Having been abolished as of 1.1.1939, when the Heer's Fallschirm-Infanterie-Btl was transferred to the Luftwaffe as II./Fallschirmjäger-Rgt 1, the badge was reinstituted by the OKH on 1.6.1943. Prior to that, Brandenburg parachutists had received the Luftwaffe pattern badge.
This is the 1943/44 version, struck on the same dies as the prewar aluminium Type 2 badges by C E Juncker but in feinzink
. This is what your Brandenburg veteran would have received after qualifying as a parachutist in 1943 or 1944.
The Brandenburg Division began as a Special Purpose Battalion, the Bau-Lehr-Bataillon zbV 800, formed on 15.12.1939 to carry out special operations and sabotage. These special purpose troops were based near Berlin, in Brandenburg, hence the nickname that would become part of their official unit designation. The first Brandenburg paras comprised a small detachment under the command of a sergeant and reported for jump training in February 1940. In May 1940, the battalion became the Brandenburg-Lehr-Regiment zbV 800 and the para-trained elements were formed into a platoon, based at Stendal under Leutnant Lütke, as part of the 4th Company of the regiment’s 1st Battalion. The Brandenburg paras’ first airborne mission as a unit came on 25.6.1941, in the opening stages of the invasion of the USSR, when the parachute platoon jumped and secured two railway bridges on the Lido-Molodechno line. Increased to company strength that autumn, the platoon became the 1st Battalion’s 4th (Parachute) Company, under the command of Leutnant Kürschner and, later, Leutnant Gerlach.
Brandenburgers of 15. (Fallschirm) Kompanie on patrol somewhere in Bosnia in 1943
With the formation of the Brandenburg Division - which still retained the special purpose designation ‘zbV 800’ in its title - in Germany in April 1943, the airborne company was reformed as 15 (Parachute) Coy, 3rd Bn, 4th Light Infantry Regiment, Brandenburg Division zbV 800. The 4th Regt was posted to Yugoslavia on 17.4.1943, on attachment to the 1st Mountain Division based at Sjenica. As in Russia, they found themselves embroiled in brutal anti-partisan warfare. With the 4th Regiment’s subsequent move in October to Sarajevo to disarm Italian forces there, 15 (Parachute) Coy moved to a new base at the Mataruska Banja airfield outside Kraljevo, about 200 km to the east, where the Luftwaffe had relocated Fallschirmschule III to train members of the newly-formed SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500, which was forming up in nearby Kraljevo at the same time. Members of 15. (Fallschirm) Kompanie duly received the Heer badge upon completion of their jump training.
A member of 15. (Fallschirm) Kompanie on the Greek island of Leros in November 1943
In February 1944, Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon "Brandenburg" was formed at Stendal under the command of Hauptmann Weithöner, while 15 (Fallschirm) Kompanie remained on the order of battle as an independent sub-unit under Oberleutnant Oschatz.
As previously stated, the badges were supplied by the Berlin firm of C E Juncker, who had made the Army Parachutist Badge before the war, in 1937 and 1938. They were struck in feinzink on the same dies used to produce the Type 2 badges in aluminium and, for private purchase, 800 silver. Enough badges were made for the battalion and the independent parachute company.
In this colorised portrait of Walter Scheu, to which a studio artist has added decorations earned after the photograph was taken in March 1944, we see the Army Parachutist Badge. This is the only known wartime image of a Waffen-SS soldier wearing the FSA d. H. I have been searching for some years for a proper photograph showing the badge on a Waffen-SS paratrooper but have so far only turned up photographs showing the Luftwaffe badge. Scheu never received an award document but he did receive a military parachutist's licence and the badge is recorded in his paybook. I have seen two award documents to surviving veterans as well as another paybook containing mention of the FSA d. H.
However, the majority of Waffen-SS paratroopers appear to have been given the Luftwaffe pattern badge, indicating that insufficient quantities were supplied to cover SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 as well as Fallschirmjäger-Btl "Brandenburg" and 15. (Fallschirm) Kompanie. In other words, the 1943/44 badges are as rare as their 1937/38 counterparts. Moreover, in August 1944, two companies of FJ-Btl Brandenburg participated in the ill-fated “Relief of Bucharest”. The aim was to rescue two generals – and their troops - whose HQ was encircled by pro-Soviet Romanian forces. A small force of Brandenburg paras seized Bucharest’s Otopeni Airport at midday on August 24th and held it until 1900 hrs, when their comrades began arriving in Me 323 Gigants. By 2100 hrs, the airport and encircled German HQ areas were under German control. Negotiations with the Romanians, some of whom still professed loyalty to their German allies, secured promises that German forces in and around Bucharest would have safe passage to the Yugoslav border. But all pretence of any cooperation ended on September 1st. As the German column was leaving Bucharest, protected by Brandenburgers, the Romanians turned them over to the Soviets. The ORBAT of FJ-Btl Brandenburg was reduced by half as a result of the Bucharest mission. Few if any of the Brandenburgers survived Soviet captivity and several hundred examples of an already scarce badge must have disappeared with them.
Did your friend remain with the Brandenburg Division after it was relieved of its special operations status? Some of the paratroopers did, as photos show us.