Infanterie Division 346
Infanterie Division 346 was a formation of the German Army that faced the First Canadian Army in the opening phases of the Battle of the Scheldt. The division had also been involved in the Battle of Normandy.
The division was raised in Bad Hersfeld, Germany, in September 1942 as a static division (i.e. only limited motorized transport). Within a month of being formed, the division moved to garrison duties in France, spending most of 1943 in Brittany, and moving to positions near Le Havre in January 1944. A brief period of reorganization had taken place in 1943 when it was granted a degree of mobility.
By 1 Jun 1944 the divisional structure was as follows:
The 1st Battalion of Grenadier Regiment 857 left the division on 20 March to serve as Füsilier Bataillon of Infanterie Division 3, and was replaced from 19 Apr 1944 with Ost Bataillon 630.
The divisional Panzerjäger Abteilung (anti-tank battalion) had a strength of 502 men, divided into three companies:
The Artillerie Regiment (divisional artillery) had three battalions equipped as follows:
Despite the upgrading from a static division, the artillery was not motorized. Elements of the division were made mobile through the use of civilian buses and motor transport, as well as bicycles.
On 1 May 1944, authorized strength was 9,816 officers and men, with actual strength being 9,534. The average age of enlisted soldiers in the division was between 32 and 33 years of age, with officers averaging 37 years.
Knight's Cross Holders
Combat in Normandy
On 6 Jun 1944, as the Allies came ashore in Normandy, the division (part of the reserve of the 15th Army) was ordered to move Grenadier Regiment 857 (less its I. Bataillon and a platoon of the 13. Kompanie), along with 1. Pionier Kompanie and one artillery battery across the Seine River. A battalion of Grenadier Regiment 858 was to occupy the positions abandoned by II. Bataillon, Grenadier Regiment 857.
Grenadier Regiment 857 went into action against British forces in the area of Bavent-Breville on 7 Jun, and on 9 Jun elements of Grenadier Regiment 858 went into action. By 10 Jun the majority of the division had moved into the beachhead area and was committed against British forces that had crossed the Orne River.
The division settled into relatively calm positions east of the Orne until mid-July and Operation CHARNWOOD. After this operation, the division took over positions from 16 Luftwaffe Feld Division, and defended against minor attacks from the British between 10 and 17 Jul. The division suffered some desertions during this period from foreign "volunteers" on the divisions rolls. During Operation GOODWOOD on 18 Jul, the division's left flank suffered intense aerial bombardment, but successfully defended Troarn from a British attack. After GOODWOOD, the division had about half its original complement of infantry and 60% of its anti-tank assets. The artillery had been depleted by 30%.
However, the division was left in relative quiet until 9 Aug 1944, when Allied forces driving on Falaise again exerted pressure on the division. The division was on the east flank of the British advance, and avoided encirclement during the Falaise battles, instead withdrawing through the area of Lisieux back to the Seine River. Its estimated strength at that time was 50% of its infantry personnel, 35% of the heavy weapons in the two infantry regiments, 75% of the personnel in the artillery regiment (but only 20% of their guns), just three assault guns and 4 towed 7.5cm guns in the anti-tank battalion, and 35% of the divisional vehicles.
Niklas Zetterling, whose research has provided much of the information on this page, mentioned on his website that:
It is unclear what strength the division managed to muster between the end of August and the time it met with Canadian soldiers in the Battle of the Scheldt. Military History Online advises that:
Jason Pipes' Feldgrau site shows that from September 1944 to November 1944, the division was a Battle Group only, under the command of LXVII Korps, 15th Army, located in Belgium.
The Official History of the Canadian Army also notes that from about 23 September 1944, this corps held a sector extending from the Beveland isthmus to Turnhout, with the 711th and 719th Divisions on the western and eastern flanks, respectively, and the 346th in the center. "The 346th, holding the canal in the vicinity of Lochtenberg, had been reinforced by remnants from other divisions and some artillery and according to its commander's later recollection mustered about 8,000 men."
At the end of Sep 1944 the LXVII Korps "was now deployed with the 719th Division resisting the Poles on its left, the 711th in the centre about Brecht and the 346th (officially regarded as a Battle Group) on the right north of Antwerp, with the remnants of the 344th under command."
Canadian units fought against the remnants of this division as they battled north of Antwerp, up until the liberation of Ossendrecht.
Sturmgeschütz Brigade 280
Assault Gun Brigade 280 also loaned support to Infanterie Division 346 during the Battle of the Scheldt. The brigade was equipped with PzIV/70 in addition to StuG III and StuG IV vehicles, fighting with Parachute Regiment 6. The Brigade reorganized several times, ending up as two Kampfgruppen (Battle Groups) under Oberst Rossbach and Oberleutnant Lange, falling back to Haarle on 23 October 1944. On 1 Nov, the battle groups received 5 new SturmHaubitzes (Assault Howitzers) to replace the lost StuG III and IV's. But, after fierce fighting in conjunction with Infanterie Division 346, these German units were withdrawn.
After the Scheldt, the division was reformed, and went on to fight in the Ardennes Offensive in December.