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Panzer Ace, Major Franz Bäke, Knights Cross W/oakleaves & Swords, Signed For Sale

Panzer Ace, Major Franz Bäke, Knights Cross W/oakleaves & Swords, Signed

Generalmajor der Reserve Franz Bäke was a German Army officer and panzer ace. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.

In August 1914, the outbreak of World War I changed his plans. In May 1915, Bäke volunteered for the German Army. He was posted to Infanterie-Regiment Nr.3, based in Köln. After basic training, Bäke was transferred to Infanterie-Regiment Nr.11, which was in action on the Western Front. During his service with IR11, he was awarded the Iron Cross, 2nd class, for bravery in combat in the battles near Verdun for the towns of Fleury and Thiaumont.

In mid-1916, Bäke accepted an offer to become an officer candidate and was briefly transferred to Infanterie-Regiment Nr.10. In November 1916, Bäke was transferred to the artillery arm and served with Artillerie-Regiment zu Fuß Nr.7. In early 1918, he was wounded twice and was only returned to the front in September.

With the outbreak of war on 1 September 1939, Bäke was still with Panzer-Abteilung 65. During the Invasion of Poland, he acted as the leader of the light column during the initial operations, before transferring to a platoon command in the Abteilung's second company. Equipped with Czech-made Panzerkampfwagen 35(t) tanks, the Abteilung was attached to General der Panzertruppen Werner Kempf's 1. leichte-Division on 12 September, and completed the campaign serving under Kempf's formation, Panzer-Division Kempf. Showing promise as a panzer leader during the campaign, on 1 November 1939 he was promoted to Oberleutnant der Reserve (1st lieutenant) and appointed company commander. In October 1939, 1. Leichte-Division was redesignated 6. Panzer-Division. Panzer-Abt 65 formed an integral part of this new division. On 1 May 1940, Bäke was promoted to Hauptmann der Reserve (captain).

On 10 May 1940, Bäke and 6.Panzer took part in Fall Gelb, the invasion of France. 6.Panzer formed a part of Panzergruppe Guderian, an army-sized formation charged with attacking through the Ardennes and encircling the Allied forces engaged in combat in Belgium. During the blitzkrieg campaign, Bäke, in command of 1.Kompanie, seized an undamaged bridge over the Meuse at Arques. In the following weeks in combat, he was wounded twice (on 17 and 19 May), receiving the Wound Badge in gold. For his actions in securing the bridge, Bäke was awarded the Iron Cross first class.

On 1 June 1942, Bäke was promoted to commander of II./Abteilung of Panzer-Regiment 11. Bäke spent the majority of 1942 overseeing the rebuilding of his shattered Abt and familiarizing himself with his new command.

After the encirclement of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, 6.Panzer, now fully reformed, was sent to Ukraine to join Generaloberst Erich von Manstein's Army Group Don, currently struggling to halt the advancing Soviet forces. The division arrived at the front in December 1942 and was immediately thrown into heavy fighting, taking part in the abortive attempt to relieve the 6th Army: Operation Wintergewitter. Bäke, commanding II./Panzer-Regiment 11, showed great skill as a tank commander, inflicting heavy losses on the advancing Soviets during the fighting withdrawal to Kharkov and preventing a large scale breakthrough. On 11 January 1943, Bäke was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his efforts during these battles.

The division took part in the battle to retake Kharkov. The performance of Bäke's Abt, fighting alongside the SS-Panzerkorps and Panzergrenadier-Division Großdeutschland, measured up to the fighting reputation of these elite units. After the destruction of Mobile Group Popov and the recapture of the city, 6.Panzer was attached to Armee-Abteilung Kempf. During May, the division was pulled back to act as reserve when it was rested and refitted. Bäke had by now built himself a reputation as one of the army's most capable tank commanders.

On 1 November 1943 Bäke, was promoted to Oberstleutnant der Reserve {lieutenant colonel) and his command of the regiment was made official. In December 1943, he was ordered to begin formation of an ad hoc reinforced tank regiment named Heavy Panzer Regiment Bäke [Schweres-Panzer-Regiment Bäke]. The regiment consisted of 46 Panther and 34 Tiger I tanks, supported by self-propelled artillery and a mechanized engineer battalion. The regiment was to be used in "fire-brigade" duties in the southern sector of the Eastern front. In January 1944, Bäke commanded his regiment during the battles for the Balabonowka pocket. During the five-day battle, Bäke's regiment was credited with destroying 268 Soviet tanks for the loss of only four tanks . Bäke single-handedly destroyed three Soviet tanks during the battle with infantry weapons at close range, for which he received three Tank Destruction Badges, worn on his upper right sleeve.

Next, the regiment was sent to the area of Korsun-Cherkassy, where Gruppe Stemmermann had been encircled in the Cherkassy Pocket. Together with a Kampfgruppe of the 1.SS-Panzer-Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, Bäke's tanks opened a route of escape for the trapped Germans and held it open while many escaped. During this month, his regiment was credited with the destruction of 500 Soviet tanks and assault guns.

For his actions during these battles, Bäke received the Swords to the Knight's Cross on 14 February 1944, he was the 49th Wehrmacht soldier to receive this commendation. In March, the regiment was trapped in the Kamenets-Podolsky Pocket along with the entire 1.Panzer-Armee. Bäke's regiment formed one of the spearheads moving west to break the encirclement, and effected a link up with II.SS-Panzerkorps, creating an escape route for the army.

*early post war hand signed post card also includes a 4x6 photo of Bäke, 2 items


Panzer Ace, Major Franz Bäke, Knights Cross W/oakleaves & Swords, Signed

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