german retreat

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New Guinea during World War I — The Battle of Bita Paka and the Siege of Toma,

While World War I typically brings up scenes of trench warfare from the Western Front. However World War I was fought by people from all over the world on battlefields all over the world. Before World War I, New Guinea was divided in two, the northern half controlled by Germany, the southern half British (administered by Australia). The islands of New Guinea were especially important for Germany because they were home to many supply and communications stations for the German East Asiatic Squadron, a fleet of cruisers which harassed Allied shipping in the Pacific and Indian Ocean throughout the war. 

As soon as the war began, the Australian government and military began planning for an operation to seize New Guinea. It would become the first independent Australian military operation and result in the first Australian casualties of the war. The operation was conducted by the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, consisting of 3,000 soldiers and sailors. Australia was quickly able to seize most of New Guinea without resistance, however at a radio station at a small village called Bita Paka on New Britain Island was a force of 61 German soldiers and 240 native police who were determined to fight.

On September 11th, 1914 a force of 500 Australian soldiers approached Bita Paka intent on capturing the radio station. There they were met by the German and native soldiers who fought a retreating skirmish, until eventually the settled into trenches and fortifications. The Germans had intended to draw the Australians into a trap, a  pipe mines which were to be detonated when the Australians advanced across a road. However the Australians were able to locate and disable the mine, foiling the German plans. 

With superior numbers, the Australians were able to quickly outflank and overwhelm the German lines. The Germans retreated 19 miles through the dense jungle to the village of Toma, hoping to hold out until the East Asiatic Squadron arrived with reinforcements. However, the Australians would follow them with a 12 pounder artillery piece and commence bombardment of the village.  Most of the native soldiers fled in panic, convincing the Germans to surrender. One German officer named Hermann Detzner escaped into the jungle with 20 native soldiers, where he spent the rest of the war in hiding.  At the end of the operation six Australian soldiers were dead and four wounded. The Germans suffered 1 German officer dead, 30 native soldiers killed, and 11 wounded. 

Dutch girls from Zeeland protesting against Belgian annexation plans, the Hague 1919

Following the end of WWI Belgium accused the Netherlands of collaborating with Germany, due to letting German troops retreat through the Netherlands in 1918 and giving asylum to Emperor Wilhelm II. This was despite that fact that the Netherlands had also sheltered half a million Belgian refugees during the war. Belgium wanted the river Meuse as an eastern border and to annex Zeelandic Flanders (part of the Netherlands since the Dutch revolt) so the Netherlands could no longer close the Scheldt and the port of Antwerp. The plan failed and post-war relations between the two countries were chilly until the late 1930’s.

Germans Begin General Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line

French troops greeting French civilians left behind by the Germans in Noyon, within a half hour of its liberation on March 18.  The French flag flying was likely kept in hiding for over two years of German occupation.

March 16 1917, Noyon–Since early February, the Germans had been preparing to shorten and strengthen their lines by willingly evacuating a large salient between Arras and the Aisne, surrounding but far larger than the ground lost on the Somme last year.  They had made sure that the Allies would not be gaining any ground of much use, however, destroying all the infrastructure and buildings they could find, damming rivers, leaving booby traps and fouling wells.  Anyone who could be useful for the war economy was taken further behind German lines, leaving the French with children, the elderly as additional mouths to feed.

Many Allied commanders had realized the Germans were planning a retreat by early March, and it had become increasingly obvious in the past few days. Even Nivelle had realized what was going on by the 15th.  The Germans abandoned the front lines in the wee hours of the 16th, leaving the French to face empty trenches.  The Allies soon followed, but could not maintain the same pace over ground that had been wrecked by years of fighting and deliberate German scorched-earth policies. Nevertheless, the few soldiers still left who had fought in the first months of the war, it felt like August or September of 1914 again; no longer stuck in trenches, they were moving over open country.  Cavalry commanders were excited at the prospect of chasing down the retreating Germans, though a lack of forage and water ultimately prevented the cavalry from being effective.

Nivelle had refused to believe that the Germans would give up this ground; Noyon lay only 40 miles from Paris.  The politician George Clemenceau would exhort the readers of his paper: “Monsieurs, les Allemands sont toujours en Noyon.” (Monsieurs, the Germans are still in Noyon.)  When Noyon fell two days later, Nivelle supposedly cabled Clemenceau, telling him “Monsieur, les Allemands ne sont plus en Noyon.” (Monsieur, the Germans are no longer in Noyon.)

Today in 1916: Last Supply Ship Arrives in German East Africa
Today in 1915:  Universal City Grand Opening Marred by Aviator Death

Sources include: E.L. Spears, Prelude to Victory.

General der Panzertruppe Maximilian von Edelsheim and other officers leave in their command VW Schwimmwagen for the far side of the River Elbe to convey the terms of surrender to their subordinate commanders. They have just left the city hall of Stendal, Germany, where Major Frank Keating, 102nd Infantry Div. and Major General James Moore, Chief of Staff US 9th Army gave them the terms for the German XXXXVIII Panzerkorps of which Edelsheim commanded at the time. May 4 1945.

The bulk of the retreating German forces, along with several thousand civilians fleeing the final Soviet advance, reached and crossed the Elbe using the partially destroyed bridge at Tangermünde between 4 May and 7 May 1945, surrendering to elements of the US 102nd Infantry Division, US 9th Army.

(Nb. the vehicle isn’t a standard Type 166 VW Schwimmwagen, but the very rare limited production Type 128.
Notice the high the body sides and the exhaust venting under the rear mudguard.
The small badge on the side of the vehicle is the 48th Pz Korps badge)

(Photo source - US Army Signal Corps)
Presented here by Johnny Sirlande

(Colourised by Richard James Molloy from the UK)

April 27, 1945

The last Germans retreated from my territory. They used scorched earth tactics, so most of my northern areas are now completely burned down. At least I managed to evacuate most of my people out of the way, but they won´t be happy when they will see the destruction.

And my new communist Minister of Interior deported some of my citizens to Russia. According to the Allies, I need to deport all the citizens of the Soviet Union who are still here back to them, but those were MY Russians. He had no right to send them away.

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Keep reading

German soldier of the SS Latvian Legion, date and place unknow. The Legion was created in 1943, consisting primarily of ethnic Latvian soldiers.

The legion consisted of two divisions of the Waffen-SS:
- 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian)
- 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian)

It fought its first battle in the Siege of Leningrad. It continued fighting around Leningrad until the German forces retreated in January 1944.

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Soldats allemands de la 15e division SS de grenadiers Lettland (Lettonie), date et lieu inconnu. La légion a été créée en 1943, conçu exclusivement de soldats Lettons.

La légion consistait en deux divisions Waffen SS :
-15e division SS de grenadiers « Lettland » (1re lettonne)
*19e division SS de grenadiers « Lettland » (2re lettonne)

Les Lettons ont tout d'abord participé au Siège de Leningrad. Ils ont continués à combattre aux alentours de Leningrad jusqu'au retrait des forces allemandes en janvier 1944.

Katelyn probably gets so tired of Aaron secretively retreating to German when he’s talking to Andrew/Nicky/Neil around her that she just takes it upon herself to learn the language without telling anyone. On one hand it’s a breach of trust but on the other hand, she’s tired of hearing her name constantly dropped with no idea of what’s going on.

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1st of July 1916: Battle of the Somme begins 

The battle of the somme was one of the Bloodiest battles in Human history the french, British and German forces suffered around 1.2 million casualties between them. 

For nearly 2 years the western front had seen nothing but a bloody stalemate. Morale was low. The British had suffered a stunning defeat at Gallipoli. The Allies had to break through the German lines and gain some ground if they were to win the war. 

Although the somme was intended to be part of a much larger offensive where British, Russian, French and Italian armies would attack simultaneously. Much of the French army was tied up fighting then Germans who had launched a collossal offensive at Verdun in the February of that year. This meant the somme was to be fought by mostly British troops. The Battle now also had an additional objective. Relieve the French at Verdun. 

Commanded by Field Marshal Douglas Haig and French general Ferdinand foch the Allies bombarded the German lines for 7 days. The largest artillery bombardment in history. Haig was so confident he had killed all the Germans that he said the troops could “Walk over” the top. This was not the case. The shells had failed to destroy the deep underground bunkers where the germans had hidden themselves. On the 1st of July British troops walked over the top and were butchered by machine gun fire. Caught on barbed fire the shells had failed to destroy. The British witnessed the bloodiest day in their history. 19,000 dead on the first day. 

Haig continued the attack. 3 miles of land had cost them 19,000 men. The Germans were forced to redeploy troops and guns from Verdun to support those fighting at the somme. Heavy cavalry attacks by the Indian regiments and south african regiments had pushed another 3 miles into german territory. By august the Germans had suffered 250,000 casualties. 

In September the tank made its debut appearance on orders of Haig. Many broke down and only 21 reached the front. Advancing 1.5 miles. But the British infantry suffered 29,000 losses. The Germans responded by sending their planes to hamper enemy guns. But the assault on the ground was thwarted by french machine guns. 

German guns were not the only enemy of the Allies. The atrocious weather gave many troops trenchfoot and slowed supply lines. Disease spread through the trenches on both sides killing just as many as the machine gun. The French army was on breaking point and due to the sheer scale of death many french divisions mutinied. Which was harshly dealth with. 

By November winter weather had set in and the allies halter their advance. The Germans retreated to Hindenburg. The allies advanced 7 miles in 141 days.

he allies suffered a steep learning curve and realised they must change tactics to win ww1. The Media put a positive spin on the somme. “All in this together” and “the big push” making it sound like a game of sport. It was the opposite Because Haig was not the one going over the top and he wasn’t the one being murdered like cattle for 7 miles of dirt. The battle of the somme really gave meaning to the term “Lions led by donkeys”. 

“when you go home,                                                                                           tell them of us, and say.                                                                                     For your tomorrow we gave our today”

Otto “Bruno” Kittel

Leningrad Front;

During the summer, 1942, aerial victories were hard to come by. Operating in the northern sector of the front usually meant little action as all the Soviet air activity was now combating German Army Group South’s summer offensive, Case Blue. Every now and again an enemy aircraft would be sighted and shot down, but Kittel was frustrated. The ground crews kept up his spirits. On 19 February 1943, Feldwebel Kittel achieved his 39th victory, which was also JG 54’s 4,000th of the war. JG 54 Geschwaderkommodore Hannes Trautloft congratulated Kittel and said the following: “I have instructed that you’re no longer to be assigned as wingman. Instead you’re to be sent on freie Jagd  on your own whenever there’s an opportunity.” In early 1943, JG 54 had been withdrawn from the frontline to convert to the Fw 190. With stronger undercarriage for the harsher conditions on the Eastern Front, greater firepower, speed and agility, the fighter was popular among pilots. Kittel, in particular, was pleased. The Fw 190 was an ideal interceptor against the tough and heavily armoured Shturmovik, his favourite target. At this point, Kittel’s victory tally climbed rapidly. By mid-March 1943, Kittel had reached 46 victories, encompassing all types of aircraft.

On 14 or 15 March 1943 while on a mission over the Demyansk pocket, Kittel’s Fw 190 suffered engine failure. He was 80 kilometres (50 mi) behind Soviet lines. He removed his precision board clock, an intricately engineered instrument (all pilots were ordered to do so) and landed his Fw 190 which slid 150 metres (490 ft) to a stop in a snow-covered field. His comrade, and a member of the flight, Herbert Broennle, advised him to hide after landing, to travel only by night and use a compass on a heading of 255 degrees (north-west) which would take him to Stayara Russa, towards JG 54’s base behind German lines. Broennle himself had been shot down under the same circumstances in 1941, and had experience. Kittel ran for the nearest forest after landing. Several Russian women and children saw the crash from two houses nearby and came running out. No men were in sight. When Kittel got to the forest he found he had left his emergency rations behind, having only chocolate bar with him. He continued through the forest, able to move through the forest during the day unseen, resting often. Needing to eat, he raided several empty houses and found clothes but no food. Determined to find food, and now looking like a Russian peasant, he passed through several Soviet checkpoints looking for something to eat. Kittel spoke Czech and some Russian and managed to evade detection. On the route he stopped at several points and was given food. Eventually Kittel made it to the edge of Lake Ilmen. At night he crossed the frozen lake and made it to German lines. Kittel was ‘recaptured’ three days after crashing by a German sentry.

Kittel took leave in March/April 1943. By the time he returned Walter Nowotny had taken over the Gruppe. Hans Philipp had left to take command of Jagdgeschwader 1 (JG 1) in Germany. He was killed on 8 October 1943. On 3 May 1943, Kittel resumed his combat career with three victories. However he was shot down and forced landed owing to return fire from a bombers’ gunner. On 10 June 1943 Kittel achieved another kill to reach 50.

Kursk and back to the Baltic;

JG 54 took part in many of the spring battles over the Crimea Peninsula, Vyazma-Bryansk, Vitebsk, Kharkov, Orsha and Orel regions. As the spring battles ended, the Germans prepared for Operation Citadel, which led to the Battle of Kursk. During the air battles Kittel’s unit escorted Junkers Ju 87 Stukas of III./Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 (Third Group, StG 2, or Dive Bomber Wing 2), which achieved fame under the leadership of Hans-Ulrich Rudel. On 5 July 1943, the Germans launched their attack. By this date, Otto Kittel had claimed 56 victories. During the first day of Citadel Kittel became an “ace-in-a-day” claiming six victories. The next day he shot down three more Soviet aircraft. It was at this point Kittel won recognition and become one of the most prominent aces. After the German defeat at Kursk, Kittel continued participating in further battles as the German Army retreated to the Dnieper river. Kittel had achieved a one kill per day average to reach 94 victories on 4 September 1943. Just 11 days later, on 15 September 1943, Kittel claimed his 100th aerial victory. He was the 53rd Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark He received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 29 October 1943 for 120 victories. By the time he was awarded it on 29 October, he had added three more victories to reach 123. Between November 1943 through January 1944 Kittel was chief instructor of the Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe Ost (Training Group East) in Biarritz, France, passing on knowledge and experience to the Jagdflieger of the future. Unhappy in a teaching role, Kittel filed several applications to return to combat, and in March 1944 Kittel returned to JG 54 on the Eastern Front.

On 2 April 1944, having achieved 144 victories, Kittel claimed a further six for a total of 150. Kittel’s 150th victory was claimed sometime between 4–8 April 1944. On April 14 he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) for his 152nd aerial victory, claimed on 12 April. Kittel received the Oak Leaves from Adolf Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair in East Prussia on 5 May 1944, becoming the 449th German so recognised. Kittel continued to increase his tally, shooting down another 50 aircraft by 26 August 1944, bringing his overall total to 200.[36] At this time, Kittel was flying a Fw 190A-6, “Yellow 5”. By the 27 October 1944, Kittel had achieved 254 victories, a total of 102 in just six months. He earned the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern) on 25 November 1944 for 264 victories, only the 113th German serviceman to receive the award. Kittel flew to Hitler’s Headquarters to receive the award and then continued to Germany to spend his leave there. When he returned in January 1945 he took over 2 ./JG 54, or 2 Staffel. Kittel added a further three victories during his time as the Staffel’s leader. By 13 February 1945, Kittel had a personal total of 266 aerial victories.

At 12:06 on 14 or 16 February 1945, Otto Kittel took off with his Geschwader  flying Fw 190 A-8 “Black 1”, Werknummer 690 282, to engage a formation of 14 Shturmovik aircraft over the Courland Pocket. At 12:13 he made contact with the formation at low altitude, no more than 100–150 metres (328 to 492 feet). Kittel attacked, firing at and damaging several Shturmovik. Kittel damaged one aircraft and chased it. As he closed in for the kill, his Focke-Wulf was hit by return fire from a rear gunner, and descended towards the ground on fire. Kittel, probably incapacitated and unable to use his parachute, did not bail out and the Fw 190 crashed in flames. The site of the crash is believed to have been six kilometres (3.7 miles) south-west of Džūkste in Latvia. Witnesses from Kittel’s formation reported that a Shturmovik had been shot down by Otto before he himself was killed during the air battle having scored his 267th and final victory