The 1939 organisation of the Reconnaissance Battalion (Aufklärungs-Abteilung or A-A) of a Panzer division consisted of:


• A Battalion Headquarters & Staff Company

• Two Armoured Reconnaissance Squadrons (Panzerspähschwadronen)

• A Motorcycle Machinegun Squadron (Kradschützenschwadron)

• A Heavy Squadron (Schwere Schwadron)

• A Mobile Workshops, Supply and Transport elements.


The battalion headquarters incorporated the usual command and control apparatus, as well as an intelligence section (Nachrichtenzug), which was responsible for correlating the information received from the squadrons and transmitting it to divisional headquarters via a troop from the divisional signals battalion. Each armoured reconnaissance squadron consisted of a squadron headquarters containing a radio command vehicle and a platoon of four Funkapparat (fu) Radio equipped (4 Rad) Sd.Kfz.223 cars equipped to transmit tactical information to command via coded Morse code. Servicing two light platoons of (4 Rad) Sd.Kfz.222 and (6 or 8 Rad) Sd.Kfz.231 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug or Special Purpose Vehicle) and one troop of six (8 Rad) Sd.Kfz.232 (fu) Schwerer Panzerspähwagen (Heavy armored reconnaissance vehicle) radio armoured cars equipped with Fu.Ger.11 SE 100 watt medium range transmitters.


The motorcycle machine-gun squadron typically employed BMW or Zundapp made sidecar mounts and consisted of squadron headquarters, three rifle troops each of three sections armed with two MG34s and one light mortar as integral support weapons, and one heavy troop equipped with four MG34s. The heavy squadron contained a number of assorted elements including a light infantry gun troop, equipped with two towed Model 18 75mm light infantry guns; a Panzerjaeger troop with three (later increased to five) towed 37mm anti-tank guns and one MG34; and an assault pioneer troop of three sections, each armed with MG34’s. Often an artillery observer would accompany the patrol, so that in an emergency situation, supporting artillery fire can be brought to bear.


This establishment if you will may resemble a small kampfgruppe, however the purpose of the motorcycle machine-gun squadron and the heavy squadron was that of supporting troop, intended to alleviate the passage of the armoured car patrol (usually made up of three to four vehicles) through the enemy's defended zone by suppression with a high volume of fire. Once through this zone the cars completed their mission alone without interfere of its assigned tasks. If a water obstacle lay across the route of an armoured reconnaissance squadron, the assault pioneer troop might be attached, but such an attachment was far from popular with the armoured car crews, since the bridging vehicles were slow and their bulk rendered them unsuitable for use along certain routes. The armoured reconnaissance battalions of the motorised infantry divisions were similarly organised, but had only one reconnaissance squadron and lacked a heavy squadron.


By January 1943 with the war turning against Germany and the earlier success were beginning reversed. The Wehrmacht found itself fighting multiple defensive actions rather than offensive operations of earlier years, which by default negated the need for the traditional reconnaissance unit’s roles. Instead the reconnaissance battalions were reassigned to performed crucial work as covering forces by concealing from the enemy the details of there our own movements and intentions. For this purpose the armoured reconnaissance squadrons, with their good communications equipment were deployed over a wide area under their squadron leaders. In defence the motorcycle troops and the heavy company, were deployed mainly to thicken the front line, while Division gave specific missions to the armoured car troops. When covering a withdrawal the method employed by the reconnaissance battalions was the reverse of that used in the advance. The armoured reconnaissance squadrons remained in concealed observation positions after their division had disengaged, while the remainder of the battalion established temporary defensive fronts, usually based on narrow-frontage features such as a bridge or causeway, through which the cars would withdraw when they received the order to retire. In these circumstances the two major tasks of the armoured reconnaissance squadrons were to screen the divisional flanks and rearguard against observation by the enemy's reconnaissance units, and to report on the enemy line of attack as they developed. From the flow of information provided by the cars, the divisional commander was able to adjust his plans accordingly and conduct the successful withdrawal of his battle group. The cars were recalled when the division had consolidated its main defence line and would retire through their own battalion's interim defence lines while bridges were blown up, trees felled and roads mined behind them.


Clearly the daily life of a reconnaissance troop Soldat was that of hardship and fear. Concealment, observation and nerves of steel were the order of the day, and all carried out deep behind the enemies front lines far from friendly supporting forces. Oberst von Bonin von Ostau was wounded on three separate occasions, and of four of his fellow troop leaders who joined at the same time, three were killed during the 1941-1942 fighting and the fourth the following year.

Oberst von Bonin von Ostau