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Heinrich Rave's Soldbuch Story
By Eric Tobey


The following was taken from the Die Neue Feldpost newsletter & was done so with permission of the publisher.  We would like to thank him for his generosity as well as thank all those who have contributed to this article.  It is with their efforts, we are able to share this valuable research with the rest of you.

In the same bunch of documents referred to in the previous story, there was a Soldbuch which belonged to a soldier with a remarkable career: Heinrich Rave.

He was born on February 11th, 1914, and became a farmer near the town of Bordenau.  This village is located about 10 kilometers northwest of Hanover on the Leine River.  Heinrich was first inducted on March 5, 1937 to serve his mandatory military service, after which he was released and became part of the Landwehr (organized reserves).

With the war only days away, Heinrich was called back to the colors and a Soldbuch was issued (during his first stint, he would have had only an ID card) on August 28th, 1939, by the 2.Radfahr Schwadron, Landwehr Aufklärungs Abteilung 216 (second "Bicycle" Company, Reserve Reconnaissance Battalion 216).  When this reserve unit was fully mobilized, it dropped the Landwehr designation as it became part of the regular army.  With this unit, Heinrich participated in the Invasion of the Low Countries and France in 1940, and that October he was promoted to Oberreiter.  In April of 1941, while his unit was still doing occupation duty on the Cotentin Peninsula of France, he received a further promotion to Gefreiter.

During the winter of 1941-42, his unit was transferred to the Eastern Front, and for his participation in that winter's campaign, he was later awarded the "Eastern Front Winter Campaign Medal", or as the soldiers called it, the "order of the frozen meat".  His unit underwent several name changes during its time on the Eastern Front: from 2.Radf.Schw.A.A.216, to Aufkl. Schw. 216, to Panzerjäger Abt. 216, to Schnelle Aufkl. Schw./Schnelle Abt. 216.  As of March 1st, 1942, Heinrich was an Obergefreiter.

1943 was an eventful year for Heinrich.  A sheet which recorded his day of "close combat" (Nahkampftage) states that he was engaged in close combat near the Russian town of Ladyrewo on July 24, 1943, and again on the next day at a place called Schuscherewo.  He was granted a leave that was to last from July 31st to August 22, and he departed his unit on July 27; leaving early probably allowed travel time.  Almost as soon as he returned, he was again in battle - three more days of "close combat" were recorded on Sept. 5th, 9th, and 10th for places called Schhtscheglowka, Aleschanka, and Prolyssowo.  On September 12th, he was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class.  Then more days of close combat: Starodub (Sept. 21st), Nowossybkoff (Sept. 25th), and Sherebnaja (Oct. 10th).  Sometime during the battles up to this point Heinrich was lightly wounded, for he was awarded the Black Wound Badge on October 13th.  Having survived so many short-ranged confrontations with the Soviets without serious injury would seen lucky indeed, but some of his luck deserted him towards the end of October, for a notation in his Soldbuch states that on October 23rd, Heinrich was admitted into Field Hospital 4/582 with shell-splinter wounds.  This wound was definitely more serious than the one which earned him the Wound Badge, for his final discharge from the hospital (Reserve Lazarette Apolda) was dated February 25, 1944.  As was customary with seriously wounded soldiers, Heinrich was given a Convalescent leave, which for him lasted from March 2nd to March 31, 1944.  It was probably before going on this leave that Heinrich had the photograph taken which appears inside the front cover of his Soldbuch.  He is shown in a worn M36 tunic, buttoned to the chin, and the photo is stamped with the seal of the replacement unit which was responsible for him while he was recovering (Aufkl. Ers. Abt. 14).  After this leave, the soldier would have been assigned to some sort of light duty until he was fully enough recovered to rejoin his unit in the field.  In Heinrich's case, he was posted to the XI Wehrkreis sniper school.  On June 19th, he was issued the following items by Scharfschützen-Ausbildungs Kompanie d. Wehrkreis-Kommando XI::
 

K98, serial no. 34526 Hensoldt scope, ser.no. 71487
Binoculars, ser.no. 106125 Case for rifle scope
Case for Binoculars Rifle cleaning kit
Muzzle cap Rubber eyepiece
Winter trigger attachment Helmet net with hooks
Camouflaged Jacket Mosquito net
90 rds. of special ammunition

On July 5th, 1944, he was being prepared for his return to the field.  After what was probably a pre-departure reissue, the Bekleidungs Ausg. Stelle of Grenadier Ersatz Battaillon 89 recorded the following:

field cap tunic
steel helmet wool trousers
drawers (2)  overcoat
shirts (2)  brushes (4)
clothing bag socks (2 pr.)
footwraps (2 pr.) belt and buckle
low-quarter boots gaiters
lard container Zeltbahn
breadbag canteen
ammo pouches (2) mess kit
hand towels (2) hankerchiefs (3)
trousers-suspenders tornister (backpack)
Zwieback bag blanket
HBT uniform overcoat-roll straps (3)
eating utensils

Other equipment issued (or checked) that day included an M38 Gasmask, number 49, two containers of anti-gas skin salve, and a Gas-sheet.  After this fitting out, he left for the Western Front.

On July 21st, 1944, he was at Zahlstelle 1 Frontsammelstelle 3 (?), where he was given 228 French Francs as Wehrsold.

Heinrich was assigned to the Third Company of the 272nd Füsilier Battalion, and was #190 on the rolls.  It is most likely that Heinrich met this unit somewhere in Normandy, and may possibly have joined it on the front line.  Heinrich's Normandy participation started (according to another document) on July 25, 1944.  As part of this outfit, he was engaged in the actions of the battalion until the collapse in late August of 1944.  Among the combats he was involved in, Heinrich was accredited with the following days of fighting which would contribute to the award of the Infantry Assault and Close Combat Badges:

August 3rd, 1944 - Close combat with handgrenades during an enemy attack on the front line west of Troarn.
 
August 9th, 1944 - Counter-assault and close combat with hand grenades during repeated enemy breakthroughs which were supported by tanks near St. Sylvain.
 
August 10th, 1944 - Close combat with grenades against an armor-supported enemy attack on Hill 79 east of St. Sylvain.
 
August 11th, 1944 - Close combat with hand grenades against an armor-supported enemy flank-attack on important positions on Hill 79.
 
August 13th, 1944 - Close combat with grenades against a vigorous enemy recon supported by armored cars near Glatigny.
 
August 14th, 1944 - Counter-attack and close combat with grenades of an armor-supported enemy breakthrough into our positions near Glatigny.
 
August 15th, 1944 - Close combat with grenades during an armor-supported enemy frontal- and flank-attack at St. Pierre sur Dive.
 
August 16th, 1944 - Hand-to-hand and close combat with grenades with an enemy assault troop, and the successful assault during the breakout of our surrounded battalion on Mont Jakob.
 
August 17th, 1944 - Close combat with grenades near Bieville and participation in the successful breakout at Bieville-Boissae of the surrounded battalion after an armor-supported enemy breakthrough.
 
August 18th, 1944 - Hand-to-hand and grenade fighting during the defense against an enemy flank attack at Lessard.
 
August 19th, 1944 - Hand-to-hand and grenade fighting during the enemy infantry and tank flank attack and participation in the breakout of the surrounded battalion.  Occurred near Lessard.
 
August 21st, 1944 - Close combat with grenades during the defense against a powerful armor-supported enemy attack near le Mesnil.
 
August 24th, 1944 - Hand-to-hand and grenade combat at la Poterie during the defense of a vigorous enemy recon which was re-enforced with armored cars.
 
August 27th, 1944 - Close combat with grenades during the defense of a powerful armor-supported enemy attack at Beurg-Achard.

At some point during these battles, probably before the end of August, Heinrich was promoted to Unteroffizier.  His employment on the Western front officially ended on September 7th.

By that September, Heinrich was once again inside Germany as the remains of divisions like the 272nd were being rebuilt for the final defense of the Fatherland.  The 272nd Infantry Division became the 272nd Volksgrenadier Division, and the Füsilier Battalion was reduced in size to a Company, with the total full strength somewhere around 200 men.  Heinrich was one of the first men placed on the rolls of the new Füsilier Kompanie 272: he was number 23.  According to the Company's records, most of this initial draft of men were either NCO or specialist survivors of the 272nd Füsilier Battalion.  On September 21st, he was awarded both the Infantry Assault Badge in Silver and the Close Combat Clasp in Bronze.  He was also awarded a leave which ran from Sept. 17th to October 1st; as related in the Divisional History, this leave was customary for the veterans of units which were being rebuilt.  On October 5th, 1944, he underwent a uniform and equipment audit by Füs.Kp.272: 

HBT Uniform Field Cap
Tunic Unterjacke
Low-Quarter Boots Mess tin
Zeltbahn Belt & Buckle
Canteen Shirts (2)
Socks (1 pr.) Drawers (2 pr.)
Lard container

Obviously he must have procured further pieces of gear before leaving again for the front; it is not clear why he possessed only a partial kit; it is very likely that the list represents the items which he had when he escaped the German collapse in France.  If this is true, it is particularly interesting to note that he did not own a pair of wool trousers - only HBT ones!  On December 8th, 1944, he is recorded as having one Model 30 Gasmask, numbered 232.  The Sniper gear was not deleted, and therefore possibly retained - this is within reason since his posting within his new unit is recorded elsewhere as "Truppführer".  One of the runners within a platoon HQ troop was sometimes issued with a telescopic-sighted rifle: although Heinrich was assigned as the leader of the HQ troop, perhaps he was also the platoon sharpshooter, instead of one of the runners.

Back in combat in the Hürtgen Forest, the lower Saxon again distinguished himself during the same December battle where Harald Nehring won his Second Class Iron Cross.  The official order read: 

     Uffz. Rave was detailed as a Truppführer in the 1st Platoon.  After his platoon leader was wounded during the fighting on Dec. 13, 1944 2 km west of Zweifallskammer on the Giesenheck, he took over command of the platoon and fended off the counterattacks of the enemy.  During the enemy's counterattack on Dec. 14, he realized that the MG gunner in the squad on the right had been wounded.  Disregarding the enemy fire, Uffz. Rave sprang out of his foxhole and rushed the 15 meters to the MG and opened fire with it...
     Uffz. Rave is worthy of the Iron Cross First Class.

Curiously, it does not appear that the medal was ever awarded to him, although the soldiers put in for the EK II in the same order were presented their crosses by the end of December.  Whether verification for the higher level cross took longer or whatever, we may never know; but if they were taking time to award the medal, they waited too long.  On Jan. 5th, 1945, Rave was one of those unfortunates who was in the infamous BUNKER 24, and was killed: cause of death was listed as "blast".  German records indicate that many of the dead and wounded taken from this bunker were either burned by phosphorous or injured by the concussive effects of American demolition charges, and it appears that Heinrich was a victim of the latter.  On January 24th, a letter was sent to his father which gave the particulars of his death; the wording is identical to that used in the letter written to Harald Nehring's family - only the name is changed.

On the 30th of the same month, the company Spieß inventoried Heinrich's personal effects preparatory to sending them to the family:

Change purse with 8 French Francs and 1,74 Marks
Three (!) Wallets with photographs and 2 documents (Close-combat and Infantry Assault records)
Two Pocketknives
Comb in a case
Close Combat Clasp
Black Wound Badge
Infantry Assault Badge
Lighter

Heinrich was buried in row 18, grave 10 in the German Military Cemetery near Gemünd in the Eifel.  Heinrich got his cross at last, but this one was of wood, not iron.

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