Panzer-Abteilung 302 (fkl)

Borgward B IV z Panzer-Abteilung 302.

Panzerabteilung 302 (Fkl), was a radio-controlled tank battalion that had 24 StuG III assault guns used as control vehicles and about 50 Goliath and B IV remote control demolition vehicles. The Goliath would prove particularly useful in destroying Polish barricades, but there were not enough to go around.

One of three Panzerbefehlswagen IVs from the staff of Panzer-Abteilung 302 (Fkl).

At the turn of August-September 1944, a new remote-controlled assault vehicle unit, Panzer-Abteilung 302. (Fkl), was formed in France, equipped with explosive-bearing B IV Sprengstoffträger tracked vehicles. On August 1, the battalion disposed over 24 StuG 40s (Sturmgeschütz 40 Ausf. G), 10 transport carriers (Sd Kfz 251) in different versions, and 180 B IV Sprengstoffträgers.

In the beginning of August, the unit was reinforced with a further six StuG 40s, and two Panzerbefehlwagen IV command vehicles (Panzerbefehlwagen IV = an ordinary PzKpfw IV plus additional radio equipment). The battalion’s commander was Major Reinel and its companies were led by 1st Lieutenant Dettman (Company 1), Lieutenant Weichard (Company 2), and 1st Lieutenant Faßbeck (Company 3).

In August, likely between August 6 and 17, the battalion was transported by train to the Eastern Front in Poland. Companies 2 and 3 arrived first. On arrival, Panzer-Kompanie 311 (Fkl) was attached to the battalion as a reinforcement unit and designated as 4. Kompanie (Company 4), Panzer-Abteilung, 302. (Fkl), and 1st Lieutenant Bachman was assigned its command. In Warsaw, Sturmpanzer-Kompanie 218 z. b. V – which was already fighting in Poland’s capital and was equipped with 10 Sturmpanzer IV Sd Kfz 166 Brummbärs. – was operationally attached to the company.

Most of the information pertaining to the battles in which Panzer-Abteilung 302. (Fkl) participated is found in Marcus Jaugnitz’s comprehensive account, “Funklenk-panzers” (Winnipeg, 2001). The descriptions of the unit’s combat operations in Warsaw, however, are notably fleeting and include many details which are already well known. Also, the book lacks information concerning losses, even though it contains photographs of destroyed vehicles. Given this situation, the wealth of reproduced photographs is an especially valuable source of information about the fighting in Warsaw.

The unit was off-loaded at West Station (on or about Aug. 9-10 and the days following immediately thereafter) which at that time was the central location for disembarking units that were en route to the frontline area east of Warsaw. Necessary equipment repairs were carried out in the Kraftfahrpark on Ulica Gniewkowska and in the workshops on Ulica Jana Kazimerza. The two photographs of the command vehicle, Panzerbefehlswagen IV with 7.5 cm Kwk L/48 in the book “Funlenk-panzers” by Marcus Jaugnitz (Winnipeg 2001), are taken at Warsaw’s gas facility on Ulica Dworska (now Ulica Marcina Kasprzaka) and on Ulica Prądzyńskiego. Interestingly enough, the terrain’s topography in the year 2001 is essentially identical to its topography in 1944!

StuG 40s from Panzer-Abteilung 302. (Fkl) were first sent into battle on August 11, 1944 in the area around Ulica Chłodna and Ulica Krochmalna, where they reinforced Dirlewanger’s unit. Tracked B IV vehicles also attacked the Polish positions on Ulica Ciepła. A particularly tragic episode took place on August 13, when a B IV vehicle exploded on Ulica Podwale. At about 1300 hours, two StuG 40s from Company 3, Panzer-Abteilung 302. (Fkl), attacked the barricades that protected the Old Town from attack from the south. The Germans set about methodically pounding the resistance fighters’ positions, which were manned by Battalion “Gustaw.” Suddenly, a tracked B IV drove out from behind the StuG 40s and sped towards the barricade blocking-off Ulica Podwale. The resistance men threw “Molotov cocktails” on this Sprengstoffträger. B IV which caught fire. The driver opened the turret hatch and tried to flee but was shot down by resistance fighters. At that point, the StuG 40s withdrew towards Ulica Krakowskie Przedmieście. The B IV’s fire was extinguished on the orders of Lieutenant “Pająk” from Battalion “Gustaw”. The vehicle was declared to be unarmed. Captain “Gustaw” ordered that the B IV should be left where it was and that the men manning the barricades should withdraw to Ulica Podwale. During the night, the B IV should then be properly examined by engineer troops and, if possible, be towed behind the insurgents’ positions.

A reconnaissance band from Battalion “Gustaw’s” “Orlat” company, which had captured the vehicle, tore down part of the barricade. Riflemen, Henryk “Szczawiński” Paczkowski and Zugmunt “Czymbo” Salwa started the engine and drove the B IV along Ulica Podwale toward Ulica Długa through an enthusiastic crowd of civilians and resistance fighters. The vehicle stopped at the crossing of Ulica Podwale and Ulica Kilińskiego. When one of the resistance men went to the front of the vehicle and – in lifting the hatch to the explosives’ storage hold – unleashed a devastating explosion. It’s not clear if the B IV was equipped with a time-set dentonating device, or if the explosion was set off by remote control, or if someone had simply placed a mechanical trigger under the hatch. One hundred people were killed at the explosion site; both resistance fighters and civilians, and many other people were injured. A number of sources, as for example, A. Borkiwicz, Powstanie Warszawskie, (Warsawa 1958), estimate 500 killed and 350 injured. Today, it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions as to the actual intent of the Germans. Perhaps it was planned that the B IV’s driver would drive up to the barricade and then just leave the explosive charge there, as it would have been impossible to take the vehicle over the notably high barricade (estimated to be 2.5 to 3 metres high). Perhaps the B IV itself was left intentionally (with a detonating device activated by opening the hatch?), but in that case, what were the driver’s chances of fleeing from the vehicle without being shot on sight when the enemy was positioned only a few metres away?

On the evening of August 20, a B IV from Company 1, Panzer-Abteilung 302. (Fkl), started out from Ulica Świętojerska, and shielded by a StuG 40, came rolling towards insurgent positions on Ulica Nalewski which were defended by “Chrobry I”. This time the attack ended in unmitigated total defeat. The B IV was destroyed by a Polish anti-tank-gun, 5 cm pak 38, which had been captured on Ulica Stawki. A shot was fired-off from a distance of 20 meters, exploding and literally driving the B IV into the wall of Simon’s Passage on impact. In addition, a shower of hand grenades was rained down on the B IV. The driver somehow managed to flee. From the wreck that night, the resistance fighters managed to carry away five blocks of compressed explosive with a total mass weight of approximately 500 kgs to the Arsenał building. The projectile had apparently destroyed the B IV’s detonating devices and the explosive material could not be detonated. In this way, the resistance fighters learned about the true role of the B IV.

The battalion was later to concentrate its operations to the area surrounding Piłsudski Square and Theatre Square (op. cit. pp. 426-428 and 431-435). From there, StuG 40s and B-IVs carried out many assaults on the area around the Old Town, Ulica Krakowskie Przedmieście, Ulica Krówelska, Danzig Station (a StuG 40 fell into the Legion Fortress’s moat, photo op. cit. p. 437)), and the National Mint, as well as the area around Mostowski Palace, Ulica Tłomackie and Krasiński Square. The unit’s losses during the fighting were heavy. A report from September 1, 1944 (op. cit. 404) reveals that over this period the unit had only 6 StuG 40s and 65 B IVs in service (normally: 40 StuG 40s and 144 tracked B IVs). In other words, a loss of Stug 40s approaching 85%, and 54 % of all B IVs! The above information indicates that the de facto combat role of Panzer-Abteilung 302. (Fkl) was as an assault unit, providing direct, close support to the German infantry. Here, the question arises whether the crews of the StuG 40s had the requisite experience of combat in an urban setting. When the fighting for the Old Town was nearing its end, the battalion fought in the Centre district and participated in the intense fighting for Czerniaków (probably a company which was stationed on Aleja 3 Maja in Powiśle by the Poniatowski Bridge). A photograph of the destroyed house on Ulica Okrąg 2 (op. cit. p.433) confirms that the unit participated in the fighting for Powiśle and Czerniaków.

During the period September 10 – 13, a portion of the battalion participated in the fighting in Praga (photo: p 437 op. cit., a StuG 40 moving across a railway bridge by the Citadel). Thanks to photographic evidence, it is possible to confirm that this unit participated in at least two further battle sites. One photograph shows two destroyed StuG 40s from Company 3 on Ulica Krakowskie Przedmieście in the vicinity of the Holy Cross Church, another shows a Stug 40 on Ulica Puławaska abreast Ulica Odyńca. On p. 443 (op. cit.) the unit of a StuG 40 and a Brummbär on Ulica Puławska 51 can be identified. On September 24, Captain Nolte was appointed the battalion’s commander During the last days of the uprising, the battalion cooperated with Brummbärs from Sturmpanzer-Kompanie 218. z.b.V. in Mokotów (Ulica Puławska, Ulica Woronicza), along with conducting independent operations in, among other areas, the vicinity of Królikarnia.

After the uprising, the battalion remained in the Warsaw area for a short while and was thereafter, beginning on October 7, transported to East Prussia. During the fighting in Warsaw, the unit lost a dozen StuG 40s – among these, from Company 3 alone: two vehicles which were destroyed on Ulica Krakowskie Przedmieście; one on Ulica Rybaki, and lastly, two more in the area of the National Mint – one on Ulica Krochmalna and one on Ulica Chłodna close by Ulica Żelazna.

Markus Jaugitz – Die Deutsche Fernlenktruppe (2 vol)
Thomas L. Jentz – Funklenk Panzertruppen (in AFV NEWS, Sept-Dec. 1986, Volume 21, No.3)
Thomas L. Jentz – Panzertruppen (2 vol)
Janusz Ledwoch – Warsawa 1: Pansar i upproret september-oktober 1944
Kjell Svensson – Tyska radiostyrda pansarfordon (in Pansar #4/1997)
Georg Tessin – Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht 1933-1945