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.
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.
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.
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.
and Kuban Cossack printed shields
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.
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
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.
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.
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.