Germany – Third Reich. The Interesting and Scarce Balkan Campaign Royal Bulgarian Medal of Merit in Silver, Advance to the Dnieper War Merit Cross 2nd Class, Kuban Shield and Colmar Pocket War Merit Cross 1st Class with Swords Awards and Document Grouping to Feldwebel Erich Habbicht, 1st Company, 525th Anti-Tank Battalion, later 1st Company, 525th Heavy Army Anti-Tank Battalion, which operated Nashorn Tank Destroyers, one of only 6 Battalions in the German Armed Forces to do so.
The certificate for promotion of Unteroffizier Erich Habbicht (1/525th heavy Army Anti-Tank Battalion) to the rank of Feldwebel with effect of 1st July 1944. The certificate was signed on 29th June 1944 by Guttmacher as Major and Battalion Commander.
Erich Halbricht would have served with the 525th Anti-Tank Battalion from the outset of the war, initially on the Western Front during the winter of 1939-40 as part of the Siegfried Line. It is almost certain that he would have missed taking part in the Invasion of Poland in September 1939.
In May 1940, the 525th Anti-Tank Battalion was a reserve unit during the attack on France, armed with 88mm guns, the battalion was part of Army Group A, and did not take part in the invasion. By December 1940 the Division arrived near Bouillon, and was attached to Army Group A.
It was April 1941 before the unit saw its first combat action, taking part in the invasion of the Balkans, which was successfully conquered in a matter of weeks.
After the conclusion of the Balkan Campaign, the 525th was attached to seventeenth Army as part of Army Group South for the Invasion of the Soviet Union. During the campaign the Division would have advanced across the Southern Ukraine, attacking the Stalin Line before moving on to the Dnieper and then Donetz Rivers. On 18th September 1941 Habbicht received his first award of the war, a War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords, by Order of the commander of 52nd Army Corps, General of Infantry von Briesen.
Habbicht would have seen service in the winter 1941-42 battles around Rostov, where the Red Army attacked persistently between December and March.
A lull in the fighting took place between late March and Mid-June as the rainy season made movement difficult, and as both sides sought to build up strength for the coming summer battles. In June 1942, Habbicht received the Royal Bulgarian Medal of Merit in Silver without Crown for his part in the Balkan Campaign of the previous year. This an unusual award, as most soldiers of his rank would receive the Royal Bulgarian Soldiers’ Cross for Bravery in War.
Habbicht was to be awarded the Ostmedaille for his service during the winter battles of 1941-42 on 9th August 1942, this was after the beginning of the German Summer Offensive of 1942, which saw the attempted capture of the Caucasus Oilfields, by this time the Division had been equipped with Marder II tank destroyers in order to be more effective against the more heavily armoured Soviet T-34s and KV-1s that were increasingly making their way onto the battlefield.
The 1st Panzer Army thrust deep into the mountains during the late summer and autumn of 1942, and it was not until the surrounding of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad that the momentum of the battle in southern Russia changed. In December 1942, the Wehrmacht was forced to retreat in order not to be cut-off by the offensives taking place in the Stalingrad region, thus 525th Anti-Tank Battalion gradually was pushed back into the Kuban Bridgehead where it remained until late May, when it was re-armed with the new Nashorn Tank Destroyers, which mounted the powerful 88mm gun.
The unit spent part of the summer of 1943 re-equipping in France, before in late August it was sent by Rail to northern Italy to help defend against the Allied invasion and the imminently expected Italian defection to the Allies. The 525th Heavy Anti-Tank Battalion was then used to attempt to destroy the Anzio bridgehead in February 1944 where it served attached to the 1st Parachute Corps of the 14th Army.
After the Anzio battle, the Battalion whilst continuing to be issued further Nashorns would have continued its retreat through central and northern Italy as the Allies gradually pushed them out of the peninsula. On 15th July 1944, Habbicht was to receive the Kuban Shield for his part in the fighting in the bridgehead the previous summer.
By November 1944 Habbicht’s company appears to have been detached from the Battalion and sent to France where it served as part of 19th Army in the Colmar Pocket. Habbicht was to receive his final award, the War Merit Cross 1st Class with Swords whilst fighting with this unit on 30th January 1945. It is unclear whether Habbicht survived the war as there is no further information on him,
It is most likely that Habbicht served in a non-combat role given the combination of awards he received, possibly as a mechanic or a member of the headquarters staff. There were only six Nashorn Battalions, thus finding certificates and awards to them is rare.