The Colonel Farnes Collection

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Date of Auction: 8th May 2019

Sold for £2,400

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,400

The Great War Iron Cross with Second War clasp group of six awarded to Lieutenant-General R. H. E. von Schwerin, 79th Division, German Army, who was one of the German Generals evacuated from Stalingrad in January 1943 after his Division had been decimated by the Red Army

Prussia, Iron Cross 1914, Second Class, silver with iron centre, with ‘Prince’s size’ 1939 clasp on riband; Germany, Cross of Honour 1914-18, combatant’s issue with swords, bronze, reverse stamped ‘G & S’ on lower arm; Third Reich, Armed Forces Long Service Cross, for 25 Years’ Service, gilt; with gilt Army ‘Eagle’ emblem on riband; Armed Forces Long Service Medal, for 12 Years’ Service, gilt; with gilt Army ‘Eagle’ emblem on riband; West Wall Medal 1939, bronze, mounted German-style as worn; together with the recipient’s privately-issued scarce single-piece Iron Cross 1914 First Class Badge with integral 1939 clasp, screw-back version, silver with iron centre, good very fine, the last scarce (6) £2,000-£2,400


Richard Hugo Ernst von Schwerin was born in Peitschendorfswerder, East Prussia, on 24 March 1892, the son of Chief Magistrate Georg von Schwerin, and graduated from the Royal Cadet Corps on 18 October 1913. Following the outbreak of the Great War he was commissioned Second Lieutenant on 6 August 1914, and served during the Great War on the Western Front with the 2nd Grenadier Regiment. On 30 December 1917 he was appointed an Aide on the Staff of the 1st Reserve Infantry Brigade, and was promoted First Lieutenant on 18 May 1918. For his services during the Great War he was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class on 2 October 1914, and the Iron Cross First Class on 24 December 1917.

Following the cessation of hostilities von Schwerin remained in the Army, as a Company Commander of a motorised infantry company in his old regiment, which had been converted into a Frei Corps unit. Subsequently transferring to 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, he served as the battalion’s Adjutant from 1 April 1923 to 31 January 1926, and was promoted Captain on 1 December of that year. Advanced Major in the 81st Infantry Regiment on 1 September 1934, he was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel on 1 March 1937, and given the command of 212 Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division, then stationed at Coblenz.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, von Schwerin’s Regiment took up defensive positions in the West Wall, on the Western Front facing France, where he was promoted Colonel on 1 March 1940. Appointed to the command of the 79th Division on 12 January 1942, he was promoted Major-General on 1 June 1942. For his services during the Second World War up to this point he had been awarded the clasp to his Iron Cross Second Class on 17 December 1939; the clasp to his Iron Cross First Class on 20 June 1940; and the German Cross in Gold on 26 December 1941.

Assigned to the German 6th Army, von Schwerin’s Division took part in the Battle of Stalingrad, 23 August 1942 to 2 February 1943. During the course of the battle the Division was routed and, after von Schwerin had issued his last order on 7 January 1943, he and several members of the operations section of the Division Headquarters Staff were flown out of the city. In the interim he had been advanced to Lieutenant-General on 1 December 1942.

Appointed to the command of 189 Reserve Division on 1 October 1943, he transferred to the command of 172 Reserve Division on 24 November 1944, and in April 1945 his Division defended the Verdun area against the advancing British 52nd and 7th Armoured Divisions. He was captured by the advancing Allied forces near Bederkese, north east of Bremerhaven, on 5 May 1945, and subsequently held in captivity, being finally released on 19 March 1948. Returning to his home at Dobrock, on the lower Elbe River, he died there on 23 July 1951. He was remembered as a first-rate divisional commander, who lived up to his nickname ‘Richard the Lionheart.’ A gallant officer, a gentleman from head to toes, and a man with strong religious convictions, he was a splendid commander of men who had trained and led his regiment in an exemplary manner. A typical officer of the old Prussian school- stern, correct, and with a compassion for the well being of his men, he had the knack of being able to bring out the most of his men in the most dire of situations.

Sold with various original Bestowal Documents and Letters of Appointment, including the Bestowal Documents for the Iron Cross First Class, dated St. Quentin, 6 January 1918; the clasp to the Iron Cross Second Class, dated 19 December 1939; and the clasp to the Iron Cross First Class, dated 22 June 1940; a photographic image of the recipient; and various copied research.

Note: The single-piece Iron Cross 1914 with 1939 clasp would have been a privately-commissioned item (as Dress Regulations required the originally-issued insignia to be worn separately), presumably purchased so as to facilitate the ease of transfer of what should have been the two separate pieces from one uniform jacket to another and, more usually, for wear on duty in the field.