Soldbuch 21. Panzer Division – Beutepanzer – D-Day – Normandy

Soldbuch 21. Panzer Division
Kampfgruppe Von Luck

Normandy 1944


Out of stock

Soldbuch first issue to Gefreiter Emil Krzyzspien.

Born: 20-7-1923

The Soldbuch opens at 29 May 1942 with 2./ Leichte Artillerie ersatz Abteilung 28.

After his basictrainings with several training units he became part of Artillerie Regiment 332 of the 332. Infanterie Division stationed in France.

He changed within a short period several times from unit and became part of:

  • Panzer Artillerie Regiment 1
  • Panzer Artillerie Regiment (sfl.) 2
  • Gem. Kd. z.b.v. Abt. d. gpz. Art. Brigade
  • Verst. Sturmgeschutz Abteilung 931
  • 3./Sturmgeschutz Abteilung 200

He served within the last unit from December 1943 onwards.

In early May, 1943 after the destruction of the original 21. Panzer-Division in Africa, Hitler ordered the upgrade of a mobile brigade forming in France, Schnelle Brigade West, to a full panzer division and renamed it 21. Panzer-Division. Veterans of the original division who had not been killed or captured were made available and formed the core of the new formation. To avoid confusion, the division was officially referred to as 21. Panzer-Division “Neu” (for “new”) until 1 January 1944.

Fortunately for the division, they had at their disposal Hauptmann (later Major) Alfred Becker. A veteran of the Great War, Becker earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering after returning from that conflict, and would put it to good use during the Second World War. German encounters with the T-34 and KV-1 tanks in the Soviet Union created shockwaves throughout the Wehrmacht and created a critical need for not only more powerful anti-tank guns, but mechanised chassis to allow their more rapid and flexible deployment. In order to provide mobility to the excellent 7.5cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun, Becker had initially mated the gun to the Lorraine 37L tracked carrier creating the Marder I. This conversion, along with several others convinced Hitler to give Becker a free hand in developing the existing stocks of French equipment into useful armoured fighting vehicles.

To facilitate his work, Becker set up a workshop facility just outside of Paris at Maison-Lafitte which became known as “Baustab Becker”. The development and conversion process was hampered somewhat by the poor state of the captured stocks of French equipment, which were essentially obsolete by 1943 standards and had not been maintained. Each vehicle was individually reviewed and graded based on its overall condition. Only those in reasonable shape would be converted to new vehicles, while those in the worst condition would donate any usable parts as spares.

At this facility, many conversions were carried out which would supply not only 21. Panzer-Division, but several other German formations as well.  Becker worked closely with Alkett to fabricate specially-designed replacement superstructures for the French AFVs which would then be installed at Baustab Becker. All total, the facility would produce almost 450 armoured vehicles also know as “beutepanzer” during the war including:

  • 184 Marder I 
  • 96 15 cm sFH13/1 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper (f)
  • 36 10.5 cm leFH 18M auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper (f)
  • 24 7.5cm PaK40 auf Hotchkiss37 10.5 cm leFH 18M auf Hotchkis

Because of his military record and familiarity with the equipment, Becker was tapped to command Sturmgeschütz Abteilung 200 which consisted of several batteries of his 7.5cm PaK and 10.5cm le F. H. conversions of the Hotchkiss tank. In early 1944, Becker’s unit along with the rest of the division was deployed north to Brittany, though Field Marshal Rommel, in command of German forces in Normandy, would later move the division to the region outside Caen. As his troops still lacked experience, Becker worked hard to both train the men and ensure that the tactics used played to the strengths of their unique vehicles in anticipation of the fighting ahead.

However the Abteilung was organized, the fact remains when the Allies invaded the Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944, 21. Panzer-Division was the only armoured unit to move toward the beaches in accordance with Rommel’s designed defensive plan. The Sturmgeschutz were immediately send north-eastwards towards St. Honorine to give fire support.
Becker’s Sturmgeschütz would not see actual combat until 9 June when three batteries provided support for 125. Panzergrenadier-Regiment. Both the 7.5cm and 10.5cm Hotchkiss proved devastating to Allied (mostly British) tanks in these early engagements.

As the fighting went on in Normandy, the Germans desperately tried to keep the Allied forces pinned into the Normandy beachhead. Becker’s Abteilung was incorporated into “Kampfgruppe Von Luck” under then command of Hans von Luck. In addition to the Sturmgeschütz Abteilung, the battle group included not only Luck’s 125. Panzergrenadier-Regiment, and modern armoured support in the form of Panzer IV’s from 22. Panzer-Regiment and the vaunted Tiger I from 503 Schwere Panzer-Abteilung.

During the heavy fightings in June 1944 he got wounded for the first time and was brought into Kriegslazarett 10/528R on 25 June 1944 with woundcode -31b- = 31b-Handgrenade, mortar, artillery (shrapnel).

After a month he was released from the hospital and returned to his unit wich was still involved in the Normandy battles.

During these later Normandy battles he must have taken POW as no further entries are listed and on page 1 we can see a POW number written in pencil.

He must have been entitled at least the Wounded badge in Black but because he was taken POW it was never added.

Used condition, complete with all pages.

The Soldbuch shows him with a black Panzerwrapper.

Footage of the unit prior to D-day while being inspected by Generalfeldmarshal Rommel:

Code: B23250