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The 1. Kosaken-Kavallerie-Division (also 1. Kosaken-Division) was authorized to form in April 1943 and was formed from the cossacks in Cherson (who had fled the advancing Red Army), volunteers from POW camps as well as some Cossack units already serving alongside the Wehrmacht in the Reiterverband von Pannwitz.
It spent the summer in training and left from Croatia in September 1943. The first elements arrived 25 September and were stationed in Syrmien under the command of 2. Panzer-Armee and was used to provide rear area security.

On 12 October it was sent on an anti-partisan sweep in the Fruška Gora Mountains, for this mission 15 tanks and 1 armored car were attached to the unit. The partisans withdrew rather than fight and once the village of Beocin with its partisan HQ was taken the operation, the first major operation of the Cossacks, was aborted.
After this operation it was given the task of protecting the Zagreb-Belgrade railroad as well as the Sava valley. Elements of the division took part in several anti-partisan operations during the fall of 1943, for example Don-Kosaken Reiter-Regiment 1 fought near Sisak along with 11. SS Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division Nordland and Sibirisches Kosaken-Reiter-Regiment 2 fought around Gora and Glina together with 371. Infanterie-Division.

Kosaken-Reiter-Brigade Kaukasus II was in Bosnia guarding the railroad near Sarajevo against the partisans as well as the chetniks until January 1944 when it was withdrawn to Croatia, taking part in the anti-partisan operation Napfkuchen on the way.
It took part in the major anti-partisan operation Rösselsprung, famed for the actions of SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500, in May 1944 seeing heavy action and taking hard losses, especially Sibirisches Kosaken-Reiter-Regiment 2 that were encircled by partisan forces for several days before the arrival of a Cossack relief force was able to break the encirclement.

I have been in the army since I was fifteen. To leave now would seem to me like desertion. (1)

Generalmajor Helmuth Pannwitz in a meeting with Heinrich Himmler 26 August 1944 on transferring to the Waffen-SS.

The anti-partisan duties continued for the unit during the summer and in August the Waffen-SS took over responsibility for supplying the unit, whether or not the Cossack units were actually transferred into the Waffen-SS and if so, to which degree, has been debated post-war.
Whether or not they were now part of the Waffen-SS or not, was a question that made little difference to the Cossacks, the fighting against the partisans continued and was getting steadily harder. In December the Cossacks saw their first action against the Soviet Red Army at Pitomaca, an engagement which ended in a Soviet withdrawal.
In January 1945 a Cossack corps, XV SS Kosaken-Kavallerie-Korps, was formed and Kosaken-Reiter-Brigade Kaukasus II was used to form 2. Kosaken-Kavallerie-Division.

Apart from the Soviet Red Army, the Cossack units also saw action against the Bulgarian forces during the fighting in Hungary. Franz-Wilhelm Mach was awarded the Knight's Cross for leading the only known and confirmed night attack of an entire cavalry unit, they rode sabres swinging against Bulgarian artillery position, the 400 riders captured the artillery cannons and captured 450 prisoners on 22-23 March 1945.

At the end of the war the cossack units surrendered to the British forces in Austria after receiving a guarantee from a British General, possibly General Archer, that they would not be turned over to the Soviets. This soon changed however and they were turned over to the USSR a few weeks later, many of them being executed, including several of the German officers serving in those units, and the rest doing hard labour for a long time.

This unit took part in anti-partisan operations in Croatia.

Commanders

Generalleutnant Helmuth von Pannwitz (Sep 1943 - Feb 1945)
Oberst von Baath (? 1945 - ? 1945)
Oberst Alexander von Boße (? 1945 - ? 1945)
Oberst Konstantin Wagner (? 1945 - ? 1945)

Area of operations

Yugoslavia (Sep 1943 - Jan 1945)
Eastern front, southern sector (Jan 1945 - Feb 1945)
Hungary, Yugoslavia & Italy (Feb 1945 - May 1945)

Holders of high awards

Holders of the German Cross in Gold (7)
- Baath von, Hans-Gert Oberst Kdr Kosaken-Brigade (Don) 1
- Brasch von, Eberhardt 17.08.1944 Oberleutnant 7./Sibir. Kos.Reiter-Rgt 2
- Kottulinsky, Jaroslaw 05.03.1945 Major r.Kos.Art.Abt (Don) II/55
- Nolcken Freiherr von, Heimert 25.08.1944 Oberstleutnant Sibir. Kos.Reiter-Rgt 2
- Rolf Reichsfreiherr von, Ottomar 01.02.1945 Rittmeister Sibir.Kos.Reiter-Rgt 2
- Salm-Horstmar Prinz zu, Karl-Walrad 05.03.1945 Oberstleutnant Terek-Kos.Reiter-Rgt 6
- Schultz von, Hans-Joachim 22.03.1945 Oberst Kdr Kos.Brigade Kaukasus
Holders of the Knight's Cross (1)
- Mach, Franz-Wilhelm 30.04.1945 Major Kdr I./Kuban-Kosaken Reiter-Regiment 4

Holders of other notable badges & decorations

Holders of the Anti-Partisan Badge in Bronze (2)
- Koch, Wilhelm, 03.02.1945, Leutnant, 1./Div.Aufkl.Abt. 55
- Storck, Günther, 13.03.1945, Unteroffizier, 8./Sibir-Kosaken-Reiter-Rgt. 2

Order of Battle (November 1944)

Kosaken-Reiter-Brigade Don I
- Don-Kosaken Reiter-Regiment 1
-- I./Don-Kosaken Reiter-Regiment 1
-- II./Don-Kosaken Reiter-Regiment 1
- Sibirisches Kosaken-Reiter-Reigment 2
-- I./Sibirisches Kosaken-Reiter-Reigment 2
-- II./Sibirisches Kosaken-Reiter-Reigment 2
- Kuban-Kosaken-Reiter-Regiment 4
-- I./Kuban-Kosaken-Reiter-Regiment 4
-- II./Kuban-Kosaken-Reiter-Regiment 4
Kosaken-Reiter-Brigade Kaukasus II
- Kuban-Kosaken-Reiter-Regiment 3
-- I./Kuban-Kosaken-Reiter-Regiment 3
-- II./Kuban-Kosaken-Reiter-Regiment 3
- Don-Kosaken-Regiment 5
-- I./Don-Kosaken-Regiment 5
-- II./Don-Kosaken-Regiment 5
- Terek-Kosaken-Regiment 6
-- I./Terek-Kosaken-Regiment 6
-- II./Terek-Kosaken-Regiment 6
Kosaken-Plastun-Brigade
Kosaken-Plastun-Regiment 7
Kosaken-Plastun-Regiment 8
Kosaken-Artillerie-Regiment 55
Aufklärungs-Abteilung 55
Kosaken-Nachrichten-Abteilung 55
Kosaken-Pionier-Bataillon 55
Nachschub-Truppen 55
Kosaken-Lehr- und Ersatz-Regiment

Order of Battle (March 1945)

Don-Kosaken Reiter-Regiment 1
Sibirisches Reiter-Regiment 2
Kuban-Kosaken Reiter-Regiment 4
Kosaken-Artillerie-Regiment 1
Kosaken-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 55
Kosaken-Nachrichten-Abteilung 55
Kosaken-Pionier-Bataillon 55
Nachschub-Truppen 55
Radfahr-Abteilung 55
Veterinär-Kompanie 55
Sanitäts-Kompanie 55
Feldgendarmerie-Trupp
Werkstatt-Kompanie
Kosaken-Ersatz-Regiment

Notable members

Franz-Wilhelm Mach (Awarded the Knight's Cross for leading the only known and confirmed night attack of an entire cavalry unit. They rode sabres swinging against Bulgarian artillery position, the 400 riders captured the artillery cannons and captured 450 prisoners on 22-23 March 1945.)

Propaganda & Culture

Lyrics to the song Pesnya Pervoy Kazachey Divizii (Song of the 1st Cossack Division).

Vo slavy volnogo naroda
Ty v strashnoy byre rodilas,
Na strah vragam, nazlo nevzgodam
Kazachey Pervoy nazvalas.

Twoi lihie komandiry
Splotili nas stalnoy stenoy.
Kak vstar, bulo, polki vodili,
Oni teper vedut nas v boy.

Rejdy tvoi ne opusteut.
Kol est Kuban, est Terek, Don.
Net sily toi, chto nas razveet;
V tvoih rejdah – nash otchyi dom.

Nastanet chas, kogda s zakata
My lavoi hlunem na vostok.
Nastanet nashei chas rasplaty,
Kogda v ruke sverknet klinok;

Za krow otzov, za plach narodnyi,
Za krai rodnoi, chto ves v ogne,
Za vse stradanyi i nevzgody
Togda otplatim my vdvoine.

Vo slavy volnogo naroda
Ty v strashnoy byre rodilas,
Na strah vragam, nazlo nevzgodam
Kazachey Pervoy nazvalas.


Don cossack cavalry troops
cossack-horses-color2
(Courtesy of John)

Generalleutnant Helmuth von Pannwitz in cossack uniform
pannwitz-helmuth

(Courtesy of Peter)

Cossack soldiers taking the oath
cossack-oath
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Cossack soldier
cossack-soldier2
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Footnotes

1. "Thanks God that's gone to the butcher: 2000 quotes from Hitler's 1000-year Reich" by French L. MacLean, page 260.

Sources used

Christopher Ailsby - Hitler's Renegades: Foreign nationals in the service of the Third Reich
Dr Jeffrey T. Fowler - Axis Cavalry in World War II
Steve Kane - Waffen-SS Forces in the Balkans: A checklist (in World War II Journal, Vol 7)
Richard Landwehr - Steadfast Hussars: The Last cavalry Divisions of the Waffen-SS
David Littlejohn - Foreign Legions of the Third Reich, vol 4
French L. MacLean - "Thanks God that's gone to the butcher" 2000 quotes from Hitler's 1000-year Reich
John E. Strandberg - Horsepower: The use of horses by the German armed forces during World War II (in Military Advisor Vol 21, No 4)
Georg Tessin - Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht 1933-1945

Reference material on this unit

Peter J. Huxley-Blythe - Under the St. Andrew's Cross: Russian & Cossack Volunteers in World War II
François de Lannoy - Pannwitz Cossacks: Les Cosaques de Pannwitz 1942 - 1945
Richard Landwehr - Steadfast Hussars: The Last cavalry Divisions of the Waffen-SS

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