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Unit Name
Sturmgeschützbrigade 280
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Commander (s)
Major Kurt Kühme
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Estimated Strength
10 Assault Guns (only one third of the unit committed)
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Date committed to Battle
19th September 1944
Major Kurt Kühme
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The arrival of part of Sturmgeschützbrigade 280 on the 19th September 1944 assisted the Germans in turning the tide against the attacking Airborne soldiers during the Battle of Arnhem. Conveniently for the Germans, this unit had arrived during the attack of the 4 British Battalions who were trying to reach the bridge. They were quickly inserted into the German defensive line and engaged the oncoming assault by the British causing considerable casualties.

Sturmgeschützbrigade 280 entering the western suburbs of Arnhem - 19 Sept. 1944

© Barch: 4973531/5 (PK Jacobsen)

During the Battle of Arnhem Sturmgeschützbrigade 280 was commanded by Major Kurt Kühme who was a veteran of both the Eastern and Western Fronts. His unit had just been refitted in Denmark and was on its way to Aachen when part of the unit was rerouted by Field Marshal Model to the impending crisis in Northern Holland. Whilst the rest of Sturmgeschützbrigade 280 was located over the German Border, Major Kühme, on orders, employed only 10 AFVs - 7 x StuG III (different variants), 3 x StuG42 (Sd.Kfz. 142/1) and 1 x SPW ( Sd.Kfz. 251/8). Even so, this unit had considerable fire power and was extremely effective against the lightly armed airborne troops.

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Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G, Sturmgeschützbrigade 280

© German Armour in Arnhem - Marcel Zwarts

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Sturmhaubitze 42G, Sturmgeschützbrigade 280

© German Armour in Arnhem - Marcel Zwarts

 

This Assault Gun force was subordinate to SS-Obersturmbannführer Spindler and was added to the blocking line on the 19th September 1944 which formed in the western suburbs of Arnhem, late on the 17th September 1944. The Assault Gun Brigade's vehicles were attached to each Kampfgruppe within Spindler's Sperrlinie. 3 SPs each were attached to Kampfgruppe Harder, Moeller and von Allworden. These Self Propelled Guns (SPs) were used in a direct fire support role for the infantry against the British strong points along their perimeter.

Initially the brigade was not effective due to insufficient regard for infantry protection. The SPs would move into exposed positions during the night forgoing liaison with their infantry colleagues, to be only hit in the morning by British well placed camouflaged Anti-Tank guns. However after some reorganisation on 21st September 1944, the Germans ensured that the SPs would not operate individually and that they had sufficient infantry protection at all times.

A Sturmgeschütz advancing towards Oosterbeek.

© Barch: 497/3529/6 (PK Jacobsen)

Due to the lack of manpower in the later years of the war, combined with the immediate threat of the enemy on German soil, units were most likely refitted with a mixture of combat inexperienced soldiers from the different armed services and were then immediately sent into battle. The opportunity for units to conduct the necessary cohesive unit training and tactics was often disregarded as reinforcements were required to plug ever present holes in the German front.

This was different for the Sturmgeschützbrigade 280. They had spent a number of months both refitting and training in Denmark and was considered an effective combat unit at this late stage of the war. By the 24th September 1944, Sturmgeschützbrigade 280 had 2 Sturmgeschütz III SPs destroyed. This equated to 20% loss of its original combat strength when it arrived only 5 days prior. Also killed was Oberwachmeister d. Res Josef Mathes who was posthumously awarded the Knight's Cross for his actions on the 19 Sep 1944.

© Florian von Aufsess

 

 

Oberwachmeister d. Res Josef Mathes (20.09.44)

Josef Mathes was a Zug Führer (Platoon Commander) with Stug Bde 280 during the Battle of Arnhem. He was most likely in command of 3 Stug IIIs and would have been instrumental in the attacks against the four British Battalions trying to get to the bridge west of Arnhem on the 19th Sept 1944. It is unknown if he lead the attacks against the two British parachute battalions via Onderlangs (the low road) or against the other two British battalions along the Utrechtseweg 'Bovenover' (the high road) on the western outskirts of Arnhem.

He was a very experienced and a highly decorated soldier fighting on the Eastern Front with units such as 2./ Stu.Art Abt. 191 and StuG Bde 280 (Tarnopol). Due to his experience it is assumed he was chosen by his commander to part of the 10 Stugs sent to Arnhem in September 1944.

Stug Bde 280 did not loose any Assault Guns on the 19th September 1944 so it is assumed that Josef Mathes was killed by small arms fire. He was very highly decorated being awarded three of Germany's highest combat awards: Knights Cross (19.09.44 postumously), Honour Roll Clasp of the German Army (25.10.44 postumously), German Cross in Gold (25.09.1942), Iron Cross 1st class (14.09.42) and Iron Cross 2nd Class (16.06.41). He was buried in a military cemetary in Bocholt-Neuer, Germany with his comrades from his unit killed during the Battle of Arnhem.

 


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