November 2012 in Russia

Visit to the front section of the 9th Company, Infantry Regiment 278, 95th Infantry Division near Rshew.
Please refer to READ "Taking over the Front Line Positions at Rshew" and "Patrol Raid Vienna".


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 and friendly!

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 German.



July 2012 in Normandy

Visit to the battle zones of the 84th Infantry Division in the Falaise area.
Please refer to the reading sample "Normandy".



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".
Both photos above show the typical bocage roads - the above is at Beauficel - which made the free movement of Allied and German armour impossible.
It was also next to impossible for the infantry of both sides to properly orientate themselves. The only mutual advantage was good cover.


On the plateau of La Beaugeardière near Beauficel one can see all the way to Avranches.
On the flats below and in front "Unternehmen Lüttich" (Battle of Mortain) took place.


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 Grande Gouffern.
They were reinforcing the defenses inside the pocket of the escape gap between Trun and St. Lambert.
Like all divisions of LXXXIV. Army Corps, the 84th receives no orders to withdraw and remains in the pocket together with its Commander General Erwin Menny to finally be captured.
Captain Hartwig, Clemens' Batallion Commander, manages to escape.


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.
Today 21 222 soldiers are resting here. Numerous other remains of unidentified dead are still left in the fields.