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Manteuffel Kaserne During the War Years - Part II


The history of Manteuffel Kaserne during the war years is fairly well documented. The barracks was used as the training center for the 13th Medical Replacement Battalion. In pre war years, this unit existed as a training company but with the huge expansion of the army to support the war, it was expanded to battalion size and moved to Bad Kissingen. One source also finds a second medical training battalion in Bad Kissingen, however, this may be an error, no other evidence places the unit in the area during the war. The barracks also had small administrative offices to support the local draft board and a military supply purchasing agent.
 
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Officers and training cadre of the 13th Medical Training Battalion pose for an early war photo at Manteuffel Kaserne.

 

German infantry divisions were built up and supplied with replacement personnel on a regional basis; this was somewhat similar to the US Army National Guard and Reserve system. By grouping recruits and draftees as much as possible from one region, an instant bond was formed between both new personnel and "old hands" within the unit. Once established divisions deployed to the front, training battalions moved into the vacated barracks to provide replacements to both active units and new divisions under construction at the major training areas. Within this regional system, certain barracks took on specialized training roles. Bad Kissingen was located in military district - Wehrkreis XIII, the immediate regional HQ was in Nurnberg. Manteuffel Kaserne, once the staff of the 13th Medical Battalion arrived, assumed the mission of training field medical personnel. Upon completion of training, these men most probably were then assigned to the twenty - eight infantry divisions raised from the north central portion of Bavaria during the course of the war.
 

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Manteuffel Photo Album

  Hauptmann Dr. Michel's Photo Album  

It appears purely coincidental that Bad Kissingen, with its high density of doctors and clinics in support of the Kur industry of the town, should become the home of a training unit for medics. No links have been found between the civil side of medicine and the activities at the barracks. Perhaps the limited training areas of Reitersresen had something to do with the decision, perhaps many of the reservists with medical backgrounds recalled to duty to flesh out the 13th Battalion staff were working in the clinics and spas in the Bad Kissingen area, perhaps the decision was just a staff plan at a distant headquarters that seemed to make sense at the time. As of yet, there is no conclusive evidence.

Beyond stray photographs that occasionally turn up, we have four excellent visual sources from this period, all photo albums assembled by officers and enlisted men stationed at Manteuffel Kaserne. Photography and creating souvenir albums were enormously popular pastimes in Germany and while they may not always tell a complete story, nevertheless, they provide fascinating glimpses into military life in Bad Kissingen during the war years.

Album 1 was assembled by a soldier receiving training at Manteuffel early in the war. We never learn his name or fate and the captions add only sparse information but the images provide a wealth of detail into the days of a medic trainee. As expected, the first part of training consisted of basic soldier skills: marching, marksmanship, gas mask confidence exercise and field medic training.

Then, the soldier moves to a military hospital in Amberg for classroom training and experience in a clinical environment. After a period of time, he returns to Manteuffel to apparently wait for orders to report to his gaining unit. Interestingly, during this brief second stay, the soldier and his friends must live in the former Kradschutzen motor shops; all of the barracks space is occupied by the next rotation of soldiers beginning training. The final photo in the album finds the soldier who took the pictures and his friends at the Bad Kissingen Bahnhof, waiting for the train to take them to their next assignment and into the war.

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The Horsemen

  Winterhilfswerk Commemorative Photo Album  

The second album was built by trainees and staff as a gift to Captain - Doctor Michel, a staff officer and company commander in the 13th Medical Training Replacement Battalion in celebration of his 34th birthday. The photos detail the life of the 2nd Company as they go through basic training as supervised by this officer. No written explanation accompanies the individual images but professional captioning did divide the album into broad sections. As with the first album, we have no idea what became of the Doctor, however, the album provides a counterpoint to the enlisted life as seen in album 1. Of note, often the last image contained in albums of this period was the official death notice or photograph of the field burial site of the soldier if he died during the war. Neither album contained such information.

Album 3 records the events of a single day, 22 November 1941, for the officers and senior NCOs of the 13th Medical Training Battalion. On that day, these men participated in a “ hunting ride “ - a horse mounted steeple chase followed by a formal reception. The album has a beautifully hand drawn image of a military rider and horse in mid jump and a brief title. The photographs were not captioned but the events of the day are easy enough to follow. In all probability, several copies of this album were probably produced as souvenirs for the participants. The man who received this particular copy did not identify himself through words or markings on any of the images.

The final album of the collection recalls the variety stage show put on by the men of the training unit in November 1943 as a fund raising effort for the German Winter Aid charity campaign. The album, assembled as a formal gift to the battalion commander was professionally photographed and captioned in a beautiful rendering of old German script with a rhyming scheme in keeping with the comedy of the stage presentation. The Boys in the Band, found in the Hidden Story section, tells the story of this event. Follow the icon to view the full collection of images and rough translations of the captions.

Revised Dec 2006
 

 
 

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