Flames of War - Germans: Hauptsturmfuhrer Viktor Graebner
by Battlefront Miniatures
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Hauptsturmführer Graebner (GE890)
with Humber Scout Car and Humber IV Armoured Car
On 17 September 1944, SS-Kampfgruppe Graebner was assembled at Hoenderloo, near Arnhem. The battlegroup consisted of battered veterans from the 9. SS-Panzeraufklärungs Abteilung (9th SS Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion), commanded by the eccentric and bold SS-Hauptsturmführer Viktor Graebner.
The unit was refitting after a hard fight and retreat in Normandy along with the rest of the 9. ‘Hohenstaufen’ SS-Panserdivision (9th SS-Panzer Division). Earlier, on 16 July 1944, Graebner’s unit was attached to the 277. Infanteriedivision (277th Infantry Division) near the road between Villers-Bocage and Caen, in Normandy. The British 30th Corps had taken Noyers-Bocage, a dangerous penetration threatening to unbalance the entire section of the German line. Graebner prepared to counterattack. Knowing that the British were most alert at dawn, he would wait for them to relax and then launch his assault. Graebner’s lightning counterattack was a dramatic success, catching the British completely by surprise and saving the Germans from the immediate crisis. His leadership and actions earned him the Knight’s Cross.
The desperate fighting in France gave way to a long retreat to Holland. By the first week of September, Graebner had made it to Holland with less than half his men and only 32 rmoured vehicles. He was ordered to turn over all of his vehicles to the 10. ‘Frundsberg’ SS-Panzerdivision in preparation of being removed to Germany for a complete rebuild. However, Graebner cunningly had his men render all of his vehicles ‘unserviceable’ to prevent losing them.
During the morning of 17 September, SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Walter Harzer, commander of the
9. ‘Hohenstaufen’ SS-Panzerdivision, was formally awarding Graebner with his Knight’s Cross when suddenly Operation
Market Garden was launched. Artillery shook the earth and Allied aircraft poured forth three airborne divisions across the Dutch landscape. In just over one hour Graebner’s men had all their ‘unserviceable’ vehicles ready for combat. Graebner was ordered to immediately head through Arnhem and proceed to Nijmegen, to scout for enemy activity and secure the route for the 10. SS-Panzerdivision.
The Kampfgruppe crossed the Arnhem road bridge at 1500 hours, leaving a small security detachment at the south end of the bridge.
Graebner’s men checked the roads and polder between Arnhem and Nijmegen, looking for any signs of Allied paratroopers. Their search had turned up nothing by the time reached Elst so they decided to proceed to Nijmegen. When he arrived in Nijmegen he found the city’s bridge secured by men from Kampfgruppe Henke. Then Graebner learned that the 10. SS-Panzeraufklärungs Abteilung was engaged in a heavy firefight with British forces at the Arnhem Bridge. Graebner raced his unit to the south end of the Arnhem Bridge, determined to clear the way for the 10. SS-Panzerdivision, in accordance with his orders to keep the road secure. When he arrived he received reports of a small British parachute force holding the northern end of the bridge. Graebner, true to form, decided to launch an attack as soon as possible.
Graebner decided to use the same tactics that had worked so well in Normandy. He would wait until after dawn passed, counting on the British to relax their vigilance and then he would pounce. Graebner’s men were ready and willing.
Graebner had left his cannon section behind to guard against any sneaky paratrooper attacks. The remainder of the battalion, approximately 300 men and 22 vehicles, would cut their way across the bridge. The faster armoured cars led the assault, followed by armoured half-tracks. The Panzergrenadiers brought up the rear in a mixture of military and civilian trucks crouched behind metal barrels filled with sand and grain for protection against the expected British fire.
At 0900 hours on 18 September the 9. SS-Panzeraufklärungs Abteilung raced across the bridge at top speed, Graebner in the lead in his captured British Humber scout car.
The faster armoured cars made it through, but British antitank guns, PIAT rounds, and grenades demolished the opentopped vehicles. The ‘small’ group of British paratroopers turned out to be a full battalion well dug-in and prepared for his assault.
Somewhere in the confusion Graebner himself was killed, but it is uncertain when exactly.
Some reports indicate that his armoured car was knocked out by a PIAT round, others say that he dismounted and encouraged his pinned down troops to keep moving under the hail of fire. But the fact remains that after the short but sharp battle Graebner, along with 70 of his men, had perished in the hasty assault. When the dust settled, 27 burning wrecks from earlier attacks and Graebner’s assault littered the bridge, making it nearly impassable.
The armoured cars that made it across the bridge would go on to fight with SS-Kampfgruppe Spindler, the unit at the south end of the bridge would secure it against further harm, the cannon section left at Elst would move to the south bank of the Rhine to counter British parachute brigades attacking along the north bank as they tried to reach Frost’smen at the bridge.
Although he had failed, his daring assault contributed to the siege by forcing Frost’s paratroopers to deplete critical ammunition and supplies. Schwarz, the 9. SS-Panzerdivision Chief of Staff, remarked, ‘that this was typical of Graebner, always the first to be stuck in!’
In Flames Of War
SS-Hauptsturmführer Graebner is a Warrior mounted in either a Humber scout car or a Humber IV armoured car. Graebner replaces the Company Command team of SS-Kampfgruppe Graebner and its transport vehicle and is rated Fearless Veteran. Graebner is an Independent Team. SS-Hauptsturmführer Graebner may join SS-Kampfgruppe Graebner for +65 points.
Graebner had a reputation for always following his own initiative. In Normandy, this proved valuable when he spoiled an allied attack, buying time for his division to evade encirclement. When the Allies launched Operation Market Garden, Graebner again acted on his own orders and rushed to counter the allied airborne assault at both Nijmegen and Arnhem.
When attacking in a mission with a force led by Graebner, your force makes a dash for the objective.
Immediately before Reconnaissance Deployment movement, roll a Skill Test for Graebner and each of your Combat and Weapons platoons on the table. If successful, the platoon may move up to its normal movement in any direction provided that the move takes the whole platoon out of its deployment area.
Graebner, and any platoon he has joined, automatically passes this Skill Test.
SS-Lieutenant Colonel Walther Harzer, commander of the 9. ‘Hohenstaufen’ SS-Panzerdivision, decorated Graebner with the Knight’s Cross hours before his assault on the Arnhem Bridge.
Graebner and any platoon that he is currently leading re-roll failed Skill Tests.
Graebner ordered his column to charge into Arnhem jabbing his fist in the air and yelling, ‘Marsch! Marsch!’ As the column poured over the bridge some vehicles began to fall behind. Graebner encouraged them to pick up the pace shouting, ‘Schnell! Schnell!’
When Graebner and any Combat or Weapons platoon he is currently leading makes a Stormtrooper move, it may move
up to 6”/15cm rather than the normal 4”/10cm.
Designed by Evan Allen
Painted by Jeremy Painter
Miniatures are supplied unpainted and assembly may be required.