ardennes counteroffensive

Führer Begleit Brigade

The Führer-Begleit-Brigade was a German armoured brigade, later an armoured division (Panzer-Führer Begleit-Division), in World War II. It was formed in November 1944 and destroyed in April 1945.

The Original Führer Begleit Battalion (FBB),1939-1940

Before the beginning of the Polish September Crisis (eventually leading to World War II), Adolf Hitler's personal guard detachment came from two distinct, independent units based on Berlin: the Chancellery Guards assigned for the purpose by the Heer , eventually replaced by the Führer's own Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (Adolf Hitler's SS Lifeguard Regiment). When war broke out on September 19th, Hitler mobilized the Leibstandarte AH to participate in the campaign against Polish forces, leaving him with no personal guard detachment (except a small formation from the Leibstandarte) in his tours around the front.

At the time, a brilliant infantry instructor, Oberst (Colonel) Erwin Rommel, came to the Führer's attention. Impressed by Rommel's book on infantry tactics and having acquired a high regard for him, Hitler put Rommel in charge of a new battalion that was being organized as his personal escort to the front, in the absence of the Leibstandarte and other frontline units. Thus, the Führer Begleit Battalion (Leader Escort Battalion) came into being. By the time of the invasion of France and the Low Countries, Rommel was promoted to Generalmajor (Major-General) and left the Führer-Begleit Battalion to take command of the 7.Panzer-Division. Starting with the French campaign the Führer Begleit Battalion under new command accompanied Hitler in his tours around the battlefields.

The Führer Begleit Abteilung, Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland

Upon the expansion of the elite Infantry Regiment Großdeutschland as a division on March 3 1942, it was decided to expand the number of sub-units it controlled. One of these units was a new Führer Begleit detachment, along with a Führer Grenadier detachment. Although it practically had the same purpose as the original and currently existing Führer Begleit Battalion (and was approximately of the same size), the new Führer Begleit unit was motorized. Moreover, the two battalions were further distinguished by the nomenclature given to the newer unit: it was to be known as the Führer Begleit Abteilung (Leader Escort Detachment), as Wehrmacht (and even Waffen-SS) battalion-sized ground units were designated according to class - Abteilungen for motorized, mechanized, armoured, or self-propelled battalion-sized detachment controlled by a battalion headquarters and Bataillons for infantry units.

As a result of its transfer to GD, the Abteilung, by now incorporating a heavy battery from Flak Regiment Hermann Göring, Fallschirm-Panzer Division 1 Hermann Göring, was moved to the Eastern Front, with headquarters stationed in Hitler's Wolfschanze. Parts of the GD was used to build up the FBA, until it eventually served as GD's replacement and reserve battalion.

The Führer Begleit Abteilung saw action along with the rest of Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland in its campaigns on the Eastern Front. Although not permanently attached to the division and composed mainly of an ad-hoc collection of several units, the Abteilung and its successors would retain the traditional Fritz-style helmet insignia of its parent division, and when sub-units of the Großdeutschland Division were expanded to bring Großdeutschland to Corps strength (see the article on Panzerkorps Großdeutschland), the Führer Begleit Abteilung was brought up to brigade strength as well.

While the Führer Begleit Abteilung was being refitted for service in the Eastern Front, it received Hitler's order to head west, along with most of its vehicles and personnel, to prepare for the Ardennes Counter-offensive, where it would be expanded to a brigade for the upcoming operation.

Führer Begleit Brigade

Radically upgraded for the Ardennes Offensive (Operation Wacht am Rhein) to provide General der Panzertruppe Hasso von Manteuffel's 5. Panzerarmee with additional firepower, the Führer Begleit Brigade was formed from elements of the Führer Begleit Abteilung, Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland, Adolf Hitler's personal Army guard detail, and the mobile artillery from Hitler's Wolfschanze (Wolf's Lair) Headquarters. This unit was placed under the command of Oberst (Colonel) Otto Remer as a reward for successfully foiling a critical part in the July Stauffenberg assassination plot aimed at Hitler and the Nazi Leadership.

The new brigade was essentially a restructured Panzer Brigade, with units created from whatever excess personnel at hand. Its combat strength accounted for long-barrelled Pz IV and the turretless assault guns of Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 200, two organic panzergrenadier (mechanized infantry) battalions, the 928th bicyclist battalion and a self-propelled artillery battalion (with 105-millimeter Wespe and 155-millimeter Hummel artillery pieces).

Committed to the front on December 18, 1944 as part of 5. Panzerarmee's XLVII. Panzerkorps, the FBB saw action against the elite US Army 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne.

On January 26 1945 the Führer Begleit Brigade was ordered to expand and form the Führer Begleit-Division.

Führer Begleit-Division

When it was decided that the Großdeutschland Division was to be expanded to Panzerkorps Großdeutschland, its subordinate units were expanded to bring GD to corps status. Included in the upgrade were the Führer Begleit Brigade and the Führer Grenadier Brigade, both of which participated in the Ardennes counteroffensive and acquitted themselves well in action.

As part of this drastic reorganization, the Führer Begleit Brigade was detached from Army control, expanded (by absorbing elements of the Führer Grenadier Brigade and Panzergrenadier-Division Großdeutschland), and redesignated as the Führer-Begleit-Division; at the same time, its sister formation, the Führer Grenadier Brigade was also upgraded to divisional status and renamed the Führer-Grenadier-Division. Both Führer Divisions were put in the OKH reserve until committed to the Eastern Front.

Commanded by Otto Remer, now a Generalmajor, this unit continued to serve the Reich in its final, desperate battles. The FBD and FGD served in local counterattacks, and later assumed fire-brigade roles in preventing major Soviet breakthroughs.

The Führer-Begleit-Division, along with its sister formation, the Führer-Grenadier-Division, was sent to the Eastern front to help defend the Vistula Front against the massing forces of the Red Army. It was trapped and finally destroyed in the Spremberg pocket in April 1945, and its survivors surrendered to the Americans.

Orders of Battle

Führer-Begleit-Abteilung, Panzergrenadier Division ''Großdeutschland (1941)

Führer-Begleit-Brigade, Operation Wacht-am-Rhein(December 1944)

Brigade Stabskompanie (Headquarters Company)

  • Stabszug (Headquarters Platoon) - Sdkfz 251/1 Armoured Cars
  • Aufklärungs-zug (Reconnaissance Platoon) - Armed with MP-40 and StG44 submachineguns
    • Sdkfz 250/1 Armoured Cars
  • Aufklärungs-zug (Reconnaissance Platoon) - as above
    • Volkswagen and Kübelwagen cars
  • Flakzug (Anti-aircraft Platoon) - 3 x 37mm FlaKpanzer IV Ostwind Self-propelled FlaK vehicle

References

  • Tessin, Georg. Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS 1939 - 1945 Volume 14

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