Sunday 22 November 2020

The Leaping Tiger


by Henry Lewi

cup of Indian tea

The men of the 2nd Battalion had been retreating backwards from Bordeaux  across France towards the Alsace-German border. Harried by Allied soldiers and French Resistance fighters the battalion suffered increasing casualties as they fought back with their usual tenacity, it was not for nothing that the foreign volunteers of the regiment were considered one of the most elite regiments in the German Army, recognised by their unit badge of a “Leaping Golden Tiger”.

They had spent the preceding 6 months based around the beaches of Bordeaux, resting training and refitting in relative peace.  They had welcomed their numerous reinforcements – more of their countrymen who immediately felt comfortable amongst their comrades, despite the majority of their commanding officers being German, the unit culture represented a home away from home.

The allied invasion in June and its subsequent drive south meant that the battalion had to pull out of the relative serenity of Bordeaux and head backwards to join the gathering German Forces who were preparing to defend the very borders of the Fatherland, though not their Fatherland, like the many other foreign battalions and divisions they would fight to protect their adopted masters – after all where else could they go?  Home was far, far away, and would they be welcomed back? Possibly, possibly not, but considering the political upheaval at home, that welcome would be sometime in the future. 

They made a stand against the Allied forces outside of Dijon, but their defence failed in the face of the overwhelming superiority in allied numbers; and they continued to head northward, pursued by elements of the 6th Army Group,  constantly harried from the air by Allied planes, and on the ground by members of the French Resistance.  

The battalion and the remaining survivors of their Regiment attempted to regroup at Strasbourg alongside other German units to face the French General Leclerc’s Armoured Division, but the French with Allied support proved far too strong, and the remnants of the Battalion continued their retreat, finally crossing the Rhine into the safe refuge of the Fatherland.

 The Battalion finally encamped outside of the town of Stetten just a few kilometres north of Lake Constance and the Swiss border to refit and re-arm in preparation for the defence of the southern corridor to Munich.  It was here that it was announced that the Regiment, like all other Foreign Volunteer Regiments had been subsumed into Himmler’s Waffen-SS, but the men of the regiment had little idea as to the implications of this re-designation. All they knew was that they were now designated as a “Volunteer Legion of the Waffen-SS”.  Now in the South of Germany in relative isolation, they received news of the entry of Allied troops into the Fatherland and the progressive collapse of their adopted country. Fearing for their future the remaining men of the Legion marched the short distance to the German Border to seek sanctuary in Switzerland, but the Swiss ever mindful of their neutrality would not allow them entry.

 The men of the Legion had little option but to surrender to the US 7th Army in the hope that by avoiding capitulation to the British they would not be tried and executed for treason; as those surviving one thousand men of the Free Indian Legion of the Waffen-SS had deserted the British Indian Army and had fought against their Ruler and Emperor - the British Raj. 

About the author 

Henry is a retired Surgeon and member of the Canvey Writers Group.
He has published a number of stories on the CafeLit site




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