1) German tanks units in the “Destra Tagliamento” (Pordenone Province)
Extensive documentation of partisan origin on the presence of German tank units in the “Destra Tagliamento” (the area west of the Tagliamento river, now province of Pordenone) has been found on several books. It concerns in particular the last days of the war, when the partisan uprise liberated the entire province before the arrival of the Allied troops.
1.1) Long excerpts from the war diaries of the partisan units operating in the “Destra Tagliamento” are reported in the book by Bruno Steffè, La guerra di liberazione nel territorio della Provincia di Pordenone 1943 – 1945 (Edizioni ETS, 1996). There documents, written right after the events, seem to be generally trustworthy (except for every German tanks identified as a “Tiger”), but are quite fragmented. In the following the most significant episods are reported, where tanks or armoured vehicles are mentioned:
25th February 1944: in Nogaredo di Corno a German tanks is sabotaged
by the partisans by removing the radio and the machine gun (pg.
- 14th April 1944: a German attack is carried out in the Arzino river valley, with the employment of two “tracked vehicles” (pg.66)
- 13th July 1944: the partisans attack with hand granades two German armoured cars in Torre di Mosto; one of them is destroyed (pg. 218)
- 19th July 1944: German mopping up operation in the mid-Tagliamento river area with ca. 40 vehicles and 2 armoured cars (pg. 71)
- 8th August 1944 (11th August according to other sources): during German operations against Barcis, in the Valcellina valley, an isolated German tank is attacked by the partisans near the Dint gallery (Molassa junction) and falls into the Cellina stream; three crew member die, one is wounded. The “75/42 gun” [probably a 47/32, as also reported by other sources] is taken from the tank and used by the partisans on a makeshift carriage mounted on the front axis of a Fiat “Balilla” car (pg. 53 and 73) (the episod is also extensively reported in Mario Candotti, La lotta partigiana in Valcellina, in “Storia contemporanea in Friuli”, IFSML, nr. 10, 1979, pg. 154-155 and 165, who dates it on the 10th August and writes that the Germans had four dead and one wounded; according to this source the gun was a 47/32, taken from the tank with 78 rounds; this can hint to the tank being an M 14 or an M 15)
- 18th October 1944: some German armoured vehicles take part in a fight against the partisans near Prata (pg. 222)
- 25th November 1944: German light tanks are reported driving on the State road Pordenone – Casarsa in the direction of Udine; they carry camouflage nets intertwined with hay and the SS symbol (p. 256)
- 30th November 1944: in the attack towards Tramonti di Sotto the Germans employ armoured vehicles (pg. 182)
23rd February 1945: a column of German tanks is reported driving on
the Pontebbana State road, in the area of Fontanafredda; the road is
mined by the partisan and the car driving in front of the column
explodes (pg. 266)
- March 1945: it is reported that during the month the Germans have reinforced the garrisons in Chions, Azzano Decimo and Fiume Veneto with thousands of men and armoured vehicles (pg. 307)
- 6th March 1945: a partisan action on the Pordenone – Sacile road has to be interrupted because of the intervention of German armoured vehicles (pg. 230)
- 15th April 1945: the partisans attack to the Casarsa train station, German armoured vehicles come to the assistance of the defenders (pg. 230)
- 15th April 1945: a partisan attack to Azzano Decimo is interrupted because of the arrival of German reinforcements with armoured cars (pg. 230)
- 15th April 1945: the partisans capture a German “tracked car” in Teglio Veneto (pg. 230)
- 24th April 1945: a “German armoured division” is reported in the area of San Vito al Tagliamento (pg. 260) [it was probably the Panzer-Ausbildungs-Abteilung Süd, which had a casualty in San Vito on 25th April]
- 28th April 1945: strong German units are in Pordenone: they amount to ca. 5-6000 men with ca. 20 tanks, among which “Tigers” and other models; in the night between 29th-30th April, after a demontration of strenght on the evening before, the Germans leave the city in the direction of Maniago. The Allies enter Pordenone in the late afternoon of 30th April (pg. 297)
- 28th April 1945: a German tank is sent from Pordenone to assist the airfield of Orcenigo Inferiore – Boscat, attacked by the partisans; the garrison surrenders the day after, but some men escape on the tank (pg. 294)
- 28th April 1945: two “Tiger” tanks come from Pordenone to assist the German garrison at the torpedo factory in Fiume Veneto, attacked by the partisans; the defenders retreat to Pordenone on the tanks (pg. 299)
- 28th April 1945: the partisans that have liberated San Giovanni are attacked by a German column coming from San Vito al Tagliamento, which includes an armoured car (pg. 294)
- 29th April 1945: German tanks are reported in Savorgnano (south of San Vito) (pg. 294)
- 29th April 1945: three German tanks are captured by the partisans near Casarsa (pg. 310)
- 29th April 1945: the partisans block the Tagliamento ford from San Paolo to Belgrado – Varmo (south – east of San Vito); some German vehicles and a tank intervene (pg. 296)
- 29th April 1945: 11 German tanks are reported in San Leonardo (between Pordenone and Maniago); they are attacked by Allied aircrafts which destroy 5 of them (pg. 308)
- 29th April 1945: German armoured vehicles intervene against the partisans in Colle di Sequals (pg. 304)
- 29th April 1945: the German garrison in Codignano surrenders to the partisan; later in the day an armoured column, coming from Sacile and directed towards Vittorio Veneto, is attacked by the partisan just outside Codignano and surrenders; among the prisoners is general Von Kamptz, the commander of the Ordnungspolizei in Italy, with ca. 2000 men and 500 vehicles (pg. 289)
- 30th April 1945: around 14.00 h. German tanks gather in Casarsa and are attacked by Allied aircrafts. Three tanks drive towards San Giovanni and are attacked by the partisans with Panzerfaust. One tank coming from San Giovanni drives through San Vito, occupied by the partisans, and reaches Savorgnano. Towards 24.00 h. columns of smoke are seen towards Savorgnano and the noise of tracks is heard. The tank column abandons Gleris, in an attempt to ford the Tagliamento in Rosa (east of San Vito) (pg. 295)
- 30th April 1945: in the area of Fanna – Cavasso – Maniago a German column with ca. 60 vehicles and tanks is attacked by Allied aircrafts, disbands and is captured by the partisans (pg. 310)
- 30th April 1945: a German armoured car and a tank try to enter the Galvani factory in Cordenons, but after a short fight with the partisans the crews surrender (pg. 293)
- 30th April 1945: in Sequals a German column with vehicles and tanks is reported as coming from Maniago; at the bridge on the Meduna stream surrender talks take place, then the column drives back to Arba, where it is joined by other forces coming from Pordenone; in Arba the Germans destroy their equipment and on 1st May leave the town (pg. 305)
- 30th April 1945: the partisans lay mines on the Dignano bridge, three German tanks are destroyed (pg. 307)
- 1st May 1945: the partisans attack a retreating German armoured column near Valvasone; 7 tanks are damaged and immobilised, one escapes; during the fight the Germans suffer 20 dead and 11 prisoners (pg. 293) [it seems that according to Colonnello – see below – this episode happened on 28th April 1945]
- 1st May 1945: Spilimbergo, attacked and liberated by the Partisans the day before, is occupied again by several “Tiger” tanks coming from Piovesano; after a few hours they leave the town (pg. 304) [according to Colonnello – see below – this was the same column attacked in Valvasone]
- 1st May 1945: Allied troops enter the already liberated San Vito. Three German tanks in San Giovanni are reported by the partisans; the Allies demand their surrender and shoot some artillery rounds; two tanks surrender, one (with the unit commander) retreats towards Valvasone (pg. 295) [one of the two abandoned tanks, a Pz.Kpfwg. III Aufs. N, is shown in the book on photo nr. 170]
- 1st May 1945: in the morning a column of 15 “Tiger” and “Panther” tanks is reported driving from Pordenone – Casarsa towards the north; they are attacked by the partisans between San Martino al Tagliamento and Aurava with Panzerfaust; one tank is hit; the fighting continues all day, 4 more tanks are hit. British troops reach the area on 2nd May.
1.2) Some more information on the fighting in the same areas in 1945, taken from G.A. Colonnello, Guerra di liberazione. Friuli – Venezia Giulia – Zone Jugoslave, 1965, are in the following:
28th April 1945: 17 “Tiger” tanks are reported in
Pordenone (pg. 181)
- 28th April 1945: a German tank is destroyed by the partisans in Spilimbergo (pg. 186)
- 28th April 1945: in Valvasone the partisans attack a German tank column and hit 7 of them [this is probably the same episode reported by the war diaries in the Steffè book on 1st May; it seems that the column came from Pordenone]; the column drives forward to San Martino al Tagliamento (where another tanks is immobilised by the partisans at the San Osvaldo bridge) and Cosa di San Giorgio della Richinvelda, and reaches Spilimbergo (which had already been liberated by the partisans) with 8 tanks on 1st May. The tanks drive over the Tagliamento river in Dignano and continue towards San Daniele – Osoppo on the Pontebbana state road, in the direction of Austria (pg. 197)
1.3) More information, in part repeating what already said but adding some details, are taken from Giampaolo Gallo, La resistenza in Friuli, IFSML, 1988:
27th April 1945: the partisans attack the German garrison in San Vito
al Tagliamento, which resists two days with the assistance of tanks;
then part of it surrenders and the rest escapes (pg. 243)
- 28th April 1945: the partisans attack the German garrison in Azzano Decimo but are driven back by some tanks [identified as belonging to the 90. Pz.Gren.Div., which however was not in that area]; the garrison then retreats to Pordenone (pg. 242)
- 29th April 1945: the partisan demands the surrender of the German garrison in Maniago, which refuses hoping in the assistance of a tank column not far from the town; the day after Allied aircrafts destroy half of the tanks, causing also the Maniago garrison to surrender (pg. 248) [these are possibly the tanks destroyed in San Leonardo as reported by Steffè]
- 1st May 1945: a German column coming from Pordenone through Valvasone, San Martino al Tagliamento, San Osvaldo bridge, San Giorgio della Richinvelda, Gradisca and Navarons (attacked several times by the partisans) enters Spilimbergo (already liberated by the partisans) with 8 tanks and many armoured cars; in the evening it leaves in the direction of the Dignano bridge on the Tagliamento river (pg. 249).
in these exerpts are the information on the year 1945: they confirm the presence
of German tank units in the Destra Tagliamento area during the last weeks of
the war and report on the hard fighting, especially between the Germans and
the partisans, that took place in the region in the last days of the war.
German tank units seem to have concentrated in the following two areas:
- Casarsa –
San Vito al Tagliamento, and
As to the first
group, after some fighting in the area of Savorgnano (perhaps also against Allied
units) it retreated around 30th April – 1st May partly towards the east,
with the intention to ford the Tagliamento river in the area of San Vito, partly
to the north towards Spilimbergo; in both directions the columns were attacked
by the partisans and by Allied aircrafts.
The second group retreated from Pordenone towards Maniago with a view to following the Pedemontana road towards the Tagliamento river valley, but it was also hindered by the partisans and Allied aircrafts. A second direction of retreat from Pordenone seems to have been towards Casarsa – Spilimbergo.
As already written in the book, the presence of Panzer-Ausbildungs-Abteilung Süd in the area of Casarsa – Valvasone – San Vito is certain in this phase. The tanks in Pordenone could have belonged to Pz.Abt. 212, retreating from the Veneto region; the Pz.Kpfwg. III Ausf. N lost in San Giovanni (photo nr. 170) could have been one of them.
The presence in the area of rests of other Panzer units retreating from the Pianura Padana (the Po valley) can however not be excluded.
2) Karstjäger Panzer-Kompanie
In order to integrate and confirm what already said in the text (pages 77-78) on the last fightings of the Panzer-Kompanie of the 24. Waffen-Gebirgs (Karstjäger)-Division der SS, three recently found reports are reproduced in the following:
2.1) From the memories of a partisan commander on the fighting for the liberation of Cividale on 1st May 1945:
Cividale was in the field of fire of our mortars, but it was deemed advisable not to attack it immediately, as German “Tiger” heavy tanks were seen driving out of the Infantry barracks. The following report by Aldo Specogna to the Headquarter of the 3. Divisione “Osoppo Friuli” [a partisan unit], dated 15.5.45, describes the events that happened soon afterwards:
At 11.00 a.m. from the bunker (on Mt. Dei Bovi) fire was opened on the tanks, halted close to the cemetery. The fire is good and hits the target. (The overturned wreck of one of the tanks remained on the edge of the road for several days).
The enemy reaction consisted in three anti-tank rounds fired on our positions. It’s 12.30 p.m. The tanks, still under our fire, set off towards Udine.
(from: Tarcisio Petracco, Lotta partigiana al confine orientale, Ribis, Udine, 1994, pg. 145-146)
Obviously the tanks were not Tigers, but the P 40 of the Karstjäger Pz.Kp. which were leaving Cividale. An unknown detail revealed by this report is that a tank was lost in the town due to partisan fire.
2.2) On the Pz.Kp. further retreat and the fighting near Godia, from a text on the partisan war in Friuli – Venezia Giulia:
the Povoletto church tower at 15.00 h. [of 1st May 1945] the
alarm was gives as a German column, with 12 Tiger tanks and several
trucks loaded with SS, coming from Cividale and belonging to the
Car-Division [ricto: Karstjäger-Division], was seen
stopped near Salt, not far from the bridge on the Torre stream; the
partisan detachment there had taken shelter. The intervention of
Allied forces, that had just entered Udine, was requested; these
arrived around 17.00 h. and with the support of partisan units
attacked the enemy column, which was approaching the Torre [to be
precised the fighting took place after the German column had passed
the Torre stream, at the entrance of the village of Godia].
In half an hour of hard fighting the column was destroyed [actually only one tank was destroyed, the rest of the colum was able to drive past]. After the battle, while they were inspecting a Tiger tank fallen in a ditch, two British soldiers – Cap. Robinson Henry James and tank private Keith James Alexander – heard moans coming from inside the tank; with difficulty they managed to get inside the vehicle, where one crew member was still alive. This, instead of accepting the help that the two British wanted to offer him, shot them with his pistol, and died shortly afterwards. The two British soldiers, badly wounded, were immediately given assistance and taken to the field hospital in Magredis.
(from: G.A. Colonnello, Guerra di liberazione. Friuli – Venezia Giulia – Zone Jugoslave, 1965, pg. 289)
Interesting, if correct, is the information that the Pz.Kp. had 12 P 40 tanks when it arrived near Udine; this means that it had 13 efficient P 40 tanks before leaving Cividale.
2.3): Karstjäger Pz.Kp. and Gruppo San Giusto:
This excerpt from the war diary of an Italian partisan unit gives information on the last days of the two units:
the 24th [April 1945] the Brigade Commander with ca. 30 men had set out for
the Collio region [west of Gorizia], from where they reached the plain; on the
27th they brought about the surrender of the RSI tank detachment in Mariano
del Friuli [Gruppo San Giusto], capturing 5 light tanks, one armoured car, 4
trucks, weapons and ammunition.
After contacting some elements of the insurrectional committee of Cividale, the Brigade Commander decided to attack that town, still guarded by 200 SS-men. The attack was started in the hope for an insurrection, which indeed entusiastically broke out when our troops entered the town.
While furious fighting was going on in the streets, “Tiger” tanks, whose presence was unknown to us, came out from enemy barracks and quickly knocked out our light tanks. The attack was therefore stopped and the town abandoned, after unprecised casualties had been caused to the enemy. No casualties occured on our side.
(from: Guerra di Liberazione. Friuli-Slovenia 1943-1945 - Divisione D'Assalto Garibaldi Natisone. Diario Storico operativo)
The repelled partisan
attack on Cividal occured, it seems, on 28th April 1945. The Germans kept control
of the town until it was abandoned on 1st May.
Interesting is the fact that captured vehicles from the Gruppo San Giusto were used in combat against the P 40 of the Karstjäger Pz.Kp.
3) 5. (verst.) Polizei-Pz.Kp.
towards the end of January 1945 a detachment of the “Barbarigo”
Btl. of the Divisione X. MAS of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana
(RSI), at that time stationed in Salcano (near Gorizia, today part of
Nova Gorica, in Slovenia), was given the task to escort a convoy
bringing supplies to Montespino (today Dornberk, in Slovenia), in the
Vipacco river valley. Part of the convoy were two T-34 tanks of the
5. (verst.) Pol.Pz.Kp. During the drive a partisan road block was
forced twice, in both direction.
(from Marino Perissinotto, Duri a morire. Storia del Battaglione Barbarigo 1943-1945, Ermanno Albertelli Editore, Parma 2001, pg. 106. The book dates the episode at mid-February, but according to all other sources the Divisione X. MAS had left the OZAK by early February.)
4) RSI “Tagliamento” Alpini regiment
The “Tagliamento” Alpini Rgt. belonged to the Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano (ENR, National Republican Army, the army of the RSI) and was formed in Udine starting in September 1943. It operated under the control of the SS/Polizei command in the OZAK and its duties included control of the territory, protection of transport and communication lines and fighting the partisans. For the main part of 1944 and 1945 its units were deployed in the upper Isonzo river valley, in the Baccia river valley and in the Vipacco river valley. The regiment headquarter company (stationed in Tolmino, in the upper Isonzo river valley, from March 1944 to April 1945) had a Fiat 655 NM Scudato armoured truck during 1944. According to an excerpt from the regimental war diary, published on an issue of the newsletter of the former unit members "Il Cjossul", the armoured truck was destroyed during a partisan ambush near Prevacina, in the Vipacco river valley, on 26 August 1944. The armoured truck drove from Tolmino to Montespino, in the Vipacco valley; on the way back from this village, together with a German armoured car and an "alpini" infantry detachment, it was attacked by partisans. The armoured truck was hit by an anti-tank rifle, and its crew was mostly wounded or killed.
5) XIV. Battaglione costiero (it. Küsten-Festungs-Btl. 14)
In February 1945 the unit had an armoured truck armed with a MG 8 mm (i) (probably a Fiat 665 NM Scudato). The unit was part of the ENR but operated under German control in the OZAK; formed in Fiume (today Rijeka) in October 1943, in May 1944 it was moved to the mid-Isonzo river valley (from Salcano to Aussa) where it protected a stretch of the Gorizia – Klagenfurt road and railway line.
6) 2. Reggimento Milizia Difesa Territoriale “Istria”
The 2. Rgt. MDT
„Istria“ was employed on the Istria peninsula from late 1943 to
May 1945, for control of the territory, protection of transport and communication
lines and fighting the partisans. It had several armoured trucks (particularly
in the mobile company “Mazza di Ferro”, based in Pola – today
Pula), some of them armed with a 20 mm machine gun, and two L 3 light tanks.
It seems that the two L 3 tanks, after being abandoned by the Italian army, were recovered respectively by a civilian and by the Yugoslav partisans (that abandoned it afterwards) and were bought by the regiment, one for 35.000 lire and the other against a truckload of clothes and shoes. One, which was immobile, was dig at the edge of the town of Buie and used as a bunker until it was destroyed by the militiamen before they abandoned Istria on 29th April 1945. The other one was used in action and at the end of the war it was sunk in the see in the port of Capodistria (today Koper) to avoid its capture by the Yugoslav partisans.
(from: Luigi Papo de Montona, L’ultima bandiera. Storia del Reggimento “Istria”, TER, Roma, 2000)
7) Unidentified German units in Villa del Nevoso, 28 aprile 1945
In this town (today Ilirska Bistrica, in Slovenia) on 28th April 1945 a Yugoslav tank unit (equipped with Stuart tanks, one of which re-armed with a German 7,5 cm Pak 40) met an unidentified German unit equipped with 7 “Panther” tanks and a T-34; the latter was destroyed by the Stuart with the Pak 40. The identification of the German tanks as Pz.Kpfwg, V Panther made by the Yugoslav soldiers is very doubtful. As far as it is known there were no Panther operating in the OZAK or on the Yugoslav front, and it seems very unlikely that the tanks had got there from the Italian front.
8) New information from the war diaries of British units
In the war diaries of British units that liberated the Friuli region in May 1945, kept in the Public Record Office in Kew (London), following information on German tanks units operating in the OZAK have been found:
- 1st May 1945: a Pz.Kpfwg. III Ausf. N is found, presumably destroyed or abandoned, at a fording place on the Tagliamento river by elements of the 6th Armoured Division. By examining the papers found on the tank it is established that it belonged a to a unit identified by the Feldpost Nr. 34526B (corresponding to the 1. Kp./Pz.Abt. 212); earlier the tank had belonged to the Pz.Rgt. Hermann Goering. Altogether the division has captured 3 German tanks in this area.
- 3rd May 1945: according to the war diary of the 6th Armoured Division (from 4th May) there are in Ospedaletto (north of Gemona) ca. 200 Waffen-SS soldiers with 8 tanks and 4 88 mm guns; further 2000 soldiers (Germans and Cossacks) are in Venzone, a few kilometers further north. According to the report the tanks probably belong to the Karstjäger Division or to the Pz.Abt. 212 and are Pz.Kpfwg. III, since no tanks of any other type have been encountered in the area so far.
- 4th May 1945: a British report identifies the “anti-tank company” of the Karstjäger Division by means of papers found on a body in a Pz.Kpfwg. III destroyed on the 2nd May in a not specified location (identified with the numeric code 1509). Was the tank in fact a P 40 (perhaps the one destroyed in Godia, near Udine, although that engagement took place on the 1st May?) or the company used some Pz.Kpfwg. III tanks received from the Pz.Abt. 212 (which had not enough crews)? It is interesting that the unit is identified as a Pz.Jg.Kp., a definition not yet found for the Karstjäger armoured company.
- 4th May 1945: the presence of the Pz.Abt. 212 in the Friuli region is verified by the 6th Armoured Division on the basis of information from a prisoner belonging to the crew of a destroyed Pz.Kpfwg. III. According to another prisoner interrogated on 5th May, on that day the Pz.Abt. 212 was left with 3 tanks of the around 30 it had originally. The 4th May seems to be the eartliest date that the Pz.Abt. 212 is identified by the Allies forces; it can be presumed that the unit was not employed in battle on the Po river during the Allied offensive, but only later, in the eastern Veneto or in the Friuli region.
- May 1945: according to a British report, in the POW camp of Viktring (near Klagenfurt) by mid-May had assembled the former members of the Kampfgruppe Oberst von Seeler. This unit had been previously subordinated to the HSSPF Rösener and entered Austria from Slovenia; it was made up of Ordnungspolizei units and had been employed to protect the rear area of Heeresgruppe E from the partisans. It is not unlikely that this unit made up the column which crossed the Drava river on 11th May after a fight with the Yugoslavs (see episode described in the text on page 77). Among the units present in the POW camp the British report lists the SS-Pol.Rgt. 17, 19 and 28, and the Pol.Pz.Kp. 1, 2, 13 and 14. It seems therefore confirmed that these four Pol.Pz.Kp. remained in action in Slovenia until the end of the war.
9) Kommando “Adria” der SS-Standarte “Kurt Eggers”
The Kommando “Adria” was a propaganda unit of the Waffen SS, based in Trieste; it was a detachment of the propaganda unit SS-Standarte (regiment) “Kurt Eggers”. A sub-unit of the Kommando “Adria”, called Kampf-Propaganda (probably it was employed for propaganda measures towards the civilian population and the partisans during anti-partisan operations) had a Panzerwagen (armoured car) which was attacked by the partisan near Montespino on 30th September 1944 (on that occasion the crew consisted of 6 italians and a German).
10) 2. Kompanie/Panzer-Regiment 1
The following interesting story is an excerpt from the memories of a former unit member, Heinrich Kramer, entitled “2. Kp./Pz.Rgt. 1” (privately published, no date indicated):
“On 11th September 1943 the company is loaded on a train in Grafenwöhr … Through the Alps our train rolls towards Trieste and the beautiful Adriatic see. On 13th September the company is downloaded in Trieste.
The unit advances on good Italian roads towards Fiume, practically no enemy opposition is encountered, every now and then some road blocks which are quickly done away with. Most part of the Italian army has already capitulated, we also disarm some small units.
During our march towards Fiume the tank at the head of the column is taken under fire by a 20 mm gun. Oberleutnant Cramer, our new [company] commander, orders Oberfeldwebel Schäfer to fire an explosive granade in the direction from where the shots came from. We advance slowly towards the village and find out that it is occupied by a German unit. The day before they had been attacked by an Italian tank [probably manned by the Yugoslav partisans]. This led them to believe that we were enemy tanks attacking again. This mistake has no consequences, but in the following hours the drama would be reached.
What we do not know is that a radio message has been sent to the German units in the Fiume area, announcing that enemy tanks are moving towards the city; in fact that is our company.
Oblt. Cramer gives order to resume the advance and Oberfeldwebel Schäfer’s tank drives at the head of the column. The company approaches Fiume; unforgettable is the view of the mountains towards the Adriatic see and the city. Slowly the sharp downhill turns are negotiated. Oberfeldwebel Schäfer is driving on the last left turn when suddenly he is taken under fire. The driver [of another tank] Unteroffizier Kersch immediately recognises the situation and turns his tank on the spot, so that the Balkenkreuz becomes visible. The fire stops. The radio message has had its fatal consequences.
A German Sturmgeschütz [as confirmed by a former member of Pz.Jg.Abt. 171 it was in fact a Marder III from this unit] which had taken up a defensive position at the entrance of Fiume has hit Schäfer’s tank. As soon as the commander of the Sturmgeschütz saw the Balkenkreuz on Kersch’s tank he immediately stopped firing, but what had happened could not be made good anymore.
As it often happens in such cases, the only round fired has fully hit the target. The driver, Unteroffizier Orlamünder, was immediately dead, the rest of Schäfer’s crew were wounded. Orlamünder would be buried in the Fiume cemetery.
After this accident Fiume is reached after a short march. The partisan units have withdrawn and there is no fighting anymore. One part of our company takes up security duties in the city, the other part is sent to the nearby town of Abbazia with the same tasks. A big [Italian] navy depot is fallen into our hands, so there is plenty of supplies. In our tropical uniforms we spend some happy days on the Adriatic see.
time the company leaves Fiume and Abbazia. The officers and the Abteilung Hauptfeldwebel
meet for a briefing on the situation at the Luka crossroad [Preluca, near Abbazia?].
The [company] baggage train has been moved to the Italian barracks of San Pietro [di Madrasso, near Cosina – Erpelle]. The fighting elements [of the company] are also transferred to San Pietro.
Partisan war consists of ambushes; the enemy can be everywhere, attention is therefore essential and the streets of San Pietro are constantly watched.
On 27th September 1943 the [company] fighting units receive an operation order. However, the mountain terrain of Istria allows the tanks only limited movement, and the company operations consist mainly in security duties. So the days in Istria pass by relatively quietly.
[company] baggage train has moved from San Pietro to Obrovo – S.Maria.
Autumn comes also in sunny Italy, it gets appreciably colder and we exchange
the tropical uniforms for the usual black [tanker] uniforms.
After a few days the [company] fighting parts follow the baggage train. The workshop is placed in a fuel station and under the competent guidance of Feldwebel Weisse the necessary repair works to our vehicles are carried out.
On 29th October everything is over. All armoured and wheeled vehicles are given up to a Waffen-SS unit [it was the SS-Pz.Rgt. 1 “LSSAH”, but in fact it only received 20 Pz.Kpfwg. IV, the rest went to II. Abt./Pz.Rgt. 1]. In Cosina the soldiers take a train to Germany, our destination there is not known. With a marvellous wheather we pass Ljubljana rolling towards the homeland. On 2nd November we finally arrive at the Altengrabow training ground, near Magdeburg.
Here things happen quickly. In a few days the I. Abt./Pz.Rgt. 1 is completely re-equipped, finally Panther tanks are received. In southern Russia the situation is tense and we have to get into action as soon as possible. The dream of a leave in Germany remains a dream."
Below are some photos of the Pz.Kpfwg. IV destroyed by “friendly fire” from a Marder III belonging to Pz.Jg.Abt. 171 (71. Inf.Div.) near Fiume on 14th September 1943. The tank belonged to the 2. Zug (2nd platoon) of 2. Kp./Pz.Rgt. 1. (Page taken from Heinz Kramer's book)
11) Aussenkommando Pola of the Sipo/SD
According to a report by the Sipo/SD on 30th October 1944 a terror attack was carried out by the partisans against a “Panzer” (it may have been an armoured truck ar an armoured car) belonging to the Aussenkommando Pola (Pola provincial command) of the Sipo/SD.
12) Symbol of the 3. Panzer-Sicherungs-Kompanie
Thanks to a post-war card, probably produced for a veterans' gathering, it has been possible to identify the symbol of the 3. Panzer-Sicherungs-Kompanie, a chamois (Gemsbock or Gemse, in German); the unit was unofficially called "Die Gemsboecke". The B on the romboid (symbol of the Panzertruppe) is the abbreviation of Bohn, the name of the company commander. The original caption reads: "Our company symbol during the anti-partisan fighting in Italy". (Collection Hiroshi Kitamura)