Rank and File
A Clerk’s War
As the end of the year drew closer, the war seemed to recede from the centre stage it had occupied for the past 18 months. Perhaps our major allies, Japan and Italy, would not agree, but both of them have ongoing campaigns. For us, other than the near continuous battle for control of the air over the Channel and intermittent bombing raids on the Ruhr, the war was on hold.
That is not to say that people were not busy. As I mentioned before, the Führer has requested an end of year summary from his Cabinet ministers, and there is a frenzy of activity across Berlin as every Ministry tries to outdo the others in showing how efficient and efficacious it has been. And there are always the normal administrative tasks of the Reich, vastly expanded now that we have extended our borders to the Atlantic and into the Balkans.
Not to forget the Wehrmacht’s preparations for Barbarossa. When General von den Hagen left for Spain to take command of the newly formed 1st Sicherungskorps, it was a sign that the handover of security of inland Spain was complete. General Kaspar was appointed to another new unit: the Iberian Army of the Interior. Although the army currently only has 5 divisions (285th and 389th Sicherung, 148th Reserve and 325th and 400th Ersatz) it is expected to grow, and more regular army divisions will head east to Poland or Romania. In the east, 1st and 2nd Gebirgsjägerkorps have been attached to the Österreich Army.
There was some activity early in the month, but it just showed the need to keep a close eye on the occupied provinces. A rebel group seized Kolding in Danemark but von Kluge’s IX Armeekorps had the situation well under control. Within two days General von Eimannsberger had forced the partisans to battle. It took five days to put down the uprising, but it was achieved with only 29 casualties to 29.Infanterie Division. More than six hundred of the rebels were killed.
Battle of Kolding
Some of the Danish resistance fighters: Borgerliger Partisaner
The day that our troops moved into Kolding was also the day that Minister Goebbels reported a surge of volunteers across the country. Recruiting is up 10%! This news is very welcome, as every young man will be needed: 72.Infanterie (mot) left its training grounds the same day, heading east to join 4th Panzerkorps. Another motorised division is to be formed, but this one will have a new design. It will have only two motorised infantry brigades, a regiment of Marder IIIM tank destroyers and a self-propelled artillery regiment equipped with the Sturmpanzer 38(t) “Grille”. It should be ready for evaluation by the middle of next year: it is hoped that this model will decrease the drain on our manpower reserves.
The Marder IIIM: a regiment of these will form part of the new motorised infantry division.
The rest of the Reich was at peace, though Newall’s bombers again inflicted minor damage on Dortmund until the number of losses forced the RAF Strategic Command to halt operations again. The seas around France and Spain saw several air battles, as did the Channel Coast, but otherwise the first two weeks were quiet.
Spain saw further changes: 93.Infanterie arrived at Bilbao and 94.Infanterie took over security at Oviedo. Both of these are so-called “Coastal” divisions with a rocket regiment replacing one of the standard three infantry brigades. Their arrival meant that 86.Infanterie was detached from the Iberian Army and sent to Sensburg in East Prussia. A new infantry division, von der Chevallerie’s 95.Infanterie is waiting in Allenstein, presumably to be incorporated into a new Armeekorps when 86.Infanterie arrives.
Other occupied countries are also seeing preparations for the withdrawal of regular troops: Pristina is now home to 2nd Kossaken-Kavellerie Division and 3rd Kavellerie Division has been sent to Cluj.
Some of the free factory space has been allowed to be used for upgrading existing units, but equipment for two more infantry divisions has been ordered.
On the 10th December, another diplomatic coup by von Ribbentrop. Persia has been wooed from the British and has accepted our invitation to join the Axis. We now have not only a potential southern front on Russia, but also a border with Iraq, whose infantry have been causing our Italian allies so much grief in Libia. The Foreign Ministry is advising caution, however. Persia’s military is very weak, with the army consisting of just 11 infantry brigades. (Though surprisingly it can call on 8 anti-aircraft regiments). It is essential that we wait for the right moment before committing Persia to war, otherwise we risk seeing it crushed.
Our new allies are not expected to greatly boost our offensive power: a Persian CKD AH-IV tankette shows its abilities at a military demonstration for the Shah.
On the 25th the Luftwaffe received a present: its missing interceptor geschwader. At last every Jagdfliegerkorps has its full complement of three geschwader, as JG 10 “Wotan” left for Madrid to join 4th Jagdfliegerkorps. Most of the industrial capacity was diverted to upgrading equipment, but a couple of factories were instructed to construct additional anti-air guns and concrete for a new Flakturm at Dortmund.
Towards the end of the month, Kreß von Kressenstein handed over responsibility for Tarragona to General Behschnitt and 96.Infanterie Division, fresh from the Berlin training grounds. 30.Infanterie and its veteran commander immediately left for Königsberg. Hardly had the troops crossed into Frankreich when word came that guerrillas had taken over the province of Guardo. The rebels had not chosen their time well. General von Böckman has let it be known he is not too happy being placed on guard duty in Ovideo: he has a reputation for preferring offensive action. As soon as he heard that Guardo held the chance for him to display his abilities he was off, force marching 94.Infanterie south along the roads that were mercifully still dry and hard. No snow yet in northern Spain. Arriving in Guardo on Weihnachten he immediately engaged the rebel army, despite being outnumbered. (As mentioned before, 94.Infanterie is a coastal division with only two infantry brigades). Perhaps von Böckman is wasted in Spain: he used his rocket regiment to decimate the Spanish irregulars and claimed victory on 29th December. He lost just 17 men, while the Spanish left 691 men on the battlefield.
As the due date for the “Führer Summary” approached, tension mounted in every administrative office in Berlin. In Dortmund though, it was back to the shelters as the Luftwaffe again fought to defend the city from attack from the RAF. This time the Jagdkorps was determined to inflict as much damage on the enemy as possible. Not satisfied with destroying 29 of Newall’s 4-engine bombers over the Reich, Bogatsch’s 5th Jagdfliegerkorps pursued the intruders back to their base at Dover. As normal, scores of British fighters rose up from nearby airfields to protect the bombers: when slowing and descending to make their landings the bombers are at their most vulnerable. At this moment the Luftwaffe’s plan swung into action. Bogatsch’s interceptors, running low on fuel and ammunition, peeled off their attack and were replaced by Felmy’s 2nd Jagdfliegerkorps.
Air Battle of Dover: 3PM 28th December. Felmy’s three geschwader, fresh and fully fuelled and armed, take on the Spitfires to further punish Newall’s bombers.
After an hour of furious dogfights during which few of Newall’s bombers were able to land, Felmy withdrew allowing Fisser to take over the task of bleeding the RAF dry. 7th Jagdfliegerkorps maintained the unrelenting attacks on the British, and Newall’s bombers, critically low on fuel, were forced to land while under attack. The RAF’s fighters were not neglected, with No.212 Squadron below 25% of its operational strength.
Air Battle of Dover: 7PM 28th December. Fisser with 7th Jagdfliegerkorps maintains the pressure on the RAF
If the British thought that the Luftwaffe would call off the attack when darkness fell and the bombers were safely on the ground, they were mistaken. At 11PM Klepke arrived over Dover, 1st Jagdfliegerkorps keen to finish the job of destroying the RAF’s ability to contest the sky. Although not at full strength, 1st Jagdfliegerkorps still had a significant numerical advantage over the weary defenders. When the last of our fighters finally headed for home, the Luftwaffe estimated that we had destroyed at least 48 strategic bombers and 26 fighters. Our losses were not available, but are estimated at less than a dozen aircraft. A good end to the year for the Luftwaffe: 1940 has seen a complete turnaround and it is now the Luftwaffe in control.
Air Battle of Dover: 11PM 28th Dover. Klepke and his Messerschmitts arrive to finish the job of crippling the RAF.
The end of the year also saw another volunteer SS unit formed, 7th Freiwilligen Gebirgsjäger Division “Prinz Eugen”. Nearly all its troops are from Serbia, Croatia, Romania and Hungary. Large numbers of the Heer are now drawn from Volkdeutsche in the occupied territories, reducing the drain on the Reich’s manpower. With a commander with an engineering background (General Kurtze), “Prinz Eugen” was sent to Romania to join 2nd Gebirgsjägerkorps, no doubt to begin training in assaulting fortifications. The factory workers were to have no rest, however, as orders for vehicles to fit a complete panzer division were already in place.
Members of the “Prinz Eugen” Division parade through their home town in Croatia before leaving for Romania with the rest of the division.
On the last day of the year, two movement orders were issued, just to keep the Luftwaffe ground crews busy. Löhr’s2nd Schlachtfliegerkorps is to rebase to Memel while Heller’s never-used 7th Kampffliegerkorps is on its way to Krákow.
You may have wondered why there was no mention of technical and scientific advancement during December. Surely the Reich’s researchers were not on holiday? (Though some of them probably need a rest – they have been working without respite for four years now.) The reason I have not included them in my normal report is that there were just too many. I felt it best to include a summary for the month.
The first project completed in December was an analysis of “Spearhead Doctrine”. The Heer believes that with the knowledge gained from this study we will be able to concentrate more troops into the same frontage during battles, hopefully giving us an edge. Next was a theoretical appraisal of Blitzkrieg tactics which will increase the level of organisation in our panzer units. Then was the turn of the Luftwaffe, with the much needed delivery of Fighter Ground Control procedures which increase the co-operation between our pilots and ground based radar. Mass Assault theory promises to increase the morale of our infantry units, while increasing the likelihood of co-ordinating a full scale attack. New light artillery and anti-tank guns for our militia will give them a slightly better ability to handle real combat, while our naval pilots have been calling for new naval strike tactics for some time. Operational Level Organisation will dramatically reduce the time needed to recover after an attack, and Integrated Support will provide the back-up our specialist units need while at the same time increasing our ability to encircle the enemy. The final project of the month was the development of improved ammunition for our rocket artillery.
A diagram of the new Nebelwerfer 150mm ammunition
Projects started this month are included in Minister Goebbel’s report below, but I was interested to see that one of them envisages the creation of a mechanised infantry force, able to move off-road while still protected in their vehicles. Can we afford this? As an ex-infantryman I support anything that reduces marching and puts a layer of steel between me and the enemy, but this would be enormously expensive to construct, and would consume a lot of our precious fuel reserves.
We have some small units equipped with mechanised transport, such as these Sdkfz 6 half-tracks used in Poland, France and Spain, but the mechanised infantry project will study the possibility of whole regiments riding to battle on improved half-track vehicles.
Unterseebootsflotte Activity Report
During December, we sank 41 British ships and 5 of their escorts. We also sank 2 Irish ships and 2 of their escorts and a New Zealand freighter.
Axis Military Activity Maps
Greece: although supply is not a problem, it seems there will be no Italian winter offensive.
Libia: the Army of Libia has been dealt a defeat in Al ‘Uqaylah and is retreating. Supply is plentiful, however, and the Italians still have a considerable advantage in numbers, so we are hopeful this is just a temporary setback.
China: The Imperial Japanese Army is advancing along the front. What began very slowly is now accelerating, and our liaison officers in China report the Japanese High Command believes it has the Kuomintang and its allies on the run.
Indo-China: Although not attacking, General Tsuda is tying up large numbers of Guangxi troops. The arrival of the Sasebo Marines under General Yoshihara may indicate that a new offensive is planned.
The culmination of the month (in fact of the whole year) was the compilation of the Führer’s summary of the State of the Reich 1940. Each Minister handed his report to the Reichskanzlei where it was edited down to the most basic (and important) details before inclusion in a loose leaf folder. This edited summary was presented to the Führer: he has stated many times that if information cannot be given to him on a single page then he is not interested. Of course a copy was sent for filing, and it is open in front of me as I write this journal late at night on 31st December 1940.
The Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop leads off the report. He mentions the diplomatic coup of the year, Persia’s decision to join the Axis powers, but most of his paper discusses the position of the USA. Despite our best efforts, the USA is slowly growing closer to Britain and its allies, and it is evident that von Ribbentrop considers it inevitable that President Roosevelt will eventually bring the USA into the war on Britain’s side. All we can do is to delay this as long as possible. Otherwise all is well: the bulk of the neutral countries remain just that: neutral. Most importantly, the Russians have failed to attract allies: other than Sinkiang, Tannu Tuva and Mongolia it is alone.
A standardised map of the relationship between the world’s nations, developed and used by the Foreign Ministry. The relationship with the USA has been emphasised to show how it is being pulled into the sphere of influence of the United Kingdom.
Next was the Armaments Minister, Hjalmar Schacht. He proudly announced that the Reich’s production was now the equivalent of 435 industrial complexes, and that due to our huge stockpiles of raw materials we are able to use every factory at full capacity. We consume more steel and some rare materials such as rubber and aluminium than we produce, but the shortfall is tiny and we have enough stores to last for years.
At present our factories are fulfilling the following contracts:
Aircraft Carriers: 1
Infrastructure improvements in occupied territories: 60
Panzer Divisions: 2
Motorised Infantry Divisions: 7
Light Cruisers: 1
Schwere Panzer Divisions: 2
Air Bases: 3
Interceptor geschwader: 1
Cavalry Divisions: 2
Infantry Divisions: 3
Radar Installations: 3
Garrison Divisions: 1
Anti-aircraft Installations: 1
Fighter geschwader: 1
After that impressive list, there was little for Minister Schacht to add.
The Armaments Ministry chart of production and materials
As Minister for Security, Joseph Goebbels also has responsibility for the nation’s morale and management of our primary asset: our people. He reported that despite the RAF’s bombing campaign and the loss of several convoys off the coast of Spain, that National Unity is still high at 89%. Our manpower reserves are a concern, but with 864,000 young men available we still have a substantial capacity to increase the Wehrmacht. The good news is that nearly 48,000 men are added to that number each month, replacing those called up for new units or to replace losses in battle.
The Minister reported that critical attention is being given to the management of our most gifted youth, ensuring that the demands of our research institutes, security and intelligence agencies and diplomatic corps are being met. Not forgetting of course, the need for thousands of capable officers for the Wehrmacht. The reports claims that at present we have 35 active research projects all of which are fully staffed, that the intelligence and security receive 4 potential agents per day, and that the Foreign Ministry’s diplomat schools receive 2 candidates per day. The Wehrmacht’s demands are surprisingly low, but the paper explains that we have determined the maximum level of officer efficiency is 140% of standard complement. At present we have 137% and with officer schools taking just over 4 new applicants per day we can maintain or slightly improve that level. There was a footnote: should losses in the forthcoming war with Russia cause this ratio to drop then consideration would be given to calling up some of our research personnel to replace the lost officers. It is possible, however, that our diplomatic efforts to keep the USA neutral may fail. If this occurs, the Foreign Ministry has agreed to close its training facilities for the duration of the war, effectively donating its share of our future leaders to the Wehrmacht.
An attached sheet shows the 35 projects currently funded by the Reich, listed in order of commencement.
Supply Organisation 4
Coal to Oil Conversion 3
Rare Material Refining Techniques 3
Combined Arms Warfare
TAC Pilot Training 4
TAC Ground Crew Training 4
Mobile Warfare 4
CAS Pilot Training 4
Operational Level Command Structure 4
Tactical Air Command 4
Tactical Command Structure 3
People’s Army 4
Special Forces 4
Central Planning 4
Large Front 4
Light Bomb Development 2
CAS Ground Crew Training 4
Medium Bomb 2
Logistical Strike Tactics 4
Supply Transportation 4
Medium Air Search Radar 4
Ground Attack Tactics: 4
Guerrilla Warfare 4
Assault Concentration 4
Forward Air Control 4
Rocket Carriage and Sights 4
Heavy Bomber Pilot Training 4
Small Arms 5
Light Artillery 5
Elastic Defence 4
Civil Defence 3
Goebbels finishes his report with a dig at my Minister, Wilhelm Frick. We are still losing about 2% of our research work to enemy spies, and the Minster of Security points out that this is beyond his control: overseas spies are the responsibility of the Head of Intelligence.
Not surprisingly, Herr Frick does not directly address the subject of spies impacting our research efforts, though he does mention that not one factory has reported enemy sabotage. He points to the fact that despite cutbacks in funding his organisation still maintains 60 spy networks overseas, including no less than 8 in the USA. He also mentions that he has increased the number of cells in the USSR to 4, after our intelligence networks in Russia were eliminated by the GUGB (Glavnoe Upravlenie Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti – the Russian Main Directorate of State Security). Buried in the detail is the news that we are down to just two spy groups in the whole of the United Kingdom: there have been a procession of trials at the Old Bailey and many of our agents have been awarded posthumous decorations.
A depressing end for so many of our agents: the front gate of the Central Criminal Court in London: “The Old Bailey”.
At home, we have 10 separate agencies, all dedicated to counter-intelligence. They are assisted by some Italian counter-intelligence experts, and claim to have eradicated every enemy operative, other than a British group which has infiltrated our research organisations. According to the report, it is only a matter of time until we locate and eliminate those responsible for delaying our projects.
The Chief of Staff, Fritz Bayerlein, was brief and to the point. We currently have 81,294,000 tonnes of military supplies available. At our current production rate this should last for several years of intense warfare. It is possible that unexpected demands could cause this situation to change, but he expects that Minister Schacht would be able to re-arrange production to cover this. Supply wastage and costs due to poor transportation in occupied Russia are expected to be high, but we have trained a work force that is able to quickly upgrade such infrastructure, and provision is being made to fund a massive amount of railway and road construction as our armies advance.
Fuel, which was expected to be a problem, appears to be under control. Our storage facilities are nearly at full capacity (1 million tonnes). Unprocessed oil is at nearly half capacity (500,000 tonnes) and while home production of crude oil is low (even with the Romanian oilfields) we have had some success in coal to oil technology. Our scientists are working on improving this. He also notes that at present we export 130 tonnes of fuel per day to Japan. While it is no doubt beneficial to us to ensure that Japan has sufficient fuel to power its navy and air-force (the IJA has few motorised units) if necessary we can cancel these contracts. There is one word of warning: even our best estimates of fuel consumption after Barbarossa begins may be too low. Bayerlein reminds us that most new additions to the Wehrmacht have high fuel consumption, and that keeping a mobile Heer advancing through hostile terrain will be a huge drain on our reserves.
An operator in one of our early coal to oil conversion plants: we are seeking to vastly increase our ability to produce our own fuel, although it is generally accepted that we will never be self sufficient.
In his conclusion, Bayerlein recommends that every opportunity to study supply and fuel production, efficiency and transport must be taken.
General von Blomberg proudly announced that as of 31st December 1940, the Heer had a total of 534 regiments. His report was extremely short. He included a breakdown of the Heer, and pointed out that most units were provided with the most advanced equipment. He estimates that the Heer will be able to commit nearly 150 divisions to Unternehmen Barbarossa when it begins in late spring.
Minister Göring, of course, could not resist the opportunity to extol the glory of his Luftwaffe. I think the staff with the responsibility of editing his submission to the Führer report had some difficulty shortening his document. He does point out that while the Luftwaffe will be able to provide more than 20 bomber geschwader for Barbarossa, there could be problems with space at forward airbases. This will be exacerbated when we advance deep into Russia. He has been in discussions with Fritz Bayerlein to ensure that we have some ready built airbases for installation, and that captured airbases can be restored to full use as soon as possible. There is also some concern about fuel and supplies to forward airbases: our experience in Spain showed that many of our air units were not used as they could not be fuelled or armed when they moved in range of the front line.
Großadmiral Raeder is certainly travelling. He has left the Nordseeflotte in Gibraltar (repairing damage sustained during the Battle of the Gulf of Sidra) and flown to Berlin to ensure that the Kriegsmarine meets its reporting obligations. His report states that his ships are ready to assist the Heer in the forthcoming battle by clearing the Ostsee of enemy forces and landing units in the enemy rear. He also commits to continuing the crippling of the British economy with our Unterseebootsflotten and contesting the Royal Navy’s control of the Mittelmeer. Finally, should the British or their allies attempt an invasion mainland Europe, the Kreigsmarine stands ready to inflict such heavy casualties that such an attempt will be destroyed on the beaches.
It is an extraordinary list of tasks for what is still, by world standards, a small navy. Perhaps that is the intent: Raeder finishes with an impassioned plea for more resources, even at the cost of the Heer and the Luftwaffe. I think he faces an uphill battle, but it is possible the Führer could approve another carrier and most senior Wehrmacht officers accept that our Zerstörergeschwader losses must be replaced. Should the USA join the Allies then it is likely the importance of the Kreigsmarine will increase rapidly and a spate of ship and submarine building will commence.
The summaries certainly made interesting reading. The Reich has come a long way since the plans for expansion were laid down in January 1936. But this year we will face our most crucial test: we will take on the largest army in the world, and do battle with our fiercest foe. Even with our technological advantages, will we be able to do what Napoleon could not?
Shutting the file, I completed the last few entries to my journal for the year and headed out to join Gisela and the rest of Berlin to celebrate the end of 1940 and the beginning of 1941. Gutes neue Jahr!