Hörnicke, Werner

    Date of birth:
    March 9th, 1907 (Dresden/Saxony, Germany)
    Date of death:
    April 30th, 1982 (Nürnberg/Bavaria, Germany)
    Nationality:
    German (1933-1945, German Reich)

    Biography

    Werner Hörnicke left the Waffen-SS on 1st December 1944 and joined the Heer.

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    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    SS-Sturmbannführer der Reserve (Major of Reserves)
    Unit:
    Kommandeur I. / Grenadier-Regiment 10 (motorisiert) / 1.SS-Infanterie-Brigade (motorisiert)
    Awarded on:
    December 1st, 1943
    Action:
    Hörnicke’s Knight’s Cross recommendation reads as follows…

    “SS-Sturmbannführer Hörnicke has been a Waffen-SS officer since the 15.11.1939. He has participated in the fighting on the Eastern front as part of the Brigade up until his being wounded on the 22.09.1943. In this time he has successfully led Schützen-Kompanien of the SS-Gr.Rgt. 8, the Brigade’s Kradschützen-Kompanie and the I./SS-Gren.Rgt. 10.

    On the 01.09.1943 this latter Bataillon, under Hörnicke’s command, stood as the spearhead of the Brigade in the area around Yelnya where the enemy had broken-into. On this day it was suddenly taken out of its march formation and sent to engage the advancing enemy forces north of the Yelnya-Baltukino road, near Malaja-Neshodo. Hörnicke selected a suitable interception position and from here covered the retreat of an Infanterie-Division. However in the morning hours of the 02.09.1943 the enemy had already pushed back the left neighbouring unit out of its positions with strong forces of their own.

    As had already happened many times, the energy and decisiveness of Hörnicke would now show themselves with powerful effect. He gathered up all the fleeing elements, reorganized them, threw the enemy back with heavy losses to them and restored the old frontline. On the basis of his energetic intervention the commanding general of the IX. Armee-Korps, General Schmidt, mentioned him in an order to the entire German front in this area. Thanks to his firm intervention it was possible to pull back the bulk of the 35. Infanterie-Division.

    After his Bataillon had been relieved of their sector, on the evening of the 02.09.1943, the enemy once again attacked and penetrated the right wing of the German frontline. In response Hörnicke immediately prepared his Kompanien for a counterthrust, threw the enemy back and restored the old frontline a second time. His prudent leadership is responsible for the fact that this success was carried out with minimal losses.

    On the 05.09.1943 Hörnicke and his Bataillon were stationed as a reserve northwest of Kukujewo for the 1. SS-Infantry-Brigade (mot), which was fighting at the heart of a fierce defensive battle south of the Yelnya-Baltutina road. On this day, after an hours-long artillery and mortar barrage, overwhelming enemy infantry and tank forces rolled over the lines of two nearly wiped-out Kompanien and penetrated into the depths of this German sector. Hörnicke’s Bataillon was sent in to counterattack this force. After a bitter man-to-man fight, in which SS-Sturmbannführer Hörnicke literally fought at the head of his Bataillon, his men were able to take back the old defensive line. They then held it against every new enemy attack until the Brigade was relieved.

    On the 21.09.1943 the SS-Gren.Rgt. 10 (mot) was taken out of the area north of Smolensk and once again sent to the Panskoje area by the Rosslawl-Smolensk road (which was southeast of Smolensk itself). After completing its task of covering the swampy terrain south of the Dnieper bend, the I. Bataillon was sent along a road that had been completely muddied up by heavy rain to the Worschnije-Nemykari area, southwest of Arefino, where it assembled itself for battle.

    At 10:00 the adjutant of an Infanterie-Regiment of the 35. Infanterie-Division reported to SS-Sturmbannführer Hörnicke that there were no more German soldiers in an easterly direction, and that there was presently a broad gap in the German frontline as a result. In the meantime one could hear strong infantry fire from not too far off.

    Hörnicke immediately drove on a motorcycle to the nearest elevation and, after surveying the terrain, determined that the enemy was preparing to occupy the commanding Hill 257.1 (south of Arefino) without any German forces to stop them. Meanwhile the deployed elements of the 35. Infanterie-Division, positioned on the left and right of the road that led to the railway, were already pulling back. The artillery and Nebelwerfers were also not yet in firing positions.

    Before Hörnicke even had the chance to brief his Kompanie commanders of the situation, the enemy occupied Hill 257.1 with strong forces. Without wasting a minute, he launched an immediate counterattack of his own initiative using his Bataillon that had been reinforced by 1 infantry-gun and 1 anti-tank Zug. Moving through heavy artillery and mortar fire, he went forth and took back the hill with his Bataillon after bloody combat (some of it at close range).

    However now the enemy came with new attack waves, this time supported by tanks, against the left and right of the Bataillon. After a one-and-a-half hour battle the Bataillon, reinforced with just 1 infantry-gun and 1 anti-tank Zug, was forced to yield to the enemy might. In this moment SS-Sturmbannführer Hörnicke went above and beyond himself, inspiring his men forward by his example. They were able to throw the enemy back with bloody losses and capture the hill a second time. Once again wave after wave surged against the position of the Bataillon. However, under the decisive and strong leadership of its commander (who was by now wounded), the Bataillon held off the enemy for quite some time until, having been outflanked on both sides for some time, it pulled back to the ordered line. From here it continued to smash all enemy attacks and cover the withdrawal of the 35. Infanterie-Division to the Sosh position.

    During this 5-hour battle the enemy lost:

    - 3 T-34 tanks
    - 3 T-26 tanks
    - 20 prisoners
    - 150 dead and another 100 estimated dead
    - 3 heavy machine-guns
    - 6 light machine-guns
    - 10 sub-machine guns
    - 30 rifles
    - 3 anti-tank guns (7.62 cm caliber) with their prime movers

    In this way SS-Sturmbannführer has decisively participated in the breakthrough area west of Yelnya two times in quick succession. Both times, by his bold initiative and the successful deed it produced, he decisively contributing to the frustrating of enemy attempts to interdict the ordered friendly withdrawals and secure the Rosslawl-Smolensk road before the German troops got there.

    By these twin successes he has also majorly contributed to the orderly withdrawal of the bulk of the 35. Infanterie-Division.”
    Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes

    Sources