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.