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Germany – Third Reich. A Capture of Voronezh Iron Cross 2nd Class, Withdrawal from the Rzhev Salient Iron Cross 1st Class, and Multiple Casualty Document Group to Feldwebel Heinrich Sandhofer, 2nd Company, 86th Panzer Engineer Battalion, 9th Panzer Division, who was wounded in the Winter Counter-Offensive of 1941, the Summer Offensive of 1942 and the Soviet Counter-Offensive to Operation Citadel in the Summer of 1943. Also awarded the General Assault Badge and entitled to the Close Combat Bar in Bronze, Sandhofer saw action in front of Moscow,
Germany – Third Reich. A Capture of Voronezh Iron Cross 2nd Class, Withdrawal from the Rzhev Salient Iron Cross 1st Class, and Multiple Casualty Document Group to Feldwebel Heinrich Sandhofer, 2nd Company, 86th Panzer Engineer Battalion, 9th Panzer Division, who was wounded in the Winter Counter-Offensive of 1941, the Summer Offensive of 1942 and the Soviet Counter-Offensive to Operation Citadel in the Summer of 1943. Also awarded the General Assault Badge and entitled to the Close Combat Bar in Bronze, Sandhofer saw action in front of Moscow, at Kursk, in Normandy, the Ardennes Offensive and finally in the Ruhr Pocket.
A scarce bravery document group consisting of a Wehrpass, 6 award certificates (he had been awarded both classes of the Iron Cross), a discharge certificate and a small ID photo which belonged to a former armoured engineer.
1)The General Assault Badge awarded in the field on 6.1.1942 as a Pioneer in 3/86th Panzer Engineer Battalion. Signed by Hubicki as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 9th Panzer Division
Hubicki was awarded the Knights Cross on 20.4.1941 as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding Officer 9th Panzer Division and the German Cross in Gold on 22.4.1942 as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 9th Panzer Division
2)The Iron Cross 2nd Class awarded in the field on 9.7.1942 as a Gefreiter, 2/86th Panzer Engineer Battalion. Signed by Baessler as Generalmajor and General Officer Commanding 9th Panzer Division.
3)The Ostmedaille, awarded 1.8.1942 as a Obergefreiter, signed by a Stabsarzt and Chief Doctor of the Reserve Hospital Cosel in Upper Silesia.
This certificate must have been signed after 1.5.1943, which was the date of Sandhofer’s promotion to Obergefreiter, and probably during his period of recovery from his 3rd wounding. The date is when the ribbon was issued, the medal came at a much later date
4)The Iron Cross 1st Class, awarded in the field on 9.3.1943 as a Gefreiter in 2/86th Panzer Engineer Battalion. Signed by Scheller as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 9th Panzer Division
Scheller was awarded the Knights Cross on 3.4.1943 as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 9th Panzer Division. He fell on 21.7.1944 as Commandant of the Brest-Litovsk Garrison.
5)The Black Wound Badge for a wound received on 24.8.1942, awarded in the field on 9.3.1943 as Gefreiter, 2/86th Panzer Engineer Battalion. Signed by Fassel as Hauptmann and Battalion Commanding Officer.
Fassel was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 18.10.1942 as Oberstleutnant of the Reserve in 1/86th Panzer Engineer Battalion.
6)The Silver Wound Badge, for wounds received on 17.12.1941, 24.8.1942 and 21.7.1943, awarded on 20.10.1944 as a Unteroffizier, 2/86th Panzer Engineer Battalion. Signed by the Hauptmann and Battalion Commanding Officer.
Although there is a handwritten year date of 1943, this must be incorrect as Sandhofer was not promoted to Unteroffizier until 1.6.1944 and the entry of this award is confirmed in the Wehrpass on 20.10.1944
1)Wehrpass – Heinrich Sandhofer’s well used Wehrpass, was initiated on 7.6.1940. There are sufficient pages left which clearly indicate his personal details, decorations, promotions, units and woundings. His call-up was initiated delayed until 7.6.1940 and then finally drafted to 86th Engineer Replacement Battalion on 7.2.1941. Apart from being attached to various Replacement Army units, he only served in one Field Army unit – 86th Panzer Engineer Battalion. He attended an Unteroffizier’s course at the Army SNCO’s School for Engineers at Neubreisach from 14.2-31.7.1944. His promotions were as follows: 1.11.1941 – Gefrieter 1.5.1943 – Obergefretier 1.6.1944 – Unteroffizier 1.4.1945 – Feldwebel He was wounded three times in Russia as follows: 17.12.1941 – Shrapnel wound to the left foot 24.8.1942 – Shrapnel wound to the left middle finger 21.7.1943 – Shrapnel wound to the left upper arm
2) Heinrich Sandhofer’s well-used Certificate of Discharge from the German Army dated 24.8.1945. He had been a British Prisoner of War.
Photograph: A small identity type of photo of Heinrich Sandhofer as a young man. It is the type that would be used in the Wehrpass, although sadly the actual Wehrpass photo is missing.
Heinrich Sandhofer was born on 4th May 1921 in Solingen near Dusseldorf, he was single and a plumber who lived at home with his parents at Schlageter Strasse in Solingen. Called up for service on 9th February 1941, he survived the war and was discharged from the German Army on 24th August 1945.
He saw significant action on both the Eastern and Western Front. At the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union 9th Panzer Division was part of Army Group South, and fought around the area of Uman, in the encirclement battle at Kiev and on to the Dnieper.
After the conclusion of these battles the Division moved to Army Group Centre to take part in Operation Typhoon (The Assault on Moscow), it took part in the encirclement of Soviet troops at Bryansk before then moving to the south and the area around Kursk. Sandhofer was wounded on 17th December 1941, during the Soviet Counter-Offensives.
Sandhofer was presented with the General Assault Badge on 6th January 1942. Serving throughout the winter of 1941-42 he was awarded the ‘Ostmedaille’. 9th Panzer Division was moved to Voronezh for the start of the Summer Offensive of 1942, and it was likely for an action here that he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 9th July 1942.
On 28th August 1942 he was wounded for a second time in the area of Voronezh, for which he was awarded the Black Wound Badge on 9th March 1943.
Fighting through the winter of 1942-43 in the heavily contested Rzhev Salient, it is likely the Division suffered numerous casualties in defending against Operation Mars, an attack that was significant in terms of casualties, particularly on the Soviet side, but was largely uncovered for propaganda reasons. It was towards the end of these battles that Sandhofer was awarded his Iron Cross 1st Class, most probably for the phase that involved pulling out of the exposed Rzhev salient in order to shorten the line.
After the engagements of Spring 1943, the Division was moved to Orel in preparation for Operation Citadel (Battle of Kursk). During the Battle of Kursk, the Division was part of the northern Pincer, but was heavily mauled in its attempt to break through the Soviet defences, it was during the Soviet Counter-Offensive on 21st July 1943 that Sandhofer was wounded for the third time on 21st July 1943, ( for which he was eventually awarded the Silver Wound Badge on 20th October 1944.)
It is unclear when he rejoined the unit after this third wound, but it is noted that he attended an Unteroffizier course between 14th February and 31st July 1944, so it is likely that he missed the fighting in Southern Russia that virtually destroyed the Division in the spring of 1944, before it was sent to France to reorganise itself.
The Division was sent to Normandy to try and re-establish a defence against the Allied breakthrough that took place in early August 1944, the Division again was severely reduced in the collapse of the Falaise pocket and gradually fell back to the Lower Rhine, where it took part in the Battle of Aachen. It was then heavily reinforced with 11,000 new recruits and many tanks, including 50 Panthers, before being sent to help counter attack the Allied forces involved in Operation Market-Garden (the aerial assault on Arnhem), it arrived too late to make any noticeable difference though.
In December 1944 the Division took part in the Battle of the Bulge as part of 5th Panzer Army, which saw fighting around Bastogne and as part of the central attacking force. With Hitler refusing to withdraw the troops from the bulge, the unit again suffered massive losses, and was gradually pushed out of the region, after attempting an unsuccessful counter attack on the Remagen Bridgehead, the Division engaged the Americans in Cologne city centre, before being pushed over the Rhine, surrounded in the Ruhr Pocket (at which time Sandhofer was promoted to Feldbwebel) and suffering staggering losses, the last units of the Division were disbanded on 26th April 1945.
Sandhofer was eventually discharged on 24th August 1945 having played a role in a number of the largest and most significant battles of the war.