Notes on the 1st Lehr Pionier Bn Bridging operation at the Dvina river 7-8 July 1941.

Lt. Col. Graf was given the task of putting a bridge across the Dvina River as part of the advance on Smolensk. Graf conducted a recon of the area and found the original bridge had been destroyed and was unusable. However just to the west of the destroyed brigde was an old ferry site with a roadway leading to and from the riverbank. This site was chosen for a bridge to be erected.

At 1430 hrs A. Co. was ordered to clear straggles from Ulla and the crossing site. Graf also ordered the Bridging columns of the Bn. to move to the site. This movement is hindered by traffic of 7th Pz and 22nd Mot. that are stopped on the roadway.

A Co. is now ordered to use assault boats to cross the river and establish a bridgehead on the far bank. They are then to recon the exit to the river, mark the approaches, and scout the riverbed for depth. Two armoured cars are to remain on the near side to help cover the crossing. Also the Mortar and Machingun Plts of B and C Co. are positioned to cover A. Co.

B co. is ordered to begin assembly of the tressles and C Co. is to set up the pontoons and move them to the river. Between 1600 and 1630 hrs. A Co. crosses the river.

At this point Soviet aircraft attack the town and set it on fire. Since the buildings are made of wood the town burn easilly. The fire cuts the units on the riverbank and across the river off form the rest of the unit.

At dusk a Soviet infantry unit (size unknown) attacks A Co. Flamethrowers are sent from B and C Co. to assist with the defense. The fires finally die down and two trucks with ground mount 28cm. rockets are sent up to support A Co. By 2200 hrs the situation is stable.

Meanwhile, by 2030 hrs Graf has a phone line to Korps and request additional pionier units since most of his Bn. is tied up defending the site. B Co. of the 43rd is sent and arrives at 2300 hrs. B-43rd begins assembly of the 14 pontoons that are required for the bridge.

Because of the shallowness of the water the pontoons had to be carried 30-40 meters into the river before they would float. All the pontoons were in place by 0630 hrs and the bridge was open at 0800 hrs.


Please note that the source for this document is the Small Unit Actions Series. These papers were writen by German Officers after the war for the U.S. Army's Historical Section. The original paper claims that the action took place as part of LVII Korps action and that 7th Panzer and 22nd Mot. Div. were to cross the river. However LVII Korps did not contain 7th Pz but 12th and 19th Pz. It should be remimbered that these papers were writen after the war ended with little or no documentation available. The only source was the authors memory.