3. Kompanie Reichsgrenadier Regiment 'Hoch- und Deutschmeister'
Reichsgrenadier Division 'Hoch- und Deutschmeister'
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The French Campaign 1940

The 44th Infanterie Division left its winter barracks and mobilised once again for combat in the area of Pfingsten in April 1940. With the announcement of ‘X-Day’ – the 10 May 1940 – the Division moved up to the Eifel region by rail transport then continued in the time-honoured tradition of the infantry - on foot – to the border area between Mayen and Andernach. Then as part of ‘Panzergruppe Kleist’ they marched into the Somme sector between Amiens and Peronne. By early June the Division was in the bridgehead over the Somme and assisted in the assault on the Weygand Line. However, the successful breakthrough of this Line saw the heaviest losses of the campaign. Regardless of these losses the Division pressed on with French forces withdrawing from their positions on the river to behind the city of Avre during the night of 6 June 1940. The Luftwaffe was engaged to destroy strong French forces, particularly in artillery, in the area near Pont St. Maxence on the river Oise. Even though the French had destroyed the road bridge over the Oise they failed to hold their line of resistance and once again were forced to pull back.

During this engagement, the Commander of the 2nd Battailon, Infanterie Regiment 131, 44th Infanterie Division – Major Raucheisen – had established and held a bridgehead on the far side of the river – for the achievement of his battalion and his leadership, the Major was awarded the Knight’s Cross. The Division was then able to continue its pursuit of the French forces west towards Paris and along the Loire towards Orleans. During this advance, a detachment from 2nd Kompanie, Panzerjäger Battailon 46 led by Leutnant Noak, seized the town of Beaugency on the bend of the Loire River without incurring any losses – again for the achievement of his men and in recognition of his leadership, Leutnant Noak also received the Knight’s Cross.

 The Division’s advance through France ended approximately 10Km northeast of Poitiers following the declaration of the Armistice on the 24 June 1940.  In July 1940 the division was allocated coastal defence duties in the area of La Rochelle and Rochefort and indeed trained with improvised sea transports for the planned invasion of Britain – Operation Sealion. Even now Hitler’s gaze was already cast eastwards and with the failure of the Luftwaffe to subdue the RAF and the Royal Navy remaining a force too strong for the Kreigsmarine, Operation Sealion was indefinitely postponed as plans for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, were prepared for the following year, 1941. By the end of March 1941, the Division had been transferred east to Poland in preparation for their toughest test yet!

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