Landesschützen-Bataillon 232 in combat, January 1942, and the Wehrpass of Gefreiter Franz Nemetz

“Bataillon Command Post, January 22, 1941.

From: Landesschützen-Bataillon 232

To: Landesschützen-Regiment 113, Regimental Headquarters

The Bataillon was loaded onto 26 trucks at 6:00 PM on January 17, 1942, with the assignment to report to the headquarters of the XXXVIII Armee Korps in Raglizy, 36 kilometers west of Nowgorod. We reached Raglizy at midnight. Five trucks had fallen out due to minor damages. These were repaired and these trucks followed on the next day. The Bataillon was attached to the 126 Infanterie-Division and was under the command of Infanterie-Regiment 422. We were to report to Ortskommandantur Podberjesje, 18 kilometers northeast of Nowgorod. We arrived in Podberjesje at 5:00 AM on January 18, 1942. The Division placed us under the command of the Regiment 424. Out of the trucks took place an operation against a detachment of Russians, that had crossed the Wolchow and advanced across the highway connecting Nowgorod, Tschudowo and Petersburg. The operation lasted until 7:00 PM. In this operation the Bataillon suffered two dead and one wounded. The Bataillon was under the command of Sturmbannführer and Major Garthe, whose Abteilung was composed of our Bataillon, a Kompanie of Pionier troops, and a detachment of the Waffen-SS. For the night, the 2. and 3. Kompanie were sheltered in Podberjesje and the 1. Kompanie in Weschki, 6 kilometers northwest of Podberjesje.

For January 19, 1942, Abteilung Garthe was deployed on both sides of the railroad running from Nowgorod to Tschudowo, in the area of the villages Andruju, Linow, Tjuitzy, and Kopzy, in a renewed operation against the Russians who had broken through. In the night from the 18th-19th January 1942, the 3. Kompanie of Bataillon 232 was pulled out, attached to the III. Bataillon of Infanterie-Regiment 424 and sent to Sapolje on the Wolchow. In this operation, the 1. and 2. Kompanie were deployed to the right and left of the railroad line. After a few hours, this operation had to be called off, as in the meantime the Russians had broken through in Kopzy. The Abteilung Garthe was deployed on the attack on the railroad in Kopzy and the forest south of Kopzy, with the Bataillon initially attacking the Kopzy highway and then connecting through a total left turn with Kopzy and the bush terrain to the east. In the late afternoon, Kopzy was taken with the cooperation of an Aufklärungs-Abteilung deployed north of Kopzy, and tanks. On this day, the Bataillon lost 2 dead and 10 wounded. For the night, the Bataillon was quartered in Tjutizy and occupied the terrain east of the highway connecting Tjutizy and Kopzy. The night and following day passed without major attacks.

The 2. Kompanie was transferred to Kopzy on the evening of January 20, 1942. In the course of that day, the Bataillon moved into a defensive position in the aforementioned line. In the night of January 20th-21st, there was an attack by the Russians against this defensive position, and against the neighboring sector in Kopzy, in the strength of multiple Kompanien. This attack was preceded by heavy artillery and mortar fire on Kopzy, and weaker fire on Tjutizy. The attack was totally defeated by the Bataillon. In front of the 1. Kompanie, the enemy left behind around 30 dead. In front of the 2. Kompanie, as a result of the favorable terrain, the enemy was able to retrieve their dead. In Kopzy, the enemy broke through once again, but after lengthy battles they were thrown back into the night.

On January 20, 1942, at 10:00 AM, by order of the Regiment, the 1. Kompanie sent a scout troop in the strength of 21 men against the point 37.0, 2-1/2 kilometers from the northern edge of Tjutizy. Heavy machine gun fire from multiple sides prevented the scout troop from penetrating the forest. In the treeline, strong enemy forces in the strength of at least 4 to 5 platoons were moving. The Regimental commander personally recognized the scout troop leader, Feldwebel Schötzau, 1./232, for the well-led scout troop operation.

January 21 was again relatively quiet, although the enemy hit the villages of Kopzy and Tjutizy as well as the highway with heavy artillery, mortar ind infantry gun fire. Movements of the enemy in the forest east of the highway concluded in a renewed attack in the night of January 22, 1942. Starting at midnight, the enemy attacked the main battle line multiple times, above all in the northern sector. The attacks, which continued until dawn, were again repulsed. Around 4:00 AM individual Russian detachments began to evade the watch posts of the Pionier-Kompanie on the rightmost sector of Abteilung Garthe, to join the attack on Tjutizy. After lengthy battles the enemy was here, too, forced back. The enemy’s forward machine guns now covered the entire highway between Tjutizy and Kopzy, which also lay under heavy artillery and mortar fire. In the night of the 21st-22nd January, we lost one dead and eight wounded.

The total losses of the Bataillon from the 18th to the 22nd of January 1942 were 5 dead, 24 wounded. As a result of the extreme cold, frostbite was very common, as the Bataillon was lying in open positions in the snow, and almost routinely a large part of the Bataillon if not the entire unit was in the positions at night. So far, the Bataillon has lost 23 men to frostbite alone.

The fighting strength of the Bataillon has thereby been reduced considerably. The current fighting strength is as follows:

1. Kompanie: 1 officer, 15 NCOs, 65 enlisted men
2. Kompanie: 1 officer, 11 NCOs, 69 enlisted men

Those numbers do not include the losses of the 3. Kompanie. According to the reports received so far, the 3. Kompanie has lost one man to wounds. Larger battles are said to have been underway there since the night of 21st-22nd January. The Kompanie has lost 6 men to illness and one to frostbite.

Signed, Dr. Happel

Hauptmann and Bataillon leader

Losses and departures through January 23 in the 1. and 2. Kompanie:

6 dead, 29 wounded, 36 frostbite, 23 illness. Total 94 men.”

This Wehrpass belonged to Franz Nemetz.

Nemetz was born on March 24, 1912. He was Austrian, from Mitterndorf. He was trained a butcher, but worked as a truck driver.

In November 1939, when this Wehrpass was issued, Nemetz was 27, and single. During the war, he married his wife Minna. He was drafted into the German Army in March, 1940, and sent immediately to occupied Poland. After a little more than one month of training, he was assigned to 2. Kompanie, Infanterie-Regiment 325. He remained in Poland on occupation duty until the end of May, 1940, when he was sent back to Germany. There, his unit was used as a Wachbataillon, for guard duty. In this period Nemetz was promoted to Oberschütze and then to the rank of Gefreiter. On January 1, 1941, his unit was redesignated as Landesschützen-Bataillon 232. This unit was located in the area of Sandbostel and was tasked with guarding prisoners of war. On July 15, 1941, Nemetz’s unit was attached to the 285. Sicherungs-Division.

Preparations to send this unit to Russia began immediately. Nemetz’s journey East began on July 17, and by August 2 his unit had arrived in their quarters in the rear area of the northern sector of the Russian Front. His Wehrpass records that from August 2, 1941, to January 17, he took part in securing the operational area and in combat against partisans as part of 2. Kompanie, Landesschützen-Bataillon 232.

At 6 PM on January 17, Nemetz was one of the men on those trucks, headed to Raglizy. Probably, he was one of the drivers. Could he have known, when he left, that he would be driving almost directly into combat, he and his men facing Red Army Infantry as soon as they got off the trucks? His Wehrpass lists the fighting he participated in on the Wolchow as defensive actions. He was one of the ten men of the Bataillon wounded on January 18. The nature of this wound was not recorded in the Wehrpass but it was severe enough to land him in a convalescent unit for the next eight months.

The Wehrpass provides some detail about Nemetz’s military career. His primary role was as a truck driver, and was also trained as a machine gunner. He was trained on the G98 rifle and MG34 machine gun, and later, also on the MG 26 (t) (Czech ZB 26) and MG 08/15. These foreign and obsolete machine guns were typical of the weapons used by rear area units. For his actions in the winter of 1941 and his wounding in action with Abteilung Garthe, he was awarded the “Winterschlacht im Osten 1941/42” campaign medal, and a Wound Badge in Black.

Weapons trained on

In late September 1942, eight months after being wounded, Nemetz was given a physical and deemed to be fit for garrison duties in the homeland only. He would be reassigned to Landesschützen-Bataillon 213 in Tilsit, once again guarding prisoners of war, this time at a subcamp of Stalag 1A Stablack.

For the members of Landesschützen-Bataillon 232 who made it through the fighting around Kopzy without being killed, wounded, or frostbitten, more combat awaited them. In 1942 this unit was redesignated Sicherungs-Bataillon 232. They remained in Russia until the unit was essentially destroyed and disbanded in 1944.

Captured weapons in the 281. Sich. Div., May 1941

In May, 1941, the I. Generalstabsoffizier of the 281. Sicherungs Division supplied this detailed inventory of all of the captured weapons in the Landesschützen and supply units of the Division, to the deputy Generalkommando of the II. Armeekorps.

It was noted that no ammunition was available for distribution for the French “Unique” pistols. Replacement of these pistols with weapons of other calibers was urgently requested.

207. Sicherungs-Division, 1943: Order of battle, tasks, weapons

In the fall of 1943, the 207. Sicherungs-Division was occupying a very broad area of northwest Russia, crossing over the border into Estonia. This document, from the divisional war diary, dated 27. September 1943, lists every sub-unit assigned to this Division, and the exact location to which each unit was deployed at that time. Of particular interest is that for many of these subunits, the specific task assigned to each unit is listed. Grenadier-Regiment 374 was at that time on the front. The various parts of Sicherungs-Regiment 94 were assigned tasks including railway protection, area security, coastal protection, and anti-partisan activity. Parts of Landesschützen-Bataillon were assigned to be static guards, prisoner of war guards, and also railway protection duty.

This is part of a Divisional report dated September 1, 1943. It lists the German and captured small arms of the Division at that time, as follows:

I. German Weapons
2,411 rifles
143 rifle grenade launchers
610 pistols
18 submachine guns
59 light machine guns
6 heavy machine guns
2 medium mortars

II. Captured Weapons
4 medium mortars (Russian)
41 light mortars (Russian)
131 light machine guns (Russian)
10 heavy machine guns (Russian)
100 submachine guns (Russian)
1,748 rifles (Russian)
33 semi-automatic rifles (Russian)

The reliance on Russian weapons in many subunits of this Division created problems with ammunition supply. This report from Sicherungs-Regiment 94, dated December 8, indicated that the amount of ammunition for the Russian submachine guns was 10,000 rounds short of where it was supposed to be. There was only one magazine per submachine gun. One Kompanie of the Regiment had no ammunition at all.

Uniform guidelines for Eastern volunteers in “Unternehmen Maikäfer,” May 1943

For a long while in the first part of 1943, partisan bands controlled the southern part of the area of Slavkovichi, in north-west Russia. Owing to a shortage of manpower, intimidation of local civilians, and partisan blockades, the Germans were not able to learn details about the composition of these bands, or the location of their headquarters. “Unternehmen Maikäfer” (Operation June Beetle) was an operation tasked with seeking out, attacking, and destroying these bands. The German units involved in this operation were “Gruppe Hofmann” and “Gruppe Spemann.” These formations were composed of a wide range of German security units, including many Eastern volunteer units. The operation began on May 12, 1943, and was regarded as a success, as it led to high enemy losses and the destruction of some partisan units. The enemy losses from this operation combined with other German offensive operations in that area at that time totaled 513 killed and 110 taken prisoner, with correspondingly high numbers of wounded and a large amount of weapons being captured.

The Korps order for “Unternehmen Maikäfer” stipulated that the participants in the operation be uniformed as follows:

Estonian units: Partially in Wehrmacht uniforms, partially in German Polizei uniforms with German helmets
Ostreiter units: Wehrmacht uniforms with red collar tabs and German helmets
Ost-Freijäger units: Latvian uniforms
Lithuanian units: Lithuanian uniforms
Armenian units: Wehrmacht uniforms, or captured uniforms similar to the German cut, with German helmets
Cossacks: Cossack uniforms, white fur caps
German units assigned to Gruppe Hofmann were to wear a white armband on the right upper arm, and those assigned to Gruppe Spemann were to wear a red armband on the left upper arm.

1944 photos from a Landesschützen unit

Fritz Gleich fought in WWI. In 1944, he was called up again, and assigned to a Landesschützen unit in Eger. By this period of the war, film was scarce, an relatively few soldiers were able to take photos. Gleich, however, did have film; these photos are from his album.

These photos offer interesting insight into uniforms in use at that time. For example, in the “recruit training” group photo with visor caps and Waffenrock dress tunics, it can be seen that most of the tunics have been converted by removing the piping and adding field type insignia, while other tunics remain unconverted. The mix of obsolete an new pattern kit in these photos in general is also notable. Reichswehr-era M33 boots seem predominant.

Fritz Gleich survived the war and assembled his album after 1945.

Photos of a Gefreiter in Landesschützen-Bataillon 313, Russia, May 1942

These private photos are dated May 6, 1942.

The unit ID and date are indicated by markings on the back of the photos. Feldpost number 22621E was at this time used by 4. Kompanie, Landesschützen-Bataillon 313.

In May on 1942, this unit was assigned to Korück 532 of the 9. Armee, part of Heeresgruppe Mitte which was at that time in central Russia.

The soldier in these photos wears a mixture of standard issue Wehrmacht gear together with obsolete and captured elements, a combination so typical for soldiers in Landesschützen and Sicherung units. The collar Litzen on his prewar M36 tunic are applied directly to the collar without backings, suggesting this is a reissued tunic with replaced insignia. The helmet is the standard issue Wehrmacht type with matte field gray paint, but the lace-up tall boots are an earlier, Reichswehr pattern. The Gewehr 98 is a WWI pattern rifle, here used with a corresponding 1909 pattern ammunition pouch, obsolete before the start of WWII. He is wearing a captured prewar Polish Tornister pack. Additional field gear visible in the photo includes a bayonet and entrenching tool, a gas mask canister with gas cape bag worn in the front in the early war style, a bread bag, and a Zeltbahn shelter quarter strapped to the Tornister. The weight of the equipment on the belt is carried by the internal suspenders inside the tunic. The field cap tucked into the belt is adorned with the white branch piping worn by Landesschützen units. The tunic is adorned with a single award, a civilian SA Sports Badge.

Many Landesschützen and Sicherung units were irregularly equipped in this manner, as they had a low supply priority. Even at the start of the war, Germany faced shortages of raw materials and other logistical hurdles that made it hard for them to equip the millions of men needed for their armies. Front line combat units got the best and newest material, while rear area units that also had an important role in maintaining order in the occupied areas got the short end of the stick. A May 1941 report in the war diary of the 281. Sicherungs-Division described the situation: “The “alert unit” [Eingreifgruppe], that was transferred from Infanterie-Regiment 368 of the 207. Infanterie-Division, is well equipped and armed. This is in contrast with the units assigned to the Division in the month of April, which only barely met requirements; above all the Landeschützen-Bataillonen, Feldkommandanturen and Ortskommandanturen. The equipment is for the most part very deficient and incomplete; the armament is frequently inadequate and furthermore is varied with foreign small arms (Czech, Polish, Dutch, French, Belgian, Norwegian, and Austrian rifles, carbines and pistols); the equipping with horse-drawn and motorized vehicles of all types is, almost without exception, completely insufficient in both type and number for the various expected tasks, and especially in regard to the motorized vehicles, the quantity, condition and type (foreign-made, without spare parts or tires) leaves much to be desired. Very many units, especially the Feld- and Ortskommandanturen intended to be used in static roles, as well as the similarly utilized Landesschützen-Bataillonen and Wach-Bataillonen, are in no way equipped for the anticipated long and distant marches. Even the Divisional command initially had not one single vehicle it was supposed to have.”