the old Regiment

A Short History of k.u.k. Infantry Regiment
"Erzherzog Rainer" ("Archduke Rainer") No. 59

Ausmarsch zum Manöver

In view of the pressure and advance of the Ottoman Empire versus Central Europe, Emperor Leopold I. commissioned Leopold Freiherr (= Baron) van der Beckh to set up an infantry regiment with garrisons in Upper and Lower Austria. Already on July 5 of the same year the regiment marches through Salzburg! It was later to become Salzburg's "house regiment". The regiment saw its first actions in June/July 1683 during the second siege of Vienna by the Turks.

Being one of the most renowned regiments of the monarchy, it was involved in practically all the theatres of war of the empire -- such as during the Turkish wars under Prince Eugene of Savoy, the Spanish War of Succession, on Sicilly, in Transylvania, against Prussia for Maria Theresia, during the Napoleonic wars in the Netherlands, Alsace, and by the Upper Rhine, in the Piemont and Friuli regions, by the Etsch and Eisack (ital.: Adige and Isarco) rivers. In August 1802 it occupies the Archbishopric of Salzburg by order of Emperor Franz II. and is deployed there after the departure of the French army in 1806. Salzburg finally becomes its main garrison when the province is incorporated into Austria in 1816. The Duchy of Salzburg, together with the southern parts of Upper Austria (i.e. Innviertel and Hausruckviertel), become its permanent recruiting area.

A relatively quiet period up to 1848 is ended by the revolutions of that year and uprisings in Hungary and Italy. Already then the regiment proves to be a unit well adapted to alpine mountain warfare during the defence of the borders of Tirol against attacks from the south.

On June 2, 1852, Archduke Rainer Ferdinand is nominated Honorary Colonel of the regiment for life by Emperor Franz Josef I. Until the Archduke's passing away in 1913 he was going to see many more actions of "his" regiment, eg. in Magenta, Solferino, Brescia, as well as other theatres of war. On June 2, 1882, Salzburg honours "its" regiment with a glorious festivity and the erection of a memorial obelisk at the entrance to the city's largest cemetery.

Having suffered heavy losses in action at the eastern front - where Hans Schmid composes the regimental "Rainermarsch" - the regiment is transferred to the Trentino region (now northern Italy) in 1915 as part of the defence of the southern front. From its positions around Belluno it returns to Salzburg in complete order via Bozen (Bolzano) and Innsbruck in November 1918.

Altogether the regiment mourned 5.000 members, lost during these four tragic years of unspeakable human bravery and suffering. It was disbanded after 236 years of service to its country. However, the tradition of the regiment is being upheld till present days by Salzburg's army units of the first (1918-38) and second (since 1945) Austrian republics. Within the civil sector, it is above all the so-called "Rainerbund", an association founded by the regiment's former officers and rank and file. It was founded with the goals of comradeship and mutual assistance and also looks after the regimental museum within the fortress of Hohensalzburg. 

There can be no doubt that the tradition of the former Salzburg "House Regiment" continues to be very much alive in Salzburg. This is witnessed by the fact that the newly formed Salzburg militia infantry battalion was given the name "Erzherzog Rainer" ("Archduke Rainer").

Honouring up the banner of the old regiment with our music is also a major objective of our orchestra since its foundation in 1999.