Barbarossa The Waffen SS on the Eastern Front Part 5
'Leibstandarte' troops fight in the outskirts of the port Mariupol in Ukraine. The city fell on the 8th October 1941 giving the Germans access to the sea of Azov.
A Waffen-SS Leibstandarte BMW R75 motorcyclist and his outrider watch as a building burns. The German Army insisted that both BMW and their rival Záüdap use almost 70% of the same motorcycle components to simplify the supply of spares.
Waffen-SS Funker or radio operator receives a message for his Unit. The attack on Russia posed a serious challenge in terms of communication because of the speed and the advance and the great distances involved along the front.
An SS radio operator receives their next orders. Good communication between the Panzer tanks and the infantry followinf them ensured that in the opening monhs of Barbarossa the Germans retained tactical
'das Reich' trrops cross a river after the Soviets had blown up the bridge. The Germans attack depended upon Panzer engineers being able to quickly establish temporary pontoon bridges calable of supporting tanks.
A german dug out on the Eastern Front in 1941. Morale among the troops in the early months of the compaign was very high and most of the German High Command thought that the campaign would be over by Christmas.
Waffen-SS troops man a machine gun post covering the approach road to Louhi, 1941. In 1941 the German advance was so swift that they would encircle Russian armies who would then become trapped behind the front line.
Waffen-SS troops firing an MG-42 machine gun. It was the standard machine gun from 1942 onwards replacing the MG-34 and had one of the highest rates of fire of any single barrel gun at 11,200 -1,500 rounds per minute.
In 2941 Finland committed 16 Divisions and 3 Brigade, consisting of 475,000 men and women to the Operation Barbarossa
Soldiers from the 'Wiking Division' use flame-throwers against Soviet troops. This Model 35 Flame-thrower had a capacity of 2.5 Gallons and a range of 25 yards. They were operated by engineers rather than combat troops and were most effective at close range against pillboxes..
The SS-Calvary Brigade in 1941. It was mainly involved in anti partisan operations. In 1942 it was upgraded into the '8th SS Calvary Division or 'Florian Geyer'.
During the Russian winter of 1941 temperature of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit were common affecting both nen and animals.
The Russian winter took a vert heavy toll on the Germans who unlike the Soviets were not equipped with winter clothing. By November 1941, the Germans had suffered an unprecedented 730,000 casulties.
The spring of 1942 when it finally came turned manu roads into a quagmire. The mud and later the snow caused repeated delays in the advance and highlighted the lack of proper logistical planning fgfor the campaign.
Waffen-SS troops were considered an elite and receive the best equipment and clothing. But in the winter of 1941 they still lacked the winter uniforms needed to fight effectively in the Russian winter.
Waffen-SS Oberscharführer or platoon leader scans the horizon for Soviet troops. The Russian winter gave the Soviets a respite from German advance and allowed them to plan their counter offensive.
During the Russian winter of 1941 German troops became experts at putting up makeshift shelters against the cold.
The harsh Russian winter caused chaos with German transport and lines of communication. In sub zero temperature fires had to be lit under the engines of lorry's and other vehicles to help them start.
Waffen-SS troops with an MG 34 heavy machine gun. The legs could be extended to allow it to be used as an anti-aircraft gun or lowered so it could be used as an infantry support weapon.
An SS Calvary Division patrol during the winter 1941. The deep snow slowed the German advance in November and played a key role in the halting the German offensixe in December.
White winter overcoats issued to advancing German troops but underneath many still had summer clothing. As a result frostbite took a terrible toll and many toops lost limbs or were deemed unfit to fight.
Troops are relieved at the front line. German soldiers were given three weeks leave but due to problems with transport and the great distances involved in getting to Germany often only spent a week with their families.
German troops build an iglo as a defensive shield around a mortar. Blocks of ice proved to be very good at deflecting and absorbing enemy fire.
During January 1942 many German soldiers found survival let alone fighting difficult in the Russian winter
The 4th SS-Polizei Division advances on Leningrad. The siege of Leningrad started on the 8th September 1941 and was not lifted until 27th January 1944. At 372 days long it was one of the longest and most costly sieges in history
'Das Reich', part of Army Group Centre, reached the gates of Moscow in December 1941 but the weather, massive losses and Soviet counter-offensive forced the division back.
From their positions west of Moscow soldiers of 'Das Reich' could clearly see the the Soviet capital through their binovulars. It was the closest they would ever get. The German army would never again threaten the Russian capital.
Soldiers from 'Das Reich' Division rest on the outskirts of Moscow, December 1941. The dividion was decimated by the Russian counter offensive and as withdrawn for rest and refitting.
Continued in 5
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