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
Result British victory
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)
3 Divisions
~10,000 troops
2 Divisions (Understrength)
~3,000 troops
Casualties and losses

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.



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 one of the major European rivers, which has its sources in Switzerland and flows in an mostly northerly direction through Germany and The Netherlands to the North Sea. The river 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.


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

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 United Kingdom military unit

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.

Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consorts Own) former infantry rifle regiment of the British Army

The Rifle Brigade was an infantry rifle regiment of the British Army formed in January 1800 as the "Experimental Corps of Riflemen" to provide sharpshooters, scouts, and skirmishers. They were soon renamed the "Rifle Corps". In January 1803, they became an established regular regiment and were titled the 95th Regiment of Foot (Rifles). In 1816, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, they were again renamed, this time as the "Rifle Brigade".

Cromwell tank 1944 cruiser tank

The Cromwell tank, officially Tank, Cruiser, Mk VIII, Cromwell (A27M), was one of the series of cruiser tanks fielded by Britain in the Second World War. Named after the English Civil War leader Oliver Cromwell, the Cromwell was the first tank put into service by the British to combine high speed from a powerful and reliable engine, and reasonable armour. The intended dual-purpose high velocity gun could not be fitted in the turret and the medium velocity dual purpose gun fitted proved inadequate. An improved version with a high velocity gun became the Comet tank.


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 World War II - war between Germany and USSR 1941-1945

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.

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  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)