|27th SS Volunteer Division|
Insignia of the 27th SS Volunteer Division Langemarck
|Size||Division (never more than Brigade-strength)|
The formation started as the 6th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Langemarck and in September 1944 the Sturmbrigade was raised in status to a division, but its strength never reached more than a brigade.
- SS Volunteer Standarte Nordwest
- SS Volunteer Verband Flandern
- SS Battalion Flandern
- SS Volunteer Legion Flandern
- SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Langemarck
- 6th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Langemarck
- 27th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Langemarck
History and concept
After the success of Germany's blitzkrieg attacks on Poland and in the West in 1939–1940, many European fascists saw Germany as an answer to the Bolshevik problem. Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, with the support of Adolf Hitler, began a campaign in late 1940 to recruit those European fascists of sufficiently Aryan stock into a series of Legions, under the control of the Waffen-SS. The SS Volunteer Standarte Nordwest was formed to cater for volunteers from the Low Countries.
In April 1941, volunteers began arriving in Hamburg. They were quickly processed and signed up for service in the Nordwest. Flemish volunteers were assigned to the 1st, 6th and 8th companies. The recruits went through basic training, and were sent to Radom and Dębica in occupied Poland for further training.
By July 1941, the number of recruits meant that the Nordwest could be dissolved and several separate units formed. The Flemings were organized into SS Volunteer Verband Flandern. Flemish volunteers, many members of the VNV (Flemish Nationalist Front) continued to sign up for the unit, and by September 1941 the formation was the size of a reinforced infantry battalion, and boasted five fully motorized companies. The unit was again redesignated, this time as SS Volunteer Legion Flandern. Its strength was 1,100 men, of who 1,000 were Flemings, including 14 officers.
On 10 November 1941, the division was ordered to the front near Novgorod, under the overall command of Army Group North. The legion was to be subordinated to the 2 SS Infantry Brigade, an international unit composed of Dutchmen, Norwegians and Latvians.
Battles around Leningrad
Arriving at the front late in November, the Flandern was immediately thrown into combat in the Volkhov region attempting to halt the Soviet attacks. In heavy fighting, the legion proved itself capable in combat, and executed a fighting withdrawal to the Volkhov River line.
On 13 January 1942, the Soviets launched an offensive aimed at the relief of Leningrad. The Flandern found itself in the Soviet line of advance, and saw heavy defensive fighting against relentless attacks which lasted until late February. At the end of February, the Soviet assault petered out, and the Germans went on the offensive, attempting to encircle the extended Russians. For the next few months, the Flandern was engaged in efforts to complete the encirclement of the Soviet forces, and on 21 May 1942, the encirclement was closed.
Over the course of the next month, the legion took part in the reduction of the pocket, being heavily engaged until 27 June 1942, when the exhausted unit was pulled out of the line for a rest and refit.
After two months as reserve, the legion was sent back into the line south of Lake Ladoga, manning trenches which were under attack by Soviet forces intent on relieving the Siege of Leningrad. The men of Flandern saw heavy fighting defeating two major Soviet attacks towards the city. On 31 March 1943, the legion was ordered back to the SS Training Area at Dębica to be reformed.
SS-Sturmbrigade Langemarck – Ukraine
Soon after arriving at Dębica, the legion was ordered to move on to Milowitz in Bohemia. On 31 May 1943, the legion was dissolved and reformed as SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Langemarck. The allocation of the title Langemarck, in memory of the bloody First World War battle fought at Langemarck, Belgium in 1914, was intended to represent Flemish-German camaraderie. However, the Flemings themselves didn't understand why they had been given a title which represented the losses suffered by German soldiers trying to take over their country in 1914. The Flemings felt a jealousy that their French speaking countrymen, the Walloons, were granted as a title their home region for the 5th SS-Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien. Despite this, large numbers of Flemings continued to sign up for service with the Waffen SS.
In addition to the veterans of Flandern, the Sturmbrigade now gained a contingent of new Flemish volunteers, an anti-tank Panzerjäger company, an assault gun battalion equipped with StuG's and a FlaK battalion. In October 1943, the brigade was renamed 6th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Langemarck. In December 1943, the Langemarck was ready to be sent to the front. The total unit strength was 2,022 men.
On 26 December 1943, Langemarck was sent to Ukraine to act as a part of Army Group South. Fighting alongside the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich, the brigade acquitted itself well in the heavy defensive battles in the region of Kiev and Zhitomir.
In January, 1944 the Langemarck and elements of Das Reich were encircled by Soviet forces near Zhitomir. Despite this, they fought their way out of the kessel (cauldron), suffering heavy casualties and losing the majority of their heavy equipment and vehicles. By early March, the brigade had been reduced to 400 men. At the end of April, the shattered Langemarck was ordered back to Bohemia for reforming.
Narva and the Battle of the European SS – Kurland Pocket
In Bohemia, 1,700 new recruits were waiting to join the division, and soon it was back up to strength. On 19 July 1944, Kampfgruppe Rehmann was formed, commanded by SS-Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Rehmann. KG Rehmann, consisting of the Langemarck's 2nd battalion was sent to the Narva front to become a part of Felix Steiner's III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps which was defending the Tannenberg Line. The Tannenberg Line was anchored on three strategic hills. Running west to east, these were known as Hill 69.9 (69.9-Höhe), Grenadier Hill (Grenadier-Höhe) and Orphanage Hill (Kinderheim-Höhe). From Orphanage Hill, the rear side of the town of Narva could be protected. KG Rehmann was tasked with defending Orphanage Hill. Fighting alongside men of the 11. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier Division Nordland, the 5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien, the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian), the 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Nederland and several German formations, the Langemarck was engaged in very heavy combat against the Soviets. An example of the fighting spirit and tenacity of the Langemarck men can be seen by the actions of the Flemish NCO Remi Schrijnen. During the fighting, Schrijnen singlehandedly knocked out more than a dozen enemy tanks while wounded and cutoff from his unit. In a period of 48 hours, Schrijnen personally halted several Soviet tank attacks which threatened to encircle the Langemarck and the Estonian SS men fighting alongside them. He even destroyed two T-34's with one shot from his PaK anti-tank gun. For his actions, Schrijnen was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
Over the next few months, Langemarck, along with the remainder of Steiner's Corps, executed a fighting withdrawal into the Kurland Pocket, the brigade being in combat for much of the retreat. In September 1944, the remains of KG Rehmann were evacuated by ferry over the Baltic to Swinemünde and joined the rest of the Brigade. Following the allied invasion of Belgium, many Belgian fascists fled the country to Germany. The result of this was that both the Langemarck and the 5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonie were redesignated as divisions on 18 October 1944.
Pomerania – Oder Front
The new Langemarck division was to be designated 27th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Langemarck. While the influx of displaced Flemings meant that the division had a solid base to be formed on, it also meant that more training was required. It was not until 1 January 1945 that the division was ready to be sent back into the line. The Langemarck was once again attached to III. (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps, now a part of Steiner's newly formed XI. SS Panzer Army located on the lower Oder near Stettin.
On 16 February, the division was ordered on the offensive as a part of Operation Sonnenwende, the operation to destroy a Soviet salient and to relieve the troops besieged in the town of Arnswalde. The offensive had been conceived by Generaloberst Heinz Guderian as a massed assault all along the front, but had then been reduced by Hitler to the level of a local counterattack.
Despite initial gains, the attack soon bogged down after III. (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps, with Nordland Langemarck and Wallonie in the vanguard, reached Arnswalde. Heavy Soviet counterattacks threatened to encircle the corps, and so after evacuating all civilian survivors, Steiner canceled the operation and ordered the corps back to the area around Stargard and Stettin.
The Soviet offensive of 1 March pushed Langemarck along with the rest of the depleted III. (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps before it. In a desperate fighting withdrawal, the Langemarck along with the rest of III corps inflicted heavy casualties on the Soviets, but by 4 March, the division was falling back to the area around Altdamm, the last defensive position east of the Oder itself. During the next two weeks, Langemarck and the rest of the corps grimly held to the town, inflicting and suffering high casualties. On the 19th, the battered defenders fell back behind the Oder, the Langemarck had fought itself to virtual extinction. As a part of Steiner's XI SS Panzer Army, the Langemarck, now reduced to a Kampfgruppe, began falling back towards Mecklenburg where it surrendered to the Russians on 8 May 1945.
- SS-Sturmbannführer Michael Lippert (24 September 1941 – 2 April 1942)
- SS-Obersturmbannführer Hans Albert von Lettow-Vorbeck (2 April 1942 – June 1942)
- SS-Hauptsturmführer Hallmann (June 1942 – 20 June 1942)
- SS-Obersturmbannführer Josef Fitzthum (20 June 1942 – 11 July 1942)
- SS-Sturmbannführer Conrad Schellong (11 July 1942 – October 1944)
- SS-Oberführer Thomas Müller (October 1944 – 2 May 1945)
Order of battle
6. SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Langemarck (July 1943)
- Brigade HQ
- I. Battalion
- 1. Company
- 2. Company
- 3. Company
- 4. (MG) Company
- II. Battalion
- 9. Flak Company
- 10.March Company
27th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Langemarck
- SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 66
- SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 67
- SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 68
- SS-Artillery Regiment 27
- SS-Panzerjäger Battalion 27
- SS-Signals Battalion 27
- SS-Pionier Battalion 27
- SS-Div.Versorgungs Regiment 27
- SS-Reserve Battalion 27
- SS-Medical Battalion 27
- Verwaltungs Company
- Propaganda Company
- Kampfgruppe Schellong
- Brandt, Brandt – The Last Knight of Flanders
- Tieke, Wilhelm – Tragedy of the Faithful: A History of III. (Germanisches) SS-Panzer-Korps
- Pipes, Jason. "6.SS-Freiwilligen-Sturmbrigade Langemarck". Retrieved 18 May 2005.
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