Abschnitt Antwerpen - Divisionsstab zbV 136
On 28 May 1944 the Abschnitt Antwerpen, which had been a part of the LXXXIX Armeekorps, was officially dissolved and replaced by the Divisionsstab zbV 136, which had been set up on 25 April 1944, still under the LXXXIX Armeekorps, with the specific mission of defending the city and port of Antwerp. The unit was built from the Stab des Kommandeurs des Osttruppen 721, which was the headquarters for all Osttruppen within the Armeeoberkommando 7. The unit's commander Generalmajor Christoph Graf zu Stolberg-Stolberg, had held this command between January and April 1944, when the unit was stationed in KVA A1 in Brittany and fought the French resistance there.
Sttolberg arrived in in Antwerp on 5 June 1944, but it took another 2 weeks before his staff had also arrived. The headquarters were located in the city park (Stadspark) in 2 R608 and 1 R622 bunkers.
For a photo reportage of the bunkers in the city park, click here.
At Stolberg's disposal was a total force of around 16,000 soldiers of a particularly poor quality:
Many of the above units, however, were not actually under the command of Stolberg at all and would only be tactically subordinated in case Antwerp was actually under attack. In addition to to the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe units, this was the case for the 2 batallions of Sicherungsregiment 16, the batallion of flämische Wache, the Feldkommandatur 520 (commanded by Generalmajor Reinhold Gotsche) and the Kommandeur Truppenübungsplatz Maria-ter-Heide which were all actually subordinated to the Militärbefehlshaber Belgien-Nordfrankreich. The Pionierlandungsbataillon was under the command of the Höherer Landungspionierführer. These diverse and unusual units deserve some further research.
a) Units of the Heer
Let us first have a closer look at the Ostbataillon 600. This unit was established as Heerestruppe in Central Russia (Heeresgruppe Mitte) in the summer of 1943. In November 1943 it was transferred to France and subordinated to the Armeeoberkommando 7. It probably moved to Antwerp together with Stolberg's divisional staff. It was probably commanded by Major Brandau, who in December 1944 received the Anerkennungsurkunde for the fighting south of Antwerp in September. What we also know is that the unit was responsible for the defending the bridges across the river Rupel south of Antwerp, where it was hoped the Allies could be stopped. In addition, however, at least some of the troops were also responsible for defending the headquarters of Stolberg in the city park.
In May 1944 1/600 commandeered 2 houses in the town of Zaamslag (some 10km to the southeast of Terneuzen)(info from Herman de Putter)
The I and II/136 (M) Bataillonen were odd battalions, to say the least, and they also show the dire personnel situation the Germans experienced in 1944. The (M) in the units' denomination stands for Magenkranken. These were soldiers who suffered from stomach conditions and would normally be found unfit for military service, as they required a special diet. However, in 1944 hundreds of these soldiers were sent to Walcheren to make up the 70 Infanteriedivision stationed there. Some soldiers, however, were found totally unfit for frontline service by this division and sent back to Germany. The AOK 15, however, in urgent need of troops to prop up the defences of Antwerp, stopped these troops and tasked them with the defence of Antwerp.
The Sicherungsregiment 16 was a unit with a more distinguished career. In fact, the unit was the former Grenzwachregiment Clüver, named after its only commander Oberst Clüver. The unit had been established on 31 May 1940. Subordinated to the Militärbefehlshaber Belgien-Nordfrankreich it was tasked with guarding the Dutch-Belgian border. The regiment comprised 3 batallions and 15 companies. In 1943 the unit was redesignated Sicherungsregiment 16. Apparently, while the Stab was located in Brussels, its batallions were stationed in Antwerp and Liège, though it remains unclear which numbered batallions were stationed where (hence the question marks in the table above).
In the period until September 1944 homes were commandeered in Zaamslag by the 13. Kompanie/Sicherungsregiment 16 (Feldpostnumment 36607)(info from Herman de Putter)
The Bataillon flämische Wache was a military unit consisting of Flemish collaborators who fought with the Germans. Not much is known about this unit.
The Feldkommandantur 520 was headquarted on the Meir 24. Even though it was responsible for administering the occupations, its members were of course also soldiers and could be called upon to defend their headquarters and other installations dependent on the Feldkommandantur. Its commander was Generalmajor Reinhold Gotsche. Its legal arm, the Kriegsgericht 520, was located in the Boerentoren.
The Kommandeur Truppenübungsplatz Maria-ter-Heide was based at the army training grounds of Maria-ter-Heide, north of Antwerp. A unit also based here was the Bataillonsführerschule Antwerpen (Feldpostnummer 08020), commanded by Oberst Ludwig Kirschner.
Also still present on 1 June 1944 was the Pionierlandungsbataillon 86 with 4 or 5 companies. This unit had arrived from Odessa in early 1944 and was based in Antwerp for refitting. The batallion stayed here until 23 July, after which date it moved to Greece.
Following are other units belonging to the Heer. Though it is by now means certain that they were still present in June 1944, we also have no indications that they weren't. Nevertheless, all help in sorting out the presence of these units would be appreciated:
The Sammelpostfeldnummer for Antwerp was: 09425
b) Units of the Kriegsmarine
The main responsibility for the Kriegsmarine was of course the port of Antwerp, which was administered by the Hafenkommandant Antwerpen who in June 1944 was Kapitän-zur-See Joachim Szyskowitz (subordinate to the Kommandierender Admiral in den Niederlanden)(Feldpostnummer 148889). Again, we do not know what exactly was the composition of this unit, with the exception of the Marineausrüstungsstelle Antwerpen (commanded by Fregattenkapitän Carl Nelson), the Kriegsmarinedienststelle Antwerpen (commanded by Korvettenkapitän Hans Staats)(Feldpostnummer 03678) and located Rouaanse Kaai 1-3, the Marineversorgungsstelle Antwerpen (Feldpostnummer 42375), and the Hafenüberwachungsstelle. However, in line with other such commands it is likely the Hafenkommandant also included one or more of the following units: Marinevermittlungsstelle, Marinefernschreibstelle, Hafenschutzgrüppe, and Marinesignalstation. The location of the headquarters of the Hafenkommandant was Brouwersvliet 6. Nearby, at Brouwersvliet 15, the Hafenartzt was located.
In addition, other troops (only tactically under the command of the Hafenkommandant) were also stationed in the port of Antwerp. Firstly, there was the 12 Landungsflottille (commanded by Kapitänleutnant Rolf Herzer)(Feldpostnummer 00498). This unit had been formed on 1 December 1942 from the 2 Flottillenstammabteilung and employed in training off the Belgian coast with its 12 ships. It was subordinate to the 1 Landungsdivision. Further, some troops of the Oberwerftstab Niederlande were also based in Antwerp.
Following are other units belonging to the Kriegsmarine. Though it is by now means certain that they were still present in June 1944, we also have no indications that they weren't. Nevertheless, all help in sorting out the presence of these units would be appreciated:
c) Units of the Luftwaffe
Next, we can deal with the Luftwaffe units which were in Antwerp at the beginning of June 1944. These were mainly Flak units and Luftwaffe ground personnel. Here, two units were mainly involved: the unit at the Flugplatz Deurne and the troops of the Flakunterguppe Antwerpen.
Despite the fact that Lufwaffe units had long left the airfield at Deurne, the airfield itself was still operation. Based on the airfield at the beginning of June 1944 was the Platzkommando Antwerpen-Deurne, formed on 1 April 1944 from the Flugplatzkommando A 92/XI, and subordinated to the Fliegerhorstkommandantur E (v) 210/XI at Evere near Brussels. The airfield at Deurne was known as Luftwaffewerft 1 and was used to test the Messerschmitts which had been overhauled at the nearby Frontreparaturbetrieb Erlawerk VII plant in Mortsel. For this purpose a dozen or so Einflieger (test pilots) (e.g. Einflieger Fay, Weber, Göhringer) were based at the airfield. In addition, at least 40 technicians worked at the airfield under the command of Oberwerkmeister Weber. The German commander at Evere was Major Hanss-Georg v.d. Osten. At Deurne an Alarmstaffel was also based. Its planes carried the marking of a cat sitting on a gin bottle.
Most of the Luftwaffe troops in and around Antwerp, however, belonged to the Flakuntergruppe Antwerpen, whose main mission was to protect the port of Antwerp against allied bombardments. The main Flak unit in Antwerp was Flakregiment 95 (part of the 18 Flakbrigade), commanded by Oberst Franz Kossmag. However, in June 1944, this unit no longer commanded the Flak units around Antwerp (athough it still existed and controlled other units in Belgium). Rather, the superordinate unit in this respect was Flakregiment 20 of the 16 Flakdivision. None of the latter units were based in Antwerp, however.
Directly responsible for the air defence of Antwerp was the gemischte Flakabteilung 295, consisting of four heavy batteries (1-4) equipped with 4x 90mm guns each at Oorderen (Brandstraat) (1 Batterie), Deurne (De Brem) (2 Batterie?), Wilrijk (Prins Boudewijnlaan) (3 Batterie?) and Zwijndrecht (4 Batterie?), and three light batteries (5/295, 6/295 and 2/691) with 25-30x 2 cm Flak and 12x 3,7 cm guns shared between them.
Also based north of Antwerp (Hoogboom near Kapellen) was the Feldflakartillerieschule 30 (West). This unit's history goes back to 1940 when it was called Flakartillerieschiessplatz Knocke. In the following years it carried several names: Kriegsflakartillerieschule (30) Belgien/Nordfrankreich and Luftgauflakartillerieschule (30) Belgien/Nordfrankreich. This unit had 5 school batteries:
Talking about schools, also based in Antwerp was the Luftgaufeldregiment Belgien-Nordfrankreich, a training unit of the Luftwaffe, formerly known as Fliegerregiment 51, consisting of 3 batallions (Feldpostnummer 04836). One location where this unit was probably located were the school buildings in the Ramskapellestraat, Deurne. Another possible location was Hoogboom, near Ekeren. The unit also had offices in the centre of Antwerp (Italiëlei 25).
In addition, we have found some more units which may have been present in June 1944:
c) Units of the SS and Abwehr
Finally, also units of the SS were present in Antwerpen. Below is a list of units which may have been present in June 1944:
The Abwehr, or German military intelligence, also had a representation in Antwerp, notably the Abwehrstelle Belgien, Aussenstelle Antwerpen. It was led by SS-Oberscharführer Erich Holm, who was also the head of Abteilung IV B4, the feared Judenabteilung. The headquarters were located in the Boerentoren.
3. The defensive concept
The defence of the city and port of Antwerp had always been problematic with a continuously insufficient number of soldiers being assigned to defend it. In 1942 it was, therefore, decided to base the city's defences on the line of Belgian forts circling the city. Even though they had proved to be totally ineffective against the German attack in 1940, the lack of sufficient manpower forced the Germans to integrate them into their defensive concept. Some of the forts were actually already used by the Germans, as the following table illustrates:
Interestingly, in April 1944 Fort 7 was designated by the Germans to store V1 flying bombs (together with Fort Kruibeke). Fort 7 had a capacity of 240 V1 weapons.
Even though some inundations had been carried out around Antwerp, the Germans had not instigated the inundations of the rivers Schelde, Nete and Rupel planned by the Belgians in 1914. However, in 1944 some areas sensitive to assaults by airborne troops, and more specifically the port area, had been protected with wooden poles. Even though some of these were interconnected with wires (to prevent gliders from landing), the planned mines had not been attached to the poles.
4. The Abschnitt Antwerpen
The Abschnitt Antwerpen was composed of four sectors or Unterabschnitte: Unterabschnitt Stadt, Unterabschnitt Hafen, Unterabschnitt Ost (Merksem) and Unterabschnitt Scheldetunnel (west of the river). Outside the defensive perimeter of the forts Unterabschnitt Hulst was located on the western side of the river Schelde. In the latter sector the Ostbataillon 600 was located with a battery of 7.62 mm guns.
Known German strongpoints included: Stp Kruisschanssluis, Stp Petrolhafen-Süd and Stp Scheldetunnel-West.
5. Post-D-Day developments (June 1944)
The D-Day invasion in Normandy affected the Abschnitt Antwerpen in significant ways, though it was hundreds of miles away from the invasion beaches. Especially following the reports about the use of airborne and glider troops the attention of the LXXXIX Armeekorps not only shifted to the hinterland, but also to Antwerp, which the Germans realized was only lightly defended and vulnerable to a sudden attack from the air. Instrumental in this respect was a report issued by the Sicherheitsdienst which highlighted the possibility of Belgian resistance forces infiltrating into Antwerp on the night of 6 June, which move might combine with allied air landings near the city. At 6.30 pm on 6 June 1944 the corps issued a warning to this effect. Acting on this information the LXXXIX Armeekorps also contacted the Luftgaukommando Belgien-Nordfrankreich at 7 pm, requesting the immediate deployment of the Flakschule Antwerpen-Hoogboom (see above) in an effort to counter any airborne attack.
As a result of the latter action 7 June 1944 saw the appearance of two searchlight and 3 light Flak batteries in the Antwerp area.
On 8 June 1944 the corps issued an order concerning the locations of the headquarters sections of the Stp Generalkommando in Antwerpen, as well as guidelines for its defence. This document will be analyzed in more detail. The order was a Sonderstabsbefehl. A number of headquarters units had their accommodation changed:
On 9 June 1944 the following Luftwaffe units entered the corps area, with the mission of combatting airborne threats:
These units were no other than the former Fliegerregimenter 22 (Gent), 52 (Soissons), and 53 (Tongeren), which had been turned into infantry formations. Of these, notably the Luftgaufeldregiment Nr 52 was tasked to cooperate closely with the KVA-Antwerpen.
On 12 June 1944 the I/Reservegrenadierregiment 205 and II/ Reservegrenadierregiment 260 battalions of the 165 Reservedivision were subordinated to the KVA-Antwerpen for the defence of Antwerp. This combat group was known as the Regimentsgruppe Holdschuher. The combat mission of this was specifically the defence of Antwerp to the east and south of the city.
On 24 June 1944 an order was given to the KVA Antwerpen to form 1 company (81 troops) from the I/Reservegrenadierregiment 205 and II/ Reservegrenadierregiment 260 to be located at the bridge in Dendermonde to provide infantry defence for the Flak units present there and to defend the bridge against sabotage from 27 June onwards. The bridge was defended by 2x 2cm Flakzügen. The infantry company would remain subordinated to the KVA Antwerpen.