Thursday, December 16, 2010

MAJOR WILHELM GEORG BACH

Major Wilhelm Bach, here as a Captain. after receiving his RK
One of the most unusual characters in the Africa Korps was Major Wilhelm Georg Bach, a Lutheran pastor," noted as Rommel's best battalion commander. Although his rank demanded respect, he was the friendliest, most relaxed German commander serving under Rommel. He was captured and taken to Egypt after the lengthly siege of his surrounded positions in Halfaya Pass.

When Erwin Rommel reached Africa in February 1941 his officers were introduced. He didn't smile nor was polite. He had to test them in combat first. But there was a particular officer which Rommel disliked a lot the first time he saw him; that was Hauptmann Bach, veteran of France. He had earned the Iron Cross 1st Class there and was wounded in the knee, so he had to use a batton. Rommel hated the idea of having a unhealthy-officer there but he just went furious when he knew that captain Bach was a Lutheran priest.


General Rommel (left) and Hauptmann Bach (right)

Some months later, Rommel loved Bach. Bach was a master with his 88s as another Bach was with his organ. Even if captain Bach never wore his uniform adequately and dressed very ridiculous sometimes... He also treated his soldiers like sons, very warmly.

Major Bach as seen by Pierre Dupuis in the comic book: Afrika Korps, La Guerre du Désert 1978 (Portuguese Version)
Bach was a picturesque figure of Afrikakorps ... His eternal cigar, his myopic glasses were well known to all DAK gunners. Major Bach and his 4,000 soldiers resist the assaults of the 20,000 British of the 12th Corps in the Halfaya Pass.

Bach in an Italian battery position (Halfaya Pass)

Birth: Nov. 5, 1892 - Death: Dec. 22, 1942

"Wilhelm Bach was born in Oberwoesheim, Bavaria. He was a veteran of the First World War and a British POW. After the war, he married, raised a family, and became a Lutheran minister in Mannheim. Before the Second World War, he was called up to the military. He served in Africa, where he was promoted to Major and was awarded the Knight's Cross. He courageously defended the Halfaya Pass (named "Hellfire Pass" by the Allies) until supply lines were cut and he surrendered on Jan. 17, 1942. As a POW, he was brought to Canada where he died of cancer later that year. He was very well-liked by his men, who carved a wooden marker for his grave which stands in the corner of the cemetery, separate from his burial plot."

Burial:
Woodland Cemetery
Kitchener
Ontario, Canada




Major Wilhelm Bach as a British POW, the ex-pastor who directed the heroic defence of Halfaya Pass.
Major Wilhelm Bach as a British POW - Jan 17, 1942
NOTES:
GRUPPE BACH - This name was given to the battalion commanded by Major Bach of the Infanterie-Regiment 104. The Gruppe, plus its commander, was captured.

Halfaya Pass. Situated near the Egyptian–Libyan border, this gap was one of only two exits through a defensible escarpment which narrowed the coastal plain to a bottleneck south of Sollum in Libya. This made it one of the most disputed pieces of ground in the Western Desert campaigns. Rommel's AfrikaKorps captured it on 27 April 1941 and recaptured it after it was retaken during a British advance mounted that May (BREVITY). The pass then became an anchor point for a powerful German defensive line that ran through Hafid ridge to Sidi Azeiz.

It was successfully held by Rommel's remarkable military cleric, Major Wilhelm Bach, when the British launched their next offensive in June 1941 (BATTLEAXE) and, despite being isolated, he continued to hold it when a third British offensive was launched that November (CRUSADER). He was finally forced to surrender in January 1942. Rommel then retook the pass after the Gazala battle in June 1942, but it was successfully stormed by New Zealand infantry in November 1942 after the second battle of El Alamein.


1 comment:

  1. Today I visited the Woodlawn Cemetery in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada where Major Wilhelm Georg Bach is buried. The German War Graves section contains 187 German POWs from the First and Second World wars.

    ReplyDelete