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The Wolfgrabhügel
By Jonathan Bocek


Since we dig-in at events whenever possible, I thought an article on the proper German Infantry positions would be of some use.  Below you will find information on the one-man, two-man, and machine-gun positions.

In General
According to German Army doctrine, the construction of positions "must conform to factors determined by the enemy, the ground, one's own forces, and the time and supplies available.  Fire positions and fields of fire must be established on the fire plan before the work is marked out and construction begun.  Fire positions must merge with the surrounding country in such a fashion that the maximum possible use is made of natural concealment.  Furthermore, all positions, even those to the rear, will be kept camouflaged as much as possible while they are under construction."

To decrease the vulnerability of high-angle enemy fire such as artillery or mortars, the positions were not to be made larger than necessary.  The angles of the position walls themselves depended on the nature of the ground (soft ground would require a larger angle to prevent cave-ins).  Situation permitting, the excavated soil would be removed from the position in the least obvious manner using a set path.  The parapet should be kept low, but allow for clear fields of fire on all sides and still provide protection. Whenever possible an alternate position should be established to the rear of the main one.

The Rifleman's Position

There are two basic rifleman's positions. The one-man and two-man Schützenloch (firing hole).  The one-man position sometimes called a Russenloch (Russian hole) was a simple 70cm wide hole just deep enough for a Landser to kneel in.  The excavated soil was piled up to form a parapet which reduced the amount of digging needed to provide proper protection.  The soil used to form the parapet was to be removed to better conceal the position from the enemy, this usually did not happen due to time constraints.  If needed, this position could be deepened to allow a standing position as well as widened to form a two-man hole.      

The two-man hole was preferred over the one-man version for it allowed one soldier to rest while the other stood guard as well as provided a stronger defensive point.  At first the Schützenloch fur 2 was a short straight trench, 80cm by 1.8m.  Later in 1944 a slightly curved version became the standard.  As you can see in the diagram below, this version had two firing steps with a deeper centre section.  For protection, the Landsers could sit on the firing steps with their legs in the center during enemy artillery or mortar barrages.  As mentioned above, the soil forming the parapet was to be removed if time allowed.  If a panzerfaust was to be used in the position, the back half was cleared of any obstructions as well as the parapet was removed to allow for the weapon's back-blast.

The Light Machine-Gun Position
The squad light machine-gun position was a slightly curved, 1.4-1.6m trench with two short armor protection trenches angled to the rear.  Note how these short trenches are deeper than the position forming a fire step like in the rifleman's position above.  On the forward side was a 20cm deep "U" shaped platform for the bipod of the MG.  This position could be placed anywhere within the squad line that provided the best field of fire.  Alternate positions were to be established anywhere up to 50m from the main one.


 

   

If the positions were occupied long enough, crawl trenches were often dug to connect the various holes into a defensive network.  Unlike the trenches of WWI, these often followed the contours of the land.  As always, camouflage is of primary importance for all of the mentioned infantry fieldworks.

 


Sources:
- German Field Fortifications 1939-45, by Gordon L. Rottman
- Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. #7, dated March 1943

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