Activities of 5 Kings Reconnaissance Platoon, 1 - 8 May 1945

In the closing months of the Second World War in Europe, T Force was assigned the task of securing enemy military, scientific and industrial sites of interest to Allied intelligence. The following history written by the T Force teams after the end of hostilities documents these attempts at capturing the Germany's technological secrets.

 

HISTORY OF 'T' FORCE ACTIVITIES IN 21 ARMY GROUP

 

Stuart tanks of 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, 11th Armoured Division, drive along an autobahn towards Lubeck, 2 May 1945
Stuart tanks of 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, 11th Armoured Division, drive along an autobahn
towards Lubeck, 2 May 1945 © IWM (BU 4972)

Appendix 'G'

REPORT ON THE ACTIVITIES OF 5 KINGS RECONNAISSANCE PLATOON
BETWEEN 1 and 8 MAY, 1945

 

On 30 April 1945, 5 KINGS Reconnaissance Platoon received orders to move to area LUBECK-TRAVERMUNDE to safeguard the interests of 'T' Force in that area. LUBECK had not yet been taken but it was expected to fall within 48 hours.

I made arrangements to move off at 1200 hrs 1 May, in order to reach LUNEBURG that evening and obtain the necessary authority to cross the ELBE. Owing to last minute hitches the start was slightly delayed and we eventually left BOMLITZ at 1330 hrs, arriving in LUNEBURG at approximately 1600 hrs. I decided to billet the platoon before contacting Movements in case the necessary authority to cross was unobtainable.

Authority to cross on the 2 May reached me by telephone at 1800hrs and accordingly, I ordered the platoon to prepare to move the following morning at 0900 hrs. Our time over the ELBE bridge was 1030 hrs but we finally crossed at 1200 hrs. This was due to traffic congestion in LUNEBURG.

I intended to contact 11 Armoured Division to be "put in the picture", at LAUENBURG but was told that they had started "Swanning" some hours before and had already reached MOLIN. I decided that if we were to reach LUBECK on the heels of the 11 Armoured Division we should have to make full use of the Priority sign on my car and completely ignore the convoys - this sign worked wonders and all convoy commanders were most co-operative in letting us through; in fact, the sign was used with great effect until I found later that the tanks had taken it a bit too seriously and had given us priority over themselves which slightly damped my ardour and I decided it was high time it came off!

We got to MOLIN at approximately 1530 hrs. I didn't think it advisable to move any further forward without contacting the 5 Divisional Headquarters. This was an impossibility as no roads had been signed, so I went forward along the main axis NORTH of HERONBURG where I found 5 RECCE with whom we had dealings at a later date. They informed me that the 11 Armoured Division were moving on the left through BERKHENTHUIN and that 5 Division were following then on the right but were only moving slowly and had only reached the NORTH of the MECHOWER SEE. The RECCE were not going any further until the infantry had closed this large gap. Our obvious route was along the 11 Armoured Division axis so I returned to MOLIN and after a meal we moved off. It was now getting quite dark and I ordered no lights as we had already been unsuccessfully shot-up by a Messerschmidt 109 at MOLIN, furthermore, I considered it unwise to move up with lights on where the infantry had not yet penetrated.

The time was about 1900 hrs when we left MOLIN. Moving without lights slowed us up considerably and we only reached the autobahn 6 miles from LUBECK at 0200 hrs the following morning.

During this move we never saw a single British or German soldier, in fact, we saw no one until we reached LUBECK at 0330 hrs where I found Headquarters 11 Armoured Division. This was extremely comforting and I decided to billet the men for three hours and then arranged to move to TRAVERMUNDE at 0700 hrs. The 11 Armoured Division expected to be at TRAVERMUNDE at 1000 hrs so it gave us plenty of time to refuel and prepare for the worst.

As I had chosen the left axis it meant entering TRAVERMUNDE from the town and not by the PRIWALL PENINSURA - this was a slight "black" as the most important targets were on the peninsula and I was beginning to wonder how I should cross the river. However, on arrival we found that an obliging German had stayed on duty, evidently to ferry us across!

The entry into TRAVERMUNDE was uneventful but the state of the town was chaotic, due to the thousands of refugees who had arrived there fleeing from the Russians.

The 11 Armoured Division had pushed out NORTH WEST and were advancing towards the coast leaving us on our own in TRAVERMUNDE. There was no point in our staying in the town so I commandeered the ferry and got the platoon safely across.

The position on PRIWALL was even worse. Here we were met by about 4,000 armed troops, waiting to give themselves up, who, although "War Weary" to say the least, were somewhat alarming. These troops had apparently come from the American zone, from the DASSOW area, thinking the Russians would reach DASSOW before the Americans. I instructed Sgt WILLIAMS to tell the senior officer, a Colonel LENSHAW, that he would be responsible for their discipline and for concentrating them well off the main road.

There was only one road EAST from PRIWALL and this was already jammed by civilians in carts, numbering about 6,000 trying to reach the ferry and cross.

I realised the first job was to close the road one mile EAST to prevent any more civilians or troops from swamping us out on the peninsula and thereby endangering the security of our targets. To do this I detailed one section of reconnaissance cars to move to the neck of the peninsula and close the road there. One section was detailed to patrol the road and round up civilians and soldiers. The remaining cars were dispersed as follows; one on the airfield to protect the planes, one at the ferry to prevent anyone attempting to cross, and one spare.

The barrier was completed in half an hour and a guard composed of Germans mounted on it. They were extremely keen and would have shot at the slightest provocation. Later, these were relieved by French prisoners of war about thirty strong. They also helped in guarding the targets by combing the area. The section which was patrolling the road managed to find twenty more French prisoners of war who after being offered free rations for two days were only too willing to come and guard the airfield and the ERPROBUNGSTELLE DER LUFTWAFFE (Experimental Station) until we were free to concentrate on the guarding of the targets. We were still however, short of men so I decided to go over the river and mobilize the German civilian police. This was easy as they were all concentrated at the police station. Within half an hour HAUPTMANN BAUMGARTEN appeared on PRIWALL with the finest array of "toughs" I have ever seen and were just what we required to control the unruly mass of humanity which was still on the road busy erecting bivouacs.

Before leaving the police station Sgt WILLIAMS gave them orders to concentrate all civilians in the barracks of the Luftwaffe and he told them that they would be responsible for their behaviour.

Before leaving TRAVERMUNDE and returning to PRIWALL I was relieved to see the 1 NORTHAMPTONS entering the town. I contacted the commanding officer and asked him to put two platoons under my command. He did better than this and gave me one rifle company. This enabled me to put guards on all targets in the area that day, although there was only one recce car as representative of 'T' Force with each platoon.

Targets in TRAVERMUNDE were, (1) The Experimental Base for Sea-planes and (2) The Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt Works. One platoon and reconnaissance car was immediately sent to each of these targets and platoon commanders were explained their task and given a brief resume of 'T' Force duties.

They were quick to learn and did the job extremely well.

I returned to the peninsula and on arrival was informed by Colonel LENSHAW that the BLOHM and VOSS repair station and assembly yards were still occupied by German troops but that he had received a message from the commanding officer, OBERST VON HEINE, that the latter was willing to surrender to the first British troops who entered his area. I took the three reconnaissance cars who were patrolling the roads as these were no longer required since the German police had already concentrated the civilians behind wire in true German fashion; and we proceeded EAST to the area indicated by Colonel LENSHAW. The assembly station was large and easy to locate and we entered in ceremonial style and were greeted by a number of German staff officers at the steps of the officers' mess. Luckily the commanding officer OBERST VON HEINE spoke English which simplified things considerably. We went up to the officers' mess where we found a clerk already sitting behind a typewriter eager to type out a formal surrender. VON HEINE surrendered to the 5 KINGS - thirty officers and engineers and two hundred soldiers, all buildings and equipment. He then drove me round the station and showed me the equipment and hangars and told me that there was sufficient material to assemble one hundred and fifty aircraft. I informed him that I was unable to supply guards for the station that night but he would guard the whole area and that he would be held personally responsible if any equipment was sabotaged. However, I left a token guard of one reconnaissance car and explained that they were to be given bedding and food of the highest order, for the night. I then left the station and returned to my headquarters which I had set up in the aerodrome.

4 May

The day was spent in re-organising the peninsula and making arrangements for the feeding of the German prisoners of war who numbered now about 4,000 and German civilians who were still on PRIWALL.

We received orders that no civilians would cross the river TRAVE until I received authority from 8 Corps. To make these arrangements I called a conference of all senior German officers, the Burgomaster, the Chief of Police and the telephone exchange supervisor. It was decided that the German police would be responsible for the feeding of the army from their reserve rations, and that the Burgomaster would be responsible for the feeding of the civilians. The latter were to be fed from food on PRIWALL and by killing cattle for that purpose. This could only be done through the Burgomaster after he had received a signed authority from myself, Sgt WILLIAMS, or the company commander of the NORTHAMPTONS. The telephone supervisor was ordered to lay lines between all targets with lines running to battalion headquarters of the NORTHAMPTONS. This was comparatively easy and was completed by dusk that evening.

Work in the aerodrome and on the other targets had to continue to keep going the electrical supply and routine duties on the peninsula so a limited supply of passes were issued by myself after applicants had been interrogated by Sgt WILLIAMS. That evening 1 NORTHAMPTONS had orders to leave TRAVERMUNDE and were told that they were to be replaced by 5 RECCE who would take over all targets and military government of PRIWALL and TRAVERMUNDE.

5 RECCE arrived in the area about 2000 hrs that evening and took over from us the targets and also the radiolocation station which up to now had only been guarded by one section of infantry.

5 May

Advance parties RAF Regiment arrived to take over the aerodrome, BLOHM and VOSS works.

6 May

Main bodies RAF Regiment and advance parties of Naval personnel arrived 1500 hrs. The Naval personnel were interested in sea-plane experimental base at TRAVERMUNDE, this became their commitment and we were relieved the following day.

7 May

The American Army made its first appearance and the officer commanding the unit contacted me and told me he was to take over the assembly station and repair works as these were now in their area. They started taking over in the morning and we were relieved of all our commitments by mid-night that night.

8 May

The war ended and we rejoined the battalion.

 

[Source: TNA FO 1031/49, transcribed by www.arcre.com]