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Georgian auxiliary battalion valiantly fought loosing battle
Uprising on Dutch soil in 1945
Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill
TEXEL – The full brunt of World War II for Texel’s population did not unleash until February 1945. Although there had been a significant occupation force for some time, the island after all was part of the Atlantikwall line and had become heavily fortified, the extent of the true misery of war became clear when in February many of the men were forcibly conscripted for labour on the mainland. About the same time the island community received a time bomb of sorts with the arrival of a Georgian infantry battalion. The reluctant German allies essentially were prisoners of war from the eastern front, and had enlisted to stay out of worse trouble in camps. They now waited for a chance to take revenge on their tormentors.
As auxilliary troops for the Germans, the Georgians found themselves in a difficult situation. When it became obvious that the Germans were losing the war, the Georgians feared for their future when they would return home where the Soviets were back in control. They also feared for their lives if the allied forces were to take the island.
The Georgians plotted an uprising, hoping that other Russian battalions that had joined the Germans would do the same. In the morning April 6, 1945 they killed an estimated four hundred Germans. They were unable to get a overrun two large gun emplacements manned by only German soldiers. These batteries, located in the dunes and overlooking the area of the Georgians were holed up in fixed positions, soon were joined by the heavy coastal artillery of Vlieland and Den Helder, which targeted the rebels.
The bombardment allowed the Germans to land reinforcements. It took the new troops around five weeks to suppress the Georgian uprising. During the battle the Georgians lost 565 of their 800 men, Texel was left to mourn 120 of its people and around 800 Germans lost their lives. The number of German casualties has been disputed however, with some sources putting it at 2,000 killed. Only 228 of the Georgians survived the uprising.
The damage on Texel was enormous. Fighting was particularly furious in the Eierland polder where dozens of farms went up in flames. The final stage of the battle was fought around the lighthouse, where several Georgians fought to the end. With much of the fighting over, the Germans then tried to comb the island for rebels. Many local people helped the Georgians if they could. The clandestine trip of the lifeboat 'Joan Hodshon' which sailed in the dead of night with a full crew of ten Dutch resistance men and four Georgians to Great Britain to enlist help, is a case in point. Nothing came of the effort, except one reconnaissance flight over the island. The island’s Georgian cemetery, where 476 of killed and executed Georgians have been buried, has been named after their commander, Loladze. The Germans initially were buried in Den Burg but in 1949 found their last resting place at the military cemetery in IJsselsteijn, near Venray.
The Georgians have not been forgotten. Georgia’s president Saakashvili honoured them with a commemorative ceremony this spring, on the 60th anniversary of the uprising.
The island was not the only one with a unique WWII twist. Texel without a doubt experienced the bloodiest episode when a Georgian unit turned its weapons on regular German units, causing fierce fighting between the two sides with heavy casualties: the Georgians 565 and the Germans at least 800. The local Dutch population also mourned the loss of 120 people who were caught in the crossfire.
The remaining Georgians, now operating as a Partisan unit away from their fixed positions, were still fighting German troops when the Canadians landed on Texel on May 20th, two weeks after the cessation of hostilities on the Dutch mainland. The members of the former 822nd Battalion refused to voluntarily disarm and leave Texel until the Canadians spoke on their behalf to the Soviet authorities.
The local Canadian commander was so impressed by their resistance that he refused to class the Georgians as enemy personnel. Instead the Canadians treated them at all times as Displaced Persons. They did not have to disarm until their evacuation to Wilhelmshaven on 16 June 1945. Even then, officers were permitted to retain side arms.
In a letter signed by Major General Foulkes, the commander of the 1st Canadian Corps, the Civil Affairs staff officer, Lt. Colonel Lord Tweedsmuir, wrote directly to the Soviet High Command. He praised the Georgians as valiant Soviet allies whose rebellion had resulted in over 2300 German casualties. He also requested that the Red Army receive the Georgians as heroes and that they be immediately rehabilitated.
Lord Tweedsmuir accompanied the Georgians, guarded by personnel from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, to Wilhelmshaven and spoke on their behalf to Soviet Liasion Officers in that city. In 1946, the Soviet daily newspaper 'Pravda' praised the Texel Georgians as 'Soviet patriots' and as rebelling 'POWs' who had liberated Texel. The group’s rehabilitation by Moscow did not occur until the middle of the 1950s. Their acceptance back in the Soviet Union perhaps was on the strength of the Canadian involvement and the highly controversial letter in defiance of the Western Allies' overall policy of non-interference in Soviet handling of their returning citizens. In fact, few of the ‘Texel Georgians’ apparently had been punished for volunteering in the German army. The Texel Georgians were only a small part of the Wehrmacht's 30,000-strong Georgia Legion.