Original French WWII National Flag Captured and Signed by German SS Troops
Original Item: One-of-a-kind. This is an exceptional flag that measures approximately 50 inches x 37 inches. Genuine WW2 issue French national flag multi-piece wool construction offered in good but yellowed condition consistent with its age and use in Europe during WWII. Shows areas of moth, but overal it is sturdy and solid.
The most interesting aspect of this flag is that it was apparently captured by German SS troops and stamped with SS runes then signed by one or two soldiers. The handwriting is difficult to read but it appears consistent with World War Two style, age and ink. Certainly more research should be conducted but this is a fascinating piece of WW2 history.
The three SS divisions and the Leibstandarte spent the winter of 1939 and the spring of 1940 training and preparing for the coming war in the west. In May, they moved to the front, and the Leibstandarte was attached to the Army's 227th Infantry Division. The Der Führer Regiment was detached from the SS-VT Division and attached to the 207th Infantry Division. The SS-VT Division minus Der Führer was concentrated near Münster awaiting the invasion of The Netherlands. The SS Totenkopf and Polizei Divisions were held in reserve.
On 10 May, the Leibstandarte overcame Dutch border guards to spearhead the German advance of X.Corps into the Netherlands, north of the rivers towards the Dutch Grebbe line and subsequently the Amsterdam region. The neighbouring Der Führer advanced towards the Grebbeline in the sector of the Grebbeberg with as a follow-up objective the city of Utrecht. The battle of the Grebbeberg lasted three days and took a toll on Der Führer. On 11 May, the SS-VT Division crossed into the Netherlands south of the rivers and headed towards Breda. It fought a series of skirmishes before Germania advanced into the Dutch province of Zeeland on 14 May. The rest of the SS-VT Division joined the northern front against the forces in Antwerp. The Leibstandarte on the same day, entered Rotterdam. After the surrender of Rotterdam, the Leibstandarte left for the Hague, which they reached on 15 May, capturing 3,500 Dutch as prisoners of war.
In France, the SS Totenkopf was involved in the only Allied tank attack in the Battle of France. On 21 May, units of the 1st Army Tank Brigade, supported by the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, took part in the Battle of Arras. The SS Totenkopf was overrun, finding their standard anti-tank gun, the 3.7 cm PaK 36, was no match for the British Matilda tank.
After the Dutch surrender, the Leibstandarte moved south to France on 24 May. Becoming part of the XIX Panzer Corps under the command of General Heinz Guderian, they took up a position 15 miles south west of Dunkirk along the line of the Aa Canal, facing the Allied defensive line near Watten. A patrol from the SS-VT Division crossed the canal at Saint-Venant, but was destroyed by British armor. A larger force from the SS-VT Division then crossed the canal and formed a bridgehead at Saint-Venant; 30 miles from Dunkirk. That night the OKW ordered the advance to halt, with the British Expeditionary Force trapped. The Leibstandarte paused for the night. However, on the following day, in defiance of Hitler's orders, Dietrich ordered his III Battalion to cross the canal and take the heights beyond, where British artillery observers were putting the regiment at risk. They assaulted the heights and drove the observers off. Instead of being censured for his act of defiance, Dietrich was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. On that same day, British forces attacked Saint-Venant, forcing the SS-VT Division to retreat.
On 26 May, the German advance resumed. On 27 May, the Deutschland regiment of the SS-VT Division reached the allied defensive line on the Leie River at Merville. They forced a bridgehead across the river and waited for the SS Totenkopf Division to arrive to cover their flank. What arrived first was a unit of British tanks, which penetrated their position. The SS-VT managed to hold on against the British tank force, which got to within 15 feet of commander Felix Steiner's position. Only the arrival of the Totenkopf Panzerjäger platoon saved the Deutschland from being destroyed and their bridgehead lost.
That same day, as the SS Totenkopf Division advanced near Merville, they encountered stubborn resistance from British Army units, which slowed their advance. The SS Totenkopf 4 Company, then committed the Le Paradis massacre, where 97 captured men of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment were machine gunned after surrendering, with survivors finished off with bayonets. Two men survived.
By 28 May, the Leibstandarte had taken the village of Wormhout, only ten miles from Dunkirk. After their surrender, soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, along with some other units (including French soldiers), were taken to a barn in La Plaine au Bois near Wormhout and Esquelbecq. It was there that troops of the Leibstandarte's 2nd Battalion committed the Wormhoudt massacre, where 80 British and French prisoners of war were killed.
By 30 May, the British were cornered at Dunkirk, and the SS divisions continued the advance into France. The Leibstandarte reached Saint-Étienne, 250 miles south of Paris, and had advanced further into France than any other unit. By the next day, the fighting was all but over. German forces arrived in Paris unopposed on 14 June and France formally surrendered on 25 June. Hitler expressed his pleasure with the performance of the Leibstandarte in the Netherlands and France, telling them, "Henceforth it will be an honor for you, who bear my name, to lead every German attack.
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