Thursday, April 28, 2016

Großadmiral Karl Dönitz with His Baton

Großadmiral (Grand Admiral) Karl Dönitz, Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine, with Admiralstab (Admiral baton). There were two Admiralstab produced for Dönitz. The first one was rejected and a second version (bearing the U-Boat motif requested by Dönitz) was commissioned. Dönitz, appointed Führer by Hitler before his suicide, was arrested with his privisional government and his staff at Flensburg on 23 May 1945 after the British Army's 159th Brigade occupied the northern German town. They were taken into custody by men of the 4th (Territorial) Battalion, The King's Shropshire Light Infantry. At some point before Dönitz was transferred from Flensbug, his guards searched the Grand Admiral's baggage and stole numerous items, including his U-Boat Badge with Diamonds and his ceremonial baton, which passed into the possession of one Captain Hugh Williams of 2nd Army HQ. The baton then ended up in April 1946 in the possession of Brigadier Jack Churcher, commanding 159th Brigade, whose Order of Battle included 4th KSLI. Major-General Churcher donated the baton to the museum of The King's Shropshire Light Infantry in 1964, where it resides to this day, despite German attempts to recover it in line with the late Grand Admiral's bequest, before his death in 1980, of his baton and other effects, presuming their return from Britain, to the Deutsche Marinebund for public display at the Kriegsmarine War Memorial in Laboe. The ceremonial batons to Wehrmacht commanders were a personal gift from Adolf Hitler and were therefore the recipients' private property so it would seem that there is a case for the baton's return to Germany and the veterans' association to which Dönitz wished it to go. As the Kriegsmarine historian and author Gordon Williamson has noted, having examined the baton, it was made by H J Wilm, who requested the special release of one of their artisans from front line service for the commission. Helmut Scheuermann's doubtlessly astonished superiors duly received a telegram from the Führerhauptquartier. The baton weighs 900 grams and comprises a hollow silver shaft, covered in marine blue velvet with fouled anchors and national emblems made of solid gold. The ends are also made of gold, with the silver embellishments, including the U-Boat motif, made of platinum, which was regarded as a semi-precious metal at the time. Unusually, the lower end of the baton awarded to Dönitz had a swastika instead of the customary Iron Cross motif. There is a cased Kriegsmarine Admiralstab in the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg, which houses the Peter Tamm Collection. This baton, in a H J Wilm case, is displayed with a baton said to be that of Großadmiral Erich Raeder, although some sources state that the Raeder baton was broken up shortly after the end of the Second World War. The museum, also known as the Peter Tamm Museum, states that this is one of two batons that belonged to Karl Dönitz and some sources further state that the baton in Hamburg is the award piece, the baton in the KSLI regimental museum being the first baton, which was turned down by Dönitz, who wanted the U-Boat motif on the upper finial end. The Tamm Collection baton has an U-Boat motif on the upper end, So, of course, does the baton in the KSLI regimental museum. However, they are not the same.

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