Friday, December 26, 2014

Sicherungs-Regiment 195 Year in Review 2014

2014 was the first year of our reenactment group. With the year ending, we want to reflect on our progress and also to share our best photos from this year of reenacting.

 This unit was started by experienced reenactors looking to try something new. To our knowledge, there never had been a reenactment group that portrayed security troops. Dissatisfaction with the lack of authenticity inherent in mock battles led us to something more cerebral than a grown-up’s version of Cowboys and Indians. It was important to be a field-based impression; an impression with a second-line focus, less oriented toward combat, and more toward basic camp and field life. We settled on a Sicherung unit after discussing many options.
At first, the learning curve was steep. We began research to forge this new impression. Initially, only a few sources yielded information. From the very start, however, the information discovered strongly validated our impression choice. We had not realized how thinly spread Sicherung units were. Sparsely-manned outposts were used to garrison vast swathes of countryside in the rear areas of the various Army groups. This historical reality meshes perfectly with our small unit model. From this, we devised a standard model of an "outpost"-based scenario for field deployment.
Selecting the exact unit to portray was also a challenge. We quickly identified a number of Sicherung units with interesting histories. Sicherungs-Regiment 195, however, was an obvious final choice. Elements of unit were actually deployed both in the West and in the East simultaneously. From a reenactment perspective, we were very pleased to choose a unit impression that offers such vast versatility.
Our first event was an immersion/training scenario. More than anything else, this event served as a test of our new concept and approach to the hobby. We were the only people on the site, there was no need for an "enemy" to fight against. All of our members attended and it was a total success. We planned and prepared for the event, then deployed to a farm where we conducted patrols, searched for partisans, did some training on language and tactics, prepared rations, and cleaned our rifles. Everything went just as we hoped, and we all enjoyed some incredibly realistic experiences. The lessons learned from this event paid dividends throughout the year.

With initial training complete, we were ready to deploy to the field at a regular tactical. When the combat troops moved out, we moved into the rear to perform observation and security details. Rifle fire echoed in the distance while we guarded a road and set up observation positions. Again, the end result was an incredibly realistic-feeling experience. We had proven the value of our concept and it was very gratifying.

As the year wore on, we made some changes to reflect new information about the historical reality of how Sicherung troops were equipped. Many of our existing late-war uniform and equipment items were replaced with mid-war equivalents. This served to reflect the low supply priority of under-equipped rear-area troops, who were unlikely to have been issued the newest equipment. German K98 rifles were replaced, in part, with Czech VZ24s. Members also obtained a mix of paramilitary-type, and obsolete, gear as we dialed in to our new impression. 

The unexpected discovery of an original Soldbuch from Sicherungs-Regiment 195 provided very encouraging validation. The soldier was issued a captured foreign rifle and bayonet. He was also issued a Tornister and a HBT uniform, both items we had decided to include in our portrayal. All of this fit perfectly with what we learned about the wide variety of weapons and equipment that these troops were issued. Further research led to some additional primary sources, which were very helpful. We now have an ever-growing body of documentation to work with, as we settle into our impression.

The response from others in the WWII reenactment community has been overwhelmingly positive. We have received positive feedback from all over the world. We also had the opportunity to take to the field with our like-minded friends in 3. Panzergrenadier-Division, and the Finnish JR7 unit (which debuted this year). We attended new events that none of our members had ever participated in before. In the process, we had a lot of fun, and made a some new friends. At some of 2014’s events, we were the largest attending German unit. We are proud to support local events, and especially Eastern Front scenarios. We continue to share information via this blog, Facebook, and on our web site (upgrade coming soon).

Things look bright as we head into 2015. Our year will begin in February with our annual planning meeting. We expect another busy and successful season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In der Heimat steh'n auf Posten

“Whatever moves a soldier’s innermost feelings most strongly, be it battle, victory, death, comradeship, loyalty, love of weaponry, love of homeland, love of wife and family, all these emotions find their immediate expression in the wealth of beautiful soldiers’ songs which have been handed down through many generations, and also in the great number of new songs which give expression to the experiences of the current war….” -Hauptmann Wilhelm Matthes, 1940

The singing of marching songs was an important part of the German military tradition inherited by the Wehrmacht. Many veteran memoirs mention fond memories of the songs sung as soldiers, both during training and while deployed to the field. Communal singing was part of the culture of the Landser, just as it had been for the Feldgrau in the first World War.

At events, our reenactment unit sings a variety of typical German songs from that era when we are on the march. Singing provides a cadence that helps to keep marchers in step. Some of the songs we sing are traditional folk songs, some are military songs that pre-date WWII and some were composed during the Third Reich. But our favorite song, the unit song of our reenactment group, is "In der Heimat steh'n auf Posten" or "Der Wachposten" ("In the homeland stand on sentry duty" or "The Guardsman"). 

This song was composed in 1939 by Herms Niel, a famous composer of German marching songs who also wrote many well-known soldier's songs from that time including "Erika" and "Sieg Heil - Viktoria." This particular song is not as well-known but it suits our unit impression very well. No doubt, the song's call to watchfulness and ideological appeals to a national community would have been familiar themes for German security troops in WWII.


In der Heimat steh'n auf Posten
Straff in Süd, Nord, West und Osten
Alle Deutschen, jung und alt,
Alle Arbeitskameraden,
Bauern, Bürger und Soldaten,
Treu die Hände fest geballt.

Chorus: Für des Vaterlandes Ehr'
Mit dem Führer teilen wir
Mann und Mann
Und Hand in Hand
Für das deutsche Vaterland. (repeats)

In der Heimat heißt es schaffen
Nimmer wollen wir erschlaffen
Wollen treu zusammensteh'n
Mutig unsere Hände rühren
Und im gleichen Schritt marschieren
Für des Volkes Wohlergeh'n.

In der Heimat steh'n auf Posten
Straff in Süd, Nord, West und Osten
Alle Deutschen kampfbereit,
Trutzig wie einst uns're Ahnen
Folgen heute wir den Fahnen
Der Idee von Jung und Alt.


In the homeland stand on sentry duty
Tense in south, north, west and east
All Germans, young and old
All work comrades,
Farmers, civilians and soldiers,
Loyally the fists tightly clenched.

For the honor of the Vaterland,
With the Führer we take part
Man and man,
and hand in hand
for the German Vaterland.

In the homeland, they say handle it.
We are never going to let up
We want loyally to stand together
Bravely to move our hands
And march in step
For the well-being of our people.

In the homeland stand on sentry duty
Tense in south, north, west and east
All Germans are battle-ready,
Defiant as once were our ancestors
Today we follow the flag
The idea for young and old.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

German Infantry versus Soviet Partisans in Russia, January 1942

 Translated from the book "3. Infanterie Division, 3. Infanterie-Division (mot.), 3. Panzergrenadier-Division" by Gerhard Dieckhoff

"During the evening of January 29th, 1942 the 3. Infanterie-Division (mot) gets an urgent message from Armee command. "Strong Russian forces attacking from the north and south threaten to encircle Wjasma. The 3. I.D. (mot.) is to hinder the encirclement in the general line..." Major i. G. Dingler, the Division's general staff officer, replies, "With what? We only have support units and are to be reformed ourselves." The reply comes back: "With what, I don't know myself. You have to come up with something."

The Division is alerted and the divisional commander rides on a sled to Wjasma, where some support units (Rgt. 8) and supply units (Dinafü, Bäckerei-Kp., Betr. Stoffkol. 2. Werkst.-Kp.) lay. He forms Kampfgruppen from these along with soldiers snatched from different units, with patched-up tanks, guns and vehicles. As each Kampfgruppe is completed, it is deployed wherever it is most urgently needed.

The troops have to be equipped with sleds, Panje horses and skis. This battle is one for towns and connecting roads. Many forces are tied up with the task of keeping the roads clear. This forces us to build a deep defense zone. Repeatedly, sleds and scout troops are attacked even deep in the rear.

At first, it is important to find the enemy. Scouting patrols are able to enter deep into the enemy-held territory. One such patrol is described in a later report by Hauptmann Mollenhauer (Infanterie-Regiment 29):

In January 1942, I was assigned to the I.R. (mot.) 29 as Btls.-Kommandeur. "You are just in time", said Oberst Küster, "You are to advance with a team towards the south into the partisan area."

We began to prepare. Two Kompanien belonged to the II./I.R. 29, another one was attached to us from the Rgt., for example, Brandenburg... Each Kp. did not have more than 40 to 50 men so that we counted a total of 120 to 150 heads... We received one sled for each Kp. and three more for the Stab, in order to bring along food and ammunition for a few days. Lt. Steudel, our Adjutant, tried to obtain some winter clothing for the hunting party...

On the next morning, very early, we left during icy cold. The thermometer showed -40 degrees Celsius. We had clothed as warmly as was possible. Wrist-warmers, gloves, scarves and mittens in all colors up to bright shiny yellow and red told of their origin of improvised donations from the homeland. But two pair of socks still let the icy cold through the boots. And the eastern wind also blew through the two pairs of underpants until we realized that ordinary newspapers, wrapped around feet and legs, served as excellent insulation. Although a scarf covered forehead and mouth, here and there a Kamerad soon showed white specks on his nose and cheeks. Often, we did not even notice it. The only help, since we marched in line, was to stop once in a while in order to look into each other's faces and to tell the Kameraden about possible little white specks. Only the small, furry Russian horses could not be bothered by the cold. They were up all day; at night they mostly stayed in a barnyard through which the eastern wind blew so that they had frost on them in the morning. When, before the start of our patrol, they drank ice cold water out of buckets, every one who witnessed this had goosebumps.

We soon reached the first village. We found two German soldiers in the snow in such a way as the partisans' bullets had met them a few days before. The villages are separated by approximately 5 kilometers and can only be reached via thin paths which form a wide net from village to village on the wide snowy landscape. With the rising snow, due to the sleds, they, too, became higher and, in the end, were no wider than the sleds. Anyone who accidentally made a step to the side sank in the white, soft mass to up to his hips and waved arms and legs to get back to the safe track.

The day is over soon. In the third village, we rest for the night. The cold still increases. If only the feet were not so cold! The newspapers crumble up during the marching too quickly and then become a burden. The hands can be put into the coat pockets. But for the feet there is only one thing: a pair of felt boots.

When we came to a village we could see that the partisans had left it shortly before us and had escaped to the south to the next village... We had to change our strategy: we had to enter the village so quickly... that the partisans had no time to escape and to alert the other villages. On the third day, our entire battalion was "motorized" with sleds. Each sled had a thick layer of hay for sitting on and as food for the horse, and, in addition to the Russian driver, a crew of three men. The MG was ready to fire, built up and aimed to the right or the left of the horse. We could even shoot while driving. The third day was to bring the first casualties. We approached the assumed enemy stronghold, the village Ssemeschkowo... While one Kp. veered in a big curve through the right neighboring village, and another Kp. through the left, in order to prevent the Russians from escaping, the main column advances straight onto Ssemeschkowo. Here, the Russians allow the security force (a Zug of the Kp. Brandenburg) to get close to the village and then, to our surprise, open fire. We have to mourn for five or six wounded, among them the Lt. and one Zugführer. The remaining men defend themselves desperately, seeking cover behind dead horses and fallen-over sleds against the superior force until we come closer and take the village. We get ready for the night.

Then, at midnight, suddenly- alarm. The Russians attack. Shots smash through windows and walls of the wooden houses. Everybody out into the prepared snow positions! Finally, there is silence again. Then we hear the familiar sound of a Russian bomber. Very slowly and low across the snow, it seems to fly at an altitude of about a few hundred meters. Its dark shadow rushes over us. On the next day we see the prints of people who have been dropped into the soft, deep snow without parachutes. Interrogation of prisoners confirm this. Dark spots in the surrounding are are dropped sacks filled with welcome food. A little further away stands a biplane in the snow. It seems to have been not so lucky while landing. When a scouting patrol tries to inspect it, it is met with mad fire from the woods behind it. We have to chase off the Russians first.

On the next morning, we advance to the assumed partisan center: in the direction of Sholobowo, seven kilometers south of Ssemeschkowo. Again, we, want to encircle it with one Kp. at the right and one Kp. at the left, while the main column, of which I am a part, advances straight forward. Suddenly, we hear MG fire in front of our left Kp., which was to take the way via Fedotkowo... At this moment we are in the woods south of Naumenki (south of Ssemeschkowo). We quickly advance further. Then, we hit an obstacle. About 50 meters into the middle of the woods, surrounded by forest, cut trees have been laid across the path. Driving around it is not possible due to the thick underbrush and the deep snow. We have Pionier saws with us. Suddenly, there are shots from all sides. We are lucky that at the same moment we ourselves open fire with all MGs and are able to keep the enemy down! Nothing can be seen. Do the Russians sit behind the blockade? In the trees? Do they shoot out of the bushes? We take fire from everywhere without seeing the enemy. With organized covering fire from all rifles, we are able to finally turn around and retreat. Three horses are the only loss, easy to overcome. Quickly, we veer and take off to help the left Kompanie. Fedotkowo is like a ghost town. Then come the woods. Blood and drag marks lead away from the path into the bushes... Another two or three kilometers and we meet our men. Slowly, they defend themselves frontally against attacking Russians. They seek cover behind their sleds and dead horses and have little ammunition left. We, now, freshly intervene in the battle. When it gets dark, we stand before Sholobowo, illuminated by flares. We are not able to prevent an enemy sled column far away from us from disappearing into the nearest forest to our south. Our MG fire, at a range of 1.5 kilometers, could probably do some damage but not stop them. Then, all is dark.

By this time, we generally had completed our task: we had deeply entered the partisans' area, had determined their strength, taken the enemy's stronghold and destroyed a greater number of enemies or captured them while we ourselves remained strong. As we had gotten low on ammunition, we retreated to Dmitrowka which lies on the western high shore of the Ugra (of the western Ugra curve) and is good for defense. Here, we wanted to await further orders by the division and resupply before a new advance towards the south. Much to our surprise, on the next morning, Dmitrowka is under heavy Pak- and mortar fire. Fuses that we find later indicate a German origin. Is there some mistake, do German soldiers take us for Russians? We fire flares, but without success. Soon, however, the situation becomes clear. Out of the woods on both sides of the way from Kusnezewka (3 kilometers east of Fedurnewa) to Fedurnewa (across form Dmitrowka on the eastern shore of the Ugra) develops a Russian infantry attack. Our MG fire from our elevated position is well-sited and causes great losses for the enemy, but cannot not prevent small enemy groups from entering Fedurnewa and working their way forwards in the cover of the houses up to the western edge of the town.

At this moment, we observe seven sleds come closer from Molodeny (south of Fedurnewa)- our anxiously awaited resupply. For now, they are still in front of the Russians in the cover of the woods. But neither the din of battle noises nor flares stop the men from driving into Fedurnewa. All our attempts to stop them are in vain. The Russian is sure of his prey and lets them come near. The column finally stops in front of the first houses of the town. The drivers throw themselves off the sleds into the snow. Seemingly, the enemy has now taken fire on them. With resupply imminent, we now are able to use the last stockpiled ammunition to strengthen the fire and cover them as good as we can. Regardless, the Russians work their way to the sleds, covered by the houses. Only a counter attack from our side through the deep snow and across the completely open area of the hill to the Ugra, as well as across the ice of the river, can help us now. With the cry "We have to help the Kameraden!," Oblt. Behnke throws himself down to the right side of his men, down the hill. In the cover of the bridge across the Ugra, the "Brandenburger" jump out. Massed MG fire covers the counter attack. The men cleverly, without any losses, clear house after house. Soon, Fedurnewa is free of the enemy again. The rest of the Russians retreat towards Kuznezewka from where they had come. After nightfall, we are able to pull the resupply sleds to Dmitrowka without drawing any fire. Fortunately, this battle day only cost us a few lightly wounded and some horses of the resupply column.

When we report back to the division a few days later, the Ia, Oberstlt. i. G. Dingler, says: "I wouldn't have thought that we would ever see you and your Kampfgruppe again."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ostfront WWII Reenacting

The real Sicherungs-Regiment 195 served on both the Eastern and Western Fronts in WWII, and this gives our reenactment group a very wide range of impressions we can portray. But when we choose scenarios for our immersion events, we generally portray I./Sich.Rgt. 195 (later Sich.Btl. 1008) in Russia, November 1943-June 1944. There are many reasons for this focus on the "Ostfront" (Eastern Front). For one thing, life in the eastern theater of operations was the most typical experience for the Landser of WWII. 70 percent of German soldiers stationed outside of Germany served exclusively on the Ostfront, and of the remaining 30 percent many or most served in the East at some point or another. Furthermore, where we live, Ostfront settings are easier to portray realistically at the event sites we have to work with. Western Europe is a very densely populated place and even the forests and open spaces are managed and maintained. Soldiers in places like France were generally quartered in cities and towns, those at the front often took shelter in basements and in bunker systems. Russia and other parts of eastern Europe, by comparison, are partially very sparsely populated and open spaces are extensive with vast trackless forests and swamps. Soldiers were frequently forced to sleep in the open or make do with whatever shelters they could construct. We generally don't have period European buildings to sleep in and a lonely tent at the edge of a forest works best for Ostfront scenarios, for us.

Because we focus on immersion events, it's not necessary for us to have an "opponent" to have a successful reenactment. At times, though, the presence of an opposing force can add realism to our activities in the field. We are lucky to have a top-notch Red Army reenactment group in our region, the Third Rifle Division. They share our desire to create realistic representations of history.

Here is an article written last year about the growth of Red Army reenacting worldwide. One reenactor in that article calls the Soviet impression the fastest-growing impression in WWII reenacting. We feel that it may in fact be the only part of WWII reenacting that is growing at all right now. Russian impressions seem to us to appeal to people who share our outlook about historical reenacting, for many of the reasons described in the article. The relatively low cost of the kit makes the hobby accessible to young people with new ideas, and the mundane nature of the weapons and gear seem to discourage supermen looking to be elite warriors. Women can also participate in a more realistic way.

We have noticed that this international increase in interest in reenacting the Eastern Front has manifested here in New England as well, with a number of developments in the last year alone:

-Formation of a second local Red Army unit
-Debut of a Finnish unit
-Formation of a Partisan unit attached to the Third Rifle Division
-Premiere of a new Ostfront reenactment event in Vermont

Reenactors interested in recreating the war in the East now have more options than ever. The possibilities are vast. We believe that there is a significant possibility for growth and expansion in this segment of the hobby in the near future, and we find that exciting. Our reenactment group has resolved to continue to prioritize and promote Ostfront reenactment events. We are also working to strengthen ties with other local groups that also focus on these events. Beyond that, we intend to act as ambassadors for Ostfront reenacting in every way, even to try to draw recruits in for Red Army and Partisan units if possible. We encourage any local people interested in taking part in these recreations to get in touch with us via e-mail.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wehrmacht recipe - "Borschtsch" (Russian National Dish)

Last weekend Sicherungs-Regiment 195 participated in the annual Ostfront reenactment in Haydenville, Massachusetts. We issued 24 hours' worth of cold rations on Friday evening and then gave out warm rations on Saturday night. For the warm rations we wanted to recreate something that might have been made in a Wehrmacht field kitchen. To fit with the Ostfront setting, we picked a dish from the cookbook ""Östliche Speisen nach deutscher Art" (Eastern Meals in German Style),  a collection of recipes collected by the Oberkommando des Heeres and intended for issue to troops serving in the occupied Eastern areas.

Borscht (Borschtsch in German) is a traditional soup made with beets, cabbage and potatoes that is popular in many Central and Eastern European regions. This Wehrmacht recipe is simple, hearty and delicious.

Russian National Dish

120g pork (pickled or smoked meat is preferred)
350g potatoes
350g white cabbage
500g red beets
15g fresh onions
20g fat or oil
Salt, dill leaves, coriander, soup herbs

Boil the meat and remove it.
Peel and dice the potatoes, slice the cabbage into strips, cook them in the broth.
Roast the onions in the hot oil.
Clean, peel and dice the beets and braise them in broth.
At the end, combine the ingredients, season to taste.

Note: The red beets can never be cooked together with the cabbage and potatoes because the beets will dye the other vegetables and make the food look unappetizing.
In place of part of the red beets, carrots or yellow turnips can be used. Yellow turnips can be cooked together with the beets. The meal can also be thickened with a roux."

In the field we have no means of refrigeration, which limits use of fresh ingredients. For the pork, we used sausage in a glass jar. We utilized canned beets and potatoes, fresh cabbage and dill. Knorr bouillon cubes seasoned the broth.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Front Behind The Front

"Rear Area Security in Russia" is a publication from 1948 that was prepared by a committee of former Wehrmacht generals and general staff officers, all of whom had extensive personal experience on the Eastern Front. 70 percent of the German forces deployed to enemy territory in WWII served exclusively on the Eastern Front, and in the vastness of Russia, where occupation units were widely dispersed, the role of security troops took on a great importance. Because of this, our reenactment group focuses on this theater of operations. Sources like this publication inform our portrayal in many ways, from the weapons we carry to the activities we participate in at reenactment events. This document paints a vivid picture of the difficulties faced by those overworked and under-equipped forces tasked with securing the vast army group rear areas. They were attacked at first by isolated Red Army units and later, by a partisan front that steadily gained power and control. Manpower shortages and logistical issues exacerbated a situation that constantly worsened for the securing troops. "In view of the large number of partisan bands and the vastness of the partisan-infested areas, it is not surprising that these security units fell far short of accomplishing all their tasks." The security units in Russia manned a front of their own- a front behind the front, described here as "a theater of operations in its own right."

Download "Rear Area Security in Russia" PDF


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

An elusive enemy

A wartime account of an anti-partisan patrol provides a surreal depiction of difficulty and frustration.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Zeltstock 01

     The Wehrmacht-isse "Zeltbahn" shelter quarter was issued as part of a set of gear called Zeltausrüstung- tent equipment. According to the German military regulation HDv 205/1, the Zeltausrüstung consisted of one Zeltbahn 31, one Zeltleine 92 (tent rope), one Zeltstock 01 (tent pole) and 2 Zeltpflöcken 29 (tent stakes). Many collectors and reenactors today want to have 3 of each of these but that is not how these were issued and it makes little sense as it takes 4 poles and a minimum of 4 stakes to erect a tent.
     Notice that the Zeltausrüstung does not include a bag for the pole and stake. The 1895-pattern Tornister as used in WWI and then through the 1930s by civil, political and paramilitary organizations did have a bag for tent accessories that strapped into two loops inside the pack. WWII-issue packs did not have these loops inside and did not include a tent accessory bag, these were not general issue items in the Wehrmacht. Presumably it was not considered necessary to issue a bag for the purposes of holding the rope, 1 pole and 2 stakes.
     Here are some original examples of the Wehrmacht-issue Zeltstock 01 tent pole, from a member's collection.
          The poles are marked with various maker markings and dates. This maker used a script logo inside a triangle, these are from 1940 and 1941.
     This early pole is faintly stamped "WEGA 35."
     These are stamped "W.T.E. 42" and "ggl 41."
     Another typical marking. "H.W.H. 1938."
     Each pole is 37 centimeters long. It takes four poles to make a tent. Four poles together measure approximately 134 centimeters long. I say approximately because there is some variation in how the poles fit together, even with these original examples. The poles in the pictures below are fit snugly together, much more of the ferrule fits into the socket in the top picture.

     These poles were copied by other armies after the war and these post-war copies are available as surplus today. Both Norwegian and French poles can be found that look almost identical to the Wehrmacht type. Unfortunately, the length of these poles is not exactly the same as the German originals. The Norwegian poles (which are often marked "Haeren") are slightly longer; the French poles (unmarked) slightly shorter. Here is a comparison.
     In Sicherungs-Regiment 195 we avoid using original wartime items which are in most cases now fragile and no longer suitable for field use. For our tents, we construct poles consisting of 3 Norwegian poles and one French pole. When the poles are assembled, the fact that one is slightly shorter is virtually unnoticeable. The 2.5 centimeter difference in the French pole makes up for about half of the extra 6 centimeters that result from using the 3 longer poles. Considering variations in how original poles fit together, plus terrain and other variables, this difference is negligible. Here are some pictures of how an original tent looks erected with original poles.

     In the reality of WWII, the Zeltstock 01 was not always used. Sometimes the soldiers would simply cut a sturdy branch to the correct length.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

MG26(t) and MG30(t) Light Machine Gun

The ZB-26 light machine gun was developed in Czechoslovakia in the 1920s and used by the Czech military and also exported to other countries. Further development of the ZB-26 resulted in later versions including the ZB-30. A major customer of this latter model was Yugoslavia with 15,500 weapons bought. Romania (a later ally of Germany on the eastern front) also bought 17,131 of these ZB-30 machine guns. When Germany occupied Czechoslovakia in March 1939, the ZB-26 and ZB-30 were both incorporated into the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS under the designations MG26(t) and MG30(t), the suffix (t) denominating a captured weapon of Czech ("tschechisch") origin. Altogether, the Germans acquired 31,204 ZB-26 and ZB-30 machine guns at that time, some sources indicate that the majority of the captured guns were the ZB-30 model. 1,500 of these guns were sold to the German ally Bulgaria, the others were issued to the various Wehrmacht branches and also the Polizei and Waffen-SS. Later, when Germany occupied Yugoslavia, they also captured some of the 15,500 ZB-30 machine guns that had been sent there, although it is unknown how many of these exactly were captured. Production of these weapons was continued under German occupation in Czechoslovakia and 10,430 were produced for the Wehrmacht and SS in 1939 and 1940. These examples cannot technically be considered "captured" but were actual German production. In 1941 production was switched over to the MG 34 and production of the MG30(t) / ZB-30 ceased.

The Wehrmacht command issued a manual for these weapons.
Some photographs of these weapons in use with the German Heer.

We have researched what kinds of units this weapon was issued to and have found some evidence in the form of original Wehrpässe for soldiers who were trained on these guns. Here are some scans from a Wehrpass of a soldier who served in Landesschützen and construction units. At one time his job was guarding POW camps. He was trained on the MG26(t).
Other documents from other sources show the Czech light machine guns issued to soldiers in similar units. A Wehrpass for a soldier who was part of the occupation forces in the Netherlands, performing security duties as part of Sicherungs-Regiment 26, was trained on the "le. M.G. (t)," this could have been either a 26 or a 30. Further evidence for the use of these weapons in Sicherung units was found in a Wehrpass issued to a soldier who served in Landesschützen-Bataillon 638 (part of Sicherungs-Regiment 285) who took part in the campaign in Russia from August 1941 until February 1942 when he was grievously wounded. Other rear-line and garrison type units also used this weapon in occupied areas. A Wehrpass  to a soldier assigned duty securing the coast of the Atlantic and English Channel in France shows training on Czech weapons including the MG26(t) (listed as l. M.G. 26 (Bruenn), for the place where it was made), a Czech pistol and a Czech Pak cannon. German records for the island of Jersey in the English Channel show 4 x MG26(t) as part of the 'pool' of weapons for the 319. Inf. Div. stationed there. There were also 500 x MG34 and 200 x MG42 plus 200 other mixed MG types of mainly French origin.

The use of Czech and other captured, obsolete and reissued weapons in rear-line units was widespread. The following weapons were recorded in use by Sicherungs-Brigade 203 on the Eastern Front as of June 1, 1942:

German K98k rifles: 3.123
Polish, Czech, Yugoslavian rifles: 2.650
French and Dutch rifles: 811
Russian rifles: 1.110
Pistols: 929
Submachine guns (MP 38): 43
MG 08/15: 137
MG 34: 6
MG26(t) and MG30(t): 178
Russian machine guns: 73
MG08 heavy machine guns: 5
Russian heavy machine guns: 85
Russian light mortars: 87
Russian heavy mortars: 28
Anti-tank rifles: 4
Russian anti-tank cannons: 8

Note that in this particular Sicherung unit, Czech machine guns greatly outnumbered the German MG34. Original Soldbücher that we have examined show that captured weapons like those in the above list were still being issued on a wide scale to rear-area support troops until the end of the war.

Sicherungs-Regiment has a ZB30 that we use to represent the MG30(t) in our displays and living history vignettes. It's an original weapon that has been demilitarized and deactivated. Since we are a rear-area unit, many of the scenarios we create do not involve firing weapons, so this dummy gun works just fine. The captured and obsolete weapons we use enhance our impression of Sicherung troops.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Original Soldbuch for an Obergefreiter in Sicherungs-Regiment 195

One of the tools we use to learn about Sicherung troops in the Wehrmacht is original Soldbücher and other paperwork related to these kinds of units. The Soldbuch and Wehrpass offer some useful (though limited) information about what a soldier was issued and his training. Such documents for soldiers who served in Sicherung units, although not rare, are relatively difficult to find. There were fewer soldiers serving in these types of units than Infanterie and Artillerie units, etc.

As hard as it is to find documents related to Sicherung units, it is far harder to find wartime paperwork for any one specific unit. For that reason, we were really pleased recently to find this Soldbuch for a soldier who served in the Regiment we seek to portray!

Friedrich Hanselmann was born in 1902 in the Bavarian village of Eichfeld, near Würzburg. He was married and worked as a farmer, living in the town where he was born. He joined the Wehrmacht in January of 1941, when he was 38 years old. He served for 3 months in Inf. Ers. Btn. 302 in Weiden, an infantry training and replacement unit. After about 8 weeks of training he was transferred to Landesschützen-Btl. 845. This unit was tasked with occupation duties in France. While serving with this unit, Hanselmann was promoted twice in 1942: to Oberschütze in April, then to Gefreiter in August. At the beginning of October, 1942, Hanselmann’s Kompanie became part of Landesschützen-Btl. 849, stationed in southern France. In January 1943 the unit was moved to the medieval walled town of Dinan. In February 1943, this unit was redesignated as the II. Bataillon of Sicherungs-Regiment 195, still stationed in Dinan. In September of 1943, Hanselmann got his final rank promotion, to Obergefreiter.

An entry dated from June of 1943 lists the items issued to Hanselmann in Sich. Rgt. 195 as follows:

1 helmet
1 field cap
1 field blouse
1 underjacket
1 pair of trousers
2 collar binds
2 pairs of underwear
2 shirts
3 pairs of socks
2 pairs of low boots
1 clothing bag
3 greatcoat straps
2 ammunition pouches
1 ID disk
2 hand towels
3 handkerchiefs
1 folding fork/spoon
1 pair suspenders
1 wool blanket
1 pair of gloves
1 toque
1 sewing kit
2 mess kit accessories (illegible)
1 greatcoat
1 Tornister
1 mess kit
1 Zeltbahn with accessories
1 belt
1 bread bag with strap
1 canteen
1 HBT uniform
1 pair gaiters

Hanselmann was issued a captured French rifle in May of 1942, which he seems to have carried for the remainder of the war. His bayonet was also a captured French model. He only had a rifle cleaning kit for about a month in the spring of 1943, probably he was not expected to fire the weapon he was issued and as a result had no need to have his own cleaning kit.

Hanselmann went on leave for relaxation several times: in August and again in November, 1941; April 1942; March 1943; April 1944. As a farmer from a small village, he also had one working leave each year where he was allowed to return home to tend to needs at the farm.

The last entries in the book are immunizations given on June 2, 1944. 4 days later, the Anglo-American invasion force arrived in France. Sicherungs-Regiment 195 eventually was sent into combat in Normandy. On August 15-18, 1944, the Regiment participated in the fighting at Chartres, France, as part of Kampfgruppe Garbsch. The unit must have suffered heavy losses; by the end of September, Hanselmann’s unit was officially listed as having been destroyed.

Inside the book are some notes made by Hanselmann himself while in a French POW camp. It is likely that Hanselmann was captured in August, 1944. There is also a small document tucked in the book from his time as a POW, dated November 1946. He must have been in captivity for years.

Here are some images from this original historical document. First, Hanselmann's ID photo, showing white-piped shoulder straps as worn by soldiers in a variety of service branches including Sicherung and Landesschützen units.
Inside cover and page 1.
Page 4 lists the units Hanselmann served with. Sicherungs-Regiment 195 was his final duty station.
Here, the French rifle and bayonet issued in 1942 were duly noted.
Service stamp for II. Btl., Sicherungs-Regiment 195.
To see scans of every page in this book with entries, check out our web site.