Wehrpass 254. ID. Mill – Holland 1940 – KIA Estonia

Wehrpass to Unteroffizier Franz Heidreich.

Mill, Holland 1940

KIA Estonia 1941

Out of stock

Wehrpass first issue to Unteroffizier Franz Heidreich.
The Wehrpass opens at 1-10-1936 with 11./Infanterie Regiment 19 based in Freising. After he almost a year with this unit he must have had good results during the trainingcourse and was send to 2.Lehrkompanie Kriegsschule in Dresden on 1-10-1937. He stayed for a year with the Kriegsschule and left on 26 Oktober 1938.

He must have left the army but was called-up for military service after almost a year and joined the 13. Kompanie (Schwere) of Infanterie Regiment 474 wich was part of the 254. Infanterie Division. This Division was part of the 4th wave or Welle.

His Kompanie was equipped with Leichte Feldhaubitze 75mm.

With this Division he took part in operation “Fall Gelb” and entered the Dutch - German border in 10 May 1940 and had to cross the Meuse or Maas river near Mook and Katwijk (Cuijk) were it was held up.
After the Division had crossed the river it headed towards the small vicinity of Mill.

The battle at Mill


Mill - a village close to the Maas river was a prime target of XXVI.AK. This village was selected as the most favourable point of penetration for a number of reasons. First of all the eastern approaches provided any aggressor plenty of cover due to the extended woods and groove. Secondly this location was a junction of roads and had an east-west railway track just south of the village. Three of the roads crossing Mill were directed westwards; essential for the Germans on their pursuit westwards. And thirdly the extensive swamp areas that formed a natural protection for the better part of the Peel-Raamline was absent in front of Mill.

The defences

The passive defences were quite strong, prepared as they were for more than a division-strength in this sector [10 km] alone. The tank ditch - represented by the Defence Canal - formed a strong barrier, along which 47 off small machinegun casemates had been placed at every 200-300 metres. Both canal shores had been barricaded by barbed wire.

Behind this canal line a continuous mine-field had been constructed, with a few hundred metres behind that the main-defence line [earth trenches]. At Mill one artillery battalion [20RA] was available, with three batteries of each four obsolete guns [84 mm]. Two battalions defended the sector that would be assaulted, with two battalions on each side adjecent of which some smaller units would eventually join the battle. These two main battalions had four light field guns of 57 mm each. Altogether about 2,000 men of defending troops.

The two battalions were of the best class the Dutch army could deliver. It were young conscript soldiers and young reservists with fine officers and NCO's.

The railway was prepared for a double steel frame barricade. All the roads in front of the defence-line were either barricaded or bridges had been prepared for demolition. A special pioneer company was assigned with these tasks.

The entire 256.ID was scheduled to mass at Mill in the morning of the 10th after successfully breaching the Maas defences. It was supposed to be assisted by five artillery battalions [36 x 10,5 cm; 24 x 15 cm] and two batteries of very heavy howitzers [21 cm]. Besides the aforementioned fire power also attached four mechanized 15 cm guns [Bison] of the neighbouring 9th Panzer Division as well as one medium tank company of that same division. Things would be entirely different when the lights were turned on. In fact the Germans would have the greatest possible problems to shuttle their troops and equipment over the Maas at Gennep. In fact the railway bridge remained unsuited to have equipment crossing it since the special timber frames necessary to make it suitable for any wheeled vehicle had been delayed due to poor planning. The quickly deployed pontoon bridge just 250 m south of the railway-bridge was almost instantly put out of order when a Pz.Kpfw III tank got stuck when it smashed the yoke construction of the bridge due to overweight and a poor underground for the land head selected by the bridging engineers. The entire operation was shifted for half a day causing massive traffic jams and a stuck operation at Mill too.

Due to the logistical mishap at Gennep, the 481.IR main force would only commence its long awaited development near the Mill sector around noon and until the end of daylight remain limited to a force of just two battalions and one battery of 10,5 cm guns. Quite a deviation of plans!

The German trains arrive!

When the German trains arrived at Mill, the Dutch soldiers had just become aware of the state of war. It was only 30 minutes after the hour of invasion.

Orders had been given to set all prepared obstacles and barricades and to blow up the designated bridges, but this order came too late for the railway obstruction squad. As such the leading armoured train could simply ride on, straight through the Peel-Raamline and stop in the rear of the line. It was hardly even shot at, due to the fact that the Dutch personnel had been under the impression that they perhaps dealt with a Dutch train. Not very surprising, bearing in mind that the war had just been minutes old. The troop train closely followed the armoured train and joint in the pleasant circumstances of a Dutch opponent that was too stunned to open up out of all weapons.

Upon their very arrival at the rear of the Peel-Raam line - only 1.5 km behind the last trench - the Germans endeavoured to inform their headquarters by short range radio that they had succeeded in their surprise penetration of the defences, but they failed to establish contact. They then decided to send the armoured train back. It was shunted around the troop train at the small station of the village Zeeland. Then it returned eastwards down the track back into the danger zone.

But the Dutch had quickly overcome their first moments of overwhelming and had rapidly barricaded the track. The returning train wasn't able to stop in time and drove straight into the obstruction. The first carriage crashed into the canal, and the locomotive derailed. The small German outfit that was left on board the armoured train jumped off, engaged the nearby defences [which were pointed away from the track] and managed to take the two nearest casemates from the rear. But further than that they couldn't get, for the Dutch immediately sealed of the train sector and suppressed the Germans with fierce machinegun and rifle volleys.

In the meantime the German battalion had left the troop-train and had quickly taken out some out post positions near the track. They then proceeded north-eastwards with one company in order to come behind the casemate line opposite of the village of Mill [that was east of the most forward defence-line]. What they didn't know [the Germans were well aware of all Dutch positions, except the artillery position west of Mill] was that the direction they had chosen would lead them straight into the positions of the artillery battalion.

The three batteries that were about to be raided by unexpected opponents were faced eastwards, in the direction of Mill. The guns were preset in their positions with vector south-southeast  [due to the construction of the guns, with a fixed gun-action brake - a scoop], in such an order that fire to the east and south-east could be given without interfering each others firing path. Suddenly the right battery gun crews noticed a German force approaching them from the southwest in a 250 metre wide formation. The right battery immediately swung its pieces 120 degrees.

The problem the gunners then faced was that the guns had to fire over each others position - a very undesirable situation. As such only single gun fire could be given. The slow firing rate [2 shots per minute max.] of the old guns made the assistance of the other two batteries imperative. Quickly also these two batteries swung their guns around. The opponent had been shocked when the first volleys hit their ranks, for artillery had not been expected, but soon enough they recovered. The reinforced German company cautiously negotiated its way towards the positions of the guns. Although the Dutch had nothing but the twelve guns and their rifles at their disposal, these old weapons kept on pouring projectiles in the midst of the German ranks. When the attackers had come within half a click of the right battery and kept on losing men, they reconsidered their plan and made a turn into the nearby woods. The very uncommon close encounter engagement of infantry versus artillery had taken almost a full hour.

Summary of the morning events

Perhaps it is good summarize the events and battlefield status [at 1200 hours] of the German divisions that were scheduled to operate in the northern sector. The 254.ID had been delayed by the tough fights they had faced at Mook and St. Agatha, moreover the still ongoing battle for the Maas-Waalcanal north of Mook. The destruction of the bridges caused them to await the finalisation of the heavy pontoon bridges over the Maas near Mook.

The actions north of Mill

The 254th Division had not succeeded to break the Peel-Raamline, although its sister division had been successful some clicks southwards. The efforts of 254.ID - north of the village Bruggen - had failed and they had planned a new massive assault with two full regiments for the early morning of the 11th.

Their opponent was just a single battalion. It was divided over the casemates along the canal, and the trenches behind the front-line. Communication-lines had all been shattered by the previous air-raid.

The Germans of the 256th Division - that had broken through to the south of the 254th - did not proceed northwards along the canal. An advance along the canal would have been seriously hampered by the landmines and obstructions between the canal defences and the main-defences. Such an operation would be too time-consuming and too risky. We shall see why.

After successfully gaining firm grip on the westbank of the canal the 481st Regiment had moved a little to the west and then shifted direction northwards. As such they came into the rear of the main-defence line north of Mill that had been rather uneffected by any of the previous engagements. The first company they bumped into had noticed the German approach in time, shifted front and prevented the Germans of approaching yet a single other step once fire had been opened.

The other companies - that had been alerted by the nearby battle noises - concluded that an escape northwards was the only option. Many men were able to escape and assembled around the CP. Some - left in the casemates unaware of the retreat around them - remained behind. The battalion commander realised that at the canal intensive fighting continued [this was the first company that still withheld the enemy from overtaking their position], and he remobilised the retreated troops that had not left his CP area yet.

After a moral boosting speech by their Major the retreated units reoccupied their deserted trenches and casemates. Just a few minutes later the planned offensive of the 254th unfolded. A massive artillery barrage fell on the defences and the men that were still on their way back to the deserted positions. Simultaneously the German infantry proceeded. Very intensive fighting followed. Dramatic scenes were seen in the field, where small groups of defenders fought as lions against a far superior force. Germans who advanced past the casemate line were blown sky high when they entered the minefield. Soldiers were covered with body-parts of these victims. Some isolated groups fought on until well in the morning of the 11th, others were able to escape. Many however were captured, got killed or wounded. The Germans suffered too. They lost about 50 men dead and wounded at this location alone. Yet also at this point the Germans had finally succeeded to break through the defences. At 0845 hours [May 11] the battle at Mill had ended ...

Source: waroverholland.nl

After the Dutch defenceline “Peel-Raam stelling” was taken the Division moved eastwards towards Breda and then southwards to Belgium.

In 1941 the 254. Infanterie Division participated in operation Barbarossa as part of Heeresgruppe Nord it advanced trough the Baltic states.

On 24 August 1941 he was KIA in Estonia.

He was awarded:

- EK 2
- Infanterie Sturmabzeichen 

The Wehrpass is in good used condition.

Complete with all pages, not denaz.

code: B23254