'Hoch- und Deutschmeister' Italian Campaign Timeline
Reichsgrenadier Division Hoch- und Deutschmeister (Northern Italy - August 1943).
At the same time as the Hoch- und Deutschmeister arrived in Northern Italy, the Italian High Command's elite Alpini troops relocated to the South Tyrol region, the camaraderie with the Italians was good at this time.
The picture shows Italian Alpini officers as guests of Aufklärungs Abteilung 44 observing a firepower demonstration of Heavy Machine Guns instructed by Oberleutnant Rettschlag.
The final demonstration included Flammpanzern III.
200 Panzer III Ausf.Ms were converted, by Wegmann at Kassel, as Flammenwerfers, under the designation Ausf.M(FI) or, officially, Sd.Kfz.141/3. They were almost identical externally to the regular Ausf.M, but with a 140 mm (5.51 in) dummy gun, which concealed the flamethrower. They had additional 30 mm (1.18 in) to 50 mm (1.97 in) armour plates welded on the frontal part of the hull and glacis, because their range was quite short (limited to 60 m/200 ft at best), hence exposing them to dangerous close fire. The two coaxial and hull machine-guns were retained, but they also carried 1020 litres of inflammable oil in two tanks inside the hull. All this additional weight made them the slowest of all versions.
This picture shows a Flammpanzer III in use by the Hoch- und Deutschmeister during a firepower demonstration to the same Italian Alpini Officers. To the right of the picture is Oberleutnant Barton, C.O. 3./131 Grenadier Regiment.
Before the loss of Sicily, eight Tigers were shipped from the ordnance depot on 28 July 1943, to outfit an independent unit destined for Italy. Known as Tigergruppe Meyer, this small unit with its eight Tigers was attached to Pz. Jg. Abt. 46 (of the Hoch- und Deutschmeister Division) between August and November 1943. By the 4 February 1944, then renamed as Tigergruppe Schwebbach it was attached to the LXXVI (76) Panzer Korps to attack the bridgehead created by the Allied landing at Anzio. None of the Tigers remained operational on 12 February 1944 but seven of the eight were available again by 15 February 1944 for the planned attacks. On 11 March 1944, the surviving crews and Tigers of Tigergruppe Schwebbach were incorporated into sPzAbt. 508.
This picture shows one of the eight Tigergruppe Meyer's Tigers in August 1943. It is a Panzerkampfwagen VI, Ausf.E and it was given the nickname of "Strolch" (Rascal) by its crew. Note that the Tiger appears to have been given a camouflage paint scheme to match the local conditions (over the dark yellow base paint it appears to have been camouflaged with olive green and, most likely, with red/brown stripes included).
Unlike other panzer units, the Tigers incorporated in this small combat unit (two Zugs with four Tigers each) used only a single digit numbering system & not the usual three-digit numbering system normally used in Panzer units.
Note that the front glacis plate of this Tiger sports what appears to be a unit emblem similar to that used by the Hoch- und Deutschmeister Division emblazoned on it. This has not been officially verified but it would certainly match the period when Tigergruppe Meyer was attached to the Hoch- und Deutschmeister Division as described above.
Reichsgrenadier Division Hoch- und Deutschmeister (Gustav Line Italy - late 1943 - mid 1944).
Oberst R. Koschella (right), commander from 6.11.1943 to 4.7.1944 of the Reichs-Grenadier-Regiment "Hoch- und Deutschmeister" and Leutnant Schaefer, at the tactical command post of the regiment, Atina (Frosinone), 10.4.1944. (Photo courtesy of S. Vazon Colla)
Italian Lancia car commandeered as a staff car by the Hoch- und Deutschmeister Division.
Of note is the Hoch- und Deutschmeister Cross divisional symbol on the right hand wing (fender) of the car.
According to source the location is perhaps in Atina or in some village in the Comino valley, Italy 1944. (Photo courtesy of S. Vazon Colla).
Tactical command post of the Artillerie-Regiment 96 (44.Inf.Div.), Atina, Frosinone region, Italy 1944.
Hauptmann Abele (below), Kdr, I / HuD, received the Knights' Cross for the assault on Colle Abate.
N.B. by the time that this photograph was taken Abele had been promoted to Major.
More to follow!