Kurt Knispel (1921 – 1945) was a Sudeten German Heer Panzer loader, gunner and later commander, and was the highest scoring tank ace of World War II with a total of 168 confirmed tank kills,the actual number, although unconfirmed is as high as 195.He is counted with Johannes Bolter, Ernst Barkmann, Otto Carius and Michael Wittmann as being one of, if not, the greatest tank aces of all time.
Knispel was born in Salisfeld of Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.After completing his apprenticeship in a automobile factory in 1940, Knispel applied to join the armoured branch of the German Army.
For his basic training, Knispel went to the Panzer Replacement Training Battalion at Sagan in Lower Silesia. There he received basic infantry training before tank training on the Panzer I, Panzer II, and Panzer IV. On October 1940, he was transferred to the 3rd Company of the 29th Panzer Regiment, 12th Panzer Division where he finished his training as a loader and gunner on a Panzer IV.Training lasted until June 1941 and consisted of courses at Sagan and Putlos.
Knispel first saw action in August 1941 in a Panzer IV tank,during Operation Barbarossa. By January 1943 had returned to Putlos to undergo his training in the new Tiger I tank.Next he was transferred to the 1st Company of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion (Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503) where he took part in the Battle of Kursk and saw further action in other battles.
From there he went on to commanding of a Tiger II (King Tiger), when his unit was re-equipped, and fought around Caen and in the retreat from Normandy. From there the unit was transferred back to the Eastern Front and continue to fought in many battles.His final battle was in Wostitz where he was fatally wounded on April 1945, ten days before the end of war.
He was awarded the Iron Cross, First and Second Class, after destroying his fiftieth enemy tank and the Tank Assault Badge in Gold after more than 100 tank battles. When Knispel had destroyed 126 enemy tanks, he was awarded the German Cross in Gold,(May 1944). He became the only non-commissioned officer (Unteroffizier) of the German army to be named in a Wehrmacht communique,(April 1944).
Although he was recommended four times, he was never awarded the Knight’s Cross (a standard award for most other World War II German tank aces).
Unlike some other commanders,Knispel was never pursuit decorations. When there were conflicting claims for a destroyed enemy tank,always stepped back,willing to credit success to someone else.
Knispel was an excellent gunner (he is credited with knocking out a T-34 at 3,000 metres) and as a tank commander was also in his own element.At times he faced superior enemies he gave the units he was supporting the best chance to advance or the safest passage of retreat. Alfred Rubbel, one of Knispel’s first commanders, stated that when he was on the field of battle he never abandoned anyone,even in the worst of situations and conditions.
Unteroffizier Werner Peinemann of Sturmstaffel 1 sits in the cockpit of his Fw 190, whilst a mechanic rests on the 50 mm plate of strengthened frontal-plate glass. This aircraft also has 30 mm armoured glass quarter and side panels. Wounded in action on 4 March 1944, Peinemann joined 11./JG 3 upon his recovery two months later. He then transferred to 7.(Sturm)/JG 4 on 21 August 1944 and was killed when his fighter crashed on take-off on 28 September. Peinemann had a solitary victory credit to his name at the time of his death
Photo & Caption featured in Osprey Aviation Elite Units 20: Luftwaffe Sturmgruppen.
Today in 1940 the Luftwaffe made an all-out effort to severely damage Britain’s Fighter Command. The massive air battles which ensued resulted in the 18th of August 1940 becoming known as “The Hardest Day”.
After their major efforts on 15 and 16 August the Germans paused to recover before returning in force on 18 August. Flying 750 sorties, the Germans attacked airfields at Biggin Hill, Kenley, Croydon and West Malling. The raid on RAF Kenley caused severe damage. All ten of its hangars and several aircraft – mostly Hurricanes – were destroyed. The air battles that took place were amongst the largest aerial engagements in history at that time.
“Within minutes all the Dorniers had been hit. Feldwebel Johannes Petersen’s Do 17 was flying higher than the others. It was hit, and caught fire, but carried on. Günter Unger lined up his Do 17 in order to attack a hangar and released his 20 110-lb bombs before his starboard engine was knocked out. Unteroffizier Schumacher watched as three hangars were destroyed by Unger’s bombs. Unger’s Dornier was then was hit by something. It bled black smoke and lost speed. Unger was engaged by No. 111s Harry Newton. Newton was shot down by accurate return fire and bailed out. However, Newton fired a burst of machine gun fire at the Dornier in frustration before leaving the Hurricane. He damaged the Dornier, but Unger flew on. Oberleutnant Hermann Magin was lining up a hangar when he was hit and slumped over. The quick reactions of the navigator, 28 year old Wilhelm-Friedrich Illg, saved the crew. He took control and climbed out of the defensive fire before ordering the crew to abandon the aircraft…” ~ 9 Staffel KG 76 attacks Kenley.
The British outperformed the Luftwaffe in the air, achieving a favourable ratio of 2:1. However, both sides suffered heavy casualties.The RAF and the Luftwaffe lost more aircraft combined on this day than at any other point during the campaign, including Battle of Britain Day, generally considered the climax of the campaign.
“The 25-mile strip of coastline between Bognor and Gosport now became a mass of some 300 hundred aircraft, twisting and turning to bring guns to bear or to avoid guns being brought to bear. Flt Lt Derek Boitel-Gill ordered the 11 Spitfires of No 152 Squadron to move into line astern and then led them into the melee. He picked out a small bunch of dive-bombers heading south, aimed a four-second burst into one of them and saw it crash into the sea. He then shifted his attack to another Stuka but then had to break away when Messerschmitts swept in to protect their charges. The 12 Spitfires of No 602 Squadron caught up with the Stukas of II./StG 77 just after they left the coast near Middleton-on-Sea. Flt Lt Dunlop Urie in the lead fired bursts at five dive-bombers in turn before he ran out of ammunition. Sgt Basil Whall singled out one Ju 87 and made four deliberate attacks before it curved back towards the coast and force-landed near Rustington. Whall then sped out to sea for another go at the dive-bombers and engaged one from 50 yards. The fighter’s rounds raked the Stuka, which caught fire and crashed into the sea. In the course of these attacks, however, Whall appears to have fallen foul of the Germans’ “gaggle trap” tactic. His Spitfire took numerous hits and, his engine losing power, he made a forced landing on the beach near Middleton-on-Sea.” ~ StG 77 attacks Thorney Island.
Between 27 and 34 RAF fighters were destroyed. A specialist source of the battle indicated the figure to be 31 destroyed or beyond repair. Of these, 25 fell to German fighters, two to return fire from the bombers. One was shot down by British ground fire in error and the loss of the remainder cannot be established. Some 26 of the fighters lost were Hurricanes, and five were Spitfires. Personnel losses for the RAF amounted to 10 British fighter pilots killed on the day, and another who died of wounds. Around 19 pilots were wounded, 11 so seriously that they did not take part in the rest of the battle.
Altogether, the Luftwaffe lost between 69 and 71 aircraft destroyed or damaged beyond repair as a result of its operations over Britain on 18 August 1940. Of this total, 59 were lost to certain or probable action by fighters while two fell to ground fire, four to a combination of both and one collided with a British training aircraft. The remaining three crashed in German-held territory owing to technical failures. Altogether, the losses represented seven per cent of the force committed. Around 29 aircraft crashed in England. Personnel losses were 94 German crews killed, 40 captured and 25 returned with wounds. Some 27 to 31 German aircraft returned with damage.
Painting: Spitfire Country by Nicolas Trudgian Aviation Art Fan Page.
“A typical scene from a bright August morning in that momentous summer of 1940. Having climbed into the dawn sky at daybreak, the Spitfires of No 603 Squadron have already been in action, and with more heavy raids on the plotters table, they scurry back to Biggin Hill to re-arm and refuel. A Messerschmitt Me109, shot down during the previous days fighting, lies discarded in a hay field, its lucky pilot having escaped with his life. Meanwhile, the beautiful Kent countryside comes awake as it prepares for the toils of another glorious summers day.”
Unteroffizier Hans Klemm (born September 27th, 1916, Stolp, Pommerania, Prussia - now Slupsk, Poland) of 2. Kompanie/Infanterie-Regiment “Großdeutschland” 1/ Infanterie-Division “Großdeutschland” (mot.).
He was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on December 10, 1942 at Belogurovo, Soviet Union. There are conflicting reports as to what his fate was, some sources say he survived the war, while another claims that he died in a Soviet prison camp.
Unteroffizier Hans Klemm (born September 27th, 1916, Stolp, Pommerania, Prussia - now Slupsk, Poland) of 2. Kompanie/Infanterie-Regiment “Großdeutschland” 1/ Infanterie-Division “Großdeutschland” (mot.). He was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on December 10, 1942 at Belogurovo, Soviet Union. There are conflicting reports as to what his fate was, some sources say he survived the war, while another claims that he died in a Soviet prison camp.
In the German Army the Kompanie first Sergeant, der Kompaniefeldwebel was known as “Die Mutter der kompanie” -the Kompanie commander being “Der Vater der kompanie.” As in the traditional German household, “Mother” ran the day to day business of the family sternly and efficiently but with great care of his men. This freed the company commander to direct the tactical employment of his command. Here a Großdeutschland Feldwebel or “Der Speiss” samples hot food from an Unteroffizier in the cook house truck. The meals would not be issued until they passed Der Speiss’ inspection.
An Unteroffizier (NCO) from the 24th Infantry Division receives instructions for some of the final attacks at Sevastopol, July 1942. By the end of the battle,German infantry platoons were usually being led by sergeants and excessive small unit leader casualties began to sap the combat effectiveness of the attacking divisions.
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-6 “11 Blanco” (550476) del 1./JG1 pilotado por el Oblt. Georg Schott, septiembre de 1943. Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-6 “5 Blanco” (550490) del 1./JG1 pilotado por el Unteroffizier Rudolf Hübl, octubre de 1943. (20 derribos). Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-6 “9 Blanco” del 1./JG1 pilotado por el Lt. Heinz-Günther Lück, julio de 1943.
We had an easy time with [Russian Armour]. On the other hand we had a lot of trouble with Russian fighters… My gunner, Unteroffizier Kramer, can take credit for a deed that was probably unparalleled on the Eastern Front. That is, he succeeded in shooting down a Russian fighter with the tank cannon [8,8cm KwK 36 L/56]… Kramer, upset by the unrelenting nuisance of these guys, elevated his cannon along the approach route. I talked him in. He took a chance and pulled the trigger… The Russian crashed behind us.
Otto Carius, Tigers in the Mud English Version.
The incident occurred during the Defence of Newel on December 16. 1943