of Iasi-Chisinau, destroying the remains of the South Army Group (formed by both German and Romanian troops). Considering that the intention of the Red Army was to invade Romania, the fights were very heavy.
On 18 April 1944 the Second Ukrainian Front breaks the German defense, entering the Romanian territory. Various defensive positions were made on the direction of the attack: on the Targu Frumos – Pascani line, and in the Tupilati and Halaucesti area. There were four known positions of defense: ‘’Dacia’’ starting from the N-W of Iasi, going through Letcani, Podu Ilioaei and Targu Frumos. Behind the ‘’Dacia’’ position there was ’’Traian’’, the second position covering the peaks at the S-W of Iasi. Two more, ‘’Decebal’’ and ‘’Stefan’’, were located in a more forward position, in order to block the enemy’s advancement in the pocket between the Prut and the Eastern Carpathians.
We explored an area nearby the city of Iasi, not having any difficulties in spotting trenches, we started with high hopes and nice weather. We were forming in a group of nine buddies, so the results started to appear quickly, in the first twenty minutes or so. At first came out a nice heavy metal box, which turned out to be a spare parts set case for field radio of American production, and equipped by the Russians, found by Marius. The place was full of all kind of twisted metal parts, shrapnel, pieces of trucks and other undefined metal parts; all along the impression was of an area where a heavy shelling was deployed. The second nice item was half of a Luftwaffe cluster bomb AB70, found on Soviet positions. Here and there some 50mm shells, a German tube paste and tooth brush, some cans, one mess tin, but nothing uncommon. At some point i received a very low and strong signal, highlighting a big piece of iron very near the surface; i was able to pin the target with the bare hands, finding out it was a T34 track link.
The next interesting piece was discovered by Cristian in a trench wall: a German M42 helmet having the trace of a headshot, but no human remains were spotted with it. A lot of other small pieces, rifle’s cleaning tool kits, half of a Romanian id-tag, around 20 empty 75mm Sherman tank shells (also used by the Soviets), a Panzerfaust tube and many mortar tails. Overall a great group experience, great places and lot of potential, for sure an area that we will check again.
Here’s a short video of the German helmet being dug.
Sometimes digging isn’t only about recovering items from the underground, but also somehow a ‘’state of awareness’’ which makes you always search around you, mentally digging for ‘’that something’’ that will trigger the joy or the collector instinct.
The first one is a German belt buckle in iron, assigned to the SS troops, the manufacturer is JFS Josel Felix Sohne. This one was found in a Romanian flea market. The second is a Romanian brass buckle, assigned to the Royal Guard’s divisions to be worn with the dress uniform; this last one was recovered from an area where the battle for Oradea took place. The Romanian buckle was worn by officers during WW2. In Oradea, the Romanian troops found themselves against the new German enemy, which only few weeks earlier was the Romanian ally in the Axis. Fought in ’44, the battle involved, besides other units, the ”Tudor Vladimirescu” Division together with elements from the 61st Soviet tank Division. They encountered the 76th German Infantry Division, 23rd Panzer Division and 3rd Hungarian Army.
Both buckles are pretty rare within the Romanian territory; the German one especially, and no collector seemed to have come across it, since it popped up at only 30eur. The Romanian, of royalist, interwar production (’34’-37), is generally rare, hard to find both in local flea markets in collectors. In the last 2 years i saw only two…which were coming from the Russian front, so not local dug outs. I must add that this buckle model represents a last moment of design and somehow symbolistic charge, offered by the Regal crow in relief; the following standard Romanian buckles will adopt a plain form, without any marking or symbol, their quality being also reduced.
The biggest part of our relics comes from the context of the WW1 Romanian Carpathian 1916 campaign, when the Romanian troops were forced to retreat from the Ardeal region, forming a resistance line on the Carpathian peaks. The Carpathian defensive line represented the last obstacle for the German and Austro-Hungarian troops to flood the entire country, so the Romanian soldiers launched themselves in desperate battles.
The shortest way for the German army to reach the country capital was to pass trough Bran and Predeal, both towns which became the scenery of terrible battles and accompanied by heavy artillery shelling.
On those peaks and mountain passes the Romanian troops defended the positions suffering heavy losses, being also technical overwhelmed by the enemy, which disposed of constant artillery support and resources.
In the last two years we explored several of those battlefields, recovering a large quantity of objects, and also a lot of materials that became useful for institutions/historical researches.
This is the ”playground” where the R.M.A. team put the base of this project.
Many thanks to Valeriu Catalineanu for the pictures.
German helmet M35DD model: a post 1940 texturized ”camouflage” paint can be seen on the exterior, under it you can also see the original green-olive paint, typical for the early M35 model, like both of the decals. The interior presents the original green-olive paint.
Manufacturer ”ET” Eisen-und Hüttenwerke, AG Thale/Harz, size 66.
The helmet was recovered from the Mizil area, Romania, October 2015.
Finalization of the cleaning and reconditioning process of the M35 Heer DD German Helmet, having the post 1940 texturized paint.
Cleaning Method: gradual baths of oxalic acid (not by immersion)
Preservation Method: Renaissance Wax.
One month after the discovery of a WW1 mass grave, our team reported a very similar situation, also located on the WW1 battlefields of the Brasov area. This time the digging was triggered by high signals coming from several uniform buttons, which lead us to other, deeper signals.
After expanding the first hole, resulted from the buttons recovery, we recived new signals in the bottom. We found out that the signals were coming from several military boots spread in an area of around 2x2sqm. Together with the first pair of boots, we saw a shin coming out of one of the boots, andwe realized that probably we stumbled again on a mass-grave.
After some other bones discovered in the grave, and with the certitude that we found another grave site, we carefully recovered what was already in the hole, covered in the pile of dug soil. So we had the occasion to recover several coins, both Romanian and German, one mantle in decent state (which probably was coming from a Romanian boarder police officer) several shovel, one bayonet, and 3 Romanian dogtags. We decided to extract what still visible, in the hole’s walls, so we recovered some 3 almost complete skulls, one porcelain denture, several uniform buttons and other bones. After a first examination of the items, we discovered that the coins were in silver, and since we also found that porcelain dentures, we began thinking that the remains probably weren’t of a regular trooper, but probably coming from an officer.
The tags comes from the Romanian RGT 73 INF, which was one of the deployed in the terrible battles of the Brasov area. One of the tags have scratched on it the name ”Lazar Dragulin”, with the city indication ”from Isaceea”.
After sorting what came out from the hole, we contacted the authorieties, following an already known procedure. All the human remains and with all the material requested by the state police officers who took over the case, where handed to the authorities, together with all the information coming from the identification disks.
We were told that the remains will be buried in the local WW1 Mausoleum, like in the case of the remains discovered in the previouos grave site. The discovered grave reported the remains of several soldiers, mostly probably Romanian, considering the discovered artefacts. We were able to certify the remains of at least 7 bodies, by the number of maxillary bones. After some time, the police told us that after some first interventions and research, it seems that the grave contains easily more than 10 bodies.
In the same hill where the grave was discovered, we dug out also two belt buckles in very good shape, one one Hungarian and another Austro-Hungarian.
During the day of 16.08.2015 the R.M.A team discovered a WW1 mass grave in the Predeal area, containing the remains of 4 Romanian soldiers. The place of the recovery was the scenery of heavy clashes between the Romanian army and the Austro-Hungarian one. The particular spot of the mass grave was located on an altitude where the A.U. breached into the Romanian lines, forcing them to retreat in a hurry. The time frame associated with the findings is the “Battle of Predeal”, an episode that happened in October 1916, when the Romanian troops fought in order to block the advance of the A.U. army trough the Carpathian mountains. Continue reading “16.08.15 Susai, Predeal – Recovery of 4 fallen soldiers”