The 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, together with the 21st Panzer Division, were the only German armored divisions deployed in the characteristic Normandy countryside, called Bocage, during D-Day and therefore the first german armored formations that entered combat against the Allies as of June 6, 1944.
The Hitlerjugend division was activated in February 1943. Deployed in July 1943 in Belgium for its formation and training as a Panzer Division, it began to receive the first recruits of no more than 17 years of age from the Hitler Youth. In order to provide it with veteran commanders, it received cadres of officers and non-commissioned officers who came from the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, which from this moment on would be its sister division, constituting together the 1st SS Panzer Corps under the command of Hitler’s former bodyguard, Josef Dietrich (May 28, 1892 – April 21, 1966) better known as “Sepp”.
The 12th SS Panzer Division was moved to the Normandy town of Caen in April 1944, very close to Gold, Juno and Sword beaches where two months later the Anglo-Canadian troops would land. On June 6, the unit received the order to advance to the beaches, but due to the great allied air activity and the continuous changes of orders from the Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH), the German High Command, it was not until June 7 that it received its baptism of fire against the Canadian armored spearhead, destroying about thirty Sherman tanks and other vehicles of the Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment.
Besides in the surroundings of Caen, the Hitlerjugend also distinguished itself in the battle of the Falaise pocket from where it withdrew towards Paris with 60% of casualties. After these fierce combats in Normandy, and thanks to its fanaticism and high morale, the 12th SS Panzer Division won by blood and fire the consideration of an elite unit.
After the withdrawal and fall of France, the division was reconstituted and re-armed for the offensive in the Ardennes in the autumn of 1944, where its performance defrauded the German command. In early January 1945, it left the Belgian front to be re-armed and reconstituted for the final battles in Hungary, where after fierce fighting south of Budapest, Lake Balaton and the retreat in combat through Austria, the last 455 survivors of the total 21,300 soldiers who were deployed in Hungary surrendered to American troops near Enns, Austria, on May 8, 1945.
12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend Platoon
For my HJ Panzergrenadiers, I have chosen mainly Blitz Miniatures figures, from the Battle for the Hedgrows range, all in metal at 20mm scale. To complete the unit, I have also used some figures from Wartime Miniatures, from the Deutsche Afrika Korps range and a discontinued Battlefield Miniatures. All of them fit perfectly, since they have been designed by the same sculptor.
For the moment, and while waiting to finish painting the rest of the unit, only the platoon command section, the first section of grenadiers and a support weapon are represented, specifically a Panzerschreck, the German copy of the American Bazooka rocket launcher.
Hitlerjugend Platoon HQ Section
For the platoon HQ staff, I have selected 6 figures representing a lieutenant armed with a Schmeisser MP40, a sergeant also armed with a Schmeisser and firing a signal pistol, a second sergeant armed with a liberated sub-machine gun M1 Thompson of American origin and known among the allied soldiers as Tommy Gun, recently captured from a Canadian NCO. Next, two assistant messengers armed with a Kar 98 rifle and a Gewehr 43 automatic rifle. Finally, a communications operator, with a Feldfernsprecher 33 radio backpack in his dark yellow Dunkelwelb bakelite box. This figure is the only one of this batch that is not Blitz Miniatures, but Wartime Miniatures.
The figure of the operator is based on a rifleman from the Afrika Korps to which a portable radio sculpted in green putty with a glued structure of copper wire and a tin tab at the bottom has been added. They have also added headphones with tin, putty and electrical wire. To finish also with the same putty has been sculpted the Nazi eagle on the left arm, above the elbow and the insignia of the german radio operators lightning.
Hitlerjugend Platoon’s First Section
For the first section, I have selected 8 figures that are divided into a light machine gun team and a rifle team. The first one with a sergeant armed with a Schmeisser MP40, a corporal shooting the MG 34 machine gun and an assistant man holding the machine gun and armed with a Kar 98 rifle. The second team with 4 soldiers armed with 3 Kar 98 rifles and 1 Gewehr 41 automatic rifle and a Rottenführer, a corporal armed with a Gewehr 43 and a Panzerfaust. All the figures from Blitz Miniatures, except the soldier who is advancing and is wearing the Italian camouflage trousers from Wartime Miniatures.
Panzerschreck and extras
The last figures correspond to an anti-tank team of two specialists, armed with a Panzerschreck, a battle tanks killer thanks to its powerful 8.8 cm hollow charge projectile. There are also two soldiers on the loose who in the future will be integrated into the second section of the platoon, one of them armed with a Sten Mark V, a sub-machine gun used by the British paratroopers. And to end up an unarmed soldier with his hands up surrendering. All the figures are from Blitz, except this last one which is from Battlefield Miniatures.
Painting the Waffen SS in Normandy
For the painting of the figures we used acrylics from Vallejo Model Color and AK Interactive, to finish with an ultra-matte airbrush varnish also from AK. An attempt has been made to reproduce the wide range of mixed types of uniforms used by the Waffen SS troops in Normandy, in particular the units of the First SS Panzer Corps. Many of the Leibstandarte cadres transferred to the Hitlerjugend arrived at their new destination with their own uniforms that included stocks of reversible camouflage blouses, with spring/summer and autumn/winter Type One patterns with openings on the sides of the chest for access to the field grey tunic, like those used in the Blitzkrieg of 1940. In addition, after the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943, the Leibstandarte was stationed in northern Italy, where it requisitioned a large quantity of Italian camouflage fabric. With this material, the divisional tailors made a great variety of garments mimicked in three colors: trousers, tunics, short jackets for tankers, overalls, raincoats, etc. Hundreds of these garments arrived at the Hitlerjugend, whose soldiers used them in Normandy, mixed with the camouflage uniforms (tunics and trousers) M43 and M44, the reversible camouflage blouses Type One and Type Two in various shades and the Feldgrau uniforms, standard in grayish green of the Heer (German army).