Germany – Third Reich: A Fascinating Retreat from the Demyansk Pocket Iron Cross 2nd Class, and retreat to the Kurland Peninsular Iron Cross 1st Class Document Group to Unteroffizier Walter Johann, 2nd Battery, 636th Heavy Artillery Battalion (motorised), Army Troops, who was awarded his Iron Cross 1st Class for escaping having been taken prisoner by the Russians, finally evacuated from the Kurland Pocket after his third wound, he eventually surrendered whilst in Central Germany in late April 1945.
A very good and interesting bravery document group which belonged to a former Senior NCO in a motorised heavy Artillery Battalion. It consists of 4 award certificates, an original soldbuch, a newspaper cutting describing his bravery and 3 documents.
- The Iron Cross 2nd Class awarded by Corps HQ on 7th February 1943 as Gefreiter, 2/636th Heavy Artillery Battalion (motorised). Signed by Laux as General of Infantry and General Officer Commanding II Army Corps.
Laux was awarded the Knights Cross on 14.12.1941 as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 126th Infantry Division and the 237th Oakleaves on 17.5.1943 as General of Infantry and General Officer Commanding II Army Corps. 29.8.1944 air crash – died on 2.9.1944 in Riga Hospital from his wounds.
- The General Assault Badge awarded by Battalion HQ on 26th April 1943 as a Gefreiter, 2/636th Heavy Artillery Battalion (motorised). Signed by Stimmermann as Hauptmann on behalf of the Battalion Commander.
- The Iron Cross 1st Class awarded in the field on 27th September 1944 as an Obergefreiter, 2/636th Heavy Artillery Battalion (motorised). Signed by Busse as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 1st Army Corps.
Busse was awarded the Knights Cross on 30.1.1944 as Generalleutnant, Chief of Staff, Army Group South and the German Cross in Gold on 24.5.1942 as Oberst i.G, 11th Army.
- The Wound Badge in Silver awarded in Saalfeld/Saale on 30th April 1945 for a 3rd wounding on 7th February 1945 as an Unteroffizier, 2/636th Heavy Artillery Battalion (motorised). Signed by an Oberstabsarzt and Chief Doctor of the Reserve Hospital Saalfeld.
This is Walter Johann’s original Soldbuch in very good condition – it is full of information (personnel date, units, decorations, promotions, woundings etc.) It was issued to him on 15th October 1941 whilst serving in the 18th Signals Replacement Battery in Dusseldorf. It has a good photo of him wearing his EK2 button hole ribbon on the inside of the front cover. He was a single, a Catholic and was born on 19th December 1922 in Oberhauser/Ruhr.
A Newspaper Cutting:
This is a small fascinating WW2 undated newspaper cutting account about Walter Johann’s bravery on the Eastern Front. His rank of Obergefreiter would indicate that the period in question would be between 1st June and 1st September 1944 – the time when he held this rank. It in all probability is describing the act of bravery which led to his being awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class on 27th September 1944 as an Obergefreiter. Translation as follows:
‘Obergefreiter Walter Johann from Oberhauaen, a radio operator in a heavy Artillery Battalion, repeatedly distinguished himself as a forward observer. As he was once again taken prisoner, he escaped before he was interrogated and fought his way back to German Lines. He rolled up a well occupied trench with two comrades with a counter-attack, inflicted heavy losses on the enemy and brought in a prisoner. The Bolshevists who had penetrated the fire positions, were forced back and a field gun was recovered.’
- Essen, 27.11.1938. This is a certificate of achievement issued after attending a stenographers course – it details the standard he achieved in shorthand.
- Oberhausen, 1.10.1941. This is a salesman’s diploma which was issued to him after successfully completing a salesman’s course which lasted from 3.4.1939 to 1.10.1941.
- Oberhausen, 19.12.1946. This Walter Johann’s post-war Work Pass which was issued to him after he had been discharged from the German Army. It covers the period from 29.1.1947 until 1.11.1948 when he was living in Oberhausen. He was employed as an interpreter in the North German Iron and Steel Control until 1.1.1948 when he was again employed as a salesman in a German firm in Oberhausen.
Walter Johann was born on 19th December 1922 in Oberhausen, a single, Catholic man, he had trained as a stenographer and was thus proficient in shorthand, he was also a trained salesman and received a diploma. He was mobilised on 15th October 1941 and was trained as a radio operator. He was posted to 636 heavy Artillery Battalion in Dusseldorf on completion of his basic training. He remained with this battalion throughout his time on the Eastern Front, being wounded three times. From this we can ascertain that he was likely a radio operator in forward observation positions.
Johann’s first award was on 7th February 1943 and would have been for an act of bravery during the abandoning of the Demyansk Pocket in 1943. It would have been for the battles during this period that Johann was later awarded the General Assault Badge in 26th April 1943. With his unit continuing to fight to the south of Lake Ilmen during the summer of 1943-1944, there is no evidence of Johann’s activities for a 17month period up until September 1944. It is possible therefore that during this period Johann picked up at least 1 if not 2 wounds, and therefore spent a period of time recuperating away from the front lines.
In September 1944, Johann was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class for the act described in the newspaper cutting, this in an action to the south of Riga as his heavy Artillery Battalion was forced to retreat into what would eventually become the Kurland Pocket. Johann went on to be wounded for the third time on 7th February 1945, it would seem that he was then evacuated to Germany, receiving his Wound Badge in Silver in a hospital in Saalfeld, central Germany on 30th April 1945. Surviving the war he was initially employed as an interpreter in the North German Iron and Steel Control on 29th January 1947 before becoming a Salesman with a company in Oberhausen on 1st January 1948.