Interviewer: So the British counterattack forced you all out of the town?
Dirk Webel: Oberstleutnant Keller had given the order to withdraw, but we ended up staying.
Interviewer: What happened to change his mind?
Dirk Webel: He had it changed for him. Reinforcements arrived led by a panzer battalion of our Soviet comrades. The British counterattack had cut the supply lines to our main line of advance. We were ordered to conduct a hasty attack to push the enemy back.
Our plan was for the Soviet panzers to swing around the town and cut off the enemy inside of it. Because our regiment had more infantry our regiment would push through the city to try to keep pressure on the enemy to keep them from turning to face the panzers.
The Soviets could either swing east or west around the city. Neither option was appealing. Swinging eastward meant crossing a river. Swinging westward meant passing through the edge of the town. We finally decided not to risk bogging down in the river and made our main effort in the west.
Interviewer: How well did Soviet and East German forces cooperate?
Dirk Webel: Well I know now that politically there was growing resentment in East Germany with the Soviet Union's handling of the war, but I have no complaints about their conduct in this battle. Their forces were the main effort in this battle and their panzers did not hesitate to take the lead. Frontal Aviation even showed up more consistently in this battle. Of course that may be because their own forces were involved.
Interviewer: You said you had inflicted serious losses on the British in your initial defense of the town, by attacking quickly were you able to cut off the survivors?
Dirk Webel: Unfortunately things did not go as we had hoped. The British infantry had pulled back and formed a screen through the center of town. Lacking any recon units we were unable to penetrate that screen. If we had we would have learned that the British were reinforcing as well.
Our attack began with the nineteen T72s of the three Soviet panzer companies rushing up the right wing. The infantry from my motz-schutzen company advanced on their left, clearing buildings along the way. Our eight T72s and our BMP-1s supported our infantry advance. My company of nine BMP-2s were on the far left to prevent the British from shifting forces against our main effort.
When our infantry encountered the British infantry screen they were stopped cold. We hit them with massed fire from our infantry and panzers to little avail. Even repeated bombardments from our 122mm howitzers were unable to dislodge the enemy. All this fire did seem to prevent the enemy from using his Milan teams as effectively as he did the previous day. At the time it looked like that would be enough to allow the Soviet panzers to surround the town.
However, the British knew the importance of the town as well. Behind the infantry screen they were pouring in panzers, mortars, heavy howitzers, and air defense missiles and more would continue to arrive. Just as the Soviet panzers were closing in on their objective six Chieftains suddenly appeared to their front. The lead T72s were burning wrecks in less than an instant and I doubt the crews ever knew what hit them. The buildings prevented the T72s from massing their fires in return. The Chieftains shrugged off the scattered return fire and maneuvered in short lightning quick movements to maximize their fire. Our attack quickly stalled. Even the arrival of air support did not have any effect.
On the eastern side of town a British infantry zug began to push forward toward the woods where Hauptman Klink's tank was still burning. We raced toward them in our BMPs. After two days of intense fighting the woods was a mess of destroyed vehicles and shattered timber. The debris offered better cover and concealment to the enemy and rendered our machine gun fire less effective than the day before.
The battle settled into what looked like a stalemate but was in fact a drawn out loss for us. Both sides continued to channel reinforcements into the battle, but where a T55 battalion trickled in three tanks at a time for us, the British received six more Chieftains, two zugs of their leichte panzers, a 105mm battery, and even a zug of their self-propelled Milan launchers. While the Chieftains were bad enough, it was those Milan vehicles we learned to hate. During the entire war they seemed to appear at just the right place at just the right time to inflict horrible losses. I was even told that during the battle we are talking about now that one shot down an SU25. I can see by the look on your face that you find that hard to believe, but if you had seen what I have, you would believe it like I do.
As the enemy reinforcements arrived, the battle swung decisively in their favor. Our units disintegrated in front of them and they began to push forward. Before we knew what happened, British Lynx helicopters landed an infantry zug and Milan zug in our rear area. Massed fires from our rocket artillery, T55s, and BMP-1s were able to chase off some of the helicopters but not before the infantry dismounted. By this time the Soviet regiment was all but destroyed and our Oberstleutnant was again the ranking officer on the scene. I am sure that the loss of the McPizza King was too much for him after several days of intense fighting and he ordered a withdraw.
Interviewer: You never heard the order to withdraw?
Dirk Webel: No. Back on the left flank our machine guns and cannons had little effect on the enemy, but their cursed Carl Gustavs and laws wore us down. Nor could we withdraw as their Milans would do the same. I watched as one by one our BMPs were destroyed. Finally, only mine was left and I only vaguely remember the vehicle bursting into flames and the British soldiers pulling me out.
Interviewer: So you were captured?
Dirk Webel: Yes that was the end of my war. I woke up in a British aid station. It was there I actually met Major Sharpe, the commander of the British forces we faced in Hamburg and near Bremen. He was visiting his wounded. When I asked about the bandage on his head, I learned he had not had to travel far to make the visit. Turns out he had been wounded in the same battle as me. One of the very first shots from the Soviet T72s hit the building he was in. He was knocked out cold and was evacuated in the first few minutes of the battle. No doubt the British fought so hard that day to pay us back for injuring their leader.
Interviewer: What happened to you after that?
Dirk Webel: After the medics treated my burns I was loaded onto a train with other prisoners to be sent to a POW facility near Birmingham in England. We were stopped in some rail yard in West Germany or Belgium when we came under air attack. All the times I wished Soviet aircraft would show up during the war, they were most effective when I was locked in a rail car sitting in the middle of their target. We cursed those pilots for weeks afterwards. The mess they made of the rail yard kept us in that car for days. Of course it caused us to be diverted to a camp in France instead of Birmingham. When we later learned the fate of Birmingham, we could not bless those same pilots enough.