Coast Guard in Brittany
|GEO & MIL INFO|
|20-30: Deployed to Lannion for coastal protection|
|15: Infanterie-Regiment 477 renamed Grenadier-Regiment 477|
Author detached as battalion aide de camp
CompLdr Max Müller
BatlLdr Glaser promoted to Major
1 Nov: Author appointed as (Second) Lieutenant of reserve
We are being transferred. While the battalion, ready to march, lines up in the street, I say a quick goodbye to my neighbour, a greengrocer. The daughter of the house is in the cellar. I meet her between baskets of fruit and mountains of vegetables. My time is short. Therefore, the farewell is relatively short, but surprisingly intense. As we part, she says: “Vous êtes formidable!” I run back to the street and mount my horse. I’m a bit tired and so I’m glad I don’t have to march.
We are deployed for coastal protection and take over a section of the Channel coast. We reach Lannion. The town, medium-sized, is about eight kilometres from the coast. The rifle companies with their subordinate platoons of the machine gun company march on to the coast, while the battalion staff with parts of the machine gun company remain in Lannion. I am detached to the battalion as aide de camp, performing staff duty and living with the officers in a hotel next to the station. This command is a pretty sure sign that I have been submitted for promotion.
My duty consists of inspecting almost all the battalion’s departments. My daily tour starts at the battalion office and then goes to the accommodations of the machine gun company, the drivers, to the blacksmith’s shop, to the vehicles and to other places. Since the individual departments are spread all over the town, I pass through the whole town on my rounds. I combine my official routes with private walks and get to know the town and some people.
Since our battalion here in the town also has certain defensive tasks in an emergency, the strengthening of defensive positions must be planned and prepared. For these tasks, I am responsible as well. So I look for favourable firing positions at all strategically important points in the city, at corner houses, near the bridges and elsewhere.
I always do my shopping in a grocery shop whose owners, an elderly couple with an adult daughter, come from Alsace. I talk to them often and they are grateful for my interest in their stories. They often slip me something edible of things that are already rare to obtain, because the food situation is not rosy here either.
Recently I went to a master tailor whose wife deals in chocolate under the table. I had somehow found out about it and went there. When I entered the shop, the daughter appeared. Talking about chocolate with this petite little Jeannine seemed too banal. We talked about other topics. I repeated my visits from then on until I was invited into the flat, to which a staircase led from the shop directly to the first floor. In the course of time I was given chocolate more often, and it was always thick ½-pound bars. There was no such thing in the free trade any more. In return, the woman received torch batteries from me, which were also no longer available anywhere.
One day, 17-year-old Jeannine showed me a photo of the family with a German soldier. I recognise in the soldier a fellow student from Berlin with whom I did a few semesters of training as a sports philologist and together completed the second year of teacher training at the Menzel School in Berlin-Tiergarten.
On my official rounds, I often meet a young woman who is taking her baby for a walk in a pram. One day I greet her and speak to her. From then on, we always talked for a while when we met. In the meantime, I saw where she lived. But one day when I approached her almost up to the front door, she got angry. She absolutely did not want that. I should have guessed.
Just as I’m about to leave the house, I meet a former company member from Russia. He now works at a catering station, which is housed here on the ground floor of the house. I go in with the soldier, talk to him for a while and then leave with a decent end of sausage.
Our Wehrmacht prison is housed in the local prison. Its staff is also under my control. During an inspection tour, I meet some French women working here in the corridor. Since I take every opportunity to speak French, I speak to them and hear that one of them worked at the AEG in my birthplace Berlin-Oberschöneweide. This, of course, provided material for further conversation in her flat. —
Our hotel landlady is very nice, but I rarely get to see her. Only with the chambermaid, who is in love with Max Müller’s boy, I occasionally exchanged a few words.
It is fresh, cool autumn weather. Since coals are scarce, there is no heating yet. My room is therefore not exactly cosy. I don’t mind, but the maid I had just received for an off-duty visit left right away. Huntsman’s mishap. —
The battalion leader, Captain Glaser, has been promoted to Major. He is mightily pleased and gives a banquet for the officers of the battalion staff. As an aide de camp, I belong to them, even though I’m only a sergeant. I sit next to the commander. Then he notices that I am left-handed. That gives him another reason to find fault with me. He orders me to take the knife in my right hand. Orders are orders, and I begin to heartily and fearlessly slice through the roast with my right hand. It slips out from under the knife and plops down on the commander’s brand-new major’s coat. The grease stain is permanent, because the gravy is made from real melted butter. The other officers bend over their plates. They don’t begrudge the major, because they all dislike him. On the other hand, they are glad it didn’t happen to them. I am embarrassed by the situation, of course, and apologise, although I don’t shed a tear for the blotted tunic either. The commander only says: “That can happen”, and then he remains silent. Maybe he’ll think twice about not giving such stupid orders in future. He’s always finding fault with me. Once he nagged me because my cap was too crooked.
The commander is not staying with us in the hotel, but in a private house. There, one of the rooms has been converted into a modest casino, where we are sitting together again now. The major is overjoyed about his promotion, “I always desired that. I wanted to make it to major,” he says. The officers take advantage of the major’s uplifted mood to coax a little secret out of him, namely Max’s promotion to first lieutenant. After some hesitation, the commander confesses that it is perfect. Then our battalion doctor, who is particularly good friends with Max, detaches one of his stars from his shoulder board and pins it on Max.
The major cannot deny his origins after all. He, too, although of peasant origin, has served as a twelve-rounder in the Reichswehr, and as an old active professional sergeant, he is well acquainted with the business of a sergeant major. Now he unsettles all the battalion’s orderly offices with constant checks. He has therefore earned himself the nickname “battalion spiess”. But his nicknames change frequently.
Now something most unpleasant has happened to the battalion commander. A chambermaid is employed in the commander’s flat who also helps the orderlies in the casino. One day, out of sheer curiosity, the orderly looks into the girl’s briefcase and finds in it the plan of our local telephone network, which is secret. The girl is arrested immediately, but the commander also gets into trouble, because in an incomprehensible recklessness he always keeps the plan open on his bedside table, so that he can have it at hand at night if necessary. The commander only gets off lightly because he is in the general’s “good books”. Nevertheless, the affair once again confirms two facts: 1.) The downright carelessness of the Germans with regard to subversive activity and, in general, their lack of vigilance and mistrust towards the enemy. 2) In France, too, the resistance is more active than it appears from the outside.
The companies deployed here for coastal protection have a wonderfully quiet life. Most of the positions and quarters are in the coastal towns, which are all seaside resorts. The men are housed in comfortable boarding houses, and the officers live downright comfortably in the best houses. Even the bunkers and positions outside the towns are situated in a romantic landscape on steep cliffs high above the sea or in the magnificent bays of this richly indented rocky coast.
That we don’t forget the war completely, however, is ensured by the French resistance fighters who raid one of our remote bases every now and then. British agents also jump off behind the coast. They are supposed to organise the resistance of the French population and carry out acts of sabotage in the event of an invasion. From time to time we find parachutes in the fields and meadows. Recently, one such agent was arrested. He had disguised himself as a farmhand at a farmer’s house. Fighters, soldiers of a nation, must wear an appropriate uniform according to international law if they want to be treated as soldiers. If they do not and agitate in civilian clothes, they must be treated as saboteurs. No one can blame a belligerent power if it fights saboteurs and civilian snipers with all its might.
We visited a naval base today where there is a huge radar and sound locator With these devices you can see the British planes already when they take off over there. So we are told. To the British, these devices are a thorn in the flesh. That is why a British raiding party has already raided a similar base, cut a piece out of the latticework of a listening device and taken it away. The British are downright raid specialists. They have already raided several of our bases.
One of our sergeants is in the middle of a nasty affair. He is part of a detachment that supervises French workers on a naval base who are installing huge concrete structures with armoured domes for heavy coastal artillery. Yesterday, for unknown reasons, a commotion broke out. A comrade shouted at the sergeant, “Watch out!” The sergeant turned around in a flash, thought he saw a worker standing behind him with a stone in his hand, pulled up his sub-machine gun and fired. The worker was killed on the spot. He is the father of four children. The German construction supervisor is outraged and wants to take the sergeant to court.
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Personen-Index Namen,Anschriften Personal I.R.477 1940–44 Übersichtskarte (Orte,Wege) Orts-Index Vormarsch-Weg Codenamen der Operationen im Sommer 1942 Mil.Rangordnung 257.Inf.Div. MG-Komp.eines Inf.Batl. Kgf.-Lagerorganisation Kriegstagebücher Allgemeines Zu einzelnen Zeitabschnitten Linkliste Rotkreuzkarte Originalmanuskript Briefe von Kompanie-Angehörigen
- probably as before temporarily replacing Degener
- date of patent
- from 20 to 30 Oct 1942 acc. to Benary p. 110 and KTB AOK 7 Frame 000166-000190
- You are great/wonderful/amazing!
- "Eat on the right!" he is supposed to have said verbatim, according to the author’s oral reports.
- of which there were very many, see radio-measuring-positions/facilities, with naval anti-aircraft units not in the immediate vicinity
- Operation Biting against the radar position at Bruneval at Cap d’Antifer on 27. /28 Feruar 1942 (Karl Ries: Luftwaffe Photo-Report 1919-1945, Motorbuch Verlag Stuttgart 1984, p. 198; Otto Karl Hoffmann: Ln - Die Geschichte der Luftnachrichtentruppe, Band II, Kurt Vowinckel Verlag, Neckargemünd 1973, p. 46ff; documentary video “The Bruneval Raid”)