Germany – Third Reich: A Superb Leningrad Encirclement German Cross in Gold Winners Document and Photograph Grouping to Hauptmann Karl von Dorsten, 2nd Company, 24th Infantry Regiment, 21st Infantry Division (1936-38), 1st Squadron, 227th Bicycle Battalion, 227th Infantry Division; 5, 6 and 7 Companies and HQ II Battalion, 328th Grenadier Regiment, 227th Infantry Division, who was awarded both the Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class fighting against the Volkhov Front in the autumn and winter of 1941-42, the recipient of the Close Combat Bar in Bronze for 15 days close combat, he was wounded three times, the final time being in the Defence of Narva in April 1944, after which time he took up a training role in Cuxhaven. The photographs are an excellent pictorial record of his time in Northern Russia.
A rare document group consisting of a preliminary award certificate for the German Cross in Gold and 7 others, 3 documents, a photo copy of his Wehrpass, a PC size studio photo of Van Dorsten as a Hauptmann wearing all his decorations and two very good albums of 235 photos which covers his military service between 1936 and 1945.
There are two albums with 235 photos. The small one with 69 photos is an official Regimental album specially embossed with the Army Eagle and ‘2. Komp. Inf-Rgt 24’ (2 Company, 24th Infantry Regiment.) The second larger album (166 photos) is a commercial buy. Although the albums are not written up, a number of the photos have information on the reverse. The periods covered can be split into two phases (his volunteer peacetime service and his recall for wartime service).
His service as a Schutze and Gefreiter in 2/24th Infantry Regiment. Barracks and field training, drill and guard duty, fitness training and having a good time. There are one or two good formal photos of van Dorsten as a Schutze and Gefreiter. There is also a photo of him outside a cottage with his family.
26.8.1939 until mid-1944:
His service as a ‘Der Speiss’ Unteroffizier/Wachtmeister in 1st Squadron, 227th Bicycle Battalion and followed by his time in various Companies in 328th Infantry/Grenadier Regiment. The locations are somewhere in France and then in North Russia. As ‘Der Spiess’ you see him on and off parade, with vehicles and bicycles, on field training. As an officer you see him with his men in positions on the East Front in the summer and winter snow – there are also some good photos of various field positions in the swamp lands of North Russia. There are 2 good formal studio photos of van Dorsten on becoming a Leutnant (both taken in Bad Oeynhausen) as well as 2 of him as a Hauptmann sometime after he had been awarded the German Cross in Gold.
There is also a very fine single postcard size head and shoulder photo of Karl van Dorsten as a Hauptmann wearing all his decorations. His Regimental unit number 328 can just be identified on his shoulder straps. The photo was taken by Photographer Harry Glocke of Cuxhaven – this is the town where he served on liaison duties at the Naval Garrison HQ.
Karl van Dorsten was born on 14th June 1914 in Duisburg as a son of a Labourer. He attended an elementary school for his education. He married and continued to live in Duisburg.
In October 1936 he joined the 24th Infantry Regiment as a Volunteer, he continued to serve in this unit until November 1938 when he was discharged as an Unteroffizier of the Reserve. He was recalled on 26th August 1939 on the general mobilisation that took place just before the outbreak of the war.
He initially served as part of 227th Infantry Division, which acted as a security force on the Western border with France and Belgium. By the time of the beginning of the campaign against France and the Low Countries, van Dorsten was serving with his unit on the Dutch border. Invading Holland, it drove westwards via Enschede to Deventer, when the Dutch Army surrendered. The Division then moved south and acted as a security force on the coast between St Valery and Le Havre, whilst the remainder of the German Army drove south.
The Division then was part of the occupation forces in northern France until September 1941 when it moved east to join Army Group North in Russia. Very soon after moving to Russia, van Dorsten was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 22nd October 1941. The Division as part of 18th Army saw heavy fighting in the Volkhov area for the next few months, and it was for an act of gallantry in the fighting here that van Dorsten was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class on 10th December 1941, right at the outset of the Red Army’s winter counterattacks.
By July 1942 van Dorsten had transferred to 328th Grenadier Regiment, still as part of 227th Infantry Division, and was awarded the Ostmedaille on 25th July 1942. Continuing to fight with Army Group North, he would likely have seen action in August/September 1942 when the Red Army pre-empted a German attack to capture Leningrad.
By January 1943, 227th Infantry Division was involved in the defensive fighting in the area around Schlusselburg on the southern banks of Lake Ladoga, the fighting in this region sought to open a land route to Leningrad and relieve the surrounded Red Army units there. Van Dorsten was wounded there on 17th January at the height of the fighting and subsequently received the Wound Badge in Black. By 2nd May 1943 van Dorsten was commanding an Infantry Company.
Continuing its role in the area, 227th Infantry Division was eventually forced back in the Red Army’s offensive of January 1944 that finally relieved the siege of Leningrad, van Dorsten was again wounded in this fighting on 28th January 1944 as the Division was forced westwards. Continuing to fight in the retreat, van Dorsten would have been involved in the retreat back to Narva, where his Division defended the town and the river front successfully for several months. Van Dorsten became a Battalion Adjutant on 3rd April 1944 and was then awarded the Close Combat Bar in Bronze for 15 days close combat on 8th April 1944. It would be safe to assume all of van Dorsten’s close combat days were in the Leningrad area or during the retreat from there in the early months of 1944.
Two days after the award of the Close Combat Bar in Bronze, on 10th April 1944, van Dorsten was wounded for a third time, he was then evacuated from the front, and received the Silver Wound Badge in a Reserve Hospital in Konigsberg on 27th April 1944.
The very next day, 28th April 1944 van Dorsten was to receive the preliminary award certificate for the high award of the German Cross in Gold, this would have been for an act of gallantry in the defensive fighting on the retreat from Leningrad back to Narva.
The third wound resulted in van Dorsten being removed from front line action, upon his partial recovery, on 20th August 1944 he was posted as an Army Liaison Officer to the Commandant in the Cuxhaven Sector. In this role he acted in a training capacity quite probably until the end of the war.
The photo albums provide an excellent visual record of van Dorsten’s period of service including many shots in Northern Russia during his time serving in that part of the Eastern Front.