Ernst Volckheim

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Ernst Volckheim
Ernst Volckheim.jpg
Birth name Robert Max Ernst Volckheim
Birth date 11 April 1898(1898-04-11)
Place of birth Bornheim, Kreis Bonn, Rhine Province, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Death date 1 September 1962 (aged 64)
Place of death Wiesbaden, Hessen, West Germany
Allegiance  German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 National Socialist Germany
Service/branch Iron Cross of the Luftstreitkräfte.png Imperial German Army
War Ensign of Germany (1921–1933).png Reichswehr
Balkenkreuz.jpg Heer
Years of service 1915–1945
Rank Oberst
Commands held Panzer-Abteilung z. b. V. 40
Panzer-Regiment 203
Panzer-Regiment 3
Battles/wars World War I

World War II

Awards Iron Cross, War Merit Cross

Robert Max Ernst Volckheim (1898–1962) was a German officer since 1916, a pioneer of tank warfare and military writer, finally Oberst of the Wehrmacht in World War II. Modern historians see Heinz Guderian’s true inspiration for German armored doctrine to be the writings of the largely unsung Volckheim, pioneer and co-creator of the Panzerwaffe.

Career (chronology)

Ernst Volckheim (arrow) with his crew of the Sturmpanzer-Kraftwagen AV7 Nr. 560 "Alter Fritz" assault armoured motor vehicle, 1918
Ernst Volckheim with two old comrades of the Schwere Kampfwagen-Abteilungen
General der Infanterie Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, Commanding General of the Gruppe XXI, his Adjutant Major Kurt Treuhaupt and Oberstleutnant Ernst Volckheim, Commander of the Panzer-Abteilung z. b. V. 40, in Oslo, Norway, 1940
Josef Harpe (left) and Ernst Volckheim
Volckheim, Panzer-Regiment 3
Ernst-Volckheim+Die-deutschen-Kampfwagen-im-Weltkriege-Mit-8-Abbildungen-und-12-Skizzen (1).jpg
  • 29 March 1915 Fahnenjunker (Cadet Candidate)
    • Joined the Infanterie-Regiment von Alvensleben (6. Brandenburgisches) Nr. 52 as a war volunteer
  • 26 June 1915 Fahnenjunker-Gefreiter
  • 13 December 1915 Fähnrich (Cadet Officer)
    • 4 March 1916 Officer Deputy (Offizierstellvertreter)
  • 18 March 1916 Leutnant without Patent
    • ... 1918 Patent received backdated to 23 June 1916
    • ... 1922 Rank seniority (RDA) received from 1 April 1916
    • Maschinengewehr-Scharfschützen-Abteilung Nr. 66/231. Infanterie-Brigade/231. Infanterie-Division
    • 12 February 1918 Volunteered for the assault armored vehicles (freiwillige Meldung zum Sturmpanzerkraftfahrwesen)
    • 1 April 1918 Tank commandant in the Sturm-Panzer-Kraftwagen-Abteilung Nr. 2 (later known as Schwere Kampfwagen-Abteilung Nr. 2)
      • The Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux took place from 24 to 27 April 1918, during the German spring offensive to the east of Amiens. It is notable for being the first occasion on which tanks fought against each other; it was the biggest and most successful tank action of the German army in the First World War.
    • Later transferred to the Schwere Kampfwagen-Abteilung Nr. 1
      • After the defensive battle of Cambrai on 31 August 1918, the Schwere Kampfwagen-Abteilung Nr. 2 had no fighting vehicles left. So in September 1918 it was merged with Schwere Kampfwagen-Abteilung Nr. 1 into one detachment. The detachment experienced its last combat mission in an offensive operation near Cambrai on 11 October 1918.
    • June 1918 Wounded, shrapnel
      • For the attack on the Matz 9 June 1918, Abteilung 1 was arranged as follows: 541 Oberleutnant Skopnik (deputy Leutnant Philipp), 560 Leutnant Volckheim (deputy Leutnant Bergemann), 562 Leutnant Bartens; On the approach, A7V Tank 560 was disabled and Bergemann wounded. Bartens and Skopnik were fatally wounded in the command post by an artillery direct hit before the attack. Thus the attack was made by Volckheim in Tank 562 with Philipp in Tank 541. Although Tank 560 was quickly repaired, 562 was damaged in a large hole and was returned to Charleroi. Abteilung 3 lost no tanks.
    • 11 October 1918 Severely wounded at the end of the Battle of Cambrai; The battle (180,000 Germans against c. 800,000 from United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand) incorporated many of the newer tactics of 1918, in particular tanks. The battle witnessed over 300 tanks taking part, gaining considerable ground in less than 36 hours, with about 2,000 more British casualties than German, which was light relative to earlier phases of the war.
      • Military hospital until February 1919
        • in August 1919 he had to be operated on once again (right shoulder) in Berlin and returned to duty three weeks later
    • 1919 Sachbearbeiter (personnel department) in the Inspektion der Verkehrstruppen (later Inspektion der Kraftfahrtruppen) / In 6 (F=Fahrtruppen)
    • 1920 Platoon leader in the 3. Kompanie/3. (Preußische) Kraftfahr-Abteilung in Neiße
    • 1923/1924 Kommandantur Döberitz
  • 1 April 1925 (RDA) Oberleutnant
    • 1925/1926 Kommandantur Berlin
    • 1927 2. (Preußische) Sanitäts-Abteilung (Kraftfahrtruppe)/2. Division, Stettin
    • Staff of the 5. Division (Wehrkreiskommando V) in Stuttgart
    • 1 May 1931 to August/September 1933 Tactics instructor for course participants at the Panzerschule / Kampfwagenschule Kasan ("Kama")
  • 1 April 1932 (RDA) Hauptmann
    • 1 September 1933 (taking over on 1 October 1933) to 31 July 1934 Appointed Commander of the 2. Kompanie/2. (Preußische) Kraftfahr-Abteilung in Schwerin
    • 1 August 1934 Commander of the 2. Kompanie/Kraftfahr-Lehrkommando Zossen (renamed on 1 October 1934 as Kampfwagen-Regiment 2)
    • 15 October 1935 Commander of the 5. Kompanie/Panzer-Regimnet 5 under Oberst Karl Zukertort
  • 20 April 1936 Major with effect from 1 April 1936
    • 1936/1937 Kraftfahr-Kampftruppenschule Wünsdorf
  • 1 August 1939 Oberstleutnant
    • March to September 1940 Commander of the Panzer-Abteilung z. b. V. 40 (his successor was Klaus Erich Friedrich von Heimendahl)
      • The Panzer-Abteilung z. b. V. 40 was formed on 8 March 1940 as an independent formation for use in the operations again Denmark and Norway. It was formed with one company each from Panzer-Regiment 6, Panzer-Regiment 35 and Panzer-Regiment 15.
    • 1941 Commander of the Panzertruppenschule (Schule für Schnelle Truppen) in Wünsdorf
    • He was also employed by the Supreme General Staff on secret operations and tactics. So i.a. to search for a port suitable for landing tanks in Albania.
  • 1 February 1942 Oberst
    • 1942 Commander of the Panzer-Regiment 203
    • 24 February 1943 Delegated with the leadership of the Panzer-Regiment 3/3. Panzer-Division
    • 13 May 1943 Commander of the Panzer-Regiment 3
      • some sources state he was, at the same time, commander of the Panzerschule AOK 9
    • Staff of the Army Group Center (Heeresgruppe Mitte)
    • Staff of the 20th Mountain Army (20. Gebirgs-Armee under Franz Böhme and his Chief of Staff Hermann Hölter), once again serving in Norway
    • 1945 He was captured by the British after being wounded during a low-level aircraft attack.


  • Lived in Wiesbaden; Bismarckring and Adelheidstraße
  • 1953 Oberschenkelhalsbruch (femoral neck fracture); was granted a home help (Haushaltshilfe) by the state.

Memberships (excerpt)

  • Deutscher Offizier-Bund e. V
  • Verband deutscher Soldaten (VdS)
  • Deutsche Kraftfahr-Offizier-Vereinigung e. V.
  • Sportverein Greif, Stettin
  • Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (German War Graves Commission)

Awards and decorations (excerpt)

  • Iron Cross (1914)
    • 2nd Class on 12 March 1916
    • 1st Class on 23 May 1918
  • Wound Badge (Verwundetenabzeichen 1918) in Black and Mattweiß (Silver)
    • in Black on 6 June 1918
    • in Mattweiß on 15 October 1918
  • Submission and nomination for the highest award (presumably Pour le Merite) through Hauptmann Friedrich Bornschlegel
    • “Submission and proposal for the highest award for service at Cambrai and Iwuy, where Volckheim repulsed the English attack and inflicted colossal casualties on the enemy and there advanced with his Kampfwagen Nr. 560 8 km and on the way back received several shell hits in which he and many men of his crew were seriously wounded. The Kampfwagen 560 had to be abandoned and blown up [11 October 1918].” Friedrich Bornschlegel was since 28 May 1918 Kommandeur der Sturm-Panzerkraftwagen-Abteilungen. He had the disciplinary powers of an independent battalion commander and was in charge of all assault armored vehicle units. He was later Major, then Oberstleutnant (E) on the staff of the XIII. Armeekorps D, being reactivated on 24 August 1939 as Fachbearbeiter Kraftfahrwesen (Gruppe Kraftfahrwesen V/Armeeoberkommando 1)
  • Kampfwagen-Erinnerungsabzeichen (KW) on 4 April 1922
  • Ehrenkreuz für Frontkämpfer
  • Wehrmacht Long Service Award (Wehrmacht-Dienstauszeichnung), 4th to 1st Class
    • 2nd Class on 1 October 1936
  • Bulgarian War Commemorative Medal 1915–1918 (Kriegserinnerungsmedaille 1915/1918) with Swords on 23 January 1939


Writings (selection)

  • Die deutschen Kampfwagen im Weltkriege [German Tanks in the World War], Berlin 1923
  • Der Kampfwagen in der heutigen Kriegführung. Organisation, Verwendung und Bekämpfung. Ein Handbuch für alle Waffen [The Battle Vehicle/The Tank in Today’s Warfare], E. S. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin 1924
  • Über Kampfwagen im Bewegungskrieg [On tanks in maneuver/mobile warfare], Militär-Wochenblatt, Berlin, 3 August 1924
    • in addition to his books Volckheim wrote 24 technical articles in the Militär-Wochenblatt between 1923 and 1927
  • Raupen oder Räderantrieb bei Kampfwagen [Propelling tanks with tracks or wheels], Militär-Wochenblatt, Berlin, 5 August 1924
  • Kampfwagenverwendung im Bewegungskrieg [The use of tanks in maneuver warfare], Militär-Wochenblatt, Berlin, 10 August 1924
  • Der Kampfwagen und Abwehr dagegen [The Tank and Anti-tank Defenses], Berlin, 1925
  • Gas und Kampfwagen [Poison Gas and Tanks], January 1925, "Der Kampfwagen", Issue Nr. 4
  • Verwendung französischer Kampfwagen im Gefecht, "Der Kampfwagen", 1925
  • Deutsche Kampfwagen im Weltkriege, in "Jeversches Wochenblatt" Nr. 187 on 13 August 1937, p. 7
  • Die Panzertruppenschule in Wünsdorf, in "Das Neue Universum", 59. Jahrgang, Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart / Berlin / Leipzig 1938
  • Unsere neue Panzertruppe, Bernard & Graefe, Berlin 1938
  • Die deutsche Panzerwaffe [The German armored force], in Georg Wetzell (editor), "Die Deutsche Wehrmacht", Berlin 1939, p. 293–338