Castor and Pollux of the Waffen-SS: SS-Panzergrenadier Brigades 49 and 51

by Jason Long

On 3 November 1943 Hitler directed that the various elements of the Wehrmacht to organize units from the forces in the Fatherland that could be sent quickly to the West in case of invasion. The SS was also subject to this directive and planned to prepare elements from the Waffen-SS training base for mobilization and service in the West. Little transpired aside from the organizing of SS-Kampfgruppen 1, 2, and 3 on paper until after the Germans detected signs of the Allied build-up in the UK in February 1944.

The next month the Germans began assigning elements of various replacement and training units to the Kampfgruppen. This was still little more than a paper drill as these units weren't trained or equipped for combat. But it was a step in the right direction and things continued as usual until 6 June 1944.

On that date the Kampfgruppen were mobilized, but only SS-Kampfgruppen 1 and 3 were destined to reach the front. On 11 June SS-KGr. 1 was railed to relieve the 363rd Infantry Division on coastal defense duties in southeastern Denmark. SS-KGr. 3 was transferred to the southwestern part of the Jutland Peninsula for coastal defense duties around the same time.

At the time SS-KGr. 1 was transferred it was organized into 3 so-called panzergrenadier battalions with nary a tank or a half-track amongst them, each with 4 companies, an artillery battalion of a dozen 105mm howitzers, a flak company of 9 37mm AA guns, an engineer company and a transport company. It had the following weapon totals:

10 Sturmgewehr 41 assault rifles
8 anti-tank rifles
67 MG 42 machine-guns
2 MG 34 machine-guns
18 81mm mortars
4 75mm light infantry guns
3 75mm anti-tank guns

Each battalion had over 150 motor vehicles although they were from every manufacturer in Europe. I. Batallion alone had vehicles made by some three dozen companies! One source claims that SS-KGr. 1 absorbed elements of SS-KGr. 2 as its III. Batallion and artillery battalion.

Such detailed data is lacking for SS-KGr. 3, but it appears to have been identical to its twin except that it lacked one panzergrenadier battalion. On 30 June it mustered 2923 officers and men.

SS-KGr. 1's move to southern Denmark was completed by 16 June and it was immediately dispersed to garrison the numerous small villages of the area. Two days later both units were redesignated; SS-KGr. 1 became SS-Panzergrenadier Brigade 49 and SS-KGr. 3 became SS-Panzergrenadier Brigade 51.

The two brigades spent the next two months preparing anti-invasion measures and conducting badly needed training. Some reinforcements were received, but the 49th was tapped to provide some 100-odd replacements for the western front only days before it shipped out for France.

The 51st was ordered to Troyes, France on 4 August. It was redesignated as 26th SS-Panzer Division on 10 August in an effort to deceive Allied intelligence. Similarly 49th Brigade was redesignated as 25th SS-Panzer Division on that same date. Shortly afterwards both units were renumbered 26th and 27th SS-Panzer Divisions when the SS Main Office realized that the number 25 had already been allocated for a Hungarian division! Internally both units retained their previous designations, but the German records also referred to them as the Stamm-Regiments (Cadres) of their respective panzer divisions. The Allies may or may not have been fooled, but historians certainly have!

At any rate, the 51st reached France without significant incidents, but the same was not true for its twin. The 49th's departure on 13 August was marred by acts of sabotage by the Danes and the abduction of several of its members by the Danish Resistance. To compound the unit's problems, Allied fighter-bombers caught several of its trains enroute. One train that was transporting elements of the artillery battalion along with 36,000 rounds of artillery ammunition had several cars carrying some of said ammunition explode though only three or four men were killed and five or six wounded. However the cars carrying most of the equipment of the flak company were destroyed and forced its disbandment. Another train was almost completely destroyed that carried nearly 70 vehicles, including 25 trucks loaded with ammunition. Casualties numbered only 12 killed and another twenty wounded as the Germans had quickly evacuated the train as it lacked any flak defenses. Several other trains were attacked, but the fighter-bombers were driven off by the on-board flak. The 49th reached the French coast northwest of Calais on the 16th, but was ordered on the 18th begin movement to the Calais area two days later.

However, before the order could be implemented the 49th was diverted to the area south of Paris where it joined its twin to help stabilize the front there which was nearing collapse after the Americans had broken out of Normandy. The last elements reached Meaux, east of Paris by the 22nd. The following day the brigade moved forward to the upper Seine where it was separated by remnants of the 9th Panzer Division from its twin further up the Seine.

The 51st had moved forward from Troyes to Sens, where it was reinforced with elements of the weak 199. Sicherungs (Security) Regiment, but was driven back to Troyes by the US 4th Armored Division on the 23rd. On the 25th CCA of the 4th Armored Division made a frontal attack on the city. Despite the efforts of the 51st the Americans owned most of Troyes by nightfall and the encirclement of the city during the night broke the back of the German defenses. The 51st attempted to break-out, but was only partially successful. The remnants managed to reach German lines to the west of Bar-le-Duc where they were absorbed by the 17th SS-Panzergrenadier Division. The II. Batallion of the 51st, which was in the best shape, replaced, in conjunction with I. Batallion of the 49th, the II. Batallion of the 37. SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment which had been virtually wiped out of existence by the Americans during the Normandy breakout.

In the meantime, the 49th's sector was temporarily quiet as only American reconnaissance units had advanced so far. The 49th was ordered to throw two bridgeheads across the Seine at Bray and Nogent in battalion strength. This was accomplished without any problems as the Americans were merely probing for the German defenses. During the afternoon of the 25th the 48th Infantry Division on the brigade's west fled from an advance detachment of the US 5th Infantry Division. This exposed the brigade's right flank to an American advance and the planned takeover of the 9th Panzer Division's former bridgehead at Romilly by III. Batallion had to be canceled. However elements of I. Batallion moved to Romilly from Nogent. Both of these bridgeheads were occupied by little more than reinforced companies.

The next day the 5th Infantry continued its advance, overrunning 49th's headquarters and outflanking III. Batallion which was forced to fall back at dusk. The bridgeheads at Romilly and Bray were abandoned and the defenders moved north to Provins. An American attack on Nogent was driven off during the day, but the defenders withdrew to the northeast that evening. Elements of the American 7th Armored Division blundered into a company of II. Batallion and wiped it out.

During the 27th Provins was outflanked to the north and south, but the way to the east was open. The brigade took advantage of this gap and retreated to Sézanne and further to the Châlons-sur-Marne area where it rebuffed an attack by elements of the 80th Infantry Division on the 28th. The 4th Armored Division threatened to cut off Châlons-sur-Marne so the brigade was forcerd to fall back in the direction of Verdun.

At Verdun the brigade held on for a few days despite being the last unit defending the city. It sensibly decamped on the 31st before 4th Armored could bring up its full strength, as gasoline shortages were already beginning to affect the American advance. It reached the area west of Metz the following day where it fought off advancing American forces. It was relieved by elements of the Metz garrison on 2 September and formally incorporated into 17th SS-Panzergrenadier Division the next day (some source say the 8th of September). I. Batallion and I. Batallion of the 51st were combined as the II. Batallion of the 37. SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment and II. and III. Batallionen became II. and III. of the 38th SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment. The instructors and equipment of its artillery battalion returned to the SS-Artillerie-Schule II in Bohemia-Moravia from which they'd been raised.

The Twins in Second Front

SF shows the 49th as a 5-10* PzG X and the 51st as a 4-10* PzG X, both arriving in the West on Jun I 44. Given that neither unit had any tanks nor half-tracks the PzG rating is untenable. The Germans were fond of calling units raised late in the war panzergrenadier when, by Europa standards, they were merely motorized infantry. The 49th and the 51st aren't the only units in this category, but that's grist for a different article.

Given that there aren't any tanks or half-tracks in either brigade their strength needs to drop. As neither of these units had the best quality manpower I rated them as if they were equivalent to an army regiment of equal size. Thus the 49th would be a 2-3-10* Mot Inf X and the 51st would be a 1-2-10* Mot Inf X.

The last issue is their availability. A Jun I arrival date is nonsense; both units were still mobilizing and still had a lot of training to conduct. The most accurate, and complex, method is to show them as West (and only West) invasion reaction forces from Feb I 44. Upon invasion they begin forming in Denmark. On Invasion Turn +4 the 51st is full and transfers to the West. The following turn the 49th is full and goes West. A simpler solution is to just follow the historical timetable without worrying about any invasion reaction.

A very optimistic German player might wish for the 26th and 27th SS-Panzer Divisions in the belief that he'd actually have the RPs to build these units. I'd cater to this fantasy by allowing the German player to pay the difference in RPs between the 17-10 Pz XXs 26, 27 (SS) and the brigades and wait a year (24 turns), after the brigades are full, before the divisions are full. Lest this seem excessive 9., 10. and 12. SS-Panzer Divisions all spent about a year forming despite being built around cadres from the senior SS panzer divisions.

The Stillborn Brother

I've only mentioned SS-KGr. 2 thus far in that it furnished parts of 49th PzG X. It was disbanded in June and the most complete elements were added to 49th Brigade. Originally it was to have been the 50th SS-Panzergrenadier Brigade, but I can only presume it lacked enough trained personnel and equipment to be combat-worthy.

It was intended to have three panzergrenadier battalions and an artillery battalion. Directly under the brigade were to be two flak companies, and companies of reconaissance, engineers, and heavy weapons. This would have been the strongest of the three, but any real panzergrenadier ability, in Europa terms, seems very unlikely given the equipment of its siblings. I'd rate it as a 3-10* mot Inf X.

In Europa terms of another kind, it seems to have failed its activation roll.

To really sweat the details, if it had been successful in activating, the 49th should be reduced to a strength equal to that of the 51st or an extra turn or two would be required to replace those troops made surplus by its disbandment, but I see little reason to worry about the possibility except in a Grand Europa context. And not even then very much.

Europa:

SF, Jun I 44, West, Arrive:
1x 5-10* PzG X 49 (SS)
1x 4-10* PzG X 51 (SS)

Recommendation:

Conditional Reinforcements (Released on Allied Invasion in West or GG after Feb I 44:
Denmark, Forming:
1x 2-3-10* Mot Inf X 49 (SS)
1x 1-2-10* Mot Inf X 51 (SS)
Replacement Pool, Add:
1x 3-10* Mot Inf X 50 (SS)
Invasion Turn +4, Denmark, Full:
1x 1-2-10* Mot Inf X 51 (SS)
Invasion Turn +5, Denmark, Full:
1x 2-3-10* Mot Inf X 49 (SS)

Bibliography:

Bender, Rodger James. Uniforms, Organization, and History of the Waffen-SS
Landwehr, Richard. "The History of the SS-Panzergrenadier Brigade 49" Siegrunen #33, January-March, 1984
Ibid. "The History of the SS Panzer Brigade 51"; Siegrunen #34, April-June 1984
Tessin, Georg. Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg 1939-1945

Return to Obscure Combat Formations of the SS.

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