Barbarossa, Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Part 5

Barbarossa, Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Part 5

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.

By mid-July, the German Army had come within a few kilometres of Kiev. 1st Panzer Army headed south as the 17th Army advanced east, trapping three Soviet armies near Uman. They eliminated the pocket and pushed across the Dnieper.

2nd Panzer Army crossed the River Desna, flanked by 2nd Army, trapping a further four Soviet armies.

4th Panzer Army was again heading for Leningrad. Reinforced by tanks from Army Group Centre. On the 8th August they broke through the Russian defences. By the end of August, 4th Panzer Army, supported by 16th Army and 18th Army, had got within 30 miles of Leningrad.

At this staff, Hitler ordered the final destruction of the City, and by the 19th September Army Group North got to within 7 miles of Leningrad, but casualties were mounting. Hitler lost patience and ordered the City to be starved rather than stormed.

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.

T-34/85. 

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Speed 33mph.

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T-34/85. 26.5 tons.

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85mm Zis gun.

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Big Cat brought in to fight the Russian tanks.

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Panther. Larger and much better quality than the T-34. But production was slow and there were never enough of them.

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Crew of five protected by 80mm of armour.

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44 tons. Speed of 28.5 mph. 75mm gun.

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Panther.

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Pz Kpfw VI Ausf B

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88mm.  King Tiger or Royal Tiger. SS Panzer battalion 101.

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The Allies first met this in Normandy, soon after D-Day.

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Royal Tiger.

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68 tons. Armour 150mm thick. Speed 24mph.

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Tiger I, mobile at the Bovington Tank Museum

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T-34

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Destroyed T-34

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T-34’s in a Russian winter.

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T-34 graveyard.

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KV heavyweights.

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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 and Blog is copyrighted to Harvey Black

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2 Comments

  1. The last photo (showing the KV-1s) was taken in Krassnoje-Sselo in September 1941. I. Batallion IR22 was attacked by a whole unit of these heavy tanks which were abandoned by their crews after a bitter fight. One of them was equipped with a fake gun and mounted a flame thrower instead. My grandfather took part in the fighting. There is a whole series of these photos showing the KVs from different angles. All were later put into Wehrmacht service. Nice photo taken by a soldier of “my” Division. 🙂

    1. Hi Rob. It’s great having the personal link. If the Germany army had been able to build the ‘Panther’ much faster and in greater numbers it may hav helped turn the tide.

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