The Motorcycle Rifle (Kradschutzen) Battalion, 1939 to 1940

One of the more unusual elements of the Panzer Divisions during the early years of the war was the presence of a Motorcycle Rifle Battalion in some, but not all, formations.  As well as these Kradschutzen Battalion, in 1939 and 1940 it was common for one Rifle Company in each motorized Schutzen Battalion to be equipped with motorcycles.  The extensive use of solo and combination motorcycles was one way in which the shortage of trucks and lorries that affected the German Army throughout the war could be obviated.

The Motorcycle Rifle Battalion, circa 1939 to 1940 (Type A)

Battalion Headquarters (5 Officers, 12 men)

Communications Platoon (25 men)

Battle Train (7 men)

Maintenance Detachment (2 Officers, 14 men)

Rations Train (5 men)

Baggage Train (1 Officer, 5 men)

Heavy Company (4 Officers, 144 men)

Company HQ (1 Officer, 7 men)

Battle Train (16 men)

Baggage Train (4 men)

Anti-tank Platoon (1 Officer, 29 men)

Infantry Gun Platoon (1 Officer, 32 men)

Pioneer Platoon (1 Officer, 56 men)

Machine Gun Company (4 Officers, 203 men)

Company HQ (1 Officer, 18 men)

Battle Train and Baggage (20 men)

Two Machine Gun Platoons, each (1 Officer, 48 men)

Mortar Platoon (1 Officer, 69 men)

Three Rifle Companies (4 Officers, 171 men), each comprised of;

Company HQ (1 Officer, 11 men)

Battle Train (17 men)

Baggage Train (4 men)

Machine Gun Section (25 men)

Three Rifle Platoons, each comprised of;

Platoon HQ (1 Officer, 6 men)

Light Mortar Section (5 men)

Three Rifle Squads, each comprised of 9 men

Suggested Total Strength of 956 all ranks (28 Officers and 928 men) * The third Rifle Company was deleted from Battalions during 1940, reducing unit strength to 781 all ranks.


The Motorcycle Rifle Battalion, circa 1940 (for 7th Panzer Division)

Battalion Headquarters (6 Officers, 12 men)

Communications Platoon (25 men)

Battle Train (7 men)

Maintenance Detachment (2 Officers, 14 men)

Rations Train (6 men)

Baggage Train (1 Officer, 5 men)

Heavy Company (4 Officers, 157 men)

Company HQ (1 Officer, 7 men)

Battle Train (16 men)

Baggage Train (4 men)

Anti-tank Platoon (1 Officer, 29 men)

Infantry Gun Platoon (1 Officer, 32 men)

Mortar Platoon (1 Officer, 69 men)

Two Rifle Companies (5 Officers, 225 men), each comprised of;

Company HQ (1 Officer, 12 men)

Battle Train (18 men)

Baggage Train (4 men)

Machine Gun Platoon (1 Officer, 50 men)

Three Rifle Platoons, each comprised of;

Platoon HQ (1 Officer, 6 men)

Light Mortar Section (5 men)

Three Rifle Squads, each comprised of 12 men

Total Strength of 699 all ranks (23 Officers and 676 men)

 

Points of note

 

The above Battalion organisations shared many aspects of that of The Motorized Panzer Grenadier Battalion 1939 to 1940 detailed elsewhere on the site.  Elements such as Battalion Headquarters and the subunits of the Heavy Company were identical.  The KStN table for the Motorcycle Machine Gun Company would appear to be lost, so the personnel entries above shown in italics are approximations calculated by me using other sources.

 

As with the motorized Schutzen there were two types of Battalion used, designated as Type "A" and Type "B" above for clarification.  The Type "A" would appear to have been the principle version used during 1939, the Type "B" making its debut during 1940.  Both types of Battalion organisations were subject to amendment in 1940.  In the Type "A" the third Motorcycle Rifle Company was deleted.  

 

The variations in the Type "B" are not so simple to relate.  The above figures are based on the format used by the Kradschutzen Battalion of 7th Panzer Division in May 1940.  Other Battalions used a modified Motorcycle Rifle Company with just two heavy machine guns, a Motorcycle Machine Gun Company plus an Anti-tank Platoon, but no Heavy Company.  To be honest it's all very confusing...

 

The elements of the Battalion

 

Given the similarity between the motorized and motorcycle Schutzen, only the Motorcycle Rifle Company is detailed below.

 

The Rifle Company - at least as far as the Motorcycle Rifle Company is concerned, there is little need for conjecture as the organisational tables are still available.

 

The Company was based around a small Rifle Squad of just nine men.  Each Squad was provided with three motorcycle combinations, each carrying one man as driver, one as a passenger on the rear seat, and the third in the sidecar.  Each Squad had a single MG34, its two gunners armed with pistols, the NCO Squad leader, three riflemen and three motorcycle drivers all carrying rifles.

 

Platoon HQ consisted of an Officer and stretcher bearer, armed with pistols, one messenger, two motorcyclists and two drivers with rifles.  There were two light cars, one for personnel and the other for equipment.  Completing the Platoon was a light Mortar Section of an NCO and two gunners, plus two drivers each with a motorcycle combination.  All these men carried rifles and served a single 5-cm light mortar.

 

In the Type "B" version of the Motorcycle Rifle Company, the Rifle Platoon was almost the same.  Each Squad though was twelve strong, adding a second MG34 team of two men, and a fourth motorcycle combination and driver.

 

The Type "A" Company had a Section of two heavy machine guns for support, each gun team requiring four motorcycle combinations to carry its personnel, ammunition and equipment.  In the Type "B" Company there was a full Platoon of four sustained fire MG34s, still in two Sections each with six combinations, plus an an ammunition detachment with two more such machines.  As mentioned, some Companies appear to have used the larger Rifle Platoon with six light machine guns, but had only a Section of two heavy machine guns.

 

Company HQ added the usual command personnel and administered the supply and maintenance troops.

 

The Kradschutzen into 1941

 

By the invasion of Russia in June 1941 the Motorcycle Rifle Battalion had been standardised.  It now consisted of a Headquarters, with Communication and Train, and five Companies.  The Heavy Company had a Platoon of three 3,7-cm anti-tank guns, a Platoon with two 7,5-cm infantry guns, and a Pioneer Platoon of three Squads.  The Motorcycle Machine Gun Company had one Platoon with six 8-cm mortars and two Platoons each with four heavy machine guns.  There were three Motorcycle Rifle Companies, each with a Section of two heavy machine guns and three Rifle Platoons, each with a 5-cm mortar and six light machine guns.

 

From what I can gather, none of the detailed KStN tables still exist for any of these subunits.  Most probably differed little from their 1939 to 1940 format, though there are some indications that the train and maintenance elements were amended.  The Rifle Platoon was probably little changed, perhaps adding a Platoon NCO and almost certainly an anti-tank rifle.  Towards the end of 1941, the Kradschutzen were absorbed into the Panzer Reconnaissance Battalions, and over the next few years largely swapped their motorcycles for light cars and halftracks, though it seems there were at least a few Motorcycle Rifle Companies still in existence by 1944.

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