Police battalions were given a number that corresponded to the army administration area where the men had been drawn from. For instance, most Hamburg based police battalions were numbered in the one hundred range as they were drawn from area ten. The three hundred series of battalions, as I found out later, were formed with service in Russia in mind. Here the rigorous conditions would demand younger men. I served with Police Battalion 301.
My comrades, besides being of the same age, were all from the Bochum area. Some had obviously known each other since childhood while there was a few like me who knew no one. Did I feel alone? No. After innumerable games of Skat, the hours spent lying to each other about our sexual prowess combined with the previous months of training together left me feeling comfortable with them. Or at least as comfortable as I ever felt with people.
Anytime a group of men are required to spend time together they always sort themselves based on the role they will play in the group. It was true when I first observed it in the schoolyard, and still true much later when I was a member of the Rotary Club in Los Angeles. You will always have your leader, his sidekick, the big dumb one, the loner, and the true believer. The rest were interchangeable bullet stoppers, or as I would find later in the Rotary Club, salesman.
Our squad NCO was Sergeant Alois Hess. He was an active duty police NCO with ten years in. Like the rest of us he had missed the big one. That would be the “War To End All Wars,” which during our training I often found myself regretting. If he had gone we wouldn’t have had to put up with his hardcore training methods. Yes, we were told “Sweat Saves Blood” repeatedly but I didn’t think they meant for us to sweat blood. No, he would have been in pieces, quietly decomposing under the soil in a field in France, or hobbling around missing a body part or two. Instead we had him killing us with his gung-ho lets do it again for the Fuhrer and Fatherland men! Not that I disagreed with the philosophy, but the actual reality when applied to me made my life miserable.
I was never a poster boy soldier but Hess was. He was 6'2", 190 lbs. of muscle with a square chin, blue eyes, and blond wavy hair. The perfect poster boy until he smiled and you got a look at those teeth. I never asked, but I am sure that’s what kept him out of the Waffen SS. They were very picky about things like that then. The I SS Regiment, The Fuhrers personal bodyguards, would not take anyone who had even one cavity. He did manage to join the general SS, and he proudly wore the runes below his sports medal on his tunic.
The man loved his hair. He wore it a little longer than most, and kept it swept back and oiled with rosewater hair tonic. He cut quite the imposing figure when he was fully kitted up, and god forbid he got in your face and screamed. That breath of his was truly amazing.
He had his sidekick, all Sergeants have sidekicks. I always believed they were manufactured at a special sidekick school, probably in Hamburg. Ours was Lothar Weiss, a nice enough guy most of the time who couldn’t figure out if he was our mother or a junior demon from hell. Excitable fellow that Lothar. He didn’t care at all for loud noises which was going to prove to be a bit of a thorn in his side later. He was short, stocky, and had a pockmarked face.