Germany – Third Reich: The Extremely Rare Special Badge for the Single-Handed Destruction of 5 Tanks Document Group to Fahnenjunker-Feldwebel Heinrich Wille, 2nd Company, 6th Grenadier Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, who received a Corps Commendation for his part in a counter-attack at Staraya Russa, who had seen service at Demyansk and who was wounded three times, including twice in four days during the operations at Staraya Russa that resulted in his commendation and Badge for the Destruction of 5 Tanks.
A very rare and fine document group consisting of a Corps Commander’s Commendation for Bravery and rare contemporary certified Battalion Order awarding the special badge for the single handed destruction of 5 tanks, 5 other awards certificates and 7 other documents.
Certified Copy of a Battalion Special Order dated 23rd August 1943:
‘I have awarded the Special Badge for the Single Handed Destruction of a Tank to the following cited members of the Battalion for proven bravery with the destruction of 5 tanks in close combat:
Unteroffizier Wille, 2/6th Grenadier Regiment. Signed by Vogel, and for correctness by Krauthammel as Leutnant.
X Army Corps Commander’s Commendation, dated 28.8.1943.
‘I express my special recognition to Unteroffizier Wille, Section Commander, 2/6th Grenadier Regiment, for his proven bravery on 21.8.1943 with an Assault Detachment action for the capture of the Airmen’s graves (Fliegergrabens) to the south east of Staraya Russa’
Signed by Hansen, as General Of Artillery and General Officer Commanding X Army Corps.
Hansen was awarded the Knights Cross on 3.8.1942 as General of Artillery and General Officer Commanding X Army Corps and the German Cross in Gold on 2.4.1943 as General of Artillery and General Officer Commanding X Army Corps.
Wille was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class and was also wounded on the same day as that cited in the commendation – 21st August 1943 (the day of the 3rd Russian attack during the 5th Battle around Staraya Russa). The award of the Special Badge for the Individual Destruction of 5 tanks can also be linked to this period.
Heinrich Wille was born on 4th August 1921 in Hildesheim, this would indicate that he was most likely in the Army by the time of the outbreak of the war.
As part of 30th Infantry Division he would have seen service in Poland in September 1939, and then in the initial part of the campaign in the low countreis in May 1940 where it attacked over the Maas at Venlo, then over the Albertkanal over the Schelde. Eventually it attacked over the Lys and the Yser in the area of Poperinghe before ending the campaign near Paris. The Division then remained in France on occupation duty in France until May 1941.
In June 1941, 30th Infantry Division moved east in preparation for the Invasion of the Soviet Union as part of Army Group North, after the beginning of the campaign it was involved in the border battles in Lithuania before advancing over the Nyemen to the Duna, it then attacked near Opochka, at Chelony, Pollisty and at the Redya, before fighting at the Lovat and the Polya. Wille was wounded on 19th October 1941 in the initial battles near Demyansk in an assault that counted towards both his close combat days and the Infantry Assault Badge in Silver.
Wille continued to fight in the Demyansk area where he was involved in further assaults and close combat on 31st January and 7th February 1942 during the early stages of the Russian counterattacks. Fighting through the winter in the Demyansk pocket, Wille was awarded the Ostmedaille on 21st July 1942, the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 16th January 1943 on 16th January 1943, and eventually the Infantry Assault Badge in Silver on 8th February 1943, which was a belated award for his assaults of the previous winter.
In February 1943, 30th Infantry Division retreated to the Staraja Russa area when the Demyansk area was evacuated. The Staraja Russa area saw a year of heavy fighting between February 1943 and February 1944 of which Wille was present for around half.
The most significant few days of Wille’s front line ‘career’ took place in mid-August 1943 when he received a series of awards and was twice wounded. On 18th August 1943, Wille was wounded for a second time in a close combat action, he was then wounded for a third time on 21st August 1943 entitling him to the award of the Silver Wound Badge which he received on 24th August 1943, this shortly after the award of the Iron Cross 1st Class which was awarded him on 21st August, the day of his third wounding.
On 23rd August, Wille was mentioned in a Battalion Special Order awarding him the Special badge for the Single Handed Destruction of a Tank for proven bravery with the destruction of 5 tanks in close combat, before on 28th August he received a X Army Corps Commander’s Commendation for his bravery on 21st August 1943 with an Assault Detachment for the capture of the Airmen’s graves to the south-east of Staraya Russa.
Wille was still attached to 6th Grenadier Regiment on 31st December 1943 when he was awarded the Demyansk Shield for his participation in the battles there.
He was still fighting with the unit in February 1944 when he was involved in his last day of the close combat. At some point between 21st February (his last day of close combat) and 24th October 1944 he had transferred to 3/30th Field Replacement Battalion, most likely as a result of either sickness or being wounded. He ended the war as part of 160th Infantry Division in Denmark with the rank of Fahnenjunker-Feldwebel.