Germany - Third Reich: An very interesting Russian Front 23rd Panzer Division Motorcycle / Recce Battalion Feldwebel and April 1943 German Cross in Gold winner’s Wehrstammbuch and accompanying documentation to Oberleutnant Friedrich Röhsler, 23rd Panzer Recce Battalion, formerly 3rd and 4th Companies 23rd Motorcycle Battalion, 23rd Panzer Division, previously 6th Company, 63rd Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division, and 2nd Company, 17th Motorcycle Battalion, 17th Panzer Division. A regular soldier, who with the 63rd Infantry Regiment fought in Poland in 1939 and France in 1940, being awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 24th July 1940, he then took part in the invasion of Russia from July 1941, with the 17th Motorcycle Battalion, and present during the advance on Smolensk, Kiev, Bryansk and Tula. During 1942 to 1943 he saw service in south Russia during the advance on the Caucasus, as well as during the advance to and the retreat from the Don, and with the disaster at Stalingrad, the retreat to the Mius defensive positions, he was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class on 18th July 1942, this being for his bravery during the advance to the Don whilst still a serving member of ill-fated 6th Army in the 3rd Company, 23rd Motorcycle Battalion. Having transferred with his battalion and the 23rd Panzer Division to the 1st Panzer Army, he avoided the disaster at Stalingrad, and as a member of the 4th Company, 23rd Motorcycle Battalion, for his extreme bravery during the retreat to the Mius, was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 5th April 1942, he having also been wounded in action for the first time on 2nd March 1943, and also promoted to Oberfeldwebel on 25th May 1943. His unit became the 23rd Panzer Recce Battalion in April 1943. Commissioned as a Leutnant in March 1944 with seniority backdated to December 1943, he then turned to the front with his old unit, and was awarded the Close Combat Clasp in Bronze on 3rd May 1944 for the heavy fighting which occurred during the retreat across the Ukraine. His division ended up in Hungary, with Röhsler having been further promoted. He survived the war.
1) Wehrstammbuch - Service Record Book, issued to Friedrich Röhsler at Ingolstadt on 27th January 1938.
2) Verwendungskarte - Employment Card, issued to Friedrich Röhsler.
3) Fehlkarte, the filing card of the Military District Office used when the Wehrstammbuch was temporarily filed elsewhere, with an interesting pencil entry stating that the Wehrstammbuch has been with the 5/9 Panzer Recce Replacement and Training Battalion in Sondershausen in Thuringia since 19th July 1943.
4) Felh-Mob-Karte, containing the same dates as the Employment card, but with some additional details.
5) Kriegsstammrolle - Wartime Personnel Roster - containing the soldier’s personal details, and details of active service etc. 3 parts a) undated, but covers 17th November 1938 to 10th August 1941; b) dated 28th June 1943, covers the period from 28th September 1942 to 27th June 1943; c) dated 20th November 1944, covers the period from 10th April to 20th November 1944.
6) Wehrdienstbeschädigungslifte - Non-Battle Injury List, a four page document issued on 29th June 1940 by his company commander with the 6/63rd Infantry Regiment, and finally signed off by the unit doctor of the 17th Motorcycle Battalion on 30th November 1940.
7) Promotion Document for a promotion initiated by the Oberfähnrich Course of the Panzer Troops stating promotion to Leutnant (Active) with effect from 1st March 1944, A5 sized document, issued at Gross Glienicke on 3rd March 1944.
8) Document confirming the promotion of Oberfähnrich Friedrich Röhsler to Leutnant with effect from 1st March 1944, with seniority backdated to 1st December 1943, an A4 sized document, issued through the Ingolstadt Recruiting District HQ at Ingolstadt on 8th May 1944.
9) An A5 size letter sent by the 4/23 Pz Recce Bn to the Ingolstadt Recruiting District HQ enclosing Röhsler’s Wartime Personnel Roster sheet, and also stating that he will be posted to the 9 Pz Recce Replacement and Training Battalion on 27th June 1943.
10) An A5 size note from the OC 5/9 Pz Recce Replacement and Training Battalion to the Ingolstadt Draft Board requesting that it send him Röhsler’s index card. Issued at Sondershausen on 15th July 1943. The reply to this is on the reverse of the note, dated 19th July 1943.
11) An A5 size note from the OC 1/9 Motorcycle Replacement Bn to the Ingolstadt Draft Board requesting that it send him Röhsler’s index card. A speedy reply is requested. Issued at Sondershausen on 24th August 1943. The reply is on the reverse of the note, dated 27th August 1943.
12) An A5 size note from the 9 Pz Recce Replacement Bn to the Ingolstadt Recruiting District HQ concerning the sending of card indexes with the transfer of officers to field units - Röhsler’s transfer to the 23rd Panzer Division. It enclosed his Wehrstammbuch, Verwendungskarte, and Gesundheitsbuch - the Health Book.
Friedrich Röhsler was born on 1st November 1919 in Unterbrunnenreuth, south of Ingolstadt in Bavaria, the eldest of the family, he had two brothers and two sisters, and married on 1st December 1942, his home address then being given at Frierichshofen in Ingolstadt. Having been a labourer before joining the German Army, he had seen service with the German Labour Service from 5th April to 11th August 1938 near the German / Alsace border, and then joined the 6th Company, 63rd Infantry Regiment on 17th November 1938.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, Röhsler, as a regular soldier, was still in service with the 6th Company, 63rd Infantry Regiment, as part of the 27th Infantry Division, and then saw service during the campaign in Poland in 1939. On 26th August 1939, the division was mobilised and relocated to Opole. At the beginning of the Polish campaign, the Division Reserve Army Group South and moved on 3rd September over the Polish border to the front line. The division marched over the Warta, to north Tarnowitz and over the Pilica to the Vistula. After hard fighting, the division pushed into the room Zamosz. At the end of the campaign, the division was in the Labunie area. At the end of November 1939, the division moved to the West to the Siegfried Line and the border to the Eifel.
At the beginning of the western campaign, the division was again held back as a reserve, this time with the 12th Army. It advanced over the German peaks via St. Vith and Dinant and was pushed into the front line at St. Quentin. Then it fought its way into Arras. During the "Battle of France", the second half of the campaign, the division fought on the Somme, in the Neuilly area and in the Forèt d'Ailly. Then it pursued the retreating French to the Seine, which was crossed at Les Andelys, and then on to the Loire. At the time of the ceasefire, the division was in the area La Chapelle. Röhsler was promoted from Gefreiter to Unteroffizier on 1st July 1940, and is confirmed as having been present in all of the above mentioned actions, and was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 24th July 1940.
Having then transferred to the 2nd Company, 17th Motorcycle Battalion, a unit of the 17th Panzer Division on 11th October 1940, it having been previously the 27th Infantry Division before being reclassified as the 17th Panzer Division on 1st November 1940, and was awarded the Infantry Assault Badge in Silver on 20th May 1941, this being earned as a result of his operations in France back in 1940. Röhsler then saw service out on the Russian Front from July 1941 with Army Group Centre, as a part of the 2nd Panzer Group, and participating in the advance on Smolensk, Kiev and Bryansk, before settling into positions at Tula in October 1941 with the onset of the first Russian winter of 1941 to 1942.
Röhsler appears to have not seen active service during this winter, as he was posted back to Germany to the 1st Company, 2nd Motorcycle Replacement Battalion on 21st November 1941 through to 8th January 1942 when he joined the 3rd Company, 2nd Motorcycle Replacement Battalion, and then returned to active service with the 3rd Company, 23rd Motorcycle Battalion from 31st March 1942, seeing further service on the Russian Front, this time as part of the 23rd Panzer Division, with 6th Army as part of Army Group South at Kharkov, and then during the operations on the Don through to July 1942 when his division fortuitously transferred to the 1st Panzer Army. Röhsler was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class on 18th July 1942, this being for his bravery during the advance to the Don whilst still a serving member of 6th Army.
Having transferred with his division to the 1st Panzer Army, he then transfered to the 4th Company of the same battalion on 30th September 1942, and saw active service at Terek in the Caucasus and then during the retreat back to the Don. Röhsler was promoted to Feldwebel on 1st November 1942. With the encirclement of the 6th Army at Stalingrad, Röhsler then saw service with his battalion during the retreat from the Don to the Mius position between January and March 1943 as a part of the 4th Panzer Army, and was at Stalino in April 1943, when it rejoined the newly reformed 6th Army, and also then saw service with the 1st Panzer Army again. For his extreme bravery, Röhsler was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 5th April 1942, he having also been wounded in action for the first time on 2nd March 1943, for which he was awarded the Wound Badge in Black on 3rd May 1943, and was then promoted to Oberfeldwebel on 25th May 1943.
On 22nd April 1943 his unit had been retitled as the 23rd Panzer Recce Battalion, and he continued to see service with the 4th Company till, probably on account of his recovery from his wound, he was transferred to Germany to the 9th Panzer Recce Replacement and Training Battalion on 28th June 1943, with the rank of Oberfähnrich, he being an Officer Candidate. Commissioned as a Leutnant with effect from 1st March 1944, with seniority backdated to 1st December 1943, he was posted back to the 23rd Panzer Division on 3rd March 1944, by which time, his division as part of Army Group South was on service at Nikolaev within the 6th Army, before transferring to the 8th Army and on service at Jassy in April 1944, and he then fought with the 23rd Panzer Recce Battalion in the defensive actions through to the Vistula in the southern Ukraine with the 4th Panzer Army through to August 1944, having been awarded the Close Combat Clasp in Bronze on 3rd May 1944. Röhsler was wounded in action for a second time on 31st August 1944, and latterly ended up on service in Hungary, having been promoted to Oberleutnant. He survived the war.