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  • Writer's pictureServus Zagreb

Baron Franjo Trenk – a founder of the first military orchestra in Europe

Have you ever thought about where and when the first military orchestra was formed? It is difficult to confirm but probably the Turkish Mehter band from the late 13th century. But what about a military orchestra in Europe? According to numerous sources, it took almost five centuries to form the first military orchestra in Europe thanks to Baron Franjo Trenk and its Pandur troopers.


In the mid-eighteenth century, Baron Franjo Trenk and his Pandur troopers spread the courage of Slavonian soldiers and the glory of the Kingdoms of Croatia and Slavonia throughout Europe. Baron Trenk may not be such a well-known historical figure throughout Europe, but he was certainly a very important figure in Central Europe, including Croatia. He gave today’s village of Trenkovo (Croatia) his name and who was a famous figure in the Croatian history, as well he owned several large estates in Croatia as such as Brestovac, Pakrac, Pleternica and Velika in Požega County, and Nuštar in Srijem County. A Prussian by descent, an Italian by birth, an Austrian by nationality, a Slavonian magnate and Croat by his estates – Baron Franjo Trenk lived for a stormy 38 years. He was sentenced to death twice and both times managed to avoid execution. He was wounded fourteen times in the War of the Austrian Succession fighting on the side of Empress Maria Theresa.

OK, that’s in short lines about Baron Trenk, but what about his troopers? Who they were?

A skirmisher unit of the Habsburg Monarchy, raised by Baron Franjo Trenk following a charter issued by Maria Theresa of Austria on 27 February 1741. The unit was largely composed of men enlisted as volunteers from areas of the Kingdom of Slavonia and Slavonian Military Frontier. The military unit under his command was known as Trenk’s Troopers or The Pandurs. They were very courageous, but were also undisciplined, violent and looters. Their clothes attracted attention. The Pandurs were dressed like Ottomans, wearing red cap, red hooded greatcoat, blue pantaloons, and around their necks a red necktie. After that Croatian soldiers often wore a red necktie on European battlefields, from which developed the cravat called after the Croats who wore it first. The Pandurs took a part in military action in Silesia, Bohemia, Bavaria and France.

The Pandurs arrived in Vienna for a military parade for the empress on 27 May 1741. The unit was headed by Trenk and included two captains, a senior lieutenant, five lieutenants, a quartermaster, an adjutant, two chaplains (a Catholic and an Orthodox Christian), two medics, 40 sergeants, five scribes, 80 corporals and twelve musicians equipped with flutes, a drum and cymbals. The musicians were called the Turkish band, after Ottoman military bands, and are considered pioneers of martial music in Europe or as many like to say ‘’the first military orchestra in Europe’’. That’s why many consider baron Franjo Trenk as the founder of military music as well.

This extremely interesting historical figure is worth to pay more attention to his life and heritage. If you like this journal, continue to follow us because in the future we will have more interesting facts from history, and some of them will be related to Baron Trenk. Live it & love it!

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