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."