Germany – Third Reich: An excellent Battle of France Iron Cross 2nd Class, Velikiye Luki Iron Cross 1st Class Document Group to Major Richard Beyer, 1st Battery, 62nd Artillery Regiment, then, 5th Battery, 26th Artillery Regiment, 26th Infantry Division; then Officer Commanding 1st Battery, 253rd Artillery Regiment, 253rd Infantry Division; then Commanding Officer 1 & IV Battalions, 26th Artillery Regiment, 26th Infantry Division; then Instructor, School for Fahnenjunkers of the Artillery; and finally 4th Fahnrich Regiment, Markisch Friedland Division, who saw service throughout the war in both the East and West and who was at one time unsuccessfully recommended for the German Cross in Gold.
A fascinating and rare document group consisting of 4 award certificates, a Wehrpass and 37 documents which belong to a former officer in the German Artillery.
- The German Defence Wall Decoration awarded at Munster on 10th August 1940 as an Oberleutnant. Signed for correctness by an Oberstleutnant and Commanding Officer 26th Artillery Regiment.
- The Iron Cross 2nd Class awarded by Divisional HQ on 29th June 1940 as an Oberleutnant, 1/253rd Artillery Regiment. Signed by Kuhne as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 253rd Infantry Division
- The Iron Cross 1st Class awarded by Divisional HQ on 7th August 1941 as an Oberleutnant, 1/253rd Artillery Regiment. Signed by Schellert as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 253rd Infantry Division.
Schellert was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 26.12.1941 as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 253rd Infantry Division.
- The Black Wound Badge awarded in the Reserve Hospital at Uelzen on 30th October 1941 for a wound received on 30th October 1941 as an Oberleutnant, 1/253rd Artillery Regiment. Signed by a Stabsarzt and Chief Doctor of the Reserve Hospital Uelzen.
Richard Beyer was also awarded the Infantry Combat Badge in Silver on 26.3.1945.
This Wehrpass was initiated on 1.10.1937. It has a good photo of Beyer in uniform as an Oberwachtmeister in the 62nd Artillery Regiment. It is very complete Wehrpass in good condition with personal details, units served in, decorations, promotions, course attended, combat areas and his 2 wounds on 30.10.1941 and 10.2.1945.
- Himbergen, 17.8.1924 – A German Committee for Physical Exercise certificate issued to Beyer stating that he was awarded a prize as a result of his participation in a 3 part competition (100 metre sprint, long jump and shot put)
- A German Committee for Physical Exercise certificate issued to Beyer to acknowledge his award of the 1st Prize for the 3 Part Competition Group IV in the 1927 German Youth Competition.
- Richard Beyer’s Achievement Book of the German Committee for Physical Exercise. He was awarded the German Youth Badge on 12th November 1927. He passed 5 tests between 28.8 and 9.10.1927. There is a good photo of Beyer as a young lad on the inside front cover. H was a member of a Gymnastics Club in Bevensen.
- A certificate issued by the Middle School Bevensen to Richard Beyer acknowledging the fact that he had received the 1st Prize in the 3 Part Competition Group I in the 1928 German Competition.
- Veersen, 14.7.1929 – A small certificate issued by the Veersen Gymnastics Club to Richard Beyer acknowledging the fact that he had won a 1st and 3rd Prize in two different swimming events in Swimming Competition.
- Richard Beyer’s I/6th Artillery Regiment Certificate of Engagement dated 1.10.1929 for a period 12 years.
- Munster, 31.10.1931 - A Certificate for the 1st Class Marksmanship Badge which awarded to Oberkanonier Richard Beyer of the 1/6th Prussian Artillery Regiment, Munster.
- Berlin 31.3.1939 – Beyer’s promotion certificate from the rank of Leutnant to Oberleutnant with effect from 1st April 1939 – a facsimile signature of von Brauchitsch as Commander in Chief of the Army.
- Berlin, 7.3.1942 – A copy of an A5 size typed letter from Army High Command (PA 2) granting permission for Leutnant Richard Beyer to get married to Margot Busch.
- Billets, 12.6.1942 – An A4 size typed note about the pay arrangements mentioned in the note dated 27.6.1942 which took effect as from 1st January 1942 – signed by Mader as Hauptmann and acting Battalion Commander.
- Aachen, 27.6.1942 – An official typed A5 size note about pay arrangements for Hauptmann Beyer.
- RHQ, 26th Artillery Regiment, 6.6.1943 – A draft recommendation for the preferable promotion of an active officer after proving himself. The recommendation concerns a promotion of Beyer from Hauptmann to Major.
- Soldbuch dated 23.8.1943 pages, 1, 2, 21 and 22.
- HQ, I/26th Artillery Regiment, 9.2.1944 – An A5 size typed letter from I Battalion To RHQ enclosing Beyer’s Wehrpass and personal papers for forwarding IV/26 on his posting on 29.1.1944 as Commanding Officer IV/26. The reverse dated 11.2.1944 sees the Regimental Adjutant’s note forwarding the Wehrpass and papers to the Adjutant IV/26.
- RHQ, 26th Artillery Regiment, 12.5.1944. A draft letter from RHQ to 26th Infantry Division (Section IIa) enclosing a delayed draft Recommendation for the award of the German Cross in Gold to Major Richard Beyer. It states:
‘Major Beyer was transferred on 3.4.1944 as a Course Leader to the Fahnenjunker School in Suippes (France). The Regiment had intended to give Major Beyer one more opportunity to prove himself in 1944 and then forward the recommendation. The recommendation is now submitted since Major Beyer now no longer has the opportunity through his transfer to the Fahnenjunker School to prove himself in front of the enemy. It is declared that there is a time frame of 9 months between the last point and the submission of the recommendation.’
- RHQ, 26th Artillery Regiment, 12.5.1944 – a Draft Recommendation for the Award of the German Cross in Gold to Major Richard Beyer.
- HQ Commander-in-Chief Army Group Centre, 22.6.1944 – This is an A5 typed letter HQ Army Group Centre to HQ Army Group North Ukraine with the decision of Army High Command that Beyer’s recommendation for the award of the German Cross in Gold had been rejected on the grounds that the prerequisites for this award had not been met. The application for the award had been submitted too late – a gap of 9 months since his last reported act of bravery! The letter was signed by von Wietersheim who had been awarded the German Cross in Silver on 1.11.1944 as Oberst and Adjutant HQ Army Group Centre.
- HQ C-in-C Army Group Ukraine, 25.6.1944 – This is an A5 letter typed on the reverse of the HQ Army Group Centre letter dated 22.6.1944. It was sent by HQ Army Group North Ukraine to 4th Panzer Army who in turn forwarded it to HQ LVI Panzer Corps for 26th Infantry Division which received it on 1.7.1944
- RHQ 26th Artillery Regiment, 5.7.1944 – An A5 size letter from RHQ 26th Artillery Regiment to the Fahnenjunker School enclosing the draft Recommendation for the award of the German Cross in Gold to Major Richard Beyer with the decision of the Army High Command for inclusion with his personal papers. The letter is signed by Beyer’s former Commanding Officer, Oberst Werner who had been awarded the German Cross in Gold on 19.9.1942 as Commanding Officer 26th Artillery Regiment.
- An undated page listing the Assault Days (5/2, 6/2, 7/2, 8/2 and 10/2/1945) for the award of the Infantry Assault Badge in Silver. This page had been stuck into Beyer’s Soldbuch.
- Uelzen, 23.2.1945 – A Departure Certificate for officially approved re-quartering in Uelzen concerning Beyer’s wife (born 11.6.1921) and Ingo (12.6.1943)
- No 1 PW Transit Camp, Munsterlager, 1.3.1948 – Beyer’s certificate of discharge (Control Form D.2 from the German Army.
- A visit certificate issued to Major Richard Beyer dated 30.7.1946 when he was treated for a burst appendix – this is a French certificate
- Uelzen, 5.7.1949 – This is a certificate which states the following ‘This is to certify that Herr Richard of Ahrensburg’s residential building, Kuhlaustrasse 18 in Uelzen was completely destroyed by an air attack on 22nd February 1945. Herr Beyer had his apartment on this day in the above mentioned House.’ This certificate can be linked to the departure certificate for officially approved re-quartering in Uelzen dated 23.2.1945.
- Uelzen, 29.8.1949 – This is a small card sent to Richard Beyer by the War Damage Section of Uelzen Town referring to his application concerning war damage of Kuhlaustrasse 18 on 2.8.1949. The council’s reply states ‘A further revision of the matter does not follow became payments on the grounds of war damage legislation have been prohibited on the part of the Military Regime.’
- Ahrensburg, 1.12.1960 – A certificate presented to Major (retired) Richard Beyer for the award of the 10 Year’s loyal membership of the German Soldier’s Association.
There are 11 informative Character Assessments concerning Richard Beyer from the rank of Oberleutnant to Major. They cover the period from 15th November 1939 when he was serving as an Oberleutnant and Battery Commander until 1st April 1945.
Translation of the recommendation for the award of the German Cross in Gold, RHQ 18th May 1944:
‘Major Beyer, an outstanding officer through personal readiness for action and bravery previously in the Campaign in France and the East, has again distinguished himself in an outstanding manner in the following actions:
- Major Beyer’s Battalion and 34 Fusilier Regiment have defended the Attamanskoye position of all round defence from 28.1 to 3.2.1943 against very strong attacks. Major Beyer proved himself in particular on 1 and 2.2.1943. The Russian attacked the position with strong Infantry and armoured forces from 3 sides. Badly weakened Infantry can not defend a penetration. Major Beyer recognised the seriousness of the situation and despite heavy enemy pressure rushed to the observation post of 2/26th Artillery Regiment and there took over the direction of the fire of the whole Battalion. In a battle lasting several hours in extreme cold and under very heavy enemy pressure. Major Beyer succeeded in halting this attack by the concentrated fire of his batteries. The enemy had to withdraw with very heavy losses to the start position.
- The Battalion deployed on 6.2.1943 to the attack on Ostanino. Major Beyer forward with the Commander of the Infantry Regiment, recced positions and attack possibilities. Directed the fire of the Battalion during the attack in the most forward line under the enemy defensive fire and shattered the enemy resistance. Stormed the location with a hand weapon with the Infantry in order that he was able to give the necessary artillery support to the Infantry pursuing the enemy.
- The attack on Manturovo on 7.2.1943. Major Beyer personally directed preparatory fire from the most forward line despite heavy enemy defensive fire. He succeeded in shattering the enemy resistance by skilful direction of the fire and so opened a way through the switch position for the Division which had been cut off.
- Penetration by armoured and Infantry battle groups on 22.7.1943 in the Orel bend to the east of Dubovaya. The barbed wire entanglements to the observation positions are smashed by two hours of preparatory fire. The headquarters of Major Beyer lay under heavy bombardment by Stalin Organs and artillery. Despite this, Major Beyer concentrated the fire of his Battalion and directed it again and again on the focal points identified by the radio reports of the observation positions and the Infantry. The Battalion HQ received a direct hit, despite this bombardment Major Beyer rushed to his telephone exchange and directed the fire of his Battalion from there. The Battalion succeeded by a well directed bombardment in separating the Russian Infantry from the tanks and destroying them. The Major, being himself hunted by tanks, personally brought the Battalion’s anti-tank howitzers into position for the destruction of the tanks which had been broken in. He had thus played a decisive part in the destruction of the enemy attack.
- Penetration of a strong Infantry and armoured battle group on 19.8.1943 to the south-west of Vyasma with the neighbour Division to the right. 39 Fusilier Regiment with Major Beyer’s Battalion fight with an open right flank. The enemy forcing its way to the right is stopped in front of Major Beyer’s headquarters and fire positions of the Battalion. Major Beyer, lying under heavy mortar fire and well-aimed machine-gun fire, directs the fire of the artillery group subordinated to him on the area of penetration and prevents reserves from following up. He fought the enemy coming within 100 metres with a Battery in observed fire. The attack broke down in front of Major Beyer’s headquarters and fire positions, the penetration was able to be cleared up in a counter attack.
Richard Beyer was born in Luneburg in Northern Germany on 28th May 1912. Clearly a keen sportsman he joined the German Army at the age of 17 on 1st October 1929 for a period of 12 years. He married and had a son born on 12.6.1943. His family lived in Uelzen during WW2 until the home was destroyed in a bombing attack on 22nd February 1945.
Rising through the ranks, Beyer was commissioned on 1st March 1939, and serving initially with the 26th Infantry Division, he would have been involved in the defence on the West Wall during the so called ‘Sitzkrieg’ of the winter of 1939-40, before taking part in the invasion of France in May 1940 where it initially advanced through Belgium, and then attacking towards Reims and Dijon in the second phase of the battle. It was most likely for an act of bravery at the beginning of the second phase of the Battle of France in the second week of June that Beyer was to be an Iron Cross 2nd Class on 29th June 1940.
After a period on occupation duty, 253rd Infantry Division moved to East Prussia in March 1941 in preparation for Operation Barbarossa, for which it was initially assigned to Army Group North for the initial breakthrough battles, before by August transferring to Army Group Centre where it was involved in the fighting around Velikiye Luki. It was for an act of gallantry in the heavy fighting in this area that he was to be awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class on 7th August 1941.
The heavy fighting in the area persisted until late September when the Germans were to launch Operation Typhoon, the offensive that sought to capture Moscow before the winter. It was during the advance on Kalinin as part of the northern part of this offensive that Beyer was wounded on 30th October 1941, causing his removal from front line service and subsequent recuperation in a reserve hospital at Uelzen, his home town back in Germany. Whilst recovering from his wound on 18th December 1941, Beyer was to receive the Black Wound Badge on 18th December 1941.
Beyer was to return to the front, and was to subsequently see service in the battles involving Army Group Centre during the summer of 1942, and into 1943, including in the Defensive battles in the areas around Voronezh and Kursk during January and February. Once the front settled down in the spring, the Division remained in its position until the Kursk offensive in July, in which it was participated and was then slowly driving back during the Red Army’s Operation Kutozov (Kursk counterattack), that sought to pinch off the Orel salient and drive the German’s out of the area. Successful in this aim, but unsuccessful in their attempted encirclement and destruction of the Army Group, the Red Army continued to push the Wehrmacht back west, via Orel, Bryansk and eventually Yelnya and Smolesnk which fell later in the year. During late September Beyer was to be found involved in the defensive fighting along the upper Dnieper rive, and then later in the autumn in the defensive fighting to the west of Smolensk. Beyer’s recommendation for the German Cross in Gold came about as a result of his bravery during the defensive fighting of 1943.
Little is known of Beyer’s service during 1944, although it is likely he spent this time as a Course Leader/Instructor at the school for Fahnenjunkers of the Artillery at Suipees/France, but during 1945 he was once again at the frontline, being wounded on 10th February 1945 and being awarded an Silver Infantry Combat Badge on 26.3.1945 as a result of his involvement in combat in Eastern Germany during the closing months of the war.
It is evident that Beyer survived the war, and spent a period of time as a French Prisoner of War before being discharged from the German Army on 1st March 1948, he was still alive in 1960 and a member of the German Soldiers’ Association, but it is unknown what happened to him after this time.