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tanks3

German tank units and the Freikorps

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tanks3

Hi,

I normally restrict my research to the tank corps during WW1. However, I have become interested in the German Freikorps and the unit that operated the british and A7V tanks in 1919. Was this a different unit to that which operated these machines during the hostilities and what insignia did each of these units wear? My knowledge of these units is minimal so any help gratefully received if only a pointer as to where I need to be looking. Are there any good internet sites?

Thanks in anticipation

Tanks3

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centurion

They didn't operate A7Vs but two 'new' tanks built on Uberlandwagon track units (which were essentially the same as A7V track units). These new tanks looked at first glance like A7Vs (but closer examination of photos shows some significant differences) and gave rise to the mistaken conclusion that A7Vs were used.

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centurion

These are the two 'ersatz A7Vs' I referred to

post-9885-002808200 1283345777.jpeg

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centurion

..and with regard to markings

post-9885-063503900 1283348628.jpg

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centurion

Looking through the photos I have I would say that the Friekorps armoured might was possibly 8 armoured cars (A Lancia, a Garfield and six improvised [one with a British Admiralty pattern turret]), 2 ersatz A7Vs, 2 Mk IV Beutepanzers, 1 Medium A beutepanzer and an armoured train. Most sport a skull and cross bones in one or more locations (and in differing styles). The 2 MkIVs have the typical camo pattern , Maltese crosses and unit roundels used by Beute panzer units at the front.

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centurion

This getting to be a monologue but I've found 2 more Friekorps improvised armoured cars.

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tanks3

Centurion,

I am most grateful for your replies. Forgive my ignorance but I am assuming the German equivalent to the British tank corps in 1917-1918 was not the Freikorps? Who manned (ie what unit) the German machines at that time?

Tanks3

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centurion

I am most grateful for your replies. Forgive my ignorance but I am assuming the German equivalent to the British tank corps in 1917-1918 was not the Freikorps? Who manned (ie what unit) the German machines at that time?

You are correct in the first assumption. However there are members of the forum who are far more expert than I on how German tank forces in 1918 were organised. If they don't leap in here I'll have a go myself.

However driving a Mk IV tank required training and experience (and a medium A was in some respects equally awkward) and the transmission on an Uberlandwagon was as difficult as that on an A7V so I think that the crews of the Freikorps tanks would have had some previous experience. However the Germans never had much of an armoured car force so this must have been very much a 'pick it up as you go along' situation. One Freikorps AC driver seems to have been an African Askari brought back by von Lettow-Vorbeck (who may have felt somewhat out of place).

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Tom W.

Hi,

I normally restrict my research to the tank corps during WW1. However, I have become interested in the German Freikorps and the unit that operated the british and A7V tanks in 1919. Was this a different unit to that which operated these machines during the hostilities and what insignia did each of these units wear? My knowledge of these units is minimal so any help gratefully received if only a pointer as to where I need to be looking. Are there any good internet sites?

Thanks in anticipation

Tanks3

The Freikorps tank component was operated by Kommando der Kampfwagen or "Kokampf."

http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=6862

Their symbol was the death's head, which they painted on all their tanks, armored cars, and armored trains and wore on their upper left sleeve.

post-7020-010274200 1283374661.jpg

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Tom W.

One of the Kokampf Erhardt armored cars.

post-7020-006289900 1283374807.jpg

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centurion

The Freikorps tank component was operated by Kommando der Kampfwagen or "Kokampf."

A slight simplification

The Freikorps armoured capability first originated as Tank-Abeteilung Körting in December 1918 and later became the Kommand der Kampfwagenabteilungen,or Kokampf. It eventually reverted to direct army control as Army Freiwilligen-Panzer-Kraftwagen-Abteilung. Its founder was Leutnant Georg Körting who had served with German tanks in the war and whose symbol at that time was the deaths head which had been painted on at least one army A7V in 1918.

The Kokampf was part of the Berlin Freikorps and was stationed at Berlin-Lankwitz. Its sphere of operations was primarily in or around Berlin. However some of its vehicles appear to have been either lent to or transfered to other Freikorps. For example a Captured Russian Fiat armoured car first used by the Kokampf in Berlin later came under the control of 3rd Marinebrigade (von Löwenfeld). It would seem that this was how armour was acquired by the Feikorps in Munich and Leipzig.

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tanks3

Gents,

Thanks very much for the very useful information.

Centurion,

As you will see no one has posted the make up of the German tank units in the later part of the war so please feel free to jump in any time!!

Tanks3

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Terry Carter

Reading this with interest. However, in the previous picture, the German helmets look very strange. Were they used for tank crews?

Terry

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centurion

Reading this with interest. However, in the previous picture, the German helmets look very strange. Were they used for tank crews?

No, some men appear to have been issued with the wrong size

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Robert Dunlop

Hundleby and Strasheim's book incorporates a chapter on captured tanks in Freikorps service. They note that Tank-Abteilung Körting was 'formed in Berlin in early January 1919'. Georg Körting was a captain who had served as 'the wartime deputy of the Commanding Officer of the Sturm-Panzerkraftwagen Abteilungen'. As centurion noted, the unit was renamed. 'Kokampf' was barracked in Kraftfahrer-Kaserne in Berlin-Lankwitz.

The unit had more armoured cars than tanks. Most of the armoured cars were captured Russian vehicles. There were five tanks:

No '54' was the Geländewagen chassis fitted with a body made from surplus body armour plates. It was later named Hedi and then subsequently renumbered '151'.

No '53' was a Whippet.

Nos '153' (Hanni) and '155' were female Mk IVs that had previously served in 12. Sturm-Panzerkraftwagen Abteilungen during the war.

There was a third female Mark IV 'which... was never observed in action.'

Nos 53 and 54 were involved when the Freikorps entered Berlin 'in force on January 15th, 1919'. The Whippet broke down. 'Apparently, the trouble could not be cured, and No '53' was never seen again'.

Hanni 'took the stage during the fighting in Berlin in early March 1919. She was employed several times during the intense fighting of that month in the Alexanderplatz area of the city. Heidi, Hanni and No '155' were seen together in Leipzig in May 1919, forming Kokampf's 'Heavy Platoon', commanded by Lieutenant Theunissen of Mephisto fame.'

The tanks were scrapped in July 1919, at the demand of the Interallied Control Commission.

Robert

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centurion

Hundleby and Strasheim's book contains errors

1. Heidi was not alone - there were two 'tanks' of this type (see photo in one of my earlier posts showing both of them). These appear to have used boiler plate rather than surplus armour plate as they contain many curves and it was not possible to bend the armour plate then available. I believe Hanni was the 2nd 'ersatz A7V and not a Mk IV

2. There were certainly two Mk IVs as there is a photo showing both. Whist a 3rd Mk IV has been mentioned there is absolutely no evidence to prove it existed and I suspect it was 'created' out of the confusion over the number of ersatz A7Vs

3. The majority of armoured cars were improvised, this can be shown by many photos. many seem to have been constructed in railway workshops which I suspect was also the source of Heidi and Hanni.

4. Photos of the Whippet show it running in a number of locations. There is one of it with the engine covers open but this seems to have been a temporary glitch.

5. There were units of Freikorps operating armour ascendantly of Kokampf, I have already quoted one earlier and the Freikorps in Latvia also operated improvised armoured cars and at least one Russian on as various photos show.

I would be sceptical of any of Hundleby and Strasheim's accounts.

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Tom W.

Reading this with interest. However, in the previous picture, the German helmets look very strange. Were they used for tank crews?

Terry

Those are M1918 German infantry helmets originally destined for Turkey but not delivered. About 5400 were made. They lacked the brim, possibly for religious purposes. The Freikorps ended up using them.

Here's a flamethrower squad of the Berliner Freischützenkorps, the volunteer military arm of the postwar Berlin police.

post-7020-072375000 1283484299.jpg

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Robert Dunlop

Thank you, Tom. My sources also show Hanni to have been a Mk IV.

centurion, the photo of two A7V variants shows two vehicles without armaments or markings. What is your evidence that both vehicles operated in Kokampf?

Likewise, your comments about the improvised armoured cars. You appear to be suggesting, on the basis of photographs alone, that the majority of the armoured cars were improvised in railway workshops in Germany. Hundleby and Strasheim referenced the unpublished diary, manuscripts and photographs of Theodor Larsen, who served in Kokampf and had previously been a tank commander in Sturmpanzer-Kraftwagen Abteilung 13. It should be noted that the Russians had a wide range of locally-made and imported armoured cars, including: Austin-Putilov-Kegresse; Austin-Putilov; Nekrasov; Putilov-Garford; Russo-Balt C; Fiat-Izhora; Poplavko; Nakashidze; and Mgebrov.

It is clear that Hanni was not an A7V variant and could not have been produced in a railway workshop. I have not seen evidence for the site/s were Hedi and partner were created. The main A7V repair facility was in Charleroi, Belgium. All of the A7V tanks were assembled in the Daimler factory in Berlin-Marienfelde, with armour plating supplied by Krupp and Röchling. Hedi and partner appear to have been built on A7V chasses with a high degree of standardisation, especially of the cupolas. I don't know if these components would have been readily available in the Daimler factory but it seems a likely scenario.

On a broader note, I am not posting Hundleby and Strasheim's work as 'the truth' on this matter. centurion, you are perfectly at liberty to be sceptical of their information. Their work is extremely well referenced. It is clear, however, that they have drawn some of their conclusions using inference. They appear to state where this is the case, as in the example of the Whippet. Although you have made some errors on key points of contention, this does not negate the potential validity of other comments. Rather than attempt to trash Hundleby and Strasheim, it would be great to work on consolidating material from various sources and expanding the knowledge on this subject area. Collaboration combined with careful and transparent interpretations will improve all of our understanding.

Robert

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Robert Dunlop
...the German helmets look very strange. Were they used for tank crews?
Terry, Tom has provided information about the origin of the helmets. The tank crews wore a variety of head gear. There is a photograph of the crew of Kokampf No '151' (Hedi) in the barracks. They are posing in front of the tank. Most are wearing the coveralls that were used by German tank crews, or an alternative form of overall. Six of the crew are wearing steel helmets, which appear to be the more conventional version. None are wearing the leather crash helmet that was sometimes used in 1918.

Robert

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centurion

Robert

There were NO A7V variants. All A7Vs built have been accounted for and none served with the Freikorps The tanks shown are not A7V but improvised bodies on Uberlandwagon chasis. Whilst they follow the general shape of the A7V closer examination shows.

A different shaped roof sloping up to the drivers position, no large drivers cab but instead one or two small cupolas (the two vehicles varied) Curved sections on the front (rather than the square corners the A7V had) to allow round machine gun turrets, No side machine gun hatches (the turrets on the corners could cover side and front). A small front section jutting out between the turrets with two small square ports where the A7V gun was. No 47mm gun. No one else but the Freikorps had such machines.

"Photos alone" show various improvised armoured cars under construction for the Freikorps in railway workshops

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Robert Dunlop

centurion, I am more cautious about such a dogmatic statement, FWIIW. There were some differences between the previous A7Vs and Hedi et al. The small front section between the two turrets has been described as the new position for the driver. One photo shows two additional MGs in these front centre apertures. In addition to the differences you mentioned, Hedi had four doors.

Thank you for pointing out the minor differences between Hedi and partner. The fact that there were minor variations would be consistent with the numerous differences between the A7Vs, including: differences in armour (single vs multiple plates); different gun mounts; variations in exhaust pipes; variations in flap shape; variable shape of cut mudguards; differences in hinges; use of two hooks or shackles; and modifications of machine gun apertures, to name but a few. These differences were not due to a different location of manufacture.

A7Vs were built on a standard chassis. You mention the 'Uberlandwagen'. Are you referring to what was also known as the Geländewagen, as seen here? If so, then this vehicle used the same chassis. It was, if you will, a variant of the A7V, bearing in mind that A7V did not refer to the German tank per se but to the name of the (7th) department with the Prussian War Office that was involved. A7V tanks were known by their serial numbers, part of the 500 series. For example, the famous Mephisto was 506; Hagen was 528. Vehicles 503, 504 and 508 to 523 were all Geländewagen carriers. Most chasses were used for carriers. Number 524 was very interesting though. It was A7V-U, which variant can be seen here. Despite the very different shape (much more different from the usual A7V tanks than Hedi), A7V-U used the same chassis. A7V-U proved impractical. It was scrapped in September 1918.

I respectfully disagree with your comment that 'all A7Vs built have been accounted for...'. There is a suggestion that Hedi was built on chassis 524, ie re-using the A7V-U chassis. Even if this were so, it does not explain what Hedi's fellow variant was based on. H&S note that the '...modified A7V minus gun but with four revolving machine gun mounts, once on each corner, [used] in Berlin... was not an original A7V, as various details show, but a Geländewagen of the Tank Training Detachment fitted with surplus armour plates, possibly from 524, A7V-U...'. Bodies were swapped on chasses. For example, when A7V tank 502 broke down beyond repair, the body was transferred onto the carrier 503. Tank 544's body was transferred onto carrier 504.

Robert

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centurion

centurion, I am more cautious about such a dogmatic statement, FWIIW. There were some differences between the previous A7Vs and Hedi et al. The small front section between the two turrets has been described as the new position for the driver. One photo shows two additional MGs in these front centre apertures. In addition to the differences you mentioned, Hedi had four doors.

Thank you for pointing out the minor differences between Hedi and partner. The fact that there were minor variations would be consistent with the numerous differences between the A7Vs, including: differences in armour (single vs multiple plates); different gun mounts; variations in exhaust pipes; variations in flap shape; variable shape of cut mudguards; differences in hinges; use of two hooks or shackles; and modifications of machine gun apertures, to name but a few. These differences were not due to a different location of manufacture.

A7Vs were built on a standard chassis. You mention the 'Uberlandwagen'. Are you referring to what was also known as the Geländewagen, as seen here? If so, then this vehicle used the same chassis. It was, if you will, a variant of the A7V, bearing in mind that A7V did not refer to the German tank per se but to the name of the (7th) department with the Prussian War Office that was involved. A7V tanks were known by their serial numbers, part of the 500 series. For example, the famous Mephisto was 506; Hagen was 528. Vehicles 503, 504 and 508 to 523 were all Geländewagen carriers. Most chasses were used for carriers. Number 524 was very interesting though. It was A7V-U, which variant can be seen here. Despite the very different shape (much more different from the usual A7V tanks than Hedi), A7V-U used the same chassis. A7V-U proved impractical. It was scrapped in September 1918.

I respectfully disagree with your comment that 'all A7Vs built have been accounted for...'. There is a suggestion that Hedi was built on chassis 524, ie re-using the A7V-U chassis. Even if this were so, it does not explain what Hedi's fellow variant was based on. H&S note that the '...modified A7V minus gun but with four revolving machine gun mounts, once on each corner, [used] in Berlin... was not an original A7V, as various details show, but a Geländewagen of the Tank Training Detachment fitted with surplus armour plates, possibly from 524, A7V-U...'. Bodies were swapped on chasses. For example, when A7V tank 502 broke down beyond repair, the body was transferred onto the carrier 503. Tank 544's body was transferred onto carrier 504.

I really don't know where to start with much of this - it's too preposterous.

The varients on the A7Vs are well known and well documented. They consist in the main of the numbers of plates of armour used (as casting got better), the gun mounts and in relatively minor things like the apertures in the ventilation grills in the roof. To produce an A7V looking like Hedi would require a complete new body to build in those corner turrets (which was any way impossible using the armour plate of the day as it as extremely difficult to bend it without cracking they must be in boiler plate). If surplus armour plates were used for the side could you explain how the gun ports were 'healed up'?. As for a front driving position - the steering of the A7V and the Uberlandwagens was done from a position above the engine and gear box (and required the use of long levers to operate brakes and transmission). This required the driver and mate to sit in a the cab in the middle of the roof in the case of the tank and in a seat over the engine in the case of the carrier. (a position that was continued on the A7VU). It would require subtantial revision (complete redesign) of the steering arrangement to put the driver in the front. The photo of Hedi and companion dates from 1919 and was found found comparitively recently in the personal effects left over by a deceased news-paper man - it is now in the collection of Mario Doherr. Dating is confirmed by Rainer Strasheim who has examined the original and identified a soldier wearing a collar badge of the Freikorps "Grenzschutz Ost" which was not formed until the end of Jan 1919. He also confirms that the first tank is indeed Hedi

I think this is possibly the latest list of A7Vs

501 Gretchen: scrapped by the Allies in 1919. (Female)

502 Scrapped by Germans in October 1918.

503 Scrapped by Germans in October 1918.

504 Schnuck: lost at Fremicourt 31 August 1918. (Female)

505 Baden I: scrapped by the Allies in 1919.

506 Mephisto: lost at Villers-Bretonneux 24 April 1918, recovered by Australians, now in Queensland Museum in Brisbane, Australia.

507 Cyklop: scrapped by the Allies in 1919.

525 Siegfried: scrapped by the Allies in 1919.

526 Scrapped by Germans in 1 June 1918.

527 Lotti: lost at Pompelle Fort 1 June 1918.

528 Hagen: lost at Fremicourt 31 August 1918.

529 Nixe 2: lost at Remis 31 May 1918, recovered by Americans and scrapped at Aberdeen Proving Grounds Museum in 1942.

540 Heiland: scrapped by the Allies in 1919.

541 Scrapped by the Allies in 1919.

542 Elfriede: lost at Villers-Bretonneux 24 April 1918

543 Hagen, Adalbert,König Wilhelm: scrapped by the Allies in 1919.

560 Alter Fritz: lost at Iwuy 11 October 1918.

561 Nixe: scrapped by Germans 24 April 1918.

562 Herkules: scrapped by Germans after 31 August 1918.

563 Wotan: scrapped by the Allies in 1919.

564 Scrapped by the Allies in 1919

The tanks in question can only have been boilerplate bodies on carrier chassis (which in fact did have minor differences from the Tank Chassis).

The guys over at the old Landships forum did a lot of work refining and updating Max Hundleby and Rainer Strasheim's original material and I'm trying to locate the original final list produced (which also included all the production variations). This was in part in answer to a persistent rumour that an A7V had survived to serve in the fighting in Poland. The overwhelming balance of probablity was that since all A7Vs left in German hands at the end of the war were identified , impounded and scrapped by the Allies quite early in 1919 (under the Armistice terms - didn't have to wait for the V Treaty) the rumour was just that. However it occurs to me that if the 2nd improvised tank had gone to the Freikorps fighting in Latvia and on the Polish border it could well have fallen into Polish hands and started the rumour.

Carrier chassis were also scrapped in 1919 - most going to a factory run by the ingenious Herr Volmer where they were used in the construction of agricultural tractors of which the starving Germany was desperately short (one carrier provided track units for two tractors). Oddly enough a few of these tractors later became the basis for the limited number of SP guns the post treaty German army were allowed

We should not imagine that all Freikorps armour was controlled by Kokampf.

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Andrew Upton

Reading this with interest. However, in the previous picture, the German helmets look very strange. Were they used for tank crews?

Some also appear to be the visorless style ones.

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