Unteroffizier Albert Bertsch

The photos on this page are from the personal collection of Unteroffizier Albert Bertsch, who served with the Nachrichtenabteiling (Signals Battalion) of the Großdeutschland Division.  Thanks to Herr Bertsch and Jeremy Cauley for these photos and the permission to post them.   Herr Bertsch would love to contact veterans of his old battalion; anyone who can help is urged to contact the webmaster. Thanks to Jeremy again on 15-22 Sep 2003, when he provided extra hi-resolution images to share.

Herr Bertsch also consented to answer some questions via email; I am pleased to present our interview here.

bertsch2.jpg (12949 bytes) At right, Albert is pictured as he appeared in 1969, serving in Baden-Soellingen, Germany as a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces. Note the cross above his right breast pocket, and the use of Royal Canadian Air Force insignia; this would change as Unification took effect throughout the Canadian forces..   Albert moved to Canada, as a fair number of German veterans did after the war, in 1952, and volunteered to serve in the military of his adopted land.  In all Albert served 14 years in the Canadian Forces, an experience he describes as a "happy" one. bertschpic.jpg (9618 bytes)
At left, Albert as he appeared in the Second World War, wearing the black AFV uniform he wore as a member of the Armoured Signals Regiment "Grossdeutschland".  The standard "Totenkopf" or "Death's Head" skull devices are worn on the collar patches, edged in lemon yellow "waffenfarbe" or branch of service colour; this colour is repeated on the soutache braid over the national cockade on the black service cap.
How old were you when you joined the Army?

I didn't join the Army. When I was drafted in 1940 I was 20 years old.

What did your mother and father think about you joining?

My father had died in 1938 and neither I nor my mother had any say in it.

gdsig1.jpg (23873 bytes) Left, Albert as an Obergefreiter wearing the ribbon of the Kriegsverdienstkreuz II Klasse (War Merit Cross Second Class).  Albert wears the black AFV uniform, which was common in the signals battalion of the GD Division, and the fairly rare 1942 model of the Feldmütze, with two button front.   Soldier at right is not a GD soldier, but a troop returning to the front after home leave.
Did you serve in any other units before Großdeutschland?

When I was drafted I was send to signal training at Langemarck-Kaserne in Bielefeld. 

Why did you become a signaller?

Again, I had no choice, but I was quite happy about it.

What kind of skills did you learn during your training?

Morse code, encoding and decoding.



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Herr Bertsch was a tall man; photographed here returning to the front with soldiers from other units after home leave.
Was it hard?

Not really, it was interesting.

Who presented you with the Iron Cross Second Class?

If I remember right, it was General von Manteuffel. (Webmaster's note - General von Manteuffel commanded the GD Division after serving in Africa)

What did the hometown newspaper have to say about the award?

Nothing. The Iron Cross Second Class was so common almost everybody got it.

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The webmaster originally described the photo above right as soldiers clearing communications lines of frost in winter. Thanks to Jeff "Speedbump" Myers of the Combat Mission Forum, who has provided a more likely description of what this photo actually depicts.   In Jeff's words: " My wife is a native Hungarian.  I have travelled around much of Hungary including the plains area where they have a very unique type of cowboy.  For the first couple of days, I would notice these "see-saw" contraptions in many of the fields.  I finally summoned the courage to ask my in-laws what they were and was told they were wells.   Where Westerners have the winch type of system to draw up water, the Hungarians (and I can only assume much of the rest of that part of the world) use this method.   It is weighted much like a crossing gate, so that a single person could easily swing it up and down, in this case bringing up a full bucket of well water."   Thanks again Jeff.
Was it publicized at home?


Which fronts did you serve on?

The Russian front.

How long did you serve in Russia?

From spring 1942 until the end of lthe war. (Webmaster's note - during this period, Albert received two weeks leave in 1943 and again in 1944)

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Did you attend NCO School?

I am not aware of any NCO schools during the war. We were promoted in the field as the positions were needed.

Who was your best friend in the Army?

That is difficult to say. In a war you have good comrades and I had many. To develop a friendship was difficult, because the persons in your group changed so often over the years.

Which of your officers did you respect the most - and why?

The padded winteranzug (Winter Uniform) was a welcome addition to the wardrobe of German soldiers in the East; fine examples of the splinter pattern pants and reversible padded jacket can be seen in these two photos, along with fur hats.
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I remember two Captains (Company commanders) and also a  Battalion commander. Of one of these captains I know that he was very brave.

I know of all three that they were politically clean according to my standards which means they were no NAZIS. I am sure there were more of the same attitude but to express it demanded a great amount of trust. The wrong word could be deadly. And that applied to every soldier in the German Wehrmacht.

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The famous white "stahlhelm" or steel helmet insignia of the GD division is just visible on the panzer behind these men.  Albert Bertsch is the Gefreiter standing at right.
At right are photos of the signals van used by Albert and his men. gdsig8.jpg (73673 bytes)

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