Mobile Brigade (Croatia)
- Published: 16 February 2013 16 February 2013
- Last Updated: 16 February 2013 16 February 2013
(Brzi Zdrug) (also Fast Brigade)
by H.L. deZeng IV
The Brigade was officially formed on 1 April 1944 with the former I Bicycle Battalion (I. Koturaška Bojna) as I Bn., the II Bicycle Battalion as II Bn. and the Zagreb Cavalry Regiment (Zagrebačka Konjanička Pukovnija) as Brigade headquarters and III Bn. The Zagreb Cavalry Regiment was disbanded effective with the date of formation. (1)
It needs to be pointed out that the Fast Brigade was considered a Domobran unit rather than Ustasha. In December 1944, when Poglavnik ordered the uniting of all branches of service to form 16 divisions, Domobran units lost their separate identities and here lies the confusion that sometimes leads to the labeling of the Mobile Brigade as an Ustasha unit. The Brigade never had any tanks in its composition, in fact, until it was motorized in December 1944, the best it could muster were a few motorcycles. However, a German document states that it had 5 tanks on 1 December 1944, probably just delivered, but no additional information is given. No further mention of these tanks has been found. (2)
Brigade HQ and III Battalion were subordinate to Croatian III Territorial Corps in Sarajevo, I Battalion was under I Territorial Corps in Zagreb and II Battalion under II Territorial Corps in Sl. Brod.
1 Apr 44: OB and strength: - Brigade HQ and Staff (Stožer Zdrug) in Travnik (12 off./8 NCOs/31 men); I Battalion (I. bojna) (1.-4.) in Koprivnica (approx. 600 personnel); II Battalion (II. bojna) (5.-8.) in Gromačnik (near Brod) (approx. 581 personnel); III Battalion (III. bojna) (9.-12.) in Travnik (20 off./89 NCOs/682 men).
During the month, II Battalion (5.,6. and 8. sat (company)) operated throughout the month from the village of Gromačnik (between Sl. Brod and Sl. Požega), making patrol sweeps into the countryside. No casualties were reported on either side. Beginning 24 April, two companies belonging to II Battalion played a minor role in Operation “Ungewitter”, a very large German anti-partisan operation against Tito's 6th Corps in the Papuk Mountains of Slavonia. The companies were assigned to Sperrgruppe (blocking group) Hagemann and supported the main force German units, primarily the 42. Jäger-Division, by blocking Partisan exit routes on the eastern side of the surrounded area. The operation concluded on 8 May.
Meanwhile, the main elements of the Brigade in and around Travnik guarded the railway between Turbe and Lašva. On 13 April the Brigade, along with elements of the XXIX Ustasha Battalion, was charged with blocking the advance of the 13th Proletarian Brigade “Rade Končar” along the Travnik-Jajce road. A fierce fire fight developed, leaving 6 dead and 20 wounded Partisans. Croatian losses were 2 wounded Ustasha and 1 wounded Domobran. A week later, on 21 April, the Brigade engaged the Travnik Partisan Detachment around the village of Šenkovići (12 km SW of Travnik), killing 12 and taking 14 prisoner, all without loss to themselves.
Brigade forces in the Travnik area continued patrolling activities along the Turbe- Lašva railway line and had several brief engagements with elements of the 10th Partisan Division. During the entire month, 1 Domobran was wounded and 4 Partisans were claimed to have been wounded.
Brigade contact with enemy forces in the Turbe-Travnik- Lašva area intensified during June. Several engagements were fought against elements of the 1st and 10th Proletarian Divisions (Partisan I Proletarian Corps), mostly in support of offensive activities carried out by the 7. SS-Freiw.Geb.Div. “Prinz Eugen”. The Brigade claimed 13 Partisans killed, 29 wounded and 70 captured during the month, for a loss of 3 men wounded.
Brigade combat activity in the Travnik area during July continued as in June, only with fewer casualties on both sides. Toward the end of the month, Brigade elements were operating with II./SS-Rgt. 13 against Partisans in the Bugojno area. The other battalions of the Brigade, I and II, were static garrison units in Koprivnica (later Stubica) and around Sl. Brod respectively, and had very limited contact with Partisan forces. During the early summer, I Battalion was sent to Döllersheim (Austria) for training, returning on 2 October 1944. Pukovnik Bona Bunić took over as Deputy Brigade Commander during July.
The Travnik area was relatively quiet during August, and the Brigade reported no casualties and inflicted no losses on the Partisans. Throughout the period July to September 1944, the Brigade elements in Travnik were tactically under 7. SS-Freiw.Geb.Div. “Prinz Eugen”, which in turn was under V. SS-Geb.Korps.
Liberation of/Defense of Travnik 20-22 October 1944 (Partisan post-war account). After Banja Luka, Travnik was the next most important enemy strongpoint in the area of the Partisan 5th Corps. The city was defended by the XXIX Ustasha Battalion, the Kupres Domdo Battalion, HQ and III Bn./Mobile Brigade, Gendarmerie, Police, Finance Guards, Ustasha (local Ustasha militia from previously liberated areas around the city), artillery from the 8th Garrison Brigade, 5 antitank guns and an armored train - all together around 2,600 men. (3)
The Partisan 5th Corps' plan called for the 6th Brigade/4th Division to attack Travnik from the west, 7th Brigade/10th Division from the east and southeast, the Jajačko-Travnik Partisan Detachment was to carry out a diversionary attack from the north and northeast and 11th Brigade/4th Division was to move against Busovača (20 km SE of Travnik). Flank security for the attacking forces was to be provided by 8th Brigade/4th Division, 9th Brigade/10th Division and the Visočko-Fojnička Partisan Detachment.
The attack on Travnik began at 2000 hours on 20 October with a one-hour artillery preparation. Partisan 6th and 7th Brigades moved against the bunker defense system surrounding the city, supported by artillery and tanks. The attacking units entered Travnik the next day against strong resistance, and by 0900 on the 22nd the Croatians had been forced back into the city's barracks, which they desperately defended. The two Partisan brigades launched an all out attack on the barracks area at 1700 hours, and after a 2-hour battle Travnik was finally liberated, according to the account. While the attack on Travnik was running its course, 8th Brigade/4th Division prevented 1,700 Ustasha from the Zenica garrison from carrying out a relief attempt. The Travnik elements of the Mobile Brigade were virtually destroyed. Pukovnik Bona Bunić, the senior officer and garrison commander in Travnik, fell with most of his men.
November - December 1944
Meanwhile, 1,200 men of the Mobile Brigade (Brzi Zdrug) were at Stubičke Toplice, Donja Stubica and Go1ubovec (all around Zagreb), having just returned from 4 months training in Germany. Although specific documentation is lacking, it appears that plans called for the construction of a normal size, fully motorized Brigade of around 3,000 to 4,000 men which was to consist of this contingent of 1,200 plus the original group at Travnik. A German liaison staff (D.V.K. 317) with one officer and three NCOs was assigned to Brigade headquarters at this time to oversee the reorganization measures, training and to facilitate the acquisition of equipment and supplies. The Travnik survivors, who must have numbered around 300 men, assembled in Zagreb during November and joined up with the others.
Sometime early in the new year, the Brigade moved from the Zagreb area south to Sisak and then later to Srbac, which is on the west bank of the Sava upriver from Sl. Brod. Operating from Sisak, Combat Group “Schlacher” engaged in heavy fighting with Partisan 7th and 34th Divisions from 11 to 17 February for control of Petrinja, claiming 121 enemy KIA and hundreds of wounded for a loss of 35 KIA and 151 WIA. By 22 March 1945, the Brigade together with the Croatian Parachute Battalion, comprised Combat Group “Schlacher”, and was now in the line around Tomašica (10 km NE of Garešnica), on the right flank of the 1st Bodyguard Division (1. PTD). Combat Group “Schlacher” came under the I Ustasha Corps from mid-March, and then from mid-April it was under the Poglavnik Bodyguard Corps. The estimated strength of the Brigade in March is given as 1,600. On 25 March one battalion from the Brigade, apparently detached from the main body, took part in an offensive operation with four Ustasha battalions in the Petrinja - Glina area against 34th Assault Division JA. By the time the offensive concluded on 2 April, there had been heavy losses on both sides.
The Partisans began their spring offensive in early April, and the Brigade gradually withdrew toward the northwest, probably in a decimated condition. The final fate of the Brigade is not known, but the majority of the survivors were no doubt captured and executed by the Partisans in May 1945.
Pukovnik Aurel Schlacher (Schlaher, Šlaher)
Podpukovnik Josip Klobučarić
III Territorial Corps (Apr 1944 - Oct 1944)
I Territorial Corps (Nov 1944 - c. 15 Mar 1945)
I Ustasha Corps (c. 15 Mar 1945 - c. 15 Apr 1945)
Poglavnik Bodyguard Corps (c. 15 Apr 1945 - May 1945)
Order of battle (4 Sep 1944)
Brigade HQ (Travnik)
I Battalion (1.-4.) (Döllersheim, Austria)
II Battalion (5.-8.) (Sl. Brod –Gromačnik)
III Battalion (9.-12.) (Travnik)
1st Company/Kupres Domdo Battalion (Komar)
I Battery/8th Garrison Brigade (Travnik)
1st Independent Artillery Platoon/8th Garrison Brigade (Travnik)
Order of battle (20 Dec 1944)
Brigade HQ and Staff (Pukovnik Schlacher) (Dugo Selo)
I Battalion (Podpukovnik Kramarić) (Božjakovina) (4)
II Battalion (Dugo Selo)
I Independent Artillery Battery (Božjakovina)
Brigade support elements (Engineer Co., Maintenance Co.) (Dugo Selo and Ivanic Klostar)
Total strength: approx. 2,500.
1. The sources used for this brief history were in main the Brigade's own monthly situation reports (April- September 1944), supplemented by a few isolated reference in the German military records and wartime and post-war Yugoslav military reports, articles and studies (e.g., Zbornik AVII V/38, p.630; Hronologija Oslobodilačke Borbe Naroda Jugoslavije 1941-1945 (Beograd, 1964), p.1087).
2. NARA WashDC: RG 242 (T-77:776/724-26).
3. A German account gives the Travnik garrison as: I Bn./8th Garrison Brigade (300 men), I Artillery Battery/8th Garrison Brigade (c. 100 men), HQ and III Bn./Mobile Brigade (c. 700 men), a local Ustasha guard battalion (400 men) and Police Volunteer Bn. 5 “Kroatien” (Polizei-Freiwilligen-Btl. 5 “Kroatien”) (400 men).
4. On 26 October 1944 the composition and locations for I Battalion were given as: Bn. Commander Bojnik (Major) Binder with HQ in Donja Stubica, 1st Co. (Poručnik (Lt.) Žulj) in Donja Stubica, 2d Co. (Poručnik Kozarić) in Dugo Selo, Motorized Co. (Satnik (Capt.) Lavoslav Došen) in Dinja Stubica, Medical Platoon (Nadporučnik (1st Lt.) Krušec) in Stubičke Toplice.
Reference material on this unit
- None known at this time -