Monday, October 24, 2022

Volkssturm - the last ditch Army

Germanys Most Precious Resource

“Why is the is the Volkssturm Germanys most precious resource, because its members have silver in their hair, gold in their mouths and lead in their bones”

In the last year of The Reich the creation of the volkssturm really was Hitlers last desperate hope to stop Germany being overrun by the allies. I have picked up quite a few battlefield and Simon’s soldiers plus a smattering of other bits from battlefield/blitz, SHQ and FAA ranges and other random plastic pieces to make up my Volkssturm Kampfgruppe. Next year I plan to complete enough for a good sized fall of Berlin type game.


In October 1944, all males aged 16 to 60 were required to join the Volkssturm, or Home Guard. The recruits were usually either very young or old enough to be veterans of the First World War. These units were often trained and commanded by high ranking Hitler Youth members. One such leader who was 17 at the time remarked about his troops, "I stood in front of a platoon of the Volkssturm. Of the 45 men, only 10 were Hitler Youth members; the others were in their 40's and 50's. Herr Wolff, whose son had fallen as a sergeant in the Waffen-SS, was 65. I eyed them with some apprehension: undisciplined, over-aged, unfit civilians wearing black-red armbands with the inscription Deutsche Wehrmacht. I felt very self-conscious as their leader. Some were the fathers of my schoolfriend."

The Hitler Youth members were the backbone of the Volkssturm since they had been receiving military training for ten years. The most effective weapon they used was the Panzerfaust, Their training was such that Reichsjugendfuhrer Axmann stated in a memorandum that, "from the Hitler Youth has emerged a movement of young tank busters. There is only victory or annihilation." Hitler Youth units would regularly ambush American infantry units. If they were cornered, they would fight to the last child. An American Lieutenant-Colonel said of an artillery unit whose oldest member was 12, "rather than surrender, the boys fought until killed." In April 1945, 5,000 Hitler Youths were detailed to defend the Havel River in Berlin. Their mission was to hold the bridgehead until Wenck's army could relieve them. Unfortunately, Wenck's army existed only in Hitler's mind. After 5 days of fighting there were only 500 boys who were physically capable of fighting. Children were being thrown into the cauldron all over Germany to fight in a war that was good as lost.
The Volkssturm were under NSDAP administration rather than under Army control, regional units were under Nazi party functionaries rather than the German military district. Each Gaulitier controlled a region, then each Kris (political division) then organised the battalion, each company was organised and commanded by a Orstgruppe NSDAP chapter, the Platoons were then formed around a local region and the groups (sections) to the street or village level, so each member knew each other.


1st Levy: 1,200,000 men in 1,850 battalions of which 4,00 were in frontier districts. All physically fit men between the ages of 20-60 without essential war work exemption, assigned to frontline battalions, quartered in military barracks and liable for service outside their home districts. This levy included all NSDAP, Political officials,
Allgemeine-SS, SA, NSFK and NSKK.

2nd Levy: 2,800,000 men in 4,860 battalions of which 1,050 were in frontier districts. All physically fit men between the ages of 20-60 with essential war work exemption. Quartered at home and liable for service in their home districts.

3rd Levy: 600,000 16-19 year olds, plus some 15 year old volunteers in approx 1,040 battalions: mainly 16 year old HJ trained in the HJ-Wehrertuchtigungslager (toughening up camps).

4th Levy: 1,400,000 20-60 year olds unfit for active service, plus volunteers over 60, in approx 2,430 battalions, for guard duty, including concentration and POW camps.

Each of Germany's 42 districts formed a Volkssturmabschnitt (Volkssturm District) under a NSDAP Gauleiter assisted by an SA general or senior NSDAP official. A district contained on average 21 Kreise (counties), each under a NSDAP Kreisleiter assisted by a Kreisstabsfuhrer, and required to raise about 12 battalions. Berger and Friedrichs achieved a good working relationship, but Bormann and Himmler frequently clashed for control of the Volkssturm, a situation exacerbated by a confused chain of command, leaving NSDAP officials and SA officers resentful of the SS' upper hand.


1st Levy Battalion
649-man  battalion had a 27-man staff; three companies numbered 1—3, each with three or four platoons, containing three or four ten-man sections; and a 4th infantry howitzer company. 

Other levy battalions had 576 men. Each company was supposed to have three five-man Panzernahbekampfungstrupps (Tank Close Combat Squads), each with ten Panzerfaust anti-tank weapons, often manned by HJ volunteers. Each battalion received a consecutive number within its district. For example. Bataillon 25/97 = 97th Battalion (HQ Konigsberg) in District 25 (East Prussia).    

During 1945, Volkssturm units helped form army Gneisenau formations within the Replacement Army. In January, 26 'Baden' battalions joined Upper Rhine Infantry Regiments 1—15, later grouped into the 805th and 905th Divisions and 1005th Brigade of the 19th Army — named the '19th Volkssturm Army'. The 303rd, 309th, 324th, 325th and 328th and 'Banvalde' Divisions contained Volkssturm battalions, as did the Volksgrenadierdivisionen established by Himmler. Other Volkssturm recipients included 16 grenadier regiments and SS-Grenadier Regiment 'Becker , later part of the Waffen-SS 30.Jatmar Division. Also in 1945, the army formed Fortress (Festungs) units from Volkssturm companies with army staffs, with the unforgiving job of manning defensive lines in the East.

The Volkssturm's final, epic defence was in the German capital itself. The final Soviet offensive began on 16 April 1945. The Oder Line was breached, and by the 25th Berlin defenders included 24,000 Volkssturm (18,000 of whom were 'Clausewitz Levy' troops of the 2nd Levy, on six hours' standby). The fighting was desperate. Those Volkssturm who could find the courage - bolstered by the threat of SS police squads hanging them for cowardice — would assault Soviet tanks at close range with Panzerfaust. utilising their knowledge of the city's layout. Nevertheless, many individual Volkssturm rose to the occasion, and defended their city with a passion. In the battle for Berlin, and that of Breslau (with 45,000 defenders including 25,000 Volkssturm in 38 battalions) Battalion 21/41 and two Hitler Youth 3rd Levy battalions distinguished themselves in the fighting.

On 8 February 1945, the Western Allies, in three army groups, began their advance into western Germany. On the 12th the local Volkssturm was mobilised and sent to man the Westwall, but they showed none of the desperate determination of their comrades in the East. Many ignored the call-up; others surrendered at the first opportunity, or threw away their armbands and hid in the woods or returned home. The Westwall was quickly breached and on 7 May the Western Allies met Soviet forces in central Germany.


All Volkssturm soldiers, regardless of rank, were compelled to provide for their individual uniforms and equipment. The consequence was a wide variety of Wehrmacht uniforms, worn especially by retired officers, of uniforms of all branches, etc., of the Party, and of civilian garments. Common insignia for all Volkssturm soldiers was an armband bearing the inscription "Deutscher Volkssturm-Wehrmacht," which was to be issued by the Reichsfuehrer-SS, to be worn when performing duty as a member of the Volkssturm.

The Volkssturm Medical service was regulated by order No. 393/44 of the Party Chancellory, dated 9 November 1944. All members of the medical service had to wear the army-style red cross armband on the left upper sleeves.

Equipment was restricted to "the most necessary items." As minimum equipment possession of a rucksack or backpack, blanket, field bag, mess kit, canteen, and cup ... 

The Volkssturm was to strive for unity in headdress; caps in the style of those worn by the army and political visorless garrison caps (Einsatzmuetze der NSDAP) similar to those worn by the SA-Wehrmannschaften and NSKK were most often used. A national emblem was worn on the front of the headdress. According to photographic evidence of Volkssturm personnel, the most common caps in use were the Army Mountain Troops caps that are commonly and loosely referred to as the "M-43" by collectors. Hitler Youth, Luftwaffe, Organization Todt, various Party organisations, and even civilian versions of the Mountain Troop's cap were used as well. A combination of Army and Luftwaffe cloth and metal cap insignia were utilised. Even NSDAP insignia consisting of the Party eagle and cockade were used from the Political Leader's visored dress caps and found on the "M-43" style and overseas caps. Volkssturm officers also used the "M-43" style caps as well as surplus Army officer's visored field (M-34 "crusher style") and dress caps. Pre-, Early-, and Late-war styles of the Army and Luftwaffe overseas cap were found to be extensively used as well. It is also important to note that not all "M-43" style caps and other headdress necessarily have had to have insignia, for many Volkssturm members were photographed without any insignia!

Helmets utilised by the Volkssturm came in all shapes and sizes. The most common were the Wehrmacht steel helmets from the M35 to M42 series, however, those from the Great War were used as well, such as the M1916 and M1918 steel helmets. Helmets from the civilian and civil organisations were used as well. These ranged from the Luftschutz "Gladiator Style" to fire and police helmets. Early on in the War the Luftschutz (Air Raid Warning Service) began utilising captured enemy helmets, the most common being the French "Adrian" style and the Soviet M1936 and M1940 helmets. By the latter part of 1944 these captured stocks of the Luftschutz were later transferred to the Volkssturm to compensate for the dwindling supply of Wehrmacht steel helmets Many helmets didn't bear any insignia except those previously used by another organisation, such as the Luftschutz, fire/police, and Wehrmacht. Some Volkssturm formations had their unit designations painted directly onto their helmets. The shortages of war deemed that an enormous variety of headdress was worn by the Volkssturm. It can be literally said that anything was possible regarding what sort of uniform was worn.


Rank insignia were introduced by order No. 318/44. Rank insignia of the Wehrmacht pattern were substituted by an entirely different system of rank identification modelled after the rank system utilised by the branches of the Party. The collar insignia, identical to those in use by the SS and NSKK, took the form of a black rhomboid measuring 5x6 cm in size, bearing one to four aluminium coloured pips according to the rank appointment, and sewn onto both corners of the collar of the tunic and greatcoat. For want of collar patches (or collar tabs), the pips were sometimes affixed directly onto the collar in the same pattern as prescribed for the collar patch. Collar patches have been observed piped with a twist aluminium cord or unpiped.

The rank insignia were as follows: Volkssturmmann = no pips; Gruppenfuehrer = one pip centered; Zugfuehrer, Waffenmeister (Ordnance master) and Zahlmeister (Paymaster) = two pips diagonally near the forward lower and rear upper corners; Kompaniefuehrer, Ordonnanceoffizier and Adjutant = 3 pips diagonally as above; Bataillonsfuehrer = four pips positioned in each corner. The collar insignia were worn in a mirror image.

Medical personnel ranks were established in accordance with order No. 393/44 dated 9 November 1944 as follows: Sanitaetsdienstgrad (Medical Sergeant) = 1 pip; Bataillonsarzt (Battalion Medical Officer) = 3 pips and a caduceus of white metal to the rear of the patches.


A large variety of armbands used to identify members of the Volkssturm have been identified in photographs. A black/white/red armband was the most common pattern, and probably the official one. Many different patterns were placed into actual service, probably due to supply shortages of the official pattern, and were often of local production. The usual manner of the left lower sleeve. Locally produced armbands varied in colour and measurements, and were in all cases the printed variety.

Other variations existed. A variety of materials were used such as rayon, silk, cotton, and even linen tablecloth! Even the "Deutsche Wehrmacht" in black on a yellow field (and variants) as prescribed for wear by civilian Wehrmacht employees was also worn.


Gorget "PANZERWARNDIENST" (Tank Warning Service) was a special gorget bearing the inscription "PANZERWARNDIENST" stenciled in luminous paint on a breast plate in the form of the standard Feldgendarmerie (Military Police), and with a political national emblem at the top has been attributed to Warning Organization" during the closing months of the war. The existence of western frontier of the Reich) and a specimen of the gorget found in Prague would tend to verify such an organization.


By order No. 358/44 of the Party Chancellory, dated 30 October 1944, all Volksturm battalions received colours. As the colours had to be supplied by the Party, they were of the basic Party form, i.e., black swastika on a white circular field on a red field. "With regard of local traditions" and by decision of the Kreisleiter, colours of the various branches and institutions of the Party were to be bestowed, not only the colours of the local branches.

All battalion colours had to bear the black patch on the lower inner corners, displaying the number of the respective region of the battalion, e.g. "14/115," of the district, with letters measuring 6 cm high, done in machine embroidery. The patches with the name of the local branch and respective number which were positioned at the upper inner corners of all Party colours were retained.


Training was not very extensive, but included drill and weapons training, however not a lot of field training for fire and movement was undertaken, however many of the members were ww1 veterans and many may of handed on their knowledge to the members.


Only the 1st and 2nd levy were issued German weapons in the majority, the 3rd was supplied with foreign equipment and 4th were expected to bring their own weapons, hunting rifles shotguns etc. Note that the 4th Levy were never sent into combat. In the few recorded instances were this happened the local Wehrmacht Kampfkommanduer disbanded the units before they could fight.

The standard rifles were the Gwehr 98 and Gwehr 71 with some issues of Steyr-Manlicker 1888 for the 1st and 2nd levy. For the 3rd levy the source was captured weapons French, Polish, British, Italian and Russian weapons. This of course caused logistics issues for ammunition and spares.

The Nazi party also tried to produce cheap weapons for the Volksturm, this produced a series of weapons known as the Gustloff VolkssturmGwehr. About 10000 VolkssturmGwehr were produced. Another production weapon was the MP008 about 10000 of these were also manufactured. Light and heavy machine guns were in short supply for the support company's along with ammunition, many units being issued foreign captured weapons. 

The panzerfaust was issued to all units and made up the majority of the anti armour component. Mortars were in short supply, but some units did receive mortars mostly static ww1 vintage weapons or foreign captured stocks.

Anordnung 277/44. "Ausfuehrungbestimmungen ueber die Bildung des deutschen Volkssturmes," 27 September 1944.

Anordnung 318/44. "2: Ausfuehrungbestimmungen," 12 October 1944.

DUZ. Nr. 12, December 1944.

"Erlass des Fuehrers." 25 September 1944.

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