Cossack Volunteers

    Don Cossack Shield

    Don Cossack Official Shield

    The first early Don Cossack shields consisted of three horizontal stripes yellow, blue and red. On top was the inscription "DON" in blue on a black background. These shields were early BeVo style produced by the Germans. The second type weave pattern Don Cossack shield was more simplified as shown. According to Littlejohn the name "Don" was replaced in July 1944 by the Cyrillic inscription "V D-Voysko Donskoye", which resembles "B A" in latin script. These shields were issued to Don Cossacks of the 1st and 5th Don Cossack Regiment as part of the Cossack Calvary Division under the command of Major-General Helmuth von Pannwitz. The Calvary Division was composed of different ethnic Cossack groups.

    The Cossack Volunteers

    By summer of 1942, the German Army Group South had just completed the conquest of the southern Caucasus and Volga regions inhabited by the various Cossack tribes. By the end of 1942, the Germans managed to occupy almost the entire homeland of Don Cossacks as well as Kuban Cossacks.

    The Cossacks greeted the Germans as liberators and soon local Cossack volunteers offered their services to the Germans. A German Intelligence Officer Lieutenant-Colonel von Freitag-Loringhoven of Army Group South initiated the recruitment of Cossack formations serving under the Germans.

    In the summer of 1942, one of the first Cossack units was formed when a German Captain named Kandutsch who was an Intelligence Officer of the 40th Panzer Corps suggested that Cossack volunteers might be useful in guarding Russian POWs. This early Cossack formation served under the 40th Panzer Corps as Cossack Calvary Squadron 1/82. After a few weeks of POW guard duties, the Cossack Calvary Squadron underwent a month-long training and subsequently it rejoined the 40th Panzer Corps on the frontlines. They fought bravely under German command and not a single Cossack desertion was reported.

    Cossack Collection
    Illustrated above is a dragon action figure representing a Kuban Cossack wearing a German style cavalry uniform with proper Cossack insignia and the standard style "Kubanka" fur field cap with German headgear insignia.
    Below is an original "Kuban" style Cossack officers "Kubanka"made of black "astrakhan" or Persian lambskin. The underside of the lambskin is made of field/gray wool and the top is made of red wool, which was commonly used by "Don" and "Kuban" Cossacks. The silver/aluminum tress cross is machine stitched to the top. The front of the cap has German style headgear insignia a wreath with a cockade in the center and national eagle. The lining is made of quilted black rayon blend material. On the side of the cap is a "Kuban" printed shield.

    By 1944, this Cossack unit accompanied the 40th Panzer Corps withdrawal all the way to the Romanian border, where the whole squadron was ordered to go to France. While in Normandy, the entire squadron was almost decimated in the vicinity of Saint-Lo, during a very intensive Allied air raid.

    On 22 August 1941, an entire Russian regiment under the Command of a Don Cossack Major named Kononov deserted its ranks and went over the German side, this after convincing his regiment of the necessity of overthrowing Stalinism. Kononov was permitted by the Germans to set up a squadron of Cossack troopers. With approval from his new superior General Schenckendorff, eigth days following his defection, Kononov visited a POW camp in Mogilev, eatern Belarus. The visit yielded over 4000 volunteers, however, only 500 of them were actually drafted and 80% of them were Don Cossacks. Eventually, Cossack formations of the Soviet Army were coming over to the Germans. Thousands of Cossacks in POW camps volunteered their services to the German Army.

    Don, Terek and Kuban
               Cossack Printed Shields
    Don, Terek and Kuban Cossack printed shields

    Cossack printed shields

    These late issue printed shields were distributed among the various Cossack ethnic groups under the German Army. The Don shield was assigned to volunteers in the 1st and 5th Don Cossack Calvary Regiments. The Kuban shield was issued to volunteers in the 3rd and 4th Kuban Cossack Calvary Regiments. The Terek shield was issued to volunteers in the 6th Terek Cossack Calvary Regiments.

    The Germans were surprised in this turnaround of manpower that in late 1942, an Inspector of Eastern Troops was established. The Inspector of Eastern Troops was entrusted to a German General named Hellmich, he was succeeded in early 1944 by a Russian-born, General Ernst Koestring, who was the German military attachée in Moscow.

    Cossack Collection

    Illustrated above is an original German issued "Kubanka"made of black "astrakhan" or Persian lambskin. The underside of the lambskin is made of field/gray wool and the top is made of dark blue wool, which was commonly used by "Terek" and "Don" Cossacks. The silver/aluminum tress cross is machine stitched to the top. The front of the cap has German style headgear insignia a wreath with a cockade in the center and national eagle. The lining is made of quilted gray rayon blend material. In the middle of the lining is the size 58 and has the manufacturer "F. K. Kolwitz, Prag". On the side of the cap is a silver 1st class bravery badge with case, German bayonet and a "Don" BeVo shield.

    1st Cossack Calvary Division

    By 19 September 1941, a Cossack Regiment that contained 77 Officers and 1799 men was formed and designated as the 120th Don Cossack Regiment. By late January 1943, the regiment was renamed as the 600th Don Cossack Battalion. The new formation was employed in the establishment of a new special Cossack armored unit that became known as the 17th Cossack Armored Battalion, which was integrated into the German 3rd Army. In April 1942, Hitler personally gave his official consent for the establishment of Cossack units within the German Army and subsequently a number of such units were soon in existence.

    In April/May 1943 of the first Cossack Cavalry Division was formed at Kherson in the Ukraine. It comprised of Don, Terek and Kuban Cossacks. More then half of the new division consisted of men recruited directly from POW camps or among the laborers in Germany.

    The Cossack Calvary Division had the patronization of the Cossack National Movement of Liberation. This National Movement was formed for the sole purpose of rebuilding an independent Cossack state. A German officer, Maj. Gen. Helmuth von Panwitz was posted to command the "1. Kosaken Kavallerie Division" (1st Cossack Calvary Division), which was composed of two brigades of three regiments each.

    Cossack Award Doc
    Above is a rare award document given to a Cossack volunteer and sign by Maj. Gen. Helmuth von Pannwitz


    After forming the division was transferred to the region of Fruska Gora in the west of Belgrad, Serbia. The division was tasked to protect the railway lines connecting Belgrad-Zagreb/Agram. Then it was sent to the front lines in the region of Mohac-Esseg, near the River Drau.

    Cossack Photo

    The picture above shows the bridgehead Virovitica taken by members of the "1. Kos. Div." (1st Cossack Division) and positioning themselves in good cover after the initial resistance was broken.
    Notice the Cossacks carrying a grenade launcher mounted on a "K-98" rifle and "AG-34" Russian machinegun.

    A 2nd Cossack Cavalry Division was formed in December 1944. This division defended the region of Tuzla, Gradec, Vinkovci and Osijek in Yugoslavia. Led by Major Mach, it made is first and only calvary charge with drawn sabres against Russian and Bulgarian troops near the Drau.

    In November, the SS announced its intentions of taking over both Cossack Divisions to create the XV Cossack Corps. A third division was projected but never activated. By February 1945 the 1st and 2nd Cossack Cavalry Divisions were transferred from the army and into the Waffen-SS to form the "SS Kosaken Kavallerie Korp." However this Corps was still under the German Army's jurisdiction. By April 1945, the 1st Cossack Division retreated to Carnthia where it surrendered to the British troops. In May 1945, the 2nd Cossack Division surrendered to the Russians and Partisans in the area around Sankt Veit.

    Siberian Cossack
               Shields
    The Siberian Cossack Shields

    The Siberian Cossack Shields

    On your left is an early first pattern Sibir Cossack shield. It is a straight edge black wool base shield showing red upper and lower sections and white left and right sections. On top is the inscription "ACB" embroidered in white. According to a very reliable source the cyrillic ACB stand for the following: A. means "Astrakhan" (town), C. means "Svodnoe" (united), and B. means "Voisko" (army). The town of Astrahkan is near the Caucasus, Caspean sea (about 200 kilometers north from Chechnya). The Astrahkan or Siberian Cossack group numbered about 1200 and did forward recce work and were rated very highly by the Germans. I have seen pictures showing this shield being worn. This late pattern printed shield with the yellow and light blue sections was issued to volunteers of the 2nd Siberian Cossack Calvary Regiment. The inscription, which resembles NCB represents the "ACB" cyrillic letters. According to Angolia the Siberian Cossack units were formed in late 1943 with the insignia being introduced in early 1944.


    Cossack Shields
    Gruppo Savoia and Cossack shields


    Cossack 625th Btl and Gruppo Savoia shields

    The shield on your left was issued to volunteers in the 625th Cossack Battalion of the 1st Cossack Division. Many of these units saw action defending the Atlantic Wall in 1944.
    The red/blue/white chevron was worn by "Gruppo Savoia" Cossack volunteers under the Italian Army. In September 1942, a battalion of Cossacks was formed with the Italian 8th Army. It was called "Gruppo Autonomo Cossacchi Savoia." The Cossack Cavalry unit commonly referred as "Gruppo Savoia" returned with the Italian 8th Army back to Italy. In Italy the Cossack Battalion was refitted to form two Calvary Squadrons under the command of the Italian Calvary Regiment "Lanzieri Novara." The Cossacks were not content to be under an Italian Command. The Cossacks units were absorbed into the German army under the Command of Major-General Domanov, where they fought Italian Partisans near Tolmezzo, Northern Italy.

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