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.