The 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg earned the reputation as one of the best units of that Germany could muster during the Second World War. Thirteen Frundsbergers were awarded the Knights Cross, including Heinz Harmel. Old comrades to this day still meet regularly, and Heinz Harmel acted as a fatherly figure to each man of his unit to ensure their welfare until his death in 2000.
During the second half of 1944, the skeletons of some 35 burned out German divisions were refitted and returned to the
front as the new Volksgrenadier divisions. At the same time, the 10th SS Panzer Division was, like other first line panzer
divisions, reinforced and replenished for future combat. The German military rebuilding effort was a masterpiece of
ingenuity, organization and dedication.
In October of 1943, 10th SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Division "Frundsberg" was reorganized as 10th SS Panzer Division "Frundsberg". From March of 1944, it saw service on the Eastern Front until it was moved to Normandy in June of 1944. It was virtually wiped out at Falaise Pocket in August of 1944. In September of 1944, it was moved to Arnhem to be refitted and took part in containing the Allied Operation "Market-Garden". In December of 1944, it took part in the Ardennes Offensive as reserve. From January of 1945, it was saw service on the Western Front until February, when it moved to the Eastern Front, ending the war in Schonau, Czechoslovakia in May of 1945.
Dead pioneer of 10th SS Panzer Division, "Frundsberg" on the road bridge, Arnhem, Operation Market Garden, 1944.
The 10th SS Panzer, which had been raised in contemplation of a probable Allied invasion of France, suffered very severe casualties in the Normandy campaign. In its aftermath, the Division, in the company of 9th SS Panzer Division "Hohenstaufen" (11 SS Panzer Corps), was withdrawn to rest, recuperate and reconstruct in the supposedly inactive area of Arnhem, Netherlands.
When the key, northern element of Market Garden was launched by British and Polish paratroopers, paras landed on the north bank of the river Nedderijn were generally unsuccessful in reaching their objectives, owing in the main to the unexpected intervention of soldiers of 9th and 10th SS Panzer. An exception was a scratch squad commanded by Lt. Colonel John ("Jack") Frost, MC, which succeeded in reaching the north end of the Arnhem road bridge and occupying strong positions in buildings overlooking the bridge. The élite Reconnaissance Battalion of "Hohenstaufen" attempted to eliminate the British enclave by attacking across the bridge from the south, but this attack descended into a bloody shambles in which the Battalion suffered heavy losses, including the killing of the battalion commander (who had just received the Knight's Cross).
This left a position in which soldiers of "Frundsberg", under Brigadefuhrer Heinz Harmel, was left with substantial responsibility to secure the German position south of Arnhem to the penultimate critical bridge at Nijmegen. An obvious solution to the obvious problem was to demolish both Arnhem and Nijmegen bridges - but this was impeded by the orders of sector commander, Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model, which forbade the blowing of the bridges. On the basis of postwar interviews, Brigadefuhrer Harmel was strongly in favour of blowing the bridges. This pioneer may have been engaged in an attempt to blow the Arnhem bridge when he was cut down by Frost's men.
In the end, the demolition of the Arnhem bridge proved unnecessary. A combination of delays inflicted on the ground-based ("Market") element of the operation and the successful clearing-out of Frost's enclave by "Frundsberg" troops led to the evacuation of the main British force north of the river, marking the failure of the operation. Best regards, JR.