WIKING RUF Europäische Freiwilligen in der Waffen-SS
What did happen in 1943?
More units, also Pz.Abt.5 arrive at Kuberle. At noon the entire Abt. is complete and arrives after a night march, on the 2nd January Simowniki in the morning.
- I./Nordland fights in the Remontnaja area;
- Inf.Rgt. Westland fights in the Simowniki area.
During one of the many counter attacks, 2./SS-Pz.Abt.5 finds 5 new Pz.III 7,5cm Lang with internal heater system, once belonging to the 23.Pz.Div. On order of the new Division Kdr. Oberführer Gille, the 5 Pz.III's are returned to the 23.Pz.Div.
On the 7th January, 2./SS-Pz.Abt.5 counter attacks in the area of operations of the 17.Pz.Div. On the next day LVII.Pz.Korps has found a defensive line, 17.Pz.Div in the north, Wiking in the middle and 23.Pz.Div in the south. Russian forces advance to the town of Olowka, which is held by Inf.Rgt. Westland. North of it around Kammennaja Balka, are parts of Nordland.
Pz.Gren.Div Wiking positioned in the line Kundrjutscheskij-Sundowa.
Heavy fighting around Kundrjutscheskij by Staf. Jürgen Wagner's Inf.Rgt. Germania.
Wiking's left wing is pushed back, Russian forces reach Shurawleff before they are pushed back.
During the bitter fighting around Orlowka, both Stubaf. Harry Polewacz (Rgt.Kdr. Westland) and Stubaf. Frhr. von Hadeln (Btl.Kdr. I./Westland) are killed in action!
Wiking in the center of battle; Rgt. Nordland in the north, with 17.Pz.Div., II./Nordland in Grakow and I./Nordland in Krasn Snamja. III./Nordland still on route from the Caucasus, at this moment around Proletarskaja. In the middle Rgt. Westland and one of its battalions near Donskoj and one in Renitschanskij. In the south, Rgt. Germania in the Romanow area.
Many snowstorms and freezing temperatures below zero.
In the wake of the 14th, Russian forces find and expand a gap between Wiking and the 23.Pz.Div in the direction of Proletarskaja. Krasnoje Snaja is part taken by the Russians, Wiking prepares for the counter attack...
14.35 hrs: III./Nordland recieves orders to strenghten I./Nordland
15.05 hrs: 11./Nordland marches towards I./Nordland. Krasnoje Snaja is 2/3 taken by 8 tanks and 400 men.
16.15 hrs: 11./Nordland with I./Nordland attack and forces the Russians to give up Krasnoje Snaja. They leave around 200 men behind. 11./Nordland loses 2 KIA and 13 WIA.
For example: Ustuf. Ertel's 9./Nordland, reports that his current company strength is down to 35 men...
Pz.Gren.Div Wiking in Proletarskaja bridgehead.
Succesfull counter attacks on Sowchose I, southwest of Proletarskaja, by SS-Pz.Abt.5 and parts of SS-Pi.Btl.5. On the 17th and 18th January large Russian forces overrun Stubaf. Max Schäfer's SS-Pi.Btl.5, at the last moment elements of Wiking's Pz.Abt. prevent the total collapse in and around Stalinsky.
In the Proletarskaja bridgehead, Westand and Germania fight off numerous attacks. The situation by Nordland stays relatively calm around Manytsch...
At 18th January Russian attacks and penetrate the lines of the weakened 17.Pz.Div, by using the frozen Manytsch for its infantry. 17.Pz.Div alarms Wiking, which has Germania and Westland bound in their positions. Only III./Nordland can support counter measures at this moment.
From KtB III./Nordland:
I./Nordland relieves III./Nordland, which marches at 21.30 hrs to Schablijewka. Here 9./Nordland secures village.
06.05 hrs, battalions reaches southwest Jekaterinowka and contacts Pz.Gren.Rgt.40. Enemy strenght about 1,000 men with heavy weapons.
07.40 hrs, left 10./Nordland with 2 tanks and one StuG and 11./Nordland with 2 tanks, one StuG and the VB 12./SS-Art.Rgt.5 ready.
09.00 hrs, attack starts in northern direction.
10.00 hrs, Kp.Chef 10./Nordland Hstuf. Porsch KIA, replaced by Ostuf. Pohjanletho.
10.15 hrs, enemy movement from Kolchose, 2 km to the east.
10.30 hrs, about 600 men counter attack on 10./Nordland, which is neutralized.
11.35 hrs, remaining forces of the Pi.Zuges reinforce 10./Nordland.
12.15 hrs, another enemy attack, consist of around 400 men from the northeastern part of the village.
12.45 hrs, attack neutralized.
13.00 hrs, several attacks follow without results. Russian lost about 300 men and 160 POW's, included a battalion commander. Own losses 1 Führer, 3 Unterführer and 5 men KIA, 24 WIA's.
07.55 hrs, reinforced with 2 tanks 10./Nordland attacks northern part of village. Russian losses 100 men and 73 POW's.
Again the Finnish volunteers have shown their dedication without a high loss count. Till May 1943, 255 Finnish volunteers are killed in action within Wiking.
Proletarskaja bridgehead is abandoned. Rgt. Westland moves to Ssalsk, Rgt. Germania near the Manytschdam and Manytschstroj. I./ and II./Nordland in Jekaterinowka and Schablijkewka, where III./Nordland remains.
Numerous attack around Ssalsk. Inf.Rgt. Westland is pushed back, Russian forces occupy the airfield. A combined attack with tanks and grenadieren pushes back the Russians.
During the early hours Wiking gets in its new positions, I./Nordland in Gigant, III./Nordland in Zelina, II./Nordland around Petschakowskij, II./Westland in Adronow, I./Westland in Zelina. The Germania regiment falls further back in order to prepare a new defensive line near Nesselyj.
I./Nordland take positions on both side of the main road in Gigant. After a few hours the first scrimmages are ongoing. Till 15.00 hrs the fight rages on, I./Nordland deflects all attacks, but a large force has cut-off I./Nordland's retreat route. Wiking orders the start of Nordland's retreat at sunset. Between 19.45 and 21.30 hrs I./Nordland passes III./Nordland in Werch Chutor and from here they take the main road to Zelina. I./Nordland has only lost 1 PaK. At 22.15 hrs III./Nordland leaves it positions and follows I./Nordland.
After a night march in the bitter cold temperatures, I./ and III./Nordland climb off their vehicles in Zelina. New positions are taken in, all most a routine. Giving up at night, new positions at dawn.
First attacks starting at 12.30 hrs, while its 2nd and 3rd wave are already preparing within sight. All waves are deflected...
19.45 hrs, Zelina is given up, march to Jegorlykskaja where it arrives at 22.30 hrs.
The reconnaissance company under Ostuf. Falke finds a large armoured column with the direction towards Jegorlykskaja. Wiking's defense around the town consists of I./Westland - present during the last 2 days - II./Westland in the south, II./Nordland in the north including the main road. Two company's from SS-Pi.Btl.5 arrive, the last one (Wanhöfer) in blocking positions. I./ and III./Nordland are on their way from Zelina.
02.00 hrs, Russian tanks firing upon village.
02.45 hrs, 6 T-34's in Jegorlykskaja, more advancing towards the village.
Mühlenkamp's Panzer are closing in during the night, at dawn they open fire on their targets. 13 T-34's are destroyed, few are lucky to escape. The six remaining T-34's are still in Jegorlyskskaja which are hit later. Russian forces leave the area, the Pioniere blow up all T-34's which are not completely destroyed yet.
Jegorlyskskaja stays in German hands, but pressure mounts around Komuna and Tischtschenko with Rgt. Germania. III./Nordland receives orders and marches to Metschetinskaja, I./Nordland follows in the evening. During the night, Jegorlykskaja is cleared; II./Nordland and Rgt. Westland are on their way to Oktjabrskoje, I./Westland in Mitrotanow and II./Nordland near Milajarowo/Grechow.
Komuna cleared by Rgt. Germania. Russian forces attacking Metschetinskaja with I./ and III./Nordland. At 27th January at 11.00 hrs, a German armoured attack give Wiking's units some space...
The front stabilizes, villages are occupied several times by Russians and Germans. Wiking must hold this line till the 111.Inf.Div arrives from Terek!
Weather holds with snow and temperatures low as minus 42 degrees.
LVII.Pz.Korps hold stable defensive line; Wiking's (from north to south) disposition: Nordland - Sernograd, Germania - Meschetkatales and Westland - Rossoschinskij.
Wiking marches into the new line Gawriloff-Nowo Bataisk. At 04.30 hrs Russian attack III./Nordland in Gawrilow, breaktrough at 11./Nordland. At dawn, counter attack by Ostuf. Deck with 20 Finns which destroys 3 Russian PaK's. At 08.00 hrs a new Russian attack with 300 men, supported by 7 T-34's. At 08.30 hrs the SS-Pz.Abt.5's quick reaction force is present, 3 T-34's destroyed and the others retreat, now follow by an attack of III./Nordland. The morning positions are back in German hands as at 13.30 hrs new orders arrive to clear Gawrilow...
Pz.Gren.Rgt.10 Westland advances as part of the division to Stalino. Following the next order, set out on a march with the objective Konstantinowka.
Urgent orders to divert towards Krasno-Ameiskoje. Objective: Containment of Panzer Group Popoff !
The night of the 11th of February started nervously in the Headquarters of the German 40th PzKorps. The Chief of Staff, Colonel Wagener, was woken up at 0.45 o’clock to receive a telephone message, where the terrified Commandant of the town Grishino told, that only a few kilometers to the North, in a village of Dopropolje, three or four Russian tanks and 15 trucks full of infantry were observed. Thus they were driving loose in the countryside 70 to 80 km behind the German front lines! A patrol of 333rd Infantry division’s Anti-tank Battalion informed at 1.30 o’clock, that they had seen a couple of hour’s earlier 45 enemy tanks, carrying infantry on their decks on a route south of Sergejewka.
It was high time for the 40th PzKorps to start dynamic counter-actions, first unit being on the road already at 4.50.
With the 1st Pz Army’s approval, the task was appointed to the 5th SS-Pz.Gren.Division “Wiking”, which had not yet have been engaged its forces into battles in this direction. The order to the division reached its commander Gruppenführer Felix Steiner in the HQ of the 3rd PzKorps at dawn, 3.10 o’clock, where he happened to be reporting on his arrival to the area. The telegram stated:
“A strong armored enemy on the road of Kramatorskaya – Sergejewka – Grishino attacking southwest. Their spearhead observed in Aleksandrowka at 1.00 o’clock. The SS-PzGrenDiv. “Wiking” must start moving right away heading to Krasnoarmaiskoye using shortest routes. Not to wait troops to regroup before starting off. Reaching Krasnoarmaiskoye rapidly has an utmost importance.”
Steiner, who had recently returned to command his division after being acting Commander of Wermacht’s 3rd PzKorps being the first SS-officer commanding PzK during the war, immediately started dynamic actions. At the west side of Stalino the commander, who had flown there, met his troops force-marching towards the ordered direction. Their target, Krasnoarmaiskoje, former Postyshewo, is a middle-sized town and a railroad crossroads some 70 km west of Stalino. Through it goes an important two-way railroad from Donets to Dnjepropetrowsk, or Dnipropetrovs’k. Along the road men met dispersed Italian units, which were running southwards. Steiner didn’t try to stop these demoralized troops, but let his columns drive past them continuing the advance.
At noon, on the 11th of February a contact to the enemy was reached by the road from Selidowka to Krasnoarmaiskoje, just some kilometers south of the latter, industrial city. The spearheading units belonging to the “Nordland” – its Finnish battalion in front – spread out straight from their vehicles to the battle.
Overall plan was, that “Nordland” attacks Krasnoarmaiskoje from south and southeast, that is from the direction of the main highway; the “Germania” surrounding by west – first taking over Grishino – and the third regiment, “Westland” surrounding by east.
The 333rd Infantry Division withdrawing from north, division’s own Aufklärungs-Abteilung 5 and the 7th PzDiv, which would later come to help, would cut withdrawal routes of the enemy to the north, and prevent supporting units coming from that direction. During heavy fighting that took place over a week this came mostly in effect, although the strength of the “Wiking” alone wasn’t quite enough for everything that was hoped for in the beginning.
The Finnish Battalion spearheading the SS-”Wiking”
The Finnish Battalion, officially III.(finn.)/Nordland, received marching orders in Gorlowka on 11.2.1943 at six o’clock in the morning. The start to a new, even surprising direction was rapid, because the men were prepared for it; information about the reasons for this reversal just felt unbelievable. Because it was all-important, that meeting Russian armored troops, that had broken loose, seasoned troops would be deployed, not some scrapped up supply units from the rear, all that was possible was made to open the route to the force-march of the Wiking. Feldgendarmerie halted all other traffic in Stalino in the streets through which the Wiking drove.
The Kriegstagebuch, (KTB or the War diary) of III.(finn.)/Nordland mentions:
“At 8.15 first elements of the battalion arrived Stalino. Traffic jams are avoided by efficient traffic control.”
The battalion arrived Galinzinowka at 10.50. Because the Finns were spearheading in this direction, battle preparations were taken place here. Both PaK and Infanterie-Geschütze (IG), subordinated to the 11.Kompanie, being in the lead. Using this formation the battalion drove on northwest some 15 km to a small town called Selidowka. Yet nothing had happened although refugees and the retreating Italians beckoned terrified to the direction the battalion drove. They passed the town. At 12.25 o’clock main elements of III.(finn.)/Nordland were two kilometers to the south of Datshansky. Reconnaissance was continued along the road that had already turned straight up north.
Obersturmführer Tauno “Poku” Pohjanlehto wrote to his friend’s diary:
“Spearheading the Chef (Commander) of the 11th Coy Eugen Deck and the new Führer of the 10th, “Poku” Pohjanlehto, drove with a sidecar motor bike driven by Risto Pöntinen rapidly ahead of others. In Datshansky they notice that the civilians have hidden to their potato-holes, or cellars. The whole village seems empty. That’s why we slow down and observe the surroundings carefully. Past us drives a car with a German officer and two NCOs to the direction of the railway station of Gubin. We, the scouts try to warn them and regain speed. Suddenly there is a big Mail-truck sideways on the road, along which the PKW, or sedan stops. Several Russians appear from behind the truck. Using their machine pistols, they soot the Germans, who have stood off their car. Pöntinen brakes ruff his motorbike, and tries to turn it around near the vehicles. Both officers flew out of the bike. Pohjanlehto gets a hold on his Parabellum and hits a couple of the Russians with it. A round of Russian MP hits Pöntinen anyhow, and he fells down dead alongside his motorbike. Pohjanlehto and Deck save themselves running and rushing, bullets hitting ground around them, miraculously back to their companies in Datshansky.” - (In the Waffen-SS a Kompanie Chef was officially nominated, a Kompanie Führer was an acting one) -
After having this enemy contact, the III./Nordland left its vehicles and Gefechtstand to Datshansky, and regrouped around it. To the east and northeast 11.Kompanie, the 10.Kompanie to the north and along both sides of the road (backwards to the German front) the 9.Kompanie. After a while the II./Nordland took positions west of the village. Reconnaissance to Lissowka in the east and Nowyj Trud in the west proved these places to be free of enemy. Three or four enemy tanks were however observed up north some 4 km away – that is in Gubin – along the road to Krasnoarmaiskoje.
First attacks to the village of Novo-Pavlowka
After the overall situation had became clear, and the regiment had been positioned, the III.(finn.)/Nordland received orders at 16.05 o’clock to occupy a small village of Novo-Pavlowka along the main road ahead. The Finns reach Gubin easily. Enemy’s securing forces withdrew to Novo-Pavlowka. The Finns followed and the 9th and 10th Coy threw Russians out of there in half an hour. They occupied the village and put out own safeguards. A short winter day was already darkened. “A night attack” Paavo Vuolento wrote. He was killed two days later in this same village...
Oberscharführer Sven Elmgren wrote:
„11.2.43... About 30 km from Stalino we crashed into the Russians, who had positions in a small village. We, the 9th Coy, regrouped for an immediate attack, but only during the night [...in dark, at about 17.30...] we occupied the village, which was occupied only lightly by the Russians. They withdrew ahead of us without making greater resistance. We had however an exiting job in the dark searching the houses to avoid hits into our backs by possible hidden Russkies. It was quite a difficult task, because in many houses there were still civilians staying.
We had an hour rest, before a Russian armored reconnaissance vehicle suddenly closed by (according to the KTB at 18.45), we kept our nerves, and not until it reached our positions I gave the order to fire. A hutch was open, and therefore one man of the crew was killed, while two others succeeded to run away. We got the vehicle as booty.”
The 9th Coy used its trophy for a few days. Then it gave the vehicle to the regiment, because it burned off too much fuel and oil.
The enemy, however, didn’t start to withdraw, as General Henrici, after the enemy contact was reached, for a moment had hoped for. On the contrary it made these armor-supported counter-attacks against Nordland. Late night its commander decided to release the tired troops to rest in nearest villages. At 2.30, the 9th and 10th Coy got a permission to retreat to Datshansky. The order didn’t, however go through in time, so it arrived to for example the 9th Coy not until the morning hours. Thus sleeping in Datshansky was minimal. Meanwhile enemy had again occupied Novo-Pavlowka and the companies had to move back there at 8.30 o’clock. Troops felt the marching fore and back meaningless.
So, Novo-Pavlowka had to be attacked for the second time. The 9th Coy was situated to the east side of the road, the 11th to the west. The 9th Company penetrated first to the village through its eastern side. Russians had, however, tanks in the village, so the other companies couldn’t advance much because of them.
Oberscharführer Sven Elmgren writes in his diary:
In the afternoon there becomes life in the area. We don’t have any kind of anti-tank weapons, and now (according to the KTB, at 15.45 o’clock) yet four additional tanks roll to the village, mounting infantry. They drive almost over us shooting from all directions using their cannons and firing long MG-bursts. The infantry does the same using their MPs. We run, sneak, crawl on all fours, roll over, creep, and jump from house to house and from a cover to another. All the time Russian automatic weapons’ bursts rattle on our heels and ears, because they try to outflank us from every angle. Once I have a few seconds earlier found cover behind a house, and look around to see, where the next threat comes, and how my fellows have survived from the dazzling dance. I see our MG-gunner with another man on their way from a house to another. Instantly, a Russian tank appears and blocks their way. The men have luck; next to them there is a huge straw-stack. They disappear into it in a flash, but plough their way through it in a few seconds with their weapons and all. That’s how they reach a blind spot in consideration of the tank, and make it to a cover behind the other house. Hid and run tag continues… After an hour, which none of us would like to live again, three of the tanks drive away, presumably to refill their ammunition? The fourth stays put for another hour before it follows the others. When the three tanks have driven away, our 10th and 11th Companies finally arrive for help, and we can respire. They have had a tough battle against the Russian infantry that had clung to the opposite end of the village. Finally they threw the enemy out of the village, however…”
The fourth tank had obviously driven to a mudhole sticking in it. It is already dark, when 10th Company’s SS-Unterscharführer Zinnöcker and SS-Sturmmann Silfverberg, leader of the Kompanietrupp and orderly, found, while mopping up the area, an immobile T 34-tank. Half-moon is lightening otherwise dark nightly sky. They sneak in the pale moonlight to the tank. Turret hatch is open; the inside light is slightly visible. Zinnöcker and Silfverberg jump like cats onto the tank and throw hand grenades inside. Hollow blasts can be heard, when the ammo-storage of the tank explodes. A sharp flame shows that the tank is destroyed. The crew had probably deserted the tank beforehand.
In spite of the fact that the second occupation of Novo-Pavlowka had caused four killed and 14 wounded, Nordland ordered to give it up again without fighting, and let the battalion to have a nights rest in Datshansky. This time the order came in time at 18.30 o’clock, and by 2100 hours it was fulfilled. Safeguards were set so that the 11th Coy was responsible of the right side of the road, the 10th the right side, and the 9th set guard to the village itself. – Standartenführer von Scholz’s decision to give up the village for the second time was obviously based on saving troops. The men had fought a couple of days practically without sleep being out in the open most of the time and even laying in the snow for hours. “Oh, how good sleep and rest feels, because we are totally starved and dead-tired”, Elmgren mentions. Holding on to the terrain, especially while mobile warfare was still on – for example at 17.40 six enemy tanks and three truck loads of infantry had driven to the south westwards of the battalion – didn’t have great importance considering the overall situation.
5. SS-”Wiking” tightens the grip
Although pressure against Nordland was tough, the hardest battles of the day were fought in Grishino, which the Germania occupied. That was bad news for the Russians, because it cut their supply route from Kramatorskaya.
To re-open the railroad connection through Krasnoarmaiskoje, Wiking received also temporary ‘alarm units’ (Alarmeinheiten), which the Commander of the 61st PzJäger Battalion had managed to scrap up, and some troops from the 333rd ID arriving from north forced marching.
Some hours earlier STAVKA, the Russian Supreme Command had given orders to its “South-Western Front” to prevent withdrawal of German forces to Dnjepropetrowsk and Saporoskoje and push them to Crimea instead, where they would starve and give up fighting. Thus General-Colonel Vatutin rushes the Panzer Group Popov on to fulfill this order. STAVKA’s new orders also indicate an instruction to pass stiff resistance, and to occupy as much terrain as possible. So the Russian tanks roll past Novo-Pavlowka southwards to Preobrasenskoye, where the II./Nordland is securing.
But STAVKA and Vatutin make a mistake: instead of retreating the Germans regroup to execute von Manstein’s brilliant scheme in striking from behind and gain yet again a victory, where they crush the far advanced Russian units, which were already drunken from their fore coming victory. But also for the Germans the goal is still ahead. German units keep on struggling and wearing themselves to reach the stand by positions that von Manstein has ordered. This also leads to situations, where units already in contact with the enemy have to mange crises, which occurs, when everything is put on a single card...
One ace card of the 40th PzK and the Wiking division is the Finnish battalion, which is positioned spearheading towards Krasnoarmaiskoje. Also other elements of the Wiking are beginning to arrive, and are taking battle formations. SS-Pionier Bataillon 5, commanded by SS-Sturmbannführer Schäfer is transferred behind the Nordland’s defense lines at both sides of Datshansky to Sverow in a purpose to outflank Krasnoarmaiskoje from southeast.
The Aufklärungs Abteilung 5, advances even further in the surrounding effort via Novo Troiskoye to a place called Sergejewka, 15 km northeast of Krasnoarmaiskoje.
The Westland makes a sharp turn from Selidowka northwards arriving the next night via Lissowka to Rownyj situated four kilometers east of Krasnoarmaiskoje.
The Germania, which was the last fighting unit of the division to arrive Selidowka, marches at dawn of the 12th February via Novo Troiskoye – Sergejewka to Grishino to be a part of outflanking Krasno-Armaiskoje from east.
This way the 4th PzKorps of Popov was trapped, but not completely, because the surrounding lines of Wiking are extremely thin compared to the length of the front lines.
In this situation, only artillery can help. It will become a decisive pointer in what finally perceives the Panzer Group Popov to be too inadequate. SS-Oberführer Herbert-Otto Gille, an old artillery man, divides Wiking’s artillery to the decisive battle: both Germania and Westland each receive one artillery battalion, while the main elements of the Artillerie Regiment 5 and the Flak-Abteilung 5 take firing positions behind the Nordland. Regiment’s own heavy infantry guns are also united to these troops, and their fire is conducted by the artillery. The howitzers, guns and the cannon battery of the Wiking blazed Krasno-Armaiskoje one at a time and according to their positions from different directions. Gille proved to be a real master. With strength constantly varying, the German artillery fires salvoes to Krasnoarmaiskoje and little by little softens the Russians up.
On the 13th of February the Panzer Group Popov again tries to advance southwest according to their task. Westwards of Popov, General Kharitonov’s 6th Army moves ahead also southwards approaching the river Dnepr. With support of General Vatutin, Stalin rushes the smallish units of Popov constantly.
Among other targets, the Russian artillery blazes Datshansky and the positions of the Finnish battalion northwards of it. German artillery shoots salvoes, changes focuses often making an impression of much greater strength than in reality.
Although pressure against Nordland at 12th February had been tough, the hardest battles of the day were fought in Grishino, which the Germania had occupied. That cut their (Russian) supply route from Kramatorskaya. Also during the next day, the hardest battles of Wiking seem to have taken place in and around Grishino, where Germania destroyed at least 11 tanks. A kind of ‘stabilized war’ was continuing in the sector of Nordland, including also its Finnish battalion. Its total losses of the day, 3 killed and 4 wounded shows, however, that fighting continued.
According to Tieke, the fire strikes of the artillery, FlaK and heavy infantry guns of the Wiking had given a wrong impression of German strength, and led to false conclusions in the HQ of the Panzer Group Popov in Krasno-Armaiskoje. Popov sent a message to the HQ of the “South-Western Front”:
“Five SS-Divisions are attacking me. I can hardly keep up. Urgent help needed. Long live Stalin! Popov.”
In reality the only attacker is the Wiking division. Its regiments and battalions are extremely undermanned. Number of the fighting troops within the companies is down to approximately 40 men. The units are badly worn out after continuous fighting first in Caucasus and then here, in the Kalmuck steppes. Division’s replacements had been quite inadequate.
On 14th of February at 10 o’clock the III.(finn.)/Nordland received orders to attack Novo-Pavlowka for the third time in four days. One hour later it left its stand by positions at the east side of the road. The 10th Coy advanced on the right, 11th on the left; the 9th Coy stayed as a regimental reserve. A 75mm motorized anti-tank gun (Selbstfahrtlafette) supported the attacks from the road. According to Jokipii along with the companies were the 9th and 8th batteries of the Werferbatterie (mortars) – Tieke writes that only the artillery fire controllers followed the companies. At 13.00 hours the 75mm got a direct hit and was out of the game.
Three T34s also made life difficult for the advancing infantry. Accurate artillery salvos made the tanks to retreat, though. At 15.00 hours the village was once again occupied, and the attacking companies advanced even one kilometer past it taking positions on both sides of a railroad crossroads, including height 180. “Positions out in the steppe”, as Elmgren writes. This time they wouldn’t give up the village again, but put up at it. “Nice houses”, Alf Silfverberg from the 5th tells. Probable enemy tank attacking routes were mined, because they had caused lots of troubles before. Kp.Chef 3./Nordland, Ostuf. Brönner was heavily wounded.
During the next days, the division takes Rovny, Grischino and Gubin. Later they arrived in Alexandrowka and than Suschoj-Torek.
As the achievement of the day the German 40th PzKorps considered the mopping up the area of the Gubin railway station by Nordland, after heavy fighting, though, and invading Pokrovskiy west of it. Germania advanced from Grishino to northeastern outskirts of Krasno-Armaiskoje, but couldn’t penetrate into the city because of the heavy resistance. Grishino that was left only safeguarded was temporarily lost instead.
Fighting went on like this in a relatively limited area, but the main task, halting the Russian spearhead near Krasno-Armaiskoje, and hold them still, succeeded. During the day enforcements were observed arriving for the Russians, and by orders from the 40th PzKorps on 14.2. regrouped units so that enemy could be met in the Grishino area.
Attack to Krasno-Armaiskoje was halted for now. This was immediately noted also in the Finnish sector.
Thus, the III.(finn.)/Nordland, guarding south of Krasno-Armaiskoje patrols were sent out in order to make contact to the I./ in Northeast and to the II./ in Southwest, the latter being at the station of Gubin. Both patrols returned without meeting enemies. In the morning the battalion got back the 9th Coy that had been in regimental reserve.
The company took safeguarding positions in Novo-Aleksandrowka right behind Gubin forming the far most right flank of the battalion. Next two days were quiet; the enemy remained passive, also.
After the Russians managed, in spite of all the precautions to bring reinforcements – both infantry and artillery – from north via Molodetshky to Krasnoarmaiskoje, The 40th PzKorps insisted on the very same day, using straight language, stronger troops to clean up the whole area at rear of the PzKorps prior any other tasks:
“The Army Corps sees unbelievable the fact, that strong 7th PzDiv is tied up with denials to move, for a duty at Slavjansk, and so a good division is stuck defending a tactically unimportant pile of stones, while elsewhere SS-division Wiking is not strong enough to solve the situation near Krasno-Armaiskoje.”
These strong words, which showed that Army Corps’ command – Henrici and Wagener – were in favor of modern mobile warfare against enemy troops and didn’t appreciate territorial victories, had an effect. Late night the 1st PzArmee finally gave an order to the 7th PzDiv to give up Slavjansk and hurry southwest to Krasno-Armaiskoje.
The task of Wiking was changed accordingly:
“SS-Panzer Grenadier Division Wiking prevents enemy forces break-through via Grishino southwards until arrival of our own new forces. Grishino must be held in any circumstances, other strongholds only if it is necessary.”
Further north the 11th PzDiv – General Balck – cuts Popov’s supply lines with its attack through Oktjabskoye to Dopropolje – Krasno-Armaiskoje railroad and further on to the main road.
The Red Army attacks for several days at places like Barvenkow, Ziglerowka, Bowny, Bagdanowka, Soschoj-Torek and Kamytschewitscha. Wiking reaches the south bank of the Donez river, southwest of Isjum.
Rgt. Westland captures the northern edge of Bogdnowka. II./Westland was overrun by a counter-attack and diverted eastwards. During this battle SS-Stubaf. Erwin Reichel, the regimental commander was killed, he recieves the Ritterkreuz posthumous for his actions. He is replaced by Ostubaf. August Dieckmann.
Commander II./Westland, SS-Hstuf. Walter Schmidt receives for his actions the Ritterkreuz on 4th August 1943.
SS-Stubaf. Hans Köller replaces Rudolf Mühlenkamp as Kdr. I/SS-Pz.Abt.5. Mühlenkamp is ordered to return to Germany to begin forming new Panzer Regiment 5 for the Wiking Division.
Regiment Stabes SS-Pz.Rgt.5 and the new II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 begins forming at the ALTNEUHAUS training area in Germany. SS-Pz.Rgt. 5 renamed as the I. Abteilung SS-Pz.Rgt. 5.
Many experienced officers and NCOs transferred out of I.Abteilung, in order to form cadre for new regiment.
Pz.Gren.Rgt. Nordland was withdrawn off the division in order to establish the cadre of the new 11.SS-Panzergrenadier Freiwilligen Division NORDLAND.
I./SS-Pz.Rgt. 5 engaged in serveral actions near Isyum along the Mius and Donez defensive lines along with rest of division.
All of I./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 remaining tanks are grouped into 1./SS-Pz.Abt.5
Vehicles on hand: 7 Pz.III, 4 Pz.IV F1, and 2 Pz.IV F2. Entire division is part of German defensive effort along the Central Don Front, which lasts until 12 July 1943.
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 is withdrawn to the Losowaja-Michaelowka area, for the first time after almost two years of action.
Here's some time for rest and re-fitting, both personnel and equipment. During the next 6 weeks, the I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 receives new vehicles, including Pz.IV Ausf.G for 3.Kompanie. 1. and 2. are still equipped with Pz.III.
Personnel changes with the division; SS-Ostubaf. August Dieckmann took over the Pz.Gren.Rgt.10 Westland, SS-Brigf. Herbert Gille takes command over the division and SS-Gruf. Steiner was appointed and confirmed as Corps commander of III.(Germanisches)Pz.Korps.
Recuperation and rebuilding period ends for I./SS-Pz.Abt.5. Now put in reserve as “Quick Reaction Force” for Wiking Division, which is transferred to north-west of Slawiansk; Pz.Gren.Rgt.10 Westland as army reserve in Slawiansk.
46.Inf.Div. was thrown back from Isjum. I./Westland followed K.Gr. Dorr into Ssrednij.
Russian counter-attacks were unsuccessfully, but two weeks later they succeeded in creating a gap 10km deep and 12km wide.
I. Abteilung Panzer strength as follows:
Pz III: 35 authorized, 24 combat-ready
Pz IV: 14 authorized, 17 combat-ready (over strength)
Total: 49 authorized, 41 combat-ready
(II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 as of yet has no tanks assigned, still in forming process at in Croatia, where it and Rgt.Stabes were transferred to, coming from ALTNEUHAUS to continue its training process)
I./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 receives its first StuG III to from 4.Kompanie (7 vehicles). Also referred to incorrectly as StuG.Abt.5 Wiking.
5.SS-Pz.Gren.Div. Wiking participates in defensive battles near ISYUM and in the vicinity of KHARKOV, while assigned to the XXXX. and LVII. Panzer-Korps
Pz.Gren.Rgt.10 Westland moved as part of the division into the area north-west of Kharkov.
Russian attacks trying to cut off the city, Rgt. Westland repositions its eastern flank to the edge of the woods south of Olschany. During those weeks the great defensive battle in front of the Dnjepr begins...
I.SS-Pz.Abt.5 strength as follows:
Pz III: 35 authorized, 8 combat-ready
Pz IV: 14 authorized, 8 combat-ready
StuG III: 7 authorized, 5 combat-ready
Total: 56 authorized, 21 combat-ready
(II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 as of yet has no tanks assigned, still in forming process)
Division engaged in defensive battles east of KIEV during retreat to the Dnieper River
Division engaged in defensive battles on the Dnieper River (Fuchsschwanz Insell/Foxtail Island). The Westland regiment crosses the wide river in the Cherkassy area where it had already fought in August 1941. Back then every man believed here would be our winter positions...
Rgt. Westland attacks for 4 day the Russian bridge-head over the Dnjepr, north of Kanew.
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 Panzer strength as follows:
Pz III: 35 authorized, 8 combat-ready
Pz IV: 14 authorized, 5 combat-ready
StuG III: 7 authorized, 2 combat-ready
Total: 56 authorized, 15 combat-ready
Another attack at the bridgehead 'Fuchsschwanzinsel', Russian forces were thrown back to the east bank of the river.
Among the many deaths of this once proud regiment was the Rgt.Kdr. SS-Ostubaf. August Dieckmann, Chef 3./Westland SS-Ustuf. Greiner, Chef 5./Westland SS-Ustuf. Arndt.
Others like Chef 6./Westland SS-Ustuf. Fritz Hahl and SS-Hstuf. Horstmann - Chef 7./Westland - were seriously wounded.
II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 reaches Karlovacz (a.k.a. Karlstadt) where it tasks was mainly to protect the city and area from partisans.
Division engaged in harsh and bitter defensive battles on the Dnieper near Cherkassy.
First two Panther Ausf.D delivered to II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 in Erlangen, Germany.
A recon-party leaves for France. Under command of Hstuf. Ewald Klappdor, Ostuf. Paschke and Ustuf. Steiner.
The first of the new 'Panthers' were send to Falaise. During December 1943, Rgt.Stabes SS-Pz.Rgt. 5 and II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 transferred from Croatia to ERLANGEN in Germany in order to prepare the handover of their tanks.
Wiking engaged in defensive battles west of Cherkassy along Dnieper river.
II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 issued 33 Panthers in Erlangen, tanks shipped to MAILLY-LE-CAMP training area in France to join up with regimental HQ for combined training.
Additional 3 Panthers issued.
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