Visit to the front section of the 9th Company,
Infantry Regiment 278, 95th Infantry Division near Rshew.
In the office
of the Patriotic Society at the Rshew War Memorial. To the left is the
excellent Rshew front expert Sergei Petuchov and sitting in middle is
the really fabulous Galina Chmylkowa. As a child she experienced the German
occupation of Rshew. The office of Sergei could not have been more helpful
With Sergei, detailed divisional position maps and GPS in the search for the actual lines of the 9th Company.
German supply route through the forest.
German trench filled with water, ice and snow.
The ditch of
a machinegun section. Very probably one may assume that I had found the
specific location of Clemens. Exactly 70 years after his 21st birthday, which
he had spent in the adjacent trench, I was in the same position.
Rusty old German metal ammunition box for mortar bombs. The landscape is still littered with wartime debris even after all these years.
Since 20 years the remains of German
and Russian fallen in the Rshew salient have been exhumed and
re-buried in a joint German
and Russian cemetery in Rshew. Of the approximately 400 000 German dead only
about 25 000 soldiers have been identified. Their names are alphabetically
chiselled in stone.
Meeting with the
Russian military historian Oleg Kondratschew, whose father also served at
the front. Kondratschew has published a book about the battles of the Rshew
salient seen from the Russian perspective. The book is translated into
July 2012 in Normandy
Visit to the battle
zones of the 84th Infantry Division in the Falaise area.
After the failure of "Unternehmen Lüttich" (Battle of Mortain)
Field Marshal von Kluge orders withdrawal on 8 August 1944. On 10 August the 84th
ID is defending the line Perriers en Beauficel -
Beauficel - Vengeons.
The shifting, rolling hills at Beauficel as they also would have appeared to the 84th.
Typical hedge row along country road.
The very common "bocage".
On the plateau of La Beaugeardière near Beauficel one can
see all the way to Avranches.
Bomb or artillery craters in the forest of La Beaugeardière near Beauficel.
Falaise Pocket - Forêt de Grande Gouffern
On the 20 August 1944 the 84th ID was in
the Forêt de
Forêt de Grande Gouffern. This is the D246 route used by the Allies attacking from Trun to cut off the escape route.
An old oak on the side of the road where German soldiers
have inscribed their initials. Behind is the Grande Gouffern Forest where
the men of the 84th ID were encircled.
Thick undergrowth of fern, scrub, rotting branches and bomb craters.
Ideal place for
hiding in by surrounded soldiers but only until the opponent combs through
the area. Clemens must have been captured very close to this spot.
The fallen soldiers in the Falaise
pocket were hastily interred locally. In the 1950s a German military
cemetery was established in La Cambe and more than 12 000 dead were exhumed
from their old graves in the Calvados and Orne regions and reburied.