5/20 Jung-Billerbeck Grenadiers
Origin and History
At the beginning of the Seven Years' War, Frederick II converged the grenadier companies of his infantry into elite battalions. Thus the grenadiers from the Braunschweig (2 coys) and von Zastrow (2 coys) infantry regiments were converged into the Grenadier Battalion 5/20 counting four companies.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:
- since June 27 1756: Major Christoph von Billerbeck (Jung-Billerbeck)
- from August 12 1759: Major J. A. von Ripp
- from September 21 1759: Major von Lubath
- from Winter 1759-1760: Major von Billerbeck
Service during the War
On August 26 1756, when the Prussian army proceeded to the invasion of Saxony, the battalion was part of Ferdinand of Brunswick's column which had concentrated at Halle and advanced unopposed through Leipzig, Chemnitz, Freyberg and Dippoldiswalde, to the village of Cotta (reached on September 9) south of the Elbe near Pirna. On October 1, at the Battle of Lobositz the battalion was assigned to the brigade of Lieutenant-General Prince von Bevern. It led the counter-attack at midday from Lobosch down to the Elbe River. Three guns were captured. However, the unit paid a heavy tribute of 98 dead, 14 wounded and 16 missing for this action for which the king awarded three Pour-le-mérite to the regiment. On October 23, when Keith's Army left Lobositz to return to Pirna, the battalion who was stationed on the neighbouring heights joined the rearguard. It reached the area of Pirna on October 28 and took its winter-quarters soon afterwards.
In the Spring of 1757, the battalion took part in the invasion of Bohemia. On May 6, it was not present at the Battle of Prague. It was rather deployed on the left bank of the Moldau near the Weissenberg as part of Keith's Corps. At the end of August, the battalion was part of the small Prussian army hastily assembled at Dresden by Frederick to head towards Thuringia and to offer battle to the Franco-Imperial army invading Saxony. On November 5, at the Battle of Rossbach, the battalion was deployed at the extremity of the first line of the infantry left wing under Lieutenant-General Prince Henri. The French tried to break through the massive Prussian artillery fire, but the fire of the infantry stopped them 40 steps before the Prussian line. At the end of the year, the battalion was detached to the Corps of Field-marshal Keith in North Bohemia.
On August 12 1759, at the Battle of Kunersdorf, the battalion was in the vanguard, as part of Schenckendorff's Brigade, which successfully attacked from the Walkberg through the Bäcker-Grund the Russian Grenadier Regiment of the Observation Corps on the Mühlberg as an intermediate objective. The Observations Corps was annihilated between the Mühlberg and the Kuh-Grund but thereafter the ongoing attack collapsed under the heavy Russian fire on the slope above the Kuh-Grund. The battalion lost 91 dead and 244 wounded. After this battle, it was temporarily converged with Grenadier Battalion 7/30 to form a single battalion. On September 21, this combined battalion took part in the Combat of Korbitz where it was deployed in the first line of the right wing under Lieutenant-General Finck. When Hadik advanced Brentano's Corps against the Prussian right, Finck replied by sending Rebentisch with 4 grenadier battalions, including this one, and Markgraf Carl Infantry against Brentano who was driven back.
On August 15 1760, the battalion took part in the Battle of Liegnitz where it was deployed in the first line of the right wing, in Syburg's Brigade. On September 17, the battalion was present at the Combat of Hochgiersdorf where it was attached to Zieten's rearguard. On November 3, the battalion took part in the Battle of Torgau where it was deployed in the first column of Frederick's Corps. After a long flanking march, it attacked "in a thin line" the centre of the Austrian positions on the Süptitzer Hills under heavy artillery fire. It suffered heavy casualties and, after the battle, was temporarily converged with the Grenadier Battalion 1/23.
On May 12 1762, the battalion took part in the Combat of Doebeln, a surprise attack on the Austrian positions. On October 29 1762, it fought in the Battle of Freiberg where it was deployed in the vanguard under General Kleist.
N.B.: For NCOs of the grenadier companies, the long pike (4,10 m long) was introduced in 1756 just before the war. This long pike was not very popular and was often shortened. At the beginning of the Seven Years' War and throughout the conflict, NCOs carried a mixture of M1713 (2,37 m long), M1755 (3 m long) and M1756 (4,10 m long) pikes.
|Braunschweig: mitre with polished brass front plate, blue headband laced red/white and decorated with brass ornaments, straw back with white piping laced red, straw/white/red pompom||von Zastrow: mitre with polished brass front plate; red headband with white/red piping and decorated with brass ornaments; blue backing with white/red piping, red within white within green pompom
Original (Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin)
The converged grenadier battalions did not carry any colour.
Fiedler, Siegfried: Grenadiermuetzen der Armee Friedrichs des Grossen, Schild Verlag GmbH, Munich, 1981
Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 1 Pirna und Lobositz, Berlin, 1901, App. 2
Riehn, R.: Linear Tactics Part III - Grenadier Battalions 1756-1763, The Courier Volume 2 No. 6, May-June 1981
Schirmer, Friedrich: Die Heere der kriegführenden Staaten 1756 - 1763. Edited and published by KLIO-Landesgruppe Baden-Württemberg e.V., Magstadt: 1989, pp. 30-32
N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.