Monday, February 15, 2016

Helmut Hudel

Helmut Hudel, born in 4 July 1915 at Raunheim, joined the Reichswehr in 1934 and initially served with Kraftfahr Abteilung 5, ostensibly a transport unit. It should be remembered, however, that at this time many such units were being used for the surreptitious training of Germany's future tank crews. Identified at an early stage as a potential officer, Hudel subsequently underwent training at military academy and was commissioned Leutnant in 1936, being posted to Panzer-Regiment 7, part of 10. Panzer-Division.

Two years later he was appointed to the staff of the Kriegsschule at Potsdam, remaining in that post until 1940 and missing the campaign in the West. On completion of his posting he rejoined Panzer-Regiment 7 in time to take part in the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa on the central sector of the Russian Front, seeing particularly heavy combat around Minsk and Smolensk. In early 1942 Hudel's division was badly battered in heavy fighting against the Soviet winter counter-offensive. Hudel, by now a company commander with the rank of Hauptmann, was temporarily attached to a Kampfgruppe from 20. Panzer-Division. He showed such determination, skilled leadership and gallantry in heavy fighting around Viazma that he was recommended for the Ritterkreuz (Knight's Cross), and the award was made on 27 May 1942.

That month the mauled 10. Panzer-Division was withdrawn from Russia for rest and rebuilding near Amiens in France. It remained there until December 1942, when it was shippped to North Africa to bolster Rommel's forces in Tunisia after the Allied landings in Morocco and Algeria. Now the battalion commander of I.Abteilung / Panzer-Regiment 7, Hudel once again showed considerable skill and leadership in difficult defensive fighting under heavy enemy pressure. He was rewarded with the addition of the Eichenlaub (Oak leaves) to his Knight's Cross on 2 April 1943. By 21 April his division's armored strength had been worn down to just 25 tanks; Hudel himself was transferred back to Europe in the closing days of the campaign, and avoided the captivity into which the remnants of 10. Panzer-Division passed when they surrendered to US troops.

Hudel subsequently served in Italy, where he was promoted to Major and commanded schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508, a battalion equipped with the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger. In late 1944 he was transferred to command the tank training and replacement battalion of the elite "Großdeutschland" division. In February 1945, Hudel took command of Panzer-Lehr-Regiment 130, the tank unit of the crack Panzer-Lehr-Division. He saw action in Holland and later against the Allied bridgehead at Remagen. By the closing weeks of the war, Panzer-Lehr-Regiment 130 had been reduced to just 15 tanks; it finally surrendered to US forces in the Ruhr Pocket.

Helmut Hudel died in retirement in 11 March 1985 at the age of 69 years.

This color slide is one of a series of color images of the Werkstattkompanie taken by Hans Becker. In the mid-1970s Becker's son loaned the slides to a model maker, who displayed them in the booklet "Modell Magazin - Foto Archiv". Since then the photos have appeared regularly in publications about the Tiger. Unfortunately the slides have not been returned to the son!

Source :
Book "Knight's Cross Oak-Leaves Recipients 1941-45" by Gordon Williamson

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