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Československá samostatná obrněná brigáda
Active Sep 1943 - May 1945
Country Czechoslovakia
Allegiance Expatriates equipped and
supplied by Great Britain
Branch Army
Type Armoured
Size Brigade
Part of 21st Army Group
Engagements Siege of Dunkirk (1944)
Commanders
Notable
commanders
MG Alois Liška

The 1st Czechoslovak Independent Armoured Brigade Group (Czech: Československá samostatná obrněná brigáda) was an armoured unit of expatriate Czechoslovaks organised and equipped by the United Kingdom during the Second World War in 1943.

The brigade landed in Normandy in August 1944 and was given the mission of containing the German-held port of Dunkirk for the rest of the war in Europe. In May 1945, the brigade moved to Czechoslovakia and was absorbed into the Czechoslovak Army.

Contents

Formation

The 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade was created on 1 September 1943 when the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Brigade (itself originally formed as 1st Czechoslovak Mixed Brigade in July 1940 from remnants of the French Army's 1st Czechoslovak Division) converted to armour and was redesignated as the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Armoured Brigade Group (this was often simplified to 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade or abbreviated 1st CSIABG). The brigade was under the command of Major General Alois Liška.[1] The motorised infantry battalion of the brigade traced its lineage back to Czechoslovak units that had fought in Libya and Lebanon, notably the 11th Infantry Battalion which took part in the defence of Tobruk.[2]

Siege of Dunkirk

The formation continued to train in the UK until the summer of 1944 when, with some 4,000 troops under command, it moved to Normandy, joining 21st Army Group at Falaise on 30 August. On 6 October, the brigade advanced to Dunkirk, northern France, and relieved the 154 (Highland) Infantry Brigade on the eastern side of the besieged German-held "fortress" of Dunkirk. The brigade was subordinated to the First Canadian Army, which was, at the time, responsible for the conduct of the siege. The tank units of the brigade were primarily equipped with the Cromwell tank, as well as Sherman Fireflys, M5 Stuarts and Crusader AA tanks.[2]

1st Brigade spent the remainder of the war at Dunkirk, alternately attacking and being attacked by the energetic German garrison, including a successful major raid on German positions on 28 October 1944, Czechoslovakian Independence Day. During that time the brigade was reinforced by French units formed from local French Forces of the Interior troops; on 15 October these were amalgamated into the 110th French Infantry Regiment of two battalions, and on 24 January 1945 the regiment was redesignated as the 51st French Infantry Regiment and expanded to four battalions. Various British and Canadian formations also supported the siege at one time or another.

In November the brigade passed from the First Canadian Army back to direct control by Montgomery’s 21st Army Group. In the spring of 1945 the 1st Armoured Brigade Group was expanded to 5,900 Czechoslovak officers and men, some of whom came from nationals recruited in liberated France, and a significant group (a tank battalion, an artillery regiment, a motor transport company and a company of engineers[3]) from Czechs forced to serve in the Wehrmacht and who were then captured by the Allies in Normandy.

Return to Czechoslovakia

On 23 April, a symbolic 140-men strong unit led by major Sítek detached from the troops besieging Dunkirk, joined with the 3rd US Army and raised the Czechoslovak flag on its homeland border crossing on 1 May 1945 at Cheb.[4]

The Dunkirk garrison did not surrender until 9 May 1945, when 15,500 German troops and three U-boats were captured by the Czechoslovaks. The brigade then marched to Prague, reaching the city on 18 May 1945, eight days after the arrival of Soviet-sponsored Czechoslovak troops commanded by Ludvík Svoboda.[5]

During the siege of Dunkirk, the Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade suffered 668 casualties; 167 dead, 461 wounded, and 40 missing.

Order of battle

Organization in September 1944:

1st Czechoslovak Tank Battalion
2nd Czechoslovak Tank Battalion
1st Czechoslovak Motorized Infantry Battalion (two companies)
artillery regiment (two battalions)
anti-tank battalion
reconnaissance battalion

Organization in May 1945:

1st Czechoslovak Tank Battalion
2nd Czechoslovak Tank Battalion
3rd Czechoslovak Tank Battalion
1st Czechoslovak Motorized Infantry Battalion (three companies)
artillery regiment (three battalions)
anti-tank battalion
reconnaissance battalion

Notes and references

  1. ^ Nigel Thomas, Foreign Volunteers of the Allied Forces 1939-45, p. 5, London:Osprey Publishing, 1998, ISBN 1-85532-136-X.
  2. ^ a b Nase noviny - The port of Dunkirk in WWII - The Czechoslovaks at Dunkirk 1944-45
  3. ^ "The Containing of Dunkirk, 15 Sep 44 - 6 Feb 45 (Report 184), para.162" (pdf). CANADIAN PARTICIPATION IN THE OPERATIONS IN NORTH-WEST EUROPE 1944. PART V: CLEARING THE CHANNEL PORTS, 3 SEP 44 - 6 FEB 45. Historical Section, Canadian Military Headquarters. http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/his/rep-rap/doc/cmhq/cmhq184.pdf. Retrieved 14 July 2009.  
  4. ^ Václav Straka, Před Dunkerkem (At Dunkirk), a text in book Z válečného deníku by Ladislav Sitenský, Naše vojsko 1991, ISBN 80-206-0247-X, page 278 (in Czech)
  5. ^ Foreign Volunteers, p. 5.

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