Battle of Hamburg (1945)

Last updated
Battle of Hamburg
Part of the Invasion of Germany during World War II
Hamburg Liberation 04.jpg
A British Sherman Firefly tank in the city centre after the battle.
Date18 April – 3 May 1945
Location
Result British victory
Belligerents
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Miles Dempsey
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Evelyn Barker
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Lewis Lyne
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Kurt Student
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Alwin Wolz   (POW)
Units involved
VIII Corps
XII Corps (elements)
1st Parachute Army (elements)
Strength
3 Divisions
~10,000 troops
2 Divisions (Understrength)
~3,000 troops
Casualties and losses
Heavy

The Battle of Hamburg was one of the last battles of World War II, where the remaining troops of the German 1st Parachute Army fought the British VIII Corps for the control of Hamburg, between 18 April and 3 May 1945. British troops were met with fierce resistance inside the city as Hamburg was the last significant remaining pocket of resistance in the north. Once the British had captured the city, they continued their advance north-east and sealed off the remnants of the 1st Parachute Army and Army Group Northwest in the Jutland peninsula.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

VIII Corps (United Kingdom)

VIII Corps was a British Army corps formation that existed during the First and Second World Wars. In the latter, it took part in the Normandy Campaign in 1944, where it was involved in Operation Epsom and Operation Goodwood. It would later play a supporting role in Operation Market Garden and finish the war by advancing from the Rhine to the Baltic Sea.

Hamburg City in Germany

Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany with a population of over 1.8 million.

Contents

Background

After the Western Allies crossed the River Rhine, the German armies in the west began to fall apart. Army Group B, under the command of Walter Model, was the last effective German defence in the west. However the Army Group, consisting of three armies, were encircled and captured by the 1st and 9th American Armies, thus ending effective German resistance in the west. After the defeat of Army Group B, the Germans were only able to organize resistance in a few cities and were not able to communicate with each other very well. The Allied armies started a general advance across Germany, with the Americans pushing the centre and the British holding their northern flank. The main British thrust came from the British Second Army, under the command of Lieutenant General Miles C. Dempsey. The army's objective was to advance across northern Germany and push on to Berlin. The British came across little resistance, compared with the Americans further south, and advanced at a steady and fast pace. The 1st Parachute Army and the newly formed Army Group Northwest were the last German forces in the north. As the British continued their advance, the German high command in Berlin, which was under siege by the Soviet Red Army, refused to send reinforcements. The Germans managed to resist the British in Bremen for a week; the surviving troops retreated to the Jutland peninsula. [1] The last remaining defence was the city of Hamburg and the Germans sought to make a final stand there. After capturing Soltau, the British 7th Armoured Division of the VIII Corps was poised to assault the city.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Rhine river in Western Europe

The Rhine is a European river that begins in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the southeastern Swiss Alps, forms part of the Swiss-Liechtenstein, Swiss-Austrian, Swiss-German and then the Franco-German border, then flows through the German Rhineland and the Netherlands and eventually empties into the North Sea.

Army Group B was the title of three German Army Groups that saw action during World War II.

Battle

Preliminary moves

The British advance towards Hamburg was spearheaded by the 7th Armoured Division, attacking Harburg and advancing to the River Elbe across from Hamburg, with the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division assaulting the town of Uelzen to the south of the city. Elements of the XII Corps attacked Hamburg itself from the northwest. On their way to Harburg, the 7th Division captured Welle and Tostedt on 18 April and advanced into Hollenstedt the next day. By this time, the Germans had built up defenses in Harburg as the British moved closer. On 20 April, the division captured Daerstorf, eight miles west of the city. The RHA Forward Observation Officers (FOOs), reached the Elbe and began to direct artillery fire upon troops and trains on the other side of the river. On the same day, the 131st Infantry Brigade took Vahrendorf just two miles south of Harburg. The Division halted the advance for five days just short of Hamburg; it set up a perimeter and prepared for its assault on the city. However, on 26 April, the 12th SS Regiment, supported by troops of the Hitler Youth, sailors and policemen, counter-attacked at Vahrendorf. They were supported by 88mm guns and 75mm howitzers and reached the town centre, but were pushed back once British tanks arrived. The battle continued until the next day, when the Germans retreated back to Harburg, leaving 60 dead and losing 70 men as prisoners. [2]

Harburg (quarter) Quarter of Hamburg in Germany

Harburg  is a quarter (Stadtteil) in the homonymous borough (Bezirk) of Hamburg, Germany. It used to be the capital of the district in Lower Saxony. In 2016, the population was 26,098.

15th (Scottish) Infantry Division

The 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army that served with distinction in both World War I and World War II. In World War I the 15th (Scottish) Division was formed from men volunteering for Kitchener's Army and served from 1915 to 1918 on the Western Front. The division was later disbanded, after the war, in 1919. In World War II it was reformed as the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division on 2 September 1939, the day before war was declared, as part of the Territorial Army (TA) and served in the United Kingdom and later North-West Europe from June 1944 to May 1945.

Uelzen Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Uelzen is a town in northeast Lower Saxony, Germany, and capital of the county of Uelzen. It is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region, a Hanseatic town and an independent municipality.

Entering the city

Cromwell tank of 7th Armoured Division, in position by the Neue Elbbrucke in Hamburg, 3 May 1945 The British Army in North-west Europe 1944-45 BU5077.jpg
Cromwell tank of 7th Armoured Division, in position by the Neue Elbbrücke in Hamburg, 3 May 1945

On 28 April the British began their assault on the city. The 5th Royal Tank Regiment, 9th Durham Light Infantry and 1st Rifle Brigade captured Jesteburg and Hittfeld, where the autobahn was. Nevertheless, the Germans blew up parts of the autobahn, slowing the British advance. Once the British entered Hamburg, they were met with fierce resistance and house to house combat as the Germans would not surrender. By this time the troops of the 1st Parachute Army were a mix of SS, paratroopers, Volkssturm , along with regular Wehrmacht soldiers, supported by sailors, police, firemen and Hitler Youth. As the advance through the city continued, German resistance grew fiercer; they were desperately fighting to re-cross the autobahn back into Hamburg. Later that day, the first British troops crossed the Elbe into Hamburg itself. 88 mm guns were spread around the city but became ineffective as the battle progressed. Many German units including a tank destroyer battalion, a Hungarian SS unit and many Panzerfaust anti-tank troops were still located in the woods south of Hamburg, as the British had bypassed the area and were now mopping it up. The 53rd Division, supported by the 1st Royal Tank Regiment assaulted the woods and captured all remaining German troops, a total of 2,000 men. As the battle continued, the German defences started to disintegrate. On 30 April, Hitler killed himself in Berlin and Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, who was commanding forces in the north, ordered General Alwin Wolz to discuss surrendering the city to the British. Wolz, along with a small German delegation, arrived at Division HQ on 2 May and formally surrendered Hamburg on the 3rd. The same day the 7th Division entered the devastated city. [2]

5th Royal Tank Regiment

5th Royal Tank Regiment was an armoured regiment of the British Army in existence for 52 years, from 1917 until 1969. It was part of the Royal Tank Regiment, itself part of the Royal Armoured Corps. It originally saw action as E Battalion, Tank Corps in 1917.

Durham Light Infantry Former infantry regiment of the British Army

The Durham Light Infantry (DLI) was a light infantry regiment of the British Army in existence from 1881 to 1968. It was formed in 1881 under the Childers Reforms by the amalgamation of the 68th (Durham) Regiment of Foot and the 106th Regiment of Foot along with the Militia and Volunteers of County Durham.

Jesteburg Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Jesteburg is a municipality in the district of Harburg, in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated approximately 25 km south of Hamburg, and 6 km east of Buchholz in der Nordheide.

Aftermath

Hamburg was the last remaining defence for the Germans in the north. After the battle, the surviving troops of the 1st Parachute Army along with Army Group Northwest retreated into the Jutland Peninsula. Most of them retreated to Kiel, where they met soldiers of Army Group Vistula, who were fleeing from the Soviets on the Eastern Front. The 7th Armoured Division advanced unopposed to Lübeck, where news of the German surrender came on 4 May.

Kiel Place in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Kiel is the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of 249,023 (2016).

Army Group Vistula was an Army Group of the Wehrmacht, formed on 24 January 1945. It was put together from elements of Army Group A, Army Group Centre, and a variety of new or ad hoc formations. It was formed to protect Berlin from the Soviet armies advancing from the Vistula River.

Eastern Front (World War II) theatre of conflict during World War II, encompassing Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe (Baltics), and Southeast Europe (Balkans)

The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.), Poland and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe (Baltics), and Southeast Europe (Balkans) from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front, or the German-Soviet War by outside parties.

Related Research Articles

Second Battle of El Alamein major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War

The Second Battle of El Alamein was a battle of the Second World War that took place near the Egyptian railway halt of El Alamein. The First Battle of El Alamein and the Battle of Alam el Halfa had prevented the Axis from advancing further into Egypt.

Operation Market Garden Allied military operation during WW2

Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful World War II military operation fought in the Netherlands from 17 to 25 September 1944, planned and predominantly led by the British Army. Its objective was a series of nine bridges that could have provided an Allied invasion route into Germany. Airborne and land forces succeeded in the liberation of the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen, but at the Battle of Arnhem were defeated in their attempt to secure the last bridge, over the Rhine.

1st Airborne Division (United Kingdom) Airborne infantry division of the British Army during WWII

The 1st Airborne Division was an airborne infantry division of the British Army during the Second World War. The division was formed in late 1941 during World War II, after the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, demanded an airborne force, and was initially under command of Major-General Frederick A. M. Browning. The division was one of two airborne divisions raised by the British Army during the war, with the other being the 6th Airborne Division, created in May 1943, using former units of the 1st Airborne Division.

21st Army Group WWII United Kingdom military group

The 21st Army Group was a World War II British headquarters formation, in command of two field armies and other supporting units, consisting primarily of the British Second Army and the First Canadian Army. Established in London during July 1943, under the command of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), it was assigned to Operation Overlord, the Western Allied invasion of Europe, and was an important Allied force in the European Theatre. The 21st Army Group operated in Northern France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany from June 1944 until the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, after which it was redesignated the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).

17th Airborne Division (United States) airborne unit in the United States Army during World War II

The 17th Airborne Division was an airborne infantry division of the United States Army during World War II, commanded by Major General William M. Miley.

6th Airborne Division (United Kingdom) military unit

The 6th Airborne Division was an airborne infantry division of the British Army during the Second World War. Despite its name, the 6th was actually the second of two airborne divisions raised by the British Army during the war, the other being the 1st Airborne Division. The 6th Airborne Division was formed in World War II, in mid-1943, and was commanded by Major-General Richard N. Gale. The division consisted of the 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades along with the 6th Airlanding Brigade and supporting units.

XXX Corps (United Kingdom) corps of the British Army during the Second World War

XXX Corps was a corps of the British Army during the Second World War. The Corps provided extensive service in the North African Campaign at the Second Battle of El Alamein in late 1942, and in the Tunisia Campaign and the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, after which it returned briefly to the United Kingdom; the Corps served in the reclamation of France from June 1944 in the Allied Invasion of Normandy, and then served in Operation Market Garden, in the Netherlands, and finally in Operation Veritable in Germany until May 1945.

Western Front (World War II) military theatre of World War II encompassing Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany

The Western Front was a military theatre of World War II encompassing Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany. World War II military engagements in Southern Europe and elsewhere are generally considered under separate headings. The Western Front was marked by two phases of large-scale combat operations. The first phase saw the capitulation of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France during May and June 1940 after their defeat in the Low Countries and the northern half of France, and continued into an air war between Germany and Britain that climaxed with the Battle of Britain. The second phase consisted of large-scale ground combat, which began in June 1944 with the Allied landings in Normandy and continued until the defeat of Germany in May 1945.

1st Parachute Division (Germany) German military parachute-landing division during World War II

The 1st Parachute Division was an elite German military parachute-landing division that fought during World War II. A division of paratroopers was termed a Fallschirmjäger Division. For reasons of secrecy, it was originally raised as the 7th Air Division, or Flieger-Division, before being renamed and reorganized as the 1st Parachute Division in 1943.

Falaise Pocket engagement of the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War

The Falaise Pocket or Battle of the Falaise Pocket was the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War. A pocket was formed around Falaise, Calvados, in which the German Army Group B, with the 7th Army and the Fifth Panzer Army were encircled by the Western Allies. The battle is also referred to as the Battle of the Falaise Gap, the Chambois Pocket, the Falaise-Chambois Pocket, the Argentan–Falaise Pocket or the Trun–Chambois Gap. The battle resulted in the destruction of most of Army Group B west of the Seine, which opened the way to Paris and the Franco-German border for the Allied armies on the Western Front.

6th Armoured Division (South Africa) South African Army combat formation

The 6th South African Armoured Division was the second armoured division of the South African Army and was formed during World War II. Established in early 1943, it was based on a nucleus of men from the former 1st South African Infantry Division who had returned to South Africa after the Second Battle of El Alamein in late 1942. The division was initially transferred to Egypt for training, after which it served in the Allied campaign in Italy during 1944 and 1945. In Italy, the division was initially deployed as part of the British Eighth Army, under command of Lieutenant-General Oliver Leese, and was then transferred to the U.S. Fifth Army, under Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, for the remainder of the Italian Campaign. The division operated as a strongly reinforced division and was frequently used to spearhead the advance of the Corps and Army to which it was attached. They returned home after the end of the war in Italy and were disbanded in 1946. The division was also briefly active after the war from 1 July 1948 to 1 November 1949.

Operation Tractable battle of World War II

Operation Tractable was the final attack conducted by Canadian and Polish troops, supported by a British tank brigade, during the Battle of Normandy during World War II. The operation was to capture the tactically important French town of Falaise and then the smaller towns of Trun and Chambois. This operation was undertaken by the First Canadian Army with the 1st Polish Armoured Division and a British armoured brigade against Army Group B of the Westheer in what became the largest encirclement on the Western Front during the Second World War. Despite a slow start and limited gains north of Falaise, novel tactics by the 1st Polish Armoured Division during the drive for Chambois enabled the Falaise Gap to be partially closed by 19 August 1944, trapping about 150,000 German soldiers in the Falaise Pocket.

6th Armoured Division (United Kingdom) combat formation of the British Army

The 6th Armoured Division was an armoured division of the British Army, created in September 1940 during the Second World War. The unit was initially supplied with Matilda and Valentine tanks, which were replaced by Crusader tanks and then finally with the M4 Sherman tank. The division participated in the Operation Torch assault landings in Algeria and Morocco in November 1942 and saw its first action as part of V Corps of the British First Army in the Tunisia Campaign. After Tunisia, it participated in the Italian Campaign as part of the British Eighth Army and ended the war in Austria, again under the command of V Corps.

5th Parachute Brigade (United Kingdom)

The 5th Parachute Brigade was an airborne forces formation of brigade strength, raised by the British Army during the Second World War. Created during 1943, the brigade was assigned to the 6th Airborne Division, serving alongside the 3rd Parachute Brigade and the 6th Airlanding Brigade.

Operation Perch British offensive of the Second World War

Operation Perch was a British offensive of the Second World War which took place from 7 to 14 June 1944, during the early stages of the Battle of Normandy. The operation was intended to encircle and seize the German occupied city of Caen, which was a D-Day objective for the British 3rd Infantry Division in the early phases of Operation Overlord. Operation Perch was to begin immediately after the British beach landings with an advance to the south-east of Caen by XXX Corps. Three days after the invasion the city was still in German hands and the operation was amended. The operation was expanded to include I Corps for a pincer attack on Caen.

II Canadian Corps

II Canadian Corps was a corps-level formation that, along with I (British) Corps and I Canadian Corps, comprised the First Canadian Army in Northwest Europe during World War II.

6th Airlanding Brigade (United Kingdom)

The 6th Airlanding Brigade was a airborne infantry brigade of the British Army during the Second World War. Created during May 1943, the brigade was composed of three glider infantry battalions and supporting units, and was assigned to the 6th Airborne Division, alongside the 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades.

German invasion of Denmark (1940) fighting that followed the German army crossing the Danish border on 9 April 1940

The German invasion of Denmark was the German attack on Denmark on 9 April, 1940, during the Second World War. The attack was a prelude to the main attack against Norway. The term Weserübung means Weser-excercise in English, named after the river Weser in northwestern Germany.

James Hill (British Army officer) British Army officer during World War II

Brigadier Stanley James Ledger Hill, was a British Army officer, who served as commander of the 3rd Parachute Brigade, part of the 6th Airborne Division, during the Second World War. Born in Bath, Somerset, Hill was educated at Marlborough College and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst before joining the British Army in 1931 and being commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers. He commanded a platoon for a short period, and was then attached to the command post of Field Marshal Lord Gort during the Battle of France in May 1940, where he oversaw the evacuation of Brussels as well as the beach at De Panne during the evacuation of Dunkirk. After a brief period of time in the Irish Free State, he volunteered for parachute training and joined the 1st Parachute Battalion, and was its commanding officer when its parent formation, the 1st Parachute Brigade, was deployed to North Africa.

13th (Lancashire) Parachute Battalion

The 13th (Lancashire) Parachute Battalion was an airborne infantry battalion of the Parachute Regiment, raised by the British Army during the Second World War. The battalion was formed in May 1943 by the conversion of the 2/4th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment to parachute duties and was assigned to the 5th Parachute Brigade in the 6th Airborne Division.

References

  1. Paterson, Ian A. (30 July 2012), Engagements - 1945: Teutoberger , retrieved January 2013Check date values in: |accessdate= (help). [ better source needed ]
  2. 1 2 Paterson, Ian A. (30 July 2012), Engagements - 1945: Hamburg The Final Push to Hamburg , retrieved January 2013Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)