Hechtel 1944, battle of

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Wolf
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Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by Wolf » 28 Jan 2007 11:07

Is it known what strength the Fallschirmjaeger defending Hechtel, Belgium had during the fighting around the town in early September 1944? And maybe what unit they belonged to (Grossmehl unit?).

Some sources claim they were supported by at least one Jagdpanther. Any other AFVs around?

Also, did the Germans withdraw or were they overrun by the British Guards Armoured?

Gooner1
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Re: Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by Gooner1 » 01 Feb 2007 18:25

Wolf wrote:Is it known what strength the Fallschirmjaeger defending Hechtel, Belgium had during the fighting around the town in early September 1944? And maybe what unit they belonged to (Grossmehl unit?).

Some sources claim they were supported by at least one Jagdpanther. Any other AFVs around?

Also, did the Germans withdraw or were they overrun by the British Guards Armoured?
According to the 'Welsh Guards at War' by L.F. Ellis, the German troops defending Hechtel came mainly from 1st Battalion Hermann Goering Regiment and the 10th (Gramsel) Parachute Regiment.
"Of these, one hundred and fifty enemy dead were counted; two hundred and twenty wounded were evacuated; five hundred unwounded prisoners were taken, including Captain Muller, the commander of the force. The equipment captured or destroyed included three tanks; seven self-propelled guns; one half-track with short 75mm gun; six anti-tank guns; ten miscellaneous vehicles."

One of the SPs was described as a 'Yagpanther'. [sic]

I guess the German force was mostly destroyed.

potter AB
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Post by potter AB » 05 Feb 2007 00:38

The little battle of Hechtel was a serious attempt by the Germans to stop the allied attack in Belgium after the breakthrough in Normandy and the rapid withdrawal of many Wehrmacht-troops in the beginning of Sept.'44.
German parachute troops were sent from Cologne to Roermond (NL) and marched from there about 50 km to Hechtel. In fact, the objective was the broad Albert Canal 20 km further on, but this had already been passed by British troops at a placed called Beringen. The order to stop the allied forces in Beringen was given by general Keitel on Sept.7 (Kriegstagebuch, 02.40), code name Herbststurm (autumn storm).

In 2004, there has been published a very thorough and interesting book on Hechtel, 320 pages. The author Gerard Wuyts spent 15 years on finding every smallest detail of the battle, which took place from 6-12th of September 1944. His father was one of the 22 civilians that were executed by Grassmels people, accused of being "partisans" (they were just hiding in a cellar, together with women and children), so he wanted to find out everything. Despite that, the book is very objective. From 1989-2004 Wuyts contacted all German parachute troops that were still alive and had been involved in Hechtel. He even visited them in Germany. Therefore, the book consists of many eye witnesses together with a lot of copies of documents.

The heavy tank Jagdpanther destroyed in Hechtel, is the one you can see in the Imperial War Museum today. It belonged to Major Erich Sattler of the 3rd Rgt. of Panzerjäger-Abteilung 559, which was stationed 7 km to the west of Hechtel in Leopoldsburg (often called Bourg Leopold at that time). Sattler was wounded, but could escape. If you click on this link, an announcement of Wuyts' book, and scroll down, you can see a picture of the tank after it had been destroyed in Hechtel:
http://blog.seniorennet.be/herfststormo ... rtaantal=0

In his book, Wuyts lists all troops and the major participants of the battle. As mentioned by Gooner1, the German troops consisted of one bataillon of the 2nd Hermann Göring Tank Regiment and of the two battaillions of the 20th parachute regiment under Franz Grassmel, who at that time was Major. The 1st bataillon was in Hechtel itself, the 2nd was placed 2 km to the east in a litte place called Wijchmaal.

The most severe fighting took place between 9-12th of September. On September 10th, the Irish Guards made a breakthrough towards the northeast and captured Joe's Bridge at the Maas-Schelde Canal in Lommel, about 10 km to the north. One week later, this bridge was used as springboard for the Operation Market-Garden, as it leads to Eindhoven.

The same day (Sept. 10th) Grassmels 1st bataillon became encircled in Hechtel. On Sept. 12 heavy artillery made an end on the fights and the German troops surrendered. The 2nd Bataillon, including Grassmel, could escape towards Peer-Bree, where they hold positions on the banks of a canal near Maaseik, at about 30 km from the German border.

To complete Gooner1s figures on the number of German losses, Wuyts names 92 British dead. Also, 36 civilians died, 22 of them were executed by the Germans, accused of being partisans. But no partisan action took place during the battle. The British immediately set up a war commission when they became aware of the executions.

Wuyts is convinced that many of the German dead parachute troops that died in Hechtel still lay around somewhere deep in the meadows, not discovered yet. Unlike the British, the German parachute troops did not burry their deads when these were killed during fights. He recalls many of the bodies lying in the streets many days after the battle. The resistance was asked to burry them. Most of them were thrown in mass graves, without identification. Later they were moved to the nearby big German cemetary of Lommel, thus many of them "unknown".

It was only after the battle of Hechtel Grassmels was called 20th regiment Fallschirmjäger and became part of the 1st Parachute Division under the command of Kurt Student. When the battle took place, the 20th was just called Grassmehl-regiment, part of the 7th parachute division under the command of Generalleutnant Wolfgang Erdmann.

Wuyts book is only available in Dutch, but he wants to tell the story to everyone that is interested in it. I was in Hechtel in August 2006 and got his book and an interesting conversation.

best regards
potter

nzgeordie
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Re: Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by nzgeordie » 27 Dec 2009 19:03

I thought this might be of interest to the forum. It is what appears to be an "Action Report" from a battle fought at Hechtel in Sept. 1944 by the Scots Guards. I have reproduced it below verbatim.

Quote;

No.2700469 L/Cpl J. FOSTER and
No.2699637 Gdsn. G. STEWART,

14 Platoon, 'X' Company, Scots Guards.

On the 9th September, 1944, 14 Platoon were in a defensive position in the village of Hechtel. During the morning the Germans made four attacks on the Platoon position and on each occasion were driven back by L/Cpl Foster's section (6 men). The Germans were attacking in considerable strength. supported by Mortar and Machine Gun fire, but L/Cpl Foster gave no ground.
This L/Cpl and Stewart (who was with him in the trench) killed two complete M.G.45 teams (6 men) who had crawled within 5 yards of their trench.
Due to their courage and example, the Section held their ground. Had not this L/Cpl and Stewart fought magnificently against superior numbers, the whole Platoon would have been overrun. Many dead Germans were later found in their Section area. Foster and Stewart were both killed fighting from their trench.

(Signed) A.D.G. LLEWELLYN.
Lieut.,
14 Platoon, 'X' Company, Scots Guards.

End Quote.

The original of the above came into my posession following the death of a work colleague, Eric Stewart, the son of the Guardsman named above. Eric was around 10 years old at the time of his father's death. He had previously asked me, knowing I had lived in Belgium for a number of years, if I had a map which showed the village's location which I was able to do. Following his death, the original of the above, typed on yellowing paper, was found in his posessions and I was able to forward it to the Scots Guards Association where I was informed it would be placed on Gdsn. Stewart's 'P' file in the archives.

As I said earlier, this appears to be a copy of an Action Report rather than a letter to the next-of-kin (there is no address on the letter). I cannot say how it came into the son's posession unless it was practice to forward a copy to the family.

Pete

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 27 Dec 2009 20:14

Pete,
That looks like a recommendation for a medal award to me. I hope they both got something.

Regards
Tom

nzgeordie
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Re: Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by nzgeordie » 27 Dec 2009 21:13

Hi Tom. I don't know that either of them got an award. Eric certainly never mentioned one. But there, that wouldn't be unusual. I'm sure many who deserved them never got one and probably a few did who didn't deserve them.

netedal
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Re: Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by netedal » 28 Oct 2010 21:50

Hello,

My name is Bob Vranken and i live in Hechtel.
Since my youth I heard all the stories over "The battle of Hechtel", because my parents were at the age of 21 and 23 years old and they still remember very well all that happened those terrible day's. Two uncle's of my mother 39 and 43 years old were brutally shot by the Germans without any reason. They were hiding with their women and children in a shelter.
When anybody has a allied relative who was shot in Hechtel and needs some information, when I can I will help.

Kind regards,

Bob

Rhitos1
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Re: Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by Rhitos1 » 09 Nov 2014 16:28

Hello people,
I'm Gerard Wuyts, writer of the book which PotterAB from Denmark gives a brief explanation. Here still are some corrections :
In Hechtel (Belgium) fought from 6 to September 12, 1944, on the German side : the Fallschirmjäger-Regiment.20 under the command of Major Franz Grassmel (°1906-+1985) and a Panzer Ersatz Abteilung of the II.Fallschirm und Ausbildungs- Regiment "Hermann Göring" under the command of Hauptmann Willi Müller (°1911). - From the British side were that : mainly the 1st and 2nd Battalion Welsh Guards, further the Scotts Guards 'X'-Company, Grenadiers Guards, Irish Guards, The Herefordshire Rgt., King's Shropshire Light Infantry, The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 151 Field Rgt. Royal Artillery (Ayrshire Yeomanry) TA, Inns of Court Rgt. Royal Armoured Corps, 3th Battalion Monmouthshire Rgt. and 2th Fife Forfar Yeomanry.

In my book Oberleutnant Otto Minn (°1920-+1998) of the II.Fsch.Pz.E.-u.A.-Rgt.H. Göring himself tells the course of his combat time in Hechtel.
All German fighters were captured after the siege, except for a few ones. I myself owns more than 250 names and addresses of those prisoners of war.
The 3rd Cie Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 559 of Major Erich Sattler did occasionally fall out toward Hechtel and it is the Jagdpanther-01 Sattler himself who was disabled and now on display at London's Imperial War Museum. Major Sattler later came back to the place where he lost his tank and it was Oberleutnant Franz Kopka from the same unit who informed me about this story.
All the facts from my book were checked for truth.

It is interestingly then what nzgeordie writes about Foster and Stewart, two Scots Guards who died together in Hechtel. I still do searches where exactly and how British in Hechtel were killed.

The book by Gerard Wuyts about the liberation struggles of Hechtel (Belgium) remain available in Dutch (2004), but also in French ('Tempête d'Automne sur Hechtel’2008) and now English language (‘Autumn Storm over Hechtel’2013). - See blogs
<http://blog.SeniorenNet.be/autumnstormhechtel>
Regards
Gerard

potter AB
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Re: Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by potter AB » 08 Mar 2015 23:02

Rhitos1 wrote: The 3rd Cie Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 559 of Major Erich Sattler did occasionally fall out toward Hechtel and it is the Jagdpanther-01 Sattler himself who was disabled and now on display at London's Imperial War Museum. Major Sattler later came back to the place where he lost his tank and it was Oberleutnant Franz Kopka from the same unit who informed me about this story. All the facts from my book were checked for truth.

Regards
Gerard
Dear Mr. Wuyts,

Very glad to find you here. I am happy to see that you are still going strong with your publications!

Regarding the Jagdpanther in the Imperial War Museum and its destruction in Hechtel in September 1944, I just wanted to point out that Mr. Sattler's own words of what happened and his later visit to Hechtel is fully described with pictures and letters in this thread of the forum:
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 8&start=15

Interestingly enough, the British commander of the Cromwell tank also recalls very well what happened that day:
"I looked around and there, silhouetted against sort of opening of the wood and coming down the road behind us was just about the largest tank I had ever seen. It turned out to be a German Jagdpanther. And I suppose it was in the order of 200, 300 yards behind us. And as I looked around, it fired at us..."

Excerpt from a taped interview by the Imperial War Museum in 1997. You can listen to the whole interview on the website of the Imperial War Museum:
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/ ... tid=197839
Skip to part 2 of the audio file. From about 11.25 minutes it is about Hechtel, from 14.55 min about the Jagdpanther and its destruction.

The commander of the Cromwell tank was the then lieutenant, now Baron Hugh W. Griffiths:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Griff ... _Griffiths

maarten swarts
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Re: Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by maarten swarts » 16 Mar 2015 13:28

It is good news the book of Gerard Wuyts (Autumn Storm over Hechtel) is translated in English. Althought not a purely military account of the battle it gives a very detailed story of what happened in Hechtel in Sept 1944. Full of information especially about the Fallschirmjäger over there.
It convinced me that also some Lutwaffe units were not so innocent as they tried to present themselves after the war. In our book Autumn Gale we used a quite lot of information from his book.
The account from Erich Sattler (see post above) is interestingly. Chris van Kerckhoven succeeded in trace down Mr. Sattler in Germany in the seventies, what resulted in a visit by Sattler to the former battlefields in northern Belgium. But Sattler was only in Hechtel, he was in hospital until end of Oktober. Chris told me he could not convince Sattler he was not in Beeringen but in Hechtel. (see his account).
The story in Wuyts book is from Kopka and is completely reliable. (not so different fron Sattler s story).
In short a great book at last in English language.

crueltiming
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Re: Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by crueltiming » 11 Apr 2017 05:09

my grandfather Uffz. Xaver Frank was a member of Pz.Jg.Abt. 559. According to records he fell in the vicinity of Hechtel on Sep 12 '44. Still had his arm in a sling from a wound he received in russia,but he wanted to be with his outfit so he cut short his convalescent leave. I'm still trying to piece together some old photos he took during "Barbarossa" and his whole history from induction on.

Martin Schwarz
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Re: Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by Martin Schwarz » 18 Feb 2020 19:39

I've come a bit late to this fascinating discussion, which I find most interesting. I'm trying to write my father's history for the benefit of his descendants, who one day might wonder where they got their surname! In short, my father trained in the Luftwaffe, but was transferred into the Fallschirm-Jaeger-Regiment Grassmehl (German spelling), 6th Company. This information is from the Deutsche Dienststelle, which will provide information about anyone who served in the German armed forces. Essentially, my father was taken prisoner on the 10th of September 1944 in Hechtel. Father was always adamant that he was taken prisoner by a Canadian, although I can find no records of Canadians being combatant there on the tenth (can anyone help here?). My father's unit was mobilised in something of a hurry. Woken up and force-marched, sort of hurry! And when he was taken, he was wearing his paratroop gear, with RPGs filling most of his patch pockets (but nothing to fire them with, as far as I know!). The decision to surrender was taken by just a handful of men who, after a brief discussion, thought it was already too late to secure the Albert Canal and decided that discretion was the better part of valour.
Finally, I would like to know where I could get hold of a copy of Gerard Wuyts book, which would help me enormously. I also have a bit more information about the formation of Grassmehl's regiment, if anyone is interested. And thanks to you all for such an interesting and useful post. Dr Martin Schwarz

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 18 Feb 2020 21:37

Martin,

I for one would be very interested to read more information about the formation of Grassmehl's regiment. You might find more information about the battle in the book 'Autumn Gale' which covers the fighting in Hechtel in some detail.

Regards

Tom

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Hechtel 1944, battle of

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 23 Feb 2020 12:01

There is a short section about the fighting at Hechtel in September 1944 in the Scots Guards regimental history as one of their companies (X Company) was under command of the Welsh Guards at this point. I thought I'd post up a map that shows their initial attack on the village on 8 Sep.

Map Hechtel.PNG

Regards

Tom
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