Britisches Frei-Korps / British Free Corps
|See also, British Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII|
The British Free Corps was formed in January of 1944 from a group ofBritish and Commonwealth volunteers under German control known as theLegion of St. George. Technically this formation had been a part of theWaffen-SS ever since its original creation, but it was formally accepted into the Waffen-SS upon beingnamed the British Free Corps.
Upon acceptance into the Waffen-SS, the BFCwas 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, aLion of St. George collar patch, and later towards the end of the war, aBritish Free Corps cuff title. Without a doubt such elaborate insignia wasdesigned 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 veteranof the Eastern Front. It is reported that he had lived in the United States before WWIIand spoke fluent English. Another English speaking GermanSS-Hauptsturmührer named Roepke apparently shared administrative dutieswith the BFC at this time also.
In September of 1944, the BFC was moved to Dresden to the Pioneer Barrackslocated in the city which was the home of an SS Combat Engineer TrainingSchool and Replacement Battalion. While there it began its first realcombat 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 finishedand began preperation for combat assignments within the III.SS-Panzer-Korps.Soon after the BFC had finished training, an Allied firebomb attack onDresden took place in which tens of thousands of Germans were killed. It wasfelt that the BFC presented a burden to the local population who knew of theunits location at the Pioneer Barracks, so it was therefore transferedfrom Dresden and sent north to the Stettin area to meet up with the11.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Nordland. At Stettin the unit was finallyattached to the III.SS-Germanische Panzerkorps.
On March 22, 1945 the 11.SS-Pz.Gr.Div Nordland was given a respite from theRussian Front and Oder River and sent to regroup at Schwedt-Angermunde.It was there that the BFC joined the 11.SS-Pz.Aufklärungs-Abteilungunder command of SS-Sturmbannführer Rudolf Saalbach. Half of theBritons were attached to the 1.Kompanie of the Aufklärungs-Abteilungin Schoenberg, Brandenburg, just north of Berlin, and the others were attachednear Angermunde to the newly deployed 3.Kompanie – the Schwedenzug orSwedish Platoon, under command of Swedish SS-Hauptstrumführer Hans-GostaPehrsson. 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 lastminute, before their OKW ordered deployment into the Berlin salient, Divisionalcommander SS-Gruppenführer Ziegler decided to leave the Britons inAngermunde camp while Nordland headed toward Berlin. It is not known forcertain if members entered Berlin with Nordland or not, as some accountsclaim yes, others claim no.
Like the Volkssturm Battalions and HJ units assigned by OKW to his weakPanzerkorps for last-ditch offensives in late April 1945 – Korps CommanderSteiner also felt that the BFC was of very negligible combatvalue at best, and wanted nothing to do with their haphazard deploymentand sure destruction in the Berlin Kessel. He left them to retreatwestward to Templin, in Mecklenburg in late April 1945, where British forceswere waiting on the other side of the Elbe.
Because of the BFC’s brief association with the SS-Nordland division on theOder front in late March 1945, it is commonly assumed that they went intoBerlin and fought a last-gasp defensive battle against the Russians. Thefact is that there is no conclusive proof that any Englishman fought theRussians in Berlin wearing a German SS uniform, and there seem to be noRussian accounts of the Battle that detail such accounts, so this factcan not be readily accepted or denied at this time.
|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
|Never operated in combat as a unit|