<---Return to The Battle for the Bridge


Unit Name
Kampfgruppe Knaust
i
(Panzer-Grenadier-Ausbildungs und Ersatz-Battalion 64)
i
(Panzer-Kompanie Mielke)
Commander (s)
Major Hans-Peter Knaust
i
i
Estimated Strength
4 Infantry Companies, 8 Panzers (as at 18.09.44)
i
i
Date committed to Battle
18th September 1944
Major Hans-Peter Knaust
i
i

The first elements of Kampfgruppe Knaust arrived in Arnhem on Monday 18th September 1944 and was employed against 2 PARA at the northern end of the Arnhem Road Bridge.

Kampfgruppe Knaust was primarily made up of two units. The first was Panzer-Grenadier-Ausbildungs und Ersatz-Battalion 64 which was a training and replacement battalion from Bocholt, Germany and was commanded by the 38 year old Major Hans-Peter Knaust. The unit consisted of 1 x SPW and 4 infantry companies with soldiers that were classed as ‘not quite fit for front line service'. The second unit was Panzer-Kompanie Mielke which was commanded by Company Commander Lieutenant Mielke. This company was part of the 6th Panzer Replacement Regiment ‘Bielefeld' tank driving school in Germany. It consisted of six Panzerkampfwagen III and two Panzerkampfwagen IV tanks.

i

Pz. Kpfw. III Ausf. G – Panzer Kompanie 'Mielke'

© German Armour in Arnhem - Marcel Zwarts

i

Pz. Kpfw. IV Ausf. H – Panzer Kompanie Mielke

© German Armour in Arnhem - Marcel Zwarts

Panzer-Kompanie Mielke entrained in Bielefeld, Germany and moved to Elten via Zevenaar, where the Headquarters of the company assembled with Knaust's ‘Bocholt' trainee Panzer Grenadier battalion. The quick organisation and movement of these two units allowed Knaust to report to the IISS Pz Kp HQ at 0400h on the 18th September 1944. Whilst the infantry could be employed that same day, the tanks of Panzer-Kompanie Mielke would not arrive until the 19th September 1944 due to constant allied attacks on the rail system.

Panzers and Infantry from Kampfgruppe 'Knaust' deployed east of the Arnhem Bridge (in the background)

© Airborne Museum Hartenstein, Oosterbeek

His initial orders were to relieve the II./21 Regt ‘Battalion Euling' that were fighting around the Northern Ramp of the Arnhem Bridge. Knaust's Kampfgruppe were placed under command of SS-Sturmbannführer Brinkmann who was already placing pressure on the British defending the bridge. Initially attacks against the British defending the bridge were uncoordinated and optimistic which caused considerable high casualties amongst the attackers. The Germans had also underestimated the British strength at the bridge by 500 men. Throughout the 18th September 1944, Knaust's infantry were involved in bitter hand-to-hand fighting from house to house and would only gain a handful of metres during the day. With the arrival of Panzer-Kompanie Mielke on the 19th September 1944, coordinated combined arms attacks could be employed against the British forces. Tanks and infantry worked close together and would blast British strong points. Kampfgruppe Knaust would employ everything in their arsenal including small arms, MGs, Panzerfausts and Panzers to remove the ‘Red Devils' from the bridge.

One of the two Pz. Kpfw. IV Ausf. H destroyed by 2PARA around the Arnhem Bridge

© Airborne Museum Hartenstein, Oosterbeek

By Wednesday the 20th September, LTCOL Frost's 2 PARA forces had shrunk to 150 fighting men out of an original 600. Holding onto a handful of buildings the British put up a resilient fight at the Northern end of the Bridge. In the evening of the 20th after another hard day of hand-to-hand combat, Kampfgruppe Knaust was pulled out of the fighting around the Bridge. They were given a warning order to cross the bridge as soon as it had been cleared of the British and join the new blocking line at Elst. It was at 1200 midday on Thursday 21st September 1944, the British could no longer dominate the road bridge with fire which allowed Kampfgruppe Knaust to cross the Arnhem road bridge.  Kampfgruppe Knaust during the fighting between 18 – 21 September had lost three panzers and an unknown number of casualties.

Kämpfer an unserer Seite

The Führer bestowed the Knights Cross to the Iron Cross to Major Hans-Peter Knaust, commander of one of the divisions' (ed. Frundsberg) subordinate combat teams. In the fighting against the air-landed enemy at Arnhem, Major Knaust particularly led by exemplary bravery and confident decisions of his battalion. He succeeded in leading from the front with combat patrols with his battalion over three days and nights during heavy street fighting partly with hand-to-hand combat. The bridgehead near arnhem was initially attacked from the eastern side and from there led to its complete destruction. With disregard of his own employment Major Knaust (born 7.8.06 in Kiel) earned a higher respect due to already earlier through his wounds loosing a leg.

(The German is hard to translate as it is old German not often used now and tailored towards propaganda).

A newspaper article about Major Knaust that appeared in the 'Frundsberg' Unit newspaper (Die Hellebarde) in late 1944.

<---Return to The Battle for the Bridge

<---Return to Main Menu

| Home | Disclaimer | Site Map | Contact Webmaster |