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, 15 February 2015

The Orne Bridgehead - The Germans

271 Infantry Division

Generalleutnant Paul Danhauser
Commanding Officer of the 271. Infanterie-Division

A Wehrmacht Division, the 271 Infantry Division (the 271. Infanterie-Division or 271. 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 271. ID was reformed in the 22nd wave of mobilisation in the Netherlands from the division staff of the disbanded 137. Infanterie-Division. At the time of the D Day landings like the 276.ID and 277.ID, the 271st were located on the Mediterranean coast (stationed at Montpellier) watchful of possible Allied landings from the south,

271.ID was moved up into Normandy in early August. Considered to be poorly trained, the Division was destroyed as an effective fighting formation in the Falaise Pocket. Their Commanding Officer, Generalleutnant Paul Danhauser led the remnants of the Division out of the Pocket.

271.ID was reformed on 17 September 1944 as the 271. Volksgrenadier-Division from the partially formed 576. Volksgrenadier-Division. It saw action in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and surrendered to the Red Army in Mähren at the end of the war.

Kampfgruppe Wünsche

SS-Obersturmbannführer Max Wünsche
Commanding Officer of KG Wünsche

Kampfgruppe Wünsche (KG Wünsche) was an ad hoc combat formation of reserve units formed largely from the 12th SS Panzer Division. These formations typically carried the name of their Commanding Officer (Max Wünsche).

KG Wünsche was composed of the following units:

  • 3rd Company (Panthers) and 8th Company (Mark IVs), 12th SS Panzer Regiment (Hitlerjugend (HJ))
  • 2nd Company (Tigers), 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion
  • 1st and 3rd Battalions, 26th SS Panzer-Grenadier Regiment (HJ)
  • 3rd SS Panzer Artillery Battalion (HJ)

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