Germany – Third Reich: The Russian Winter Counterattack Iron Cross 2nd Class, Retreat to the Dnieper Bridge Black Wound Badge and Normandy Iron Cross 1st Class Document Grouping to Unteroffizier Heinrich Herbst, HQ Company, 81st Infantry Regiment,...

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Germany – Third Reich: The Russian Winter Counterattack Iron Cross 2nd Class, Retreat to the Dnieper Bridge Black Wound Badge and Normandy Iron Cross 1st Class Document Grouping to Unteroffizier Heinrich Herbst, HQ Company, 81st Infantry Regiment, 15th Infantry Division; then HQ Company, 108th Grenadier Regiment, 38th Infantry Division; then finally Bicycle Platoon, HQ Company, 986th Grenadier Regiment, 276th Infantry Division, whose first service would likely have been during Operation Typhoon, before having to suffer the privations of the first Russian Winter, he went onto fight on the Retreat to the Dnieper River in Autumn 1943, before moving to the Western Front where he served as a member of a Bicycle Platoon in Normandy including in action in the Falaise area around the time of the Battles there in August 1944.

An interesting and scarce bravery comprising 5 award certificates to an infantry NCO who saw service on the Eastern Front and in Normandy, including a large format Ostmedaille award certificate that was most likely unique to 108th Infantry Regiment.

1) The Iron Cross 2nd Class, awarded by Divisional HQ on 10th February 1942 as an Obergefreiter, HQ Company, 81st Infantry Regiment. Signed by Pawel as Oberst on behalf of the General Officer Commanding 15th Infantry Division. Pawel was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 20.3.1942 as Oberst and Commanding Officer 81st Infantry Regiment.

2) The Ostmedaille awarded as an Obergefreiter, HQ Company, 108th Infantry Regiment. Signed by Kocher as Oberstleutnant and Commanding Officer. Note: This is an unusual large and very scarce format variant of this award certificate. Although there is no date it is most probable that it was presented in August/September 1942 prior to the Regiment being redesignated as a Grenadier Regiment on 15.10.1942 and when the Regiment was stationed in The Hague where the certificate was printed.

3) The Silver Infantry Assault Badge awarded by Regimental HQ on 3rd December 1943 as an Unteroffizier, HQ Company, 108th Grenadier Regiment. Signed by a Major and acting Commanding Officer.

4) The Black Wound Badge awarded in Halberstadt on 7th January 1944 for a first wounding received on 24th October 1943 as an Unteroffiizier, 12th Grenadier Replacement Battalion. Signed by Bucher as Oberfeldarzt and Chief Doctor of the Reserve Hospital Freiwaldau-Grafenburg.

5) The Iron Cross 1st Class awarded on 26th July 1944 as an Unteroffizier, Bicycle Platoon, HQ Company, 986th Grenadier Regiment. Signed by Badinski as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 276th Infantry Division. Badinski was awarded the Knights Cross on 10.10.1941 as Oberst and Commanding Officer 489th Infantry Regiment, 269th Infantry Division. Badinski was taken prisoner in the Falaise Pocket in mid-August 1944 when the Division was destroyed there.

Heinrich Herbst most likely first saw service on the Eastern Front from late in 1941, 15th Infantry Division was heavily engaged in Operation Typhoon, the assault on Moscow in the closing months of 1941, upon the cessation of this offensive and through the beginning of the large scale Russian counter offensives that began on 5th December 1941, the unit was engaged in heavy defensive fighting with 4th Army, for fighting in the areas around Gshatsk Herbst was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 10th February 1942 by Divisional HQ. Before the award of the Ostmedaille for service during the winter of 1941-42, Herbst transferred to 108th Grenadier Regiment, 38th Infantry Division, with this unit Herbst would have spent time on occupation duties in Northern France and the Netherlands, before being moved to the Eastern Front in April 1943. As part of 1st Panzer Army, Army Group South, the Division would have been involved in the heavy defensive fighting at the southern extremities of the Eastern Front, firstly in defeating the Izyum offensive that took place as an attempt to divert German forces away from the Kursk Offensive in July 1943, and then latterly in a gradual retreat back to the Dnieper River. For his involvement in numerous Infantry Assaults in the autumn of 1943, Herbst was awarded the Silver Infantry Assault Badge on 3rd December 1943, at a time in which he was recovering from a wound he had received on 24th October 1943 in the Reserve Hospital in Freiwaldau-Grafenburg. The wound most likely suffered during one of many attempts to crush the Soviet bridgeheads on the west bank of the Dnieper River in the areas around Dnipropetrovsk and Kremenchug. By the time of the invasion of Normandy, Herbst was serving in the 968th Grenadier Regiment.

The Division was sent to Normandy from southern France in late June 1944, throughout July the division fought on the frontline against the British forces before moving westwards to Vire late in the month, protecting the flank of Operation Luttich, the ultimately unsuccessful German attempt to cut off the penetration of the American Third Army at Arromanches. Herbst received the Iron Cross 1st Class on 26th July 1944 for an act of gallantry during the defensive fighting in this period. Eventually, the Allies broke through the German forces in early August and sought to encircle the German Army in Normandy. German losses were heavy but some elements of their forces managed to escape via the Falaise Gap and made their way back to create new defensive lines on the German border area. Nothing further is known of Herbst after his time in Normandy, he may have been killed in the attempts to escape the Falaise encirclement.

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