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KAMPFGRUPPE SPINDLER, ARNHEM 1944

Immdiately after the British had landed at 2:00 pm on September 17, the Germans started to organize Alarmgruppen (emergency Kampfgruppen). Lieutenant Colonel Ludwig Spindler, a seazoned officer, got the command over a moltly group that was made up of men of 16 different units: two companies of his own unit, a StuG regiment of 120 men, but without their StuGs, 100 men of the engineer battalion of the 9. SS Division Hohenstaufen that as Kampfgruppe Möller had already been in contact with the British paratroopers earlier that afternoon, and 87 men of an anti aircraft unit. They were supplemented with a 300-man battalion led by Krafft. This was an Ersatz Bataillon, a battalion that was in training and had no combat experience. As Kampfgruppe Krafft they distinguished themselves already against the British.

 

With this whole, Spindler managed to build up an effective line of defense during the crucial night between 17 and 18 September and to close the door to the bridge at Arnhem; the only Britons who had reached the bridge were 1,200 men led by Frost earlier on the 17th. In the days to follow the size of Kampfgruppe Spindler grew steadily, sometimes with untrained and unarmed units such as a group of the Reichsarbeidsdienst. Eventually, besides the Kampfgruppe of Spindler, two other Kampfgruppen were formed under his leadership, namely Kampfgruppe von Allworden, 120 men grouped around the vestiges of Panzerjäger Abteillung of 9. SS Division Hohenstaufen and Kampfgruppe Harder, three companies grouped around the vestiges of Panzer Regiment of 9. SS Division Hohenstaufen. This unit, unlike what its name suggests, did not have tanks and the tank crews fought together with the maintenance and logistics units as infantry. Under this Kampfgruppe resorted also a company of the Kriegsmarine, which could field a few StuG's and a few pieces of 75mm guns. This unit had been in action on the 17th of September north west of Arnhem and had effectively prevented the advance of British units there. Arnhem is a good example of the flexibility, speed and the strategic impact a Kampfgruppen, in this case a mere 600 men, can have. 

 

By the way, on closer inspection it is extremely surprising that a military force of 8,000 British soldiers, described in literature as an elite unit, were not able to break a defense line of several hundred men, some of them untrained and others with no combat experience at all. 

Kampfgruppe Krafft receives relatively little attention in the book, but it was the first German unit to frustrate the British advance by stopping the British 3rd Battalion as well as the Jeeps of the 1st Airlanding Reconnaissance Squadron. By doing this, they allowed Kampfgruppe Spindler to position itselve. This unit - an Ersatz Bataillon consisting of NCO-recruits - distinguished itself: from the 300 men, 15 men were awarded the Iron Cross first class and 75 men the Iron Cross second class. Sepp Krafft - their commander - was for unclear reasons no awarded.