- Posts: 2389
- Joined: 23 Aug 2010 12:01
- Location: Dijon, Bourgogne, France
The early operational life of this regiment is pretty obscure to me. I found that it was raised as a borderguard regiment (Grenz-Infanterie-Regiment 125) on November 10th, 1938 to protect a part of the western borders (Wehrkreis XII), and that it became Heerestruppe at the mobilization. It later lost its "border" designation to become the independent Infanterie-Regiment 125, and fought during the Westfeldzug. Later on, it was sent in Bulgaria and fought against the Greeks.
My questions are the following ones:
- when did it become "Infanterie-Regiment 125" (instead of "Grenz-Infanterie-Regiment 125")?
- where did it fight during the Westfeldzug (under which command)?
- when precisely was it sent in Bulgaria or even before in Romania?
Thanks for your answers,
- Posts: 2988
- Joined: 03 Jan 2003 17:43
- Location: Austria
Stab/Grz. Inf. Rgt. 124
I./Grz. Inf. Rgt. 124
II./Grz. Inf. Rgt. 124
III./Grz. Inf. Rgt. 124 (mob.)
Stab/Grz. Inf. Rgt. 125: H. Gru. C, 1. Armee, XII. Armeekorps
I./Grz. Inf. Rgt. 127
Grz. Pi. Btl. 73
Pz. Abw. Abt. 545
Stab/Grz. Inf. Rgt. 127: H. Gru. C, 1. Armee, XXIV. Armeekorps
I./Grz. Inf. Rgt. 128
Pz. Abw. Abt. 511
Pz. Abw. Abt. 672
Stab/Grz. Inf. Rgt. 129 (mob.): H. Gru. C, 1. Armee, Höh. Kdo. XXXVII
I./Grz. Inf. Rgt. 129
Pz. Abw. Abt. 625
H. Gru. C, 1. Armee, XXX. Armeekorps
II./Grz. Inf. Rgt. 125
Grz. Pi. Btl. 74
Pz. Abw. Abt. 645
z. Verf. H. Gru. C (i. Bereich 1. Armee):
I./Grz. Inf. Rgt. 125
III./Grz. Inf. Rgt. 125 (mob.)
I./Grz. Inf. Rgt. 126
- Posts: 3585
- Joined: 21 Jun 2012 01:11
- Location: Melbourne, Australia
If I see it properly number was 278/41.
Background is from 10.Nov.40
- Posts: 2389
- Joined: 23 Aug 2010 12:01
- Location: Dijon, Bourgogne, France
Thank you both for your help.
- Posts: 2389
- Joined: 23 Aug 2010 12:01
- Location: Dijon, Bourgogne, France
So I guess February 1st, 1941 fits!
- Posts: 2389
- Joined: 23 Aug 2010 12:01
- Location: Dijon, Bourgogne, France
- Posts: 9388
- Joined: 20 Mar 2005 11:48
- Location: Argentina
IR 125 in action - Balkans 1941.
In the spring of 1941, the regiment was deployed in the Balkans. As an army level unit, the regiment was later also motorized..................
Not at that time (see below).Was it already motorized by the time of Balkans/Greece operations?
Source: "Ein weiter Weg. Aus der Chronik des Grenz-Infanterieregiments 125" (von Franz Schmidt).
http://www.deutsches-afrika-korps.de/vi ... 121&t=2944
http://www.deutsches-afrika-korps.de/vi ... 121&t=2943
Cheers. Raúl M .
- Posts: 10
- Joined: 28 May 2021 00:31
- Location: Kingston, ON Canada
Infanterie-Regiment 125 (IR 125) Part I follows the regiment from its formation through the western campaign until the winter of 1940. Part II will continue with the regiment’s exploits from 1 January 1941, until its deployment with Panzerarmee Afrika in July 1942. Part III will follow IR 125 from its journey in North Africa until its surrender to the Red Army on 29 April 1945.
Grenz-Infanterie-Regiment 125 (Grz.IR 125) was formed in Saarbrücken on 10 November 1938. The regiment, commanded by Oberst Erich Petersen was initially set-up with two battalions: I. Bataillon formed in Trier, II. Bataillon was formed at Truppenübungsplatz Baumholder then moved to Merzig. Grz.IR 125 was assigned to Grenz-Kommandantur Sankt Wendel. A third battalion was to be raised upon mobilisation.
In September 1939, Grz.IR 125 was re-organised as a 1 Welle Infantry Division Regiment. The regiment was transferred to Generalkommando der Grenztruppen Saarpfalz, deploying along the West Wall.
During the Polish Campaign, Grz.IR 125 was assigned to 1. Armee and subordinated to XII. Armeekorps (XII. AK) as heerestruppen. Placed in armeekorps reserve, the regiment continued its training while rotating through the Westwall. Elements from Grz.IR 125 were engaged during the aborted French Saar Offensive. The regiment was partially motorised on 11 November, before being attached to 75. Infanterie-division (75. ID).
Over the next six months Grz.IR 125 gained valuable combat experience conducting armed reconnaissance patrols into enemy controlled areas.
In the weeks leading up to Fall Gelb, the Grz.IR 125 Headquarters Staff were attached to XII. AK Headquarters, II./Grz.125 was deployed with XXX. AK, assigned to 79. ID and the remaining two battalions: I., III./Grz.125 were placed in 1. Armee Reserve. The regiment was heavily engaged during the western campaign, regularly probing the French defences.
On 10 May, Oberfeldwebel Alois Hübner with 3./Grz.IR 125, led the attack into the Ermerich Wood, assaulting and seizing two key French fortifications. By neutralizing these crucial pillars of the French defense, his battalion was able to breakthrough the Ermerich Woods and reach its objective.
1. Armee was ordered to conduct a series of feints 12-15 May 1940, to hold the French interval troops in place along the Franco-German border. From the Moselle River to the Vosges Mountains, the army crossed the border and attacked French advanced posts. All but one feint consisted of battalion-sized infantry actions supported by heavy artillery. When attacked, the French units resisted stubbornly, then withdrew under cover of their fortress artillery.
The largest feint was a three-division offensive conducted by XII. AK in the Sarre Region. Supported by heavy artillery, including long-range railway guns, the offensive began on 12 May with an intense 15-minute artillery barrage.
Grz.IR 125 was ordered to clear the enemy advance posts in the Brandenbusch north of Grosbliederstroff. They were to clear the woods, dig-in and pin the enemy in place.
Early on 13 May, Grz.IR 125 slowly advanced into the thick forest. Reconnaissance parties had detected large groups of bunkers, fieldworks and obstacles indicating a large enemy presence. Grz.IR 125, taking advantage of the terrain and thick cover, infiltrated the French positions, close-assaulting position after position. The French defence was tenacious, stubborn and brave. Digging in for the night, the regiment fought off numerous counter-attacks, endured massive artillery barrages while holding onto their gains. The Grz.IR 125 attack was very successful, they cleared the woods, seized the French advance positions and captured nine officers and 741 men.
On 13 May, Oberleutnant Otto Schulz, the company commander of 10. kompanie/Grz.IR 125, earned the Iron Cross First and Second Class. He fearlessly led his company into battle, close assaulting and seizing 12 enemy advance posts, thus clearing the way for his regiment to successfully achieve their objectives. 75. ID with Grz.IR 125 leading, was pivotal in the victory, seizing their objectives quickly with minimal casualties.
Not until the sixth day of the invasion did any Groupe d’armées 2 units move west towards Sedan. By then it was too little and too late; XIX. Panzerkorps had broken through at Sedan.
From 15 May to 13 June, 1. Armee continued its probing attacks and nuisance raids, pinning the enemy forces to their front. Grz.IR 125 conducted combat reconnaissance patrols, while training for the assault on the Maginot Line strong points. In early June 1940, the regiment was assigned to 75. ID.
After the battles in Flanders and Belgium ended, Heeresgruppen A and B were ordered to attack into central France to destroy the remainder of the French Army. Heeresgruppe C, once again in a supporting role, was ordered to conduct a series of attacks against the Maginot Line.
The main attack was carried out by XXX. AK and XII. AK on the western side of the Sarre Gap. At 0730hrs on 14 June, German artillery fired a fierce 90-minute barrage followed by unrelenting dive-bomber attacks. However, the artillery and air bombardment were ineffective, heavy fog had covered most of the battlefield, forcing the German artillery to fire blind. Very few French positions were destroyed, with no blockhouses or casemates put out of action. As a result, when the barrage ended, the German infantry advanced into nearly intact French defences.
On the XII. AK east flank, a supporting attack by the 75. ID across the Moderbach River to seize positions of the 174e RMIF in the Kalmerich Forest met with mixed results. The IR 222 advance through the flood zone east of the Kalmerich Forest was easily stopped by machine-gun fire from French blockhouses located behind the flooded area. Meanwhile, the Grz.IR 125 attack over the Moderbach River into the Kalmerich Forest succeeded. Firing over open sights, German 88mm and 105mm artillery penetrated the front wall of the main blockhouse, killing 11 of the defenders and opening a gap in the French defences. German assault teams then crossed the river, entered the forest through the gap and attacked the remaining French positions from the rear. By the afternoon, the Kalmerich Forest was cleared and 130 soldiers of the 174e RMIF were taken prisoner. Among the prisoners was an officer that possessed important information that would be found critical for the continuation of the 1. Armee attack.
As night fell, Generaloberst Erwin von Witzleben considered ending the offensive. Despite inferior numbers and firepower, French resistance was much greater than anticipated. Casualties were high and the first day’s objectives were not achieved. Then fate interceded, the documents captured by Oberleutnant Otto Schulz included a French Army withdrawal order. The captured order convinced the general to continue the offensive the next day. Grz.IR 125 continued its assault the next day, clearing the Hardwald. On 18 June, the regiment enveloped Bataville and the surrounding forests, capturing the town then forming a bridgehead over the Rhine-Marne Canal. Over the next three days Grz.IR 125 was engaged in heavy street fighting, battling house to house while seizing in order Nouvel-Avricourt, Brouvelieures and Laval-sur-Vologne.
Oberleutnant Schulz received the Knights Cross (Ritterkreuz) for his actions during Unternehmen Tiger. The following excerpt, dated 30.08.1940 describes how Oberleutnant Schulz received the Ritterkreuz: Oberleutnant Otto Schulz repeatedly distinguished himself through his ruthless bravery during the fighting for the Maginot Line’s outpost line. He continued to deliver success in battle during the breaching of the Maginot Line itself. In a bold, stormtroop-like action he eliminated one battle position after another and thereby enabled his regiment to advance without hindrance. He forced the enemy garrisons to surrender following close combat that he was personally involved in.
A particularly strong concrete bunker was eliminated with the help of anti-tank guns, machine guns and concentrated charges. Among his prisoners was an officer that possessed important information for the development of the Armee’s attack.”
On 15 June, the reinforced 79. ID stormed the Maginot Line south of Saarbrücken. The division broke through the Maginot Line, advancing to the Moselle Region before forming a bridgehead at Châtel-sur-Moselle. II./Grz.125 reinforced with the IR 212 motorised elements cleared the Forêt de Champenoux prior to seizing and holding the Seille River crossings at Medewich. 1. Armee had successfully separated the heavily fortified Metz and Lauter Regions.
Prior to being assigned to XII, AK Reserve on 23
June, Grz.IR 125 was reinforced with I./Grz. IR 127, Grz. Pi. Btl. 73 and I./Grz AR 106. In late July, Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) ordered all Grenz-Infanterie, Grenzwacht and Landwehr troops returned to their German garrisons. On 31 July, Grz.IR 125 returned to the Saarland.
Deutsches Heeres Mission in Rümanien
On 26 September, Generaloberst Franz Halder alerted Grenz. Regiment Petersen (Grz.IR 125) for a deployment to the DHMR.
Grz.IR 125 gained much valuable combat experience during the western Campaign. It had fought in wooded areas, urban terrain and through heavily fortified areas. IR 125 Part II will include the build up to Marita until North Africa.
IR 125 Lexikon der Wehrmacht
Kriegsgliederung der Truppen des Heeres 10.11.1938, Seite 27
Gliederung der Truppen des Heeres ab 19.09.1939, Seite 26
1. Armee KTB 1.4.-8.5.1940
XII. AK KTB March-September 1940
Maginot Line 1940: Battles on the French Frontier by Marc Romanych, Martin Rupp and John White
Code Names: German Operations of WW II:
Unternehmen Fackel 12-15 May 1940
Hübner, Alois - TracesOfWar.com
Schulz, Otto - TracesOfWar.com
75. Infanterie-Division Gliederung eff 4.6.1940
Wir durchbrechen die Maginotlinie, von Scharf
XXX. AK Orders and Instructions May-June 40
XII. AK Orders and Instructions May-June 1940
79. ID KTB June 1940
75. Infanterie-Division KTB May-July 1940
Franz Halder Diary Volume IV Page 210
- Posts: 10
- Joined: 28 May 2021 00:31
- Location: Kingston, ON Canada
Welcome back. Infanterie-Regiment 125 Part I told part of the story of the regiment from its formation, through the western campaign until the winter of 1940. Part II will continue with the regiment’s exploits from 1 January 1941, until its deployment with Panzerarmee Afrika. Part III will follow Infanterie-Regiment 125 from its battles in North Africa until its re-formation in France 1943.
In early January 1941, Grz.IR 125 was tasked to Unternehmen Marita. The regiment was assigned to 12. Armee and subordinated to XVIII. AK. Deployed to the Balkans by rail and road, IR 125 crossed Kresna Pass on 25 March, deploying in the Marekostinovo area.
Over the winter of 1940-1941, Grz.IR 125 was reorganised. The regiment received additional motorisation then re-designated IR 125 in late January 1941. II./Grz.IR 125 was re-designated II./IR 117 and transferred to 111. Infanterie-Division while I./Grz. IR 126 was assigned to IR 125 and re-designated II./IR 125.
To accomplish its assigned tasks IR 125 was heavily reinforced.
I./Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 100 was attached to IR 125 with the mission of advancing along the right bank of the Struma River, to capture the Paljurjones Fortifications.
XVIII. AK assigned Pionier-Bataillon 70 (Pi. Btl.) and Pi. Btl. 72 to IR 125 from 6-9 April 1941.
Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 191 was assigned to XVIII. Gebirgskorps to assist IR 125 and 5. Gebirgs-Division (5. Geb.D.) in seizing the Rupel Pass. The tracked assault guns discovered that the mountainous terrain made it very difficult, but not impossible to provide close-fire support for the advancing infantry. The 18 Sturmgeschütz III provided much needed direct-fire and boasted morale whenever they appeared.
To support the Battle for the Metaxas Line XVIII. AK had nine Field Artillery battalions under command. There was one 105mm Gun battalion, four mixed battalions each with two batteries of 150mm Howitzers and one battery of 105mm Guns, one battalion of 150mm Howitzers and three battalions of 210mm Mörsers.
On 31 March, OKH ordered Lehrstab R (13. Panzer-Division) to transfer the Lehr-Panzerjäger Abteilung R (Panzerjäger-Abteilung 13) 5cm Pak 38 Platoons to XVIII. Gebirgskorps. One platoon was assigned to IR 125. The platoon included three 5cm Pak 38 and eight 3.7cm Pak 36.
leichte Flak-Abteilung 73 was attached to 5. Geb.D. The battalion had two 20mm batteries and one 37mm battery. In addition, there were three batteries of 88mm Flak available.
Battle of Metaxas Line
The 12. Armee operational plan was influenced by their experience in France. The concept was to use infantry attacks to breach the Greek border defences in terrain not favourable to armour. Where gaps were subsequently forced open, mobile forces were to exploit them before defenders could react or regroup.
The Roupel Pass, named for the throat forming by the Struma River as it passes through the town of Klidi (Turkish: Roupel) is the oldest and
the main connection between Bulgaria and northern Greece. XVIII. Gebirgs Armeekorps included 5. Gebirgs-Division (5. Geb.Div.) and the reinforced IR 125. Their mission was to break through the Roupel Narrows, seize the bridge, allowing 2. Panzer-Division to breakout into the open country towards Thessaloniki.
Thus, isolating the regions of Western Thrace and Eastern Macedonia. The 5. Geb.D area of operations stretched from Rupesko to the Paljurjones Fortifications (excluded), while the reinforced IR 125 was to advance up both sides of the Struma River to assault and capture the Paljurjones and Usita Fortifications.
Plan of Attack
To secure the Roupel Pass, the reinforced IR 125 was to attack along both sides of the Struma River to seize the Paljurjones-Usita fortifications. I./100 Geb.Jg. Rgt. would attack along the right side of the river to seize the Paljurjones Forts, while IR 125 advanced along three lines of attack to conquer the larger Usita Fortress.
Fort Karatas and Fort Kali were not to be assaulted, only covered by artillery fire and air attack.
At 0520hrs, a heavy artillery bombardment of the Paljurjones-Usita fortifications began, lasting for 30 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of dive-bombing attacks and then another pounding by the armeekorps artillery. The artillery and dive bombers alternated their attacks for the next two hours.
At 0600hrs, while 88mm Flak, 50mm and 37mm Pak began to pound the defensive works with direct fire, the reinforced IR 125 crossed the border on both sides of the Struma River at the Pirinska Bistritza tributary. I./GJR 100 along the right bank with the bulk of IR 125 on the left bank.
Advancing quickly, I./GJR 100 captured Height 140, continuing its forward momentum captured the advanced posts. The battalion immediately launched a quick attack on the Paljurjones main defensive works. Despite heavy artillery support and repeated dive bomber strikes, all I./GJR 100 attempts to penetrate the fortress were fiercely repulsed resulting in heavy casualties. In a final assault that night, the battalion was fought to a standstill.
I./IR 125 overran the Frontier Guard Posts, quickly captured the field defences southeast of Promachonas after a short, sharp battle, then under the cover of artillery fire, air strikes and smoke screens confidently advanced on Werk A of the Usita Fortification.
At around 1100hrs, as I./IR 125 approached the main defensive works, the combined effect of the Greek artillery, mortar, machinegun and anti-tank fire stopped the assault cold. Oberst Petersen found the Paljurjones-Usita fortifications to be very resilient despite their hammering by air strikes coupled with direct and indirect fire.
Oberleutnant Otto Schulz, commander of 3. Kompanie had been lightly wounded south of Promachonas, during the assault against the Usita Fortress he was killed with a shot in the head. Oberleutnant Schulz had his hard earned Ritterkreuz taken during one of the many Greek counter-attacks.
Out of the morning mist, 18 assault boats appeared, they were heading downstream to the other end of the valley to seize the Siderokastro bridge. The mission failed when unknown to them, obstacles had been placed in and along the Struma River. The lead boats were caught up on a submerged wire net, the assault craft bunched-up, dumping the soldiers into the water where for the most part they drowned or were cut down by machinegun fire. The few survivors clung to the river banks.
II./IR 125 crossed the Bistritza River under cover of air strikes and artillery fire, advancing towards Hill 350 whose capture was key to seizing Werk C or isolating the Usita fortifications. The battalion attacked on the march, quickly reduced the forward posts, then dispersed the Greek forces to the southeast. Hill 350 was theirs. II./IR 125, taking advantage of their momentum, drove forward through the low ground between Werk C and Fort Karatas. Stealthily, a company sized group of 200 soldiers infiltrated into the rear of the Usita Fortifications, seized the small village of Klidi, then dug-in on Hill 520 near the southern entrance of the Roupel Pass. An infantry platoon and a squadron of armoured cars from the Greek 191st Motorised Regiment counter-attacked Hill 520 but were unsuccessful. The remainder of II./IR 125 could not advance through to Klidi, the intense Greek machinegun and mortar fire kept them pinned down in the gully, causing heavy casualties. Later that night the remainder of 6. Kompanie reinforced Klidi.
III./IR 125 closely followed the second battalion over the Bistritza River meeting little resistance, passed to the left of Hill 350, moving slowly towards Werk E. The assault guns were unable to follow due to the rough terrain. They began working their way to find better firing positions. At 0825hrs the battalion formed into two assault groups. Supported by a heavy machinegun platoon, 80mm mortar troop and two flame thrower sections they began their assault on Werk E. Under heavy Greek machinegun fire from the front and the flank first halted and then forced them to retreat. III./IR 125 launched another attack at 0945hrs, both assault groups carefully advanced under heavy machinegun and artillery fire inching forward to within hand grenade distance. Once more the attack stalled, the flame throwers failed. The troops are exhausted. The battalion held the line fighting off numerous Greek counter-attacks. Three assault teams are formed, two from 11. Kompanie and one from 13. Kompanie. They prepared to storm the near bunker at 1800hrs. Reinforcements arrived including four assault guns and three 37mm Pak. The third assault begins with an artillery barrage and air strikes, the assault groups inch forward reaching the fortress wire obstacles. Unfortunately, stray bombs land on the assault teams causing heavy casualties, this was immediately followed by a hurricane of Greek artillery fire; the attack is crushed and a withdrawal is ordered. III./IR 125 digs in as best as they can. Only after dark is the most forward company able to withdraw.
Thus ended the first day of the German attack against the Paljurjones-Usita fortifications. It was marked by the failure to achieve any objectives.
7 April 1941
The next day, 5. Geb.D captured the fortresses of Istibei, Kelkaja and Arpalouki, while bypassing Popotlivitsa Fortress. The Greek XVIII Division withdrew, destroying the road and rail bridges over the Struma River.
I./GJR 100 did not launch any major assaults, the battalion continued probing and harassing the Paljurjones fortification. Artillery and air strikes continued throughout the day. The 5. Geb.D main body was slowly advancing through the mountains into the rear of Paljurjones Fortress.
IR 125 conducted extensive reconnaissance to find a new avenue of approach. Probing attacks were defeated in detail. Increased Greek artillery and machinegun fire forced further withdrawals in the III. /IR 125 area.
Two Greek battalions, II/41 and III/41 counter-attacked the II. /IR 125 advance company, pushing them out of Klidi. The advanced company withdrew to the Goliama heights, digging in while harassing the fort and indicating targets to the Luftwaffe. Several attempts by XIV Division to dislodge them failed. The advanced company was resupplied by the Luftwaffe.
Fort Karatas supported Werk E with its two 120mm guns.
8 April 1941
On 8 April, 5. Geb.D focused their efforts on the Paljurjones fortress. Gebirgsjäger infiltrated through the nooks and crannies until the fort was isolated.
III. /IR 125 prepared to carry out its fourth attack over the now very familiar terrain. Two assault teams were formed from 13. Kompanie, one assault team from 14. Kompanie and an assault pioneer group with assault guns, Flak and Pak in direct support. As a prerequisite to launch the attack, the Karatas fortification artillery were to be silenced. It’s flanking fire was responsible for most of the battalion casualties and the failure of its previous attacks. As the assault teams moved to the start line, the artillery began an intensive pounding of Karatas, ending with a massive air strike. At 1230hrs, the fourth assault began. Within minutes the Karatas artillery unleashed a withering barrage on III./IR 125, inflicting heavy casualties, especially among the assault guns and pioneers. The assault was cancelled – the Greek artillery had not been silenced!
9 April 1941
On 9 April, 5. Geb.D continued trying to occupy the Paljurjones Fortress. All attempts ended in failure. At 1730hrs German messengers informed the fortress commander that the Greek Army had capitulated. Immediately a cease fire agreement was negotiated.
III. / IR 125 advised Regimental Headquarters that their situation was untenable. In the battalion area, the eastern slopes were dominated by heavy enemy artillery fire, the western and northern slopes by machinegun fire with the valleys and ravines covered by mortar fire. The Greek defenses seemed almost unbeatable. III./ IR 125 effective strength was at 70 percent. The fifth assault was scheduled to begin at 1200hrs. It was cancelled - the Greeks had surrendered.
At 1700hrs, messengers announced the Greek Army capitulation. A cease fire was agreed, effective immediately.
10 April 1941
A German delegation arrived at the Paljurjones Fortress to accept its surrender. Oberst Petersen congratulated its garrison, expressing his great admiration of their heroic resistance. The Greek flag was lowered after the depart of its garrison. Oberst Petersen then accepted the surrender of the Usita fortress, stating to LCol Plevrakis, "I do not weep for my men, as a soldier, because their sacrifice was necessary; I weep for my men as human, because my regiment suffered a disaster of huge proportions"
11 April 1941
At 1700hrs, the Roupel Pass was opened. The much-depleted IR 125 was placed under command of 72. ID, beginning its slow advance towards Thessaloniki.
During the morning of 9 April, 2. PzD entered unopposed into Thessaloniki. The Commander of the Eastern Macedonia Field Army Section (EMFAS) signed the capitulation documents that afternoon. Two days later, the bulk of 72. ID with the attached IR 125 were rushed to Thessaloniki. They were to perform occupation and coastal defence duties at the port city, freeing 2. PzD for operations to the south. On 23 April the Greek army surrendered, King George II of Greece and his government escaped to Crete. Four days later, German troops occupied Athens.
Thessaloniki Occupation Duties
On 1 May, 72. ID and IR 125 were transferred to XXX. AK, 72. ID began its long road move back to Romania. Two weeks later, the regiment was placed under command of 164. ID. Reinforced with 15 French tanks, IR 125 continued to conduct occupation and coastal defence duties. In mid-June 1941, as the 12. Armee divisions were transferred to the Eastern Front, most of Greece was under Italian control, the Bulgarians in western Thrace and German forces in Athens, eastern Macedonia (with Salonika), the Greco-Turkish border region, western Crete and some islands. 12. Armee Headquarters in Athens under Generalfeldmarschall List, controlled XVIII. Geb.K with 164. ID and IR 125 in Thessaloniki, 5. Geb.D on Crete, 6. Geb.D in Athens and Höheres Kommando zbV LXV in Serbia and Croatia. With minimal Greek guerrilla activity in 1941, the Germans concentrated their forces on Crete, withdrawing 5. and 6. Geb.D.
A number of small-scale operations in Serbia and Croatia by four German infantry divisions resulted in a large number of partisan casualties and arrests, but accomplished little in effectively curbing the partisan movement.
By 5 September, Generalfeldmarschall List had realised that the situation could not be mastered with the forces at hand and ordered IR 125 from the Thessaloniki area to Belgrade.
On 20 September, Unternehmen Užice began. It was executed by 342. ID, IR 125 and the recently arrived 113. ID. Unternehmen Užice was directed against the Užice Republic in western Serbia, the first of several "free territories" liberated by the Yugoslav Partisans. On 29 September, IR 125 in support of 342. ID conducted an encirclement operation between Šabac and Koceljevo, east of the Cer Mountains. Oberfeldwebel Alois Hübner, leading 11. Kompanie IR 125 encountered a large group of partisans, annihilating them, then capturing a Serbian Battalion Headquarters. By early December, the Užice territory was reoccupied. Unfortunately, large numbers of partisans fled into the more mountainous regions of Bosnia and into Croatia. Their task completed; IR 125 moved to Athens prior to deploying to Crete.
On 10 January 1942, 164. ID, 713. ID and IR 125 were merged and re-designated as Festungs-Division Kreta (FDK). Once again, the illustrious Oberfeldwebel Alois Hübner was at it again. While conducting a routine patrol, he captured some British Commandos (SBS) who had committed acts of sabotage against the Crete airfields to prevent them from being used for supporting the Afrika Korps.
In preparation for its deployment to Africa, the FDK was re-organised as 164. leichte Afrika-Division and Festungs-Brigade Kreta. In early July, elements of the 164. ID Division were flown from Crete to Tobruk. Some heavy weapons and vehicles were shipped by sea, but for the most part, the division was outfitted with equipment captured at Tobruk. It was to be converted to a Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment in Africa.
IR 125 performed well in the battle for the Metaxas line and during anti-partisan operations. In Part III IR 125 would face its biggest test, fighting the well trained, equipped and supplied allied forces in Africa, France and Eastern Europe.
12. Armee Gliederung: stand 25.01.1941
Kriegsgliederung des Feldheeres stand: 10.2.41
Das Panzergrenadier-Regiment 125 des Heeres
12. Armee Abendmeldung 25.3.41
Lexikon der Wehrmacht Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 100
Lexikon der Wehrmacht Pionier-Bataillone
Sturmartillerie: Thomas Anderson
12. Armee Armeebefehl 31.3.41
German WW II Organizational Series Volume 3/I Mechanized Army Divisions Leo W.G. Niehorster
Wir durchbrechen die Metaxas-Linie, Erich Scharf Saarbrücken, Druck und Verlag Buchgewerbehaus, 1942
Balkanfeldzug der 12. Armee 1.3.-1.6.1941
CMH Pub 104-4 The German Campaigns in The Balkans (Spring 1941)
Abridged History of The Greek–Italian-Greek-German War Part 5
Swastika over the Acropolis, Craig Stockings and Eleanor Hancock
The Defence and Fall of Greece, John Carr
Oberleutnant Otto Schulz- Ritterkreuzträger
Lexikon der Wehrmacht
AOK 12 Orders and Instructions April-May 1941
Führer Directive 31 Organisation in the Balkans
Codenames of WW2: Operation Užice
German Antiguerrilla Operations in The Balkans
Hübner, Alois – Metapedia
The Rommel Papers, B. H. Liddell Hart
- Posts: 10
- Joined: 28 May 2021 00:31
- Location: Kingston, ON Canada
Welcome to Part III of the Infanterie-Regiment 125 (IR 125) in Europa history. Part I began with the regiment from its formation through the western campaign until the winter of 1940. Part II followed the regiment’s exploits from 1 January 1941, through Unternehmen Marita, occupation duties until its deployment with Panzerarmee Afrika (PzA Afrika) in the summer of 1942. Part III finds the regiment deploying in North Africa at the high point of the Axis campaign until it’s surrender in Tunisia on 13 May 1943.
There are many books, references and documents covering the regiment on the Western Front. I will only briefly cover the PzGR 125 reconstitution in France, Western Campaign, Eastern tour and the final surrender on 27 April 1945.
Unternehmen Aïda was the PzA Afrika offensive from 26 June-1 July 1942, to clear the Allied forces from northern Egypt as far east as Cairo and the delta of the Nile River. This operation ended with the First Battle of El Alamein, marking the farthest point the Axis forces advanced into Egypt, 95km to the west of Alexandria.
Deployment to North Africa
In mid-July, 164. leichte Afrika-Division (164. le AfrD) began arriving in North Africa, airlifted in two groups from Crete to airfields outside Tobruk. The plan was to have 164. le AfrD organised similar to 90. leichte Afrika-Division (90. le AfrD). Equipped with vehicles and equipment from the huge allied stock piles captured at Tobruk, the division deployed to El Alamein without all its transport or its Panzerjäger battalion.
IR 125 landed at Tobruk with the second group on 17 July, hurriedly outfitted, the regiment was rushed to the front.
First Battle of El Alamein
The first battle of El Alamein was a series of quick engagements in the area south of El Alamein from 1-27 July, Unternehmen Aïda was blunted, but the Eighth Army counterattacks achieved very little. The battle ended as a stalemate.
The Allies launched a major attack at 0330hrs on 10 July. A heavy artillery bombardment signalled the start of the attack. 60a Divisione di fanteria "Sabratha" (60a DIF), still fortifying its defensive position, bore the full brunt of the heaviest shelling seen to that date in North Africa. The artillery fire thoroughly routed the division.
The 9th Australian Division (9th Aus Div) and the 1st South African Division quickly advanced, smashing into 60a DIF. By 1000hrs the South Africans, had captured Tel el Makh Khad, a high-point just west of El Alamein and dug-in. The Australians seized the east part of Tel el Eisa a few miles further to the north-west.
The headquarters of PzA Afrika five kms to the north-west of Tel el Eisa was threatened by the attack. When Oberstleutnant von Melenthin saw hundreds of panicked Italians fleeing past PzA Headquarters. He scraped together everything he could in the way of staff personnel, flak, infantry, supply units including field kitchen companies. With these heterogeneous troops, they faced the Australian attack. In bitter hand-to-hand fighting, in which staff officers manned the machine guns, the headquarters managed to halt the first enemy rush.
9th Aus Div continued their attack, overrunning the remaining battalion of 60a DIF and elements of I./382. IR. More importantly, they seized FM Rommel’s most important intelligence gathers: Nachrichten Fern Aufklärung Kompanie 621.The signal battalions’ posts, tents, radio vans and antennas were overrun. Hauptmann Seeböhm, the Battalion Commander, was mortally wounded in the fighting. Captured Documents let the British know just how much tactical information they had lost due to poor radio security since early 1941.
Moving from Tobruk to relieve 90. le AfrD in their defensive positions along the coast west of El Alamein, 164. le AfrD arrived at a crucial moment, the main body of IR 382 and advance elements of IR 125 marched straight into combat, halting the Australian attack within 3,000 metres of PzA Afrika HQ, then pushing them back.
The skirmishes continued throughout July along the El Alamein front. The Axis and Allied forces were exhausted, awaiting more reinforcements, replacements and supplies before launching the next offensive. In late August, still acclimatizing to the desert, 164. le AfrD was completing their defensive preparations and absorbing elements of 90. le AfrD.
IR 125 was responsible for a vast area, I./IR 125 was allocated a large defensive position in Thompson’s Post with III./IR 125 on its left flank along the coast, II./IR 125 was on its right flank in the Fig Orchard and along Trig 29 (Axis Hill 28). Oberfeldwebel Alois Hübner with 1. Kompanie was deployed along Ring Contour 25, known to the Australians as Baillieu's Bluff between the road and rail line to Alexandria. The illustrious Hübner, now a Geschützführer was responsible to prepare, site and command the company anti-tank weapons which included a 3.7cm Pak 36, a 5cm Pak 38 and a 2cm Flak 38. The battalion was ordered to aggressively patrol their defensive zones to gather information about the upcoming Allied offensive.
The Battle of Alam Halfa
FM Rommel intended to destroy the Eighth Army in a three-pronged attack along a 13km front with the Deutsches Afrika Korps (DAK) on the right flank, XX° Corpo d'Armata (XX° CA) in the center and 90. le AfrD on the left flank. DAK would move south 20km into the desert beyond the Alam el Halfa Ridge, turn north, advance behind the Allied position at El Alamein to Hammam and squeeze them into the sea.
The Reconnaissance Group was to screen the PzA Afrika extreme right flank with X° CA, XXI° CA, including 164. le AfrD holding the line north of the El Taqua plateau. After defeating the Eighth Army, XXI° CA reinforced with 21. Pz. D would advance to Alexandria, XX° CA would advance to Cairo and DAK was to capture the Suez Canal.
The offensive began at 2300hrs on 30 August, 164. le AfrD, lead by IR 125, conducted a series of strong feints in an attempt to confuse and tie down the allied forces to their front. Encountering difficult terrain, powdery sand and a more extensive minefield than was believed, the DAK fought to break through the Allies advanced defenses.
The axis forces suffered greatly, sniped at by anti-tank guns, under very accurate and devastating artillery fire, relentless aircraft attacks and its flank threatened by the British 7th Armoured Division (7th Armd Div). 21. Pz.D. Commander, Generalmajor Georg von Bismarck was killed by mortar fire and the DAK Commander, General der Panzertruppe Walther Nehring was seriously injured during an airstrike. By dawn a full-scale sandstorm was raging and the Axis was still stuck in the minefields. The dream of hooking north to Hammam was fading. FM Rommel was ready to abort, but then under the advice of his Chief of Staff, Oberst Fritz Bayerlein, he shortened his hook to Alam el Haifa, which was exactly what the Allies wanted. Over the next four days the allies gave as good as they got, blunting all assaults and fighting the axis to a standstill. PzA Afrika was running out of food, fuel, ammunition and tanks. The promised supplies were at the bottom of the Mediterranean.
In the evening of 31 August, the 9th Aus Div supported by a squadron of tanks launched Operation Bulimba near Tel el Eisa. This attack was a diversion to disrupt the main Axis attack in the south. In heavy fighting against IR 382, the 2nd Battalion 15th Australian Brigade lost half of its fighting strength amidst heavy hand-to-hand fighting as they encountered heavy resistance after penetrating a German minefield. The assault was quickly counterattacked by elements of the 164. leichte Afrika-Division, including IR 125, forcing the attackers to retreat.
On 2 September, FM Rommel decided to withdraw to the El Taqa-Bab-el Qattara line, close to his starting point. Concluding that the Axis was retreating, instead of a vigorous pursuit to destroy the DAK, Eighth Army launched Operation Beresford to re-establish the minefield to the south of the 2nd New Zealand Division (2nd NZ Div) position. Carried out by 132nd Infantry Brigade with two 2nd NZ Div Infantry Brigades covering their flanks, the operation was a dismal failure. With the failure of Operation Beresford, Eighth Army attempts to interfere with PzA Afrika’s withdrawal ended.
The battle finally came to an end on 7 September, and a new front line was established just to the east of the original minefields.
On 1 October, PzA Afrika was renamed The Deutsch-Italienische PzA.
IR 125 was re-designated as a Panzergrenadier-Regiment (PzGR) on 10.10.1942. It was Slowly converted to Schnelle Truppe KStN as equipment became available. The regiment was never fully converted.
The Second Battle of El Alamein
The 2nd Battle of El Alamein was fought in five distinct phases: Operation Lightfoot-The break-in 23-24 October, the Crumbling of the Axis northern Defences 24-25 October, the Axis counterattacks 26-28 October, no title is given for the period 29-31 October when the battle was at a standstill, Operation Supercharge 1-2 November and the Breakout 3-7 November.
On 23 October, Eighth Army initiated Operation Lightfoot, the first phase in the plan to destroy The Deutsch-Italienische PzA.
PzGR 125 was not the main objective, 24th Australian Brigade was to launch a diversionary operation to draw German reserves northwards. PzGR 125 reported it had repulsed a major attack.
Allied Northern Thrust
The only phase of Operation Lightfoot that had not been completed, called for the cutting-off and capture of the Axis forces between the XXX Corps northern flank and the sea. On 25 October, 9th Aus Div attacked northward towards the coast in an attempt to destroy the remnants of PzGR 125. The immediate objective was Trig 29 (Hill 28). During a lull in the battle, II./ PzGR 125 had begun patrolling to determine the extent of the Allied penetration. At dusk the Australians noticed a large group of soldiers near the forward companies. They challenged them, opened fired, killing several Germans. Three Germans were captured including both PzGR 125 and the II./ PzGR 125 Commanders. A map marked with the locations of PzGR 125 minefields and defenses was seized from the battalion commander.
The follow-up 9th Aus Div attack began on 28 October. At 2100hrs a tremendous drum-fire started to pound the area west of Trig 29 (Hill 28). Soon hundreds of Allied guns concentrated their fire into the II./ PzGR 125 sector. 26th Australian Brigade with support from 23rd Armoured Brigade began their assault at 2200hrs. They breached the Axis line between II./ PzGR 125 and elements of PzGR 155 before overrunning the XIº Battaglione Bersaglieri. The battle raged with tremendous fury for six hours. Surrounded, exposed to enemy fire from all sides, II./ PzGR 125 fought on desperately, suffering heavy casualties. The battalion formed an all-around defence, repulsing further attacks by 26 Australian Brigade. All German counterattacks to recapture the sector were unsuccessful. After much hand-to-hand fighting Trig 29 (Hill 28) was seized and the Australians consolidated their positions. The next morning, PzGR 200 counter-attacked to re-establish the Axis line west of Trig 29 (Hill 28). The counter-attack failed but the remnants of II./ PzGR 125 disengaged, fighting their way back to the axis lines.
The Battle of Attrition
Over the next four days, 9th Aus Div thrust northwards to the coast, seizing Barrel Hill, the Blockhouse, the road and rail line to Alexandria and the cloverleaf, cutting off III./ PzGR 125 and isolating I./ PzGR 125. In the 1. Kompanie area, an important outpost fell into Australian hands, Oberfeldwebel Hübner immediately stormed the position, recaptured it and then reinforced it.
Both I./ PzGR 125 and III./ PzGR 125 repulsed all attacks, holding the original line from Thompson’s Post across the railway and road to the sea. Thompson’s Post was a thorn in the Allies side, sitting astride the Road to Alexandria, I./ PzGR 125 interfered with the Allied supply lines. During the next few days, Oberfeldwebel Hübner engaged supply columns, light tanks and Allied troops with his anti-tank weapons. Not to be left out, Oberleutnant Born, the Battalion Adjutant single-handily knocked out a British tank that strayed too close to the 1. Kompanie perimeter.
FM Rommel knew that it would not be possible to hold the El Alamein position. Preparations were to be made for a withdrawal to the Fuka Line. On 31 October he ordered the DAK to relieve PzGR 125. At 1100hrs, Kampfgruppe Pfeiffer advanced from Sidi Abd el Rahman towards Barrel Hill. The assault by Kampfgruppe Pfeiffer and PzGR 361 slowly ground its way eastwards. By 1715hrs they reported contact with PzGR 125 on the coast but made slow progress along the railway. By 1900hrs the counter-attack was halted. Aufklärungs-Abteilung (mot) 580 was tasked to keep the corridor along the coast open. PzGR 125 was ordered to prepare to withdraw. On 1 November, I./ PzGR 125 slowly began its withdrawal from Thompson’s Post through III./ PzGR 125, all heavy weapons and anti-tank guns were successfully moved to Sidi Abd el Rahman. Oberfeldwebel Hübner fought a rearguard action until his battalion was through III./ PzGR 125 lines. PzGR 125 completed its withdrawal to Sidi Abd el Rahman on 2 November. He was awarded the Deutsche Kreuz in Gold on 21 January 1943 for his acts of gallantry in the fighting at El Alamein and the resultant rear-guard actions. On 2 November, Panzer Armee Afrika began its the withdrawal to the Fuka Line.
The Withdrawal and Pursuit
Late on 4 November, the remnants of 164. le AfrD began the long trek to the Mareth Line. The next day, PzGR 125 still under command of 90. le AfrD, withdrew from Sidi Abd el Rahman. II./ PzGR 125 provided cover for the regiment with 1. Kompanie and the ever-present Oberfeldwebel Hübner conducting the rearguard action. Under constant air attack, threatened with encirclement and short of supplies-especially fuel. PzGR 125 executed a staged withdrawal through the Fuka Airfield, Mersa Matruh, Fort Capuzzo, reaching the Regimental Concentration Area near El Agheila on 18 November.
In December, PzGR 125 rejoined 164. le AfrD which had moved to Tripoli to be rehabilitated. The division was to be at last converted to a le AfrD (mot). 164. le AfrD did not receive all the reinforcements, heavy equipment or vehicles to complete its conversion, instead the division was dispatched to Mersa el Brega to prepare defensive positions.
On 19 January 1943, 164. le AfrD moved into the Tarhuna Position. It was deployed in a screen to prevent a British attack on the Tarhuna-Castel Benito Road. Although an Allied attack two days later was repulsed, threatened with encirclement, FM Rommel ordered all non-motorised troops to withdraw to the Zawiya position.
In early February, 164. le AfrD was moved to the Mareth Line to prepare it for occupation. On 15 February, the 15. PzD rearguard withdrew into the forefield of the Mareth line. The great retreat from Alamein to Tunisia was over.
The Mareth Line was occupied from the coast to the mountains south of Ksar el Hallouf by the 136a Divisione Giovani Fascisti, 101a Divisione Motorizată Trieste, 90. le AfrD, 80a Divisione Fanteria La Spezia, 16a Divisione Fanteria Pistoia and 164. L AfrD.
FM Rommel ordered a pre-emptive strike on the Allied forces in Médenine from the Mareth Line. Three Panzer Divisions supported by infantry elements were to attack in coordinated blow from the northwest, west and southwest. FM Rommel hoped to overrun the Allied forces on the southwestern flank, advance to the coast, isolating and then destroying them piece-meal. 10. PzD with 164. le AfrD were to advance from Ksar el Hallouf to Metameur. To provide flank protection, Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 3 (PzAA) followed by PzAA 33, supported by the PzA Kampfstaffel were to advance further to the south-east. On 6 March, the Axis launched their attack after a short artillery bombardment. 164. le AfrD was engaged by 2 New Zealand Division (2 NZ Div) suffering heavy casualties. All attacks were repulsed and the Axis withdrew back to the Mareth Line.
The Mareth Line
164. le AfrD responsible for the 1a Armata right flank, was deployed in a zone extending across the belt of hills north of Hallouf pass and centering on Matmata. Reduced to four battalions and one gun battery, 164. le AfrD deployed detachments to defend the defiles of Hallouf, Beni Kreddache and the tracks leading westward from them.
After continuous fighting, PzGR 125 had been reduced to one battalion: the I./ PzGR 125. On 4 February, Oberfeldwebel Hübner’s outpost detachment seized an Allied reconnaissance patrol probing its position. They appreciated the four-wheel drive reconnaissance vehicle and supplies they appropriated.
On 19 March, Eighth Army attacked the Mareth Line defenses effecting a penetration near Zarat. 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division secured a small bridgehead over the Wadi Zigzaou. 136a Divisione Giovani Fascisti held its ground repulsing all attacks, forcing the allies on the defensive. To cut the Axis line of retreat, 2nd NZ Div reinforced with the 8th Armoured Brigade and the Free French ‘L’ Force formed the New Zealand Corps. The Corps was to execute a left hook around the southern flank through ‘Wilder’s Gap’ in the Matmata hills, drive through the Tebaga Gap then break through to the coast near Gabès isolating the Mareth Line forces.
In midafternoon 21 March, the New Zealand Corps after almost forty-eight hours of arduous and unexpectedly swift marching over the edge of the desert, passed through ‘Wilder’s Gap’ arriving south of El Hamma. That night they executed an operation in the bright moonlight, driving an enemy force from an outpost on Hill 201, which dominated the lower adjacent ground. The New Zealanders won it at a cost of 65 casualties and took nearly 850 Italian prisoners. It remained in Allied hands thereafter, despite sturdy counterattacks.
German air reconnaissance had observed the movement of the New Zealand Corps. As the corps was completing its approach, 21. PzD was ordered westward to support the Italians in the Tebaga Gap while 164. le AfrD withdrew northwest of Toujane and Matmata through the hills. The next morning 164. le AfrD received orders to continue toward the northwestern front to join in the counter-attack to regain Hill 201. This counter-attack was also repulsed.
Meanwhile, 15. PzD had counter-attacked near Zarat, recapturing the territory lost in the opening of Operation Pugilist. Having failed to regain Hill 201, Heeresgruppe Afrika (HGr Afrika) ordered 1a Armata to retire to the Chott Position. The Axis forward line of defenses from Djebel Tebaga through Djebel Melab then southeast to Tamezred was covered by three divisions. 164. le AfrD was deployed in the northwestern sector with XXI Corpo d'Armata covering the southeastern sector.
Operation Supercharge II
At sun-set on 26 March, after massive air strikes and following a rolling barrage, 2nd NZ Div charged forward along a two-brigade front. The Axis had been expecting a night attack and were surprised. 164. le AfrD was hit hard, its two center battalions, I./PzGR 125 and I./PzGR 382 were overrun and a gap was opened. The vigilant Oberfeldwebel Hübner, held his ridgeline post, destroying two British Tanks that were trying to outflank 1. Kompanie. 8th Armoured Brigade advanced through the gap toward El Hamma and Gabès, leaving the following infantry in heavy engagements behind them on the hills. At 2300hrs, as the moon rose to provide some light, tanks of the 1st Armoured Division charged through the gap toward El Hamma 20 miles to the northeast. Running into 15. PzD at dawn the British armour was fought to a standstill. The remnants of 21. PzD and 164. le AfrD withdrew to a blocking position at El Hamma. Racing to Gabès, 1a Armata deployed in a loose defensive line. On 29 Mar, Gabès fell, forcing 1a Armata to conduct a fighting withdrawal to the Akarit Wadi and the Chott Line.
The remnants of 164. le AfrD limped back to the Chott Position, they had suffered heavily in the Battles for the Tebaga Gap and at El Hamma. Their new defensive position was anchored on Djebel Haïdoudi (Hill 285) covering the track to Gafsa.
The XXX Corps assault began early on 6 April, thrusting through the three Italian Infantry Divisions deployed west of the coastal road. 90. le AfrD counter-attacked immediately regaining most of the lost ground. HGr Afrika ordered 1a Armata to supply transport to 164. le AfrD. Which was immobilised west of the Allied attack, the division was the only battle-worthy unit available to join the counterattack. Three German counterattacks were made during the afternoon, mainly against the 51st (Highland) Division on Djebel Roumana. All attacks were beaten-off. As darkness fell, faced with high casualties, low on ammunition and Italian morale faltering, the Axis position became untenable. HGr Afrika directed 1a Armata to withdraw to the Enfidaville Position. The Italian troops moved first, covered by the German units.
At dawn on 7 April, Eighth Army discovered that 1a Armata had quietly withdrawn during the night. XXX Corps advanced along the coast with X Corps inland. The Axis rearguard consisting of 90. le AfrD on the east, 164. le AfrD in the center and 15. PzD reinforced with Tigers from sPz-Abt 501 on the inland flank conducted a fighting withdrawal, keeping the allies at bay. On 13 April, 1a Armata occupied their last defensive positions north and west of Enfidaville, 40kms south of Cape Bon.
1a Armata was deployed in depth along a line running from the Sebkra Kralifa westwards to Takrouna and farther to the west the Djebel Garci to the Kairouan plain. 164. le AfrD was deployed on the right flank covering the approaches to Saouaf. PzGR 125, after receiving replacements was now two battalions strong.
On 19 April, X Corps with the 2nd NZ Div and 4th Indian Division began their assault. They quickly gained most of their first day objectives, fighting off very strong counter-attacks. For the next two days the Allies held onto their toeholds.
The terrain coupled with a very determined defence stymied all Allied attempts. Faced with mounting casualties for only the gain of a few inches of rocky gravel, the operation was called off. 164. Leichte Afrika-Division, lightly engaged by elements of 7th Armd Div and Force ‘L’, repulsed all attacks. On 29 April, Eighth Army tried to force the coastal plain, the attack ended in a dismal failure.
On 13 May, 164. le AfrD surrendered to 2nd NZ Div. It was the last German unit in Tunisia to surrender. The division was disbanded on 30 June 1943, due to unit precedence, 164. ID was not reconstituted.
Oberfeldwebel Alois Hübner
Somehow, the ever-resourceful Oberfeldwebel Alois Hübner escaped to Sicily joining other PzGR 125 soldiers in the reconstituted PzGR 129 of the 15. Panzergrenadier-Division. On 5 December 1943, he was awarded the Ritterkreuz for his actions near Castel Volturno, Italy.
As a Stoßtruppführer, Hübner conducted a close combat engagement with his three assault groups, repulsed a major allied attack and halting an allied breakthrough. On 14 December 1943, he was appointed Fahnenjunker-Oberfeldwebel. After his unit was transferred to the West Front, Alois Hübner was killed in action during the fighting around Metz on 23 September 1944.
PzGR 125 (neu)
In the summer of 1943, PzGR verstärkte schnellen Brigade West was renamed PzGR 433. On 15 July it was reorganised and redesignated PzGR 125 (neu) and subordinated to 21. PzD. Major Hans-Ulrich von Luck was given command, retaining it until the end of the war.
PzGR 125 consisted of two battalions, I. Bataillon in armoured Schützenpanzerwagen (leSPW U304(f)), and II. Bataillon in French lorries. The Heavy Weapons and vehicles were predominately French and were being slowly replaced with new German equipment.
There were some old hands from Africa in the regiment, however orders were issued specifically prohibiting the transfer of personnel from the old 21. Panzer-Division and old PzGR 125 to the reconstituted division, so as to prevent the loss of experienced personnel from new formations being raised in Italy.
21. PzD Headquarters was located at Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives. The division was in Heeres Gruppe B Reserve with minor elements deployed close to the coast under the command of 716. ID. The division was tasked with Anti-Airborne Invasion Duties.
PzGR 125 was deployed forward East of the Orne River. The Regimental Headquarters was located at Bellengreville west of Vimont, central to its two battalions. I. Bataillon Headquarters was at Fierville-la-Campagne, 1-3 Kompanies were deployed near the headquarters with 4. Kompanie forward with the Regimental headquarters. II. Battalion Headquarters was deployed outside of Caen with 8. Kompanie, 5-7 Kompanies were covering road junctions and vital points. On 5-6 June, 5. Kompanie was conducting nightly anti-airborne invasion exercises.
On 6 June, 21. PzD formed three distinctly tailored combined-arms kampfgruppe (KG): KG Oppeln (PR 22), KG Rauch (PzGR 192) and KG Luck (PzGR 125). KG Oppeln contained most of the panzer regiment, attaching some armoured and motorised infantry from PzGR 125.
Designed to support KG Oppeln, KG Rauch was built around PzGR 192 with a few attachments. KG Luck was a well-balanced force of infantry, armoured and assault guns, capable of independent action. Their deployment reflected the divisional anti-invasion tasks. West of the Orne River, KG Rauch was to conduct a holding action north of Caen while KG Oppeln prepared to support it. Together they would then launch a counter-attack against the beachhead. KG Luck, would operate east of the Orne River against the 6th Airborne Division (UK) bridgeheads.
The campaign history of 21. PzD and in particular KG Luck from 6 June 1944 until its surrender on 29 April 1945 is well documented with numerous reports, books and unit histories. KG Luck was engaged in the summer battles for Caen, the Falaise Pocket and later Operation Nordwind. The division was shifted from one hot spot to another, constantly counterattacking as the German front was forced back from Lorraine into the Saar region and then into Alsace.
On 31 January 1945, Hitler ordered 21. PzD dispatched in extreme haste to the Eastern Front in the Küstrin area. The division was constantly on the move, KG Luck, again used as a Fire Brigade, was fully engaged along the entire front. KG Luck was cut off and destroyed in the Halbe Pocket and Colonel von Luck was captured on 27 April 1945.
Although PzGR 125 was usually understrength, consistently short of supplies and often isolated, their soldiers performed well, meeting all the challenges they faced.
It has been both fun and interesting following that counter through its GDW Europa Series Journey.
Australia in the War of 1939–1945: Series One: Army Volume 3
Rommel's Afrika Korps - Tobruk to El Alamein, Pier Paolo Battistelli
PzGR Strengths Leo Niehorster
Aïda | Operations & Codenames of WWII
Alamein: The Australian Story, Mark Johnston
The Rommel Papers edited by BH Liddell Hart
Battle of Alam Halfa, J Rickard
Alamein, Cassandra Vivian
Alam Halfa and Alamein, R. Walker
Rommel’s Failed Gamble: The “Six Day’s Race”, Arnold Blumberg
Official History of New Zealand in The Second World War
Kriegsgliederung des Feldheeres, Stand: 15 Oktober 1942
Lightfoot | Operations & Codenames of WWII
Hübner, Alois – Metapedia
Germany – Third Reich: A Series of Interesting Documents ...
The Combat History of the 21. Panzer Division, Werner Kortenhaus
- Posts: 10
- Joined: 28 May 2021 00:31
- Location: Kingston, ON Canada
It gave me something to do during the lockdowns we went through here in Canada. Is it possible for you to post some of your photos? I tried to find a copies of the three 125 Souvenir pamphlets produced 1940-1943, alas the postage for one was amazingly high.
- Financial supporter
- Posts: 3246
- Joined: 19 Sep 2008 13:44
According to Lexikon der Wehrmacht it became Infanterie-Regiment 125 when Germany mobilised for the war.