Sei sulla pagina 1di 132

Frontline Snipers The Iron Fist Stellungsbau Battle of Britain

The dirty art of sniping from The Wehrmacht’s deadly WW2 Constructing the German Adolf Galland analyses the
the trenches in WW1 armoured assault artillery defence networks of WW1 Luftwaffe’s 1940 air war

Iron Cross


25 MAR 2020

Predators of the Channel

The Kriegsmarine’s powerful killer torpedo boats of World War Two
M i l t ä r i s c h e A n t i q u i t ä t e n K G

Fine Military Antiques

As one of the leading dealers in Europe, we are specialised in german
Militaria from 1800—1945.

We offer medals & decorations, uniforms & insignia, hats & helmets,
swords, daggers & bayonets, soldbooks & documents, wartoys from Lineol
& Elastolin and much more. Please visit our homepage with over 20.000
Weekly update every friday at 6:30 pm (german time).

Helmut Weitze Militärische Antiquitäten KG

Neuer Wall 18, DE - 20354 Hamburg, Germany
Phone: 0049 40 / 471 132 0 Fax: 0049 40 / 353 563
Shop hours:
Mon. — Fri. 10.00 am — 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm — 6.30 pm
Sat. 10.00 am — 1.00 pm
Editorial Office
P O Box 4984, Windsor SL4 9FN

Publisher Rob McDonnell
Editor Andy Saunders
Tel: 01753 770712
Consulting Editor (Historical) Robin Schäfer

Head of Design and Production
Lynn Wright elcome to this third juxtaposed against the terrifyingly
ADVERTISING issue of Iron Cross awesome Flammenwerfer of the same
Auction House Sales Executive magazine. period which we look at in some detail
Kristina Green The word ‘iconic’ in this issue of the magazine. It would
Tel: 01778 392096 is often bandied about in relation be difficult to find a more hideous
Multi Media Sales Executives to certain items of equipment example of the sheer horror of war -
Elizabeth Ridge used by all nations in both World which each side inflicted on the other
Tel: 01778 395059 Wars. In this issue, we focus on two - than this ghastly weapon. Sobering
Advertising Production & Design pieces of machinery from the 1939 indeed.
Nicola Lock – 1945 period: the Schnellboot and Again, if any reminder were needed
Tel: 01778 392420 Messerschmitt Bf 109. Additionally, we as to man’s inhumanity to man, then
MARKETING look at the steel helmet, or Stahlhelm, our piece looking at incendiary pellets
Marketing Executive
of the First World War. It would be and sharpened trench spades of the
Katherine Brown hard to argue anything other than that First World War provides us with just
Tel: 01778 395092 all of those objects are iconic in terms such a reminder.
DISTRIBUTION of how they are remembered. On the other hand, we are also
Warners Distribution
Andy Perry Without any doubt, the S-Boot was reminded of the humanity and
Tel: 01778 391152 a remarkable piece of kit. In many compassion which was sometimes to
PUBLISHED BY respects, it was ahead of its time. be found in the midst of all the horrors
Warners Group Publications,
The Maltings, West Street, Bourne,
Like so much German equipment, of warfare through our heart-warming
Lincolnshire PE10 9PH it had a technological ‘edge’ over feature ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht.’
Tel: 01778 391000 its adversaries. At least, during the However, returning to the S-Boot
Fax: 01778 392422
early part of the war. Similarly, and Messerschmitt 109, both are
ISSN 2632-4725
the Messerschmitt 109 with its prime examples of wonderful pieces
Cover artwork by Keith Burns
depicting S-Boote in the English equally sleek and menacing look. Its of technology and machinery. It is
Channel under attack from RAF
Beaufighters. During the D-Day
association with leading fighter aces entirely appropriate that we should
operations, S-Boot flotillas often adds a further layer of interest. Add in examine them, admire the engineering
attempted to disrupt Allied shipping. colourful paint schemes and quirky and applaud efforts to restore
unit emblems and it is easy to almost surviving examples of such machinery.
This publication is
printed by Warners be seduced by the alluring beauty of But we should only do so by keeping
01778 395111
the machine itself. very firmly in mind the evil regime that
Certainly, many of our readers will such equipment had served during the
SUBSCRIBE TO IRON CROSS be greatly fascinated in the materiel Second World War.
For the latest offer call of war produced by Germany in both
01778 392489 conflicts. However, we are pulled Andy Saunders (Editor)
Save £2 an issue. up short in any fascination with the Robin Schäfer
See page 62 for details. Stahlhelm, for instance, when it is (Consultant Editor – Historical)
Buy a digital edition at

Keep up to date on Facebook ANDY ROBIN Andy has been involved in Robin is a respected
Follow us on Twitter the world of military history German military historian,
@IronCrossMag for around 45 years and public speaker and
Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. is particularly well-known published author who has
All rights reserved. Dates, information and prices quoted are believed to
be correct at time of going to press but are subject to change and no
in historic aviation circles. made his specialist study
responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions. Neither the editor He has previously edited the life of the German
nor the publisher accept responsibility for any material submitted,
whether photographic or otherwise. While we endeavour to ensure that military history magazines, soldier in wartime. In this
firms and organisations mentioned are reputable, the Editor can give no was founder and first curator of a leading role, he acts on a worldwide basis as a
guarantee that they will fulfil their obligations under all circumstances.
Whilst every care has been taken to compile current valuations, the UK aviation museum, a published military historical consultant and advisor to both
publishers cannot accept liability for loss, financial or otherwise, incurred
by reliance placed on the information herein. Quoted prices are indicative
history author and specialist consultant and print and television media, and to military
and are for illustrative purposes only. Always seek expert advice with contributor for the media, television and film. museums.
regard to valuations.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed by contributors and advertisers are not
necessarily those of the publishers. Every care is taken to ensure that the
contents of the magazine are accurate but the publishers cannot accept
responsibility for errors. While reasonable care is taken when accepting
advertisements, the publishers cannot accept any responsibility for any
resulting unsatisfactory transactions. They will however investigate any
written complaints. IRON CROSS ❙ 3


Features valued pieces of weaponry in the

Wehrmacht’s armoury, as Dr Adrian
12  The dramatic Second World War
Wettstein explains.


story of the Kriegsmarine’s feared and
highly successful S-Boot flotillas which
prowled the English Channel is covered
116 (PART 2)
We conclude the fascinating diary
in detail by Robin Schäfer. of First World War fighter pilot, Josef
Kister, accompanied by yet more
24 This fascinating feature, with
colour by Richard J Molloy, looks at the
stunning colourisation by Richard J

relatively unknown aspect of the ‘art’

of German trench sniping during the
First World War.

6  We get unique access to a Battle
of Britain Messerschmitt 109-E
One of the Luftwaffe’s best-known restoration project which will return the
‘aces’, Adolf Galland, takes a look at aircraft to flight.
the Battle of Britain from the fighter
pilot’s perspective in a piece drawn by
Andy Saunders from Galland’s post-war 50 BOOK REVIEWS
We review some of the latest
60 A selection of our reader’s
letters to the editor.
commentary. German military history titles.


In this issue, our regular look
70 ACE
A revealing interview with a Knight’s
The extraordinary story of a valuable at German weaponry examines in Cross holder who served with a
religious artefact and how it played into detail the infamous and dramatic Sturmgeschütz unit.
a highly unusual Christmas Truce event Flammenwerfer of the First World War.
on the Western Front of 1914.

THE IRON FIST 59 MYTH BUSTERS 74 A selection of some exceedingly

98  The Sturmgescütz was one

of the most versatile, ubiquitous and
In our occasional ‘myth busting’
series we look at the extraordinary
case of the Heinkel 113 deception.
rare battlefield artefacts from the ‘In
Flanders Fields’ Museum’ fall under the
spotlight in this issue.



80 If the trench systems and defences of the First World War might seem
almost random or haphazard in their positioning and structure, Peter Doyle
reveals that they were nothing of the sort. A great deal of thought, design,
engineering, science and understanding of geology went into the building of
defensive lines which stretched across a vast swathe of Western Europe during
the First Wold War.

Introducing you to some of our main
contributors for this issue:-
Peter Doyle specialises
in the understanding of
military terrain, with special
reference to the two world
wars. He is also an author
specialising in the British
experience of war and the material culture
of war with a number of critically acclaimed
books to his name. He is a Professor of
History at London South Bank University.
Guy Black is an engineer and
restorer of historic aircraft
from both world wars. He is
passionate about ensuring
absolute authenticity,
in both a historical and
engineering context. He is also a director
of the Duxford-based Historic Aircraft
Collection which operates and flies historic
Simon Verdegem is a
professional conflict
archaeologist from Belgium

© Chris Cox
who has worked extensively
on the battlefields of the
First World War, including at
Messines, the Ypres Salient and as founder
and lead archaeologist for the remarkable
‘Dig Hill 80’ battlefield archaeology project
in Flanders.
Christoph Höpfer is a
113 We reveal some of the
content in our next issue, on sale 25
German businessman with
a deep passion and interest
in all aspects of German
military history of the
March 2020. See page 62 to ensure
Great War. His specialist
you get your copy! knowledge of his subject area makes him
one of the leading experts in uniforms,
COMPETITION equipment and weaponry of the period and
115  This month a chance to win
one of four signed copies of ‘Stuka
especially in relation to Verdun.

Attack!’ by Andy Saunders and a
piece of original artwork depicting the
Junkers 87 Stuka from the pencil of
70 James Baldwin.

In this issue’s conflict
126 The truly iconic steel helmet,
or Stahlhelm, of the First World War is
Pay just £6.99 an issue
when subscribing for
the year PLUS receive
archaeology section, we cover the examined in detail by Robin Schäfer
a FREE copy of our
fascinating recovery of a Focke-Wulf looking at the various designs, 132-page special
190 aircraft wreck in Belgium. camouflage methods etc. A Guide to Collecting
German Militaria
110 In this issue, we look at
a haunting but seasonal family
130 A German Home Front air
raid precautions poster of the Second
also available with our
digital editions!

photograph from the First World War World War is our chosen poster in this
sent to a soldier serving on the front. issue.


Messerschmitt 109
E – 1, W.Nr 4034
The restoration to flight in the UK of a genuine Messerschmitt 109-E from the Battle of
Britain is outlined by Guy Black, the restorer of this unique airframe.

■ How the Messerschmitt 109 would have appeared

in 1940 and how it will be repainted post-restoration.

hen somebody and, across the years, several Spitfires. of incarceration as a POW. In the grand
told me But…a Messerschmitt 109? The existence scheme of things, this was just another
during the late in India of the First War aircraft, Me 109 which joined the many shot-
1990s that a and of Spitfires and Hurricanes, was down examples littering the countryside
Messerschmitt 109 was mouldering entirely understandable. But how did a in south east England; like most of the
away in the back yard of a technical Messerschmitt end up there? And why? others, it would have ended its days in a
college in India, I could hardly believe The storyof the Messerschmitt in breaker’s yard were it not for a request
them. That said, I had already been question was unravelled after the to the Air Ministry from His Excellency
involved in recovering from India some airframe was eventually brought back the Nizam of Hyderabad.
First World War DH9 aircraft, whilst to France by its new owner, who later The Nizam had funded several
other parties had recovered a Hurricane sold it to Rare Aero Ltd of Jersey. My Spitfires for the RAF in 1940, and 152
company, Retrotec, was later Squadron, a Spitfire squadron based
comminisioned to restore the at Warmwell, Dorset, had been named
aircraft. the ‘Nizam of Hyderabad’s Squadron’.
The story began on 2 November Now, the Nizam was asking for an
1940, just after the ‘official’ end of example to be sent to India of a German
the Battle of Britain, when W.Nr aircraft that ‘his’ Spitfires had shot
4034, Black 6, of 8./JG53 made down. Stepping up to the request, the
a forced-landing in a ploughed Air Ministry allocated 4034 and it was
field at Lower Hardres Farm, near duly despatched as requested. The
Canterbury, Kent. As it skidded to only problem, of course, was that it
a halt, out stepped a shaken but hadn’t been shot down by the Nizam’s
otherwise unhurt young pilot, Fw. squadron – although that rather
Xavier Ray, to begin over five years inconvenient detail was not disclosed
to His Excellency at the time. In fact,
■ The Messerschmitt 109 as it was
the Messerschmitt had crash-landed
found in India, dumped amongst junk at a following combat with Spitfires of
technical college. 74 and 92 Squadrons - a very long

■ Far left: The letter
authorising the collection
of the Messerschmitt
109 in 1940.
■ Left: An A V Nicholls
& Co lorry transporting
another Messerschmitt
109 during the Battle of
■ Below: The fuselage
at the workshops of
Retrotec Ltd showing
traces of the fuselage
numbers. The wings
are stacked behind and
the racking holds a
cornucopia of original
Messerschmitt 109

way from the operating area of 152 squadrons, there was nothing to suggest
Squadron. The fact is, however, that the to the RAF why the pilot had landed.
Messerschmitt fitted the bill. And it was However, it was a puzzle we were able
a representative shot-down German to solve over 75 years later when we
aircraft. stripped down the DB 601A engine to
its component parts. But more of that
As to exactly why the Messerschmitt
ended up in a Kent field almost 80 CONSIGNED TO JUNK AREA
years ago was a puzzle to RAF technical Having served its purpose promoting
intelligence officers at the time, who the Nizam’s good works, and possibly
reported that it hadn’t been shot being used to raise funds for British
down: “Cause of this crash is unknown aircraft and armaments, the airframe
but the pilot made a very good belly- had eventually served out its intended
landing and aircraft is practically intact. purpose. In India, of course, things tend
No trace of bullet strikes* or engine to be re-cycled, re-used or re-purposed
overheating but cause of landing may and in the case of 4034, the airframe
have been engine failure. Armament: 4 x was passed to the Karnataka Technical
machine guns. No ammunition used.” College for aeronautical engineering
(*Interestingly, there are bullet holes students to examine and work on.
in the cockpit sides, but these have Ultimately, it served its purpose here,
■ The cockpit area of the Messerschmitt
entered and exited at exactly 90° to the too. Consigned to a junk area in the
showing ‘bullet holes’ in both sides.
fuselage and are not consistent with college grounds, this extremely rare
combat damage; it is likely these holes aeroplane ended up dumped among
were ‘added’ to give the impression it old classroom benches and desks.
was shot down.) And this is where it was when it was
After its arrival in Kent, we know the eventually recovered to France, and
aircraft was transported by a civilian later to our works. I couldn’t believe my
haulage contractor, A V Nicholls of eyes when I saw it.
Brighton, to the RAF’s 49 Maintenance When the Messerschmitt arrived in
Unit at Faygate, Sussex. Incredibly, Britain, literally nothing was known of
the original A V Nicholl’s driver’s its back-story. However, I knew there
delivery chit for 4034 turned up in the should be numbers or clues hidden
collection of Iron Cross Editor, Andy within the airframe and engine which
Saunders. A truly amazing coincidence. would allow the story to be pieced ■ The all-important number: 4034. This is the
Although the aircraft had been together. aircraft Werke Nummer which unlocked its

involved in action with two Spitfire Back in England, it was possible to fascinating history.


■ Although the cockpit has been largely

stripped out, it will be restored and fitted with
genuine period equipment. ■ A genuine radio set has been sourced which will also be restored to working condition.

subject it to close examination and own, these tactical numbers identified 5s, 6s or 8s in the Luftwaffe.
conducted a full technical survey to aircraft within unit formations and Scouring the aircraft, the number
establish its underlying condition and were useless in terms of providing any ‘4034’ was found by well-known
how best it could be restored - plus of airframe identification. At any one time Messerschmitt expert, Craig
course, how much it would cost. At this there could have been dozens of Black Charleston, stamped into an engine
stage, the viability of the project was cowling remnant. This was certainly the
uncertain and if we couldn’t tie down aircraft number, and by interrogating
the aircraft’s history (eg Werke Nummer historical data it didn’t take very long
etc.) it was a doubtful starter in terms to tie this into the aircraft which
of getting things past the UK’s Civil Feldwebel Xavier Ray had landed in
Aviation Authority. But we were to be Kent. Not only that, but now the Black 6
in luck. made sense as the aircraft was reported
by RAF intelligence to be marked with
such a figure. Furthermore, 4034 was a
A ‘DNA’ MATCH Focke-Wulf built machine.
The first place to look was on the port Just to round things off, the RAF had
forward side of the fuselage. Here, all recorded the engine number as 10256
Messerschmitt 109s had their build ■ Retrotec’s Simon Knight at work in October and that number was found marked
plate attached. Unfortunately, that 2019 reconstructing 4034’s rudder. into the engine main bearer caps.
had long ago been wrenched off the Matching, too, was the capped-off
fuselage skin by a souvenir hunter. spinner cone which was recorded by
Frustratingly, there were rivet holes and the RAF as having been painted red –
witness marks showing where the plate exactly as found.
had been. But no plate. Although from
its lozenge shape, we could tell it had
been a Focke Wulf built aircraft since HISTORICAL INTEGRITY AND
only that company used data plates of PROVENANCE
that shape. There was also evidence Although this was basically a 95%
of some painted and overpainted intact airframe – fuselage, wings, tail
numerals on the fuselage side. Quite and even its engine – this was a very
clearly, we had a black figure six, but ■ This battle damage repair patch will be
long way from having an aircraft that
this was painted over a black five. And retained in the restored rudder – a nice touch would be easily restorable. Whilst the
underneath was number eight. On their of 1940 originality. climate in which it had been stored

■ Guy Black indicates the original red paint on
the ‘capped’ propeller spinner cone. ■ A Messerschmitt 109-E of JG53 during 1940 showing the painted over swastika.

had perhaps been relatively kind to it, examine, measure and draw. Similarly,
it had also suffered minor floodwater another engine turned up buried under
damage before it could be recovered concrete beneath an old Luftwaffe
from India. But this was superficial. hangar in Germany. However, literally
However, it soon became clear that a as I submit this feature to Iron Cross
considerable amount of the airframe magazine, I am about to fly to North
would be reusable. That is always a plus America to negotiate the purchase of
when it comes to the reconstruction of a near pristine example located there;
Second World War aircraft where, very this would mean a considerable saving
often, much of the skin and airframe in time and long-term costs.
structure cannot be used – save for ■ Two original cockpit oxygen regulators are
patterns and ancillary odds and ends amongst the spares stock. The best example
like castings, bracketry etc, but in will be selected for use. PROFITABLE HUNTING
the case of this aircraft, most cockpit GROUNDS
internals had been stripped out and Since taking on the restoration of 4034,
taken, across the period of three- engine’s accessory gearbox. I have scoured the world looking for
quarters of a century. When taken apart, we found that a genuine Messerschmitt 109 parts, and
Whilst Retrotec are only just getting gear shaft had broken off and caused it is surprising what has been found. A
into their stride with work on 4034, the gear to go out of mesh as the shaft good source has been internet auction
we have already found, for example, had seized in the bearing, stopping sites in Germany. So, too, have been
that large sections of the rudder the engine instantly; the pilot had specialist collector’s sales events. These
are reusable - 60% at least. We have reported problems with his engine are places we have found instruments,
even included a part of it which still before he even took off and he was wheels, oxygen apparatus, a control
carries an old German repair patch – right. It was incredible to have been column, wireless sets and things like
a repair patch to mend a bullet hole able to identify the exact cause of the technical notes and manuals. Even
which had come in from dead astern. loss of 4034 all those years later. As special toolkits for working on DB 601
Keeping such original parts like this to the engine itself, we can use the engines have turned up. In some cases,
is important if we are to preserve the crankcase and cylinder blocks again we have several examples of an item
historical integrity and provenance of but, overall, we needed a large number which we will only need one of. For
the aircraft. In terms of provenance, of replacement parts. Many items can example, the Dräger oxygen regulator.
this brings me back to why the pilot be machined or cast, and we were This will enable us to either use (or
had to belly-land quickly in a Kent lucky to be able to borrow a DB 601A assemble from parts) the best example

field. The evidence being found in the from the Berlin Technical Museum to out of the choices in our extensive


holding of spares. It also gives us

flexibility to swap items for something
we need. After all, just as an example,
we won’t be needing ten sets of landing
gear legs, two tail oleos or 56 exhaust
So, at this stage, I’d say that we have
around 85% of all ‘fixtures and fittings’,
as it were, and there are a surprising
number of items we can re-use from
4034, such as the castings which ■ RetroTec’s John Whitehead works on one of ■ Newly manufactured reduction gear
mounted the undercarriage legs or the newly manufactured rocker-box covers. housings for the DB601 engine.
the cockpit canopy and windscreen The originals had completely corroded away.
framework - even one engine bearer
is reusable, and other usable ones
have been found. It is a myth that SWASTIKA REMOVED evidence it had been painted over. In
these were made of magnesium - they Overall, this is an ambitious project. fact, it had. The reason is fascinating.
are an aluminium alloy with a small We can’t return 100% of 4034 to the During 1940, the Kommodore of
proportion of magnesium. However, it air, but I would guess that between JG53 had fallen foul of the Nazi
is almost alone in this respect as most 60% to 70% of the airframe can be party hierarchy with the result that
of the brackets are magnesium. used again. The engine is another swastikas were removed from all the
The frequent use of magnesium is matter, but we will be able to include unit’s aircraft and, instead, a broad
a big problem with German aircraft the non-magnesium castings. red band painted around the engine
of this period. Acknowledged, it is a In terms of the fit of the aircraft cowlings. (Editor: We will cover the
very light metal, which is why it was with instrumentation and cockpit intriguing story of the removal of
used and long-term preservation equipment, these will all be 100% swastikas on JG53 Messerschmitt 109s
was never envisaged. However, it is a original right down to a Fug7 radio in a future issue)
nightmare for today’s conservation installation – even complete with Completion is some years away,
and restoration community as many recently found ‘new old stock’ glass although Aero Vintage Ltd, a sister
parts were made of this metal and have wireless valves. Four 7.92mm MG17 company to Retrotec, is near
corroded beyond use. Engine castings machine guns will also be fitted, completing the purchase from Rare
such as rocker box covers will often although they will be deactivated to Aero Ltd of the Messerschmitt to
have turned into a magnesium oxide or meet current firearms regulations. eventually fly it alongside the Duxford-
simply disappeared. Even a working Revi gunsight will based Historic Aircraft Collection’s
be part of the fit. We are, however, Spitfire and Hurricane. I can’t help but
missing a seat which is proving very be excited that we could end up with
hard to find. Does anyone out there all three main single-seat fighter types
know of one? of the Battle of Britain available as an
When the aircraft is completed, incredible airshow feature.
it will be unique in its significant
originality as a Battle of Britain
Messerschmitt 109 E. Although
downed just after the Battle of Britain, APPEAL TO IRON CROSS
we know that it flew operationally READERS:
in that battle, though details are
sketchy. It will also be painted in the
finish it wore on 2 November 1940.
Interestingly, that excludes a swastika
on the tail fin. I’m sure many people
will imagine it has been deliberately
If any of our readers know of any items
omitted out of political sensitivity, but
which may be useful in this restoration
the truth of why there is no swastika is project, then Guy Black would be
rather strange. interested to hear about them. He can

■ Original DB601 engine tool kits are among

When the aircraft was initially be contacted via the editorial contact
recovered, there was clear evidence of details on page three.
some of the astonishing items sourced for the
restoration project. the swastika on the fin, but also faint

Save £8 a year…
Pay just £6.99 an issue, saving almost £8 a year! PLUS receive a
FREE copy of our 132-page special A Guide to Collecting German
Militaria worth £7.99.

r e ce i ve Turn to page 62 for
more information on
this for what you can expect
FREE! in the next issue!

or call our friendly team on
01778 392489 quoting INCR/ISSUE3
Available until 31.03.2020. Direct debit offer only.

Channel Predators
Fighting from the first day of the war until the very last, the Schnellboote
COVER flotillas acquited themselves as “respectable adversaries”, becoming the
STORY very scourge of the English Channel as Robin Schäfer outlines.

t would be fair to say that at the start of the Second boats were lost to enemy action, but one was damaged
World War the usefulness and capabilities of the by collision and some by gunfire. As war gathered pace,
Kriegsmarine’s newest asset, the Schnellboot, had not so naval high command began to understand the value of
yet been properly recognised. On the outbreak of war, these little vessels. But it was not until May and June that
the available vessels were concentrated into two Flotille: 1. the pfennig finally dropped.
Schnellbootflottille in the Baltic with 2. Schnellbootflottile
in the North Sea, operating from Heligoland. Lacking any
operational concept, the boats were employed on work EARLY ACTIONS IN THE CHANNEL
for which they were not designed, including escort duties On 9 and 10 May 1940, four Schnellboote launched
and submarine hunting. On 1 September 1939, though, coordinated attacks on British ships of the Home Fleet in
1. Schnellbootflottille started patrolling in the Gulf of the Skagerrak. Two boats were forced to withdraw in the
Danzig. It was there, a few hours after the first shots of face of heavy gunfire, while S-33 lost part of its forecastle
the war had been fired, that S-23 (Oblt. Christiansen) sank in a collision with a destroyer. One boat, S-31 under Oblt.
a Polish pilot vessel (formerly the trawler Lloyd Bydgoski) Opdenhoff, managed to launch two torpedoes against
with fire from its 20mm cannon after the crew had been HMS Kelly, damaging it so badly that it had to be towed
been given time to evacuate. It was the first vessel sunk by back to the Tyne.
S-Boot during the war. With the opening of the campaign in the west, though,
Later, during Unternehmen Weserübung in April 1940, a new hunting ground opened up for the Schnellboote of
with the capabilities of the S-Boote still not recognised, the Kriegsmarine. From Borkum, and later Den Helder
the boats of both flotillas were used for reconnaissance, and Hoek van Holland, they attacked British and French
high-speed landing craft or to dropping regular German shipping and engaged evacuation vessels at Dunkirk.
infantry on the coast near Bergen and Kristiansand. No Slowly, new and effective operational tactics were put into
On 19 May, 1 and 2 Flotille were ordered to Nieuport
to intercept Allied shipping beginning to evacuate
Boulogne and Calais. Two days later, S-32, under Oblt.z.S.
Carl Eberhard, destroyed a 2,000-ton transport ship
off Nieuport in a gigantic explosion. On the night of
22 May, having intercepted Allied radio messages,
the Kriegsmarine ordered 1. Flottille into the Channel
around Dunkirk. Lying in wait for their prey, S-21 and
S-23 soon spotted the silhouette of the Jaguar, a French
torpedo-boat destroyer, heading slowly into the Channel.
Only minutes later, two torpedoes hit and the sound
of explosions shattered the night. The Jaguar, listing
dangerously, was towed to the beach at Malo-le-Bains and
grounded. At sunset on 28 May 1940, S-25, S-30 and S-34
sailed from Den Helder and employed the Lauertaktik (lit.

■ Forerunner of the classic S-Boot design of the Second World War, this was ■ Right: ‘Always the Same Enemy - Fight With Us’ is the message
the S.2, one of the vessels developed in the late 1930s. With a petrol engine, on this striking 1943 recruitment poster which appealed to 17th
later developments saw S-Boote fitted with powerful diesel engines which century Dutch history in a call to enlist Dutch volunteers into the
reduced the fire risk. Kriegsmarine, the Dutch warship accompanied by a German S-Boot.



■ Left: A torpedo
is loaded aboard
an S-Boot. (BA)

■ Right: Despite
their relatively
diminutive scale,
and relatively
limited firepower,
the S-Boot was
a deadly weapon
against much
larger warships.
In May 1940, the
S-31 disabled the
destroyer, HMS
Kelly, in a torpedo

lurking tactic) in which boats, spaced one nautical mile amidships. The resulting detonation split her in two and,
apart, slowly approached a presumed target in line before trapped inside the sinking ship, 638 Allied troops and 85
breaking up and attacking at high-speed on a broad front. members of the crew were lost. At about the same time,
While S-34 unsuccessfully engaged a British sloop the freighter SS Abukir was sunk by a torpedo fired by
south of Fairy Bank, the commander of S-30 (Kptlt. S-34 under Oblt.z.S. Obermaier.
Zimmermann) spotted a British destroyer, HMS On 31 May, S-23 and S-26 attacked the French
Wakeful, which was transporting 640 British troops Bourrasque-class destroyer Siroco heading to England
from the beaches of Dunkirk. Using darkness as cover, with British and French soldiers on board. Two torpedoes
Zimmermann approached and launched two torpedoes hit its starboard stern. The resulting detonation tore into
from a distance of 600 metres, one hitting Wakeful the ship and very quickly the machine room was filling
with water. Siroco pitched over to starboard and sank
within two minutes, taking 660 of the 930 troops on board
down into the deep. At the same time, S-24 under Oblt.z.S.
Detlefsen, encountered the Cyclone, another Bourrasque-
class vessel. She was hit by one torpedo which ripped
a hole in her prow, killing two crew members. Severely
damaged, she limped back to Brest and was scuttled on 18
June. Up to 1 June, the S-34 managed to sink HMT Stella
Dorado, while S-35 sank HMT Argyllshire.
By June 1940, the Kriegsmarine had possession of all
Dutch, Belgian and several French ports on the English
Channel, giving direct access to the Atlantic and excellent
offensive bases from which to harass sea traffic and
convoys along the south and north-east coasts of Britain.
During the night of 19/20 June, SS Roseburn (3,103 tons)
was sunk off Dungeness in the first successful S-Boat
operation to the English south coast. On 23 June, during
an attack on another convoy south of Dungeness, S-36
under Oblt.z.S. Eberhard, sank SS Albuera (3,474 tons)
while S-19 sank the armed packet boat Kingfisher. By
25 June, 1. Flottille was based in Cherbourg from which
it could intercept sea traffic from the Isle of Wight to
Brighton, while 2. Flottille in Ostend could operate against
shipping along Britain‘s southeast coast. Rotterdam
housed 3. Flotille, while the port of Boulogne was being
■ Two S-Boote are prepared for sea. prepared for its own contingent of Schnellboote.

■ The S-21 at speed. She was part of 1.Flotille
and on the night of 7/8 August 1940, under
command of Oblt.z.S. Bernd Klug, took part in
an attack on Convoy CW9 off Beachy Head and

■ Below: Among the vessels sunk by the

S-Boote of 1.Flotille on 7/8 August 1940 was
the SS Holme Force. She was typical of the
targets singled out for attack by the S-Boote

On 4 July, convoy OA 178 was attacked by Rotten (pairs)
of S-Boote of 1. Flottille, damaging several vessels and
sinking the 6,000-ton freighter SS Elmcrest, while on
24 July another convoy was attacked by five S-Boote.
That same night, a Rotte of S-Boote (S-19 and S-27),
spotted a white light and headed towards it, believing it
to be a German flying boat reported as having made an
emergency landing. It soon became clear that the light
was from the brightly illuminated 18,000-ton French
liner, Meknes, travelling unescorted with 1,100 French
sailors on board who were being repatriated to France.
One torpedo hit the stern of Meknes and 374 men went
down with her.
With the beginning of the Battle of Britain, anti-convoy
operations took something of a back seat and 1. Flottille
were increasingly rescuing Luftwaffe personnel downed was their impact that British intelligence misjudged the
over the Channel. However, on 8 August, 1. Flottille operational capacities of the S-Boote Flotillas, estimating a
pounced on Convoy CW9 off Beachy Head under cover of combined force of 50 vessels in three operational flotillas.
darkness and sent the freighters Holme Force, Ouse and This was more than twice the number of serviceable
Fife Coast to the bottom. S-Boote actually available.
In early July, the Schnellboote started laying mines More important than these successes was the logistical
in the Thames Estuary and continued until September and operational fusion of all S-Boote units under the
with these operations achieving significant results. F.d.T., “Führer der Torpedoboote”, Kapitän zur See Hans
Faced with the threat of the sleek channel predators, Bütow. Under his command, the office coordinated
the RAF bombed Ostende and Vlissingen, sinking two operations with the Luftwaffe and mine-searching
S-Boote and damaging five others. In October, with formations.
weather conditions deteriorating, attacks on Allied Schnellboot crews faced strenuous tasks in harsh
shipping slowed down and 2. and 3. Flottille had only conditions and bad weather, moonlit nights and, from
seven S-Boote available. Then, on 20 November, in 1941, interdiction by MGBs which all made effective
zero visibility and stormy weather, S-38 (Oblt.z.S Hans operations difficult and risky. Effectiveness was furthr
Detlefsen) was sunk by the destroyers HMS Garth and hampered by the fact that, even though German
HMS Campbell. Nevertheless, when 1940 ended, the destroyers and torpedo boats were now operating from
Kriegsmarine could look back on positive results: its French bases, there was still no coordinated cooperation
S-Boote had claimed 26 Allied commercial vessels (49,985 between the flotillas and naval formations in any

tons) and 10 destroyers sunk or badly damaged. Such combined arms approach.


■ An S-38 class vessel of 5 Flottille in the Baltic Sea in 1941. ■ A Schnellboot crew member mans the boat’s 20mm cannon. (BA)

THE BRITISH FIGHT BACK Exmoor was cut in two, disappearing beneath the waves
With the beginning of 1941, Britain started reorganising in seconds. Then, on 7/8 March, the three Schnellboot-
its coastal forces and began to turn out light attack Flotillen, after Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft
vessels which were delivered to different fleets. MTBs reported two convoys (FN 26 and FN 29) off Cromer and
and MGBs were now accompanying convoys in addition Southwold, attacked at night. The S-Boote claimed no less
to heavier escort vessels. At the same time, the threat than seven merchant ships with with a total tonnage of
from aerial attack became more acute. In January 1941, 13,134 tons.
the Schnellbootwaffe could, on paper at least, line up During an attack on a convoy in April, German S-Boote
40 x S-Boote against Allied shipping. In reality, only 21 (S-57 and S-58) were for the first time effectively engaged
were operational. Throughout January, operations were by their British counterparts. Attacking a convoy near
hampered by the weather but on 26 February, in rough Haisborough Sand, the S-Boote suddenly spotted
seas and low visibility, elements of 2. Flottille spotted three MTBs, opening up on them with all barrels. Both
a convoy heading north. The S-30 (Oblt.z.S. Feldt), S-Boote, though damaged, managed to return safely to
supported by S-33, identified and engaged a Hunt-class base. However, it had become clear that the British were
destroyer, firing two torpedoes from 700 metres. HMS capable of responding to the S-Boot threat. Then, on 29
April, during mine-laying operations between Hammond
Knoll and Haisborough Tail in the Thames Estuary,
S-58 and S-61 were attacked by two MGBs. The ensuing
combat lasted nearly half an hour, the adversaries trying
to outmaneuver one another to bring firepower to
bear. S61 alone fired over 800 x 20mm shells during the
engagement, yet neither side managed to inflict serious
By the end of 1941, more encounters with heavily
armed MGBs forced the Kriegsmarine to upgrade
armour and weaponry of the Schnellboote. The new
boats (starting with S-38 to S-53) would not only
outclass their adversaries in firepower, but also in speed
and operational radius. Heavier and larger than their
predecessors, they had a top speed of 44 kts, sported a
fully armoured bridge (from the end of 1942) and were
armed with two 53.3 cm torpedo tubes and two 20 mm
guns. These were reinforced in 1943 by 37 mm cannon.
The new 92.5 ton vessels would set a technical standard
■ Successes by the men of the S-Boote flotillas were eagerly covered
which would serve the Schnellbootwaffe well, right up
by the German news media of the period. Here, a radio reporter until D-Day.
interviews men aboard one of the boats. (BA) On a tactical level, new attack methods like ‘Stichansatz’

■ A radio operator on board an S-Boot.

■ Above: Shell bursts fall close to the S-27. By 1942, the tide had begun to
turn against the unrivalled supremacy of the S-Boote as the Allies upped
their game against these dangerous vessels.

focal task. Yet, at the end of May 1941, three flotillas were
transferred to Swinemunde in preparation for the attack
on the Soviet Union although on 1 October, 2. Flottille
relocated back to the Channel while 1. Flottille transferred
to Kiel to prepare for relocation into the Black Sea. The
3. Flottille had already been relocated in September to
support the Italian Navy and Rommel’s Afrikakorps in
the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, 2., 4. and 5 Flottille were
operating in the English Channel where they were joined
by 6. Flottille.
S-Boats continued to inflict severe damage on shipping,
■ A group of Kriegsmarine officers, including members of 1.Flotille, launching successful attacks on several convoys in
celebrate recent successes. Included in the photo are three officers
who took part in the attack on Convoy CW9 on 7/8 August 1940.
November and December. In total, during 1941, S-Boote
Oblt. z.S. von Mirbach (3rd from left), Oblt. z.S. Wuppermann (4th sunk 29 commercial ships at 58,854 tons. In addition, 12
from left) and KptLt Birnbacher (6th from left). commercial vessels with a tonnage of over 50,000 were
destroyed in December by mines alone.

were introduced. This relied on accurate B-Dienst and

Luftwaffe reports to locate and engage convoys. The OPERATION CERBERUS
S-Boote would proceed towards pre-calculated target Steadily, Britain’s coastal forces were now starting to
areas in Rotten (pairs) and disperse about 10 miles from heavily outnumber their German adversaries and their
and parallel to the target convoy‘s course - keeping gaps vessels had also improved in quality. New MTB types
of about 2 miles between each Rotte. Having reached the started being delivered at the beginning of 1942, one
convoy lane, the boats cut their engines and lay adrift being the Fairmile Type D - heavily armed, fast, and more
waiting for their targets. If no target materialised within stable than earlier models. The situation had gone from
a predetermined time, the boats continued their search one of almost uncontested mastery in the arena of fast
patterns. If a target was spotted, the Rotten launched boat action in 1940 to a reversal of that position in 1942.
high speed attacks in line-abreast, trying to disperse the On 15 January, three Schnellboot-Flotillen were
convoy while leaving the escort ships no option but to transferred to Ostende, Boulogne and Ijmuiden to
concentrate their force. participate in one of the biggest German naval operations
The Channel had been established as the main of the war: to bring back to Germany, via the English
battleground of the Schnellboote, and until the end of the Channel, the battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst and

war operations against merchant shipping remained their heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, which had been stationed


■ The S-102 on patrol, the low profile of these fast craft is clear to see in this photograph.

in the Atlantic port of Brest. It was named operation To deploy S-Boote with greater effect, the Kriegsmarine
‘Cerberus’. took measures to create a fully independent Schnellboot
To get the heavy vessels safely through the Channel and arm when the Führer der Schnellboote (F.d.S.) was created
Dover Strait and to port in Germany under the noses of in April, under Korvettenkapitän Rudolf Petersen, the
the British, the plan was to use maximum air and naval former commander of 2. Flottille. As a former S-Boot
cover. To draw naval and flotilla commander, Petersen understood all the
forces away, 6. Flottille, operational requirements necessary to effectively deploy
with six x S-Boote, his boats. Well-liked by the crews, who considered
launched a diversionary him one of their own, he avoided unnecessary risk and
attack off Dungeness and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, qualities that didn’t
Beachy Head. Meanwhile, particularly endear him to his superiors and resulted in
2. and 4. Flottille were official rebukes for supposed lack of aggressiveness and
to escort heavy surface success.From his new HQ in Scheveningen, he oversaw
vessels. On 11 February, construction programmes and improvements in boat
evading detection by the design and armament and discussed and planned tactics
submarine HMS Sealion, with his commanders. Together with the ‘Grey Wolves’,
the fleet crossed the Brest the U-Boote, the boats under his command were the only
passage. The following vessels capable of offensive operations in the North Sea
day, it was spotted off and English Channel.
Le Touquet, escorted by Luftwaffe reconnaissance reports on 9 July led several
several destroyers and 2. Flotille boats to Convoy WP 183, which - for unknown
S-Boot flotillas. Several air reasons – had no escort. In minutes, seven vessels
attacks were unsuccessful had been sunk. That same month, the first boats were
due to the fighter screen, equipped with ‘Funkmessbeobachtungsgeraete‘, or
■ KKpt Werner Töniges, the most while in several attacks FuMBs, which detected radar emissions from aircraft
successful S-Boot commander of by MGBs and destroyers, of Coastal Command and emitted a humming sound
the war, sinking eighteen ships on the S-Boote acquitted if one entered its range radius of about 60 kms. In
281 combat patrols, for a total of
86,200 tons of Allied shipping. He
themselves well, the October, the first S-Boote of 5. Flottille were equipped
was awarded the Knight’s Cross in convoy safely reaching with Lichtenstein radar sets. At the end of 1942, S-Boote
recognition of his success. Wilhelmshaven. operating in the west had sunk over 43,000 tons of

■ Right: Award
document for
the Schnellboot
(S-Boat War
■ Below: The

■ The British responded to the S-Boote threat with large numbers of MTBs and MGBs. Here, Vosper
MTBs are readied for sea and although they were not specifically designed to counter the S-Boote,
they often encountered them in battle.

shipping, including two destroyers (HMS Vortigern and up to and into their French ports. Under immense
HMS Penylan), one MGB, one ML, four armed trawlers pressure, S-Boot activity slowed down and because of
and 19 freighters. In addition, 21 Allied vessels (including the threat of air attack, many boats received upgrades in
two destroyers) had been sunk or damaged by mines - a weaponry with the installation of 3.7 cm guns, in addition
combined total of 86,465 tons of shipping. to turrets housing rapid-fire 20mm quad Flak assembly,
By 1943, the Kriegsmarine had a nominal strength of 90 or Flakvierling. With the addition of a fully armoured
S-Boote: 16 for training purposes and of the remaining bridge (Kalottenbrücke) and twin MG42 machine guns,
74 only about 40 were operational. However, the S-Boote the vessels stood a better chance against attack. Yet the
were now up against 263 x modern vessels, including larger, better-armed and more powerful German boats
MGBs and MTBs. still faced a numerically superior enemy. On 24 July, S-77
When, in mid February, 15 S-Boote of all flotillas went was sunk by a MGB patrol and in the coming week several
mine laying off Sheringham and Great Yarmouth, the S-Boote were sunk or damaged in USAAF bombing raids
British were waiting. After an attack by Fairey Albacores, and RAF fighter-bomber attacks. Instead of engaging
which failed to do any damage, S-71 was engaged by them at sea, the Allies now targetted the S-Boote in their
destroyers HMS Garth and Montrose and a pack of MGBs. bases, although during an unsuccessful en-masse attack
S-71 received a number of hits, and after its engine stalled on convoy FN 1160, several boats were damaged, many
it was rammed and sunk by HMS Garth. Seventeen sailors crew members killed or wounded and S-88 sunk. The
went down with it. The tables had turned. The British had S-Boote would now revert to lightning attacks in small
the upper hand, and S-Boot operations became more groups.
risky. Several boats were lost to mines, while several At the end of 1943, the ball was firmly with the Allies.
convoy attacks were abandoned due to dense escort More S-Boote were destroyed by Allied bombing, and
screens. At the beginning of March, S-75 was sunk and on 26 April, S-167 was damaged and S-147 sunk by the
11 sailors killed in an attack by four Spitfires and two Free French destroyer La Combattante, which spotted
Typhoons. S-74 lost an engine and had three men killed the S-Boote on radar and opened fire before they could
in the same attack. By the middle of March, the combined engage. Yet there were still instances when Schnellboote
strength in the west was just 15 x S-Boote. Successes were able to inflict serious damage.
against convoys remained rare, but on 13 April the Early on 28 April 1944, eight LCTs, full of US servicemen
Norwegian destroyer Eskdale was sunk by S-90, S-65 and and equipment, converged on Lyme Bay, Devon, heading
S-112. towards Slapton Sands for D-Day training exercises,

By the middle of the year, the RAF were chasing S-Boote codenamed Exercise Tiger. However, the three-mile long


■ A view across the 2cm Flak 38 gun towards the fully armoured bridge section (Kalottenbrücke) which was introduced with S-100.

convoy was pounced on by a group of S-Boote, which had OVERLORD

been alerted by heavy radio traffic. The attack caught the On the morning of 6 June, with the Normandy landings in
Americans completely unaware, costing the lives of 197 full swing, groups of S-Boote headed out from Boulogne
US sailors and 441 GIs. towards the invasion fleet. Immediately detected by radar
On the debit side, and on 13 May, more S-Boote were and attacked by swarms of MBTs and a British destroyer,
damaged and one (S-141) sunk - again by La Combattante. only their powerful engines saved them. Outnumbered, and
Among the victims was Lt.z.S. Klaus Doenitz, son of with the element of surprise lost, they returned to base.
Admiral Doenitz. This pattern continued over the following days and several

■ Another view of the S-27 at speed. She seems to wear the emblem
■ The bow of the S-27, showing the port of one of her torpedo tubes. of a prancing stallion on the port side of the superstructure.

■ Mines have been loaded aboard this S-Boot which is moored in a
■ The sleek lines of a Schnellboot are clearly apparent in this photograph concrete bunker. Right up until the end of the war, mines sown by the
taken off Norway in 1942. S-Boote flotillas were a major hazard for Allied shipping. (BA)

attacks failed or were abandoned. Two S-Boote were also the Channel withdrew to Rotterdam and Ijmuiden. By
lost to mines and only a few LSTs and small support vessels then, every offensive operation was spoiled by Allied air
were sunk. superiority, but in mid-September a small force of S-Boote
On 12 June, S-138 (Oblt.z.S. Stohwasser) managed to managed to pierce the blockade around Dunkirk, delivering
severely damage the destroyer USS Nelson off Utah Beach. badly needed supplies and evacuating Generalleutnant
Taking on water and with 24 men killed, she was towed Wolfgang Kluge, the CO of 226. Infanterie-Division, and his
back to Portsmouth. A day later, RAF Beaufighters of 143 staff. At the beginning of October, with only 21 operational
and 236 Sqns sank S-178, S-179 and S-189. Several more boats left, mine laying operations were launched from
S-Boote were lost in an RAF raid on Le Havre when 1,300 Ijmuiden, Rotterdam and Hoek-van-Holland. It was risky
tons of bombs were dropped and on 24 June, Cherbourg, work, though the minefields along the coasts caused long-
one of the most important S-Boot bases, was lost. A month term problems for Allied shipping.
after D-day, S-Boot flotillas occupied only three French December brought an end to a year of defeats and the
ports with just 13 boats. Yet operations continued, and massive concrete bunker installations in the ports no
on 30 July S-91, S-97 and S-114 cut off a convoy east of longer offered protection from new bombs deployed by the
Eastbourne, sinking a freighter and seriously damaging RAF. Nevertheless, in the face of this, the Schnellboote sunk
four others.The fact that the S-Boots managed to evade 33 ships with a combined tonnage of 40,475 tons, their
fire from the frigate HMS Thornbrough, which fired over mines also accounting for 100,000 tons of shipping sunk or
850 shells, shows how effective the powerful German boats damaged beyond repair, to the end of December 1944.
could be. In 1945, the S-Boote went down fighting. In the face of
At the beginning of September, the last S-Boote in total technological and numerical superiority at sea and
in the air, Schnellboot command and crews could only
counter with increased tenacity, aggressiveness and daring.
Mining operations continued wherever possible, and
during the night of 18 February it was payback time when
La Combattante, vanquisher of S-141 and S-147, ran onto a
German mine off the Norfolk coast and was sunk. Convoy
FS1734 was hit hard by 9 x S-Boote on 22 February, sinking
two freighters and damaging a third. In addition, February
cost the Allies 19,551 tons of shipping to mines.
Up to the very last day of the war, the Channel predators
fought on. Outnumbered and outgunned, they formed a
serious threat to Allied shipping. This is nowhere better
expressed than in a report of the Home Fleet on 1 May 1945:
“Attacks by German motor torpedo boats against our
convoys have increased during the last three months,
notably by the use of more daring approach techniques.
Our enemies use two or three boats operating in small,

■ A depth charge detonates in the wake of the S-47. independent groups, which makes the possibility of


interception by our escort ships difficult. The action

of the Coastal Command aircraft, in spite of regular
sorties and a total absence of enemy aircraft, is
unable to stem the offensives of these Kriegsmarine
units. In spite of a power ratio unfavourable to them,
they represent a constant threat to our maritime
While everything fell to pieces, the German Army
disintegrated, the Luftwaffe ceased to exist and
Allied armies moved into the heart of Germany, the
Schnellbootwaffe still had 21 boats operational in
its Dutch bases by mid-April 1945. At the end of the
month, they had sunk - mostly by mines – 88,971 tons
of Allied ships.
The final S-Boot sortie was launched on 13 May
1945 by S-204 and S-205, which crossed the North
Sea from Den Helder towards England. On board
S-204 was Konteradmiral Erich Breuning, on his
way to sign the surrender of German naval forces
in Holland. Ten MTB met the Germans at South Fall
Buoy before escorting them to their destination. A
number of British officers went on board S-205. One
was Captain Peter Scott, who later wrote:
“This was the first time I‘d ever sailed on an enemy
boat and I was immediately impressed by the size of
the S-Boot*. Its silhouette was hardly visible above
the surface of the water, and everything seemed to
have been designed to minimum resistance to the
elements and maximum protection for the crew
when the boat was travelling at full speed. In spite
of the rolling, we soon reached 30 knots. The MTB’s
behind us couldn’t keep up, and in spite of the speed
we kept perfectly dry, while my comrades on our
boats had to pull on their oilskins.” ■ “A respectable adversary”. An unidentified S-Boot officer in 1942. (BA)

A total of 239 S-Boote of several types were put into
service between 1930 and 1945. Only 99 survived the war.
In total, 767 men of the Schnellbootwaffe had been killed,
620 wounded and 322 taken POW. Of the 99 surviving
boats, 34 were surrendered to Britain and 30 to the US
Navy which gave 27 to the Danish and Norwegian navies
in 1947. The Soviets received 28 as war reparations. Two
S-Boote were returned to the new Bundesmarine in 1951
and served as training boats.
The S-Boote served with distinction and in the words
of naval historian Stephen Roskill, their crews: “...fought
valiantly up until the end of the war. If they had been used
with efficient support vessels, and in tight collaboration
with the Luftwaffe, they could have caused much greater
losses to our shipping. The tenacity and crusading spirit of
their crews made them respectable adversaries”.
■ At speed, as Captain Peter Scott RN later observed, the bow spray
from the S-Boote rose up and passed over the vessel, leaving the crew *Note: To the Allies, the German S-Boote were generally referred to
dry. The opposite was the case on British MTBs! as E-Boats, the E standing for enemy.

E ND 3 H


(Also 19th April & 1st Nov 2020)
Newark County Showground NG24 2NY
Open to the public 9.00am to 3.00pm (Sunday)
£5 Admission per person
(Under 14’s free!)
“Sorry no Dogs! Except Mobility”
Indoor Cafe, Large free car park
★ Military Vehicles, Parts
★ Vehicle Parts, Weapons
★ Militaria and Uniforms
★ Guns, Books and Models
★ Medals, Patches and Insignia
★ Repro clothing, Radios
For more information visit our New Look website and join our mailing list
or contact us on 07889 516401
Oice hours Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm. Closed 2nd to 7th Jan 20
A4 AD NorMilExpo JAN 20 NEW PICS 2012.indd 1 23/08/2019 12:2

A Dirty Duty
Much has been written about the dangerous world of sniping in the First World War, but
mostly focused on the Allied side. In this feature, Robin Schäfer takes a look at the men
involved, the ‘Zielfernrohrschützen’, how they operated and how Germany deployed them
while Richard James Molloy ofers us his regular input of colorised images.

y the end of 1914, the fluidity of battle on the Major Hesketh-Prichard, who made a significant
Western Front came to an end and the lines contribution to the development of sniping practice in
solidified. Both sides dug in, seeking shelter from the British Army, described this in his book Sniping in
the destructive power of modern weaponry in France: ‘At this time, the skill of the German sniper had
systems of trenches, fortified strongpoints and barbed become a by-word, and in the early days of trench warfare
wire entanglements stretching from the Belgian coast, brave German riflemen used to lie out between the lines,
across north-eastern France to the border of Switzerland. sending their bullets through the head of any officer or
On the enormous length of the Eastern Front, armies man who dared to look over our parapet (...) Only those
continued to manoeuvre in sweeping movements, who have been in a trench opposite Hun snipers that had
often achieving decisive breakthroughs which resulted the mastery, know what a hell life can be made under
in enormous advances. In the East, trench warfare also these conditions. I don’t think the Germans are better
existed but it would never be the defining type of fighting. snipers than our men, except that they are more patient
Yet, on both fronts, soldiers facing the Germans soon and better organised and better equipped.’
encountered the same new phenomenon. Only a few took Early in the war, British newspapers abounded with
any account of it at first. stories propagating the prowess of soldiers of the BEF
This phenomenon becomes very apparent when looking who not only fired a lot faster than the Germans, but were
at personal accounts of British soldiers published in also a lot more accurate; it was only the sheer weight of
the newspapers during this early period of the war. For enemy numbers which had caused the professionals of
instance, “My chum was struck at the back of the ear by the BEF to withdraw in the face of the German advance
a stray bullet and killed on the spot”: “...the doctor then in 1914. Germans conscripts, often badly led, advanced in
told us that his case was hopeless, he had been hit in the solid blocks of men, making excellent targets for highly
head by the stray bullet”: “...he was walking up and down accurate, rapid British rifle fire. They were generally
the support trench and was unfortunately struck by a stray bad shots, often firing high and regularly missing their
bullet which hit him at the back of his head”: “... the Lance- targets, while in addition they were so blinkered that
Corporal, a Buxton man, was shot through the heart by they could not distinguish the sound of rifle fire from
a stray bullet, whilst engaged with a working party some that of machine guns. But that is a different story. Even
distance behind the trench.” Random but otherwise pretty though one would think that these silly and often comical
accurate stray bullets were seemingly responsible for a statements would have been forgotten in the years
great number of British casualties. Yet the more static the following the Great War, they have in many ways become
war on the Western Front became, the clearer it became lore: accepted truths that continue to resurface. This
that the number of casualties (even in quiet parts of the is not the place to discuss the ins-and-outs of German
line) with shots to the head or body could not be explained leadership, doctrine and army training, yet it is important
by stray bullets finding particularly unlucky targets. It is to take a closer look at the importance the German
clear that the French and the Belgians in the West suffered Army, in all its contingents, put on the rifle and on the
from the same phenomenon, but their experiences are marksmanship training of its soldiers.
less well known. And in the case of the Russian soldier in
the East, they were not documented at all.
By the Spring of 1915, most soldiers on the Allied side of MARKSMANSHIP
the barbed wire knew that there were German marksmen Since 1871, every able-bodied German male between 17
armed with scoped rifles on the hunt for prey. And it was and 45 was liable for compulsory military service. This
also clear that these German marksmen did so with great broadly followed a progression through various tiers of
effect. service based on age. At the age of 17 or 18, young men

■ These are mostly older Reservists of 9th company, Bavarian 2. Reserve-
Infanterie-Regiment, posing for a group photograph, probably in May
1915 in the Artoi, France. In the background, next to a trench periscope,
a serious looking sniper armed with a telescopic sighted Gewehr 98
wears a marksman’s lanyard across his chest. (Brett Butterworth / RJM)


■ Three men of the Bavarian Landsturm Infanterie Bataillon Schweinfurt, ■ Seemingly unspectacular at a first glance, this photo shows a
posing with weapons and equipment. This is possibly during a training course rarely seen detail. The well-built soldier in the centre holds a dummy
in 1917/18 on the Eastern Front. Though heavily armed in this photograph, head made of stuffed fabric and painted with a comical face. This is
the older soldiers of the Landsturm units usually didn’t serve in the most certainly a decoy to draw enemy fire. The men at the loopholes are
forward lines, being primarily employed in security duties behind the lines. LIB most probably snipers. Time, unit and location are unknown, but the
Schweinfurt (II.19) suffered 86 casualties during the First World War, only 15 the men appear to be from Württemberg and are probably on the Western
direct result of combat. The telescopic sight is probably a 3x Oigee Luxor, one of Front in 1915. (Michael Welch)
the most common sniper scopes in the German Army. (Brett Butterworth / RJM)

were formally registered with the Landsturm which meant Great emphasis during training in active and reserve
that from that time they could, if needed, be called up service was placed on individual marksmanship. A recruit
to defend home and hearth in times of war. Yet proper soldier would not only be trained in combat shooting as
military training started when they reached the age of part of a platoon or company, but also undergo intense
20 and entered the Aktiver Dienst period, which meant individual rifle drill and dry and live-firing exercises
“regular” army service for a two year stint (three in mounted on static and moving targets. Company commanders
units). Upon finishing their active service time they were took great care to turn their soldiers into the best shots
discharged to civilian life and moved on to the reserve list of their regiment and were held personally responsible
for 4-5 years when they would be regularly called up for for the marksmanship results of their men. In barracks,
military training excercises to keep them in shape. Next, soldiers were given constant access to their rifles which
the older soldiers would be transferred into the Landwehr were stored unlocked in racks close to their quarters.
reserve pool for 7 years, where they would be called up twice During off-duty time it was taken for granted that the
a year to refresh their military skills and finally, for another men practiced drill and cared for their rifles. To control
7 years, into the Landsturm reserve in which no training performance, a company commander could always access
exercises were conducted. During those 21 years, a reservist his soldiers marksmanship results as each was required to
could be called-up to take up arms for his country. keep a Schiessbuch (shooting book) into which he had to

enter results of a prescribed firing table which had to be
completed with at least minimum standards and which he
had to repeat until he managed to do so. The combined
results of all men were then entered in the Kompanie-
Schiessbuch. The results of this company‘s shooting were
closely monitored by the battalion and the regimental
From 1895 onwards, all regiments of the German
Army held shooting competitions on a corps basis and
had to participate in the so-called Kaiserschiessen,
or Königsschiessen as it was known in the armies of
Saxony, Württemberg and Bavaria. These were shooting
contests in which one regiment’s company with the best
marksmanship results in its respective Army Corps was
rewarded with the highly regarded Kaiserabzeichen (or
Königsabzeichen). The gilded metal wreath surrounding
two crossed rifles (for the infantry) would be worn by all
men of that company for one year up until the date of
■ In the first months of the war, most German regiments made use of
the next annual shooting contest. Excellent individual hunting rifles obtained from civilian sources, such as that being used
marksmanship was further rewarded by the award of a by this sniper of an unidentified regiment in early Spring, 1915. (Peter
Schutzenschnur (marksman lanyard) which was awarded Reinhart)
in 10 classes and worn on the uniform in the early stages
of the war.
Schützenbruderschaften (rifleman associations, guilds and
brotherhoods) drew many thousands of members.
RIFLE AND HUNTSMEN It was a remnant of the medieval age, where settlements
In Britain, hunting was an exclusive sport and very formed crossbow-armed (later musket-armed) militias to
much the preserve of the upper class, but in Germany, defend against outside intruders and rampaging men-at-
with its 32 million acres of forest (in 1913), forestry and arms. These associations saw a peak in popularity at the
hunting were industries of major importance. Not end of the Napoleonic Wars. The oldest were in continuous
only were there enormous numbers of state employed existence since the 12th century, and although largely
foresters and hunters to sustain such industry, but ceremonial in modern times, the members still regularly
private licensed hunting was common in all levels honed shooting skills on ranges and held competitions. In
of society. In more remote areas of Germany, young addition, rifle associations took an active role in training
men were required to learn the basics of fieldcraft, the reserves. On 19 May 1915, the Darmstaedter Tagblatt
stalking and shooting before becoming part of the adult reported on the important role of the local rifle association:
community. Meanwhile, in villages, towns and cities all “On Sunday 100 future conscripts assembled on the seven
over Germany, Schützenvereine, Schützengilden and ranges of the rifle association where they received special
marksmanship training for more than five hours. A total of
15,000 rounds were fired, the cost of which was paid for by
the city of Darmstadt. All men were thoroughly motivated
by the knowledge that there is no skill more important in
the field than shooting. The training programme, which is
now being copied by many other cities, was a great success
and will in the future take place on every Sunday. At the
instigation of Commerce Councilor Hickler, another 115
scoped rifles have been made available by the war ministry
and will be sent to Hessian troops in the field very soon.”
When the reserves were called up in August 1914, and
Reserve and Landwehr regiments activated, it took the
German Army only 12 days to expand from about 840,000
to three and a half million soldiers. In addition to the
marksmanship training all these men would have had
during their army training, a large number of those called-
■ Quite clearly staged is this otherwise dramatic photo of men of up, or already on active service, would have had additional

RIR91 posing with a sniper rifle and trench mirror. marksmanship or fieldcraft skills honed in shooting guilds


Besides, I have been assigned a wonderful job. I am now a sniper and do a lot of
observing work. Whenever I feel like it, I walk to the observing post where there are so
called ‘scissor’ telescopes through which I can observe everything that is going on on
the English side. When I spot an Englishman who is bold enough to raise his nose, it is
my duty and obligation to shoot him. I do not need to do any sentry duty and am
allowed to sleep at night while everyone else is on their feet. I feel like I am in heaven!
Ignaz Hautumm, Reserve-Infanterie-Regiment 236, 21 April 1916. ”
or on the hunt. It would be men like these who, equipped and efforts were taken to make more available for army
with scoped precision rifles, would wreak havoc amongst use. The elderly Vikor Amadeus, Duke of Ratibor, then
the foe across the barbed wire. They would become the a member of the Prussian cabinet, personally funded a
menace of the trenches. programme to collect 20,000 scoped rifles for frontline
use. It is estimated that about 5,000-8,000 were gathered
before the end of December 1914, when the programme
STOP-GAP SOLUTION slowly fizzed out. Yet it was clear to the Army that these
Within the first days of war, the Germans quickly realised weapons could only form a stop-gap solution.
that to complement the mass destructive power of At about this time, the Prussian War Ministry ordered
machine guns and field artillery, a more discriminating the first 15,000 scoped Gewehr 98 combat rifles, known
weapon would be required. Almost as soon as the first as the Scharfschuetzen-, or Zielfernrohr-Gewehr 98. The
shots had been fired in anger, the first scoped hunting first batches of these rifles went to the Bavarian Army in
rifles were acquired to fill that role. These were weapons the winter of 1914. The G98, the German Army’s standard
made for the civilian market and mounting a variety rifle during the First World War, though long-barreled
of commercial telescopic sights made by Zeiss, Goerz and a bit cumbersome, was powerful and accurate against
and Gérard. These civilian rifles were chambered to fire man-sized targets up to a range of 600 meters, and still
the Patrone 88, rather than the new, powerful Mauser potentially lethal in ranges up to about 2,000 meters.The
S-Patrone which had become the standard cartridge of scoped versions of the G98 were specifically selected and
the German Army in 1904/05. Even though these weapons finished and were very accurate examples of the standard
were more delicate than a combat rifle and not ideal for rifle. The bolt handle was bent down, a recess to hold it
trench usage, their value in combat soon became apparent cut into the stock. Other rifles had the underside of the
bolt handle ground away to allow the stem to pass back
under the mounted optical sight. In fact, the German
Army never had a standard telescopic sight although it
was initially specified that 4x sights by Goerz and Zeiss
were to be used. As those two companies could never
satisfy demand, virtually any other available rifle scope
was pressed into service. Makers included Ernst Busch
in Rathenow, Voigtländer in Braunschweig, C.P. Goerz
in Berlin, M. Hensoldt in Wetzlar and Carl Zeiss in Jena.
Whereas most sights had 4x magnification, others ranged
from 2 ¾x to 6x. Each rifle was zeroed in and paired with
one specific rifle, and both were numbered together.*

It is quite clear that differences existed in the way
snipers were employed within contingents and individual
divisions of the German Army. Yet all contingents except
the Bavarian Army seemed to have modelled their sniper
force after the Prussian model. Due to the limited scope
■ The original caption to this image reads: “This photo shows you where I of this article, and because it generally seems that sniping
stand on sentry duty for 5 hours each day.“ A trio of Landwehr soldiers from
an unidentified unit somewhere in Russia, June 1916. Two are armed with a
telescopic sighted Gewehr 98. All are equipped with Fernglas 08 binoculars. *For further information on the weapons and telescopic sights, the
(Brett Butterworth) works of Martin Pegler and Dieter Storz are recommended.


played a much lesser role in the East, the focus here is

1 solely on the Western Front.
A great deal of contradictory information exists on
the distribution and number of scoped rifles in German
regiments, mainly due to the lack of official records from
2 the Prussian side. So far, historians have thus focused
on distribution within the Bavarian army, and to a lesser
extent the army of Wurttemberg. It is safe to say that
distribution within state contingents differed widely.
Initially, scoped rifles seem to have been issued on the
scale of one per line of infantry or Jäger company. After
this, distribution among regiments becomes unclear.
3 In some Bavarian units, the number rose to three
per company in August 1916, while the 26 Infanterie-
Division reported in April 1915 that it had requested to
have six scopes and an extra two in reserve for each of
its regiment’s companies. A month later, the 26.,27.,28.
Division each reported 18 scoped rifles per Division, while
some Landwehr and other second rate units were still
4 waiting for their allotment. It is safe to say that by the
end of 1916 or early 1917, each infantry company would
have had at least three rifles with telescopic sights at its
disposal. Initially, scoped rifles had to be returned to
the armoury after use. Here, one armourer, usually an
experienced NCO, was in charge of their care although
this practice seems to have been abandoned within the
first months of the war. In July 1916, the Prussian War
5 Ministry ordered all remaining civilian hunting rifles still
in service to be returned immediately.
How German snipers operated is still very much
unexplored and most published information today is
based on Allied wartime sources and speculation. A
fascinating insight into the world of mid-war German
sniping can be gained from a so-far unpublished report
compiled by the 87. Infanterie-Brigade in the summer of
1917 in a private collection in Germany.

“87. Inf. Brig. Abt. I, Nr. 6781

Zu Abt. I, Mun./Nr.7631/v. 15. 6. 1917

To the Generalkommando XVII. A.K.

Experiences from the work of telescopic rifle marksmen.

The Brigade currently has 110 scoped rifles of various

manufacturers available, of which those equipped with
1: A Gewehr 98 sniper rilfe mounting a Goerz x4 Telescopic telescopes made by the companies of Dr. Walter Gerard,
Charlottenburg and Voigtländer Braunschweig have proven
2: Another G98, this time mounting a ‘Visar’ 2 3/4x made by
Emil Busch AG in Rathenow. themselves best. Each company has a complement of
3: A ‘Dialyt’ 4x telescopic rifle sight made by Hensoldt in 10-15 trained scoped rifle marksman. On operation it has
Wetzlar. become clear that the men work best when divided into
4: 3x telescopic rifle sight made by Dr. Walter Gerard in Abschusskommandos (lit. ‘kill commands’) consisting
Charlottenburg, Berlin
5: G98 mounting a 3x Oigee Luxor telescopic sight with
of two marksmen and two observers. The observers
hessian and leather eye cap. are equipped with Gewehr 98, flare pistol and DF 03 6x
6: This Hensoldt Wetzlar telescopic sight shows serial binoculars. The use of the pattern 08 binocular has to be

numbers for two pairings. Inititally paired and zeroed in on refrained from due to its limited field of vision and low
one rifle, it was later paired with another. This was done in
armouries far behind the lines, or when more complicated
repairs or maintenance was required, in Germany itself.


Rifles with telescopic sights belong in the trenches and are only to be used for
precision shooting. The scoped rifle can only be successfully used by a trained
marksman who not only has a personal interest in precision shooting but also brings
with him the cold-bloodedness necessary to place a calm shot even when subjected
to enemy fire. As such, the men operating scoped rifles have to be chosen very
carefully. It is safe to say that there will be several in each company who are used to
this kind of calm, precision shooting from the hunt, and who take personal pleasure

and satisfaction from it. Generallkommando, XIII. Armeekorps, IIc, June 191

magnification. In addition to the standard load-out, the For the Abschusskommandos operating in these
ZF-Schützen (scoped rifle marksmen) carry an additional 15 positions, good camouflage is of major importance.
K-cartridges to use for long distance shooting and against In that regard, some of the men show great eagerness,
hard targets. Members of the Abschusskommandos are making use of specifically tailored tent squares, face
exempt from labour duties. The Abschusskommandos, in a wrappings and individually dyed and painted pieces
strength of 2 to 4 men, operate freely within the regimental of uniform. A kill can only be classed as confirmed
sectors, work closely with the troops in the trenches and are when observed by a witness. All kills, confirmed
subordinated to the KTK. Wherever possible, ZF-Schützen and unconfirmed, are entered in the Abschussbuch
cover one another during operations. Best success is still register with information on time, location, distance,
achieved at dawn and dusk, with illumination by the moon ammunition used, target identification and effect.
also at night. Today, scoped rifles remain in the trenches. A notably successful and distinguished marksmen is
The responsibility of care and maintenance for the Gefreiter Anton Gaskowski of 5th company, IR 176. Since
weapons lies with the individual operator. the start of the Battle of the Somme, until today, he
The main combat zone of the ZF-Schützen is the trench, has registered 79 confirmed kills. Some regiments pay
nevertheless good results have been achieved within the head bounties for confirmed kills from their regimental
forefield and in shell crater positions. Typical engagement coffers, which has notably increased the number of
distances range between 100 and 400 metres. Although hits confirmed kills (IR141 pays 10 Marks for every enlisted
have been scored on distances of over 800 metres, it is often man shot and 20 Marks for every officer shot). Yet this
impossible to observe and confirm the actual effect of such is not well received by all of the men. Many consider it
long range shots. dishonourable and beneath the dignity of the German
A first selection and basic training of the ZF-Schützen
is nowadays already conducted with the replacement
battalions. There, men with hunting or similiar shooting
experience are chosen before they receive further
training by experienced marksmen in the field. For the
training of promising candidates within the regiment, the
Zielfernrohr-Kurse (telescopic sight courses) have proven
themselves greatly since their initiation in April 1915. One
main task is the annihilation of the enemy’s scoped rifle
marksmen, whose number and quality on the English
side have strongly increased during the previous months.
Even though the English optical sights are far inferior to
ours, some innovations of the enemy, like industrially
manufactured target dummies made of wood or Papier-
mâché, are noteworthy. The inferior quality of the
enemy’s optical devices can also be judged by the fact
that he usually ceases precision fire after dusk.
The experiences since the start of the war have shown
that amongst our foes the English are the best precision
■ Clad in heavy fur coats, these men of an unidentified Landwehr formation
on the Eastern Front pose for the camera. Two are armed with the old
shooters and come before the French who make little
Gewehr 88, while their comrade to the left is armed with a brand new use of scoped rifles. The Russians don’t seem to employ
Gewehr 98 with a telescopic sight. (RS) scoped rifles at all.”

■ An unidentified soldier of Infanterie-Regiment
Nr. 185 from Baden. We have no explanation for
the alarm clock box, neither do we know where
exactly the photograph was taken although is
around 1915/16. The dugout, carved deep into
chalk, seems to be in a more secure part of the
line. One soldier in the background is cleaning
a standard G98 rifle; the soldier reading the
“Stockacher Tagblatt”, is probably the owner
of the sniper rifle which mounts a powerful
telescopic sight of 4x magnification made by
C.P. Goerz in Berlin. (RS / RJM)


■ Ersatz-Reservist Simon Lechner of the Bavarian Landwehr-Infanterie- ■ A sniper of an unidentified formation posing at the spot where his
Regiment Nr. 3 in August 1915. He poses with a scoped G98, the case for observer had been killed by enemy fire, the location marked with a
his 3x C.P. Goerz telescopic sight hanging across his chest. The photo was a plain wooden cross. The photograph is hard to date, but one detail
postcard inscribed: “Dear Centa, a photograph from the field as a souvenir. In is interesting. The sniper has wrapped his rifle barrel in hessian in an
the background, the French are hardly 15 minutes away. I am now assigned attempt to break up the rifles hard lines in an early example of rifle
to the sharpshooters and am well up until now.” Simon Lechner seems to camouflage. (Michael Welch / RJM)
have survived the war. (Michael Welch / RJM)

MEN BEHIND THE SCOPE successful German snipers. So why is that the case?
Even a cursory examination of available sources about the The answer might be found in a letter written by young
First World War is enough to come up with the names of the Leutnant Dietz von Saucken (GGR 3) to his friend Leutnant
most successful snipers - men like Francis Pegahmagabow, Joachim von Kortzfleisch (IR43) on 22 November 1916 in
Billy Singh and Henry Norwest. Not a single German which he reports that: “During the period at Beuvraignes we
name makes an appearance, but considering the fact did our best to give those opposite a good spanking. Some
that the German Army was the first to deploy telescopic men of my company have become very proficient working
rifle-armed marksmen on the battlefield, and developed with telescopic rifle sights and merrily kept the Monsieurs
tactics and operational principles later forming the basis on their feet. One man in particular has done for over 20 of
for the creation and development of other nation‘s sniper them during only 5 days. A dirty duty, even if well performed,
forces, this seems a bit odd. One reason is surely found in doesn’t deserve an award from the Fatherland. So, I presented
disinterest, another in difficulties in accessing available him with a simple silver pocket watch instead (...).”
German sources while a third is the near complete A silver pocket watch as reward for a “dirty duty well
destruction of Prussian army records in the Second World performed” seems similar to mentions of head bounty
War. Yet the most interesting reason is the complete lack in cash which was paid by some regiments. The work of
of any mention of German sniping in German published the sniper, though important and valued, might not have
sources. In the hundreds of detailed regimental histories been considered honourable enough to deserve any high
published after war, in which all manner of prowess at award or to merit some mention in the press or post-war
arms are celebrated, there are just a handful of mentions of literature.

■ The original caption of this fantastic photograph dated 16
February 1917 reads: “Snipers in the furthermost line”. The men
are soldiers of the Bavarian 23. Reserve-Infanterie-Regiment which
at this time saw service in Siebenburgen, deep in the Carpathian
borderlands. It is interesting to see that it shows a pair of snipers,
most probably working together and covering one another.
The sniper on the right seems to wear his steel helmet over his
Krätzchen (field cap), resulting in a rather untidy fit.


A Tale of Two Snipers

wo interesting characters who became snipers very Whereas the deeds of wartime snipers might not have
early in the war were not only soldiers of the Royal been considered honourable enough to mention in
Bavarian Army, but they had also been poachers. publications of the day, at least in Bavaria the romanticaly
We tell their stories here. heroic image of the Wildschütz was powerful enough to
The development of hunting rights is directly linked to turn two men into heroes as soon as they fired their first
the relatively modern idea of exclusive private land. In shots.
Bavaria, and no different from the rest of Europe from late
medieval times up to the present day, hunting and shooting
rights were enforced by gamekeepers and foresters. They GEORG HERRNREITER
denied any shared usage of forests and the peasant’s right Published by the German army newspaper ‘Liller
to hunt and fish, while the sole right to hunt remained in Kriegszeitung’ in early October 1914 was what was one of
the hands of the nobility. However, by the end of the 18th the first descriptions of a man who would achieve near
century, relatively easy access to firearms increasingly legendary status - not only in Bavaria, but throughout
allowed peasants, the poor and the low-paid to poach. This Germany. That man was Georg Herrnreiter:
interfered with not only the law of the land and property “There are tales about a man of the Bavarian regiment
rights, but clashed directly with the power of the nobility. ‘Kronprinz’ who distinguished himself through his most
In the remote Alpine highlands of Bavaria and the Tyrol, successful and specialised work on the French front. His fame
poaching was a necessity for many. Poor, hard-working and reaches far, turning him into a kind of mystical being. Like all
often cut off from the rest of the world by ice and snow, heroes, he is a man of little words. Unlike most heroes, he has
the men of small village communities climbed up into the the physique of a bear. Truly handsome he certainly isn’t, but
mountains and forests to shoot game for survival. This was with his sharp eyes, short neck and blonde war beard then I,
well-known, and the state did its utmost to end it. Between for one, would not like to run into him when he is on the trail
1822 and 1848, more than 2,000 men were killed in Bavaria of a good six-pointer and if I was a forest warden.
during skirmishes between poachers and foresters. He made a name for himself at Lihons, where much
Reform of hunting laws in 1849 limited legal hunting good German and Kronprinz blood has been shed. He was
to those rich enough to be able to pay the hunting fees, annoyed that some Frenchmen, sitting in the crowns of the
leading to resentment in the rural population which trees, were taking pot shots at our brave men below. “I can
had hoped to see rights re-established. Illegal poaching do that, too” he said and climbed up a tree about 200 metres
continued, the poachers often distributing cuts of their in front of our lines and began to work. And he worked
prey to the poor and needy and thus gaineing adulation well. With 48 confirmed and witnessed direct hits scored
and support in that community. A romantic cult formed so far, I‘m happy to believe he will score 120, maybe even
around the “gallant poacher” (the Wildschutz) who took on 150. He shot everything that was worth shooting: officers,
the might of King and State while playing an often deadly cyclists, patrols, artillery horses. With eyes like a hawk,
game of cat-and-mouse with foresters and hunters. In the he had a talent for spotting enemy artillery positions. He
Alpine region, the Wildschütz (not to be confused with the even tried his luck with mapping. I would like to see these
low, dishonourable and greedy “Wilderer”) honoured the works, drawn by his clumsy farmer’s hand, placed in the
rules of the hunt, showed respect to their prey and took army museum. But it wasn’t long until the French got to
from the rich and gave to the poor. Criminals by official know about him. One time, they shot his rifle to pieces and
standards, they often reached saintly or heroic status then put a shot through his trouser pocket close to where he
among the rural Alpine population. carried his Knicker (short Bavarian dagger), and finally they
honoured him by shelling his
tree. “That made me quickly
slip down onto a branch on
the third floor” he said. Yet he
didn’t climb down, and they
failed to hit him. That way,
Herrnreiter spent his weeks -
from the morning‘s first light
until dusk. Then he climbed
down and walked back to his
■ Extract from Georg Herrnreiters Service file. company, or to the garden

■ Infanterist Vitus
Heiß served with the
Bavarian 16. Reserve-
the unit in which
Adolf Hitler served
during the First World
War. Heiss even
served in the same
company as Hitler
and it is safe to say
that they would have
known one another.
In this stunning
photograph, Heiß
poses with his G98
Zielfernrohrgewehr in
a studio photograph
taken between
March 1915 and
November 1916.
The telescopic sight
is a 4x Voigtländer
Skoparette, one of
the models preferred
by the Bavarian
Army. The telescopic
sight‘s leather case
is hanging around
his shoulder. Vitus
Heiß was decorated
with the Prussian
Iron Cross, 2nd Class,
on 16 November
1916. He was killed
in action on 12 May
1917 - ironically, by
a rifle bullet to the
head – quite possibly
becoming the victim
of a sniper himself.
(Brett Butterworth,
Colour by Richard
James Molloy)


which was home to the regimental staff, and sat down

quietly in the small kitchen next to a small stove, drinking
his coffee. And never bragging, because he is a quiet hero.
Only when one asks him about his day‘s work will one get a
brief, factual statement, such as: “Today I got three”.He will
shortly be decorated with the Iron Cross.”
The hunting references throughout the piece are based
on the fact that in civilian life Georg Herrnreiter might
well have been a farm worker, but to beef-up his meagre
earnings he‘d also been a poacher. Born in Reisbach near
Dingolfing, Bavaria, in May 1891, and in employment as
a farm worker when the war broke out, he joined the 2.
Bayerisches Infanterie Regiment on 8 August 1914. Only a
month later, he laid the foundation stone of his reputation
as a sniper.
Strapping himself into the crowns of trees, or firing from
the undergrowth with a scoped civilian hunting rifle, he
racked-up an impressive score in a very short time. On 15
October 1914, he was decorated with the Prussian Iron Cross
2nd Class and, at the end of November, with the highest
gallantry award his home kingdom, Bavaria, had to bestow:
the Golden Military Merit Medal, or Golden Bravery Medal.
The citation reads:
“On 26 September 1914, Gefreiter Herrnreiter, of 3rd
company, 2. b. Inf. Reg, volunteered for sentry position in a
tree, from where he successfully shot everything that moved
- whatever target showed itself in the trench ahead, and ■ Portrait photo of Georg Herrnreiter taken in the former French Army
further on towards Lihons. Meanwhile, he delivered valuable Barracks, Peronne, shortly after the award ceremony of the Bavarian
reports about proceedings on the French side. Day after Golden Military Medal. (Klaus Herrnreiter, colour by RJM)
day, during the period his regiment was at Lihons from 26
September to 15 October 1914, he moved into his position and
held it, keeping up his fire even though continuously shot at War when hit by a stray artillery shell splinter. His regiment
by individual fire, whole salvoes and by artillery. Even though memorialised him thus in its history, published in 1924:
wounded by a grazing shot, and even though two rifles were “Gefreiter Herrnreiter was a true hero, the old Bavarian
shot to pieces in his hands and a third heavily damaged, he poacher, who was killed near Neuville. He is dead, but his
still shot a mass of foes, reported enemy artillery positions memory lives on in the ranks the regiment. His comrades
and guided our own artillery onto them.” thought him bullet-proof as he faced each projectile directed
In the Winter of 1915/1916, at him with a smile. Deeds of honour have been performed
the “Kronprinz” Regiment by him and he has long been wearing both crosses, Prussian
clung to a series of muddy, and Bavarian, on his chest. When the 2. Infanterie-Regiment
loose positions on the far was in a different sector of the front (Vermandovillers), the old
eastern slopes of Vimy Ridge. poacher and hunter built himself a hunting seat in the crown
On 28 January 1916, following of a lonely tree. He remained up that tree while gunfire kept
the great mine detonations whistling and howling around him. Over the course of many
under the French lines, a days, and whatever they threw at him, they couldn’t get him.
great attack was launched During the time in his elevated position above the French
in which the Bavarians took positions, he felled 121 enemies with his telescopic sight
a 2 kilometre long stretch equipped rifle. Wherever patrols had to be conducted,
of enemy trenches and Herrnreiter was there. It was not possible to promote him
captured 340 prisoners. to the rank of Unteroffizier, but this was not because of
During the following night, his civilian criminal record but because his rather simple
Georg Herrnreiter, who had grade of education didn’t allow it. When the glorious soldier
carefully picked his victims had again proven himself in combat, and when decorated
■ The grave of Georg
before dealing out death, with the Golden Bravery Medal in the old French barracks
Herrnreiter, sniper fell to the undiscriminating at Peronne, his regiment granted him an honour which has
extraordinaire. (P. Redmond) mass killer of the First World remained unique ever since. The whole regiment paraded

■ Georg Mühlberger as hunting assistant (right) in the Summer of 1918. Next to him the district hunters and foresters - men who would have been his
opponents 10 years earlier.

past Gefreiter Herrnreiter. When it was over, Herrnreiter GEORG MÜHLBERGER

remarked: “Well, I have seen better parade marches!” Georg ( Josef) Mühlberger was legendary in the Chiemgau
Newspapers in Bavaria and central Germany eventually region of Upper Bavaria long before the start of the war.
reported his death: Born in Pollersham on 29 July 1880, he learned the trade
“Munich: Painful regret has been caused by news of the of shoemaker but started poaching in his late teens. He
death of Gefreiter Georg Herrnreiter, one of the best shots of served his compulsory military service between 1901 and
the Bavarian Army and a simple worker from Lower Bavaria. 1903, but for more than a decade made a name for himself
He was not only a cold-blooded master marksman, about as a skillful and cunning poacher who assisted those in
whom we reported when he bagged his 86th Frenchman, need and who had a highly successful track record of
but he was also an audacious soldier much valued by his evading the law. In addition, he was known to be a regular
superiors. Everyone in Bavaria knows his name. Much has instigator of brawls in local taverns and guest houses.
been written about him, and in addition to the Iron Cross he By 1912, though, when the government put a bounty of
held several other awards. Once, he was allowed to take the 400 Marks on his head, which was about 4-5 times what
salute of his regiment standing next to his General. It is said the average worker earnt in a month, the noose around
that at the feast which followed, paid for by his regiment’s Mühlberger was tightening and he disappeared from the
officers, he prefered to consume Bavarian beer and snuff face of the earth.
tobacco instead of expensive Champagne. In Herrnreiter News of his whereabouts first became known again
there lived a piece of the hero Siegfried, and with it a firm shortly before Christmas 1914, when the following was
belief in his own indestructibility.” published in a side column of a local newspaper:
Georg Herrnreiter was holder of the Prussian Iron Cross “ News from a Bavarian ‘Poacher’. News about a man
2nd Class (15 October 1914), the Bavarian Military Merit Cross who is well known in the whole of the Inn and Chiemgau
3rd Class with Swords (22 January 1916) and Bavarian Golden regions, shoemaker Georg Mühlberger, has arrived
Military Merit Medal (30 November 1914). from France in a letter addressed to his cousin, Johann
He is buried in the German Military Cemetery of Neuville Mühlberger, a farmer in Ried. It appears that the once

St. Vaast, Block 2, Grave 196. feared poacher, now war volunteer, has been awarded the


Iron Cross and Bravery Medal for his heroic deeds in enemy
territory when, during an assault, he shot dead or disabled
50 Frenchmen.”
Chased by the law, Mühlberger had fled across the
border to Switzerland where, under a false name, he took
up work in his trade of shoemaker. When war broke out
in Summer of 1914, he made his way back to Bavaria and
volunteered for service. After a few weeks, he ended up
serving in the ranks of 12. Königlich Bayerisches Reserve-
The citation of his Golden Military Merit Medal stated:
“During trench fighting near Ecurie, Arras, the 9th
company of b.Res.Inf.Rgt 12 held possession of a line of ■ Extracts from Mühlberger’s service files, listing him as
French trenches and was tasked to take the other half as Scharfschuetze (sniper) and as ‘trained on the Gewehr 98 as
well. Yet a well positioned sniper of the Chasseur d’Alpine telescopic sight sniper’.
made every advance impossible, having already shot dead
11 of our men within two days. When he was finally taken
out on 25 November 1914, he was immediately replaced by appears again in the June 1916 records of Ballonzug 261 of
another. This one was quickly silenced by Mühlberger firing Luftschiffer-Abteilung 66b - a balloon observation unit of
over the parapet. The way being clear for a brief moment, the Luftstreitkräfte.
some courageous men charged forward. To support them, How this highly unusual transfer came about is
Mühlberger climbed onto the parapet and shot dead no less impossible to say, but it may be that his wound caused
than 25 Frenchmen, including one officer. This deed greatly complications which ruled out further service in an
aided the advance of his comrades.” infantry unit.
The story of this infamous poacher spread rapidly in In 1918, his story took an even more unusual twist
the south German press, turning him into a war hero and when Georg Mühlberger’s war suddenly ended on
instantly clearing his substantial criminal record. “After the 17 April. A brief handwritten note in his service files
war, there will hopefully be an estate owner who offers the states: “Order Number 49349, 1st Bavarian Army Corps,
dashing fellow a legal way to satisfy his hunting passion”, Temporarily released from service to take up work duties
stated a newspaper in Chiemgau a few weeks later. as gamekeeper to Baron Cramer-Klett, Forestry Office
Mühlberger’s story continued to follow an unusual Hohenaschau, until 1 August 1918.”
path and in June 1915 he was released from hospital after We can be fairly certain that this was due to chronic
being wounded in the head by a shell splinter. Briefly health problems. This happened to many soldiers who
transferred to the replacement battalion of the German were unable to fulfill their duties for medical reasons.
Alpine Corps, he received official sniper training in the What is more noteworthy is the fact that the Forestry
use of the scoped rifle. After rotating through various Office Hohenaschau, and the land of Baron Cramer-Klett,
replacement formations, were precisely the area where Mühlberger had successfully
and a stint of service in poached for over a decade. The only surviving photo of him
the Bavarian 1. Reserve- was taken about this time and shows him in his new role as
Infanterie-Regiment, he gamekeeper. Next to him on the photo are the state hunters
and foresters who would once have been his adversaries.
What exactly led to this we will never know, but it was truly
■ Guidelines on distance
estimation, created by Landsturm
a case of poacher turned gamekeeper.
Hauptmann-Oberförster His service exemption was renewed in August 1918 but he
Feddersen for Armeegruppe died ten years later in unknown circumstances. By then, he
Gallwitz in May 1915. The was a highly respected member of the community.
scope used is a C.P. Goerz,
Serial No. 6493. It is interesting
that Hauptmann Feddersen, in
command of Landsturm Battalion
Woldenberg, not only uses his NOTE: Colourised
images throughout
military rank but also his official
this feature are by our
civilian rank of Oberförster, or
colourisation artist,
Senior Forester. Three months
Richard James Molloy,
later, his battalion would play
as his regular contribution of coloured period images which
a key role during the Siege of
will appear in each of our issues showcasing his work.
Novogeorgievsk (now Modlin).
(Via F. Wein)




IJzerdijk 49 - 8600 Diksmuide
t +32 (0)51 50 02 86


Feniks Reconstructing In Flanders Fields Museum

Flanders Fields YPRES 07/03 - 15/11/2020

Cloth Hall | Grote Markt 34 | B-8900 Ypres

t. +32 (0)57 239 220 |
www.inflandersfi |

Galland’s Battle of Britain

Much has been written of the Battle of Britain, and mostly from the British perspective.
Andy Saunders looks at a commentary on Luftwafe ighter operations during the battle
which was written in the early 1950s by one of Germany’s most famous ighter aces,
Adolf Galland.

eneralleutnant operational aspects
Adolf Galland relating to RAF Fighter
needs no Command. However, it
introduction must be borne in mind
to the readers of Iron that this was written
Cross, most of whom will entirely from his own
be more than familiar memory of events during
with his best-selling 1953 that period, probably
autobiography, The First without access to archive
and the Last. Prior to that, material and certainly
however, Galland had without the benefit of
written a treatise based retrospective historical
on his experiences during research.
the Battle of Britain which
included his observations
as to the successes, along A ‘GIFT’ FROM
with the failings and DESIGNER
shortcomings, of the “Study of the relationship
Luftwaffe fighter arm between various branches
during that critical period of the Luftwaffe reveals
across the summer and the insignificant provision
autumn of 1940. that had been made for
After surrendering to fighters. The reason for
Allied forces in May 1945, this is to be found in the
Galland was flown to accepted doctrines of
England on the 14th for the time: that the new
interrogation by the RAF ■ Adolf Galland wearing the rank patches of Oberstleutnant and Luftwaffe should be
in relation to Luftwaffe wearing the Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves. (Colour by RJM) organised as an attacking
organisational and force in accordance with
technical issues before the strategic concept much
being returned to Germany and initial imprisonment. He in favour at that time: that mastery of the air should be
was later brought back to England on 7 October for further obtained in the initial operations of a war through the
interrogation. destruction on the ground of the enemy’s air power.
By the end of April 1947, Galland had been released “I personally believe that Germany could not have
and it wasn’t long before he was encouraged to move to lost the war if the production of fighters in 1940 or 1941
Argentina and work for the Argentinian Air Force where had been on the same scale as it was in 1944. In this
he acted as consultant and trained and lectured new pilots connection, it is interesting to examine the production
before finally returning to Germany in 1955. It was during figures for fighter aircraft during the war, where we can
his time in Argentina that he penned a study on the Battle see that the output of the German aircraft industry was
of Britain, excerpts of which we reproduce in this feature. stepped up little at the beginning of the war. It was not
Adolf Galland’s work, originally written in Spanish, until after a very long delay – in the autumn of 1944 – that
does contain several historical and technical inaccuracies peak production was attained.
- along with misunderstandings as to tactical and “It was believed for some time that in the case of

■ The Luftwaffe’s
fighter force was
concentrated in France
along the English
Channel coast in the
early summer of 1940.
Mostly, the airfields
were impromptu affairs

which utilised cornfields

and meadows. Here, the
Messerschmitt 109-Es
of JG27 wait for action
in the Pas-de-Calais.

■ As the Luftwaffe evolved, pre-war, the single-seat fighter arm ■ A further tranche of fighter pilots also found themselves
suffered in its development as a tranche of the best pilots were transferred from fighters to Junkers 87 ‘Stuka’ units before the war,
transferred to Messerschmitt 110 units. further weakening and undermining the effectiveness of the fighter
arm in the view of Adolf Galland.

daylight attacks, bombers would be able to master enemy Bf 109 was not suitable for service due to high take-off
fighters and would thus not need to be escorted. In any and landing speeds, which would lead to insurmountable
case, fighters would not be able to accompany bombers handling difficulties.
owing to the speed disparity. “But they were wrong. The Bf 109 not only possessed
“However, the construction of the new Messerschmitt superior features but caused a revolution in fighter design.
109 - of completely revolutionary design – put the However, its short operational radius (about 200km) played
problem back in a proper perspective. a decisive part in the outcome of the Battle of Britain.
“It is of interest to mention here that the Bf 109 was
actually a gift from its designer, Prof. Willi Messerschmitt,
in the proper sense of the word. It was not ordered by the PHYSICAL STRAIN
Air Ministry. On the contrary, many of the men who had “Vexed by this perceived weakness, Goring had already
been fighter pilots during the First World War, and who demanded a fighter of greater endurance which resulted
now occupied positions of authority in the Luftwaffe, in the production of the Messerschmitt 110 ‘Zerstorer’.
rejected the new aircraft on technical grounds. And this caused a problem for the embryonic fighter
“They did not understand that the close-turn combat force from 1938 because the best fighter pilots were
was only an exception among the various kinds of tactics assigned to them. And this wasn’t the first drain on the
in aerial fighting between aircraft of high performance, pool of pilots from the fighter force. First, during 1934
and that in a fighter with a closed cockpit a pilot could fly, and 1935, when bomber units were being established, the
see, fire and fight just as well as in the old type of fighter young fighter force put large numbers of its best pilots
with an open cockpit. The sceptics asserted that the new at their disposal. And it was the same in 1936 when the

■ An original colour photograph showing Messerschmitt 110s of 8./ZG76 low over the English Channel in 1940. Galland was scathing about the
usefulness of the type.

first Junkers 87 units were being formed. This reduction make a series of very tight turns – or ‘Abwehrkreis’. (Editor:
of fighter pilots in the period between 1934 and 1939 had known to the RAF as a ‘defensive circle’) Though nobody
a knock-on impact which I believe adversely affected was willing to admit it, this was essentially a defensive
outcomes in 1940. measure and the twin-engine fighters had to rely on Bf
“It was said then, that: ‘The air force is a strategic, 109s coming to their assistance. Otherwise, they had to
offensive weapon’. Those words sum up the concept that escape as best they could and consequently suffered heavy
dominated this period, as I have already indicated. losses. As a result, from this time onwards, when 110s were
“As to the Messerschmitt 110 in 1940, when units had used to escort bombers they were accompanied by single-
originally been formed, it was intended that they should engine fighters. But even so, whatever the value of the 110
be used to escort bombers. The 110 was unable to give a in combat, they were of little use.
good account of itself in combat with British fighters, and “During the summer of 1940, I served as Kommodore
it was for this reason that the enemy singled them out of Jagdgeschwader 26. Normally, each unit made three
for attack. When they were attacked, they were obliged to sorties per day and the physical strain on pilots was heavy.
Airframes and engines also suffered in these efforts and
on occasion I was called upon to carry out four freelance
fighter sweeps (frei Jagd) over England in a single day.
“Our missions were carried out in the following
manner: once airborne, the units assembled as quickly
as possible at an altitude of more than 5,000 metres
over the Continent. The approach flight was begun from
this height, the altitude being gradually increased to
somewhere between 6,500 to 8,000 metres.
“It took an average of 30 minutes to reach the English
coast from the time of take-off, and this left no more than
20 minutes for penetration into enemy airspace. In order
to be able to attack British fighters from higher altitude,
this meant that our time over England was reduced simply
by fuel consumption during the act of climbing. Combats
would then take place, progressively downwards, from our
maximum altitude. The disadvantage of not having drop
■ Adolf Galland taxies his Messerschmitt 109-E at Audembert, tanks on the Bf 109s also became apparent. Had they been

France, during 1940. so equipped, then endurance would have been increased


■ Left: This Propaganda

Kompanie (PK) photograph
shows a Messerschmitt
109-E flying up the English
Channel with the Chain Home
radar masts behind Dover
visible above the White Cliffs.
The masts appear to have
been enhanced in ink on the
wartime original.

■ Right: The English Channel

became almost as feared as
were encounters with enemy
fighters. On 18 August 1940,
Hptm Horst Tietzen (left) and
Lt Hans Lessing of 5./JG51
were lost off Whitstable.

by 30 – 40 minutes. Again, this may have had a significant and control its fighters. Such a need had not been foreseen.
impact on eventual outcomes. This demonstrated the poverty of tactical and technical
“Our opponents were directed by radio until they ideas about the use of the fighter arm, both offensively
intercepted us and had an apparatus that automatically and defensively. And it was very soon realised that fighters
transmitted an intermittent signal called ‘Pip-Squeak’. controlled from the ground held a distinct advantage over
These signals indicated the position of the aircraft, those governed by instructions issued before take-off, or by
direction of flight etc. and enabled proper control from situations encountered once over enemy territory.
the ground. In any case, the flights could be plotted and “Insofar as it worked at all, the system of escorting
directed by radar. (Editor: In fact, the coastal Chain Home bombers functioned very poorly. There were neither special
and Chain Home Low radar stations of the RAF could only tactical rules nor uniformity of any concept; each fighter
detect aircraft approaching the coast and thus alert the squadron carried out its operations as it thought best.
command and control organisation to enable RAF fighters Hence, the quality of performance attained on these sorties
to be ‘scrambled’ towards incoming raids. What they could was extremely variable. Some squadrons executed their
not do was to see behind the stations, inland. Thus, they missions in a highly efficient manner. Others did very badly.
could not be used to precisely ‘control’ RAF fighters onto “In fact, it was not until late in this period of air fighting
German formations as Galland had supposed.) that tactics were standardised - although conferences
“On the other hand, the Luftwaffe had no exact were held between the various fighter commanders before
information regarding the position and direction of flight and after every mission. All the experiences gained were
of its units over England and did not have the necessary analysed immediately and thus new tactics could be
technical equipment that would have enabled it to locate evolved for methods of attack.

■ Ground personnel admire the victory tallies on the rudder of Adolf ■ Fighter leaders gather on the Channel coast with Ernst Udet,
Galland’s Messerschmitt 109 -E during the autumn of 1940. centre. To Udet’s right is Galland, on his left, Mölders.

■ Apart from
exhaustion on the
part of the fighter
pilots, airframes and
engines also took
a toll due to the
excessive number
of sorties flown
daily, with ground
personnel also
worked hard. Here, a
Messerschmitt 109-E
is maintained at a
French airfield during
the summer of 1940.
(Colour by RJM)

GERMAN AIR SUPERIORITY deployed escort, freelance patrols, supplementary escorts

“Unfortunately, our intelligence about the relative size to pick up and cover returning formations or protection for
and strength of the British fighter force, and its capacity air-sea rescue operations. The most difficult mission was
for replacing losses of aircraft or pilots, proved to be direct escort, when we were tied closely to the bombers.
completely false – as our pilots soon discovered on “In order to avoid British anti-aircraft fire, which was
operations! And there is no doubt that the number of generally effective, bomber units flew higher than their
aircraft shot down was exaggerated. According to Göring, ideal service ceiling and were thus much slower than they
the British fighter force should have been practically should have been. This compounded the problem for the
obliterated towards the middle of the summer of 1940. faster escorting fighters who had to reduce speed until it
The facts, though, told a different story. There should not corresponded with the bombers and, at the same time, try
and cannot be any doubt that Germany had air superiority to retain manoeverability. It also limited time the fighters
at this time. But the British pilots put up a tenacious and could spend over England.
valiant defence. And, of course, the great majority of “Usually, particular fighter units were always assigned
British pilots whose aircraft had been put out of action to escort the same bomber units. Whenever possible, the
could take up the fight again the next day in another leaders of the fighter escorts and leaders of the bomber
aircraft. Additionally, German estimates of British reserves formations would confer beforehand – usually by telephone.
were very far from correct. (Editor: Intelligence analysis was This was important, because in most cases any radio contact
often watered down to reach conclusions more acceptable between fighters and bombers was not technically possible
to the intended reader. Thus, the reputation of the 5th owing to dissimilarity of equipment used in the two types of
Abteilung’s chief, Generalleutnant “Beppo” Schmid, evolved aircraft. And this could cause big problems.
as one renowned within the Luftwaffe for garnishing his “In the course of a mission to London from the Pas-
reports to make them more palatable to Göring.) de-Calais, a bomber formation with its escort could be in

“Over Britain, we either flew as direct escort, indirect or the air for two hours and had to return by the most direct


■ Luftwaffe fighter losses began to mount in 1940, and even if a pilot was ‘safe’ after arrival in England he was a total loss to the fighter arm. On the
other hand, RAF pilots might live to fight another day. Here, one of Galland’s JG26 pilots has landed in a field at Ulcombe, Kent, with Lt Willi Fronhöfer of
9./JG26 having been taken POW. (Colour by RJM)

route. If not, the escorting fighters would be short of fuel

and have to abandon the bombers or risk coming down in
the Channel.
“Experience showed that a pilot who got into difficulty
over the Channel had more chance of surviving if he
ditched his aircraft than if he came down by parachute. It
took 40 – 60 seconds for the aircraft to sink. Time enough
to get out. And our air-sea rescue services were good. Also,
thanks to the initiative of General Udet, we had rescue
buoys anchored in the Channel in the hope that pilots
who got in trouble could swim to them. Inside there was
bedding, food, first aid kits, books and games and a radio
transmitter. The idea of this means of rescue was good,
but I never heard of a single instance of one of them ever
being used by a downed pilot. Also, the British sank them
whenever they found them.

“As the battle wore on, the idea of fighter-bombers
was implemented. One Staffel of each Gruppe, or one
Gruppe of each Geschwader, were equipped with a 250kg
bomb rack in conjunction with bomb release gear in the
cockpit. These new bits of equipment were manufactured
in a few weeks thanks to the exceptional efforts of the
aircraft industry, but there was no time to train the pilots
in bombing. Most pilots dropped their first bombs over
■ If Luftwaffe pilots did have the misfortune to come down in the English
Channel during 1940, a relatively efficient air-sea rescue service existed
London when flying their newly converted fighters.
to go to their aid. Here, an exhausted Luftwaffe pilot is hauled to safety on “These daytime fighter-bomber attacks took place after
board a Heinkel 59 seaplane. the night raids by the bomber force had begun but was not

■ Above: The use of some
Messerschmitt 109-E Staffeln
on fighter-bomber units was
unpopular with the pilots.
The pilot’s performance in
this role was also met with
criticism by Göring. Here,
a 250kg bomb slung under
a Messerschmitt 109-E in
late 1940 bears the chalked
slogan: “Dear Tommy, best
regards from Hein – wishing it
finds its target”

■ Left: Rescue floats, or

‘Udet Buoys’, were moored
in strategic positions along
the English Channel. Painted
yellow, and bearing the Red ■ Conferences were regularly held between fighter leaders on the Channel
Cross symbol, the idea was coast during 1940. Here, Galland confers with another leading ace of the
that downed pilots could seek period, Werner Mölders. Werner’s brother, Viktor, was shot down on one of
refuge in them until rescued. the hated fighter-bomber (Jabo) operations in October 1940 and taken POW.

a continuation of the daylight bombing offensive. Rather, were greatly offended by both the tone and manifest
just a feeble pretence of continuing it. But apart from their exaggeration of the accusations. Moreover, the way in
nuisance value, they achieved little of military value. Also, which the newspapers and radio handled the news of the
the pilots had no heart for missions of this type and their air war bore no relation to the severity of the struggle that
morale was affected. Also, this type of operation made was taking place, or the grim reality the fighter units had
it difficult for fighter pilots to preserve the aggressive to face up to almost every day during the operations.
attitude that should characterise them. “Now, of course, attention was turning to Russia. It was
“On top of all of this, Göring made a scathing protest expected that Russia would fall quickly. Then, attention
about the ineffectiveness of these operations. He objected could be turned once again on Britain in what would be
to the way the operations were being carried out and the real Battle of Britain which we were told would make
added this to a list of what he felt were the fighter’s other the campaign of 1940 appear as only a rehearsal.
shortcomings, declaring profound bitterness that the What actually happened, however, was quite different…”
fighters had failed in their task of protecting the bombers.
Now, it couldn’t even do this job properly. The young
commanders of fighter units, convinced they had done THE BLAME GAME
all they could, accepted severe losses without complaint Without doubt, the reasons for the Luftwaffe’s failure
and now, having no idea where the air war was leading, to absolutely wrest air superiority from the RAF were
once again had grave accusations levelled at them. For the legion – not least of all the constant change in tactics and
first time, discussions at unit commander’s conferences objectives.
became heated and it was possible to detect the first signs On the other hand, when interviewed by the author in

of criticism of those in authority. The unit commanders 1977, Galland was emphatic when asked what he thought


■ Right: Uffz Paul

Lege of 5./JG27 was
one of the fighter
pilots exhausted
by the pace of
operations in 1940.
He regularly flew
three sorties per
day as his log-book
shows. He was shot
down and killed on
7 October 1940, his
third operation that
day. It was also his
■ Uffz Paul Lege poses by his Messerschmitt 109 with 82nd war flight and
his groundcrew personnel a few days before he failed to his 48th over the
return from a flight over England. Channel.

the major reason to have been for failure in 1940 to secure having new aircraft if there were no new pilots.”
the subjugation of the RAF: “Fighters” he said without For the Luftwaffe, the Battle of Britain had seen a
hesitation, echoing what he had written during the 1950s. campaign which clearly demonstrated both its capabilities
“We should have had more fighters. If we’d flooded and its limitations. In 1940, total air war was only a
the defending fighters with more of ours – overwhelmed theoretical concept and the Luftwaffe lacked both quality
them – then it might have been different. The Luftwaffe and quantity to achieve the desired outcome because
had suffered in its formative years with a lack of Göring failed to understand that the Luftwaffe needed to
investment in the fighter arm – or even lack of insight have been used in a clear and decisive way in the Battle of
into its value. I can only reiterate that Germany could not Britain. However, it had neither the size, technical capacity
have lost the war if we’d had more fighters. In fact, in 1940 nor means at its disposal to fulfil this mission.
German fighter production was outstripped by bombers Responsibility for failure rested with Göring, although
(Editor: 2,776 fighters against 3,239 bombers). We needed he chose to blame his air force for letting him down.
more fighters. But then, we also would have needed pilots Unfairly, he attributed much of that blame to the fighter
to fly them. As the RAF already knew, it wasn’t any good arm.

■ Post-war, Adolf Galland was in demand for

■ Major Helmut Wick, the Kommodore of JG2, seminars, lectures, documentaries and signing
was another of the Luftwaffe’s ‘Oberkannone’ artwork and books. Here, he poses with his ■ Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring who,
of 1940 but he did not survive the air war over friend, the British ‘ace’ Wing Commander Robert unfairly, was highly critical of his fighter
the Channel, being shot down and killed on 28 Stanford Tuck DSO DFC, alongside the RAF pilot’s performance during 1940. However,
November. Museum’s preserved Messerschmitt 109-E. responsibility for failure rested with him.

GREAT BRITAIN, UNITED STATES, Paul Field - +353 (0) 87 927 5175
BOTH ORIGINAL & REPRODUCTION Keen to buy collections or individual bayonets.
PO BOX 96. ATTLEBOROUGH. NORFOLK. NR17 1FS Descrection guaranteed.

Fortress Militaria
Welcome to Fortress Militaria
We offer a wide range of Collectable WW1 and WW2 Axis and Allied
For military history news, militaria: Uniforms, Headgear, Field/Personal equipment,
exclusive competitions, Weapons and military collectables etc.
In addition you may well find the odd item from an earlier or later period.
magazine subscriptions,
All our offerings are of the period described and we offer a money back
special offers and more! guarantee. We also operate a layaway plan, see terms for details.
All our items are offered as collectors pieces and the ideas or political
Sign up for our FREE newsletter today at:
regimes involved are not supported in any way.

NEW YouTube channel ‘Regimentals’

In 1999 Regimentals
were the first to pioneer
a Militaria website.
Now we are leading
the way again...
Subscribe for FREE to
our YouTube channel
and you can:
• Buy militaria irst,
before it’s on our
website! • Have ‘Live’
contact and facetime

PO Box 130, Hitchin,

Herts. SG5. UK. 01462 850151 • 077 8900 5991 • 07955273223

attack aircraft. In several supplemented by a total of 13 always stand as absolutely
years of further research, the wonderfully executed colour the definitive work on this
author has accumulated new profiles. With such a level striking and important
information and photographs of highly detailed content, aircraft of the Second World
relating to the operational this is a book which will War. This is a truly fantastic
use and development of the have appeal to those who and authoratative book
Hs 129 - not only in German, study Luftwaffe aircraft of which can only be most higly
but also in Romanian service. the period as well as being a recommended.
And it is refreshing to see a publication which will be of The editorial team had no
quality work like this one, a great value to modellers. hesitation in nominating this
book covering a type rather Production values are to remarkable publication as
less well-known than the an equally high standard Editor’s Choice for this issue.
more familiar ‘mainstream’ and the photographs and Reviewed by Robin Schäfer
Luftwaffe aircraft of the artwork are crisp and the
Illustrations: ✔.
period. colours beautifully vivid. References/Notes: ✔.
It is reported that a Furthermore, and without Appendices: ✔.

EDITOR’S CHOICE Henschel factory manager any doubt, this volume will Index: ✔.
once described the Hs
129 as being “Ten years
HENSCHEL Hs 129 ahead of its time” and this
PANZERJÄGER certainly becomes more than
abundantly clear in Pegg’s
By Martin Pegg
work when he describes the
Publisher: www. aircraft's operational use
in Africa and Russia and its
ISBN: 978-1-99931-650-1
Hardback: 296 pages continuous development
RRP: £60 - not only of the machine
itself but also its associated
Only rarely does a book weaponry, both experimental
come along for review and operational. With
which can be described in numerous pilot accounts,
superlatives only. One such information on examples
book is the second edition captured and in Allied
of Martin Pegg’s ‘Henschel hands, a stunning section on
Hs 129 Panzerjager’, recently camouflage and markings
re-published by Chandos featuring superb quality
Publications. digital artwork by Janusz
I can say that Pegg’s book Swiatlon, Martin Pegg’s
is, without doubt, one of book has all the qualities
the finest of its kind and which one so often misses
certainly the best ever in rather less ‘intense’ and
written on this particular shorter publications of this
type of aircraft. It is a fully kind. In his astounding
updated and revised edition work, Pegg has included
of Martin Pegg’s classic 300 photographs along with
1997 study of one of the maps, technical drawings
Luftwaffe’s primary ground- and appendices which are

authorities to provide him
with all possible assistance
in the execution of his
duties. Misch is authorised
to pass through all barriers
and has access to the Führer
Misch was, therefore, in
a privileged position, able
to watch the momentous
decisions Hitler made at first
Misch’s account of his
time as Hitler’s bodyguard
provides insight into the daily
life of the Führer and his
HITLER’S LAST entourage, only rarely passing UNTERNEHMEN ILSE
WITNESS judgement on any of those By Douglas E Nash & Remy Spezzano
around Hitler; he simply
The Memoirs explains his duties and that of
Publisher: RZM Publishing • Web:
ISBN: 978-0-97483-899-1 • Hardback: 328 pages • RRP: £130
of Hitler’s the man he swore to protect
with his life. This is not a book for the to life through the vivid
Bodyguard Misch was able to see fainthearted – both in and utterly compelling
By Rochus Misch and hear many of the terms of the nature of photographs, taking the
Publisher: conversations Hitler had some of the content and in reader through the action with his generals, particularly respect of the hefty price almost as if they were
ISBN: 978-1-47389-902-5 noting the deepening tag. But then, it is a hefty there.
Paperback: 254 pages
mood as the war on the book! At first glance, and
RRP: £14.99
Eastern Front turned against Despite all of that, this is owing to its 'look', style and
With enduring interest Germany. When Hitler an utterly fascinating study format, one is drawn to
regarding the fate of Adolf moved into the Führerbunker of the 5.SS-Panzer Division, the conclusion that this is
Hitler and the last days of in Berlin for the last time, “Wiking”, in Poland during perhaps a very expensive
the Third Reich, the release Misch was placed on the the battles around Kovel coffee table book. But it is
of a paperback edition of switchboard, handling on 27 April 1944. As such, very much more than that.
Rochus Misch’s biography communications from the it is surely a unique photo And that becomes apparent
was well timed. In this work, bunker. He provides an coverage of the battles immediately on turning the
Misch provides a detailed and incontrovertible account of (across the period of just first page.
convincing account of Hitler’s Hitler’s suicide and details one single day) to break As a historical record
last moments - the main Goebbels’ last words before through the Russian detailing just one event
selling point of this book. his own suicide. ‘We knew encirclement of the city of the Second World War,
Misch was selected for the how to live,’ Goebbels said and to relieve the trapped this volume is invaluable
Führerbegleitkommando ‘and now we have to know German garrison. as a research and study
(Hitler’s personal bodyguard) how to die. I do not need you During those fierce tool. As a book which will
in May 1940, remaining by any longer, Misch. Clear up engagements, three official appeal to those with an
the Führer’s side until the here.’ With that, Goebbels photographers recorded interest in the subject, it
end of April 1945. This saw shook Misch’s hand and all that they observed. is an absolute must. Its
him on duty at the Berghof, withdrew into his room. Collectively, the pictures stunning imagery is simply
the Wolfsschanze and Hitler’s Last Witness stands present an intimate and remarkable.
the Wehrwolf, on board as a detailed account of daily dynamic visual chronicle It is expensive, but the
Hitler’s personal train, the life with Hitler, but must be of this military operation, reviewer thinks it worth the
Führersonderzug, and of read with an eye to Misch's the images not having been outlay. It would also make
course in the Berlin bunker. later attitude towards the published elsewhere before an ideal Christmas gift for
In August 1940, he received Nazi party and its crimes . now. an enthusiast.
a document signed by the Reviewed by Robert Mitchell In putting the book Reviewed by Robert Barnes
Führer, which read: together, Nash and
‘Herr Rochus Misch is a Spezzano have produced
Illustrations: ✔. Illustrations: ✔.
member of my personal References/Notes: ✘. a fascinating and fast Reference Notes: ✔.
bodyguard. I request all Appendices: ✔. paced narrative of events Appendices: ✔.

military, political and civilian Index ✔. that day, all of it brought Index: ✘.

Mark Healy 1939 – 41 The Memoir of a POCKET MANUAL
Publisher: Haynes Publishing Robert Kirchhubel Luftwaffe Night Fighter 1939 – 45
Web: Publisher: Osprey Pilot in WW2 Charles D Melson
ISBN: 978-1-78521-214-7 Web: Wilhelm Johnen Publisher: Casemate UK
Hardback: 172 pages ISBN: 978-1-47283-499-7
Publisher: Greenhill Books Web:
RRP: £25.00 Hardback: 217 pages
Web: ISBN: 978-1-61200-797-7
Ever popular, the RRP: £45.00 Hardback: 160 pages
ISBN: 978-1-78438-258-2
Haynes Manuals The study of RRP: £8.99
Hardback: 320 pages
series continues military history, RRP: £19.99 .Recommended.
to provide the and especially This is a totally Presented avoiding
military history of battles and absorbing account any political biases,
enthusiast campaigns, can written by one of this ‘re-discovered’
with a wealth be regarded as the Luftwaffe’s manual is presented
of valuable dependent on high-scoring night in English as
bookshelf material. And this the availability of fighter aces on his a publication
latest offering, on the SdKfz 171 intelligible maps to help understand experiences during examining a purely
‘Panther’, is another little gem to and interpret such events, or to the air war over military problem as
add to the collection. simply put them into context. And the Reich between 1941 and 1944. viewed by professionals, and with
What is so nice about these it seems all too often the case that Having enlisted in 1939 at the annotations by Charles D Melson,
Haynes publications is the mass military history books fail miserably age of 19, Johnen traces his career former Chief Historian for the US
of fascinating information, data, on the inclusion of maps – either from training through to the last Marine Corps.
photographs and drawings which at all, or else in an unsatisfactory days of the war in 1945 with a How small wars should be fought
are all presented in a manner and perfunctory manner. And that candour and honesty as to his by a modern industrialised nation
which appeals widely across is why this book is so useful and thoughts and feelings as he flew, is set out in this intriguing little
the board – whether the reader refreshing. night after night, defending his volume through the experiences of
is a tank enthusiast, modeller, Whilst the content is limited homeland. What comes across more a power which once encountered
historian or researcher. Here, in in its scope to just the Blitzkreig than anything else is his desire the problems posed by such
the standard and very readable period, it is certainly an extremely to fly, and the close comradeship conflict. This pocket manual
style of Haynes, is a valuable handy reference tool for anyone engendered by the extremes of examines the German analysis of
reference work which not only reading about or studying that era fear and danger which he and his the problem, covering experiences
tells the story of the development of military history. Put simply, this colleagues endure. What we do from the Napoleonic era through
and use of the Panther but also is a handy reference compendium not get any glimpse of, however, is to the Third Reich and based
provides us with an in depth ‘up to reach for, say, when reading any sense of his political leanings upon the historical analysis,
close and personal’ series of highly about Eben Emael, or Narvik or and whether or not Johnen was Kleinkrieg, presented to the
detailed photographs of a restored maybe Dunkirk. Here, through a man who blindly or slavishly German High Command by Arthur
example and showing the reader clear and concise maps – using followed Nazi ideology. Instead, Erhardt in 1935 and, later, in the
almost every nook and cranny. This easily understood symbols – we see a man who is driven to Bandenbekampfung document
includes engine, tracks, interior, one can find the position as it defend his kith, kin and homeland provided to the OKW in 1944 - the
guns, ammunition, hull etc. For existed at particular moments with a fervent patriotic duty. It is, latter dealing with the aspect of
modellers, this is especially useful. in time. Dispositions, units and perhaps, as well that Johnen avoids fighting guerrilla bands. In both,
And after reading this book, one movements are charted beautifully ‘the elephant in the room’ in a very conditions that were specific to
realises how little about the in wonderful cartography. readable biographical account of his broader military operations were
Panther one actually knew. The broad section headings night fighting days. separated from circumstances in
Of course, all the Panther’s in the book are: Pre-War Europe, As a personal account of what campaigns of occupation and the
leading specifications, particulars Poland, Soviet Aggression, it was to be night fighting in the new background in the German
and comparisons can be found in Scandinavia, Western Campaign, dangerous skies over Germany, this experience of supressing rebellion.
a book which gives as rounded a Air War over Britain and Germany, is a valuable addition to our sum of Whilst not exactly a highly
picture of the tank as one could Naval Warfare and The Balkans. knowledge of Luftwaffe operations readable book, per se, it is an
ever hope for. Each section is then broken down in defence of the Reich. As such, it extremely valuable contribution
As ever, Haynes have excelled into a series of maps which all is a rare account of the experiences to a wider understanding of this
themselves with this further follow the same style, key etc. of a leading night fighter ace who aspect of the German military
addition to their wide range To say that this is a useful book went on to achieve 34 victories and experience during the Second World
of volumes examining military is not really doing it justice. In fact, be awarded the Knight’s Cross. Many War and provides a useful insight
machinery and equipment. Always several times during the period it of his contemporaries, of course, into German thinking in respect of
presenting their subject matter in sat on the reviewer’s desk it was did not survive. And those who did, this area of combat.
a readable and absorbing manner, reached for to check some detail mostly didn’t feel much inclined to As such, it is a useful reference
this volume is no exception to or another; to find where a unit write of their experiences. work for those studying this area
Haynes' attention to detail. was, where a town was in relation This is a nice little book, and of German military operations in
Truly, this is a very nice to another and to check on the although the quality and selection the field and a highly accessible
production and it now fills a gap attack route on one specific day. of the photographs is a tad introduction and overview of a
on the shelves in the Iron Cross Highly recommended – and a disappointing this doesn’t spoil what frequently neglected aspect of
editorial office! rather nice gift idea, too! is an exceptionally good read. German military history.
Reviewed by Andy Saunders Reviewed by James Hegarty Reviewed by David J Hitchings Reviewed by Mark Ferridge


The Flammenwerfer
The Flammenwerfer was one of the more infamous weapons of the First World War.
Christoph Höpfer examines its development and its use by the Garde-Pionier- Regiment.

■ A Kleif in action during a training

course in the summer of 1917.
(Brett Butterworth, colour by RJM)

he father and inventor of clouds of smoke to a range of about 20 was ignited by enemy fire. While
the modern flamethrower metres. Field trials were successfully carried by one man, it was handled
is Richard Fiedler, who conducted by the Pionier- by at least two. The carrier operated
patented a device for Versuchskompanie, and in 1909 two the valve, while a man in front
delivering large quantities of flame models, a small backpack version took aim with the steel tube. The
(“Verfahren zur Erzeugung grosser known as the ‘Kleif’ (kleiner model was further developed and
Flammenmassen”) on 25 April 1901. Flammenwerfer, kF) and a larger refined in the following years as the
In the same year, he offered the device, the grosser Flammenwerfer or M.1914, M.1915, M.1916 and M.1917
patent to the OHL, the Oberste ‘Grof’ (gF), were demonstrated to the respectively.
Heeresleitung, which in turn Prussian War Ministry. The weapons passed their test
granted him sufficient financial The liquid container of the ‘Grof’ with flying colours and were
support to develop his idea further held 100 litres of oil, pressurized to judged superior to other pioneer
and he presented his inventions to 215 psi by liquid nitrogen. This was incendiary weapons previously
the Prussian engineering sufficient to project burning oil to a used. In 1912, the Kleif became
committee at the Garde-Pionier- distance of 45 metres for an effective part of the arsenal of pioneer
Bataillon in Berlin in 1905. His duration of 45 seconds. The hot and siege trains and these weapons
projectors were man-portable toxic gas was found to be effective would be used during the initial
All period images: Brett Butterworth Collection.

devices, comprising a horizontally (depending on the wind) to a range of stages of the First World War. At
divided and vertical cylinder 1.2 100 metres. The heavy and immobile about the same time Fiedler first
meters long. On depressing a lever, weapon had to be operated by at least presented his invention to the
pressurized gas in the lower section three men, and only in static defence. army, another party was working
of the cylinder forced flammable oil The ‘Kleif’ in its first version (M.1912) on similar idea. The commander
into in the upper section in a could be carried by one man and with of a Landwehr-Pionier-Kompanie,
rubber tube and distributed it over a 10 litre tank could project a stream of and head of the Posen fire brigade,
an ignition wick in a steel nozzle. flame up to 20 metres for 15 seconds. It Bernhard Reddemann, had begun
The weapon would then project a had no waist belt, so could be dropped to experiment with different
lance of flame and enormous black quickly if the weapon ignited itself or compositions of flame oils at about

■ A Doppelgrof and two portable Kleif M.1915s. The
cumbersome Dopelgrof was a large capacity flamethrower
that could have multiple additional propellant and fuel
■ On 22 February 1916, the second wave of soldiers of RIR37 advance towards the Fôret de containers added to increase range and usage time.
Haumont. A Kleif operator group can be seen in the foreground, traversing the fence.

the same time Fiedler presented his any understanding of its capabilities. them useless. He decided to make use
first devices. He came up with the plan Reddemann, who had a powerful of two Grofs (grosse Flammenwerfer)
to convert steam and hand pumps used patron in the form of Crown Prince and in addition fielded 10 modified
by fire brigades into flame throwers. Wilhelm (commander of 5. Armee) hydrophores made by the fire-fighting
now approached the OHL directly. On equipment manufacturer, Ewald of
18 January 1915, the Kriegsministerium Kuestrin. These hand pump cylinders
DRAGON BREATH ordered the formal establishment of were small and could easily and quickly
The first ever recorded use of a Flammenwerfer-Abteilung Reddemann, be refilled. With a distance of 50
Flammenwerfer took place on 5 the first unit to be exclusively armed metres between each flamethrower,
October 1914 at Bagatelle-Pavillon, with flamethrowers. It would not Reddemann positioned the 10 hand
Argonne. It was conducted by the 4th only use the weapon in action, but pump projectors and two Grofs
company of Pionier-Bataillon Nr. 29 would be responsible for formulating opposite the enemy trenches. Three
(PB 29), attached to 27. Division and tactical guidelines and development men operated the small projectors,
resulted in failure. The device wasn’t of the technology. The 48 men of the one holding the hand pump, another
popular with the men and there detachment were mostly former fire- holding the rubber hose and a third
were no tactics tailored to their use. fighters, hand-picked men who were operating the valve and hand pump.
The second company of PB 29 was used to being close to the destructive The effect was enormous, and
under command of none other than powers of fire. Assigned to 5. Armee, Reddemann later described it thus:
Hauptmann Bernhard Reddemann the detachment was subordinated to “On behalf of the engineering
himself who, motivated by his VI Reserve Corps. On 26 February 1915, committee, ten portable hand pump
evaluations of the experiences gathered at Romagne sous Montfaucon near fire hoses of special design had been
in the attack, travelled to Berlin on 10 Verdun, the Flammenwerfer-Abteilung ordered. They were powerful and
October to lobby for the creation of a fought its first action. suitable for trench warfare, allowing
specialised flamethrower formation. Reddemann’s target was a French them to be manhandled through the
In the meantime, the Flammenwerfer held section of trench, about 700 constrictions of a trench. For each hose,
was more or less fully withdrawn from metres wide, in an area where the there was a narrow iron cylinder feeding
service when, on 16 October 1914, all forward saps of both sides were only 12 it and which could, for the duration of
flamethrowers and other specialised to 30 metres away from one another. the firing process, be refilled with flame
pioneer weaponry was put at the Fully focussed on exploring the tactical oil by means of special pitchers. With
disposal of the respective Army Corps. capabilities of the Flammenwerfer, these hoses, one could throw, for any
According to the OHL, the weapon Reddemann chose not to use the desired amount of time, powerful jets
was inadequate for use at the front, Fiedler designed Kleif as their limited of flame to a range of 30 to 35 metres

there being no doctrine for its use or effective duration seemed to make into the enemy trenches. When 12


loudly hissing jets of fire project right

behind the parapet of the enemy trench,
success is immediate. Loud screams
of pain come from the enemy side.
Whoever isn‘t caught by the flames,
jumps backwards out of the trench.”
In the general assault following
the flame attack, Reddemann’s men
joined the infantry attack, some with
borrowed rifles and some without any
weapon at all. The whole of the line
was taken and the success was total.
Importantly, though, were the lessons
learned from it. Enemy resistance
fully crumbled after only 15 seconds,
meaning the hand pump projectors
were redundant as the effective
fire duration of the gas-powered
Kleif would be sufficient. Another
important conclusion was that the
hot gas produced by the projectors,
in combination with immense smoke and deploy Sturmtrupps. Created forward over a wide stretch of open
cloud, caused even personnel in ad-hoc, these formations - meant to fields and although it achieved its goals,
trenches further to the rear, and not overcome and roll-up enemy strong it ended with many German casualties.
subjected to the actual flames, to points - usually comprised a number of New tactical methods needed to be
retreat or surrender. Reddemann’s heavily armed regular infantry groups developed for such an attack and
conviction that the flamethrower was and one pioneer group which was often subsequently Reddemann set these
best used to add to the shock effect of allocated a Kleif flame projector. down on paper.
an infantry assault had been proven. On 22 May 1915, III. Garde-Pionier- The Flame-Pioneers were equipped
After a second flamethrower attack Bataillon saw its baptism of fire west of with additional machine guns and
was conducted at Vauquois, the OHL Douai. This time, the attack was carried portable mine throwers which would
recognised the potential of the new be used in the centre of an attack, while
weapon. On 15 March, it ordered a on both flanks Kleif-equipped flame
Flammenwerfer battalion be raised squads would slowly work their way
under Reddemann’s command. forward in a wide arc using all available
Raised in Berlin, it’s nucleus was cover. Meticulous care would be taken
personnel of the Garde-Pionier-Ersatz- to not bring flamethrowers into action
Bataillon and designated III. Garde- too quickly. When the flame squads
Pionier-Bataillon. It had a strength reached effective range they were to
of 800 men drawn from different fire a so called “Deckungsstrahl” (lit:
Pionier formations, fire brigades and covering jet) diagonally onto the target.
other service branches. Most were While the enemy in the trench were
volunteers and, as in all Guard units, temporarily blinded and confused,
men were recruited from all over the flame squads of the central attack
Germany. On 15 May 1915, the new group would advance quickly, covered
formation assembled at Douai and by machine gun fire, before initiating
would remain under control of the flame combat. This method of attack
OHL while Reddemann was under relied on perfect timing and required
orders to present regular written much training but would prove to
and oral reports to General Gerhard be highly successful - even at target
Tappen and the Operationsabteilung distances up to 1,000 metres. Up until
(operational detachment) of the OHL October, the basic tactical and strategic
- a fact underlining the importance principles of Flammenwerfer operation
given to the Flammenwerfer-Truppe. ■ British humour directed at the
had been defined but their use would
At about the same time, some divisions Flammenwerfer with a spoof advert in the henceforth be purely offensive and
on the Western Front begun to create ‘Wipers Times’ of 20 March 1916. any defensive use and permanent

■ Left: French
postcard depicting
a captured Kleif
M.1916. The 5ft hose
was sheathed in fabric
and wire-wrapped in
steel wire to prevent
kinking and the 3ft
6in lance made the
flamethrower easier
to use in the trenches.

■ This photograph,
taken late in the war,
shows the clouds of
dense black smoke
created by the

installations of flame projectors in VERDUN gun advancing ahead of the regular

trenches was prohibited. The Battle of Verdun saw new Sturmkompanie (assault companies).
The tactical disposition of the dimensions of Flammenwerfer These “Stosstrupps” comprised 16 to
flamethrowers was to be the deployment. The attack plan of 5. 20 men, each armed with a G98 rifle
responsibility of the commander of Armee set aside one company of and three hand grenades, one pioneer
the attacking infantry unit, while the flamethrower pioneers to support group equipped with sharpened
leader of the flamethrower formation each attacking infantry division. In spades, axes, saws, pick axes, wire
would be responsible for technical and addition to this, a major operation was cutters and explosive charges and one
tactical leadership. After a series of planned for he forest of Consenvoye Kleif squad with two flamethrowers
successful attacks, including the first with two additional companies. At and hand and incendiary grenades.
use of flamethrowers against British the same time, another flamethrower These shock formations were to crush
troops at Hooge in July 1915, more and company was requested for operations the strongest nests of resistance
more infantry commanders demanded in Champagne. The company strengths and roll up enemy positions from
support from Flammenwerfertruppen were raised to 200 men, every man the flanks while the infantry attack,
and Reddemann’s formation grew being hand-picked. In addition, the following behind, would hit a hammer-
further to a usual strength of eight number of Kleifs was raised from 18 like frontal blow.
companies. Each company received to 54 per company. For this, 150 new On 20 April, the Garde-Reserve-
12 (later 20) grosse Flammenwerfer flamethrowers were ordered and, to Pionier Regiment was created,
of the the Fiedler design. In addition, speed up proceedings, Reddemann comprising two battalions with four
they were equipped with 18 Kleifs sent 12 of his battalion technicians companies each, two individual
to add a mobile offensive element to Germany to oversee things and to companies, an experimental company,
to carry attacks forward. The unit control production quality. a recruit depot, staff and a workshop.
also possessed its own development Technicalities aside, Reddemann’s Each company had a nominal strength
workshop in which teething problems most important duty was formulating of 200 men, subdivided into three
with the first Flammenwerfer models how the Flammenwerfer would be Flammenwerfer-Züge (flamethrower
were rooted out. In October 1915, the deployed operationally. Assuming platoons) each of which consisted
Flamm-Pioniere joined with another an attack carried forward in a of five Flammenwerfer-Abteilungen
elite unit when a flamethrower closed line of infantry against well (flamethrower detachments) of two
troop was permanently attached to entrenched field fortifications would Kleif-Trupps (Kleif squads) each.
Sturmabteilung Rohr and remained have little chance of success, AOK In addition, there was an infantry
part of it throughout the war. While 5 decided to follow Reddemann‘s detachment. Each flame platoon had
serving with Rohr, the Garde-Pioniere proposal which foresaw a mixed access to up to eight Grofs and 54
retained their uniforms, but with an troop of Flammenwerfer-Pioniere Kleifs. By now, flame pioneers found
additional number ‘5’ attached to their and regular infantry armed with rifles, themselves in a teaching role, being

shoulder straps. handgrenades and one light machine responsible for the training on the


Flammenwerfer-Züge, part of the Galicia to Russia. New tactics and

newly raised Sturmbataillone which equipment were adopted to increase
began to be raised at about this time. speed and mobility. Noteworthy is the
Flamethrowers were also used during attack of 3rd, 4th and 7th company
the Battle of the Somme, at Mouquet- against the Toboly bridgehead on the
Ferme, Thiepval, Delville and High western bank of the Stochod in Russia.
Wood and it was there when, for the Ten Flammenwerfer-Stosstrupps, with
first time, they were successfully 64 Kleifs, spearheaded the assault
deployed in a defensive role. on a front 4 km wide, penetrated the
Russian lines and advanced nearly 3
km further. Over 10,000 POW were
TOTENKOPF-PIONIERE taken and over 9,000 Russian soldiers
In a Royal Order of 28 July 1916, killed. Another successful attack,
Wilhelm, Crown Prince of Prussia, commanded by Leutnant Hornung
decreed that: of 11th company on 15 April 1917, was
“His Majesty the Kaiser and King has, launched from the Hindenburg Line
at my recommendation, decreed that and succeeded in capturing the villages
the Guard Reserve Pioneer Regiment, of Demicourt and Douveries, while
which has been developed under my bringing in many prisoners.
supervision, should wear during the In May 1917, a new Flammenwerfer
war on the left sleeve of its uniform (the so-called Wechselapparat, or
a insignia in the form of a death’s exchange apparatus, shortened to
head. In recognition of its outstanding ■ Pionier Conrad
“Wex”) was fielded. This doughnut-
achievements I wish to congratulate Muller, 10 Kompanie shaped flamethrower consisted of an
the flame projector regiment on the Garde-Reserve- outer cylinder ring filled with flame oil,
award of this insignia. Always placed in Pionier-Regiment in surrounded by a nitrogen filled central
September 1917 with
action in the most difficult places, both container. Its ignition was constantly
his Totenkopf badge
officers and men everywhere brought visible on his sleeve. on, could be operated by one man and
their arm into play effectively and ■ Left: Totenkopf
was lighter than the Kleif and about 2.5
quickly and became one of the most sleeve badge, awarded kilos lighter than the standard load-out
fearful opponents for the French. I am to Flammenwerfer of an attacking infantryman. For the
convinced that the insignia of the young Pioniere in 1916. first time, a Flammenwerfer operator
arm will always be an exhortation to could keep up with the assault speed
continue to develop in the spirit of of the infantry. The Wex was the first
death-defying joy of combat.” the battlefield a new resonance: the truly modern flame projector, and a
With the establishment of Totenkopf-Pioniere, or Death’s Head highly prized trophy during the war.
the death’s head badge, the Pioneers. Captured examples were sometimes
Flammenwerfer Pioniere would soon In 1917, Totenkopf Pioniere saw pressed into Allied service. The
and inevitably become known by a action on several fronts, from the British Flamethrower, Portable, No 2
new name giving their grisly work on Western Front to the Tyrol and from (nicknamed Lifebuoy from the shape
of its fuel tank) introduced in 1943 was
a near 1:1 copy of the First World War
Throughout the war, Totenkopf-
■ The Wex- Pioniere launched 653 flame attacks of
Wechselapperat which 535 were successful. Taking into
M.17. account that the men with a death’s
head on their sleeves were usually
only employed on operations in which
regular units had already failed and
were regarded as hopeless causes,
the 82% success rate becomes even
more impressive. Equally, the casualty
rate was relatively ‘low’, with only 19%
of Totenkopf-Pioniere men killed in


The ‘Heinkel 113’ Fighter

We take a look at the extraordinary story of the Heinkel 113 and the Battle of Britain.

mistake frequently made
by RAF pilots and aircrew
in 1940 was to identify the
Messerschmitt 109 as a
Heinkel 113. The latter aircraft did not
technically exist but was, in reality,
the He 100 D-1. The type was built in
very small numbers, mostly pre-
production models, and the aircraft
never went into full-scale production
or front-line Luftwaffe service.
Although it was comparable in many
respects to the Messerschmitt 109, the
He 100 had rather ‘missed the boat’
since Messerschmitt 109 production
was already fully underway. As a
result, no more than 20 He 100s were
built. Nevertheless, these few aircraft
would serve the German Propaganda
Ministry well and the existing He
100s were given the pseudonym ‘He
113’. German propaganda in 1940
showed the few aircraft that had been
built, grouped together, and with
■ This photograph, produced by the German Propaganda Company, (PK), depicts ‘He 113’ fighters
differing and spurious unit markings allegedly at a dispersal point on their airfield in northern France during 1940. This carefully staged
in different settings and billed as the picture was widely circulated and helped convince the RAF that they were facing a new enemy
Heinkel 113. The intention was that the aircraft type.
Allies would believe that a new type
was both in production and in service.
The ploy worked perfectly. part, the RAF airmen involved in these RAF Fighter Command, had written
The German Propaganda Ministry combats had actually been engaging of the type in his 1946 despatch to
boastfully described the type’s success Messerschmitt 109s. Unfortunately, the London Gazette on the Battle of
in the Norwegian campaign and there is also fairly convincing evidence Britain.
its use across Europe. This claim, pointing to Hurricanes sometimes In it, he said:
coupled with photographs seemingly being shot down in error by other “The Heinkel 113 fighter made its
showing the aircraft ‘on the front line’, RAF pilots who claimed their hapless appearance in limited numbers during
resulted in RAF Intelligence becoming victim to have been a ‘He 113’. Thus, the Battle. It was a single seater,
convinced that the Luftwaffe had an unintended consequence of the generally resembling the Me 109. Its
the type in service in France during German deception. main attributes were high performance
1940. Often, RAF Combat Reports of Only when the battle was over and and ceiling, so that it was generally
the period are filled with accounts of it became apparent that not a single used in the highest of the several layers
engagements with ‘He 113 fighters’ and He 113 had been found on the ground in which attacking formations were
some of these first engagements were - despite the numbers claimed as shot usually built up.”
claimed by Hurricanes of 56 Squadron down - did the RAF finally realise it The deception had gone right to
off Dover on 13 July 1940. In truth, had been duped. However, this was the very top of the RAF’s Fighter
none of these aircraft were ever in not before even Air Chief Marshal Sir Command. It had been the perfect
operational service and, for the most Hugh Dowding, the former C-in-C of ruse.


FELDPOST Send your letters to:

Post: ‘Iron Cross’ Magazine, PO Box 4984,
Windsor, Berkshire SL4 9FN

Our Editor’s Choice letter is sponsored by Frontline Books –

The author of the Editor’s Choice letter may select a book of their choice (maximum value £25.00) from either Frontline Books or Pen & Sword Books from
the extensive range of titles available at

track down a suitable kit with to cut me a set of scaled masks

Modelling which I could replicate those with his Silhouette Cameo 3

the Kister colours.

My first choice was the
cutter for the number ‘6’ on the
fuselage sides.
Albatros stunning Wingnut Wings
Albatros (1/32 scale) but it had
The two figures depicting
pilot and mechanic were
EDITOR’S As a long-time long sold out. Second choice sourced from America. They
modeller and was the 1/48 scale Albatros by pay homage to Josef Kister and
painter, I’d been looking for the Czech company, Eduard his mechanic as depicted in
a suitable First World War Models. That too was out of one of your photographs.
project to compliment the production, but I managed to The photos attached
ever-growing array of high- track one down via eBay. hopefully speak for
quality kits now available I admit that the project themselves. Thank you for
on the market. Inspiration tested my resolve on many allowing me this opportunity
came by way of the Josef occasions - from hand-painting to share my efforts with your
Kister diary published in Iron the fuselage to replacing the readers.
Cross and the remarkable supplied lozenge pattern David Ulke (By email)
detective work to determine decals with more accurate ones
the colours of Jasta 1 aircraft. from the excellent Aviattic Editor: This truly is a stunning
Seeing the photographs in all range. I also had to call on model and far too good not
their glory prompted me to fellow modeler, Dave Crosby, to share with our readership.

The ‘Greif’ Badge of Kampfgeschwader 55

I read with interest your light is not so highly reflected. with the Giessen emblem.
feature on the griffon emblem It is also described as gold in Additionally, a KG55 stick pin
of KG55. RAF Air Intelligence reports. has the wings in black, albeit
Most references, including Also, a rare colour photograph that the ground is gold.
artwork representations, of the emblem clearly shows Adding further confusion,
show the shield behind the it as gold. However, looking reports state the fishes of the
griffon as white just as your at late war images, the shield 8th Staffel badge were blue.
artist represented it. However, may have then been white – That said, the surviving 8./
research has proven the shield perhaps because gold paint KG55 emblem in your article
was actually painted gold. That became harder to source? So, clearly shows they were yellow
said, the usual presentation white could in 1941.
of the shield as white is an be correct Interpreting colours from
understandable mistake for for the late period images can be tricky.
several reasons. war period. There were clearly wide
First, the emblem of the I would add variations and your analysis of
town of Giessen (on which the that the wings the First World War Albatros
badge was based) has a white are described colours was fascinating.
shield. Second, monochrome However, evidence for as blue by RAF Thank you for an excellent
images reflect light in a way it being gold is shown in intelligence – magazine.
that the shield appears white. period images where the again, conflicting Clint Mitchell, Kent (By email)

originate from the area and He survived the war, holding you and your readers if there is
A German I‘ve been researching this the rank of Leutnant. We still any interest?

Family at air raid for many years. The

attack can be regarded as the
have many items belonging to
him along with photographs
I wish you every success
with future editions of your
War first strategic bombing raid in
relating to his war service.
Additionally, my grandfather
truly excellent magazine.
Best regards from Germany
By chance, I came across There is a great deal of served as a Panzergrenadier Florian Wein (By email)
the second issue of Iron interest in German military in the 12. SS-Panzerdivision
Cross Magazine and read it history in my family and “Hitlerjugend” from late 1944 Editor’s Note: As a result of
with great interest. I greatly together with my father I until the end of the Second Florian contacting us at Iron
enjoyed all the features, but have been travelling to the World War. He has also seen Cross, we will be featuring
especially that on German battlefields of the First World your magazine and if you are his grandfather’s experiences
fighter pilot Otto Kissenberth. War and to German and interested he has told me when he was serving as a
In October 1916 he took part French fortifications of both that he would be willing to Panzergrenadier. We will run
in the air battle over Colmar World Wars nearly all my life. be interviewed about his war this in issue number four
and Freiburg. I was interested During the First World War, experiences. which will be on sale from 25
in this feature particularly one of my great-grandfathers As a family, we have a March 2020.
because the attacking British fought as a soldier in IR125 great deal of material
and French aircraft were and took part in the capture from both World Wars
targeting the Mauser factory of Messines in 1914. Later, he relating to family
there. Both my grandmother fought in the Battle of Verdun members. We would
and great grandmother when he was serving in IR126. happily share these with

Transatlantic Flight by ‘Alles Kaputt’

I was fascinated by your mother by her cousin, Edwin USAAF as ‘Alles Kaputt’, it The maritime patrol and
feature ‘Broken Eagles’ in Iron D Maxfield, a USAAF captain made a record-breaking flight transport aircraft, one of only
Cross magazine. I picked the with Air Service Technical across the Atlantic in July 1945. 65 built, was test flown in the
magazine up at Heathrow and Command who examined and Captain Maxfield was one of USA but scrapped in 1946.
read it on my transatlantic sometimes test flew captured the crew members. Hence, it It had originally served with
flight. enemy machines. was appropriate that I should KG200 as A3 + HB, Werke
The feature reminded me of In the case of this aircraft, think about this when flying Nummer 110165.
a photograph passed to my late a Junkers 290, named by the over the Atlantic myself. Much later, an unexploded
German demolition device
was found hidden inside a
wing. Had it exploded mid-
Atlantic then the loss of ‘Alles
Kaputt’ would have remained
a mystery – especially as it
had transited the infamous
‘Bermuda Triangle’!
Thanks for a terrific read.
Alvin J Wade, Jr.,
Hartsville, South Carolina
(By email)

Subscribe to

g e t
and r
t h i s fo
FR E E !

Save £2
an issue

SUBSCRIBE TODAY and you will receive: All for

• 4 issues delivered to your door for FREE
• Pay just £6.99 an issue, saving almost £8 a year just
• PLUS a FREE copy of our 132-page special A Guide £27.99!*
to Collecting German Militaria* worth £7.99
From the Editor
Welcome to Issue 3 of Iron
Cross – the UK’s only magazine
specialising in German military
history and spanning the period from 1914
– 1945. Each issue features unique content,
including articles from leading historians
together with previously unpublished photos.
The magazine covers land, sea and air
operations during both World Wars.
We’ve got lots of exciting features lined
up for Issue 4, including an EXCLUSIVE piece
on the Battle of Prochorovka at Kursk and
a fascinating article, Undefeated in the Air?
examining whether the Luftstreikkraefte
were undefeated at the end of the First World
War. Also covered is mission command, in The
Power of Initiative. Apart from our regular
features and other unique content,we take a
look at the iconic MG42 Machine Gun.
Iron Cross is the only English language
magazine dealing solely with German military
history, presenting its subject matter in a way
that is immensely engaging for its readers.
The material we cover will not be found
elsewhere and we are justifiably proud of our
unique content and access to the world’s
leading specialists. Readers who want to
enhance their knowledge of German military
history will find no other comparable means
of doing so.
Andy Saunders • Editor

This offer is also available for our digital

editions! Pay just £6.99 a digital issue PLUS
receive a FREE digital copy of A Guide to
Collecting German Militaria*. Only available

or call our friendly team on
01778 392489 quoting INCR/ISSUE3
*When subscribing by direct debit for the year. Available until 31.03.2020.

‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht’

Tales of spontaneous fraternisations between German and British soldiers during
December 1914 are well known. However, this wasn’t limited to sectors where ‘Fritz’
and ‘Tommy’ faced one another. Peter Verplancke and Robin Schäfer tell the
touching story of Belgian-German Christmas fraternisation on the Yser.

n 3 August 1914, Belgium
found itself in the middle
of a war which, after three
generations of neutrality,
most Belgians thought impossible.
Its army, though mobilised on 31 July,
stood mostly unprepared in the face of
the gigantic German military machine
opposing it. One day later, around the
time that General Otto von Emmich’s
Army of the Meuse forced its way into
Belgium around Liege, King Albert I of
All images (if not otherwise stated) courtesy of ‘Yser Tower Museum’ and ‘Beeldbank Westhoek Verbeeldt en Stadsarchief ’ Diksmuide.

Belgium announced Belgium’s entry

into war before Parliament. Having
decided not to violate Dutch neutrality,
the German Armies were forced to
take the forts of Liege quickly and by
16 August, using the latest state-of-
the-art heavy artillery, the Germans
succeeded. Yet, much to the surprise
of the invaders, progress was slower
than expected. The Belgian Army,
having been ordered to perform a
fighting retreat instead of letting itself
be annihilated, fell back on Antwerp.
In the south-east, British and French
troops fell back after battling German
forces at Mons and Charleroi while
Belgian troops launched a series
of sorties from Antwerp to harass
German communication and supply
In response, the III. Reserve-Korps
under General Hans von Beseler and
supporting divisions and brigades
began laying siege to Antwerp on 28
September, the city finally falling on
6 October 1914. In total, 26,000 men
■ German soldiers of the 80,000 strong garrison escaped
celebrate Christmas
by singing carols
to Holland, where they were interned.
around a tree, Meanwhile, 4,000 Belgian soldiers
December 1914. (RS) were taken POW although the main
body of the Belgian Army managed

■ The frozen Yser, winter 1914. (L. de Hooch)

to escape via pontoons across the Army, it began inauspiciously with in. The men of the Belgian Army, now
River Scheldt, retreating to western heavy fighting along the 30 km stretch only about 52,000 strong, were in a bad
Flanders and forming up for a final of the Yser between Nieuport and shape and mostly cut off from loved
stand along the banks of the river Yser. Diksmuide. Nevertheless, the Belgians ones at home and lacking resources
What followed became known as the prevailed. Using the low-lying region’s and supplies. Germany now occupied
Battle of the Yser, the northernmost ancient system of sluices and canals 95% of Belgian territory, while in the
of battles during the so-called “Race to inundate the battlefield by opening largest exodus of the Low Countries
to the Sea”, battles which would define the floodgates at Nieuport, the German 1.5 million Belgians had fled. Yet by
the ultimate location of the Western advance was halted and ended the securing victory at the Yser, stubborn
Front, the lines frozen in deadlock in battle on 2 November 1914. Along the and hard-fighting Belgian soldiers
early September 1914. Yser, and elsewhere on the Western allowed their country to retain control
For the depleted Belgian Field Front, German and Allied armies dug of a tiny portion of territory, which not
only turned King Albert into a national
hero but also sustained and bolstered
morale and national pride. Now, winter
was coming fast and living conditions
in newly dug defence lines worsened.
Operations on both sides were limited
to patrolling and minor skirmishes and
on Christmas Day 1914, German and
Belgian troops faced one another in
the wet and cold positions along the
the Yser.
In the area of the ruins of the ‘Hoge
Brug’, the bridge that once spanned
the river at the border of the towns
of Kaaskerke and Diksmuide, the

■ A pair of sterographic images of Diksmuide, 1914. German side was lined by worn out


and depleted elements of the German - The night of peace, don’t shoot’. One of
13. Ersatz-Brigade, subordinated to us climbs onto the parapet, followed by
the 4. Ersatz-Division. The unit had another, and more. There is fraternalism
seen heavy fighting during the ‘Race and cigars, chocolates and all kind of
to the Sea’, and on the Belgian side trinkets are exchanged”
the bank near the ruined bridge was Another witness of the events at
defended by a company of the elite 1st the Hoge Brug was Belgian Carabinier
Belgian Grenadier Regiment. During Julien Smet who later remembered that
the night of 25/26 December, the 5th suddenly a German shouted from the
company of the Belgian 1st Regiment bank: “Is there a priest? We would like
of Carabineers was en-route to replace to present you with a memento!”
the Grenadiers the following morning.
During their approach, they heard
the most unlikely rumours which THE GOLDEN MONSTRANCE
spread through the ranks like wildfire: Since May 1847, the monastic sisters
‘There is no more fighting at the Hoge of St. Vincent in Deftinge had run St.
Brug’, ‘..we heard singing from the John’s Hospital (and from 1850 a girl’s
trenches’. Impatiently, the men waited orphanage) in Diksmuide. During the
for day break to find out if the rumours Battle of the Yser, the Hospital, under
were true. the firm leadership of Superior Pauline,
A ceasefire between with the served as a Red Cross post but when
Germans? Fraternisations even? After German troops came close in October
what the German Army had done to the sisters were forced to flee to
Belgium and its people, things like Izenberge, and later to Cayeux sur Mer.
that would surely be impossible? Yet Before they left, they hid the order‘s
■ St John’s Church, Diksmuide. in less than half the range of a rifle cumbersome valuables as carefully as
bullet, German and Belgian soldiers they could. One of them, a beautiful
had indeed ceased firing and left their golden and neo-Gothic monstrance
trenches to meet and exchange gifts by was hidden under a heap of coal in the
climbing up the ruins of the Hoge Brug, hospital cellar. Here, it was discovered
barely 30 feet away from one another. by German soldiers of Brigade-Ersatz-
Bataillon Nr. 16 of the 13. Ersatz-Brigade
in December. This battalion had been
CIGARS, CHOCOLATES AND raised from elements of 16. Infanterie-
TRINKETS Brigade on mobilisation in August 1914,
What happened on that day has been and under command of a Prussian
passed on in the memoirs of Jozef van Major with the unusual ‘German’ name
Ryckeghem, the chaplain of the Church of John William Anderson.
of Saint Nicolas in Diksmuide: “A biting
easterly wind whipped over the hard-
frozen dykes of the Yser. In the sky, grey JOHN WILLIAM ANDERSON
clouds, heavy with snow, occasionally Born in Angermünde, Brandenburg
allowed the light of a pale moon to in 1872, John William Anderson was
shine through. All was quiet, rifles and a Prussian of Scottish descent. It is
machine guns were silent. Not a single unclear if the first Andersons came to
gunshot could be heard. But suddenly Prussia in the 18th century or earlier,
there were voices! Singing voices, first or if they came as traders, clergymen
wavering, then firmer, before swelling or soldiers. We do know that by the
into a mighty Christmas Carol. And yes, time John William was born, his
they came from the trenches across the family operated a rather successful
Yser. From our side, silent at first, came apothecary shop and his father and
general applause and then a Christmas grandfather had been apothecaries.
Carol echoed from Flemish soldiers John William, though, decided to
■ The monstrance of Diksmuide, returned to
breasts. Rejoicing from the German become a soldier and joined the army
Belgian hands by Major John William Anderson, side! More singing. Jointly singing ‘Silent in 1891, receiving his officer’s patent
Christmas 1914. Night’, then a shout of ‘Christmas night! in 1893. Anderson saw his baptism of

fire in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion
■ This painting, now in the
town archive in Diksmuide,
in China, during which he served as
shows Major John William Adjutant of II. Seebataillon, a formation
Anderson in late 1915. of naval troops roughly equivalent to
the Royal Marines.
In 1910, we find him serving in the
rank of Hauptmann in Infanterie-
Regiment Nr. 72, a line infantry
regiment in which he ended his active
army service in 1911. Transferred into
the Reserve as a highly decorated
veteran after over two decades of
service he was reactivated on the
outbreak of war and promoted to
command Brigade-Ersatz-Bataillon
Nr. 16 of 4. Ersatz-Division. When
Anderson was killed in 1916, he was
acting as battalion commander in
Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 362.
The medal bar he wore before
outbreak of the First World War still
exists, comprising the Prussian Order
of the Crown 4th Class with Swords,
Officer‘s Long Service Award, the
China Medal with two battle clasps, the
Prussian Centenary Medal of 1897 and
the Honour Cross of the Oldenburg
House and Merit Order 3rd Class with
During the First World War, he was
awarded both Classes of the Iron
Cross. He was not, as so often stated,
a Bavarian and neither was the unit
under his command a Bavarian one.

■ The Iron Crosses and Kronenorden of John William Anderson.

■ Anderson’s pre-war medal bar (left) with the ribbons for the
Prussian Order of the Crown 4th Class with Swords, Officer’s
Long Service Award, the China Medal with two battle clasps, the
Prussian Centenary Medal of 1897 and the Honour Cross of the

Oldenburg House and Merit Order, 3rd Class, with Swords.


On 26 December 1914, at about 2:30
pm, Major John William Anderson,
accompanied by an orderly, slowly
walked to the Yser where German and
Belgian soldiers were busy sliding little
trinkets over the thin ice to the other
side, or just jovially talking and smoking.
For a moment, war was forgotten. In
stark contrast to the popular image of
the typical Prussian officer, Anderson
was unconcerned. Only two days earlier,
he sent a letter to his wife in which he
wrote: “We‘ve been lying low for a few
days under heavy fire. All windows are
broken and the cold is terrible. We‘ve
been sleeping in a cellar for eight days
and tomorrow is Holy Night. Everyone is
quiet and melancholic.”
Now, Anderson was determined
to revive the spirit of Christmas by
returning the golden monstrance
which one of his men had found in The request was relayed by Belgian must have been sad do you say? Well, I
the convent cellars a few days earlier. soldiers and soon afterwards Kapitein- am not sorry to have spent it there and
The beautiful piece of ecclesiastical Commandant Guillaume Lemaire of the recollection of it will ever be one of
art, now wrapped in a linen bag and the 1st Carabiniers and other Belgian imperishable beauty. At midnight, a
clutched tightly by Anderson’s orderly, officers appeared on the bank. After baritone stood up and in a rich resonant
was virtually undamaged. Only the a brief exchange in which Anderson voice sang: “Minuit Chretiens.” The
little golden cross on its top had outlined his intentions, Lemaire called cannonade ceased, and when the hymn
disappeared. for Assistant Army Chaplain Sabinus finished applause broke out from our
Reaching the bank, Anderson Eduardus Vander Meiren who was side and from the German trenches! The
addressed the Belgians opposite in serving in a first aid post at a soap Germans were celebrating Christmas
French - calling that he wanted to factory where Yser Tower Museum is too, and we could hear them singing two
see a priest to hand over a memento. today situated. hundred yards from us. Now I am going
When Vander Meiren arrived, to tell you something which you will
a cord was slid over the frozen think incredible, but I give you my word
Yser and the monstrance in its it is true.
bag was attached to the cord and At dawn, the Germans displayed a
carefully pulled to the Belgian placard over the trenches on which was
side. Here, Vandermairen took written Happy Christmas. Then, leaving
possession of it. The gesture left their trenches, unarmed, they advanced
the Belgians deeply impressed. towards us singing and shouting:
The officers saluted and “Comrades!” No one fired. We also left
returned to their lines. Not long our trenches and separated only by the
afterwards, fighting resumed. half frozen Yser, we exchanged presents.
They gave us cigars, and we threw them
chocolate. Thus, almost fraternising, we
PEACE AT THE YSER passed the morning. Unlikely indeed,
Although it didn’t mention but true. I saw it, but thought I was
the story of the monstrance, a dreaming. They asked us to spend
letter from a Belgian soldier was Christmas without firing and the whole
published in the Dublin Evening day passed without fighting.
■ “Christmas Night at the Yser” was painted in 1930 News on 4 January 1915 and At eight o’clock in the evening we were
by Samuel De Vriendt, a soldier in the Belgian Army
at the Yser, December 1914. He did not personally
outlined the remarkable events of relieved by other soldiers, and returned
witness the event but was told about it shortly that first Christmas of the war: to the rear without being disturbed. Was
afterwards. “Christmas in the trenches. It it not splendid? Think you that we were

■ In 1974, on the 60th anniversary of the
Christmas Truce at the Yser, Hubertus Anderson,
John William’s son, was invited to Diksmuide to
symbolically hand over the monstrance to Belgian
First World War veteran, Rene Pil, in the presence
of the brothers of Guillaume Lemaire and Sabinus
Vander Meiren.
■ Left: The Yser Tower in Diksmuide holds a
fascinating collection of First World War items,
including the Golden Montrance and personal
possessions of John William Anderson. ■ The Monstrance was handed to the Museum in 1998.

wrong? We have been criticised here. It in Need”. With this, the story became
is said we ought to have fired. But would public knowledge.
it not have been dastardly? And then, On the 60th anniversary of the
why kill one another on such a festive Christmas Truce on the Yser, Hubertus
day? ” Anderson, John William’s son, was
Even though fraternisation took invited to Diksmuide to symbolically
place all along the Yser, the story of the hand over the monstrance to a Belgian
golden monstrance became quickly First World War veteran, Rene Pil, in
forgotten. Many who witnessed it the presence of Sabinus Vandermairen
were killed shortly afterwards. Belgian and the brother of Guillaume Lemaire.
soldiers who had been only a few Since 1998, when the sisters of
hundred metres away, like Grenadier St. Vincent were persuaded there
Petrus de Man, never heard of it. De was no better place to display it,
Man had been singing Christmas the monstrance can be admired on
Carols and patriotic songs with the the ground floor of the Yser Tower
Germans, when one of his comrades Museum, Diksmuide, just a stone’s
stated that he had never seen a throw from where Anderson handed it
German and now would be the best over and right in the centre of the Yser
time to change this. Just like the golden battlefields.
monstrance, the grenadier was pulled ■ The monstrance as displayed at Yser Tower It is fitting to end with the words of
across the Yser on scratch built raft Museum. Grenadier Petrus de Man. When asked
attached to a cord. Disembarking on what he thought about the war for a
the German side he stood, as de Man radio programme in 1973, he replied:
put it, ‘like a cock among the hens’ for the story of the monstrance also “You quickly realise how little sense
a long time before being pulled back to died, although he had described what it all makes. Fighting against somebody
the Belgian side, loaded with German happened during Christmas 1914 in a you have never seen before, or shooting
Christmas presents consisting of letter to his wife and for decades, any someone. Is there anything more stupid
chocolates, alcohol and trinkets. knowledge of the story was limited to in the world? Having to shoot dead
the Anderson family. This ended about someone you‘ve never seen before? We
60 years later, when Anderson’s widow should live as the Flemish say: “Nooit
NO MORE WAR showed the letter to Pater Werenfried meer oorlog!”, or “No more war!” ”
With the death of Major Anderson, van Straaten, a Roman Catholic priest
who is buried in the German Military and founder of the international Peter Verplancke is Curator of the Ijzer
Cemetery at Neuville St. Vaast, France, Catholic charity: “Aid to the Church Tower Museum, Diksmuide, Belgium.


Georg Bose - Sturmgeschütz Ace

In this issue, our study of a German soldier is based on extracts from an extensive
interview with a Sturmgeschütz veteran conducted by Robin Schäfer during 2004.

eorg Bose was born at Forst
in the Lausitz on 20 October
1921. After service in the
Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reichs
Labour Service), he volunteered for
service in the Wehrmacht where he
was trained and served as a gunner in
an artillery unit. In this role, he served
during the campaigns in Poland and in
the West, in Yugoslavia and then from
1941 on the Eastern Front in Russia.
Having volunteered to join
the Sturmartillerie in the Winter
of 1942/43, Bose became one of
the most decorated assault gun
commanders of the Second World
War. On 21 September 1944, serving in
Sturmgeschütz-Brigade 177, he received
the Knight’s Cross for preventing a
Soviet breakthrough in the sector of
the 292. Infanterie-Division. By March
1944, he had destroyed 44 Soviet tanks
and hundreds of soft skinned vehicles,
artillery pieces and anti-tank guns. He
was taken prisoner by the Soviets on 11
May 1945 and released more than three
years later on 18 July 1948.
In addition to the Knight’s Cross, Bose
was also holder of: both classes of the
Iron Cross, the Panzerkampfabzeichen
(Panzer Badge) for 50 engagements,
the Allgemeines Sturmabzeichen
(General Assault Badge) for 25
assaults, the Nahkampfspange (Close ■ Leutnant
Combat Clasp) in bronze, the silver Georg Bose.
(tank destruction badge) and the
Verwundetenabzeichen (Wound Badge) later, while in Panzerjäger-Abteilung class as ‘the most dangerous’?
in black. 69, we received the Jagdpanzer IV, Looking back today, how do
Georg Bose passed away on 26 which was technically also an assault you rate the general quality of
September 2011. gun, armed with the L48 7.5 cm gun, enemy tank crews?
the same type of gun which we had on “All tanks are dangerous, there is no
What types of assault guns did our StuGs.” such thing as a ‘non-dangerous’ tank.
you command during the war? But if you ask which types we had the
“I trained on a short barreled StuG III, What types of armoured vehicles most respect for, then it was probably
but at the front I had the long-barreled and tanks did you face on the the KV and the later the Stalin (IS). The
version. I briefly used a Stug IV and battlefield and which do you T-34/85 was also a very, very good tank.

■ Column of Jagdpanzer IVs armed with the 7.5cm L48 gun.

■ Right: The Panzervernichtungsabzeichen

in silver.
■ Far right: The Panzerkampfabzeichen for
50 engagements.

The major problem of the Josef Stalin, and their main gun was very weak. In to point the gun directly at it and fire.
and also that of the ISU 152, to take 1943 we encountered several American Our gunsights were excellent as well
another example, was that their rate of made Lee tanks, which by that time and they allowed us, when facing heavy
fire was slow. were totally obsolete.” tanks like the KV and the Stalin, to aim
The Soviet tank crews were not for weak spots like the turret ring. I
bad, but they were often let down by What can you tell us about the remember destroying a moving T-34
their equipment. I know that modern quality of German tank guns and in September 1944 at a range of about
books often tell you a different story, optics? 1,400 metres with the first shot.
but when the first T-34s appeared at “All of my tank kills were made with Like me, most gunners of the
the front, our tanks outclassed them. the Sturmkanone 40, that’s the 7.5cm Sturmartillerie were former
It is true that they were better armed L/48 which was mounted in both artillerymen. We knew how to handle
and armoured, and that it was difficult the StuG III and IV but also in the a gun and the StuG was an excellent
to effectively engage them with our Jagdpanzer IV we received in late gun platform. The Jagdpanzer IV
3.7cm and even the 5cm guns, but they 1944. The Jagdpanzer IV with the long wasn’t very popular at first as all the
had one important weakness: the T34 L/70 gun mostly went to Waffen-SS crews were used to the StuG III. I was
commander also acted as gunner. In formations. I would have loved to try the first in the unit to convert to the
addition, the gun-sight he had to rely one of them out. The Sturmkanone 40 Jagdpanzer, and even I was sceptical at
on was of low quality and once he had was sufficient to destroy any type of first. This changed when I took a direct
identified a target he had to switch tank. It was very accurate and its shell hit of an 8.5cm shell from a distance
position to aim and to fire. During only started to drop after about 1,000 of about 600 metres. This glanced off
the time necessary to do all this, we metres. That meant that when firing at the heavy frontal armour. In a StuG, I
could fire four to five shots. In my a target below that range, you only had would not have survived such a hit.”
experience, even though there were
rare exceptions, Soviet tank gunners Do you remember the first tank
tended to be bad shots up until the you destroyed?
end of the war. “Yes, that was on my second day
We also sometimes faced during ‘Unternehmen Zitadelle’
American Shermans and Lees sold (Battle of Kursk) in July 1943.
to the Russians under the Lend- On that morning, my StuG and
Lease Agreement. They were far another, commanded by Leutnant
less dangerous than most Soviet Specht, were engaged in the area
tanks, and more easily destroyed. of Hill 253.5, in support of our
In some instances, our shells infantry. When we arrived at our
passed right through a Sherman; into destination we saw that our infantry
the front, and out of the back. They ■ The muzzle brake of a Sturmkanone 40. was already falling back in the face of

also burned a lot quicker than the T34, (Panzermuseum Munster) a Soviet attack. We knew that speed


was now of the essence, so we drove ripped through it, fire shot out of the Panzerjäger-Abteilung 69. This was
forward, directly into the groups of compartment and the whole turret was far more than just a name change, as
the attacking Soviet infantry and lifted out of the turret ring. This was not from then on we received crewmen
going through them until we reached only my first tank kill, it was also the from the Panzerjägertruppe. They were
their supporting machine gun and first for the Abteilung 177 after its re- not artillerymen. Most of them had
mortar positions. When we opened establishment in March 1943. ” never sat in a self-propelled gun and
up on them, the effect of our shells were used to operating wheeled anti-
were terrible to behold, ripping into In addition to your 44 tank kills, tank guns. Their gunnery skills were
the Soviets sending body parts and did you keep a record of other not bad, but they were far inferior to
weapons flying. It took only seconds targets destroyed? ours. We had to train these men in the
until the Soviets began to retreat. “Yes, we all did. The accumulated basics of artillery gunnery.”
Then, a T-34 suddenly appeared in a results were regularly passed on in
hollow, about 800 metres to our right our monthly reports. Next to tanks, So would you say the
and came directly towards us. I gave we liked to keep a tally of anti-tank Sturmartillerie was an elite
orders to load an AP shell and my gunner and artillery guns we destroyed. I have force?
acknowledged that he had the target forgotten how many I got, but it was “It certainly was! The men of the
lined up. I waited until the T-34 was certainly more than 120. Also, many Panzertruppe often looked down on
about 600 metres away and then gave unarmoured vehicles like cars and us, as we were tied to the infantry and
the order to fire. I will never forget how trucks. In some cases, where possible, were not issued with ‘real’ tanks. Yet it
incredibly loud the report of the gun was, even the numbers of infantry we was the Sturmartillerie which destroyed
and the sudden pressure on one’s ears it annihilated was recorded. But I am over 30,000 enemy tanks during the
generated. I never got used to it. happy that I don’t know this total. war. We were all volunteers and our
I had my eyes glued to the scissor Anti-tank guns were probably our gunnery was far superior to theirs. In
telescope, while my gunner was most dangerous enemy as they were Hungary, I once witnessed a Panzer IV
watching through the gun sight, but we hard to spot and were often well trying to finish off a stationary T-34
both cursed aloud when we saw our hidden as well. During Unternehmen which was about 1,600 metres away.
shell ricocheting upwards into the sky. Zitadelle, I once destroyed five of them The Panzer gunner fired 11 shells at it
This should not have happened, but in a matter of three to five minutes, which all missed. I said to my gunner:
in this case it did. The T-34 still rolled the last two by crushing them beneath “Maybe we should show him how to do
towards us as if the crew hadn’t even the StuGs tracks.” it?” and we scored a direct hit into its
noticed it. It then suddenly halted, side with our second shot. Using the
and instead of firing on us, it turned What was the comradeship bracketing technique, which all artillery
sideways. Immediately, we loaded a within your crew like? gunners knew, we could score hits even
second AP shell and fired. The effect was “We were like a family. Rank didn’t at very long ranges. In 1943, we took
spectacular. An enormous explosion really come into it. One took care of out a KV-1 tank at a range of about
our fellow men. We 2,000 metres using hollow charge
lived together, fought shells. Tank and anti-tank gunners
together and all knew were not trained in that technique. If
that we might all die used correctly, the StuG was just as
together. A good crew effective as any tank - possibly more
worked together like so. It had a low profile, and as such was
clockwork. In combat, harder to spot and hit. It was simpler
the crew would in design and technically more reliable
operate without the than a tank. Only in urban areas and
need of orders and it convoluted spaces was it inferior
was always difficult because you had to turn the whole
when a crew member vehicle to engage an enemy. And that
had to be replaced. In required room. Today, you hear a lot
addition, we were all about the heavy tank destroyers and
men of the artillery tanks like the Tiger and the Panther, but
and we knew that it was the Sturmartillerie which formed
when it came to the backbone of every successful attack
gunnery we were the and later served as a kind of armoured
best. This changed fire brigade working in defence. The
when Abteilung 177 Sturmartillerie was the real ‘Königin der
■ A knocked-out and burning Russian T-34 tank. was redesignated Waffen’, the Queen of Arms... ”

N ’S




by visiting or by calling 01778 392489


Battlefield Rarities
In each issue of Iron Cross we take a close look at objects from the First or Second
World Wars. Here, we examine three unusual artefacts in the third of our four-part
series as the editorial team continue their visits to museums in Flanders.

or the third in our ‘Battlefield
Rarities’ series we have worked
with the ‘In Flanders Fields’
All images courtesy of ‘In Flanders Fields’ Museum.

Museum in Ypres. Situated

at the medieval Cloth Hall in the
town centre, the museum offers
spectacular multimedia, video and
sound installations and is also home to
excellent displays of First World War
We are indebted to Dr. Dominiek ■ The Thermite
Dendooven, curator and scientific incendiary pastilles
consultant of the museum, and to Mr. displayed in the
Ypres museum at
Philippe Oosterlinck, collector and
Cloth Hall.
one of the world’s leading specialists
of First World War militaria, for
assistance in allowing us to get up
close and personal with some of the on the 25 August 1914, destroying fuel into the rooms with handfulls of
collection‘s items. 300,000 historic books and 1,000 black incendiary pellets before igniting
manuscripts. This was seen as a direct the whole mixture with grenades.”
attack on learning and culture, causing First described in Belgian and French
THERMITE PASTILLES outrage worldwide from international publications days afterwards as “Pastille
During the German invasion of academic institutions. The same Ostwald” or “pastille incendiare”, they
Belgium and France in 1914, a large happened at Senlis and Orchies in are often wrongly described as being
number of atrocities were committed September. made of nitrocellulose, better known
against the civilian population. In the A small glass cabinet in the as guncotton, but are actually made of
first months of the war, about 6,500 museum contains a handful of tiny Thermite. Small, square-shaped nitro
Belgian and French civilians were objects which are rare reminders cellulose tablets were also carried by
killed by German troops and numerous of this terrible opening chapter of a the German Army. It is these which
cities, towns and villages were put catastrophic war. should be described as “Pastille
to the torch in reprisal actions The torching of Orchies was Ostwald”. Wilhelm Ostwald was the
following armed resistance of irregular recorded by a German soldier: inventor of the process of developing
combatants or ‘franc-tireurs’ (lit. free “On September 25, Orchies had a nitric acid, but the the small black
shooters). This is not the place to memorable day - reminding us of the discs described in publications of the
discuss civilian resistance or the exact tragically infamous scenes playing day and on display in the museum are
reasons for the escalation of violence. out in Louvain and Dinant. I was this made of a pyrotechnic composition of
Suffice to say, the German reaction morning at the Hotel de Commerce, finely powdered aluminium and iron
was excessive in moral and legal terms. when a German officer said to me: “We oxide and a small amount of barium.
At the end of August 1914, the city of are going to burn Orchies”. And indeed If ignited, the “pills” caused a thermite
Louvain (Leuven) was partly destroyed pioneers, under the orders of Major Dittel reaction generating immense heat
by a fire caused by the German Army and loaded with incendiary material, (up to 3,000 degrees) for a very short
in the wake of similar reprisals. The left Valenciennes by tramway for Saint- period.
14th century University Hall and 18th Amand and from there to Orchie. In each The thermite reaction was
century library wing were devastated house, they smashed the windows, flung discovered (and later patented) by

Dr. Hans Goldschmidt in 1893. It was ■ The correctly saw the need for a small field
immediately clear that it would have Feldspaten spade in future engagements fought
great value in welding and the first displayed at with modern weaponry, the old-school
In Flanders
commercial application of thermite Fields
officers still lived in the world of
was the welding of tram tracks in Museum. Not infantry-of-the-line and linear battles
1899. By the start of the First World the leather of old. Nevertheless, the spade after
War, thermite welding had become wrist strap. the Linnemann System was introduced
commonplace in the construction of as a portable entrenching tool on 26
artillery and ships. November 1874 for infantry and Jäger
The “pastilles incendiare” on formations.
display are some of the last remaining The Feldspaten M1874, made of ash
examples. Little is known about their and cast hardened sheet steel, weighed
history, use or distribution in the army around 0.7 kilos and was worn on a
- except that they were produced in strap over the right shoulder.
the Essen works of the ‘Chemische It’s successor was the Feldspaten
Werke Theodor Goldschmidt’ and M1887, identical to the M1874 but with
issued to the Pioneers. A little more a redesigned leather carrying assembly
than 2cm in diameter, they have a hole which could be worn attached to the
in the middle allowing them to be belt next to the bayonet. In 1898, the
threaded onto a fuse. In the field, they Feldspaten M98 was introduced, and
were transported in metal cylinders would became the standard and most
with a cramped lid. In addition to commonly encountered spade of the
railway and pipe welding, thermite German Army during the First World
could also be used to disable weaponry War. It had a redesigned blade, which
(artillery pieces etc) to prevent them made digging into hard soil easier and
from falling into enemy hands. a simplified and more sturdy sleeve
The Feldspaten gave the German
SHARPENED SPADE soldier a distinct edge over the infantry
In April 1874, the German Army trialled defence, and that its introduction of other nations (especially during
a spade which had been introduced would rob the army of its offensive the first months of the war) not only
into the Danish Army known as the spirit. In addition, it would add weight allowing him to dig-in, but also serving
Linneman Spade. Subject to results, it to a soldier’s load and thus reduce as a handy tool to cleave wood, open
was planned to introduce this spade the mobility of infantry formations tins and in some recorded instances
as an entrenching tool on a large scale. as a whole. It would be too small to to even cut barbed wire. It doesn’t
This idea wasn’t generally greeted use effectively; a number of normal come as a surprise that it was soon
with open arms and officers started to size spades issued to only a few men discovered that the spade, if handled
argue against the introduction of such would work better and not encumber like an axe, also made a powerful
a tool. They argued that the Feldspaten, all of the men with additional weight. close-combat weapon. Even though
or field spade, was only of use in In contrast to those officers who specialised close combat daggers and
trench-clubs were issued to frontline
formations, the spade remained the
German soldiers weapon of choice
on patrols and in trench combat.
Sharpened further around the edges,
it had a fearsome cutting power.
This is described in gruesome detail
in an account about a trench raid,
conducted by Leutnant Bierwisch of
Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 56 in 1916:
“...only an old, and grizzled NCO was
■ A period French left standing afterwards. He was still
Postcard showing the holding a revolver, but I approached
accoutrements of a
German soldier including
him slowly with my hands raised in a
a canister for incendiary peaceful gesture to calm him down.

pastilles. When I was only about a meter away he


suddenly raised his revolver and fired

at my head. Much to my delight the
bullet missed its intended target and
went through my left hand instead. The
sudden pain made me recoil backwards,
and at the same moment Unteroffizier
Linke, who was right behind me, pushed
forward and with a wide swing buried his
spade into the neck of the Frenchman.
I have seen a lot of spade work in the
trenches, but never to such effect. The
blade cutting the Frenchman’s chest
■ Close-up of the Feldspaten
open down to his sternum, spraying me
blade, showing the sharpened edge.
and Linke with blood.”
Another unnamed German soldier
also wrote chillingly of the Feldspaten:
‘The light of my torch fell on Army, Lange was professional, factual and Eastern Fronts. The collection is
Riedel’s sharp-edged spade which and rigorous. An excellent soldier who accessible in the research centre of the
confronted me with a brutal, silvery served on the frontline for nearly four museum.
glitter. Involuntarily, I bent down and years while leading his men with a stern In 1914, Rudolf Lange was a
touched the rough handle and counted hand but extolling their efforts and Hauptmann in IR55 of the Prussian
the notches in it. The feel of them commemorating them in death. He was army based in Höxter on the Weser. At
brought memories back to me: Ypres, a man of culture who loved art, music the outbreak of war he was assigned
Loretto, and the Hartmannsweilerkopf and history. Beauty affected him. Even to the staff of VII. Reserve-Korps (VII.
mountain. Riedel’s spade was deadlier at the front he took delight in colours, RK) which included 13. and 14. Reserve
than my rifle had ever been, or would dramatic landscapes and picturesque Divisions and arrived in Belgium
be; that spade was something immense villages and buildings behind the lines. after the fall of Liege. The army was
- a furious annihilator.’ Whenever he saw beauty, he took to his ripe with rumours about Belgian
In the museum’s collection one sketchbook with pen and colours and ‘franc-tireurs’ and German atrocities
can see a fine example of a fully captured it quickly and skillfully. He against the civilian population were
‘weaponised’ M98 spade, the blade had no room to express emotion, but explained as justifiable self-defence
extensively sharpened on two sides. To elucidated the conditions he and his against attacks by Belgian irregulars.
leave no doubt about its purpose, it is men found themselves in. His 15 diaries Lange noted this, but didn’t comment
furnished with a leather lanyard to slip and over 300 sketches today form a on it. He waited impatiently until he
over the wrist while using it. Mundane unique insight into the life of a German could join in the action. Namur and
at first glance, it is ignored by most officer in the trenches of the Western Maubeuge had fallen, but he was still at
visitors as just a spade. Yet there are his desk in a staff role. An entry in his
few objects which speak so powerfully diary on 1 September 1914 reads: “Will
of the reality of trench combat as this the members of general command be
piece does. given the opportunity of distinguishing
This opportunity arose at the Battle
POUR LE MERITE of the Aisne, and at Chemin des Dames
- RUDOLF LANGE the VII.RK launched a counteroffensive
Another piece easily overlooked among where Rudolf Lange, still a staff
larger and visually striking objects in officer, was right in the middle of the
the museum is an original Order of the action. He described the fighting on
Pour le Merite, colloquially known as 14 September near Cerny, but also
the ‘Blue Max’. This particular example put his own analysis on paper and
forms part of the estate of Major demonstrated great insight. He also
Rudolf Lange. began to illustrate the places where
Throughout the war, Major Lange historic confrontations took place. By
kept a diary about his experiences. doing so, he became chronicler and
Born in 1887 into a bourgeois family illustrator of his own war experience.
which for more than a century had For a long time, Lange propagated
■ Major Rudolf Lange.
supplied officers for the Prussian the opinion that Reserve formations

■ The diary and sketchbook of Rudolf Lange with its beautiful
annotations and watercolours, along with his Pour le Merite

medal displayed in Ypres.


should be commanded by enterprising warfare then began and under his Aloïs Zimmer, who later became state
officers from the active army, and this command the battalion systematically minister of North-Rhine-Westphalia,
was finally heeded. strengthened its positions. With each Major Lange occupied a command
After failure at Langemark, where day in the trenches, Lange drew the position at Collie Molenhoek. The
thousands of young and inexperienced places the battalion fought. At the end winter was hard, and in his sketchbook
troops of the Fourth Army had fallen, of June, RIR 236 was briefly transferred he documented the seemingly endless
Lange was transferred to Flanders to the SE of the Ypres salient where destruction as well as Christmas
on 24 October 1914. As company the woods and picturesque villages of celebrations in Wijnendale and Gitsberg.
commander in the first battalion of this hinterland inspired Lange to paint On 9 March 1918, RIR 237 left for
Reserve Infantry Regiment 213 (I./ them in watercolour. France to take part in the Spring
RIR213) he managed to bring order A month later, the regiment returned Offensive and attacked between Arras
to the prevailing chaos. Exhausted, to the northern side of the Ypres and Laon with the intention of driving
and with little protection afforded by salient where he remained another a wedge between the British and
trenches, his men men lay dispersed in year. His command skills did not go French and to end the war before the
fields northwest of Langemark. Within unnoticed, and at the end of November Americans could get involved. On 23
days, Lange rallied them. Leading he was transferred to Pilkem Height March the division commenced the
the battalion during an assault on 30 and to the neighbouring battalion, II./ assault and good progress was made,
October, when French positions were RIR237, which didn’t enjoy the same although Lange was wounded in the left
seized, Lange was seriously wounded. good reputation. Lange found it hard shoulder and evacuated to Germany.
Evacuated to Germany, he took five to leave, but had joined the formation On his return, the offensive had
months to recover - the injury leaving he would remain with until the end of reached deadlock and chances of a
a deep impression on him. the war, shaping it into an outstanding quick victory evaporated. In July, RIR
One week after the first German gas combat unit. 237 participated in the last major attack
attack on 22 April 1915, in the north In August 1916, RIR 237 was to the east of Reims when Major Lange
of the Ypres salient, he returned to transferred to the Eastern Front, was grievously wounded, eventually
the front as commanding officer of a subordinated to the 199. Infanterie- dying in Bonn on 9 September.
company (and later the whole battalion) Division. After a train journey lasting In his hospital bed, he was decorated
of II./RIR236 near Sint-Juliaan, 5 km NE four days, the regiment arrived in with the Pour le Merite now displayed
of Ypres. With his new formation, he led Bednarów in Galicia (today Western in the museum.
attacks during four consecutive days Ukraine), where a German army
between Sint-Juliaan and Wieltje where corps fought in support of the often
Van Heule farm fell after major losses unreliable Austro-Hungarian allies IN FLANDERS FIELDS
with 190 dead, missing and wounded. against Russia. MUSEUM
The battalion made preparations for Eventually, Lange and his unit
We are indebted to the In
the last attack of the Second Battle of were transferred back to the Western Flanders Fields Museum for
Ypres (22 April – 24 May 1915), but didn‘t Front and served during the Battle of their assistance with this
take part. Ypres was within reach, but Arras and later at Passchendaele and feature.
remained unattainable. Westrozebeke during the Third Battle of
For Hauptmann Lange, trench Ypres. Together with Second Lieutenant

■ One of Major Lange’s remarkable battlefield paintings.



, ,


SINCE 1998
This is a small collection of our stock, please visit us on-line for more details.



Over 3000 items on-line supplying the WW11 re-enactor and collector 10% off SEE OUR RANGE OF T SHIRTS, MUGS AND MORE AT
Email: coupon code
Tel: 1-204-339-2810

Blood and
Whilst the trench systems and fortified
positions of the Great War might seem to
have been randomly created, they were
mostly nothing of the sort. Peter Doyle
explains the science that often went behind
their design and construction.

n Flanders, the weight of the German invasion
that commenced on 4 August 1914 was such that
the French and British troops fell back. Low-lying,
Flanders stretches from the uplands of Artois and
Picardy to the strip of sand dunes at the North Sea coast.
On the line of the Marne in September 1914, the Germans
were held; counterattacks followed, and out-flanking
positional warfare developed as both sides attempted to
trap their enemies and ‘turn their flanks’ in the ‘Race to
the Sea’. With the armies locked in a fierce struggle, the
battles moved inexorably closer to the Belgian Coast. By
November, both armies in the west had ground to a halt
in parallel lines that stretched from the North Sea to the
Swiss Frontier.
At the Belgian city of Ypres, the Allies faced the German
lines that swung around in a great arc – The Ypres Salient.
The beleaguered city would be held by the Allies for
the rest of the war; but it was the German stronghold
constructed according to the principles of their military
manual, Stellungsbau – the construction of field positions
– that was to hold the Allies in place. Central to these
positions was the ridge stretching from Wytschaete to
Messines – Wytschaete-Bogen.
Yet, while most accounts concentrate on Allied efforts
to break through and capture the ridge, little credit is
given to the defenders who constructed their lines with
the greatest attention to detail – until now. It is fortunate
that over the past ten years, two major archaeological
investigations, at Messines and last year at Wytschaete
(with the crowd-funded Dig Hill 80 excavation) have
revealed the strength and tenacity of the German defence
and the skills employed in constructing an enduring
■ An excellent view of the typical German wicker revetment work.
(Brett Butterworth)



■ Dug in! German soldiers in a sandbagged trench with parapet. ■ A German concrete bunker in the bleak, muddy and waterlogged
(Brett Butterworth) landscape of Flanders in 1917. (Brett Butterworth)

STALEMATE CONDITIONS noted: ‘No precise rules can be laid down as to the
The idea of digging trenches was sound, of course, and it manner in which a defensive position is to be occupied
was not just to satisfy the soldiers’ desire to ‘go to ground’ or entrenched… The only reliable guides are a thorough
under fire. Trenches would stop invading armies in their knowledge of the effects of fire, and a practiced eye for
tracks, creating a barrier against further progress. Yet ground.’
with all the advantages of digging trenches, all too often Such ‘practiced eyes’ demanded experience, and in 1914
it was a matter of circumstance – rather than planning that experience hadn’t been gained. A new term emerged,
– that led to their construction. Early on, this was to be ‘the front’, which embodied the stalemate conditions of a
expected. As the British military manual on field defences new type of warfare, of mutual siege, where small matters
of geography assumed
great importance. Here, the
‘practiced eye for ground’
would attempt to pick out
the most suitable conditions
for the trenches that snaked
across Europe. By 1918, the
war of position assumed
great levels of sophistication.
For the BEF, sandwiched
between what remained
of the Belgian armies
(reinforced by the French)
at the coast, and the French
in Artois, Flanders became
the place of battle for four
years of a hard war. The First
Battle of Ypres (November–
December 1914) was a
component of the ‘Race to
the Sea’, with British troops
holding on grimly in the face
of a determined German
army. For their part, the
■ Wytschaete Bogen. This map shows the position of the German frontline around Wytschaete in June 1917. German engineers were clear
The German line followed the ridge top – formed by the Paniselian sands – for the majority of its length, providing they must consolidate their
views of the city of Ypres on the clay plain below. German engineers created strongpoints from destroyed
positions. Facing them, the
villages and farms; both Wytschaete and Messines were made into ‘fortress villages’. The strongpoints were
targeted by the British miners, and the Battle of Messines was won by co-ordinated mine explosions and artillery. British toiled in and around
The Germans were to recapture all they had lost in 1918. the clay plain of Ypres, while

■ Above: Smoking, eating and working
soldiers in a deep and bomb-proof
dugout somewhere on the western
front, 1915. One can almost imagine
the smell of sweat and tobacco.
(Brett Butterworth)
■ Far left: German soldiers man a
pump to drive oxygen into deep
dugouts. (Brett Butterworth)
■ Left: Walter Kranz pictured in later
life. Hauptmann Kranz was the ‘father’
of military geology (militargeologie) in
1913, which became Kriegsgeologie in
wartime. The military applications of
geology were many and varied.

the Germans set about holding the high ground that faced KRIEGSGEOLOGIE
the town on three sides, in what became known as the In 1913, military fortification engineer Hauptmann Walter
Ypres Salient. Kranz coined the phrase Militärgeologie – later, with the
A ‘salient’ is a bulge in the front line, usually jutting outbreak of war, it became simply Kriegsgeologie, or war
forward into enemy held territory. Such bulges are geology. Yet his original idea – that geology would have a
dangerous as they are easier to attack and observe. The large role to play in warfare, and particularly in the type
Ypres Salient was particularly dangerous, formed in the of fortress or static warfare that would be enacted just a
early days of the German drive towards the coast. As one year later – was taken seriously only when war broke out
post-war commentator noted: ‘The Germans had driven in Europe.
in wedges towards Ypres until our lines had fallen back It was natural that Kranz’s approach should take root,
closer to the city, and the ground was a bastion thrust out however. After all, geology dealt with the nature of the
dangerously in a wide arc, like an English bow full-drawn, land surface over which men, animals and machines
and encompassed by the enemy whose skill and strength travelled. It also gave answers to the kind of obstacles
had seized the high ground everywhere’. they may face and controlled the way fortifications were
Following the low hills to the east of the town, the built, above and below ground, and provided answers
Salient defined an arc of trenches running approximately for resourcing armies – particularly water supplies. A
north–south, facing east–west. Running around the wartime lecture – Kriegs-Geologie (1915) – by W. Salomon
hills, the German line, and British line following it, of Heidelberg University, explained: ‘Geology is practical
passed south over its saddleback, and down to the damp and necessary: to prove the stability of parapets and
Lys valley and on to Armentières. ‘Understanding the trenches and the stability of dug-outs; to identify the speed
ground’ was an important task in the development of this of digging excavations; to identify water supplies; to assist
underground war, and a sophisticated science of ground in rain water and waste water removal; to supply building

engineering was deployed in its development. materials; and to identify mineral raw materials’.


■ Hooge Crater. Caused by a British mine, it was turned into a fortress by the ■ A mine crater near Ypres, very well fortified by the Germans and
Germans. (Brett Butterworth) sporting - right centre - a half torso sniper decoy. (See our article on
sniping on page 24.) (Brett Butterworth)

Though Walter Kranz first advised a geological service

for the Imperial German Army be established in 1912,
it took the outbreak of war for this to be properly
considered. As late as April 1914, the Inspector General of
the Imperial German Engineer Corps wrote to the Prussian
minister of war: ‘The Inspector General sees no need for the
establishment of military geologist positions. In the field,
events proceed so rapidly that even in trench warfare the
employment of a geologist is out of the question…’

Just a year later, the geological support provided to the
German Army after its slow start grew to be impressively
organised and was embodied directly into army structure ■ A surviving German concrete bunker on the so-called
by 1916. Then, each of the 28 field survey companies ‘Sehenstellung’ south of Wytschaete. (RS)
contained geological sections (Geologen Stellen), with
requests for geological
assistance made directly to excavation of tunnels, galleries and dug-outs – in fact, any
them. There would be some subsurface excavation that aids the army, whether in an
250 geologists employed in offensive or defensive sense. The use of military mines is
the German army by the end centuries old. Arguably, the greatest success for military
of the war (and a further 60 miners and their geological advisors was to come in June
with the Austro-Hungarian 1917, when the Messines–Wytschaete Ridge was captured
army). Though the actual by the British in what could be considered one of the most
number of geologists in effective and successful battles of the war.
German service during Not surprisingly, a deep understanding of geology played
the Great War grew to be a major role in prosecuting the coordinated mine offensive
relatively large, their impact that launched the first attacks. Writing in 1935, Walter
was reduced as many served Kranz commented ruefully on what might have been:
in lowly positions; they were ‘If German geologists with military training had,
expected simply to advise, immediately after the beginning of mining operations,
not supervise. But at least at the latest in 1915, made a thorough survey of the whole
they were actively engaged Wytschaete salient, and if our miners from the beginning
on the ground. would have checked their advice tactically and technically,
And then there was and if found correct would have followed this with all
military mining. Such available means, the British would never have been so
■ Friedrich ‘Fritz’ von Lossberg. activity involves the successful with their Wytschaete explosions…’.

Artwork by Battlefield Design

■ Modern Geological map of the Wytschaete–Messines ridge, showing

the extent of the dry sands (known as ‘Wytschaete Sands’ to the
British in 1917), delicted in the darker ochre, the ‘Paniselian’ sands
(light ochre), and the ‘Ypres Clay’ (green). These layers have different
names today, but the geological principles still apply. Where the
sands met the clay, water pooled and made digging trenches difficult, ■ German trench at Messines showing the plank flooring and the
as at Messines. ‘Paniselian’ sand trench sides.

BOTTOMLESS MUD very likely to be waterlogged. Consequently, drainage

From Ypres southwards, Flanders comprises an extensive from the fields of Flanders is slow. To describe the
plain: its flatness relieved only by a series of low hills no soils during wet periods as ‘heavy going’ is more than
greater than 50 metres high that partially embrace the city an understatement. Mud became the norm; in military
of Ypres. parlance, it became ‘bottomless’.
The plain itself is mostly made up of clays that were Friedrich ‘Fritz’ von Lossberg, mastermind of the
once called ‘Ypres Clay’, a material that became a blessing German defence-in-depth strategy, described its nature:
and a curse to the soldiers and engineers who worked ‘The ground in Flanders consists of a very soft and fertile
with it, and in it, during the war. In Flanders, the striking layer of humus with a thickness of 1–3 metres. Under this
colour of freshly cut clay was a major issue, particularly layer … there is an impenetrable layer of clay about 1 metre
from deep mining. With the blue colour visible from the thick. If this is perforated by artillery fire the groundwater
air, it gave away the fact that tunnels and mines were in oozes upwards into the shell craters and fills them to
the process of being dug, even when put into sandbags to the brim…After showers of rain, which in Flanders are a
reinforce parapets. Fortunately, this startling colour did common occurrence, the humus is turned into a swamp-
not last because its minerals very quickly change in the like pulp which gives an advantage to the defender.’
presence of air, soon becoming a brownish colour – surely
a metaphor for the whole Ypres Salient.
The Ypres Clay acted as a barrier for the downward A SODDEN QUAGMIRE
movement of water, leading to a tendency for it to pool. Rising slowly up from the clay plain is a low range of

Thus, it is not surprising that soils on top of the clay are hills that gained such gigantic importance in the war,


■ A German trench at Messines showing duck-boarding and the use of ■ Brushwood hurdles in place within the trenches at Messines. Note
salvaged timber to revet – or hold back – the trench sides. the flooded trench floor.

and which curve to the east of the city of Ypres creating

a ‘bastion’ on the otherwise featureless plain. Occupied
by the Germans from 1914, the ridges became a thorn in
the side of the British. Every movement and suspicious
activity was logged – and shelled if necessary. With
the Germans on the ridge tops, the British struggled
under four years of direct observation through the Zeiss
field-glasses of their opponents. As General Ludendorff
commented: ‘The high ground between Ypres and the
Roulers–Menin line…affords an extensive view in both
directions. These heights were also exceptionally important
for us, as they afforded us ground observation posts and a
certain amount of cover from hostile view.’
This put severe strain on the Allied troops who toiled in
the Ypres Salient, as one commentator noted: ‘Because the
enemy could see every move on our part in the Salient, all

movements had to be carried out in the dark. Ammunition,

rations and building materials were carted up by night
as far as the road went and laboriously manhandled into
position. The work was bad enough in the summer, but
when the ground was one sodden quagmire of trodden and
re-trodden slimy mud, the task was appalling.’
These ridges are composed of what geologists called
‘Paniselian’, mixed layers of sand, clay and silt. With sand
layers closest to the top, rain soaks away into the land
until it meets the clay, and then sits there. This means
that some layers are perpetually water-rich, such as the
geological level the British called the ‘Kemmel Sands’ – a
particularly wet layer sandwiched between clay. These
sands caused many problems for the German defenders.
Oberstleutnant Otto Füsslein, Kommandeur des
■ Concrete shelter constructed within the Messines trench system.
Mineure, 4th German Army, was well aware of the
Concrete gave good protection and was drier underfoot in damp difficulties: ‘Do you know the terrain of Flanders? The
conditions. trench lines weaved their way over long and gently rolling

■ A concrete
reinforced trench
with Alarm Reserven
reserves) of rifle
ammunition and
hand grenades.
(Brett Butterworth)

■ Left: The
author during
an excavation in
Messines, pictured
next to an Alarm
Reserven container
of stick grenades.
These are perfectly
preserved, as is the
rest of the trench
after 100 years.

ridges, through shallow depressions and across wide villages, the borders and interior have been strongly
expanses of almost flat countryside. In the rich alluvial and organised, generally for all round defence, and a particularly
sedimentary deposits forming the upper strata of earth desperate resistance has been offered in them.’
and clay, water collected in the trenches, especially in the This was particularly the case at Wytschaete and
winter, and even more so in the mine galleries, initially only Messines. When the men of Das Infanterie-Regiment
one or two metres below the surface and later four metres “Kaiser Wilhelm von Preußen” (2. Württemb.) Nr. 120 arrived
deep, progressively transforming them into quagmires.’ in the sector they were impressed: ‘At first glance the
men, who were not spoiled when it came to the quality
of defensive works and dug-out construction, were quite
THE TRENCH FORTRESS pleased with what they found in it. The main combat line
Perched on the Messines–Wytschaete ridge, the German ran in a slight curve along the foot of a hilltop crowned
positions dominated the Allied lines, and it was to the field with the ruins of Wytschaete and was in a relatively tidy
manual Stellungsbau that the German engineers turned condition…A number of well made communication trenches,
for guidance on constructing their positions: well furnished with direction and warning signs, ran from
‘Field positions when constructed afford considerable the furthermost eastwards and up the slope, crossing
advantages to the defence. The important points to through the forest of Wytschaete and the first and second
be borne in mind by the defence in a war of positions reserve position before ending within the village on the hill.
are: 1, Economy for forces; 2, Diminution of losses and The village itself was quite shot up, although the layout of
increase of enemy losses; 3, Utilisation of ground so that the streets was still discernible and numerous surviving
conditions favourable for combat are obtained, while made cellars offered satisfying accommodation for troops ...’.
unfavourable to the enemy.’
This last part was the most significant; a commitment
to ensuring the German trench lines were the strongest, as ARCHAEOLOGY OF A FORTRESS
noted by the British General Staff in 1917: German front-line trenches at Messines at the southern
‘Great use has been made by the Germans of natural extremity of the Ypres Salient (south of St Eloi) were

strong points, such as villages, farms, and woods. In the excavated in 2012–13 as part of a major replacement of


water mains in the region. In 2018, a further opportunity

was granted when a unique crowd-funded rescue
excavation was carried out at Hohe 80 at the heart of the
German fortress of Wytschaete.
What the British called the Messines ridge – and the
Germans Wytschaete-Bogen – is a spur of the main
ridge east of Ypres, forming part of a wider plateau with
Wytschaete to the northwest, Messines to the south.
This plateau had seen hard fighting in 1914, with the
Germans wresting control of the high ground from the
Allies. Stabilising its position in early 1915, the Germans
developing a dominant fortress that was at the heart of the
Salient. It comprised a frontline system of strongpoints
that were designed to break up any attempt to take the
ridge top by frontal assault, and with strongholds in the
rear built around the two villages that defined the ridge
■ Cellars of the old mill buildings at Hill 80 that have been reinforced top. With the Germans occupying the high ground, with
with concrete blocks to withstand the Allied bombardment. every spur and building built into the line as a fortress (as
laid down in Stellungsbau), the British were forced to build
trenches that were effectively 10 metres lower, facing the
forward slopes of the ridge.
A British manual summarised German expertise in 1917:
‘Great attention is paid to drainage of trenches, as on
the success or non-success of the measures taken may
depend whether this position can or cannot be held in the
wet season. It is laid down that the drainage must be done
on a definite plan which must be carried out in good time.
Drainage engineers and geologists are to be consulted, and
use made of existing maps and plans. Wherever possible,
drainage water is to be led in the direction of the enemy,
pipes being put through the parapet for this purpose.’
Capping the ridge top at Wytschaete are dry sands,
known to the British (not surprisingly) as the ‘Wytschaete
Sands’. These bright yellow to ochre-coloured sands
were encountered during excavations at the hilltop of
the village that gave the sands its name, and must have
been relatively easy to excavate. At Hohe 80, the German
defenders made use of the destroyed mill that had marked
the hill-top, strengthening the cellars with concrete to
protect them from Allied artillery intent on dislodging
■ A Bavarian soldier wearing Dräger 1903 self-contained breathing
apparatus prepares to be lowered into a vertical shaft in a mine crater
them. Connected with these fortifications were trenches
position with the assistance of a windlass and muscle-power. cut through the sands, interupted here and there with
(Brett Butterworth) hard levels of pebbles - problematic to men having to dig

All that had just been made could cave in and collapse within half an hour. In many
positions the shell-ploughed earth gave in so that entrenching baskets and fascines
had to be worked in for stabilisation. Sacks of sand were in short supply and those
sacks filled with blue Ypres clay were not allowed to be used on the parapets so as not
to alert the enemy of our mining activities. Even more difficult was the construction
of concrete bunkers, as the high water levels did not allow the construction of deep
foundations. All trenches were furnished with wooden grids because of the

groundwater. Württembergische Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 127

■ Shallow tunnel at Messines, possibly used
for storage. This was close to the water-
■ Soldiers prepare a detonator in a boarded tunnel. (Brett Butterworth) logged layers.

trench lines to their greatest depth. provided by successive layers and levels of timber flooring
At the very top of the ridge, water was less of an issue and duckboarding – not unsurprising given the geological
– but as the lines sloped away towards the forest of conditions.
Wytschaete and the British lines, the written advice of Also exposed in the archaeological investigations at
Walter Kranz was to be heeded, the Germans making sure Messines were narrow trenches, boarded throughout and
their trenches drained downslope to their enemies. This also revetted with a variety of means. This included doors
affected the defenders, with a trench line close to the clay and timbers from buildings in the village. Timber used
layers that needed special treatment. Here, the defenders in trenches in this way was potentially dangerous – it
deployed the bricks of the destroyed village to provide drier could create splinters that would add to the problems of
footing, and a central wooden drainage channel. men tightly packed in the line. Also, in situ brushwood
hurdling commonly seen in German trenches. This type
of revetment was the preferred means of protection – but
SHELL BLASTED LANDSCAPE was difficult to replace in the shell-blasted landscape of
Away from Hill 80, the rest of the ridge comprises various Flanders. Stellungsbau was clear on this point:
levels of ‘Paniselian’, overlying, as always, Ypres Clay. At ‘The sides of trenches must not be revetted with any
Messines, the excavation site of 2012-13 uncovered part of material that may make traffic in the trench impossible or
the trench system located on the slopes of the Messines difficult after bombardment. Planks and timber should not
Ridge, just above the Douve valley. Here are found the be used if possible. Hurdles are not so objectionable. The
waterlogged Kemmel Sands, sandwiched between clay- best revetting material is sods or thin loose brushwood.’
rich layers, and there were even wetter soils, typical of The trench system at Messines also included a concrete
river valleys, that thicken to considerable depth in the shelter with room for six or seven men. While the
Douve valley at the foot of the ridge. concrete found in the drier conditions of the ridge top at
The trench system at Messines was constructed as Hohe 80 was predominantly blockwork used to support
a strongpoint in the German front line. In fact, the and protect the ancient cellars of the mill buildings, this
excavations disturbed what was the German second line was cast in situ. The cast concrete at Messines must have
in the defensive system constructed here. By fate, the been a response to damp conditions, as the soldiers
German lines almost exactly follow the junction of the struggled with the water-logging of the Kemmel Sands
Kemmel Sands, between the 50 and 60 metre contours. – water-rich Schwimmsande – beneath their feet. There
While the centre of Messines sits on drier ground, was no hope of a mined dug-out here. Concrete was the
trenches in front of the village sit squarely within the solution. From its entrance was a carefully prepared
water-rich Kemmel Sands - once again with a threat of rifle rack along with a recess with hinged lid containing
flooding from the ever-present impervious clay beneath. German stick-grenades, found just as they had been left

Evidence of periodic flooding from the sands was by the last German occupants in June 1917.


■ Excavated trench in ‘Wytschaete Sands’ at Hill 80.

■ The orange/ochre ‘Wytschaete Sands’ that cap Hill 80, here comprising yellowish sands The dry conditions mean that preservation is poorer,
and layers of pebbles; both are free-draining and dry. archaeologically.

STORAGE AND CONCEALMENT constructed as ‘cut-and cover’. Each tunnel was constructed
At Hohe 80, the defenders had the chance to dig into the using a ‘mining case’ timber revetment, supported by bridle
dry sand and construct a dugout as part of the fortifications joints and pegs. The tunnels have no inclined stairways
– defended and re-inforced cellars, fire trenches and to access them – just simple entrances from the trench
communication trenches were all interlinked. Even here, line to the south of Messines. Most likely, the purpose of
where the driest sands cap the ridge top, clay is not far these tunnels was strorage and concealment, rather than
away. As the slope falls away towards the German lines, so protection from artillery fire. Naturally, the tunnels sit
this material returns and with it, flooding and a need for between the 45 and 50 metre contours, in the sandy-clays
drainage. underlying the waterlogged Kemmel Sands – a factor
Shallow mined tunnels were also uncovered in suggesting that, in winter at least, these tunnels had to be
excavations at Messines. At just 2–3 metres, the protection drained effectively, either by drains running downslope, or
from howitzer shells was likely to have been limited by pumping.
headcover, though it appears there is a rubble ‘burster The Battle of Messines of June 1917 is hailed as a triumph
course’ of building waste, suggesting the tunnels were of military engineering, with the simultaneous explosion
of some 19 mines (though 24 were laid) and an effective
barrage leading to the Allied destruction of the German
frontline positions encompassing the Wytschaete-Bogen
fortess. This story is well known and rightly celebrated. Less
well understood is the effectiveness of German ridge-top
fortress positions. The archaeological investigations of 2012-
13 and 2018 revealed the complexity of this fortress of trench
lines contouring the top of the ridge which had the villages
and other features built into it. It was this fortress that held
the Allies at bay, from the capture of the ridge in 1914, to the
loss of the fortress in the aftermath of the 1917 battle – only
■ Brick-floored trench at
to be regained in the spring of 1918.
Hill 80. This trench line is
closer to the clay layers that These archaeological opportunities provided a unique
lie beneath the Wytschaete insight into the complexities of the construction of a
Sands and presented wetter trench fortress; the need for a detailed understanding of
conditions. Bricks salvaged Kriegsgeologie; the vision of engineer and geologist, Walter
from the ruined buildings of
the village were used to floor
Kranz, and of adherence to military guidance provided by
the trench, with a central an evolving guide, Stellungsbau, which was so successful at
wooden drainage channel. holding the Allies at bay for three long years.

Pay just £4.33 an issue!
■ Discover the people, uniforms, medals and the
weapons behind the stories
■ The latest militaria news, re-enactment and
event reports
■ Prices, rare items finds, auction and fair guides
Subscribe from just £12.99 a
quarter*and pay £4. 33 an issue

* For all offers relating to

The Armourer please visit our
website or telephone.
Also available in digital format

SUBSCRIBE Visit or call

TODAY! 01778 392489 quoting ARM/IC/SUBS/20

‘Gelbe 13’
For our conflict archaeology feature in this issue, Cynrik De Decker and
Simon Verdegem unravel the story of a downed Focke Wulf 190 fighter in
Belgium. Archaeology revealed much more than just the wreckage of a warplane,
uncovering the sad tale of its unfortunate pilot.

n 14 May 1943, Willi Lück before their deadly cargo could be bombers as they grew larger in his
and his comrades with 3./JG1 dropped. Near Ghent, 3. Staffel broke windscreen. Some .50 calibre flashes
were scrambled to intercept into smaller formations of two to three were flickering ahead as the American
yet another USAAF bomber fighters to intercept the Boeings. By gunners fired frantically from all
stream heading in over the North Sea. then, every Jagdflieger on the Western positions on the Flying Fortresses, but
For the 23-year old from Stettin, a front already knew the weak spot of Willi didn’t see what was coming down
relatively inexperienced fighter pilot, it the bombers. As B-17’s had not yet on him from behind.
was to be his last mission flying Focke been equipped with chin turrets,
Wulf 190 A-4, ‘Gelbe 13’ (Yellow 13). the German fighters positioned
American B-17s, along with P-47 themselves in one line, attacking the ‘OUT OF CONTROL’
fighters, had been plotted heading for bombers head-on from the front of the The B-17s, however, were not alone and
the General Motors factory in Antwerp. formation. Seconds later, they would were escorted by P-47 Thunderbolts
Before the war, this American company be flying through the formation in the of the 78th Fighter Group. For the
was manufacturing trucks and cars, opposite direction, at nerve-racking first time since the Group was in
but after the occupation the Germans speeds, hoping to hit the nose sections frontline service, the CO of the unit
took over the factory to continue the of the bombers with cannon fire. saw a unique opportunity to strike
construction of vehicles for the Willi, lacking the combat experience the Luftwaffe defenders. Around 13.15
German Army - many of them for use of the others, flew as rear cover behind GMT, his altimeter indicating 27,000
on the Eastern Front. his two comrades. One can only ft, Major James J. Stone Jr. (of Clifton,
Led by Major Fritz Losigkeit, the assume his eyes were fixed on the Staten Island, New York) pushed his
Geschwader was speeding towards the tails of the leading FW 190s and on the stick forward and the aircraft pitched
coast hoping to catch the Americans sleek frontal profile of the four-engine into a dive. What happened next was

■ Focke Wulf 190 A-4 aircraft

of 3./JG1 in 1943. (Chris Goss)
■ Left: A formation of 97 Bomb Group
B-17s head towards occupied Europe. It
was a formation such as this which 3./JG1

set out in his combat report: spinning straight down, apparently out
“Ten miles before the bombers of control.
reached their target, my squadron I broke off the attack by pulling
which I was leading, was approaching straight up.”
the bombers from the rear right, Stone was still too high to see his
approximately 4,000 feet above. A victim (in fact, the first ‘kill’ by the
few miles off to my right, below the 78th Fighter Group) crashing into the
level of the bombers, I saw three Flemish soil, the dogfight ending with
unidentified fighters coming in for a a ‘draw’ and both sides losing three.
front quarter attack on the bombers. The Americans lost three pilots (two ■ The magnetometer survey of the crash site,
I started my dive at approximately POW’s, one evader), thus making with the red area indicating a concentration of
27,000 feet. As I dove down, I identified the unit’s first encounter with the buried metal.
the approaching fighters as FW.190’s. Luftwaffe a sour one. Two JG1 pilots
I followed them around towards had to make belly landings, but Willi,
the bombers, until they were within the third loss, probably hoped to of German forces stationed locally (the
range. I estimate the deflection as achieve the same and maybe he tried Kriegstagesbuch), his body was found
approximately 20 degrees. to gain control over the spinning ‘Gelbe near Bontinckstraat in Kalken, a village
I gave a two second burst on the 13’. Finally, he apparently decided it to the north of Ghent, and now part of
third fighter but observed no results. was impossible and baled-out. Due the community of Laarne.
I increased my lead and gave another to centrifugal forces in the violently Willi Lück was initially buried in
two second burst. I believe my range spinning fighter, it was very likely Ghent, but after the war his remains
was approximately 250 yards. A sheet extremely difficult for him to get out were transferred to the German
of flame burst from directly behind of the narrow cockpit, but he finally cemetery at Lommel, near the border
the cockpit and the FW.190 spun to the succeeded. Unfortunately, it was too with Germany. But exactly where his
right. As I went by, I noticed the FW.190 late and too low. According to the diary aircraft had crashed was unknown. Its

■ A view of the excavation underway at the crash site. The original

■ Geophysical survey of the crash site is undertaken prior to the excavation. impact crater is clearly defined.


■ Left:
location was perhaps unimportant to A team
anybody (including the Germans) in member
the midst of a war. examines
the pilot’s
seat back.
After interviewing several elderly
■ Below:
people in the village of Kalken, local Portions of
enthusiast Pieter Janssens was led to airframe
some fields along the Dienstweg. With still bearing
his metal detector, he found several paintwork
and traces of
small pieces of aircraft wreckage the German
scattered over a large area. Taking his cross and
interest one stage further, he had no swastika.
problem convincing the owner of the
land, Marc Bollaert, to sign-up to a
fascinating project. At this point, Pieter
informed the Archaeology Team of the
Belgian Aviation History Association
and their metal detection specialist,
Dany Saey, found a large spot which
seemed to show a concentration of
buried metal. Then, a geophysical
survey gave more precise answers and,
with magnetometers, the Unexploded
Ordnance Company, Bom-Be, made an
analysis and pointed out two large iron
objects at a depth of about 3 metres.
In Flanders, the carrying out of ‘digs’,
including on aircraft sites, is prohibited
without a formal license from the
Flemish Government. This can only
be awarded to a suitably qualified
archaeologist. The project team
fortunately received full support from
renowned battlefield archaeologist ■ A team member with one of the recovered
Simon Verdegem and the company guns.
he works for (Ruben Willaert BVBA)
along with five other archaeologists -
including Simon’s colleague, Maarten
Bracke. Both had already gained
significant experience on First World ■ Crumpled but still recognisable, this is the
War battlefield archaeology (eg Hill tailwheel and tyre crumpled inside a portion of
80) but retrieving the remains of a rear fuselage.
German Second World War fighter in a
scientific manner was a new challenge.
Based on results from the
geophysical survey, and a manual scan
on the day of the eventual excavation
in October 2015, the centre of the
anomaly was determined. Around this
centre, a large ‘window’ of about 10m ■ In remarkable condition, this Luftwaffe issue
x 10m was marked out. Within this gravity knife was a fascinating discovery.
boundary, the digger started to peel of ■ Right: A team member examines the
the topsoil, layer by layer, and under remnants of the BMW 801 engine.

■ The spherical-type oxygen bottles recovered ■ This rather ghostly image is a portrait of
from the wreckage. Willi Lück himself, discovered amongst the
■ The BMW badge from the engine. paperwork.

supervision of the archaeologists. This Up to the third archaeological be found - and indeed they were. Many
quickly showed that the pinpointing level, the excavation was deepened 7.92mm bullets and 20mm shells were
was correct as a large irregular feature in layers and, after each step, a visual handed over to the Police, to be later
started to appear. After recording the check was carried out in order to picked up by the Belgian EOD. (Note: the
first layer, the feature, as a whole, was collect any objects that had become FW 190 A-4 had two wing root-mounted
deepened layer by layer. At regular visible. If the objects were relevant 20 mm MG151 cannons, two fuselage-
intervals the excavation was cleaned and recognizable, the position was mounted 7.92 mm MG 17s - all four
in order to be able to observe the recorded three-dimensionally. Below were synchronised to fire through the
size and shape of the impact crater this third level, the concentration of propeller arc - and two outboard wing-
properly. When noteworthy changes objects became very high and so it mounted 20 mm MGFFs cannon.)
were observed, new layer recording was decided to dig the items out in During the dig, it was clear the
was conducted. The archaeological larger volumes, still trying to measure impact must have been huge, the
results can certainly be described as relevant finds. The final three- final item recovered being the BMW
successful. dimensional image of the position of 801 engine, embedded at a depth of
the artefacts confirmed that the guns 3 metres. The BMW 801 was an air-
were on a line corresponding to the cooled radial engine, with 14 cylinders,
IMPACT CRATER position of the aircraft which, in turn, in a twin row, producing between
In the first layer, the impact crater related to the shape of the impact 1,500 and 2,000 hp, but the impact had
had a more irregular shape which can crater. In addition, this image provided caused all the BMW’s cylinder heads to
be explained by the immense impact additional information with regard to separate from the crankcase.
of the plane during the crash when the position of the aircraft on impact. All the larger parts of the aircraft
the earth was blasted out and away Firstly, it was established that the top were close together at the deepest
from the epicentre. At a lower level, of the aircraft was facing northwest. point of the impact crater. Not only
however, and at a depth at which And that was where most of the objects was the engine found there- at a
the fighter made its way through the were found. In addition, it could be depth of approximately 260 cm- but
ground, it had pushed the earth away determined that the aircraft must have also the tail with the tail wheel. Due
rather than scattering it. As a result, the descended almost vertically. This was to the forces of the crash, the aircraft
ground track no longer had a random proven by the starboard outer gun had been pushed together like an
appearance but it literally took on the which had penetrated the soil almost accordion and reduced to a tangle of
shape of the aircraft; a clear distinction perpendicularly. twisted metal. Between all this metal,
could be made between the fuselage however, dozens of well-preserved
of the aircraft and the wings. Thanks and significant remains of the Focke
to this consecutive recording of the BULLETS AND SHELLS Wulf were found. The remains of the
archaeological layers, it was possible to As we were dealing with a warplane, fuselage, on which original paint had
determine how the aircraft penetrated it had to be taken into account that been preserved, appeal most to the

the ground. weapons and ammunition were likely to imagination. It was here that parts of


■ Service personnel
have always been fond
of risqué songs and
■ Laid out for examination and conservation, some of the hundreds of documents, poems. Clearly, Willi ■ Staring from the past, these are
letters etc. discovered in Willi Lück’s briefcase. was no exception! presumed to be the parents of Willi.

the “Gelbe 13” numeral were found, as story, not mentioned in the official BROKEN HEART
well as a fragment of the German cross archives. All his pictures, postcards It was in southern France that Willi
and pieces of the Swastika. (Our artist, and letters were carefully examined received his combat training and he
Alexander Vandenbohede, was later and pieced together. Some documents, must have had fond memories of his
able to create an accurate profile of the like his Flugzeugführersschein (pilot’s stay in Bordeaux, as he cherished a
aircraft which is reproduced as part of licence) and Soldbuch (paybook) neatly postcard from the marketplace of
this feature.) However, it soon became documented his military career. that city. Whilst off duty from the
clear that besides the parts of the Willi Lück had left Stettin, now in training airfield at Cazeaux, it is
aircraft itself, there were also personal Poland, to join the Luftwaffe during the clear that he had a good time in the
effects of the pilot amongst the tangled early part of the war. It seems around bars surrounding the airfield, but,
wreckage. However, the extent of that at 1941-1942 he received his initial in the spring of 1943, he headed to
this only became apparent after the flying training, probably in Germany. Amsterdam. Little is known about
cleaning of artefacts had taken place. Looking at the pictures found in his Willi’s short operational career in the
wallet, it is clear he remained a family 3rd Staffel of JG1, but he quite probably
man. Willi must have been fond of his took part in several interceptions and
DIRTY LYRICS grandparents, his sister, his parents must have experienced the danger
When Willi and his comrades had – and after removing the mud, so of being a fighter pilot. In fact, he
scrambled from the Dutch airfield their fading faces emerged from the attended the funeral of a fellow pilot in
Deelen that fateful day in May, he emulsion in the wet photographs. a hangar of the airfield and kept some
had thrown his briefcase with all his During his service, he kept up a very pictures of the guarded coffin besides
personnel belongings in the stowage busy correspondence and stored all the a Focke Wulf.
locker behind the seat – all his pictures, letters in his briefcase. Unfortunately, We can also learn from another
song books, money, manicure set and all the German wartime ink had document that on 29 March 1943,
even his side cap. With the route in the washed out during its decades long
briefing room pointing south, he knew stay in the wet soil. But, when holding
that after the mission he might well the letters towards the light, one can
have to land at another base, outside reveal the words like “Mein Lieber…”,
Holland. Therefore, Dutch and French but unfortunately no more details
money he had with him could have have yet been found. The handsome
been useful that same evening. airman certainly loved swimming. And
The snippets of paper retrieved girls. And it seems that he may having
three quarters of a century later from enjoyed singing songs with dirty lyrics
the torn leather briefcase led to a with his friends. He kept two pages of
reconstruction of this fighter pilot’s these in his wallet!

Willi went to Deelen airfield by train. Whatever the story, it is clear that the
But one letter, written and posted in young Dutch girl faced understandable
Holland a few weeks before the combat opposition from her family over her
of 14 May, is still legible. Seemingly, relationship with a German airman.
Dutch ink had a different composition
than that used by the family in
Germany. Strangely enough, the FINALE
two-page letter is addressed to a man Until Willi’s relatives are found, all his
named ‘Peter’. Was Willi known under documents and his sidecap are kept in
another name? Or did he promise to storage, hoping that one day that his
hand over the letter to the relatives of belongings can return to their rightful
a fallen comrade? However, during his owners. Like all German families,
stay in Holland, the addressee clearly the Lücks paid a huge price during
broke the heart of a Dutch girl (G)erry, the war years - some 400 men with
who lived in Amsterdam. She wrote the same surname are mentioned in
him a letter – but from the syntax it the list of the Volksbund Deutsches
is clear she was not a native German Kriegsgraberfursorge. (German War
speaker: Graves Service)
And there is yet a grim and utterly ■ Still legible, Willi’s Soldbuch also emerged
“My dear Peter, sad story behind the family pictures. from the Focke Wulf 190s muddy tomb.
This morning I received your long- In May 1945, almost to the day two
awaited letter. I thought you had years after the message of Willi’s death
forgotten me. arrived in Stettin (Silezia), the family
My German is not so good, since I became just some of the millions of
am Dutch, but you must learn Dutch as German citizens who now lived inside
well... the Soviet occupation zones and were
You asked me if we can meet again. forcibly expelled from their homes.
Of course. I suggest Sunday 25 April, Those who survived the mass killings,
at 2 o’clock at the railway station of or harsh conditions as an evacuee, had
Utrecht - we can meet there. to establish another life within the new
I hope you receive this letter in time borders of post-war Germany.
- Feldpost takes a long time. If you’re As a finale to the project, we were
unable to join, call me at 0.2900.25784. able to reconstruct just a part of Willi
(Editor: The phone number prefix 2900 Lück’s story, and to even put a face ■ Although rather battered, this is Willi Lück’s
indicates Amsterdam). My master hears to the man whose history we were field cap found in the wreckage.
everything and opens all my letters. So, searching for. On the one hand, we
call me only when it’s really necessary. now know so much about him. On the
■ Below: Unlucky thirteen.
It’s almost midnight, and I’m going other hand, the mystery remains: what An artist’s rendering of
to bed. happened to his family? And what is how ‘Gelbe 13’ originally
Sunday 25 April, at the railway the final part of this sad story relating appeared.
station at 2 o’clock! to an otherwise forgotten casualty of
Many kisses, the war?
Yours, (G)erry.
P.S. - Whatever my parents think - I
couldn’t care less.”


The Iron Fist

The development, use and deployment of one of the Wehrmacht’s most versatile and
ubiquitous weapon systems of the Second World War, the Sturmgeschütz, is charted by
Dr Adrian Wettstein.

or the German Army, the Sturmartillerie or When the infantry moved out of the effective range
assault artillery arm, was a timely solution to the of its artillery, its positions needed to be shifted,
problem of providing fire support to infantry often leaving the infantry without artillery support.
formations. Inititally, the tactical idea (armoured Fire accuracy was still too low to guarantee effective
and motorised artillery), the weapon system (the shelling of point targets and also often endangered
Sturmgeschütz), and the service branch (Sturmartillerie) one’s own troops. What the infantry needed was direct
formed an indivisible unit. Yet questions of authority and fire support and an ability to engage and subdue enemy
priorisation of tank production hampered the buildup positions with speed and precision. In a first step, the
of the Sturmartillerie and from the middle of the war it German Army improvised with mountain and field guns.
increasingly found itself in a new role - that of anti-tank While maneuverable small caliber weapons lacked the
defence. necessary destructive power, the more powerful and
The roots of the Sturmartillerie were grown in the largely horse drawn guns could not follow-up in difficult
First World War, where indirect firing became the terrain. A common problem was the lack of protection
almost exclusive mode of combat for the artillery. This for gun crews, but the solution to this drawback
brought a number of tactical problems during attacks. arrived in 1916: the tank. However, due to mechanical
Due to a lack of flexible means of communication, unreliability, certain vulnerabilities and a lack of
contact between the attacking troops and artillery communicative means between tank and infantry, the
was quickly interrupted, making fire control difficult. potential of the new weapon system was limited.

■ Left: Bringing heavy fire support
forward with the infantry before
the advent of self-propelled
artillery was a slow and strenuous

■ Commander in Chief of the

Army, Werner von Fritsch. (BA)

■ Left: Generalfeldmarschall Erich

In the 1920s, hampered by restrictions imposed by von Manstein. (BA)
the Treaty of Versailles, the Reichswehr introduced
specifically designed infantry guns as a stop-gap
solution. Yet the problem of maneuverability and crew would be support
protection remained unresolved. A disguised development of the infantry, with
order issued in 1927 for a 7.7 cm gun mounted on a secondary tasks of
commercially available crawler tractor was abandoned anti-tank defence
in 1933 in favour of other means of motorsation. As part and indirect artillery
of tank development, the need for infantry fire support support.
was addressed in the designs of the ‘Großtraktor’, the Due to this
‘Neubaufahrzeug’ and, ultimately, the Panzer IV. However, orientation it was
with a shift of doctrine towards the use of tanks it soon clear, that in regard
became clear that the infantry could not hope to see such to training, the
vehicles among its ranks. Sturmartillerie would
closely align itself
with the infantry.
In 1935, Erich von Manstein, head of the operational parallel to Manstein’s concept, the Inspection office of
department of the Army’s General Staff, suggested the the Artillery issued an order for the development for a
creation of a Sturmartillerie branch to his superiors. In “corollary armoured artillery for infantry and anti-tank
June 1936, after his suggestion had been approved, he defence” (Begleitartillerie unter Panzer für Infanterie
started to formulate the concept of armoured vehicles und Panzerabwehr) - the Sturmgeschütz, or assault gun,
in the German Army. During breakthrough operations, or StuG for short. Other influencers were Oberst Walter
the infantry would now be linked up to composite tank Model and Major Hans Röttiger, later the first Inspector
formations, but also to homogenous Panzer brigades of the Bundeswehr. In 1937, the Commander in Chief
which concentrated on focal points of attack. As a third of the Army, Werner von Fritsch, signed an armament
component, the Sturmartillerie would be organically programme which planned to equip each infantry division
allocated to infantry divisions where the primary function with Sturmartillerie-Abteilung by 1940. By this point,

■ Left: Oberwachtmeister Karl Heinz Banze of 1./Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 244 and his crew pose for the camera of the PK propaganda photographers,
Summer 1942. Banze was awarded the Knight’s Cross on 27 May 1942 for engaging a large concentration of heavy and medium Soviet tanks and

destroying 13 without any support. Banze was taken prisoner by the Red Army in 1943. Missing since that time, he was declared dead in 1945.


■ Two early production Stug III G of 5. SS-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung (Wiking) in the frozen wastelands near Lysyanka in February 1944, protecting German
troops who escaped the Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket.

infantry and armoured troops had shown little interest in would only be fully delivered by May 1940. These delays
the new weapon system, which resulted in its placement arose because leading initiators of the Sturmartillerie
in the hands of the artillery. Although not initially planned, programme had been removed or replaced by the end
this made sense in terms of organisation and training. of 1938 as a result of their criticism against Hitler’s path
Nevertheless, changes of specifications began to cause towards war. With the outbreak of war, any further
delays from 1937 onwards but the first five prototype expansion of the programme was halted - if nothing else
Sturmgeschütze were successfully tested by the Artillerie- by advocates of a strong Panzer force. The build-up of the
Lehr-Regiment in Jüterbog in the winter of 1937/38. Panzer forces made use of the same armament capacities
Other promising assault gun tests were conducted by the required by the Sturmartillerie - the chassis and guns of
Infanterie-Lehr-Regiment in Döberitz. The commander the StuGs were needed for the production of the Panzer III
of this unit, later Generaloberst Hans-Valentin Hube, and IV. When war broke out, only a single assault artillery
propagated to detach the Sturmgeschütze from the formation was operational - a shortfall that quickly
artillery and closely incorporate them into the infantry by became apparent during the Wehrmacht’s campaign in
forming a 15th company within regiments. This suggestion Poland. Eight months later, the march into France was
was rejected by the artillery. accompanied by two batteries of the Sturmartillerie
In the end, both sides lost when problems in production and two more were raised during the campaign. Their
delayed the order of the first series of assault guns, which success in combat, as well as the solution to production
problems, finally paved the way for the extension of the
assault artillery arm. By 22 June 1941 this had grown to
twelve operational Sturmgeschütz-Abteilungen and five
independent Sturmgeschütz-Batterien with a total of 250
assault guns. Nevertheless, the German Army was still far
away from Manstein’s aim of a Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung
for each infantry division. For now, the Sturmgeschütz-
Abteilungen remained Heereseinheiten, or independent
army units.


Up until March 1942 the backbone of assault artillery was
formed by the Sturmgeschütz III (Ausf. A to E). The main
armament of each variant consisted of the short 7,5 cm
■ Stug III of Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 270 with winter tracks. Sturmkanone 37 mounted into a casemate-like structure


Artwork by Dawn Monks Military Art



■ Collar tabs of the Sturmartillerie.

The Panzertruppe skulls are mounted
on grey with bright red piping. ■ The StuG III Ausf.C-D showing its low and squat profile.

which sported a concentration of armour towards the compartment on the forward part of the hull. This
front (50mm). The Sturmkanone was suitable to effectively protected little more than the gun and the gunner
engage soft targets and field positions. Against bunkers himself from small arms fire and shell fragments, the
and tanks it was largely ineffective due to its low muzzle loaders being completely exposed. The Sturmpanzer I
velocity, a problem partially solved with the arrival of suffered from an overstressed chassis and was reliant on a
hollow charge shells at the end of 1941. Having no rotating seperate vehicle to carry its ammunition, problems which
turret, the StuG had a low silhouette, sported strong coined successive developments like the Sturmpanzer
armour facilitated by its favourable shape and carried a II and the Sturmpanzer 38. A more weighty problem
large supply of ammunition. In addition, it was about 20% was the fact that with the Sturmpanzer I, foundations
cheaper to produce than a Panzer III. for parallel development of Sturmgeschütze (assault
After the fall of Poland, the Panzerwaffe, Germany’s guns) and Sturmpanzer (assault tanks) had been laid,
tank arm, sought to acquire similar vehicles to lend which put a strain on production and development
HE fire support to its formations, but without making resources. The Sturmpanzer remained the support
itself independent of the artillery. A heavy 15cm sIG weapon system of choice of the Panzerwaffe until
33 infantry gun was mounted on the obsolete chassis 1943, offering high firepower with limited mobility and
of the Panzer I, complete with carriage and wheels, in weak armour protection. The StuG, on the other hand,
place of the turret and superstructure. Thin plates of offered a mixture of all important parameters, especially
armour were used to form a tall, open-topped fighting after the installation of a long-barreled gun. A second
problematic development, which watered down the basic
idea of organisational unity between Sturmgeschütz and
Sturmartillerie, was laid with the allocation of the 5th
battery of the Sturmartillerie to the motorised Infanterie-
Regiment ‘Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler’. Success of the
Sturmartillerie soon resulted in other service branches
announcing an interest in the Sturmgeschütz, while first
batches were exported to Germany’s allies. This slowed
down the build-up of the Sturmartillerie and began to
deplete its strength in the second half of the war.

The German attack on the Soviet Union marked the first
large-scale use of Sturmartillerie and its actual baptism
of fire. The Eastern Front would remain the main field
of operations for the Sturmartillerie and only a few
formations fought in other theatres of war. In the summer
and autumn 1941, the Sturmartillerie built its reputation
■ The rather cumbersome looking Sturmpanzer. as a reliable and efficient partner of the infantry. It


■ A Sturmgeschütz flanked by a Sd.Kfz. 250/6 light ammunition carrier. ■ An atmospheric shot of StuG III of Abt.185 on
operations in Riga, 1941.

cooperation didn’t always run smoothly, partly because

the infantry rarely had the chance to train with StuGs.
This also applied to formations to which Sturmgeschütze
were allocated as an organic element. A combat report
of Sturmgeschütz-Kompanie 1253, the tank-hunting
element of the 253. Infanterie-Division, remarked that:
‘Due to its precipitous deployment and disengagement
which followed, the company had no time left to practice
cooperation with the infantry. In addition, respective
situations neither allowed for an extensive debate between
leaders, nor did they leave time for necessary contact
with the Unterführer.’ Friction like this could result in
tactical errors, unnecessary casualties and, in the end,
failure. To improve cooperation, training aids were issued,
summarising the basic principles of joint operations in
■ Oberleutnant Walter Oberloskamp of 3. Batterie/Sturmgeschütz-
Abteilung 667 received his Knight’s Cross on 10 May 1943 for his short, mnemonic sentences such as: “If you are supported
40th tank kill. He was killed in action on 25 June 1944. by assault guns and tank hunters, then don’t stick to them
like a limpet. This will only cause you casualties, as these
armoured combat vehicles draw enemy fire and offer little
supported it in the battle for field positions, fortification protection for yourself.” Training aids were frequently
lines, in urban terrain and, in spite of the aforementioned published, indicating that cooperation standards remained
technical limitations of its guns, offered an additional unsatisfactory until the end of the war.
anti-tank capacity. An evaluation report published by the
training department of the Army’s General Staff in the
autumn of 1942 stated that: ‘Next to their actual impact, EXCELLENT ANTI-TANK PERFORMANCE
the influence on the morale of our own infantry is not The spring of 1942 formed a turning point in
to be underestimated’. In 1943/44, in the face of massed Sturmartillerie history when, with the introduction of
attacks of Soviet armour, the factor of morale increased in the long-barreled 7,5cm Sturmkanone 40, the scope of
importance. Due to high levels of training and motivation duty shifted from infantry support to anti-tank defence.
of crews, coupled with the well equipped Sturmgeschütz, This development has to be illuminated against the
the Sturmartillerie turned into an elite force. Better background of the anti-tank crisis - a lingering problem
optics, coupled with artillery training, meant that in since the summer of 1941 caused by the advent of new
long distance engagements the Sturmartillerie gunners medium and heavy Soviet tanks. When the anti-tank
generally achieved much better accuracy than those of the guns then fielded had proven unable to combat the new
Panzertruppe. threat, the German Army begun fielding long-barreled
The perception in which Sturmartillerie was seen as 7,5cm anti-tank guns on a broad front from the beginning
a supporting weapon for the infantry was an important of 1942. Next to the 7,5cm PAK 40, they were mounted

factor which facilitated their cooperation. Yet this on new models of the Sturmgeschütz and also on the



Panzer IV and self-propelled guns (Marder family). As a

stop-gap solution, captured guns like the Soviet 76mm
divisional gun (fielded as 7,62cm Pak 36r) and the French
M1897 75mm field gun (fielded as 7,5cm Pak 38/97)
were also employed in large numbers. Soon, it became
apparent that the StuG III Ausf. F, not only because its
firepower, maneuverability and armour protection, but
also because of the general quality of its crews, produced
excellent results in the anti-tank role. The sole criticism -
especially on the Eastern Front - was insufficient mobility
in open terrain: “Sturmgeschütz good, yet cross-country
performance anything but sufficient” stated a laconic
report by the 28. Jäger-Division in 1943.
Considering the performance of the Sturmgeschütze,
it is not surprising that voices from the Eastern Front
demanded more of these weapon systems. Even though
production numbers increased by 50% in 1942, the 824
vehicles built were far from the numbers needed to equip
each infantry division with an organic Sturmgeschütz-
Abteilung. Until the end of 1942, 27 Abteilungen had been
deployed in the East, while their nominal strength was
raised from 22 to 31 assault guns (of which, on average,
only 12 were operational at any given time). Larger
numbers would have been possible, but excellent anti-
tank performance had sparked increased desires. Thus
10% of annual production output went to formations
of the Waffen-SS, while one battery of four StuGs went
to Luftwaffe field divisions which had been raised in
the autumn of 1942 - much to the dismay of the Heer,
whose own infantry were still being denied organic
■ Oberwachtmeister Richard Schramm of 1./Sturmgeschuetz-Abteilung 202 Sturmgeschütz formations. Also, the performance of these
posing on his personal vehicle christened “Seeteufel” - the Sea Devil. Sturmgeschütz-Batterien lagged far behind the successes
of the Sturmartillerie. A survey made after winter battles
south of Ladoga Lake at the start of 1943 concluded: “The
four Sturmgeschütz-Batterien of the Luftwaffe with a
total of 20 StuGs, with 5 losses, had destroyed a total of
17 enemy tanks. In the same period and same operational
area, the Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 226 with 41 vehicles
had destroyed not less than 210 Soviet tanks while losing
13 vehicles.”

As the number of enemy tanks destroyed served as
a marker for the issuing of medals, the increasing
deployment of Sturmartillerie in the anti-tank role
was also mirrored in the award practice. No less than
124 Knight’s Crosses and 15 Oak Leaves were awarded
to men of the Sturmartillerie. On 19 September 1942,
for example, Oberwachtmeister Hubert Primozic (2./
Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 667), received his Knight’s
Cross after the destruction of 45 tanks. Four months later,
for his 60th tank kill, he became the first Unteroffizier
of the army to be decorated with the Oak Leaves to the
Knight’s Cross. Not atypical for an experienced NCO of
■ Sturmgeschütz-StuG IIIs roll into action. the Sturmartillerie, he was pulled out of the line shortly


■ Leutnant Bodo Spranz, one of the most successful assault gun aces, was decorated with the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross in October 1943. He is
credited with the destruction of 74 enemy tanks, four of which he destroyed single-handedly with hand-held weapons.

afterwards and relegated to train new Sturmartillerie HITLER’S DEMANDS

crews. In a very similar case, Wachtmeister Fritz Amling The fighting in Stalingrad made clear that the infantry was
(3./Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 202) was decorated with the still dependent on mobile, armoured fire support. On 22
Knight’s Cross on 11 December 1942 after his 40th tank kill September 1942, Hitler himself stated that: “The fight for
(24 of them scored on a single day) and was transferred to Stalingrad has resulted in the clear necessity of having
a training role shortly after. the heaviest possible gun in the heaviest possible vehicle,
Massed tank kills often decided the course of battle, and with the ability to fire high-explosive projectiles which
on 14 August 1942, III./Infanterie-Regiment 429, supported can destroy whole buildings with a few shots. It doesn’t
by two batteries of Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 201, attacked have to fire at long range, neither does it have to be fast.
the so-called ‘Artilleriewäldchen’ (artillery copse) west Decisive, on the other hand, is good armour protection.”
of Voronezh. When, after only 200 meters, the attack This demand led to three lines of development: based
started to stall in strong flanking fire, Zugführer (platoon on the existing StuG III chassis were the Sturmhaubitze
leader) Oberwachtmeister Johannes Kochanowski, 42 armed with a short 10,5 cm howitzer and the Sturm-
spotted a group of Soviet armour at the edge of the forest. Infanteriegeschütz 33B, in which the sIG33 was mounted
Identifying a focal point of the enemy defence he took into a new armoured superstructure. While the first
on the 12 Soviet tanks (eight of them T-34s), even though Sturmhaubitzen were inexplicably sent to Heeresgruppe
he was on his own. After having destroyed two of them, Nord (Army Group North), the Sturm-Infanteriegeschütze
he had to exit his vehicle to clear his jammed gun under were sent to Stalingrad. Even though the crews had not
enemy fire, after which he destroyed the remaining been trained on the new vehicles, some had not been
Soviet tanks within 20 minutes. The Soviet defenders fully furnished with equipment and not even been zeroed
were shocked, while the German infantry renewed its in, the reviews were generally favourable. Nevertheless,
attack and managed to occupy the ‘Artilleriewäldchen’. production ceased after only 24 vehicles had been built
Kochanowski was decorated with the Knight’s Cross, but - mainly because the artillery - in charge of development
for the decisive character of his actions rather than the - voted in favour of the Sturmhaubitze 42, and up to April

total of 31 tank kills he had accumulated. 1945 more than 1,300 were built.



■ Leutnant Bodo Spranz.

■ Grenadiers posing on a Zimmerit

covered StuG IV.

Hitler’s demand also led to a new design for the A third result of Hitler’s demand was the Sturmpanzer
Panzertruppe. As the weight of the heavy infantry gun VI, better known as the ‘Sturmtiger’. This super-heavy
had overstressed the older chassis and engines (even vehicle mounted a 38,5 cm rocket launcher (38-cm-
without a serious amount of armour) it was decided to SturmMörser RW61 L/5,4) on the chassis of a Tiger I
design a well-armoured vehicle on the basis of the Panzer and was surrounded with heavy armour (up to 150mm
IV, this time in a fully enclosed superstructure. The at the front). The projectile it fired contained 125 kg
resulting Sturmpanzer IV, or Stupa as it was known, was of explosives, enough to bring down a whole housing
an excellent vehicle, but with production numbers rarely block with one hit. A special hollow charge rocket could
rising over 20 per month, its general effect remained pierce 2.5 metres of ferro-concrete. Even though only 18
marginal. Sturmtiger were built, a new service branch was created:
the Panzermörsertruppe (tank mortar troop). In April
1945, this transferred from the Panzertruppe to the
artillery. The new weapon system was only once used in
the role for which is had been designed, and during the
suppression of the Warsaw Uprising it demonstrated great
psychological impact, notwithstanding the inaccuracy of
its mortar projectile which made effective cooperation
with the infantry virtually impossible.


1943 brought a further expansion of the Sturmartillerie.
By the end of the year, 39 Abteilungen with a total of
1,006 Sturmgeschütze were deployed on the Eastern
Front alone, yet nearly a third of formations were in
need of being refreshed. ‘The Sturmartillerie is truly
the backbone of our infantry, which often faces near-
■ Wachtmeister Fritz Amling of 3./Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 202. He
unresolvable tasks. In those engagement where it
was decorated with the Knight’s Cross on 11 December 1942 after his makes an appearance, it usually proves decisive’ stated
40th tank kill. a report in 1943. With the creation of the office of


■ A StuG crew pose
with their vehicle
as ammunition is

Generalinspekteur of the Panzertruppen, a role filled by engage heavy weapons (...), while the Panzergrenadiers
no other than Generaloberst Heinz Guderian, a strong can keep infantry and anti-tank rifles away from
counterweight to the Sturmartillerie was formed in the Sturmgeschütze.” The basic principles remained
the apparatus of German military bureaucracy. From unchanged: The Sturmgeschütz was an infantry support
early on he demanded the fusion of Sturmartillerie with weapon, not a tank replacement.
that of the Panzerjägertruppe, the anti-tank troops. From the summer of 1943, a few of the StuGs delivered
Subsequently, Guderian endeavoured without success to to the Panzerwaffe were allocated to the Panzerjäger-
bring the Sturmartillerie under his control. Crucial for Abteilungen of selected infantry divisions, a total of seven
his motivation, at least initially, were high Sturmgeschütz companies with about 100 StuGs. With this, single infantry
production numbers with which he hoped to bolster the divisions received organically attached Sturmgeschütze.
critical tank production output. While tank production The output of about one and a half months of massively
slipped fully into crisis, Sturmgeschütz production increased production (3,411 vehicles) in 1943 went to
didn’t. Guderian managed to achieve at least partial the Waffen-SS and Luftwaffe. A record compiled in the
success when, by direct orders of Hitler, 100 StuGs of the same period shows that only 54% of Sturmgeschütze
running production were allocated to his Panzertruppe were allocated to the Sturmartillerie, 25% were with the
on a monthly basis. These were first were used to equip Panzertruppe, 13% with the Waffen-SS, only 5,5% with
Panzer- and Panzergrenadier Divisions in the west, while infantry divisions and about 2% with the Luftwaffe. Up
later Sturmgeschütze were introduced in all types of to January 1944, the numbers further disadvantaged the
armoured formations depending on where they were Sturmartillerie with more StuGs serving outside than
needed. inside the Sturmartillerie. This trend got even worse in the
Within Panzer-Divisions, the StuGs caused quite a Summer of 1944, not only due to increased losses but also
headache. In October and November 1943, Panzer- due to increased allocation of StuGs to other branches.
Regiment 36 of 14. Panzer-Division used StuGs for a Technically, the StuG III G with increased armour
variety of tasks. “Their use in the Panzer-Regiment” it (80mm) and Topfblende gun-mantel, was the final version
stated, “ spearhead or flank protection, cannot be on the basis of the Panzer III chassis. To buffer production
recommended. The proven method for success is the bottlenecks caused by Allied aerial bombing in November
cooperation of Sturmgeschütz with the Panzergrenadiers. 1943, Krupp took on the existing idea of mounting a StuG
The Sturmgeschütze offer a strong feeling of security to superstructure on a Panzer IV chassis. From December
the Grenadiers, especially during attacks by enemy tanks. 1942 up until the end of the war, the Gruson works in

Attacking with Panzergrenadiers, the Sturmgeschütz can Magdeburg assembled over 1,100 StuG IVs.



■ Most of the StuG force was deployed on the Eastern Front, although they
did serve in other theatres. Here, a heavily camouflaged and Zimmerit-
pasted StuG IV sits in a Normandy lane during the summer of 1944 shortly
after the Allied landings.


Up until the beginning of 1944, Sturmartillerie personnel
were drawn solely from the recruit pool of the artillery.
This changed when, at the beginning of the year, the
Sturmartillerie was granted the right to directly recruit
volunteers. On one hand, this took the strain off the
artillery and on the other drew fresh applicants. These
new recruitment opportunities and increased production
numbers facilitated further growth in the Sturmartillerie
arm in the first half of 1944. The Summer formed a ■ A StuG rolls through the streets of Vilnius.
major turning point for the Wehrmacht as a whole. Mass
casualties, caused by the double-blow in Normandy
and Belarus, could not be buffered anymore. In quick to this, the Sturmartillerie received fewer vehicles than
succession, new formations with low combat value were in prior months, sometimes even fewer than promised,
raised, and insufficiently and making it impossible to rebuild after the catastrophic
trained personnel were Summer of 1944. On the other hand, the anti-tank troops,
pumped into existing the Panzerjäger-Abteilungen, were allocated more than
formations. Within this 1,300 StuGs, nearly 30% of the total 1944 production.
crisis, the Sturmartillerie In contrast, the personnel situation of the
was additionally affected Sturmartillerie was excellent. With a field strength of
by a shift of power in 22,500 men (1 December 1944) it received 9,000 recruits
command. in 1944; fresh troops meant to be used to raise the
In the wake of the Infanterie-Begleitkompanien (infantry escort companies)
unsuccessful attempt on which had been approved in February that year. Due to
Hitler’s life on 20 July 1944, the material situation, especially the lack of motorised
its Nemesis, Guderian, transport, this had become impossible. Repair and
became Chief of Staff maintenance facilities were insufficient and specialist
of the Army. In his new technicians and recovery vehicles were not available in
position, Guderian limited sufficient numbers. A report written in May 1944 stated:
expansion plans of the ‘Sturmgeschütz-Brigade 259: Losses in March: 7 guns
Sturmartillerie restricting lost due to enemy action. 34 guns blown up because of
it to a strength of 45 impossibility of repair or recovery. Sturmgeschütz-Brigade
■ Generaloberst Heinz Abteilungen (although with 286: 31 guns lost during withdrawal movement, 7 due to
Guderian. (BA) 45 instead of 31 StuGs). Due enemy action. Remainder bogged down in the mud or


■ A knocked-out StuG is examined by British soldiers. Note the impact marks on the sloping glacis armour.

due to lack of means of recovery. 10 guns of 24 lost due to off the target, even though the gun hits tremendously well.’
transmission damage.” Using correct tactics, and led by experienced commanders,
Sturmgeschütze remained dangerous opponents until
the end of the war as shown during an engagement at
DANGEROUS OPPONENTS Möderath, west of Cologne, on 3 March 1945, when three
1945 saw the downfall of the Third Reich and its armed StuG of 1. Kompanie/Panzer-Abteilung 103, skillfully led
forces and, just as in other areas, StuG production broke by Oberleutnant Walz, destroyed 24 American armoured
down completely in March 1945. At this point, in the East vehicles with only one loss.
and West, 37 Abteilungen of the Sturmartillerie were The Sturmartillerie was born from tactical needs
deployed and on 15 March 1945 had 606 Sturmgeschütz encountered during the First World War. Always under-
available - an average of 16 operational StuGs in each strength, it fought successfully in the first half of the Second
Abteilung. Due to planned reductions of vehicle types, World War, but in the middle of the conflict, the changed
it was intended to equip the whole Sturmartillerie arm logic of war forced on it a new role in which it continued
with Jagdpanzer 38(t), a step which would probably have to perform successfully until the final days of the war.
resulted in the total fusion of the Sturmartillerie with the Sturmgeschütze have been credited with the destruction of
Panzerjägertruppe. The Stug had also reached the limits of over 20,000 tanks, but just like the rest of the German war
performance capabilities. Its firepower, armour thickness machine suffered from questions of authority, bottlenecks
and maneuverability were by then outclassed by the latest in production and lack of resources. That it remained a
Soviet tanks and SPGs. What this meant is described by successful tool of war is explained by the quality of its
Leutnant Alfred Regeniter of 3./Sturmgeschützbrigade 276: material and the high quality of training and strong will of its
‘I spot a tank “Josef Stalin 122” at 2,000 metres. I fire 8 AP- crews. In the end, they were who turned the Sturmartillerie
shells, the tracer lines of which are well visible. All ricochet into the much lauded “Iron Fist” of the infantry.


Colour by RJM




A Family Christmas
in Wartime

his unnamed family from Cologne-Ehrenfeld pose
for the photographer on Christmas Day 1916. It is
an image typical of the period.
One member of the family, the husband of the
young woman on the right and also the father to the two
children, is away serving in the Army and possibly at the
front. However, the husband and father is still ‘present’
in the form of two photographs showing him in uniform,
both having been positioned on a chair in the centre of the
group. Families on both sides of the conflict found enforced
seperation especially difficult at this time of the year.
For families in Germany, and for all soldiers at the front,
Christmas was – and remains - an important time. For
soldiers, Christmas served as some kind of anchor - a
tiny bit of normality in the chaos of war which reminded
them of the life they left behind and of the life they hoped
soon to return to. It is likely that a copy of this photograph
would have been sent to the unknown German soldier
wherever he was serving.
In the months and weeks ahead of Christmas, the
number of postal shipments to the front and back
home to Germany increased massively. Early in the war,
Christmas shipments to the front often included clothing,
and equipment such as electric torches and pocket knives
along with luxury comfort goods including chocolate
and other confectionary. In the last years of the war, it
was alcohol, tobacco and books which were among the
more popular Christmas presents. However, during the
period of the first Christmas of the war in 1914, parcels
sent from the front and back home to Germany often
included war souvenirs. These not only included enemy
helmets, foreign money, cap badges and other insignia,
but also live ammunition such as bullets and shell fuses.
After several accidents were
recorded, this practice was
banned. It would certainly
have been the case that as
the war progressed so any
appetitie or interest in warlike
gifts would have diminished.
When looking at this
photograph, one is left to
ponder and to wonder, did
the soldier concerned ever
make it back to his family for
happier post-war Christmas
■ German soldiers celebrate Christmas 1915 in the
trenches. Huddled around a Christmas tree they display
welcome gifts from home, including Tobler chocolate,
gloves and alcohol. (B. Butterworth) IRON CROSS ❙ 111
Save £26 and receive
free gifts worth £16! *

Subscribe to both The

Armourer and Iron Cross
magazines and you will
save £26 a year on the
cover price PLUS receive
a FREE COPY of 100 Years
of the RAF 1918-2018
and a copy of A Guide
to Collecting German
Militaria worth £16*


Digital joint subscription Print joint subscription
Download issues of Iron Cross and The Armourer Get your issues delivered in the UK to your door
to your PC, tablet or mobile devices whenever and for free when calling 01778 392489
wherever you may be. Go to (quote INCR/JOINT19) or visit
to subscribe to this fantastic joint subscription to subscribe to this money-saving joint
offer! subscription offer!

The Armourer is published 12 times a year and costs £4.99 an issue. Iron Cross is published 4 times a year and costs £8.99 an issue.
*Print edition offer available when subscribing by direct debit for the year. 100 Years of the RAF priced at £7.99 print edition and £2.99 digital edition, A Guide to
Collecting German Militaria priced at £7.99 print edition and digital edition. Offer available in print whilst stocks last. Offer ends 31.03.2020

Next Issue
The next issue of Iron Cross (Issue No.4) will be on sale 25 March 2020 and the
following features will be included as just some of the magazine’s exciting content.

n each issue of Iron Cross, the asks the question: Were the German
editorial team and some of the Luftstreitkraefte really undefeated
world’s leading experts specialising when war ended in November 1918? (2)
in German military history subjects
bring you a diverse selection of articles
along with an impressive range of THE POWER OF INITIATIVE
unique and fascinating imagery. “Everything in war is very simple,
but the simplest thing is difficult”. In
this informative feature, Dr. Marco
BATTLE OF PROCHOROVKA - Sigg explains the successful German
FACTS VERSUS FABLES phenomenon of ‘Auftragstaktik’, or
In this EXCLUSIVE feature for Iron Cross mission command, where subordinate
magazine, Dr. Roman Töppel, one of the leaders are given clearly defined
world’s leading experts on the Battle of objectives which they must implement
Kursk, presents the fascinating story of independently. (3)
the Battle of Prochorovka with all the
latest available research - controversially
disproving much that has previously SINKING THE EMPRESS
been written on the subject. (1) In 1940, the 42,348 Gross Registered
Ton luxury passenger liner Empress of
Britain was Britain’s second largest ship
UNDEFEATED IN THE AIR? and the tenth largest merchant vessel
When the Great War ended with the in the world. When she was crippled in
defeat of Germany, its air arm – the an air attack on 26 October, and sunk
Luftstreitkraefte – remained a powerful two days later by a U-boat, her loss was
and potent fighting force. In this a propaganda coup for Germany. This
thought-provoking and compellingly intriguing piece by Luftwaffe historian
interesting piece, Dr. Niklas Napp Chris Goss unravels the story. (4)

2 4 4



Limited Edition
Magazine JUST
A 132-page magazine celebrating
the 100th anniversary of the RAF

and Hurrican
England had e reinforcements
over Dun only enou lying from
kirk for 10 gh fuel to remain
minutes. Y OF THE RAF
Batle of Brit
ain and
By 4 June
1940, mos the Blitz
evacuated t
from Dun of the BEF had been
Britain had kirk and the
one of exub changed from blac mood in
soon tem erant cheerfulness. despair to
pered this
when he wave of optiChurchill
Common a speech in mism,
s the House
that, “We on 4 June, remindi
must be very ng the Brit of
to this deliv careful ish
Wars are erance the attributenot to assign
not won by s
On the 18 evacuations.”of a victory.
plainer, sayi June he made mat
called the ng, “What General ters even 1
Battle of Fran Weygand
of Britain
is about to ce is over. he Batthas
Hitler had begin.” le
ater the inva made a number 1
peaceful settl sion of Poland, to attempts, 3
he ordered ement with Britainarrive at a
of raids on the Lutwafe to begi and when e
marine Spitir
indicate that26 June 1940, his Diren their cycle e of a Super
it 1. Early pictur 2. RAF
settlement, was done to secu ctive s 602 Squadron
1 atached to graphed in
the British rather than an occu re a peaceful MkII, photo 3.
Beauighter nightighter
was initiallyIsles. Consequently pation of the main RAF antial
, the Battle when it was ing the subst
incapacitate one of attrition, inten tower , show
lt for the
Chain Home
defence agai the RAF, leaving ded to proved diicu
Britain no structure which cantly damage
begin peac nst air attack and signii
e negotiati forced to Luftwafe to
publicised ons. 2
preparations Despite its high 3
es camera gun
was a last
resort, Ger , Operation Seal ly Film from Spitir
uitos 2. e Spitire, this 2
being well man ion k), with the
irst Havilland Mosq A Supermarin
aware of the naval oicers (Eagle Attac termed Adlertag delivered de y aircraft 3. ations by the
Adlerangrif towards enem
in an inva
sion of Brit diiculties inhe ive operations 1. A row of newly of tracer ammunition
ge tion (Used under
Messerschmit Specialist opertions were also con-
ain. rent day of ofens showing passa ic Aircraft Collec Messerschmit Bf 110 C-4 Specialist operathis period including;
The Batle (Eagle Day). Day until of the Histor g
delayed Eagle is FVBBM597 Hawker Bf 109E ducted durin s raid by 617 Squadron
Five main of Britain Bad weather gh attacks on the radar Supermarine Hurricane Mk.IIC 348mph
phases in 2 cant problems Spitire Mk V B 354mph the Dambuster’ ise) and the raid on
the Battle
are 13 August, althou 12 Augu st, resulting one of their most signii le amongst Characteristics 340mph 1,500mi (Operation Chast n, Den-
difer as to historians, although usually on the was in Copenhage
stations began air briely, targets in singly poor mora , 370mph 411mi
Gestapo HQ e target
originate the actual dates. ho authorities taken of the six st non-military in aircrat as was increa general. By 7 September Maximum speed 35,000 ft Carthage).h
again within
in three being being sent again s the Lutwafe
e to destroy
the 36,089ft mark (Operationraid was Gestapo
from the
Royal Air se given here were working of practical Midlands. Losse t lties and failur ing to abandon
26 June –
16 Force Mus although all led the lack Essex and the , with 102 German aircra aircrew casua Combat radius 36,000ft Pilot and observ of the Carth
age yed,
Raids), scatt July: Störangrife eum: hours. his revea ble to the Lutwafe, since ground led Goer the Blitz on 36,500ft Pilot hit and destro
(Nu were about equal ged for the loss of 110 RAF on the Service ceiling Pilot HQ, which was tunately, the raid also
involving ered, relatively light isance Number of squadr
intell igenc e availa tower s and yed or dama 40 of these attack s and begin
to recover. Pilot gh, unfor Catholic
small num raids ons 3
the robust radar the destro
rs, although
nearly the airield RAF stations s althou ed a nearby
both day
and night. bers of aircrat duri
Aircraft type they targeted and telephone lines from British ighte on the ground. Aircrew on, leaving the reements Crew of Britain ighter mistakenly attackin the deaths of 86
r Lond been disag teristics of Batle
17 July –
ng Fairey Batle not the powe which would have made were destroyed with the have
Although there the danger this period Performance charac ing
school, result and 39 adults.
(Shipping) August: Daylight 2 Role
sector statio
ns, s. Between more disparity, rs insisted
losses showed 160 aircrew and the RAF t of
and, modern schoolchildren
strategic target afe attacked over the exten

WIN A RIDE IN A h senior oice

attacks agai attacks now intensiie alkampf
Bristol Blenh Light bomb
6 eim sent on thes much better losing Fighter Comm RAF never Lutwafe, Britis ped formations based
nst port d, as
in some casee operations were st, the Lutw te Lutwafe only 29 casualties. presented to s to be that the NS
night raid s,
s on RAF coastal airields and
did Hawker Hurri Medium bomb 13 and 15 Augu some of the smaller satelli sustaining ned of in the
consensus seem to the destruction plann
tactics upon tight V-sha t, which only allowed OF OPERATIO
cane shot dow

er s whole
manufacturin stations and RAF to the Bf
109s. How squadrons being lost
n, lds,
coastal airie made further raids on Operations slacke and bad weath
really came close Fighter Command’s Fighters and in performance between er upon three aircra t any degree of all-ro
13 August g centres. aircrat aircraft deplo Fighter
air stations and as well as mounting the pilot fatigue he diferences the Spitire and the Hawk st CHASTISE AND
– 6 Sept
Number of squadr
yed to Fran
ce in 1940
the threat ever
of invasion , on 7 September day week due to suppl ied with inferi
by the Lutwafe. sed betwe en 3 August and gh the leading aircra d fatally lawed again tise
Operation Chas
chain again prove
(Eagle Atta emb er: Adle Aircraft type Bomber and caused both the radar
er of sorties
on a single and Goering, s on the radar aircrat actua
lly increa 1,906 the Bf 109 were marginal,
althou visibility and ienced Lutwafe afe. Many in
to to dest ck), the main assa rangrif 5 attacks on Coastal Comman highest numb 15 August. his includ ed abandoned attack from 1,769 to Hurricane MkIIighters were slightly more the more experciated the limitations of
this Aircraft on operat
roy the RAF ult intended Westland Channel ds to begi on
1. Mem ber of Obse intelligence, ing its huge
strategic value and 7 September r pilot numbers grew h
with inten
sive daylightin southern England 4 Lysander Role more succ port
essful, over s and these were
n of the Battle otte 5 (Air Fleetin Cent
5) on
ral Londonchain Corprealis
rver, not
s on duty st, concentrate
ines and ighte June and August the two Britis One major disadvantage the RAF appre new pilots now seeing 19 Lancasters
his prov Bristo
Tactical recon by Lutl loss of from 24 Augu mach en euvra ble. ed from with been on operation:
attacks l Blenheim naissance invasion 200 barges an attack in theBritain. Late duriinstea
ng thed,Bat and RAF 30% betwe nually mano h ighters sufer cut out system but it would have Aircraft lost
to draw the unsuccessful, so on airields. 4 and photo leet nd, resulting and le of t factories to by over ely 1,400 conti
graphic surve helped pers being sunk, whic of the northern Englaof total of 150 sent were the r in the
onsupp war OC. s on aircra
personneld attacks proved costly with approximatst and the irst weeks which both Britis e to for the irst time,to re-train them, 8 Lancasters
bombing ighters out, heav an attempt
in Hawker Hurri Strategic recon y
indeinitely. uade Hitler to canc h may have anlied withhis attack ines 1940, for the engin action
to attempt ties
of y
cane naissance 23 aircrat out underestimateJunk by Germers Ju 88, unifolds.
rmshe airiel
men and mach available durin
g Augu
never had was a tendency a steep dive because fuel problematic ication of the Aircrew casual
followed, ports and industrianight had also beguAttacks on British Sealion
el er
raid. In anoth was suggested that bomthe RAF twinairie 2.
terms of both . he Germans ency of up to into
when going of the carburettor under
the 1941, a modi killed
begi Total Fighter ber. With -engRAF
the ined in mediumof some Fleet Air Arm of September although by had been adopt
ed. Some 53
7 Septemb nning on 19 Aug l cities Total Luftw aircraft deployed to
AASF n alongsid ship
e the nuis ping Intelligence,
it by 17 the sam pilots, a deici rd Overy: was forced out ive-g, something which
did in hage
with cont er – 2 October: he ust.
afe aircra France by
but from
the middle serviceable ighte
Hers111letbut a1438beter bom the addit
bute rang
e as the alth pilots as well as
more than 1,200 Richa German system were introduced as well, Operation Cartion:
ft deployed RAF: 680 ighte intensiie of July thes ance raids had only 300 gh the actual igure aircraftwas b load onwe d Czech according to efects of negatthe fuel-injected Bf 109. y
tactical chang
es pt proposed Aircraft on operat Mustangs
London and l day and night Blitz begins,
during the
Batle of Franc rs and 392 bombers. d
ships and and produced a stea e raids
provble ed usefuland
Comm , this y experience one-third and he Few, the Big Wing conce implemented
raids agai e: 5,100 ighte Augu st, althou of
ines, twice those
1940 3. Mes in theraine d and highl
quickly overc
‘If Fighter Comm
and were not happen to Hurricane were also poorl particular the 20 Mosquitos,
30 P51
3 October other cities.
raids on thei
Overesti r covering aircrat. drain of
dy well-t raids
contingents fewer.’ -Mallory and on operation:
nst Britain rs and bomb
serviceable mach d by thisG10 optim istic serschmidt Bf
ans were less
r pilots were the Spitire and Browning .303 machine Traford Leigh . Keith Parkes, who Aircraft lost
bombing – 31 October: Larg
give their on
bomber crew 5 May, in order
Lutwafe mates of British losse Misle park ed on the y grasand Polish 109
fall. he Germ German ighte by and 2 P51
raid under batt to in July 1940. lands tostrip
aorder destro s bord short
ering obtaining replacemen
t pilots armed, the eight ng inefective against by Douglas Baderthe battle and Dowding Four Mosquitos
daylight attac s, mostly on Lon scale night le condition s the chance to train space betw intel
believe that ligence now led s by Goering gavevers ing . Thiss is this
guns oten provi over ties
don best bom s and disc een Dunkirk intelligence, airields in Kent ionand
of the aircr a fortun
later, fasteate and Aircraft ing that
t, trials show destroy an led 11 Grou p in ver, and his Aircrew casual
ighters into ks intended to lure , also b
efect, such load which achieved over the
of larger raid and the shipping both the nuisance
Goering to 4
the RAF’s main aternoon August. aft r Aircraft destroyed German aircra this tactic howe is said to have 9 aircrew killed
anti-aircrat s to train their own beginning
agaiof nst18 the Alliesthe which operated red to were against
he Lutwaf ghts.
intensity small raids increasin maximum
suiciently les had reduced
raids and
began in the
early both during the Dead/wounded/ in service s were requi Leigh-Mallory step down in
assess Ger crews as well as bein pilots and RAF num succe ssesinin
of Brita Batle Participating missing or captured 1,744 4,500 round opposition to Dowding to
e began cond from 18 May g target. Con to make their airi bers some German Prod (Usedthe unde Bfr 1,963 ine.
enemy mach RAF’s biggest disadvanta
ucting nuis attac , in man g able to elds Desp ite
ensuing dogi uctio
ghts, when GFD L) 4. aircrew been what forced
ance Brit ked Kent and York when 100 bombers he RAF tactics.
implemented sequently
, on 6 Aug an easy air raids and
n line build
ater using all so ing the Bf 109
1612/422/0 1,977
Perhaps the d of using
ish were also shire. military objealso began night a strat ust he withd raw 5,000 2,550
r tactics. Instea October 1940.
able to use However, the ctives and raids to destroy egy which 109s began to shooting down RAF 2,585/735/ 925 ber 1940 lay in its ighte inger formation of the


this breathin towns on
11 airields against 11
Essex, follo Group, defendin
was inten
ded Participatin
g fuel, the
RAF pounced, rschmitt Bf110 7,500 . 1 July-7 Septem the open, four
g success and May, although they in German unwieldy Messe bombers, Luftwafe the Batle of Britain 19

bombing wed by 12 and 13 Kent and aircrew
many of the ounded
fe casualties during issance and Coastal Command aircraft.
16 many of the had
Bristol Blen little could proc
of military
and econ
Groups, so
missin g Ju-87
ighters andor capturwere
/ Stuka dive
again in
Fighter Comm
and and Luftwa
bombers, reconna
heims eed omi Luftwafe
5,000 ed never usedinAircraf t includes ighters,
culminating unhindered over c targets that Stuka
the1612/4 22/0
m serviceess was
darkn Aircraft Total aircrew
in a majo Brit 7,500 By 6.30p
London. r bombing ain, s on Britain. s were losing 1,963their
he main attack on Fighter Com attack 2,585 /735/ 925attack
er groups 1918-2018
attack was mand and Luftw falling and the
afe casualtiesl intensity, only ive bomb
designated 2,550
100 YEAR Total aircre initia during the
w includes 1,977
S OF TH ighters, bombe Batle of Brita
THE RAF 1918
E RAF 191 rs, reconn
aissance and
in. 1 July-7 Sept
8-2018 Coastal Comm ember 1940
and aircra
ft. 100
100 YEAR
E RAF 191
8-2018 18


or by calling 01778 392027

Order today by visiting our website ICONIC
or by calling 01778 392027 A IR CRAFT
Sopwith Camel, Hurrica
Spitfire, Mosquito, Lan ne,

Win an original Junkers 87 drawing or one

of four signed copies of ‘Stuka Attack!’


chance for our readers In addition, four signed paperback with photographs and includes a
to win this stunning copies of ‘Stuka Attack!’, published by summary of all losses suffered by the
ORIGINAL drawing by Grub Street Publishing and authored Stuka force.
artist James Baldwin of by Iron Cross editor Andy Saunders, For a chance to win, simply answer
Junkers 87s under attack by Spitfires are waiting to be won. This book is the question below.
of 152 Squadron during the Battle of regarded as the definitive account of Good luck!
Britain in a spectacular work called Junkers 87 Stuka operations against
‘Stuka Party’. This drawing is unique. Britain during 1940. It carries detailed *Our thanks go to Grub Street
No prints of the artwork have been accounts of all the operations flown Publishing Ltd
reproduced from this drawing. during the Battle of Britain, is packed for supplying the prize books.


Entries close at midnight on
The winners will be drawn at QUESTION 26 February 2020. One entry
per person. To enter, you
random from those with the Who was the Luftwaffe’s leading Junkers 87 Stuka must answer the question
correct answer. ‘ace’ during the Second World War? correctly and entries
All you have to do is answer received after the closing
date will not be accepted.
the following question correctly ANSWER (A) Hauptmann Franz von Werra Full terms and conditions can
by going to: www.militaria- (B) Oberleutnant Karl-Heinz Bendert be found at www.militaria- (C) Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel


■ Josef Kister poses with
the unsuccesful Pfalz DXII
when serving with Jasta 1.
(Colour by RJM)


Above The Trenches

Part two of what it was like to fly and fight as an NCO pilot in the German Air Service is
brought to life in the diary of Josef Kister, translated by Rob Schäfer by kind permission
of Josef Kister’s granddaughter.
n the first part of Josef Kister’s diary, in Issue No 2 of
Iron Cross, we left him at the point of the scrap Jasta
1 had with French Spads of Escadrille N.87 on 3 July
1918 which ended in the death of Gefreiter Jakob Lux.
Until the middle of the month, things were relatively quiet
for Jasta 1 after their drubbing by the Spads – an event
which was partly attributable to the now unsuitable and
outclassed Albatros fighters. Across the few days following
the 3 July episode, Josef’s diary entries (set out below)
were somewhat sparse before activity began to pick up
again from the middle of the month:-

Firing from the air.

Lux buried in Magneux.

Having just arrived at the front I already had to turn back
as the radiator had ruptured and was losing lots of water.

10 JULY:
Quiet. Today in the evening we had guests (of Jasta 39).
We NCO pilots got nicely fueled up afterwards. I wasn’t
completely drunk, but couldn’t drink anymore.

11 JULY:
We move to Foufry. First I fly Leutnant Stein’s machine
over, then I return by car and fetch mine which is still
under repair. On our old field, I meet the “Kanone” Thom
and see my comrade Kühn from Lindenthal once again.

Leutnant Karl Thom and Vizefeldwebel (later Leutnant)

Max Kühn both served in Jasta 21, and both ended the war
as aces. Thom with 27 and Kuhn with 12 confirmed victories.
Leutnant Karl Thom was one of only four airmen to be
decorated both with the Prussian
Golden Military Merit Cross and
the Pour le Merite - the highest
gallantry awards for NCOs and

12 JULY:
Quiet. Practice shooting from
the air.

13 JULY:
The great “Kanone” Menkhoff
is with us as a guest. In the
evening, I want to fly a front
sortie but my engine is broken
again. Now the old kite is finally
thrown on the scrap heap.
Admittedly, I did have the worst

■ Leutnant Karl Thom. machine of the Staffel.



■ Pour le Merite holder Carl Menckhoff,

of Jasta 72, became one of the more
prolific German aces of the war with a
total score of 39 confirmed victories.
Twelve days after his visit to Jasta 1 he
was shot down and taken prisoner. ■ Carl Menckhoff poses with his personal Albatros.

Pour le Merite holder Carl Menkhoff of Jasta 72 became one

of the more prolific German aces of the war, with a total
score of 39 confirmed victories. Twelve days after his visit to
Jasta 1, he was shot down and taken POW. He was released
from French captivity on 23 August 1919.

17 JULY:
I am a bit lazy in terms of diary keeping. I guess that the
oppressive heat is to blame. Two days ago, we went onto
the offensive between Reims and Chateau-Thierry. Our
Staffel was tasked to secure the region from Chateau-
Thierry to Dorman. Actually one can’t really speak of
“securing”, as it is laughable to fly to the front in our
Albatros crates. If there were not so many Staffeln with
their Fokkers around here, then the French, or rather the
Americans, would already have taken care of us.
Yesterday, we were at the front with eight machines and
no matter how hard I tried, I couldn‘t keep up. At least
60-70 machines buzzed around at the front. At one time I
found myself below five Americans about 200-300 metres
above me. Bold as brass, I kept circling below them in
the hope that the approaching Fokkers would drive one
down in front of my nose where I could take care of him.
This favour wasn‘t granted to me. The party then quickly
moved elsewhere and I decided to rejoin our Kette. Even
though the enemy has better machines, we‘re still far
superior. Today or tomorrow, I will finally exchange my
oldie for a new one.

18 JULY:
■ Fokker D.VII aircraft of Jasta 72, this line-up of machines was at
Yesterday evening, I got myself a new machine from
Bergnicourt in 1918. The D.VII in the foreground is the personal mount Magneux. I flew back in a thunderstorm. The machine
of Carl Menckhoff. met with my approval. This evening, at 7:30, I could


Albatros D.V / D.Va
By mid-July 1918, Jasta 1 was operating
a mix of Albatros D.Va and even a handful
of the earlier D.V fighters. Even though
these models still formed the backbone
of German fighter units, they had already
been described as obsolete in the spring
of the previous year by none other than
Manfred von Richthofen, the legendary
Red Baron, when he wrote in April 1917:
“It is so obsolete and so ridiculously
inferior to the English that one can’t do
anything with this aircraft”. Richthofen
wrote this specifically about the Albatros
D.V, although the improved D.Va, in
the hands of a skilled and experienced
pilot, could still perform well in combat.
However, by June 1918 experienced
fighter pilots were becoming a rare

already take-off with the others. I flew on the right behind Finally, after having spent nearly all my ammunition, a big
the Rottenführer (Lt. Bussmann) and behind me was trail of smoke erupted from the machine. I was so close
Unteroffizier Borm whose flying was so abysmal that that I was shrouded in it and when I threw my machine
there were at least 10 times when I thought he would ram around, I had another of those big carts in front of my
me. We steered towards the front where the French had guns. I tapped this one as well, while it was at the same
broken through by about 8 to 10 kilometres. time being worked on by Vizefeldwebel Belz. After several
After we shipped around there for a while, 5 or 6 French shots my guns jammed. At this time ‘Monsieur’ Borm
twin-engined machines flew over our front in line abreast. positioned himself in front of my nose, so that I had to
We headed directly towards the gentlemen’s flank. break off to save myself from him.
Leutnant Bussmann though flew in a way which made it Thank God I found a few others from the Staffel
clear that he intended to attack them from the rear. We and hung myself on their tail. Due to all the turning
were at about 2,500 metres when I had one going past about, I didn’t know where I was anymore. Now I saw
my engine snout. So favourable was the opportunity that our Geschwader commander, Leutnant Bußmann, dive
I could not allow myself to miss it. I threw my machine down on a twin-seater which crashed into a forest. At
around and while pushing it down raced towards the this moment, my engine began to vomit and I realised
fellow hell bent for in horror that the main fuel tank had run empty. I only
leather. At about 100 had 25 litres in the emergency tank, which I switched to
metres I opened fire. immediately. Fifteen frightful minutes followed. I circled
They were not lazy, up to gain enough height to allow for a long gliding flight.
and tried to hit me No one felt more joy than me when I saw the home field
as well. That didn’t in the distance where I performed a safe landing. It then
end well for them. I became clear I had taken seven hits in the machine. One
pushed closer while pierced the first upper main spar. This could have been
shooting into the dangerous. Due to this, I have to take a break today.
observer seat. Soon,
their fire stopped. The machine he collected at Magnuex was most probably a
Like one possessed, brand-new Albatros D.Va
I kept shooting, but Kister’s victory on that day was a Caudron R.11 of
■ Leutnant Hans von Freden in the big kite was tough. Escadrille R.46 piloted by an American volunteer, Adjutant
the cockpit of his blue and red Turning all the time, Glenn Nelson Sitterly, who managed to land his badly
Albatros. He scored four victories
while flying for Jasta 1. He died
he tried to get away. mauled machine behind French lines. One of his gunners
after contracting influenza in But it was to no avail, (whose name is unknown) survived – albeit wounded. The

October 1919. I stayed on his tail. rear gunner, Sergeant Marcel Faivre, had been killed by



Pfalz D.XII
The Pfalz D.XII first appeared on the western front in the First World
War shortly after the June 1918 fighter trials held at Adlershof,
Germany, and was built as a replacement for the outdated Albatros
and Pfalz D.III fighters and Fokker Dr.I triplane. Powered by a six-
cylinder, 180-horsepower, water-cooled, in-line Mercedes D.IIIa engine
it climbed well and performance in level flight was comparable if
not up fully equal to that of the Fokker D.VII. Because of its sturdy
construction, it could dive faster and steeper than the D.VII, but could
not turn as well and was sluggish in combat. Furthermore, it was
difficult to land, and many accidents were caused by a weakness of
the landing gear. The first five examples reached German Flugparks
on 30 June 1918, with numbers rising to 168 machines by August
1918. Yet the machine failed to impress. Early models had a tendency
overheat in summer temperatures and ground crews found it difficult
to service and repair. Due to it’s flight characteristics it was turned
down by some Jastas. While Kister fails to explain what made the
Pfalz D.XII ‘unsuitable’, there an account by the technical officer of
Jasta 71, Joachim von Hippel, who evaluated the Pfalz thoroughly
with devastating results. According to him, the aircraft had a poor rate
of climb. It lost speed too quickly in a turn, losing too much altitude
as a result. During climbing turns it was prone to slip into a spin from
which it was difficult to recover. Take-off was too long and landing
was difficult. In addition, the undercarriage was weak - a fault that was
■ A German observation balloon pictured by Josef Kister. His brother, Karl,
fixed from late October 1918.
served with a balloon unit and it is possible that Josef took this photograph
when he visited him.

Kister’s fire. For his actions on 18 July, Sitterly was mentioned 26 JULY:
in French Dispatches on 12 August: “Pilote de grande valeur, Move to Maizy and Ausne. We are in the former location
remarquablement adroit, courageux et calme. Attaqué par une of a French observation balloon which had had its home
patrouille de quinze appareil ennemis, a vaillamment soutenu here before the offensive. It‘s very nice here. After we
le choc, permettant aux avions qu’il protégeait d’accomplir leur return from the front, we take a bath in the canal. I
mission. Ayant eu, au cours du combat, ses deux mitrailleurs receive the Flugzeugführer-Abzeichen (pilot’s badge). I
blessés et son aéroplane croblé de balles, est parvenu néanmoins led a Rotte to the front. When I decide to head home in a
à regagner nos lignes.” glide, the engine loses so much oil that it splatters all over
Leutnant Bußmann was credited with a victory over a Spad my goggles and I can’t see anything anymore. I lose my
fighter, his third and final victory of the war. orientation and land at the field of the Bavarian Flieger-
Abteilung 246 in Nizy le Comte. As I have not a single
19 JULY: drop of fuel left, I asked for some and then flew home
I hope my luck keeps up. where I had already been put down as missing.
Move from Foufry to Move to Sissone. Our quarters are good, but the rations
Bazoches near Fismes. We are most mediocre. We return seven Pfalz D. XII and
receive new Pfalz D.XIII. The receive Fokker D.VII instead. The machine is exceptional.
machine proves itself to be Sadly, we have six new pilots who have yet no clue about
unsuited for the front. Geschwader flying. We are expected to keep an eye on the
enemy while orientating ourselves. Yet with pilots such as
this, that is virtually impossible.
■ Adjutant Glenn Nelson Sitterly
was assigned to Escadrille C. 9 AUGUST:
46 and flew combat missions I led a Rotte of six machines to the front. It was very
at the front. He was shot down
cloudy. Because of this, I tried to wiggle my way through
by Josef Kister near Villers-
Cotterets in July 1918, but the cloud banks and had just arrived at the front when
remained uninjured. A fellow pilot I realised I‘d lost all my companions. Only Leutnant
said: “Sitterly is reticent about Retzbach was still with me. We had flown too far behind
recounting his experiences, and it the French lines and now received good and strong Flak
is only by seeing his uniform, torn
by shrapnel and bullets, that one
fire. Leutnant Retzbach pulled his machine upwards
can realise the narrow escapes he and disappeared into the clouds. I was now alone and
has had.” had no idea where I was. I used my compass and flew


■ Josef Kister posing for the camera after his
promotion to Offiziers-Stellvertreter, or Acting
Officer. In this photograph he is wearing his
Flugzeugführerabzeichen (pilot’s badge) which
was awarded to him on 26 July 1918. German
pilots did not automatically receive the badge
on qualification as a pilot, but only after having
completed a period of operational service.

stubbornly to the north where I passed our lines east of 13 AUGUST:

Reims. I thanked my creator when I regained orientation. Around 11 o’clock in the morning, we take off a second time
One after the other, everyone returned home - except to catch the bomber squadrons which unload their big
Leutnant Retzbach who only arrived at five in the boulders in the area. When I was at 3,600 metres, I saw the
morning after having landed at Verdun. shell bursts of our Flak batteries when the first Geschwader
of six machines was coming towards us. At a distance of
11 AUGUST: about 1,000 metres, the second Geschwader of six machines
We move to Emericourt near Douai. At about 8 o’clock, followed. Our Rottenführer (Lt. Bussmann) pushed past
we left from Sissonne and arrived at 9 o’clock. During the first Geschwader heading towards the second. I was
landing, Unteroffizier Borm rammed his Fokker into a in the last position of our Rotte. I pulled my machine up,
closed hangar door, wrecking the nice machine. With and began spraying the first three machines of the leading
this location, we‘ve made a good deal. Our landing field Geschwader - even though I was still 300 to 400 metres
is only two minutes from the chateau in which we‘re away. After not more than 100 rounds, one of them tumbled
living. Never before have we lived in more comfort and
tranquillity. No disturbance from columns of lorries and

Unteroffizier Gustav Borm, who doesn’t come off very well

in Kister’s diary, would score his first victory (RE 8) on 22
August 1918. On 27 September, he shot down two enemy
aircraft - one of them a Sopwith Dolphin of 19 Sqn, piloted
by Captain Cecil Vernon Gardner DFC, by this time an ace
with 10 confirmed victories. Borm ended the war with a
total of five victories. Promoted to Leutnant in November
1918, he rejoined the Luftwaffe in 1933, briefly in command
of 10.(N)/ Jagdgeschwader 72 in October and November
1939. In April 1941, now holding the rank of Major, he
was given command of the Frontflieger-Sammelstelle
in Quedlinburg. On 1 March 1944, he was promoted to
Oberstleutnant (Lt.Col.). He was registered missing in ■ Kister, Veddeler (left) and an unidentified comrade relaxing on

action in the vicinity of Dresden in May 1945. folding chairs on the airfield at Maizy, July 1918.



■ NCO pilots of Jasta

1 pose in front of
their elegant billet at
Chateau Mericourt.

downwards to my altitude. I concentrated on him until I‘d pilots to misidentify Sopwith Dolphin fighters as two-
fired all of my ammunition. As he was swaying alarmingly, I seaters. So far, it was thought that he had been shot down by
kept behind him to await his crash. The observer was either Hermann Leptien of Jasta 63. At the time of his death, Hewat
dead or wounded as he did not fire anymore. I followed the had 6 victories to his credit.
Englishman to the north of Cambrai when I was attacked by
a second one. I could only just throw my machine around 17 AUGUST:
when smoke trails of incendiary munitions whizzed past At about 11:30 we took of with six machines towards the
me. I had just shaken him off when I had the next one on front. The Rotte flew together quite well until Unteroffizier
my back. I shook him off as well. During all this turning, I‘d Schneider, like a maniac, kept switching positions - flying on
lost orientation and my goggles were so smeared with oil the left, then on the right, sometimes above and then again
that I couldn‘t see anything. After two emergency landings below the Rotte. One was kept busy enough keeping an eye
on abandoned airfields, I arrived home two hours after the on a man like him, before even thinking about an enemy or
others. orientation. Single enemy flyers took quickly to their heels.
Above Douai, Unteroffizier Staudacher left the formation
14 AUGUST: and flew home. Soon afterward, Leutnant Dreese headed
Four of us flew to the front. At Arras, an enemy two-seater back as well. When I was in the process of taking his position
attacked us. It was seemingly coming from behind our I saw a Geschwader below us and Leutnant Bußmann was
lines. We turned the tables, and after a brief fight he was already heading towards it. I was on his side and had set my
shot down in flames by Unteroffizier Staudacher. This sights on one of them. As my goggles were full of oil I could
Englishman I can only describe as a big idiot. Foolhardy not see the machine clearly. Leutnant Bußmann finally broke
taking on a Kette of four single-seaters with a two-seater off the attack when the enemy machines disappeared in
carrying valuable intelligence. the cloud bank below us where everything was completely
Even though he claimed to have shot down a Bristol F.2b, it is overcast. Bußmann had lost orientation, so we made a
more probable that Staudacher’s victim (his first confirmed intermediate landing south of Lille at Jasta 23. Here, we
victory) was Lt. Richard Alexander Hewat of 87 Sqn who went fuelled-up and flew home. Sadly Leutnant Dreese had
missing flying Dolphin E4434. It was common for German smashed-up his nice Fokker during an emergency landing.


■ Although not mentioned by Kister, Jasta 1 was one of the first Jastas to receive a
number of Fokker E.V monoplanes in August 1918. Later redesignated D.VIII, and dubbed
the “Flying Razor” by Allied pilots, it was a powerful and modern design. Those of Jasta
1, such as this one piloted by Leutnant Liebig, were painted in lozenge camouflage and
sported a red engine cowling.

18 AUGUST: 22 AUGUST 1918:

At around 10 o’clock, we received orders from the At half past ten, we start on a hunting flight with six
Jagdgruppe to take off as there were enemy flyers machines. Near Bapaume we were at about 4,500
loitering about at the front. It was very stormy weather metres. Wherever one looked, everywhere over the
with heavy cloud. Behind Cambrai, Leutnant Braming, on front, Englishmen were buzzing around. Most of them in
his first flight to the front, left the Rotte and flew home. Geschwaders of seven to 15 machines. This cheered my
Now there were only three of us. Leutnant Retzbach, heart, as it meant there would certainly be combat. In
Unteroffizier Staudacher and me. Behind Arras, we were front of us, there was a swarm of 15 to 20 machines. We
at an altitude of about 4,500 metres when Staudacher flew straight at them. In the mirror, I saw that the man
initiated a steep dive. We followed, but I couldn‘t see behind me tried to push past and on my left Unteroffizier
anything. Soon, were were down to 500 metres and 10 Staudacher, in the process of attacking, zoomed across
km behind enemy lines. Staudacher claimed to have the Geschwader leader. I always found Staudacher to be
forced down an enemy machine. I have seen nothing a sympathetic partner in combat, so I followed him at
of the sort. What I saw, though, is that we received an maximum speed. Soon we were sitting right within the
infernal amount of Flak. I could just see the other two English party.
pull up to disappear into cloud. For a while, I continued Staudacher, staying ahead, had already engaged one of
to fly around at the front without meeting the others. them and I came just in time to see an Englishman trying
When I returned home, they had already landed, but to get at him from the rear. He had not even seen me and
each on his own. Leutnant Braming had lost his way so stayed nicely still. I fixed my sights on him, and had
heading deep into Belgium, only returning at 9 o’clock in only briefly activated my bullet injector when he burst
the evening. into flames. Immediately, I threw my machine around and
could not believe my eyes as suddenly another champion
Even though Kister saw nothing, Staudacher was credited of the same kind dangled in front of my nose. I opened fire
with shooting down an R.E.8. His victim was a DH.4 of 107 again. This one made more trouble and wriggled around
Sqn crewed by Lieutenant Herbert Cecil Curtis and 2nd like an eel, but it was to no avail. After some to-and-fro,

Lieutenant Frederick George Davies. Both were killed. he somersaulted downwards. By then I‘d gone down 500


Fascinated to discover
your family story?
from just

17th &18th april 2020
alexandra palace Live

Find all you need for a great day out

in partnership with
researching your roots
Tracing stories & making memories...

Artwork by Dawn Monks Military Art

metres and now pulled up with all my might, as above me to land on the airfield about 30-35 kms away. Shortly
battle was still raging. afterwards, a car pulled up and 10 minutes later I was on the
Soon, I attached myself to one of them and in my mind operating table in Aniche. From here, I was taken to Germany
I could already see my third opponent fall, when suddenly in an ambulance train that same evening.
the first and then the second machine gun jammed. I
quickly buggered off, having been robbed of my means of Even though Kister claimed two victories during the
combat. Finally, I managed to get one to shoot again and engagement, he was credited with only one - a Bristol F.2b over
just as I fired the first trial rounds, it suddenly hails down Courcelles. His comrade, Staudacher, was credited with the
heavily onto my machine. Instinctively, I pull up and find destruction of a SE 5a, while Gustav Borm shot down an RE.8.
myself between about eight Englishmen. With my single
gun, I let rip as much as I can. Then, suddenly, one dives
in from above towards my flank - coming very close and REVOLUTION
firing all the time. Before I can take evasive action, I feel On 6 November 1918, I was released from the Reserve
a massive blow against my right knee and a hear a nasty Hospital in Essen and drove to Grossenhain. The whole
smacking sound. I know I‘m hit. German Reich was swaying along its seams. Our fronts
I let myself fall vertically downwards. This way, I get were withdrawing everywhere. We were facing the break
down to about 1,000 meters when I pull up again before up of Germany. When I wanted to continue my journey
throwing some right and left turns to shake off potential to Berlin, train traffic had been halted. On the following
followers. Up until then, I had no time to look behind as I evening, I only got as far as Dresden where I arrived at
had to concentrate on handling the machine which took midnight. On the platform, revolutionary soldiers entered
all the skill I could muster. When I looked back, I saw they the waggons, disarming officers and soldiers and tearing
had broken off the chase. About 1,000 metres away, though, off their cockades and shoulder boards. Some nasty scenes
I saw a machine heading directly towards me. As it was were played out, as many tried to resist. These so-called
alone, and I had the advantage of height, I headed towards “Red Guards” were mostly boys, still wet behind the ears,
it - even though I was in severe pain. When I came closer, I who had seen nothing of war. With a comrade, I managed,
recognized my Staffel commander. Now I tried to orientate unscathed, to reach the Hotel Continental at the station.
myself and as I looked at the compass I found it was filled The following morning, fulfilling the wishes of the hotel
with blood. When I saw all that blood, the pain got so bad director, we left our weapons in the hotel and drove to
that I nearly lost consciousness. But I clenched my teeth as Grossenhain. Here, a soldier’s council had been formed
I wanted to reach the airfield. Every moment I thought: now and everything went haywire. After eight days I was granted
it is over! Only by mustering all my willpower did I manage leave from which I never returned”.



The German steel helmet is arguably one of the most iconic objects from both of the
World Wars. Here, Robin Schäfer looks at the First World War Stahlhelm.

parked by the fact that the and was also the advising surgeon in TRIALLED AT VERDUN
French Army began to be the XVIII Army Corps. On 13 August Soon, it became clear that the Juncker
equipped with steel helmets on 1915, a report on his experiences with company was unable to work with
a large scale, and after a number brain trauma and cranial injuries the modern chrome nickel steel
of unsuccessful attempts to come caused by metal shell splinters was that Schwerd’s helmet design was
up with an efficient helmet design, passed on to the Prussian Ministry of supposed to be made from and so
German efforts to equip its troops with War. In it, he urged the development production work had to be taken
better head protection were reinitiated of a new kind of protective helmet over by Eisenhüttenwerk Thale,
in the summer of 1915 when the and recommended the use of an arms producer that had mainly
Gewehr Prüfungskommission (Rifle Professor Friedrich Schwerd as an been working to supply the Navy.
Testing Commission) was ordered to expert on the subject matter. Bier’s A few weeks later, a batch of 100
start trials. Meanwhile, on 14 August request, supported by Professor von new steel helmets were ready to be
1915, C.E.Juncker of Berlin was ordered Schjerning, the Surgeon-General trialed on the army shooting ranges
to manufacture a helmet made of of the Army, and General Erich von of Kummersdorf near Berlin where,
special Krupp steel. Falkenhayn, Chief of General Staff subjected to the effects of shrapnel
A major force in the development of the Field Army, was immediately artillery fire, they performed far better
of the iconic German Stahlhelm taken into account by the War Ministry than a number of French and British
(or Stahlschutzhelm) came in the and, on 1 September 1915, Professor helmet designs tested for comparison.
person of Privy Medical Officer Prof. Schwerd, tenured professor of the After a further X-Ray evaluation, the
Dr. August Bier. Bier served as naval Technical University of Hannover, was Prussian War Ministry decided to put
Marine-Generalarzt (equivalent to called to Berlin to serve as a metallurgy the Schwerd design into production
brigadier general in the medical corps) expert. on 23 November 1915. In the first

■ This group of German soldiers occupy a shell crater position near Arras
in 1917 and display an interesting early attempt to camouflage the
Stahlhelm. (Brett Butterworth)
■ A drawing of a soldier wearing the M16 ■ An original sturmriemen and fastener for the ■ Detail of an original fastener for the M16.
helmet by the artist Wilhelm Hoeck. (RS) liner of the M16 helmet. (Christoph Höpfer) (Christoph Höpfer)

During the fighting at Verdun, the helmet was worn by the Sturmabteilung with
great confidence and has protected many from head injury. The infantry envied the
Sturmabteilung for the helmets. A number of helmets were stolen from the

Sturmabteilung by the infantry. From the field experience report of Sturmabteilung (later
Sturmbataillon) Rohr

step, an order of 30,000 helmets was THE MODELS

placed. These were to be trialed by STAHLSCHUTZHELM M.1916
German troops in the lines at Verdun, The helmet introduced in the German
their experiences to then decide the Army featured two hollow suspension
uptake, or not, of mass production. bolts (horns) which served two
With feedback from the frontline purposes: they aided ventilation and
being more than positive, 1.2 million air circulation inside the helmet and
helmets were duly ordered in April served as hinges for the Stirnschild
1916. (brow shield). Inside, it sported the
From April 1916 to the end of July Innenausstattung 16 (Liner 16) which
■ A faked ‘mimikri’ helmet which has been 1916, the first 260,000 helmets were was attached to the helmet shell by
perfectly executed and ‘aged’. (Christoph Höpfer)
distributed on the Western Front, three splints. The liner consisted of a
the majority going to 2. Armee on the leather ring which had three leather
Somme and to 5. Armee at Verdun. flaps attached to it. The lower side
By then, not every German soldier of each flap had a small pillow (filled
received a Stahlhelm. They were with horsehair or straw) sewn onto
made part of the fixed equipment in it. Two metal buttons on the inside
the trenches: those troops manning of the helmet (Knopf 91 or Button 91)
a trench could make use of them allowed the attachment of the leather
and when they left, the helmets were chin strap which was also used on the
left behind for new units moving leather helmet (or Pickelhaube).
in. On 4 August 1916, another batch
was delivered, but it would take until STAHLSCHUTZHELM M. 1917
February 1918 until all frontline and The outer shell of the M.17 was
■ A rare original ‘mimikri’ (mimicry) steel
replacement units could be thoroughly identical to the M.16 model, the only
helmet, this example sporting a rare three- supplied. But even then, troops serving difference being found in the liner.

colour scheme. (Philippe Oosterlinck) in Germany had to make do to without. With leather supplies running short,



the leather ring was replaced with one

made from steel.

Certain complaints made by the troops
were addressed with the 1918 model
of the Stahlhelm. On this example,
and to offer a more secure fit, the
Button 91 assembly was dropped and
the chinstrap directly fixed to the
steel liner ring. The factory paint was
improved and changed to a lighter tone
which was less reflective and offered
better camouflaging properties. ■ Front and rear views of the M17 stahlhelm. (Christoph Höpfer)
The third and most noticeable
improvement came in the form of a
variant of the M18. PAINT AND PAINT SCHEMES (like those used on the leather helmet)
The standard colour of the M16 and were never generally issued and
STAHLSCHUTZHELM MIT M17 helmets was field grey, which limited production ceased quickly
OHRENAUSSCHNITT M. 1918 in the First World War was in fact due to material shortages. Textiles
Introduced in limited numbers in a grey-green rather than pure grey. also soaked up water and aided
August 1918, this version of the helmet This was found to be highly reflective, the formation of rust. A certain
(with ear cut-outs) is today commonly and so troops often modified their number of white snow camouflage
described as a cavalry or signals helmets by applying a further thin covers were issued in January 1917.
helmet. This is incorrect. layer of paint mixed with sand or by German High Command ordered
Starting with the introduction of the smearing it with mud. Cloth covers trials of various forms of paint and
helmet in 1916, complaints were heard
regarding the impaired hearing of
the wearer and auricle sounds (sound
reverberating on the inner side of MANUFACTURERS CODES AND MARKS
the helmet which were projected and MAKER NAME/CITY MAKER CODE SIZES
enhanced by the outer ear). To counter INSIDE HELMET PRODUCED
this, the new version of the helmet ■ Gebrüder Bing A.G., Nürnberg G.B.N 64
featured a crescent-shaped cut out
■ F.C. Bellinger, Fulda B.F. 62,64
over the area covering the wearer’s ear.
■ J. & H. Kerkmann, Ahlen/Westfalen K. 64
Even though the few helmets of this
type to see service in the First World ■ Gebrueder Gnüchtel A.G., Lauter i./Sa. G. 62

War were primarily issued to men ■ Vereinigte Deutsche Nickelwerke,

serving on sentry duty, or on observing Schwerte i/Westf. – N.J. N.J 62

or listening posts (who would change ■ R. Lindenberg A.G., Remscheid-Hasten “Bell” logo 64
back to the ‘regular’ M16/17/18 during ■ Körting & Mathiesen, Leutsch /Leipzig K&M 66,68
normal service), it was planned to issue ■ Hermann Weissenburger & Co.,
this version to all troops replacing all Stuttgart-Canstatt W. 66
previous models. This version also ■ C. Thiel & Söhne, Luebeck T.J. 66, 68
sported a totally new kind of paint, ■ Eisenhüttenwerke Thale A.G., Thale /Harz E.T. 60-68
created by mixing it with wood dust ■ Siemens & Halske A.G., Siemenstadt Berlin superimposed S over H 60
which created a durable and non-
■ Eisenhütte Silesia, Paruschowitz Oberschlesien Si 62,66
reflective coating.
■ F.W. Quist, Esslingen/Neckar Q 66
NOTES: • Helmets were made in sizes 60 to 68. A few size 70 helmets are known to exist.
• Inside the dome of every helmet will be found a lot code indicating the steel
NOTES ON TYPES supplier. Each helmet passing rigorous inspection protocols was marked with
Nearly all M18 cut-out helmets on the an ink stamp inside the rear flange. It consists of cojoined letters, A and K, (for
market today are fakes. Originals are Abnahmekommando – or Proofing Command). Today, these have often faded or
marked with a maker‘s stamp of ET64 in worn-off completely. Inside the rear flange, some soldiers marked their name and
unit designation, making them wonderful objects for further research.
Gothic script. The lot number inside the
helmet dome should start with an R.


■ An original liner for the M17 stahlhelm. ■ This near-perfect M17 stahlhelm has the impact
(Christoph Höpfer) mark from a shrapnel ball. (Christoph Höpfer) ■ An original fabric cover for the stahlhelm. (RS)

The drawback that the steel helmet is shiny, especially when wet in the light of
the moon and in that of signal flares, has been known here for while. Yet the wish
for helmet covers cannot be granted at the moment due to current shortages of
fabric. Trials of various paints are currently being conducted. Until a solution is
found, the troops have to help themselves by covering the helmets with soil. This
has been successfully done numerous times.
” Prussian War Ministry 23 March 1917

camouflage schemes on machine German helmets used during the millions of helmets of issued from
guns and artillery pieces in May 1918, First World War were, from the start, 1916 onwards, camouflage pattern
while at the same time new paint designed to aid camouflage. They steel helmets are a rarity. Yet the
types were developed which would never sported rank or unit insignia. All collector‘s market of today seems to
find use on the few M18 helmets helmets found on the market today imply the opposite, as Buntfarben
distributed in the final months of the sporting machine gunners badges, helmets seem to be easily available.
war. The results of the camouflage skulls or eagles are modern creations. It is important to know, though,
trials were used to formulate a new They continue to fool the collecting that from the end of the war, Allied
and generalised paint scheme which world and often fetch premium soldiers’ demands for this type of
found widespread use from July 1918 prices. The only exception to that helmet was enormous. Troops of the
onwards for steel helmets, machine rule are some Prussian Guard units AEF were especially fond of them,
guns and artillery. The new three- who certainly used a black and white so fond in fact that they were willing
colour scheme, or Buntfarbenanstrich shield (Hohenzollern coat of arms) to pay premium prices for their
(ochre, green and brown) was found on the side of their helmets from late acquisition. This led to the creation of
to be effective even at close range. 1916 onwards. How widespread this war-trophy counterfeits where - in the
Fields of colour had to be separated modification was it is hard to tell, yet case of helmets - camouflage patterns
by a black line, one finger-wide, a lack of surviving photographic and were applied onto the less ‘collectable’
to avoid them blending into one documentary evidence implies that it field grey versions. This was done by
another. On the front side of a was a rare occurrence. local French and Belgian civilians,
helmet, not more than four fields of The same applies to the but also by soldiers themselves. The
colour were to be visible. Buntfarbenanstrich. When this new most famous being none other than
Variations of the official three-colour scheme was introduced the young Walt Disney, the future
Buntfarben scheme are also known in July 1918, only four months before father of Mickey Mouse, who served
to exist and the colour scheme of a the end of the war, and even although in France with the Red Cross. The
Stahlhelm greatly influences its price the scheme was widespread, the appeal of camouflage helmets has not
and collectability. Here, the basic rule majority of frontline troops retained lessened, and neither have forgeries
of “the more original paint remains helmets issued to them before that stopped being made. Collectors have
the better” applies. Yet there are a few date and in the old field grey schemes. to take the greatest of care and should
important remarks to make here. In general terms, and looking at the only buy from trusted sources.



Quite literally, this poster proclaimed that ‘Light air offensive against the German homeland.
Is Your Death’ and depicted a bomb falling from Licht Dein Tod! To those on the ground, the attackers were
an Allied bomber onto a house showing a light. understandably portrayed by the powers-
Meanwhile, a skeleton representing Death looks that-be as ‘Terrorflieger’ (terror fliers), and this
on menacingly. average death toll across Germany between poster succinctly portrays that ‘terror’ element
This dramatic poster reinforced the message July 1944 and January 1945 being a staggering through the sinister skeletal enemy raining
as to the importance of maintaining a blackout 13, 536 per month. Little wonder, then, that air down death and destruction. In this context, of
– something which was universal on both sides raid precautions were matters of the utmost course, the specific nocturnal adversary would
of the conflict. For the British, the equivalent importance in Germany. Indeed, it wasn’t just have been aircraft of RAF Bomber Command
message would have been: ‘Put That Light Out!’ cities which fell victim to the Allies’ strategic since the USAAF bombers operated only by day.
For the German population, however, it was a bombing, with medium and small-sized towns Nevertheless, the aircraft depicted in this image
message that had special resonance given the also targeted, including places like Darmstadt, might loosely be intended to represent a B-17 of
devastating scale of the Allied air attacks on Magdeburg, Chemnitz, Aschersleben and the USAAF – particularly given the star emblem
towns and cities with an estimated 410,000 Freudenstadt and even villages like Dollbergen, beneath the aircraft’s wings.
German civilians being killed during air raids. the latter because of a nearby oil refinery. Attributed to the artist ‘Schmitt’, the poster
In Hamburg alone, for instance, about 49,000 Of course, the Allied strategic bombing was issued specifically in the Gau Oberrhein
people died and another 35,000 perished in campaign ultimately involved the USAAF’s 8th Air region rather than more widely across Germany.
Berlin, while in Dresden between 1st and 14th Force by day and the RAF’s Bomber Command by It was published in 1942 by Oberrheinischer
February 1945 some 20,000 died with the night, thus creating an almost round-the-clock Gauverlag und Druckerei.


Warwick and Warwick have an expanding requirement for British and Worldwide uniforms, edged weapons,
badges, headgear, firearms, antique arms/armour and militaria. Our customer base is increasing dramatically
and we need an ever larger supply of quality material to keep pace with demand. The market has never been
stronger and if you are considering the sale of your militaria, now is the time to act.

We will provide a free,
professional and without
obligation valuation of your
collection. Either we will
make you a fair, binding
private treaty offer, or we will recommend
inclusion of your property in our next
specialist public auction.

We can arrange insured transportation of your collection to our
Warwick offices completely free of charge. If you decline our offer, we ask
you to cover the return carriage costs only.

ourvaluers are
valuers possible
are anywhere
possible anywhere in the
in country or abroad,
the country or abroad,
in order to assess more valuable collections. Please phone for
usually within 48 hours, in order to value larger collections. details.
Please telephone for details.

We arestaging
staging aa series
series of
of advisory
advisory days
days and willthe
across beentire
the following towns within the next few weeks,
Please visit our website or telephone for further details.

Please visit our website or telephone for further details.

Because of the strength of our customer base we
are in a position to offer prices that we feel sure
will exceed your expectations.

Telephone or email Richard Beale today
with details of your property.

Warwick & Warwick Ltd.

Auctioneers and Valuers
Chalon House, Scar Bank, Millers Road,
Warwick CV34 5DB
Tel: 01926 499031 Fax: 01926 491906

Potrebbero piacerti anche