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Question about General Polak / Pokay


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I am trying to find more about an officer successively know as Polàk Johann / Pókay Johann (or János in the Hungarian version).

He was a Hauptmann 1. Classe in IR 65 when he joined the ranks of the Freiwilliger to embark for Mexico in 1864 (with the Rank of Major then).

He served apparently in the Jäger, rising to the rank of Oberstlieutenant in July 1866.

He came back to Europe in 1867, and was reintegrated as a Hauptmann in IR65 in April 1867.

In 1869/1870 he joined the Königlich Ungarsiche Leibgarde.

I understand that he later climbed the steps to gain the rank of Titular Felzeugmeister in 1896.

Now the puzzling question to me is when and why he changed his name ?

A portrait of that man would be fantastic indeed !



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Hi Jérôme,

It is unclear to me why he changed his name. He is shown as Hauptmann Johann Pollak of the zweites Pesther Freiwilligen-Infanterie-Bataillon in the 1859 Schematismus and shown as Johann Polak on rejoining Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 65 in 1867. He is shown as Johann Pókay on entering the Königlich ungarsiche Leibgarde in 1869. He commanded Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 34 from 1882 to 1887 and his biography in that history does not mention his change of name. He was born in Pápa, Hungary and joined the insurgent Hungarian Army during the war of 1848/49. Following the Hungarian defeat, he joined Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 20 as a private soldier and there rose to the rank of Oberlieutenant. In 1859 he served sucessively in the Raab-Pressburger and zweites Pesther Freiwilligen-Infanterie-Bataillon, followed by service in Infantry regiments 5 and 65 until leaving for Mexican service in 1864. Promoted to Major in Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 5 in 1874 and to Oberstlieutenant and Commandant of the Armee-Schießschule in 1877. In 1877 he became the Reserve-Commandant of Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 25 and was promoted to Oberst on 10 November 1881. He bacame a Generalmajor and Commander of the 31. Infanterie-Brigade in 1887. He retired as a Feldmarschallieutenant in 1896.

I think it may be the case that he "Hungarified" his name on joining the Königlich ungarsiche Leibgarde.



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This is what I could piece together:

General of the Infantry János (Johann) Pókay (Polák)

- 1829.03.13 born in Pápa, Hungary as János Polák

- graduated from the Law Academy at Győr

- summer of 1848: volunteer in the 7th honvéd battalion

- second half of 1848 - promoted to lieutenant during the fights

- 1849 february - at the capitulation of Lipotvár he is taken prisoner, he is drafted in the kk. 20th infantry regiment as a private

- 1851 – promoted to cadet

- 1852 – promoted to second lieutenant (Unterleutnant)

- 1859.05.14 – promoted to captain (Hauptmann) and transfered to the 2nd Volunteer Battalion from Pest (Zweites Pesther Freiwilliges-Infaterie-Bataillon)

- 1860 or 1861 – transfered to the 65th infantry regiment

- 1864-1867 – was serving Mexico, was promoted to major (or colonel lieutenant) and he was the miliary commander of Mexico City, was awarded the officer’s cross of Guadalupe Order

- 1867 april – returned to the austrian army, was transfered back to the 65th infantry regiment as captain

- 1869-1873 – was serving in Royal Hungarian Guards (königlich-ungarische Leibgarde)

- 1870 – taken tha name of Pókay

- 1873 – was transfered to the 44th infantry regiment

- 1873 – was awarded the 3rd or 4th class of the russian St. Anna Order

- 1874 – was promoted to major and he was transfered to the 5th infantry regiment

- 1877.11.01 – was promoted to colonel lieutenant (Oberstleutnant) and he was appointed as commander of the Armee-Schießschule

- 1879 – he was transfered to the 25th infantery regiment as second-in-command

- 1881.11.01 – was promoted to colonel (Oberst)

- 1882 april – was appointed as commander of the 34th infatry regiment

- 1883 july – was awarded the 2nd class of the prussian Order of the Red Eagle

- 1885 january – was awarded the officer’s cross of the french Legion of Honour

- 1886 october – was awarded the 3rd calss of the Order of the Iron Crown

- 1887 march – was appointed as commander of the 31th infantry brigade in Kronstadt

- 1887.11.01 – was promoted to general major (Generalmajor)

- 1888 july – was awarded the 2nd class of the persian Order of the Sun ant Lion

- 1891.11.01 – was promoted to lieutenant general (Feldmarschallleutnant) and was appointed as commander of the 27th infantry division in Kassa

- 1892 – was appointed as commander of the 3rd honvéd district in Kassa

- 1893 – was appointed as commander of the 1st honvéd district in Budapest

- 1894 – was awarded the knight’s cross of the Order of Leopold

- 1896 novemberében nyugállományba helyezték és előléptették címzetes táborszernaggyá (1908-tól címzetes gyalogásági tábornok)

- 1896 november – was retired and was promtoed to honorary general (Feldzugmeister, from 1908 General der Infaterie)

- 1918.02.07 – died, most likely in Graz (he was living there since he retired)

He was also awarded the 3rd class of the russian St. Vladimir Order, but I don’t know when.

As Glenn wrote before me, he probably changed his name because of the Leibgarde service. "Polák" is a derigatory term for "polish" in hungarian so its not a great surname :)

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Many thanks gents !

That does sound a likely reason for the name change indeed.

I've shown this elsewhere, some time back, but after searching the various lists of officers leaving Austro-Hungarian Service, serving for the Mexican Empire, and joining again Imperial Service, I think I have (at last) identified this gentleman (here thought to be photographed in Puebla) :


As a matter of fact, he did serve with the Ungarische Leibgarde on return to Europe :


It took some time !



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