View Full Version : Soldbuch set El Alamein - Stalingrad

Peter U
11-16-2014, 07:19 AM

Recently I added this set to my collection, initially I bought it because he got his EKI when he was a member of Kampfgruppe Chill, a famous unit that fought in my neighbourhood in 1944, but when I was able to check the set myself I noticed that the story of this officer went way beyond local interest.
The story of Harry Thurn reads like it was written by a Hollywood scriptwriter and I'll share it with you today.

Harry Thurn (°1920) from Frankenthal just left school when he joined the army in January 1940, he was trained as a gunner and just before the start of the invasion of the Low Countries and France he joined the second battery of Artillery Regiment 33, the divisional artillery of the 33 Infantry Division.
At the end of 1940 the 33ID was dissolved, the artillery regiment was transferred to the newly created 15 Panzer Division, in May '41 this division was shipped to Libya to fight the British in the dessert of North Africa but Harry Thurn stays behind in Germany, he follows a NCO training course followed by a course to become an artillery officer in Jüterborg.
In February '42 he gets his officers commission and is promoted to lieutenant and after enjoying two weeks of "Einsatzurlaub" he departs to North Africa to rejoin his old regiment, he is assigned to the staff of the II Abteilung, he arrives just in time for the new German spring offensive in the desert.
On June 21 1942 Tobruk falls and the DAK presses on towards the Nile delta in Egypt, in early July '42 the so called first battle of El Alamein starts.
It is in this first battle of El Alamein that Harry Thurn gets WIA, he is a victim of an allied air raid and is evacuated to a field hospital Greece.
For his actions in North Africa he is decorated with the "Sturmabzeichen" and an EKII.
In August '42 he gets two weeks leave to visit his family, in September '42 he is recovered enough to rejoin an active unit.
This time he doesn't rejoin his old unit in the deserts of North Africa, he is transferred to the 371ID of the 4th Panzer Armee in Stalingrad!
He joins the Feld Ersatz Battalion 371, the field replacement unit of the 371ID, as a battalion adjutant on October 9 1942, this unit has been fighting in the southern suburbs of Stalingrad since a few weeks now, a fierce battle on the banks of the Wolga.
But their situation will get worse, on November 19 '42 the Red Army launches operation Uranus, the encirclement of the German troops in Stalingrad, a manoeuvre that is completed on November 23 '42.
Somewhere at the end of November '42 Harry Thurn is WIA again, a shrapnel wound combined with a winter sunstroke; he is one of the lucky ones that gets evacuated out of the city and in early December he is admitted to a hospital in Mannheim.
He soon leaves the hospital again with wounded badge in silver on his chest; he joins an artillery replacement unit (Schw Art Ers Abt 69), he will stay an entire year with them but also spends several weeks in hospital to recover from an accident and gastritis.
In early 1944 he once again is fit enough to join an active unit and now the army sends him to the channel coast in France to the artillery regiment of the 85ID that is waiting for the allied landing in Pas de Calais.
In the weeks after D-Day the 85ID is kept in reserve but in the last days of July '44 they also will be thrown in to combat.
Already on August 17 ’44 the 85ID is knock out in the battle of Falaise and pulled back from the front; in this two week period three KC’s are awarded to members of the 85ID this is evidence on how fierce the fighting was, when the artillery regiment lost it cannon Harry Thurn and his men fought as regular infantry.
What is left over from the 85ID starts his retreat, in the first days of September ’44 the allies advance seems to be unstoppable, the German retreat is turned in to a rout, on September 3 the British liberate Brussels and the next day they are already advanced as far north as Antwerp. An enormous gap has been created in the German frontline, from Antwerp till Maastricht along the line followed by the Albert canal is undefended, there is no connection anymore between the 15th & 7th Army, there is only one division between the British 11th Armoured Division and the Rhine in Holland and that is the static 719ID. The collapse of the entire German army seems to be imminent.
On September 3 ’44 the CO of the 85ID, general Chill gets the order to move with what his left of his division back to Germany, besides this order he also is informed that the British are as far north as Brussels; general Chill that also has noticed the panic situation in the German army decides to act on his own! He ignores the order to retreat and instead starts organizing a defensive position along the Albert canal.
The officers of the 85ID set up road blocks on every bridge across the canal, all troops that cross the canal are stopped and organized in to ad hoc formed combat teams.
The operation is a complete success; the retreat to Germany is halted!
The soldiers that cross the bridges have only two options a firing squad or joining the combat teams that are formed, the next day these mixed combat formations already halt a frontline from Massenhoven till Kwaadmechelen a 40Km long frontline and they manage to halt the British recon troops.
He was most likely one of those officers halting German troops on those Albertcanal bridges and on September 20 1944 he receives the EKI.
On September 5 1944 real reinforcements arrive, Kampfgruppe Chill is created and the large gap in the frontline is closed; for the Germans this is nothing short of a miracle, the actions of general Chill have given the German Army HQ the necessary time to reorganize its defense line.
For the allies and the people living still under German occupation it is a disaster, the actions of general Chill have prolonged the war significantly.
Kampfgruppe Chill really becomes a formidable fighting force once it is reinforced by the paratroopers of FJR6, they will hold up the allied advance south of the big river complex in Holland until early November ’44, also they will play an important part making the allied operation Market-Garden a debacle.
In April '45 he gets tuberculoses, this illness keeps him in hospital until July '45.

In all the years that I have been collecting I have never seen such a story as that of Harry Thurn, he not only fought in the battle of El Alamein but also in Stalingrad and later in 1944 he survived the Falaise pocket and fought the allies in operation Market-Garden!
After the war he became a forester and I hope he finally found peace in the forests of his home town.

Peter U
11-16-2014, 07:21 AM
Lets start with his Soldbuch, it is of course full of interesting entries from which I was able to puzzle together his story.

Peter U
11-16-2014, 07:22 AM

Peter U
11-16-2014, 07:23 AM

Peter U
11-16-2014, 07:24 AM
His dogtag that was issued after he finished his officers training.

Peter U
11-16-2014, 07:26 AM
Lists with combat days.

Peter U
11-16-2014, 07:26 AM
His award documents.

Peter U
11-16-2014, 07:35 AM
A post war document, of the French occupation army.
Their are some odd things on this document, first his name offically his name is Helmet Thurn but he signs with Harry Thurn, also his birthdate is wrong and they place him with the 102ID, a unit he never served with.
We can also see that he was a NSDAP member in the period 1938-1940.

11-16-2014, 09:29 AM
Great History....great story... thank you for sharing.

11-16-2014, 11:15 AM
As always, a riveting story !! I really look forward to these postings.

Have you thought about collecting these into a book for publication?

11-16-2014, 07:59 PM
That is pretty much one of your most interesting SB groupings Peter, so far as combat goes. He's like the "Forest Gump" of the Wehrmacht, with all those experiences ;) I don't know that I've ever seen an SB of someone who did that many major campaigns across the Western and Eastern front. Incredible. Just the Stalingrad entry makes it impressive, but the DAK and Normandy/Western Front entries as well? Well done and thanks for sharing this with us :happy0180:

11-16-2014, 09:00 PM
I agree, pretty incredible. He hit most of the big ones! Had he fought in Berlin as well that would have been epic-overload

11-16-2014, 10:40 PM
Thank you for a wonderful post. I love the way you turn a few pages from a soldbuch into a historical narrative. He had a remarkable career, it would have made a great book.

11-16-2014, 11:34 PM
His wartime exploits do indeed read like a Hollywood script. I too, hope he found peace in the forests of his home. He damn well earned it.


11-17-2014, 01:25 PM
Wow! Incredible tale. Thanks for posting it!

11-17-2014, 02:55 PM
As always, a riveting story !! I really look forward to these postings.

Have you thought about collecting these into a book for publication?.

I know how much work goes into these presentations. I think the truly interesting stories are these personal ones.
Have you found any info. on his postwar life besides being a Forester ?

Peter U
11-17-2014, 03:12 PM

I know how much work goes into these presentations. I think the truly interesting stories are these personal ones.
Have you found any info. on his postwar life besides being a Forester ?

Thanks everyone!

- No, I don't have any extra information about his postwar life.


12-25-2014, 12:16 PM
Great story and super exciting grouping!