Panzer Brigade Kurland

The withdrawal of 4th Panzer Division from Courland substantially reduced the armoured assets of the army group. In an attempt to improve the flexibility of the remaining forces, a new formation, named Panzer Brigade Kurland, was created. Commanded first by Oberst von Usedom, then Major Graf von Rittberg, the brigade was initially termed Panzer Aufklärungs-Gruppe Kurland (`Armoured Reconnaissance Group Courland’) and consisted of the reconnaissance battalions of 12th and 14th Panzer Divisions. The group then received the personnel of Grenadier Sturmbataillon Kurland (`Grenadier Assault Battalion Courland’), another improvised formation, and a battalion of combat engineers. Two battalions of tank destroyers provided additional firepower. These were predominantly equipped with the excellent Jagdpanzer Pz. 38(t) or Hetzer, a low-slung assault gun armed with a powerful 75mm gun mounted on the chassis of the Pz. 38. This chassis had started life as the Czech Pz. 38 tank, and was used by the Wehrmacht in the early years of the war. Although it had an excellent reputation for reliability, its relatively thin armour and small turret – which prevented the fitting of a gun powerful enough to deal with modern enemy tanks – rendered it obsolete. In its new role as a tank destroyer, equipped with a similar gun to the Pz. IV and Sturmgeschütz III, it was a capable vehicle. In addition to several Hetzer tank destroyers, Panzer Brigade Kurland also had a company of ten captured T-34s. The creation of the brigade weakened 12th and 14th Panzer Divisions; their reconnaissance battalions had a powerful mixture of half-tracks and armoured cars, and were often used as independent battlegroups. However, the new brigade, effectively functioning as another battlegroup, was able to remedy some of the problems caused by the withdrawal of 4th Panzer Division.

Brigadekommandeure:

Oberst von Usedom

Major Graf von Rittberg

Panzer Aufklärung Abteilung 12

Panzer Aufklärung Abteilung 14

Elements of schwere Panzer Abteilung 510

Grenadier Sturmbataillon Kurland (organized from infantry odds and ends)

A Panzerjäger Abteilung with Hetzer (specific unit designation not given)

Another unspecified company with 10 captured T-34

A “reinforced combat engineer battalion”

A Flak Abteilung

An artillery Battery with 4 light and 3 heavy howitzers

From NARA Microfilm T78, roll 624. The Panzer/Stug/Arty & Pak(Sfl) lage dated 14th April 1945 has Pz.Brig Kurland (actual date of report 15th March 1945) with 1x Pz III Lg, 1x Pz IV L/48, 1x Pz IV Beob wg, 2x Marder II (7,5 cm) (& 2 in repair?), 2x Pak40 75cm 38t (& 7 in repair?). Have not located a column for captured Panzers on hand. This particular roll only has army group level stats for dates earlier then 15th March 1945.

 Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 510

15 January 1945: All 22 Tigers are operational. The battalion reports directly to Heeresgruppe Kurland (Army Group “Courland”).

22 January 1945: Rail movement in two transports to Frauenburg.

23 January 1945: Third transport to Ilmaja. The remaining tanks are assigned to Panzer-Brigade “Kurland” and then employed as a blocking force for the field-army group.

19 March 1945: The remaining tanks are handed over to Leutnant Wine, who remains in Kurland. The rest of the battalion receives a warning order that it is to be reconstituted in the Berlin area and equipped with Tiger II tanks.

The Panzerjäger unit may have been the 3./Armee-Pz.Jg.Abt. 753. In its status reports dated 1.3.1945 and 1.4.1945 the Armee-Pz.Jg.Abt. 753 reported “ohne 3. Kp.” which was detached to an unnamed unit. The 3. Kp. was equipped with ‘Marder’ type self-propelled guns while the 1. and 2. Kp. had towed anti-tank guns.

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