8/46 Alt-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 von Amstell (2 coys) and Duke von Württemberg (2 coys) infantry regiments were converged into the Grenadier Battalion 8/46 counting four companies.
During the Seven Years' War, the battalion was commanded by:
- from June 25, 1756: Major Hans Christoph von Billerbeck (Alt Billerbeck or Alt von Billerbeck)
- from June 13, 1760: Captain C. W. Bonin, as interim commander during the captivity of H. C. von Billerbeck (Bonin was killed in action at the Battle of Torgau on November 3 1760)
- November 3, 1760: Major A.W. von Winterfeldt, as interim commander during the captivity of H. C. von Billerbeck
Service during the War
This converged grenadier battalion was first assembled at Köslin on November 7, 1756 and instructed to march towards Prussia. On December 17, it marched towards Silesia.
In 1757, the battalion took part in the invasion of Bohemia. On April 21, at the Combat of Reichenberg, it was deployed at the extreme right of the first line of the Duke of Brunswick-Bevern's force. The battalion attacked the Austrians behind their abatis, forcing them to draw back behind their second line of abatis.
On May 6, the battalion took part in the Battle of Prague where it was deployed on the extreme left of the second line of the infantry centre in Saldern's Brigade. In this battle, the battalion lost 2 officers and 21 men killed, and 1 officer and 65 men wounded.
On July 15, during the Prussian retreat, the battalion was taken prisoners at the Siege of Gabel.
The battalion was re-raised during the winter of 1757-58.
In 1758, the commander of the battalion was exchanged. On February 28, an exchange of prisoners took place at Jägerndorf (present-day Kronov/CZ) and the grenadiers of the battalion returned to the army.
In the Spring, the battalion took part in the invasion of Moravia.
On June 26, it formed part of the escort of an important convoy of supply destined to the Prussian army which had undertook the Siege of Olmütz. The convoy set off from Troppau under the command of Colonel von der Mosel. On June 27, Mosel received instructions to make a junction with Zieten's Corps at Domstadl (present-day Domašov nad Bystřicí). The convoy was attacked by Loudon near Nieder-Güntersdorf. The battalion, posted on the right flank, dashed up into the woody heights and difficult grounds, stormed Loudon's guns, capturing 1 gun and 200 men. On June 30, the battalion fought in the Combat of Domstadl, repulsing five attacks. Remnants of the battalion belonged to the advance guard led by General von Krockow who managed to break through encircling Austrian forces. Only this part of the escort reached Bistrowan (present-day Bystrovany) in the evening with 37 wagons of money and 72 wagons of ammunition.
From July 13, during the retreat of the Prussian army from Moravia, the battalion, along with 18 other battalions and 25 squadrons under Lieutenant-General Fouqué, escorted the heavy artillery from Königgrätz to Glatz (present-day Klodzko/PL). The convoy reached Glatz without further problems.
During the Russian invasion of Brandenburg, on August 25, the battalion fought at the Battle of Zorndorf where it formed part of the vanguard led by Lieutenant-General von Manteuffel. For his conduct during this battle, Major von Billerbeck was promoted lieutenant-colonel
On October 14, the battalion took part in the Battle of Hochkirch where it was initially deployed in Manteuffel's Corps, en potence towards Lauske, on the extreme left flank of the Prussian positions. In this battle, the battalion lost 2 officers and 20 grenadiers killed. The battalion then marched with the king to Saxony. It later returned to Silesia and spent the winter at Schmiedeberg (present day Kowary/PL).
In the order of battle of that year, the battalion was placed in the first line of the right wing.
On August 28, the battalion took part in the combat of Sprottau (present-day Szprotawa/PL). On September 2, as part of Zieten's Corps, it fought in the Combat of Sorau.
On September 25, the battalion, now part of the corps of Prince Heinrich, attacked Hoyerswerda in Upper Lusatia where General Wehla and 1,785 men were taken prisoner of war.
The battalion took up its winter-quarters near Prausnitz not far from Torgau.
On the night of June 12 to 13, 1760, during movement near Prausnitz, some Prussian troops lost their way. Colonel von Billerbeck tried to rescue two guns which were stuck in the mud. However, his detachment was surprised by superior enemy forces. Billerbeck, 4 officers and 125 men were taken prisoner of war. In July, the battalion took part in unsuccessful siege of Dresden.
On August 15, it took part in the Battle of Liegnitz where it was deployed in Stutterheim's Brigade in the first line of the right wing.
On September 17, the battalion was at the Combat of Hochgiersdorf where it formed part of the rearguard under Zieten.
On November 3, the battalion fought in the bloody Battle of Torgau where it was deployed in Frederick's first column. The battalion suffered so heavily in this battle that it was temporarily converged with the Grenadier Battalion 33/42. Captain von Bonin, the interim commander of the battalion (Colonel Billerbeck being in captivity) was killed.
On December 11, the battalion took up its winter-quarters at Chemnitz with 1 captain and 250 grenadiers detached to an outpost at Zschopau.
In April 1761, the battalion took part in the raid of General von Linden against the Reichsarmee at Plauen. Afterwards, it returned to Chemnitz where it remained until the end of April. They later went to Meissen. The two opposing armies remained in the area of Meissen until November.
In September, the battalion took part in an attack against the Reichsarmee with some troops of Lieutenant-General von Seydlitz.
At the end of December, the battalion took up its winter-quarters between Hof and Oschatz.
On May 12 1762, the battalion took part in the Combat of Doebeln, a surprise attack on Austrian outposts, where it was deployed in the centre right column under Lieutenant-General Hans Wilhelm von Kanitz which stormed the enemy entrenchments between Roswein and Leising. In this combat, the Prussians captured Major-General Baron Zedtwitz, 40 officers and 1,500 men.
On August 2, the battalion took part in the unsuccessful surprise against Töplitz (present-day Teplice/CZ) under the command of Seydlitz and of Colonel von Kleist.
On October 22, the enemies attacked once more General Kleist’s detachment near Groß-Schirma and the battalion, along with another grenadier battalion and 5 squadrons, drove them back.
On October 29, the battalion fought in the Battle of Freiberg where it formed part of the vanguard under General von Kleist. After this battle, it took up its winter-quarters around Freiberg.
After the signature of the Treaty of Hubertusburg, the converged grenadier battalion was disbanded and, on March 16, the two grenadier companies of the present regiment rejoined their parent unit at Stettin.
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.
|von Amstell: mitre with polished brass front plate, red headband laced red/white, blue back with red piping laced white, straw/white/red pompom||Duke von Württemberg: mitre with polished brass front plate; black plush headband edged with a red braid decorated with 2 straw lateral stripes and a black central stripe and brass ornaments; straw backing piped with a similar braid; red within yellow within red pompom|
The converged grenadier battalions did not carry any colour.
Boltze, Eberhard: Die Infanterie Friedrichs des Großen nach dem Stande von 1785 nebst Rückblick bis 1740, Dresden, November 1927, pp. 31, Annex III and IV
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
Mach, A. v.: Geschichte des Königlich-Preußischen Zweiten Infanterie-genannt Königs- Regiments 1677 – 1840, Berlin, Posen and Bromberg, 1843
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 partly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.
Harald Skala for the translation and integration of Mach’s book on history of this regiment