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Everything posted by PKeating

  1. I had a bit of time in hand before dinner so I thought I would nose about. FP Nr 14 777 was used by 50. Infanterie-Division. My reference is a bit ambiguous but it may have been the Divisional HQ FPN. 50. ID participated in Barbarossa, fighting in the southern sector as part of 11. Armee. The division fought in the Crimea in 1941 and 1942 and was present at the fall of Sevastopol before seeing action in the Caucasus and the Kuban. Back in the Crimea in 1943, 50. ID was effectively destroyed at Sevastopol in May 1944. It was reformed and posted to East Prussia, was destroyed for the second time in the Heiligenbeil pocket. Born in January 1924, Lechler would have been seventeen or eighteen during the qualifying period for the 1941/42 Winter War Medal and the Krim Shield. Being in the southern sector, the Romanian medal is also possible. He is listed as killed or missing in Seerappen, East Prussia, on 4.4.1945. Seerappen, now renamed, was in the Heiligenbeil pocket. There had been a Luftwaffe base there, from which KG 200 operated for a time. This was turned into a concentration camp, as part of the Stutthof complex. However, it was evacuated on 20.1.1945. So it is unlikely that young Lechler met his end before a firing squad there. It is interesting, on the other hand, that he died in 50. ID's area of operations. It suggests he returned or was returned to his unit. The Red Army captured Seerappen, along with more than sixty villages on the Samland Penninsula, on 14.4.1945. So how did Lechler die? There are many possibilities. The wanted poster describes him as wandering about from east to west searching for his unit. If the EK1 and the Silver Wound Badge – and the other awards - were genuine, perhaps he had received a head wound, which was taken into account, along with his sterling military service and the fact that he had clearly volunteered when very young. Maybe he was deemed temporarily insane. On the other hand, wearing military awards to which one was unentitled was a serious offence in the Wehrmacht. So was desertion. Maybe he was simply arrested and sent back to 50. ID, where they stood him before a firing squad and shot him, ten days before the Soviets arrived. But this seems unlikely. He would have been sent to a military prison and shot there. Or to a penal unit. Or perhaps he was killed by bombing or strafing.
  2. A pleasure, Paul. Mind you, there's a typo: This should of course read: "...they were not barred from winning [awards and decorations]." PK
  3. Interesting Wehrpass. Feldstrafgefangenen-Abt 14 was sent to the Newel zone, about 100 km east of the Latvian border, late in 1943. The unit remained in defence near Newel until the summer of 1944 before being transferred to the western front as part of Army Group Upper Rhine. It was on the ORBAT of 19th Army in May 1945. Your man was with 1. Kompanie from July 1943 until August 1944, when he was transferred to Stab/Feldstrafgefangenen-Abt 14. This does not mean that he was on the Staff or that he was cadre. Stab merely means HQ Coy in this context. However, if he was promoted during his time with the unit, then he must have been a non-penal member of the unit. In other words, for want of a better term, a guard. There is another WP from this unit here: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=174737 My study of units like SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 indicates that Bewährungseinheiten or Probationary Units also had 'politicals', petty thieves (as in guys who stole from comrades' lockers etc), Final Victory doubters, suspected homosexuals and anyone who fell foul of even quite minor disciplinary code offences in their ranks. A couple of men who ended up in SS-FJ-Btl 500 had actually been on death row, one of them in Dachau, and at least one other had spent time breaking and hauling rocks in the Mauthausen camp. These Bewährungs-Soldaten or Schützen (B-Soldat/B-Schütz) were non-citizens and, militarily, considered beneath the lowest recruit-level rank. In the Waffen-SS, they were forbidden to wear the sigrunen and any prestige insignia such as unit cuff titles. They were also fobidden to wear awards and decorations. However, as you say, they were barred from winning them. Such awards were duly noted by unit HQ and when the soldier was deemed to have rehabilitated himself through honourable service on the field of battle - or clearing minefields - he was allowed to put his awards back on, including any he had earned during his probation. For instance, SS-Fallschirmjäger who earned their parachutist badges at Kraljevo and Papà as B-Schützen were only allowed to wear them once rehabilitated. Not many of the initial probationary intake of some 80% of the recruits transferred to SS-FJ-Btl 500 during the autumn and winter of 1943/44 survived to the autumn of 1944, when Himmler issued the rehabilitation order to the unit. I believe that they were also required to wear plain belt buckles as the Meine Ehre Heißt Treue slogan was considered inappropriate for probationers but I cannot recall seeing an SS paratrooper wearing such a buckle in any of the hundreds of photographs I have studied. There may have been a shortage of these buckles. As Gordon can confirm, these plain buckles appear in photos of men serving in serious penal units. As an aside, the probationary nature of SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 in itself renders all these SS-Fallschirmjäger cuff titles and M38/40 jump helmets with runic decals a fanstastic nonsense. In any case, the order banning helmet decals predated the formation of this unit so no supplier would have sent runic-badged jump helmets out. On top of that, most of the parachuting kit issued to the Waffen-SS came from Luftwaffe sources anyway, which is why one sees these men in photos with LW decals and, sometimes, LW eagles on their smocks. As for the cuff titles, these were in the gift of the Führer and of the Reichsführer-SS, neither of whom instituted such a cuff title. Back on topic, it is often said that the second SS parachute unit formed was given the number '600' as the '500' number was considered tainted by the men of these units. However, I never met a veteran or read a memoir or diary that even mentioned this issue. The men of the 500 were intensely proud of their unit, as were the men of the 600, although parachute training had been suspended by the time the 600 was formed. Veterans used to bristle when they heard the unit described as "penal". In fact, they sometimes denied that there was anything disciplinary about it because recruits with clean records were welcome too. As another aside, quite a few of the younger disciplinary cases sent to the Dirlewanger Brigade were treated fairly well and released sooner than one might expect by the Soviets, who considered them 'politicals' and victims of Nazism. Strange but true. However, NCOs and officers got the usual rough time. Coming back to the SS-FJ, the 80-odd survivors of the 600, numbering a few 500 veterans in their ranks, who reached US forces with the Soviets at their hells escaped being handed back to the Reds because their officers managed to convince the Yanks that they were all anti-Nazis - some of them were very convinced Nazis, even sixty years later! - and therefore 'politicals'. They served time in work camps but were also released earlier than a lot of Waffen-SS veterans in Allied hands.
  4. Known originals? Forman's guide photos? Anyone ever seen a photo of one being worn at the time? No, I don't think so. Oh sure, it was instituted and some examples were probably made but nobody in their right mind would wear anything like this in the field because snipers got rough, often terminal treatment if captured. Anyone seen any paybooks with the requisite entry? Dan, no need to tell you now, I'm sure, but for the record, drop it like used bog paper. P
  5. Old post I know but for the record: I used to use a space heater/paint dryer to remove solidified Cosmoline from various items, including ex-WD BSA and Norton motorcycle parts. Just set the item about two metres from the heater on medium to hot and wait. The goo will warm up slowly, liquify and run off. With items like swords or firearms with wooden furniture, obviously the non-metallic parts should be protected from direct heat, even hot air. PK
  6. On a serious note, not all mercenaries are homicidal maniacs. Moreover, the Yugoslav Civil War or Wars of Secession of the 1990s, which were a continuation of the the conflict of the early 1940s, spawned a number of movements relying upon foreign volunteers, the Kosovar UÇK/KLA being one such group. It is true that some units of the nascent Croatian armed forces in 1991 were neo-Nazis and Soldier of Fortune-subscribing Walts but not all of them were. Many volunteers were brave men who went there out of a sense of principle. Some were there to earn their living, although it was not very well-paid much of the time. And then there were the mercenaries in Sierra Leone, which is an interesting story that somehow never made it into the mainstream press. Plus the PMCs in Iraq, some of whom behaved badly whilst others behaved impeccably. The West will always have a use for irregulars, even more so now that we are governed exclusively by politicians who are scared of being seen to get blood on their hands. Mercs come with a high level of deniability. PK
  7. Yes, well, that's an argument that has been used by all sorts of people down the ages. Not that I do not believe that certain sorts of people need killing. Some people need killing urgently. But we do not kill them because they are mad or bad. We kill them because we fear them. There again, there are always exceptions to the rule. I would, for instance, kill any man, woman or child using powerful base speakers to inflict techno and other horrible noises on their neighbours. Not because I fear them. Because I hate them. So I suppose it is just as well that we have tough firearms legislation in Europe. The black neo-nazi is interesting. Proves what a well-integrated, progressive society Sweden is. Much more so than the United States, where blacks can't be members of Aryan Brotherhood or the Hells Angels. You spelt "sociopath" correctly. PK
  8. Interesting. IIRC, Toland quoted from his interview(s) with Gutmann/Grant but if Toland was prone to 'painting in broad brushstrokes', then that might raise question marks over what Gutmann/Grant allegedly told him. Presumably, Toland recorded his subjects. PK
  9. Gosh! It's a long time since I read Toland. Ulsterman is right in saying that Hugo Gutmann received no special pension from Hitler although I think the NS government paid him his due pension as a retired reserve officer. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1938 but escaped to Belgium after his release, apparently facilitated by some sympathetic security service officers who were themselves WW1 veterans. He and his family got out and away to the USA before the German invasion in 1940. There are a lot of differing accounts out there, including one I recall reading in the 1970s which contended that Gutmann was living in Vienna when the Germans annexed Austria and that Hitler gave special orders that he not be harassed in any way. In fact, the only German politician or statesman who seems to have behaved correctly was Hindenburg, who tried to protect and exempt Jewish veterans from discrimination. However, Hindenburg died in 1934 and could therefore do nothing about the Nuremberg Race Laws of 1935. Hugo Gutmann, like other German Jews, was stripped of his citizenship by the Nuremberg decree and his name was removed from the army reserve rolls. This is where the stories that Hitler protected him germinate: Gutmann apparently continued to receive his army pension, unlike many but not all other Jewish veterans, and it was said that this was due to Hitler's intervention. Let's look at this more closely. When it suited Hitler, he protected Jews, as the cases of the Bechsteins, Erhard Milch and others show. Had Gutmann been under the Führer's special protection, it seems doubtful that he would have been arrested by the Gestapo and that he would have felt the pressing need to escape from Germany. There again, if memory serves me right, Hitler did make some comments about how some Jews were okay, based on his experiences of men like Gutmann. But I will dig out Toland and read him again as I think much of his interview of Henry G Grant of St Louis,Missouri found its way into his biography of Hitler. PK
  10. Of course! I was however thinking in terms of the fact that the war was "over" as far as the French government was concerned. But yes, the bombardment of Mers El-Kebir was an act of war against La Patrie by a foreign aggressor and they happened to have a Croix de Guerre extant. That said, one wonders what might happen if some Caribbean despot invaded Guadaloupe and men of the French armed forces distinguished themselves in battle. What would Paris give them? PK
  11. This must be one of the "holy grails" of French groups, Chris. The "Vichy" version of the CdG didn't appear until 1941, as I am sure you know. So I suppose there was no option for men awarded the CdG for this tragic event other than the "Republican" CdG. However, given that France was not "at war" in any official sense at the time of Mers El-Kebir in July 1940, the award seems anomalous. Surely the CdG TOE would have been more 'legal'? I am sure some knowledgeable members like Vétéran (Paul), Paul Murphy and others will have comments. However, it is, as they say, what it is. The Germans were awarding things like the Lapland Shield and other, earlier awards for some time after the surrender in 1945 so the date of the Franco-German Armistice is perhaps not very relevant. The men of Mers El-Kebir would have been seen as participants in the "Guerre de 39-40" a week or so later, even if they weren't victims of a German attack. Remember this one, which has been featured here before? Awarded two days after the armistice. On the other hand, it is a 1939-1940 cross with a London-made "Republican" ribbon but the man got it after the end of hostilities. He probably received a 1939-dated cross. If so, he then exchanged it for the Vichy-approved version and, then, attached a London-made ribbon to it after the Liberation. These were the only official wartime crosses awarded by the French Republic. The 1939-1945 crosses were obviously postwar. Your man left the armed forces a month after the action and may have had no wish nor any occasion to wear his cross. There again, who knows? He might have applied for the so-called Vichy version, commemorating The 1939-1940 War as a sop to France's new German allies and partners. It would have been politic if he wanted to wear it at functions. P
  12. Just a couple of comments: the MAROC clasp on the 1950s "Security Operations and Maintenance of Order Medal", as it was euphemistically called by a government turning backward cartwheels to avoid admitting that it was a war, looks like an aftermarket Arthus Bertrand item. There were four clasps authorised for this medal, of which you have three, the other being SAHARA. The badge pinned to the earlier medal is that of the 5e Régiment de tirailleurs morocains, formed from the 65e Régiment de tirailleurs morocains in 1929. The 65e RTM was formed in 1920 so the medal predates the unit although the recipient could well have served with the 5e RTM as an older soldier. The 5e RTM was dissolved in 1946, reformed in 1950 and redesignated the 27e Régiment d'infantérie in 1965. The 5e RTM nevertheless retained the battle honours of the 65e RTM: Maroc 1925 and Levant 1926-1927. I would really expect to see this badge pinned to a Colonial Medal with the appropriate clasp or to the Levant Medal of the period but, as previously said, if the badge was pinned to the riband by the Morocco Medal's original recipient, it is entirely possible that he later served with this unit or its predecessor. PK
  13. I agree that one should never destroy anything original, even if it has been monkeyed with. Many younger or debutant collectors cannot afford certain medals to begin with and things like this make better 'fillers' than outright copies. Many soldiers of the period replaced lost medals in this way too, although many 'walts' renamed medals acquired from pawnbrokers in order to go a-walting. These days, eBay is full of outfits that will supply sufficiently convincing, ready-named medals. Regarding WW2 Stars, I have seen a few perfectly genuine groups named in this way by their recipients or next-of-kin because the originals were unnamed, in Britain at least. Well done for not smelting them! PK
  14. Has anyone seen a ring of this particular design before? It is for now the only picture I have of it. PK
  15. What a wonderful pair of Iron Crosses! Thank you for showing us these. The .800 EK1 is so rare. I must photograph my vaulted EK1 1939, which is in the same bracket of pre-PKO 'rules application' of March 1941, and post it here. Interesting that yours is flat, as per regulations. Very nice. The field conversion is, in the true sense of the term, extraordinary. You, sir, are a lucky fellow to have two such treasures. PK
  16. LW Fallschirmjäger waffenfarbe was yellow as per LW flight personnel. Exceptions included black for members of airborne engineer and pioneer sub-units and blue for medical sub-units. PK
  17. A Verdun Medal by Vernier, with three others thrown in for your interest.
  18. This is a discussion forum not an advertising billboard. Please do not advertise your firm here. PK
  19. They both seem to be genuine but worth very little because of the damage and missing parts. If they are very cheap, then buy them but they are not worth much money. They are nice examples of authentic KVK from the viewpoint of studying originals but worth very little money. $20 for the two, maximum. Pozdrawiam! PK
  20. Et maintenant, une petite barette "Levant 1941" qui semble d'avoir actuellement portée pendant la guerre par un militaire... This riband with its miniature "Levant 1941" clasp appears to have been worn during the war by a soldier, sailor or airman. Apart from its rarity, the mounting is interesting, allowing as it does the option of pinning it to a uniform or wearing it through thread loops in the old-fashioned style. This arrived today as a gift from my pilot friend, Eric, in the south of France. Vétéran will be interested to know that Eric is a reserve officer in the 2e Régiment d'infantérie étranger as well as flying for Air France. He used to be a military pilot too. Now all he needs to do is serve on a battleship... PK
  21. Prewar military service plus the sports badges plus the Brandenburg Gate badge evoking the 1936 Olympics badges. Interesting. PK
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