Führer-Begleit Division

This formation was originally formed in June 1938 as the Kommando Führerreise out of two companies from Wach-Regiment Berlin (which would eventually become Grossdeutschland), organised on an ad-hoc basis to guard the Führer when he made trips outside of Germany. It accompanied him on his trips to the Sudetenland (1938), Czechoslovakia (1939) and Poland (1939) and was commanded by Oberst (then Generalmajor) Erwin Rommel. It was redesignated Führer Begleit Kommando in August 1939 and again redesignated as the Führer Begleit Battalion and made a permanent unit on 1 October 1939. In January 1940, Oberstleutnant Kurt Thomas became its commander.

In 1941, it was decided that the men guarding the Führer must have combat experience. The battalion's personnel would therefore be sent to the front on a rotating basis with half at the Wolfsschanze (the Führer HQ near Rastenberg, East Prussia) and the other half in a battlegroup on the Eastern Front. By late 1941, the battlegroup consisted of a panzer company (equipped with obsolete tanks such as the PzKw I or Panzer 38(T)), a rifle company and a heavy weapons company.

The battalion spent late 1942 and early 1943 attached to the Grossdeutschland Division, under the command of Hauptmann Wilhelm Pohlmann but in April 1943 was split into two to form the basis of two battalions. The first would continue as the Führer Begleit Battalion, while the other became the Führer Grenadier Battalion. One component of each would serve at the front, while the remainder would guard the Führer at the Wolfsschanze. However, in January 1944, the bulk of the Führer Begleit Battalion was sent to the east when the Soviets lifted the siege of Leningrad and threatened to overwhelm Army Group North. Kampfgruppe Führer Begleit played a major part in preventing the Soviets from cutting the 18th Army's main supply route. It returned to East Prussia in May 1944. By early October 1944, its order of battle was:

In late September / early October, the battalion expanded into the Führer Begleit Regiment and in November 1944 expanded again into a brigade, using troops from its sister formation, the Führer Grenadier Brigade. By this time, it consisted of:

Panzer Battalion, Führer Begleit Brigade (FBB)
1st Panzergrenadier Battalion, FBB
2nd Panzergrenadier Battalion, FBB
200th Sturmgeschütz Brigade (supplied by OKH)
928th Bicycle Battalion
Reconnaissance Company
FBB Artillery Battalion
Feldersatz Battalion

Under the command of Oberst Otto Remer, the formation then headed west to take part in Operation Wacht am Rhein, better known as the Battle of the Bulge. It was initially part of Army Group B's reserve but on 18 December 1944 was committed to action against St Vith and later as part of Fifth Panzer Army's XLVII Panzerkorps against the US 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne. After the campaign failed, the Führer Begleit Brigade (along with its sister formation, the Führer Grenadier Brigade) moved to Cottbus and was officially upgraded to divisional status on 26 January 1945, becoming the Führer Begleit Division. Although it received replacements in terms of personnel and equipment, it never achieved full divisional strength. The new division consisted of:

102nd Panzer Regiment (Staff and II Battalion)
100th Panzergrenadier Regiment (Staff, I, II and III Battalions)
102nd Panzer Reconnaissance Company
673rd Tank Destroyer Company
120th Panzer Artillery Regiment (Staff, I, II and III Battalions)
120th Panzer Pioneer Battalion
120th Panzer Supply Battalion
120th Panzer Signals Company

In February it took part in an offensive near Stettin to push the Soviets back over the River Oder. While the offensive failed, the division did manage to temporarily recapture Lauban. After that, the division was sent south, joining the 1st Panzer Army, holding Jagendorf against repeated Soviet attacks. Finally, on 3 April it was moved out of the line and reorganised. It returned on 16th April when the last Soviet offensive opened in Saxony. By 20 April, Army Group Centre had crumbled, and the division was encircled in the Spremberg pocket. The division was effectively destroyed while trying to breakout, with only around 400 men managing to cross the River Elbe. The remnants continued to fight near Dresden until 6 May but surrendered the next day.

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How to cite this article: Antill, P (23 September 2019), Führer-Begleit Division , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_fuhrer_begleit_division.html

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