Published in „Siegrunen“ Magazine – Volume 7, Number 6, Whole Number 42, January – March 1987
The Assault Gun Detachment (armored, motorized artillery) of the 4th SS Police Div. was formed in the autumn of 1943 at the SS Training Grounds in Debica, Poland. The unit commander was Stubaf. Etthoefer and the CO of 1st Battery was Hstuf. Planitzer. Hstuf. Planitzer had served with the Police Div. since its inception in 1939, initially being with the 14th Anti-tank Co. of SS Police Rifle Rgt. 3. Most of his officers and NCOs as well hailed from the anti-tank and artillery elements of the Police Division.
In November 1943, 1st Battery/SS Assault Gun Det. 4 was temporarily assigned to the 5th SS Sturmbrigade „Wallonien,“ which although well-trained and equipped, was somewhat undermanned (2,000 troops) and lacking in firepower. „Wallonien“ had been subordinated to the 5th SS Pz. Div. „Wiking“ on the southern part of the Eastern Front. After a long train ride from Debica, 1st Battery joined the Belgian volunteer brigade in the Cherkassy area on 23 November 1943. The assault gun troops first saw action in the vicinity of Bol. Starosselje; in the wild lands to the east and southeast of the Irdyn Swamp. Here the enemy was well represented by fanatic partisan units and dispersed Red Army remnants. The Walloons were involved in fairly heavy skirmishing in this sector and the 1st Assault Gun Battery provided some heavy weapons support, losing one of its armored vehicles to an enemy mine in the process.
Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, 1st Battery was sent to the town of Olschana, about 35 km to the southwest. This town had been an important supply base for the „Wiking“ Div. but now half of it was in the hands of the enemy. On the 2nd of January, the Walloons, supported by the SS-Police assault guns, stormed the Russian occupied part of the town. Another assault gun was knocked out by anti-tank rifles but two T-34 tanks were damaged and captured. Ustuf. Jaeger, in charge of 1st Platoon was wounded.
The Soviet forces from Olschana were pushed back into a ravine where they took heavy losses. The 2nd Platoon of 1st Battery, led by Oscha. Gutmann, continued on in pursuit of the foe for a distance of about 3 km past Olschana. Here the platoon was suddenly confronted by about 300 mounted communist troops who were promptly sent reeling with high casualties. Then orders arrived stating that Olschana must be held under all circumstances. It then became the defensive sector for 1st Battery up until 8 February 1944.
During the large scale enemy offensive that began on 28 January, the so-called „Cherkassy Pocket“ was formed around the 50,000 or so German and European troops in the vicinity. The town of Olschana was cut off and left stranded about 7 km outside of the main pocket, which posed additional problems for its defenders, who consisted of 1st Assault Gun Battery and around 200 Walloon volunteers. They were forced to carry out a relief attack to try and rejoin the main pocket. Coming under fire from some 70 enemy anti-tank guns, the SS- Police assault guns led the main effort until they were ambushed by a group of Soviet 17.2 cm cal. assault guns at close quarters (only 10 m separated the combatants!).
Three of the German armored vehicles were knocked out but most of the crews and battery members were able to escape back to Olschana. Despite being outnumbered in terms of armored vehicles by 20 to 1, the men of 1st Battery were able to knock out a further eight enemy tanks in the days ahead.
On 8 February Olschana was finally evacuated and the defenders successfully fought their way back to the „big pocket.“ Less than a week later the members of 1st Battery (now without any assault guns) joined their comrades from the „Wallonien,“ „Wiking“ and assorted Heer divisions in a largely successful breakout from the Bolshevik envelopment.