The intentions to document this information are long standing in that they go back some two decades to the early/mid 1990’s, just a few years before the subject of this site, James Kitchener Heath passed away.

As is the case in so many families in which a generation experienced war and all its traumas, certain aspects of service are known, but all too often the details are sketchy and disjointed. Add into this mix the passage of time and the result is invariably a collection of stories and fragments of memories accompanied by a handful of fragile and faded documents (if you are lucky) that represent the sum of information relating to the most extraordinary period in a soldier’s life. This was certainly the case in our family..... and it’s not much to go on.

In February 1995, my Father and I struggled to put together a potted service history to be read by the cleric presiding over my Grandfather’s funeral. At this point I decided to take steps to fill in some of the gaps as best I could.... sadly now without the benefit of first hand testimony.

A well known turn of phrase, ‘written on the back of a fag packet’ is defined by the Collins on-Line dictionary as something ‘composed or formed quickly and without detailed analysis or research’. As far as first hand source material for this history is concerned, no better a description could be made. The details gleaned from my Grandfather in brief (and often emotional) discussions in the 1990’s are summarised as a list of place names written in an old man’s shaky handwriting on the back of a standard envelope! (this will feature later). On the upside, a standard envelope is approximately twice the size of a cigarette packet, which immediately doubles the amount of information to work with!

By my own admission, this site is a little self-indulgent, being of primary interest to myself, my mother, my children and a handful of relatives still living in Staffordshire. In addition, it may be that the information presented here will be read by others outside of the family who have a passing interest in military or family history.

I would welcome any comments/suggestions or dare I say it relevant information to contact me.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Operation Pomegranate - The Germans

276 Infantry Division

A Wehrmacht Division, the 276 Infantry Division (the 276. Infanterie-Division or 276. ID in German) was created as part of the 10th wave of mobilisation (10 Welle) on 22nd May 1940, but after completion of training it was subsequently disbanded in July as France signed an armistice with Germany. 

On 17th November 1943 the 276. ID was reformed in the 22nd wave of mobilisation from men reallocated from the divisional staff, signals and supply units of the 38. Infanterie-Division, which was subsequently disbanded.

The 276. ID was moved down into south west France to the region of Bayonne , Cambo-les-Bains and Biarritz. Here the formation was  responsible for occupational tasks and coastal defences after the abolition of the 'Zone Libre'. The 'Zone Libre' had until this point in the war been unoccupied, but was invaded by German and Italian troops on 11th November 1943 in response to Allied landings in North Africa on 8th November.

276. Infanterie-Division was transferred to the Normandy sector in June 1944 following Overlord and was to cease as a fighting unit in late August 1944 when it was destroyed in the Falaise Pocket in Argentan under the command of  Generalleutnant Curt Badinski .

Survivors of the Division finally went on to form the 276. Volksgrenadier-Division at the beginning of September (4th) 1944.

During Pomegranate (16th -18th July) the 276 Infantry Division faced units of the 49th (West Riding) Division and 197 Brigade of the 59th (Staffordshire) Division.

Generalleutnant Curt Badinski
Commanding Officer of 276. Infanterie-Division

277 Infantry Division

The formation and original disbandment of the 277 Infantry Division (the 277. Infanterie-Division or 277. ID) mirrored that of its sister battalion the 276.ID. In likewise manner the reformed battalion occurred as part of the 22nd wave of mobilisation on 17th November 1943 in Croatia.

In 1944, 277.ID were to be found in Southern France and by mid-April their role was to defend the 'Mediterranean Coastal Sector' which ran over a distance of 54 kilometers from Leucate to Agde. They were to defend against enemy landings in the sector and to improve the defensive capabilities in the area though reinforcing coastal defensive positions and advancing training in mobile warfare techniques.

The Division was a so-called 'Division type 44' which had the following strength:

  • Three infantry regiments (489, 490, 491) of two battalions each and  a rifle battalion (277), i.e. a total of seven battalions.
  • One artillery regiment with three light (10.5 cm calibre) and one heavy (15 cm calibre) detachments, i.e. a total of twelve artillery detachments across the three infantry regiments.
  • One antitank company with 12 heavy, rifled antitank guns.
  • One engineer battalion, one signals battalion, rear services and a replacement training battalion.

By the end of May 1944, 277.ID was considered to be fully equipped with personnel and material, although a lack of mobile antitank defences was keenly felt in the months to come. With regards to personnel, the formation was considered to be 'entirely fit for defence' being made up of one third Eastern campaign veterans, one third of 'indespensible' troops (i.e. men yet to be called for active service by virtue of their criticality to the civilian economy) and one third were new recruits. Geographically, one third of the officers and two thirds of other ranks were Austrian.

In anticipation of Allied landings from Africa and Corsica, the Division was put on alert, but orders were subsequently received to transport the Division by rail to Normandy in the middle of June.

Harassing air raids placed strict limitations on the ability to move men by rail and the distance to Normandy was covered by marching formations. 277.ID detrained south of the Loire River and covered the remaining 200 km on foot to Le Mans where the Divisional H.Q. was established.

The Division saw action in Normandy until it too, like 276.ID, was destroyed as a fighting formation in August 1944 in Argentan. Remnants of the Division were formed into the 277th Volksgrenadier Division (277. Volksgrenadier-Division) which was formed on September 4, 1944 in Hungary by redesignation of the newly formed 574th Volksgrenadier Division (574. Volksgrenadier-Division) of the 32nd mobilisation wave (32. Welle).

The Division surrendered to US forces in the Ruhr pocket in April 1945.

During Operation Pomegranate the 277 Infantry Division opposed 176 and 177 Brigade of 59th (Staffordshire) Division.

General der Nachrichtentruppe 
Commanding Officer of 276. Infanterie-Division

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