The Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Battalion, 1943

The Grossdeutschland Regiment (meaning 'Greater Germany') was formed in the pre-war era from the re-designation of the Wach (Guard) Regiment Berlin, which provided the capital with a standing military presence.  At the end of 1939, the Grossdeutschland became a Motorized Infantry Regiment, making it a valuable asset in the German Army, and took part in the French campaign the following year.

Grossdeutschland acquired a reputation as a reliable combat formation and in 1941 joined the invasion of the Soviet Union, a front it was destined to serve on for the remainder of its existence.  In late 1942 Grossdeutschland was enlarged to become a Motorized, and subsequently Panzer Grenadier Division.  The practice of expanding favoured Regiments to Divisional status was repeated by the German military during the conflict, despite the fact  that the previously strict entry requirements for personnel that had helped such units shine needed to be relaxed to achieve the increase.

The original organisation of the Regiment provided it with more organic firepower than other similar German motorised units.  These constant changes in its format have helped to obscure the picture of what the Battalions actually looked like at various times during the war.  Also, only a fraction of the unique KStN authorised for the Battalions have survived.  The below then might be considered a snapshot of the authorised organisation for a Motorized Battalion of the Grossdeutschland Panzer Grenadier Division, prior to the major offensive at Kursk in July 1943.

The Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Battalion, circa 1943

Battalion Headquarters (5 Officers, 15 men)

Communications Platoon (18 men)

Battle Train I (13 men)

Battle Train II (4 Officers, 32 men)

Rations Train (2 Officers, 7 men)

Baggage Train (4 men)

Machine Gun Company (5 Officers, 206 men)

Company HQ (1 Officer, 15 men)

Battle Train (18 men)

Baggage Train (4 men)

Three Machine Gun Platoons, each (1 Officer, 35 men)

Mortar Platoon (1 Officer, 64 men)

Heavy Company (4 Officers, 154 men)

Company HQ (1 Officer, 19 men)

Battle Train (15 men)

Maintenance Detachment (4 men)

Baggage Train (4 men)

Pioneer Platoon (1 Officer, 52 men)

Anti-tank Platoon (1 Officer, 35 men)

Infantry Gun Platoon (1 Officer, 25 men)

Three Rifle Companies (5 Officers, 221 men), each comprised of;

Company HQ (1 Officer, 9 men)

Maintenance Detachment (4 men)

Battle Train (10 men)

Baggage Train (4 men)

Heavy Platoon comprised of;

Platoon HQ (1 Officer, 5 men)

Mortar Section (18 men)

Two Heavy Machine Gun Sections, each (15 men)

Three Rifle Platoons, each comprised of;

Platoon HQ (1 Officer, 5 men)

Three Rifle Squads, each comprised of 14 men

Total Strength of 1146 all ranks (35 Officers and 1111 men)

Points of note

Right, now that's a big Battalion...

Those who have studied the Grossdeutschland might well be now shaking their heads in disagreement.  That is because there are various versions given for the organisation of the Heavy Company that conflict with the above description. 

Using the listing of published KStN tables given at http://orbat.com/site/ww2/drleo/011_germany/tessin/tessin_15.html at the beginning of 1940 the Grossdeutschland Regiment consisted of; a Regimental Headquarters (KStN 104), three Battalion Headquarters (KStN 118), nine Rifle Companies (KStN 139), three Machine Gun Companies (KStN 162), a Light Infantry Gun Company (KStN 174 with six 7,5-cm guns), a Heavy Infantry Gun Company (KStN 178 with four 15-cm guns), and an Anti-tank Company (KStN 185 with twelve 3,7-cm guns).  All these KStN were issued specifically for Grossdeutschland, and to the best of my knowledge not one of these tables exists today.

In early 1941, the Rifle and Machine Gun Companies were revised, while the remainder of the Regiment would appear to have remained unaltered.  Despite this, the Battalions are often credited with a fifth, Heavy Company during 1941.  An outline of this can be seen at;  http://niehorster.orbat.com/011_germany/41_organ_army/41_brig-mot_gd.html

A translation of the hieroglyphic like German symbols from left to right for the Heavy Company credits it with one Light Anti-tank Platoon (three 3,7-cm guns), one Heavy Anti-tank Platoon (three 5-cm guns), a Pioneer Platoon (three Squads) and presumably a Flak Platoon (four 2-cm guns).  That would certainly qualify as Heavy in most armies.  Confusingly though, the first mention of a Heavy Company for Grossdeutschland in the KStN listings is 163 dated February 1942, a temporary table which is also lost.  An idea of its format can be found at; http://www.gd-uk.org/panzerfuesilierhistory.html

Reading from top to bottom this indicates a Pioneer Platoon (three Squads), an Anti-tank Platoon (three 5-cm guns), and a Heavy Anti-tank Rifle Platoon (three 2,8-cm weapons, and three LMGs).  That shares a great deal with the final KStN issued for Grossdeutschland, the revised Heavy Company of March 1943 shown above.  What throws me at the above link though is the detail for the Rifle Companies, showing each with six 8-cm mortars.  I can only think this to be a typographical error, as such level of issue to Rifle Companies would be both unprecedented and unmanageable.  

At the end of 1941, Grossdeutschland switched largely from it series of unique KStN and adopted those used by the other Motorized Infantry units.  The Battalion Headquarters moved onto 115c and the Rifle Companies adopted the Motorized Schutzen organisation of 1114, with the previous Machine Gun Company retained.  Even before the addition of the Heavy Company shortly afterwards this doubled the allocation of heavy machine guns and 8-cm mortars for the Motorized Grossdeutschland Battalions by comparison to other such units.

By 1943 there is some more solid evidence for the format of the Motorised Battalions.  Richard Hedrick was kindly able to provide a Gliederungen for the Panzer Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland of 1943, which does at least tally with the organisation shown above.  Grossdeutschland Battalions were still entitled to a Machine Gun Company, as well as the Heavy Platoons in each Rifle Company, plus a fifth Heavy Company.  My assumption is that by 1944, Grossdeutschland  adopted the same Motorized and Armoured Panzer Grenadier Battalion structure detailed elsewhere on the site.

The elements of the Battalion

This page has already run on quite some way, and the Rifle Company organisation is already covered on The Motorized Panzer Grenadier Battalion 1941 to 1942 page, so all that remains is an examination of the support units.

The Machine Gun Company - this was something of a throwback to earlier organisations.  By 1941 the previous Machine Gun Company of Schutzen Battalions had been broken up and used to provide each Rifle Company with a Heavy Platoon.  In the Grossdeutschland however when the Rifle Companies adopted the Schutzen format the Battalions retained their Machine Gun Company.  That meant each Motorized Grossdeutschland Battalion deployed twelve 8-cm mortars and twenty-four heavy machine gun teams, double that found in any other German motorised unit.

The first three Platoons of the Company each operated four heavy machine guns, transported by two 3-ton lorries plus two field cars at Platoon HQ.  The fourth, Mortar Platoon had six 8-cm weapons, each detachment with its own 3-ton lorry, plus a total of five field cars for Platoon HQ and section personnel.

The Heavy Company - this was similar to the Heavy Company found in the Motorized Schutzen Battalion of 1942.  Company Headquarters included a small signal detachment with three field cars as well as the command group.

Pioneer Platoon - the Pioneer Platoon was a large subunit, with a HQ that included a medium field car and a 3-ton equipment lorry.  Each of the three Squads consisted of a leader, two drivers and twelve pioneers, three of who crewed the Squad light machine gun.  Squad transport was a 1.5-ton truck, a 3-ton lorry and a motorcycle.  

Anti-tank Platoon - this was equipped with three towed 5-cm Pak 38 guns, each towed by a light SdKfz 10 halftrack, with two more such vehicles at Platoon HQ for ammunition trailers.  

Infantry Gun Platoon - judging from the above link the 1942 version of the Heavy Company did not include an Infantry Gun Platoon, but rather a Heavy Anti-tank Rifle Group with three 2.8-cm weapons, likely towed by Kfz70 trucks as in the Schutzen equivalent.  The 1943 Heavy Company though had an Infantry Gun Platoon as its third combat element, with two towed 7,5-cm guns.  The table notes that either the Kfz69 truck or SdKfz 10 halftrack could be used as towing vehicles, with two at Platoon HQ, one with an ammunition trailer, and one per gun team.

Summary

Grossdeutschland continued to receive an above average allocation of equipment for a Panzer Grenadier Division through 1943 and into 1944.  Two of its six Infantry Battalions were equipped with halftracks and it deployed a Panzer Regiment of two Battalions by 1944.  As the war neared its climax in the East, it was planned to form a new Grossdeutschland Korps, by pairing the Division with the similarly expanded Brandenburg Division, which had moved considerably away from its special operations origins as the Brandenburg Regiment.  The realities of the situation largely prevented this from occurring, and the remnants of the Grossdeutschland surrendered to British troops in May 1945.

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