Saturday, 3 March 2012

Volksgrenadiers are here (or Heer...)

Luftwaffe Jager of 18th VG Div.
This isn't the post that I was hoping to make today (painted Soviets will be making an appearance ASAP).
But nevertheless as I was getting up to make a coffee, the postman knocking at the door could only mean one thing: my Volksgrenadiers were here!

North Star sent my Artizan miniatures very quickly, the cost is the same as the Warlord stuff and the minis look great (I have a few minor quibbles with the Warlord Soviet sculpts, but nothing significant).The Artizan and Warlord sculpts can happily sit on the same table, but the Artizan stuff is slighlty taller. If I mix the ranges then it will be with stand-alone pieces such as Infantry Guns and the like.


I'll get the flash and mould lines cleaned off and the minis painted after the Soviets are finished. Looking forward to getting some Berlin games going... after the Volksgrenadiers are done I'm getting my Volkssturm (most of whom will double as Soviet Partisans and French Maquis). 


History and Organisation of the Volksgrenadiers
Half a VG battalion's MG42s
Obviously the minitaures I purchased aren't sold as Volksgrenadier as that is an entirely organisational term. The Volksgrenadiers were formed in the strategic emergency that faced Germany in the latter part of 1944, the Allies push from the west following the D-Day landings, and the Soviets pushed from the east, rolling through Poland and across the Vistula until they were on Berlin itself by 1945. The Germans needed to switch to maximise their defensive capabilites, and this war of attrition was a far cry from the Blitzkrieg attacks in 1939 and 1940. Generally, this approach saw the increase in disposable panzerfausts, mortars and machine guns, exchanging range for rate of fire.

Some nice panzerfausts
The Infantry divisions became Volksgrenadier divisions, effectively the same divisions restructured, now consisting of only six battalions rather than the standard nine. In some instances the divisions were bolstered by personnel redirected from the dwindling Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe - notably in the case of the 18th Volksgrenadier Division, formed September 1944, by redesignating the 571st Volksgrenadier Division and elements of the 18th Luftwaffe Field Division. Fighting in the Ardennes they inflicted the worst defeat suffered by US forces in Europe on the 106th US Infantry Division - with over 8000 Americans surrendering to them.

The name "Volksgrenadier" was purely a political and propaganda, morale-boosting choice - "Volks" meaning the people, or folk, and "Grenadiers" hinting at military prestige and tradition blurred the line beween civilian and military - these new divisions were therefore supposedly made of the people and were defenders of the German peoples. These new Divisions would fight tenaciously from the Bulge to Berlin. 

Bog-standard rifleman in field caps
As mentioned, with Divisions now consisting of two-thirds of what they once had, the emphasis was placed on automatic weapons and sub-machine guns.On paper, each Volksgrenadier Battalion would have two Machine Gun Platoons of four or MG42s (or MG34s in some case - I already have four 42s and one 34...). Then there was a Mortar Platoon of six 8 cm tubes (the larger 12 cm mortars were controlled at the regimental level). These were each organised in the the Heavy Company alonside the Infantry Gun platoon (armed with four 7.5cm infantry guns).

The key change however was in the Rifle Company, with the replacement of two of the three Rifle Platoons with "Machine Pistol" Platoons (later renamed Sturm, or Assault, Platoons) - which could mean either the MP40, but in 1945 where possible it became the StG44 Assault Rifle (with its 7.92 round). The intention had been to roll this out throughout the army to replace the 1898 bolt-action Mauser also, but this was never to be.

NCOs and MG34

According to the Handbook on German Military Forces (1945) On paper, the full Battalion strength should have been 642 of all ranks - this would be broken down as 309 bolt-action rifles, 253 StG44s, 30 LMGs, 8 HMGs, 6 8cm Mortars and 4 7.5cm Infantry Gun. Whilst this might not have been entirely correct in reality, I will be roughly following the ratios with the minitaures I purchase.

To further illustrate the slide back, the Battalions had only 3 motorcycles, 2 motor vehicles, but 70 horses (with the infantry guns being horse-drawn also).

Save the best till last, the key StG44 armed troops...
Hadn't quite meant to write all of this, but hopefully it's of interest to some of you (although I'm sure most of you know it already) - I'm expecting a barrage of corrections for my typos and especially poor research ...

6 comments:

  1. Incidentally, the Luftwaffe Jager print is available from Don Troiani's Historical Art Prints -
    http://www.historicalartprints.com/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=455

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  2. Great read, nothing beats a pun to start a post off. The '45 and the fall of Berlin is really under represented in "western" WWII written history. I knew next to nothing about it until I read "Europe At War" by Norman Davies.

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    1. Thanks very much, it really is unfortunately, it's the "book-ends" of the war I'm really interest in. I haven't read that one yet, but it's definitely on the wishlist now.

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  3. Very nice, just had a look on the website and they've got some really nice German snipers... may order a few of them myself ;)

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    1. Ta muchly, ah excellent, I've not seen any Fallschirmjager snipers yet but they should be pretty easy to convert

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  4. I had heard this before but nothing wrong with reading it again and refreshing my ailing memory....

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