The last time I was at my grandparents' house in Germany, back in 1982, I was digging through a shoe-box of old photos. On top of those was an old Wehrmacht "Schiffchen" or sidecap. Unfortunately, because I didn't realise what these items represented, I didn't ask about them too much. I still didn't think about it too much for a few more years, and by the time my grandfather passed away, I had all but forgotten about them. I DID recall the Schiffchen, and requested this, as well as anything else that might have been of interest.
The Schiffchen made its way to me, but the photos were forgotten. Eventually I discovered that my uncle had thrown them away because "he didn't think anyone was interested in them". This, in spite of the fact that he well knew that I was a serious WW2 researcher, and that he had actually given me several books on the subject over the years.
Earlier this year, while my mother was visiting my uncle, she discovered that he still had a few of the photos. She managed to convince him to part with them, and passed them on to me.
So- what do I know about my family in WW2? Well, I know my grandfather (Josef Heinrich Brings , b 8 May 1910, d 20 May 1994) was in the 1.Gebirgs-Division (I do recall him saying this back in '82). I know he was a cook. I know that he was captured by the western Allies. I know that Onkel Hermann was in the Luftwaffe, and was captured by the Russians, only returning in 1955. Other than that? Absolutely nothing. If anyone has any clues based on these photos, please contact me.
My Inquiry at Wehrmacht Awards
My Inquiry at the Deutsches Militär.- und Soldatenforum
My Inquiry at the Axis History Forum
Well, I managed to get a few more bits via WAsT (Deutsche Dienststelle).
According to their references:
His Wehrnummer was: Neuß Grevenbroich 10/103/9
Wehrbezirkskommando (armed forces sub-district recruiting headquarters) Neuß Grevenbroich, followed by the last two digits of the bearer's birth year- 10, then the police precinct where the bearer registered- 103 and the serial number of the roster induction sheet- 9.
From 1939 to 1941 he served in:
1. Batterie leichte Artillerie Abteilung 745 (Feldpostnr 27425B)
Unterstellung: 1. Gebirgs-Division
Einsatzraum: 1939 Südpolen, Lemberg
Oktober/Dezember 1939 an der Eiffel
Dienststelle (Truppenteil usw, Standort): 12(E)/AR6 Lingen (Ems)
Truppen-(Kriegs-)Stammrollen-Nr Ranglisten-Nr was 269/39
After 3.4.1941 he served in:
7. Batterie Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regiment 79 (Feldpostnr 30062B)
Based on this, this appears to be his military service career:
Divisional History - 1.Gebirgsjäger-Division
The 1.Gebirgsjäger-Division was formed on April 9th, 1938 in Garmisch Partenkirchen from the original Gebirgs-Brigade, the sole mountain unit of the German military since 1935 when the Wehrmacht was formed. The Divisions origins stemmed from the traditions of the German, Italian and Austrian Mountain Units of WWI. After WWI ended, because of their record in battle, the Weimar Republic kept a small cadre of mountain troops to use as the nucleus for a future mountain force. In 1935 this cadre of men helped form the basis of the Gebirgs-Brigade, and by April of 1938, it was raised to a Divisional unit, the 1.Gebirgs-Division.
In September 1939, the 1.Gebirgsjäger-Division took part in the Campaign in Poland as part of Armeegruppe Süd where it operated in Southern Poland. Operating out of Slovakia, the 1.Gebirgs crossed the Polish frontier after its sister Division, the 2.Gebirgsjäger-Division, has already crossed the frontiner and started its way inland. The 1.Gebirgs was to the right of the 2.Gebirgs, and once it was through, it headed eastwards, towards the Dulka Pass. The Division fought and captured the Dulka Pass in the Carpathian mountains and thereafter began a race to try and take the well defended city of Lemberg, over 150 miles to the east. Lemberg, or Lvov in Polish, was a crucial point in the much larger advance of the entire XVIII.Korps which was tasked with aiding in the encirclement of all the Polish forces retreating to and already in southern Poland. The race to the city was spearheaded by a Kampfgruppe of the 1.Gebirgs-Division that consisted of four Kompanies of Jäger with artillery, anti-tank and pionier support. Behind this Gebirgs Kampfgruppe spearhead was the rest of the Division which would advance behind it on the single road leading to Lemberg. The Kampfgruppe reached the approacheds to Lemberg on September 14th and immediately began to establish lines around the city to prepare for the eventual assault to capture the it. The rest of the Division following behind arrived shortly after and from the 15th until the 20th of September, the 1.Gebirgs-Division fought to hold and expand its lines against fierce Polish counter-attacks. The fighting was fierce, and as the Division was literally at a point well ahead of any other German units and facing stiff and determined Polish attacks, the situation became very tense for the Jäger attacking and defending in the lines around Lemberg. So fierce in fact was the fighting leading up to and including the battles for Lemberg that the Division lost 243 men KIA and 400 WIA, an amazingly large number considering the view that Poland is thought of as a virtual German walk-over. In the end, the 1.Gebirgs-Division did not actually storm Lemberg as planned as the Soviet invasion of Poland made this earlier requirement moot. The capture of the city would likely have been bloody for the Division though, and as a result of the fierce fighting at the approaches to the city, the Poles defending it insisted upon surrendering only to the men of the 1.Gebirgs-Division as a sign of their mutal respect. This took place on September 21st, 1939.
To the Western Front
After the Campaign in Poland, the Division was transfered to the Western Front to take part in the Campaign in France. In France, the 1st Gebirgs distinguished itself in the crossings of the Maas, Aisine and Loire Rivers. After the Campaign in France, the Division was posted to take part in the planned invasion of Great Britian, and then for the planned invasion of Gibraltar, but in both cases, the planned operations were canceled.
...And then to the Balkans
After training for the above two invasions, the Division was transfered to Austria to take part in operations in Yugoslavia. On April 9th, 1941, two years after the Division was formed, it crossed the Yugoslav frontier and fought through central Yugoslavia with the bulk of the German forces.
After the Campaigns in Yugoslavia, the Division took part in the Invasion of the Soviet Union. Moved into the Ukraine as part of XLIX.Gebirgskorps of Heeresgruppe Süd, the Division took part in the encirclement of Soviet forces at Uman and the capture of Stalino in late autumn of 1941. The Division then occupied positions around Mius until May of 1942 when it was transferred to the Donetz region under the control of XI.Armeekorps. In the summer of 1942 the 1.Gebirgs-Division advanced into the Cacausus as part of the German summer offensive. While fighting in this region the 1.Gebirgs-Division was eventually split into two groups, Division Lanz under the temporary command of General Lanz with major portions of the 4.Gebirgs-Division and the other under Oberst von Le Suire alongside the remaining units of 4.Gebirgs. The second ad-hoc formation of the 1. and 4.Gebirgs under Le Suire fought in the highest positions held by any unit in all of German military history when the 4300 meter heights of Mt. Elbrus in the deep Caucasus region was held by the Gebirgsjäger against repeated Soviet attacks and the harsh high alpine elements.
Back to the Balkans
The Division took part in the fighting withdrawal from the Caucasus region until it was pulled out and posted to Serbia in 1943. For the next few months the Division was transfered from one region to the next, posting from Serbia to Yugoslavia to Greece and then to Corfu. In April, 1944 the Division was part of OHW/OKH reserve until it was posted to Hungary and then back to the Balkan Region again. In December, 1944 the Division was again moved to Hungary where it took part in offensives against the Red Army. It was renamed 1. Volks-Gebirgs-Division on 12 March 1945 and was then moved to the Austrian Region where it surrendered to the Americans in May of 1945.
I/, II/, III/Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 98
I/, II/, III/Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99
I/, II/, III/Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 100*
I/, II/, III/, IV/Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regiment 79
Gebirgs-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 44 (mot)
Gebirgs-Nachrichten-Abteilung 54 (mot)
Formed on 6 October 1936 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, I Abteilung from I/Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regiment 69, III Abteilung in Sonthofen and IV Abteilung in Murnau. The Regiment was assigned to the 1. Gebirgs-Division. The Regiment participated in the march into Austria in March 1938, and in October 1938 in the occupation of the Sudetenland. On 21 August 1939 II Abteilung had to transfer one battery to Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regiment 111. During the Polish campaign the Regiment advanced to Dukla via Presov - Gorlice - Zmigrod from Slovakia, along with im XVIII. Gebirgs-Armeekorps. From Dukla they moved to Lemberg via Sanbor. After the Polish campaign they were transferred to the West. In May 1940 they advanced through Belgium to the Oisne-Aisne Canal. Here they turned South and crossed the Aisne, moved through Soissons and crossed the Marne at Chateau Tierry. They advanced over the Nogent sur Seine und Loire to Cher at Bourges.
On 29 November 1940 I Abteilung was transferred to Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regiment 95 abgegeben, and III Abteilung was renamed I Abteilung. Leichte Artillerie-Abteilung 745 was renamed III. Abteilung. In April 1941 they participated in the Yugoslavia campaign.
From June 1941 they participated in the Russian campaign. From Przemysl the Regiment marched to Shitomir. Near Vinniza the Regiment supported the breaking of the Stalin-line. The main attack occurred on 15 July 1941, whenthe Russian lines were shattered. rom Vinniza they continued via Gaissin and Uman to the Dnjepr. The river was crossed at Berislav, followed by intensive fighting on the Noga Plain and the anti-tank ditch near Timoschevka. On 3 October 1941 leichte Artillerie-Abteilung 745 was renamed III. Abteilung unterstellt. In November 1941 there was serious fighting near Stalino and at the Mius river.
In Spring 1942 the Regiment advanced through Ssamara, Barwinkova and Gusarovka to the area South of Charkov, reaching here in June. At St. Savinzi they crossed the Donez and they reached Rostov via Isjum and Taganrog. In Summer 1943 the Regiment fought in the Caucasus to Tupase, the Elbrus and Ordchonikidse. This is where they began their retreat to the Kuban-bridgehead in January 1943, concluding in the crossing to the Crimea. In April 143 the Regiment was transferred to the Balkans by sea and train, and remained there until 1945. Areas covered include Montenegro, Novi Pazar, Sarajevo, Hungary and Nish. In October 1944 the Regiment retreated to Belgrade. After being surrounded and some heavy fighting near Mount Avala, the remnants of the Regiment reached the Drau.
In march 1945 the Regiment was sent South of the Plattensee until they were redeployed in the Reichsschutzstellung between Raab and Eisenberg. After the capitulation, the remnants of the Regiment crossed the Enns into American captivity.
1. Batterie schwere Artillerie Abteilung 745
There was a leichte Artillerie Abteilung 745 in the Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regiment 79
Raised on 3 October 1939 as towed Abteilung with three batteries as part of the 1. Gebirgs-Division. On 21 January 1941 it was renamed III./Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regiment 79. The replacement unit was Artillerie-Ersatz-Abteilung 42.
The emblem of the 1. Gebirgs Division
My Great-grandparents with all the sons. Only Paul (furthest left) never took up arms. The furthest right is Heinrich Josef.
Onkel Hermann, my Grandfather, Onkel Willi, Onkel Christian (possibly with a Panzerkampfabzeichen).
My Grandfather, Onkel Willi, Onkel Christian (possibly with a Panzerkampfabzeichen), Onkel Hermann.
Onkel Christian during training.
Onkel Christian, wearing the black panzer uniform and the early beret used in 1939.
My granddad on a horse.
Grandad on 28 8 1944, as Unteroffizier, wearing the ribbon for the Ostfront medal and the KVK II with swords.
An Unteroffizier in an infantry platoon normally commanded a squad of 9 or 10 men, and was thus equivalent to an American army sergeant or a British army corporal.
War Merit Cross Second Class, with swords
(Kriegsverdienstkreuz II Klasse) mit Schwertern
Instituted: 18 October 1939
Requirements: Awarded to civilians and military personnel for outstanding service in furtherance of the war effort, in particular bravery or service not connected with direct military combat. Awarded with swords for bravery not connected to frontline action and without swords for meritorious service. Until 21 September 1941, anyone holding the EK II was ineligible for this award, but Hitler personally changed this restriction on that date. The War Merit Cross was thereafter worn with the Iron Cross, but behind it in order of precedence.
Medal for the Winter Campaign in the East 1941-1942
Instituted: 26 May 1942, to mark service on the German Eastern Front during the period 15 November 1941 to 15 April 1942. It was commissioned to recognise the hardship endured by German and Axis Powers personnel, combatant or non-combatant, during the especially bitter Russian winter of '41/'42. The appalling conditions suffered by, mainly, German troops on this front soon led to the medal being nick-named the "Gefrierfleischorden" or Frozen Meat Order
Requirements: To have served in the Russian theatre of operations, either for two weeks of combat or for sixty continuous days anywhere in the theatre, or to have been wounded or frostbitten in the theatre before completing the qualifying time, during the period 15 November 1941 to 15 October 1944.
While issued in the form of a medal and ribbon, only the ribbon was worn on the uniform when in the field, either on the ribbon bar or as a buttonhole award. The ribbon of the medal was coloured red , white and black (symbolic of blood, snow and death).
The medal was held in high regard by all branches of the Wehrmacht.