The British Free Corps was formed in January of 1944 from a group of
British and Commonwealth volunteers under German control known as the
Legion of St. George. Technically this formation had been a part of the
Waffen-SS ever since its original creation, but it was formally accepted into the Waffen-SS upon being
named the British Free Corps.
Upon acceptance into the Waffen-SS, the BFC was given German uniforms and a number of unique and colorful insignia. The insignia included a Union Jack shield that was worn on the left arm, a Lion of St. George collar patch, and later towards the end of the war, a British Free Corps cuff title. Without a doubt such elaborate insignia was designed and issued to the BFC for propaganda purposes.
The first commander of the BFK was Hauptsturmführer Johannes Roggenfeld, formerly of the 5.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Wiking and a decorated veteran of the Eastern Front. It is reported that he had lived in the United States before WWII and spoke fluent English. Another English speaking German SS-Hauptsturmührer named Roepke apparently shared administrative duties with the BFC at this time also.
In September of 1944, the BFC was moved to Dresden to the Pioneer Barracks located in the city which was the home of an SS Combat Engineer Training School and Replacement Battalion. While there it began its first real combat drill and training.
In October of 1944 the BFC was slated to be assigned to the III.SS-Panzer-Korps (Germanic) upon completion of its training. In February of 1945 it was deemed finished and began preperation for combat assignments within the III.SS-Panzer-Korps. Soon after the BFC had finished training, an Allied firebomb attack on Dresden took place in which tens of thousands of Germans were killed. It was felt that the BFC presented a burden to the local population who knew of the units location at the Pioneer Barracks, so it was therefore transfered from Dresden and sent north to the Stettin area to meet up with the 11.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Nordland. At Stettin the unit was finally attached to the III.SS-Germanische Panzerkorps.
On March 22, 1945 the 11.SS-Pz.Gr.Div Nordland was given a respite from the Russian Front and Oder River and sent to regroup at Schwedt-Angermunde. It was there that the BFC joined the 11.SS-Pz.Aufklärungs-Abteilung under command of SS-Sturmbannführer Rudolf Saalbach. Half of the Britons were attached to the 1.Kompanie of the Aufklärungs-Abteilung in Schoenberg, Brandenburg, just north of Berlin, and the others were attached near Angermunde to the newly deployed 3.Kompanie - the Schwedenzug or Swedish Platoon, under command of Swedish SS-Hauptstrumführer Hans-Gosta Pehrsson. With the advent of the last battle on the Oder on April 16, 1945, Nordland was called into action to stem the Soviet offensive. At the last minute, before their OKW ordered deployment into the Berlin salient, Divisional commander SS-Gruppenführer Ziegler decided to leave the Britons in Angermunde camp while Nordland headed toward Berlin. It is not known for certain if members entered Berlin with Nordland or not, as some accounts claim yes, others claim no.
Like the Volkssturm Battalions and HJ units assigned by OKW to his weak Panzerkorps for last-ditch offensives in late April 1945 - Korps Commander Steiner also felt that the BFC was of very negligible combat value at best, and wanted nothing to do with their haphazard deployment and sure destruction in the Berlin Kessel. He left them to retreat westward to Templin, in Mecklenburg in late April 1945, where British forces were waiting on the other side of the Elbe.
Because of the BFC's brief association with the SS-Nordland division on the Oder front in late March 1945, it is commonly assumed that they went into Berlin and fought a last-gasp defensive battle against the Russians. The fact is that there is no conclusive proof that any Englishman fought the Russians in Berlin wearing a German SS uniform, and there seem to be no Russian accounts of the Battle that detail such accounts, so this fact can not be readily accepted or denied at this time.
See also, British Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII
|Organization||This unit was never larger in size than a platoon|
SS-Hauptsturmführer Johannes Roggenfeld: ?? - Summer 1943
SS-Hauptsturmführer Roepke: Summer 1943 - 9.05.44
SS-Obersturmführer Kühlich: 9.05.44 - 5.??.45
|War Service||Never operated in combat as a unit|