1st Cossack Cavalry Division

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1st Cossack Cavalry Division
1st Cossacks Division.svg
Insignia of the 1st Cossack Cavalry Division
Active 1943–45
Country  Nazi Germany
Branch Army
Type Cavalry
Role Anti-partisan operations
Size Division
Part of XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps
Engagements World War II
Helmuth von Pannwitz
Don Cossack insignia

The 1st Cossack Cavalry Division (German: 1. Kosaken-Kavallerie-Division) was a Russian Cossack division of the German Army that served during World War II. It was created on the Eastern Front mostly out of Don Cossacks already serving in the Wehrmacht, those who escaped from the advancing Red Army and Soviet POWs. In 1945, the division was transferred to the Waffen SS, becoming the 1st SS Cossack Cavalry Division (1. SS-Kosaken-Kavallerie-Division). At the end of the war, the unit ceased to exist.


Upon the formation of the unit in April 1943, the division was dispatched to the puppet Independent State of Croatia, where they were placed under the command of the Second Panzer Army and were used to provide rear area security for the army.

The division's first fighting engagement was on October 12, 1943, when it was dispatched against Yugoslav partisans in the Fruška Gora Mountains. In the operation the Cossacks, aided by 15 tanks and one armored car, captured the village of Beocin, where the partisan HQ was. During that operation many villages were burned, including a monastery on Fruška Gora, and around 300 innocent Serbian villagers were killed. Subsequently, the unit was used to protect the Zagreb-Belgrade railroad and the Sava Valley. Several regiments of the division took part in anti-partisan operations and guarded the Sarajevo railroad against the partisans. As part of a wide anti-partisan operation, Napfkuchen, the Cossack division was transferred to Croatia, where it fought against partisans and Chetniks in 1944.

While in Croatia the division quickly established a reputation for undisciplined and ruthless behavior, not only towards the partisans but also the civilian population, prompting Croatian authorities to complain to the Germans and finally to Adolf Hitler personally. Besides raping women, killing people and plundering and burning towns suspected of harboring partisans and their supporters, the division used telegraph poles along the railroad tracks as a warning to the partisans and others. During its first two months of deployment in Croatia, special divisional courts-martial imposed at least 20 death sentences in each of the four regiments for related crimes.[1]

The Cossacks' first engagement against the Red Army occurred in December 1944 near Pitomača. The fighting resulted in Soviet withdrawal from the area. In January 1945 the 1st Cossack Division, together with the 2nd Cossack Division, was transferred to the Waffen-SS. As the 1. SS-Kosaken-Kavallerie-Division it became part of the newly formed XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps.[2]

At the end of the war Cossacks of the division retreated into Austria and surrendered to British troops. They were promised safety by the British but were subsequently forcibly transferred to the USSR[3]. Once in Russian captivity, the majority (including their German cadre officers) were executed[4][5].


Order of battle[edit]

In 1944 the division was composed of the following units:[6]

1st Cossack Cavalry Brigade Don[edit]

  • 1st (Don) Cossack Cavalry Regiment
  • 2nd (Ural) Cossack Cavalry Regiment
  • 3rd (Sswodno) Cossack Cavalry Regiment
  • Cossack Horse Artillery Regiment Don

2nd Cossack Cavalry Brigade[edit]

  • 4th (Kuban) Cossack Cavalry Regiment
  • 5th (Don) Cossack Cavalry Regiment
  • 6th (Terek) Cossack Cavalry Regiment
  • Cossack Horse Artillery Regiment Kuban

Divisional units[edit]

  • 55th Reconnaissance Battalion
  • 55th (Kuban) Cossack Horse Artillery Regiment
  • 1st Cossack Engineer Battalion
  • 55th Cossack Engineer Battalion
  • 1st Signal Battalion


  1. ^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 306.
  2. ^ Newland 1991, p. 143–145.
  3. ^ Newland 1991, p. 170–177.
  4. ^ Bethell 1974, p. 204-205.
  5. ^ Newland 1991, p. 176.
  6. ^ Mitcham 2007, p. 350.


Further reading[edit]

  • François de Lannoy. Pannwitz Cossacks: Les Cosaques de Pannwitz 1942 - 1945