Germany - Third Reich: A very fine and scarce Eastern Front Lithuania operations on the Vistula July 1944 Pioneer Battalion Commander’s German Cross in Gold, Fall of France 1940 Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class, group of awarded documents awarded to Major Kurt Melchert, Commander of the 62nd Motorised Pioneer Battalion, in the 16th Army Corps and later the 4th Panzergruppe, formerly a Senior NCO with the 20th Motorised Pioneer Battalion in the 20th Motorised Infantry Division, who probably saw service in Poland in 1939 when his unit formed pa

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Product ID: CMA/28003
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Germany - Third Reich: A very fine and scarce Eastern Front Lithuania operations on the Vistula July 1944 Pioneer Battalion Commander’s German Cross in Gold, Fall of France 1940 Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class, group of awarded documents awarded to Major Kurt Melchert, Commander of the 62nd Motorised Pioneer Battalion, in the 16th Army Corps and later the 4th Panzergruppe, formerly a Senior NCO with the 20th Motorised Pioneer Battalion in the 20th Motorised Infantry Division, who probably saw service in Poland in 1939 when his unit formed part of Heinz Guderian’s XIX Corps, and then fought in the fall of France in 1940, being awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class at Rubrouck on 4th June 1940, and then Iron Cross 1st Class when at Chataillon on 20th July 1940. Having been commissioned and then taken part in Operation Barbarossa and the invasion of Russia in 1941 as part of Army Group Centre, he ended up with Army Group North from September 1941, and fought during the advance on Leningrad, and then on the Volkhov Front to the south of the city during the first Soviet offensive in the winter of 1941 to 1942. Serving as a Hauptmann when awarded the Eastern Front Winter War Medal in July 1942, he was ultimately appointed to command the 62nd Motorised Pioneer Battalion, a unit which was used as army troops for the 16th Army Corps and later the 4th Panzergruppe on service in central Russia at Rshew and then in Lithuania during 1944, and taking part in the battles across the Bug to the Vistula in the area of Cholm-Lublin, and followed by positional fights on the Vistula and the Baranow bridgehead. As commander of the 62nd Motorised Pioneer Battalion during the positional fights on the Vistula, and the defensive operations in response to the Soviet Lvov-Sandomiera Offensive, Melchert was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 2nd August 1944, and was then wounded in action for the first time on 9th January 1945, during the opening stages of the Vistula-Oder Offensive. He survived the war.

Comprising in order of award:

1) Iron Cross 2nd Class Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Feldwebel Kurt Melchert, Pioneer-Bataillon 20’, issued at Rubrouck on 4th June 1940, signed in ink: ‘V Wiktorin’, for Mauritz von Wiktorin, Generalleutnant and GOC 20th Motorised Infantry Division, recipient of the Knight’s Cross on 15th August 1940.

2) Iron Cross 1st Class Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Oberfeldwebel Kurt Melchert, Pionier-Batl.20, issued at Chatillon on 20th July 1940, signed in ink: ‘V Wiktorin’, for Mauritz von Wiktorin, Generalleutnant and GOC 20th Motorised Infantry Division, recipient of the Knight’s Cross on 15th August 1940.

3) Eastern Front Winter War Medal Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Hauptmann Kurt Melchert, dated 20th July 1942, signed in ink by an Oberstleutnant.

4) German Cross in Gold Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Hauptmann Melchert, Kdr.Pi.Btl.62 (mot)’, dated 2nd August 1944, facsimile signature of Generalfeldmarschall Keitel. This torn on both corners on the left hand side.

5) Wound Badge in Black Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Major Kurt Melchert, Pion.Btl.62 Stab’, dated 20th January 1945, for a wound received on 9th January 1945, signed in pencil by the Oberstabsarzt and Chief Doctor of Military Hospital 2/680.

Together with:

6) The recipient’s Driver’s Licence, issued to him post-war on 12th July 1949 in Soltau in Lower Saxony, with pass-photo.

Kurt Melchert was born on 11th February 1941 in Falkenburg, now Złocieniec in Poland, and first saw service as a Feldwebel with the 20th Pioneer Battalion in the 20th Motorised Infantry Division. The garrison town for the battalion was Hamburg-Harburg where his battalion was originally formed in October 1934 as the Sperenberg Pioneer Battalion, and was then retitled as the 20th Pioneer Battalion on 15th October 1935 on being posted for service with the 20th Infantry Division. The battalion, like the division, became motorised in 1938.

Melchert may well having served in Poland in 1939 when his division formed part of Heinz Guderian’s XIX Corps. During the campaign in France in 1940, Melchert swiftly distinguished himself, being awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class at Rubrouck on 4th June 1940, he was then promoted to Oberfeldwebel and awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class when at Chataillon on 20th July 1940, both awards being signed by Mauritz von Wiktorin, Generalleutnant and GOC of the division, who himself was awarded the Knight’s Cross on 15th August 1940.

With the invasion of Russia the 20th Motorised Infantry Division took part in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia in June 1941, serving as part of Army Group Centre, and then in September 1941 transferred to Army Group North, and then spent the winter and most of 1942 on the Volkhov Front to the south of Leningrad. Operations on this front came to an end on 23rd April 1942 with the end of the first Russian winter, and Melchert, who had by then been commissioned and promoted to Hauptmann, was awarded the Eastern Front Winter War Medal on 20th July 1942.

In December 1942 it fought during the attempted relief of the beleaguered German forces who were surrounded by the Soviet forces at Velikiye Luki on the Kalinin Front, and took part in the Battle of Velikiye Luki from 19th November 1942 to 16th January 1943.

Having transferred to the command the 62nd Motorised Pioneer Battalion, this unit was used as army troops for the 16th Army Corps and later the 4th Panzergruppe on service in central Russia at Rshew and then in Lithuania during 1944 and taking part in the battles across the Bug to the Vistula in the area of Cholm-Lublin. This was followed by positional fights on the Vistula and the Baranow bridgehead, which was also known as Sandomierz-Baranów bridgehead in late July 1944.

The creation of the bridgehead was one of the final acts of the Lvov-Sandomiera Offensive of the Red Army. In the evening of 29th July 1944 elements of the 350th Rifle Division under Major General Grigori Vekhin reached the Vistula River and crossed it near Baranów. The following day a large part of the 13th Army followed into the gap, along with 1st Guards Tank Army. By the end of the day the bridgehead was expanded to a strip of land 12 by 8 kilometres. Simultaneously, elements of the 3rd Guards Army created a new bridgehead across the Vistula near Annopol, some 60 kilometres downstream.

The Wehrmacht started a massive counter-attack on 1st August 1944 by a pincer movement from Mielec and Tarnobrzeg. After several days of heavy fighting, the Soviet 33rd Infantry Corps and 9th Mechanised Corps pushed the German forces back and threw them out of Tarnobrzeg by 6th August.

On 11th August the Germans started yet another counter-attack, this time from Szydlow intending to cut the Soviet units from the river. However, the German offensive came to a standstill after three days, and on 14 August the Soviets started a push from the direction of Klimontow and a small bridgehead near Zawichost towards the north. The Soviet attack reached Sandomierz, but was stopped soon afterwards. By the end of the month both sides dug, unable to mount further offensive movements, and went on defence. The front stabilised until 7th January 1945, when the Vistula-Oder Offensive started.

As commander of the 62nd Motorised Pioneer Battalion during the positional fights on the Vistula, and the defensive operations in response to the Soviet Lvov-Sandomiera Offensive, Melchert was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 2nd August 1944. He was then wounded in action for the first time on 9th January 1945, during the opening stages of the Vistula-Oder Offensive. Melchert who had been promoted to Major, was then evacuated for treatment with the Kriegslazarett 2/680. His military service after this is unknown, however he survived the war, and settled in Soltau in Lower Saxony as of the late 1940’s.