during the large Wehrmacht maneuver in 1937
The large Wehrmacht maneuver in September 1937 was the first maneuver of the new German Wehrmacht, in which all branches practiced together in the same scenario. Three army corps with eight infantry divisions and the 3. Panzerdivision took part as the Heer contingent. In addition, the 1. Panzerbrigade with the Panzerregiments 1 and 2 was also involved as an independent brigade. The actual war games took place between September 18 and September 24, 1937, in the region around Lake Malchin and Lake Kummerow in Mecklenburg (Northern Germany). We have described it in detail in the book on pages 139 to 157. This maneuver was often remembered by contemporaries as the "Mussolini" maneuver. This designation referred to a large-scale, concluding demonstration of different battle scenes, which took place, among others, in front of Italy's dictator Benito Mussolini on September 26, 1937. We now want to take a closer look at the events of that day.
Even if units from the war games were deployed, this demonstration was not part of the actual autumn exercise. Rather, the aim was to demonstrate the clout of the new German Wehrmacht to a selected expert military audience. In addition to Hitler, the leadership of the Wehrmacht, Mussolini, Marshal Badoglio and military leaders from Hungary and Great Britain were also invited as observers.
Different battle scenarios were executed that day. The Blue party, consisting of units from the 3., 12. and 23. Infanterie divisions, supported by an armored formation consisting of parts of the 3. Panzerdivision and the 1. Panzerbrigade, was tasked with breaking through the defenses of the Red party, consisting of the units of the 30. Infanteriedivision.
An area in the Teterow – Laage – Lalendorf triangle, a few kilometers north-west of the actual maneuver area, had been chosen as the battlefield. As everywhere in Mecklenburg, the terrain is flat and offers few opportunities for a large-scale observation by spectators.
Demonstration area in the triangle Lalendorf – Teterow – Laage
Green: path of the delegation,
Red: Red Party frontline along Striesenow, Rettig Hill, Sonnenberg Hill, Belitz, Stierow
1. Lalendorf, 2. Belitz, 3. Stierow, 4. Schmocksberg Hill, 5. Teterow
September 26, 1937 was a Sunday. In the course of the morning Hitler and Mussolini arrived in Lalendorf via a special train and were greeted at the station by Reich Marshal Göring, Reich Minister of War von Blomberg, Generaloberst von Fritsch, Admiral Raeder, Luftwaffe General Milch, Generalleutnant Beck, Admiral Guse and Luftwaffe Generalleutnant Stumpff. Also present at the station were the Italian Chief of Staff, Marshal Badoglio, the undersecretary for the Army, General Pariani, the undersecretary for the Navy, Admiral Cavagnari, the undersecretary for the Air Force, General Valle, and the Italian military attachés.
The Italian Chief of Staff of the Army, Marshal Badoglio, arrives at the station at Lalendorf. In front of him an unidentified Wehrmacht General can be seen. Badoglio was opposed to Italy entering the war in 1940. After Mussolini's fall in 1943, he became Prime Minister of Italy.
After being received, the delegations boarded the vehicles and drove north to the maneuver area. They drove right through the deployment of the Blue party and inspected the artillery batteries of the 3. and 23. Infanterie divisions, which were just preparing for the intended attack with fire orders.
Above, picture 198 out of the Book:
Sunday, 26.09.1937: the final demonstration – Hitler and Mussolini as seen driving through the maneuver area. At the wheel is Hitler's driver, Otto Kempka and in the back is Hitler's adjutant, Oberst Friedrich Hoßbach.
First stop was the Belitz estate near the village of Prebberede. Here were the positions of the Red 30. Infanteriedivision, which defended against a Blue attack. With the support of heavy artillery, aircraft and panzers, Blue managed to give the attack a new impetus, right in front of the eyes of the spectators. As an additional highlight, WWI fighter ace, Generalmajor Ernst Udet, appeared in a small aircraft "Fieseler Storch" and carried out aerial maneuvers.
The convoy then drove on behind the Red lines via Stierow to Dalwitz, where they had a glimpse of the artillery positions of the Red party. At Dalwitz, the guests were presented with the image of a Red counterattack into the flank of the Blue forces.
Hitler and Mussolini during the demonstration on 26. September.
They then drove south again across the Red positions to the Schmocksberg Hill near Tolzin, which offered a good view of the battlefield. There, in addition to other VIP´s from state and party of the Third Reich, the English and Hungarian delegations, introduced by Reich Minister of War von Blomberg, were welcomed. The English delegation included the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Sir Deverell, General Ironside, Air Marshal Longmore and Brigadier General Walsh. Minister of the Army and General Rőder, Commander-in-Chief of the Army and General Sónyi and Chief of the General Staff and Lieutenant Field Marshal Rátz were present from Hungary.
The English delegation arrives on 26. September. On the far left is Sir Cyril Deverell, Chief of the Imperial General Staff. A short time later he resigned after a dispute with Minister of War Hore-Belisha and was not reactivated during the war.
The Hungarian delegation with Minister of Defense Vilmos Rőder (in the foreground to the right). Together with the other members of the Darányi government, he resigned in 1938. After that, he joined István Bethlen's circle, which opposed entering the Second World War.
Now, the "decisive battle" was presented to the high-ranking guests. In addition to heavy artillery fire, Blue now deployed their air force with all its power. Hundreds of aircraft descended on the Red defenders with bombs and machine gun fire.
The area of the decisive battle between the village of Drölitz, Rettig Hill and Sonnenberg Hill. Bottom left, outlined in green, the Schmocksberg Hill, where the spectators were, can be seen.
Then the 1. and 3. Panzer brigades attacked the high ground. While the 3. Panzerdivision and 1. Panzerbrigade were deployed on different sides during the maneuver, they now fought side by side. More than 800 panzers rolled in a confined space coming from the south towards the north. In the center of the battle were the "Rettig" and "Sonnenberg" hills east and north of Striesenow, which were held by the Red Infanterieregiment 26. Despite the strongest resistance, the panzer units succeeded in breaking through the Red defenses and paving the way for the following infantry, according to the script. This also revealed the Wehrmacht's understanding of the use of armored units at the time. In 1937 it was still assumed that masses of panzers would break into the enemy defenses, which the following infantry would then have to exploit. Two years before the start of the Second World War, there was still a long way from a concept of independent armored units operating deep in enemy territory.
Two shots from the final demonstration on 26. September. Panzers of an unidentified regiment near the village of Drölitz (according to the inscription) can be seen. Interestingly, there are very few photos of the final exercise known today.
At around 2.00 p.m., maneuver control staff concluded the demonstration. Passing Luftwaffe aircraft used aerial streamers to announce the "end of the war". However, Mussolini's state visit was not yet over. The Italian dictator remained in Berlin until September 29, where a military parade was held in his honor on the last day. However, Panzerregiment 1 was not involved in this event.
Truck of the 1st Company of Nachrichtenabteilung 4 near Teterow on 26. September. The unit served with the maneuver control staff. Standing to the left is Günter Knobloch, from whose album most of the photos of this special event come.