Wehrmacht reconnaissance battalion

In peacetime, the Wehrmacht infantry divisions did not have reconnaissance battalions, their formation began only during the mobilization of 1939. The reconnaissance battalions were formed on the basis of thirteen cavalry regiments, united as part of the cavalry corps. By the end of the war, all cavalry regiments were divided into battalions, which were attached to divisions for reconnaissance. In addition, spare reconnaissance units stationed on the territory of the garrisons of individual divisions were formed from the cavalry regiments. Thus, the cavalry regiments ceased to exist, although towards the end of the war a new formation of cavalry regiments began. The reconnaissance battalions played the role of the “eyes” of the division. Scouts determined the tactical situation and protected the main forces of the division from unnecessary “surprises”. Reconnaissance battalions were especially useful in a mobile war, when it was necessary to neutralize enemy reconnaissance and quickly detect the main enemy forces. In some situations, the reconnaissance battalion covered open flanks. During a fast offensive, scouts, along with sappers and tank destroyers, advanced in the forefront, forming a mobile group. The task of the mobile group was to quickly capture key objects: bridges, crossroads, dominant heights, etc. The reconnaissance units of the infantry divisions were formed on the basis of cavalry regiments, so they retained the cavalry unit names. The reconnaissance battalions played a big role in the first years of the war. However, the need to solve a large number of tasks required appropriate competence from the commanders. It was especially difficult to coordinate the actions of the battalion due to the fact that it was partially motorized and its units had different mobility. Infantry divisions, formed later, no longer had cavalry units in their battalions, but received a separate cavalry squadron. Instead of motorcycles and cars, the scouts received armored cars.
The reconnaissance battalion consisted of 19 officers, two officials, 90 non-commissioned officers and 512 soldiers – a total of 623 people. The reconnaissance battalion was armed with 25 light machine guns, 3 light grenade launchers, 2 heavy machine guns, 3 anti-tank guns and 3 armored vehicles. In addition, the battalion had 7 wagons, 29 cars, 20 trucks and 50 motorcycles (28 of them with sidecars). The staffing table called for 260 horses in the reconnaissance battalion, but in reality the battalion usually had more than 300 horses.
The structure of the battalion was as follows:
Battalion headquarters: commander, adjutant, deputy adjutant, intelligence chief, veterinarian, senior inspector (head of the repair detachment), senior treasurer and several staff members. The headquarters had horses and vehicles. The command vehicle was equipped with a 100-watt radio station.
Department of couriers (5 cyclists and 5 motorcyclists).
Communication platoon: 1 telephone department (motorized), radio communication department (motorized), 2 portable radio stations type ā€dā€ (on horseback), 1 telephone department (on horseback), 1 horse-drawn cart with signalmen’s property. Total number: 1 officer, 29 non-commissioned officers and soldiers, 25 horses.
Heavy weapons platoon: headquarters section (3 motorcycles with a sidecar), one section of heavy machine guns (two heavy machine guns and 8 motorcycles with a sidecar). The rear services and a bicycle platoon numbered 158 people.
Cavalry squadron: 3 cavalry platoons, each with a headquarters section and three cavalry sections (each with 2 riflemen and one calculation of a light machine gun). Each squad has 1 non-commissioned officer and 12 cavalrymen. The armament of each cavalryman consisted of a rifle. In the Polish and French campaigns, cavalrymen of the reconnaissance battalions carried sabers, but in late 1940 and early 1941 sabers fell into disuse. The 1st and 3rd squads had an additional pack horse, which carried a light machine gun and boxes of ammunition. Each platoon consisted of one officer, 42 soldiers and non-commissioned officers, and 46 horses. However, the combat strength of the platoon was less, as it was necessary to leave the grooms who kept the horses.
Convoy: one field kitchen, 3 HF1 horse-drawn carts, 4 HF2 horse-drawn carts (one of them housed a field forge), 35 horses, 1 motorcycle, 1 motorcycle with a sidecar, 28 non-commissioned officers and soldiers.
Squadron of cyclists: 3 bicycle platoons: commander, 3 couriers, 3 squads (12 people and a light machine gun), one light mortar (2 motorcycles with a sidecar). 1 truck with spare parts and mobile workshop. The bicycle units of the Wehrmacht were equipped with an army bicycle of the 1938 model. The bicycle was equipped with a trunk, and the soldier’s equipment was hung on the steering wheel. Boxes with machine gun cartridges were attached to the bicycle frame. Soldiers held rifles and machine guns behind their backs.
Heavy weapons squadron: 1 cavalry battery (2 75 mm infantry guns, 6 horses), 1 tank destroyer platoon (3 37 mm anti-tank guns, motorized), 1 armored car platoon (3 light 4-wheeled armored vehicles (Panzerspaehwagen), armed with machine guns, of which one armored car is radio-equipped (Funkwagen)).
Convoy: camp kitchen (motorized), 1 truck with ammunition, 1 truck with spare parts and a camp workshop, 1 fuel truck, 1 motorcycle with a sidecar for transporting weapons and equipment. Non-commissioned officer and assistant gunsmith, food convoy (1 truck), convoy with property (1 truck), one motorcycle without a sidecar for the hauptfeldwebel and treasurer.
The reconnaissance battalion usually operated 25-30 km ahead of the rest of the division’s forces or took up positions on the flank. During the summer offensive of 1941, the cavalry squadron of the reconnaissance battalion was divided into three platoons and acted to the left and right of the offensive line, controlling a front up to 10 km wide. Cyclists operated close to the main forces, and armored vehicles covered the side roads. The rest of the battalion, along with all the heavy weapons, were kept ready to repel a possible enemy attack. By 1942, the reconnaissance battalion was being used more and more to reinforce the infantry. But for this task, the battalion was too small and poorly equipped. Despite this, the battalion was used as a last reserve, which plugged holes in the division’s positions. After the Wehrmacht went on the defensive along the entire front in 1943, the reconnaissance battalions were practically not used for their intended purpose. All cavalry units were withdrawn from the battalions and merged into new cavalry regiments. From the remnants of the personnel, the so-called rifle battalions (such as light infantry) were formed, which were used to reinforce the bloodless infantry divisions.

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