Tiger-Abteilung 501 off Nowiki bridgehead (Witebsk area) / February 1944

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Gastolli
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Tiger-Abteilung 501 off Nowiki bridgehead (Witebsk area) / February 1944

Post by Gastolli » 18 Oct 2022 19:25

Hello,

found this newspaper clipping about a successful Tiger Abteilung in the Witebsk area, newspaper is "Velberter Zeitung" from 13.3.1944, text from D.N.B. on 12.3.1944:
Velberter Zeitung 13.03.44 - Tiger 501 -A.png
Velberter Zeitung 13.03.44 - Tiger 501 -B.png
Velberter Zeitung 13.03.44 - Tiger 501 -C.png
In short:
It's about a "schlesische Tiger-Abteilung", which since Dezember 1943 destroyed 275 tanks and assault guns plus 170 guns. In February 1944 alone this Abteilung destroyed 132 tanks and assault guns south-east of Witebsk. Main focus of the fights was the Nowiki bridgehead (here: Wowiki).

Once, 60 sowjet tanks with infantry attacked the German positions on the Lutschessa river, within 30 min. the 3 Tigers there shot 29 tanks: a Oberleutnant = 9, a Feldwebel = 12 and a Unteroffizier = 8.

Later the bridge over the Lutschessa river was destroyed by sowjet artillery, so 8 of the Tigers on the east bank where cut off from their supply. These Tigers again destroyed a lot of sowjet tanks in close quarter combat, also claiming high losses for the sowjet infantry.

Afterwards supply of fuel and ammunition was brought over the ice of the Lutschessa by foot.

A few days before this article, sowjet troops took about 600 metres of trenches to the west of the Lutschessa river. 3 of the Tigers together with Pioneer troops with flame throwers counterattacked successfully, they claim 500 sowjet dead.

4 Tigers to the southeast of Witebsk where attacked during the night by sowjet close combat troops, but they were driven back. In the morning one of those Tigers was hit by A/T fire and was towed backwards by another Tiger. The remaining two Tigers continued to fight back the attacking sowjet infantry. The damaged Tiger was repaired quickly and all 4 Tigers counterattacked, destroying the A/T guns and claming high losses to the sowjet infantry.


This unit is s.Pz.Abt. 501 which from December 1943 onwards was deployed on the Eastern Front. I have no idea as to the names of the three Tiger commanders mentioned, unfortunately.

If anybody can add some facts from the German or Russian side to these events I would be glad to see it :-)

Oliver


PS: this was VI. Armeekorps sector.
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Re: Tiger-Abteilung 501 off Nowiki bridgehead (Witebsk area) / February 1944

Post by GregSingh » 19 Oct 2022 02:30

According to diary of Soviet 33rd Army, in 12/13 February fightings near Noviki and Bukshtiny, Soviet losses were 60 dead and 260 wounded. They also reported destroying 21 German tanks. (According to Schneider 9 Tigers were destroyed on the 13th).
https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view ... 619c7ae3v7

Schneider also mentioned 501's action near Wichni (or Wischni) on the 25th of Feb.
If I see on the map correctly, that would be further 30km SE from Noviki, so not in 33rd Army area.
You can get pretty damn far in life by just saying what you're going to do and then doing it.

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Re: Tiger-Abteilung 501 off Nowiki bridgehead (Witebsk area) / February 1944

Post by Art » 19 Oct 2022 09:43

The article doesn't talk about concrete dates. It seems that it mostly describes so called "2nd winter battle of Vitebsk" or the battle of Luchesa which started on 3 February and continued till about mid-February. As correctly said the village of Noviki was in the center of the battle area. See some maps down the links:
https://ebrary.net/116743/political_sci ... es_vitebsk
https://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Gl ... zA0244.jpg
https://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Gl ... zA0344.jpg
Also maps from the Heidkamper's book:
Vitebsk.png
Luchesa.png
It's hard to discuss episodes without knowing exact dates, because battle activities went on in the same limited area for about two weeks .
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Re: Tiger-Abteilung 501 off Nowiki bridgehead (Witebsk area) / February 1944

Post by Art » 19 Oct 2022 18:43

As follows from both Heidkamper's maps and Soviet situation maps by mid-February German held only several tiny pieces of land (each of hundreds meters deep) east of the Luchesa River near Noviki. That was what remained of the Noviki bridgehead.

According to A. Isayev the entire Soviet West Front had 294 operational tanks and SP guns - 20 KV, 159 T-34, 66 T-70, 24 T-60, 24 Mk-III Valentine, 2 M3 Lee, 10 M3 Stuart, 1 Pz-VI, 3 Pz-IV, 11 SU-152, 3 SU-122, 17 SU-85, 39 SU-76 on the evening of 2 February (that is on the eve of offensive). Of them 193 belonged to the 33 Army in the Luchesa sector as a part of 2nd Guards Tank Corps, 5 independent tank brigades and 4 self-propelled regiments. Losses of the 33 Army in February 1944 were 30 T-34, 2 T-70, 2 T-60, 2 SU-85, 19 SU-76 as write-offs, 32 T-34, 2 T-70, 3 SU-152 and 1 SU-76 as battle-damaged, and 2 T-34 as damaged by mines.

Corresponding claims of the 3 Pz. AOK in its entire sector during the month of February were 382 tanks and SP guns (additionally 27 previously immobilized AFVs destroyed). Which was distributed by type of weapons:
Hollow-charged hand grenades - 3
Panzerfaust - 9
Ofenrohr - 5
HE hand grenades - 1
medium AT guns - 2
heavy AT guns - 44(3)
self-propelled AT guns - 13(1)
Nashorns - 38(6)
StuGs (in infantry divisions) - 7
Tiger tanks - 172(1)
StuGs (in brigades) - 59(6)
light field howitzers - 16(1)
15.5-cm French howitzers - 0 (3)
divisional artillery - 11(6)
light infantry weapons - 1
20-mm Flak - 1
88-mm Flak - 1

and by units:
256 ID - 30(2)
299 ID - 6
197 ID - 8(1)
206 ID - 5(5)
95 ID - 12
131 ID - 45(4)
4 LwFD - 7(3)
6 LwFD - 7
245 StuG Brigade - 23(5)
281 StuG Brigade - 27
664 s.PzJg.Abt - 2
518 s.PzJg.Abt. - 38(6)
501 s.Pz.Abt. - 123
505 s.Pz.Abt. - 49(1)

Units shown in bold operated in the Luchesa sector, I'm not sure about StuG brigades and anti-tank battalions, probably they did too.

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Re: Tiger-Abteilung 501 off Nowiki bridgehead (Witebsk area) / February 1944

Post by Gastolli » 19 Oct 2022 21:13

Hello Greg, hello Art,

thank you both for your (quick) contributions! You must have spent some time in doing some research and looking for files and information, thank you!
Art wrote:
19 Oct 2022 09:43
It's hard to discuss episodes without knowing exact dates ...
Indeed, newspaper articles doesn't seem to be a good source, usually, but these type of articles within the German WW2 press are based on facts learned by the P.K. men from the frontline units. Well, facts ..., of course the facts the German side thinks about tank kills and sowjet losses etc., you know that no side was precise in their claims :D

Sometimes the newspapers even mention exact dates, but that wasn't necessary for the ordinary reader of that newspapers. In this special case it's a summery of the actions of s.Pz.Abt. 501 for that period. A unit we don't know that much about and ..., as you can see with the tank kill claims for February 1944, the better known s.Pz.Abt. 505 had far less tank kills to their credit. This of course catched my attention as it's far more interesting to find something "new" instead of reading well known stories about Stalingrad, Bagration or Normandy ...

My main focus is small unit action and time witnesses (still some are available), but you need to know the overall situation first, than narrow down the corps or unit involved, and also important the "other side" of course.

So, well, I have to dig in a little, maybe do further research in the German Bundesarchiv next month, if any files are available there (it becomes difficult for 1944 as there are no Division records available).

Thanks for you support and hints!!!

Oliver

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Life Standarda
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Re: Tiger-Abteilung 501 off Nowiki bridgehead (Witebsk area) / February 1944

Post by Life Standarda » 21 Oct 2022 09:25

Maybe it is the 43th Guards Tank Brigade which fought the Tigers around “Nowki” during Feb12-13th,and also 735th SPG regiment together,according to the series reports from “Tanks and mechanized troop force” command(БТ и МВ) of 33rd Army.

According to this report,submitted on 2000MT Feb 11st,the 43GTBr had 27 op tanks,of which T34-21,T60/70-6.
https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view ... c85c56d9v7

Another report from the same unit,2000MT Feb 12nd,indicates that the 43GTBr were engaging at “Noviki”,which should be “Nowki” as the German claim,and 5 of its T-34 had already forced the river “Lychessa”(Lutschessa). The 735rd SPG regiment were supproting 43GTBr at that time.Losses of both units were not mentioned in this report. There were also another 2 armour units fighting near Noviki——the 23rd GTBr and 1830 Heavy SPG regiment,who were fighting at “Bykshitjni”,a village 1km SW of Noviki.
https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view ... c85c56d9v7

I am still working on the report on Feb 13rd, and then maybe the report of 43th GTBr,if possible. Regards.

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Re: Tiger-Abteilung 501 off Nowiki bridgehead (Witebsk area) / February 1944

Post by Life Standarda » 21 Oct 2022 10:05

Ad info:

Goodnews.Both war diaries of the 43 GTBr and 735 SPG Regiment (Feb 12rd)are available on Pamyat. From a quick and sketchy review,it seems that both units indeed anticipated the engagement at Noviki on Feb 12th.The WD of 735th is hand-writing which makes it a little hard to read,but it seems the attack on Noviki begins 1500-1600MT,with the 43 GTBr leading and 735th followed 200-300m behind the T34s,providing support fire. The village was conquered,but the accomplished infantry from 1313rd rifle regiment failed to dug in(hold?)north part of the village, and as a result, the German troop successed captured the school, cemetery and several buildings north of village.

https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view ... c85c56d9v7

Both unit suffered losses on Feb 12.The 43 GTBr lost 4 T34 brewed up,5 damaged and 1 more damaged and stuck in mud,a total 10 tanks.The 735 SPG Regiment suffered more serious ,according to its WD,all 13 SU-76 anticipated the action on Feb 12 were lost,of which 12 brewed and 1 damaged.But as far as I see,both unit didn't mention “Enemy Heavy Tanks” in these report. In fact,the 735th SPG WD gives limited details during the battle,and focus a little more on results.

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Re: Tiger-Abteilung 501 off Nowiki bridgehead (Witebsk area) / February 1944

Post by Art » 22 Oct 2022 10:45

I don't quite understand where this date (12 February) came from. The original account posted in the first message doesn't call any specific dates for any episode.

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Re: Tiger-Abteilung 501 off Nowiki bridgehead (Witebsk area) / February 1944

Post by Gastolli » 22 Oct 2022 21:24

Hello Life Standard, hello Art ...

well, of course the newspaper report doesn't mention any specifiy date as it was ment for the German civilians, not the OKH in Berlin, but nethertheless it clearly states that this Tiger-Abteilung (501) was in heavy action in February (the month before publication).

So, Life Standard had the month and the area to work with (for which I'm thankful as I just can read cyrillic letters, but can't read Russian language in any way) :(

Of course the newspaper speaks of several actions, one with a very detailed German kill claim (29 tanks by just 3 Tigers) and another one just claiming a lot of russian tank losses ("... unter Abschuß zahlreicher Panzer"). Keeping in mind that russian losses usually were far inferior we "just" have to search for some days of heavy activity in this bridgehead. The date Life Standard provided is one possibility of course.

I will take a look at VI. AK files in Bundesarchiv Freiburg next month ...

Oliver

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