Barbarossa, Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Part 3

Barbarossa, Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Part 3

I have just finished writing my third novel in the Devils with Wings series, Devils with Wings: Frozen Sun. The Fallschirmjager, after their successful battle taking Crete in only 10 days, are shipped to Poland to partake in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

They leave temperatures in excess of forty degrees to be used, not in an airborne operation, but as a fire brigade, plugging gaps in the line around Leningrad. They were Army Group North’s strategic reserve.  They were quickly placed into the fray, fighting along the River Neva, where temperatures dropped to below -30 degrees, sometimes as low as -40. They were successful at plugging the gaps and preventing the Soviet Union from exploiting their bridgeheads over the River Neva, but at a price. Some units suffered up to 75% casualties. Many who had survived the assault on the Fortress Eben Emael, (Devils with Wings) and the fierce fighting on the Island of Crete (Devils with Wings: Silk Drop) met their fate in this bitter struggle with the atrocious weather and the never ending Soviet hordes.

The German Army, and the Fallschirmjager, were soon to experience the hostile Russian winters.

During the period of the 23rd – 27th June 1941, a major tank battle was fought between elements of General Hoepner’s 4th Panzer Group and the Russian 3rd Mechanised Corps, commanded by Major General Kurkin and the Russian 12th Mechanised Corps commanded by Major General Shestapolov.

4th Panzer Group advanced in two spearheads and broke through to the River Dubysa and Colonel General Kutznetsov ordered the two mechanised corps to take up counterattack positions ready to hit the German flanks.

By the end of the 22nd June, the German armour had penetrated 80 kilometres in their drive towards Leningrad. The next day, near a town called Raseiniai, Kutznetsov ordered his tanks to attack. Unfortunately for him, the Luftwaffe had detected the Russian armour and JU 88’s from Luftflotte 1 destroyed 40 vehicles, tanks and lorries. The battle lasted for 4 days, but he was eventually defeated.

It was here the German Army came across the KV heavy tanks for the first time, the Panzer 35(t) tanks and anti-tank weapons were practically ineffective against them. Below is a KV heavy tank.

Some of the types of equipment used in this biggest ever invasion of a country are shown below. Most of the photographs were taken at the Bovington Tank Museum.

Heavy Tank KV-1B. The tank that surprised the German Army.


Armour 106mm, weighing 47 tons.


One 76.2mm main gun with 3 x 7.62mm MGs.


Large, crude, but very effective. Speed 34kph.


StuG III Ausf G. 


Built on the chassis of the Panzer III tank. 24 tons.


Originally designed to fulfil an infantry support role..


Crew of 4, top speed of  40kph.


To combat the larger Russian tanks, such as the KV and T-34, it was later fitted with a high velocity 75mm stuck 40 L/43 gun.


The German Army later had its own large tanks. Jagdtiger – Tank Destroyer.


Jagdtiger SdKfz 186.  The official German designation was Panzerjager Tiger Ausf B


Weighing 71.7 tons with a top speed of 34kph.


250mm of armour and a 128mm PaK 44 L/55.


 V-12 Maybach engine with Henschel suspension. 


Tortoise, another massive self-propelled gun built at the end of the war, weighing 78 tons.


Armour thickness of 225mm, 94mm gun and a top speed of 19kph.


My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my photographs and information with you and help set the scene for my forthcoming novel.

Photographs are copyrighted to Harvey Black

Devils with Wings ref=sib_dp_kd

Devils with Wings: Silk drop ref=sib_dp_kd


  1. Well done in finishing DWW 3 must be a relief – how much control do you have over your characters H? Do they drive the action and the outcomes?

    1. It is, believe me. A lot of hard work. The framework of my novels very much revolves around actual events the Fallschirmjager operated and fought in. They played a key role in Africa, Battle of the Bulge, rescuing Mussolini by glider from a mountain fortress, Monte Casino, Normandy…. The characters will evolve, grow within these settings. Also researching for my Cold War series and working on an edition 2, DWW.

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