Wilhelm von Thoma

Wilhelm von Thoma was born in Germany in 1891. He joined the German Army and served throughout the First World War. He remained in the army and in 1934 took command of Germany's first tank battalion.

In 1936 Thoma was placed in charge of all ground troops supporting General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. He remained in Spain until August 1939 when he was given command of the 2nd Panzer Division in Germany.

Thoma took part in the invasion of Poland where he distinguished himself by carrying out a difficult wide movement through heavy woods and mountainous terrain and managed to take the Polish forces by surprise. Thoma's experience in Spain and Poland resulted in him being appointed Director of Mobile Forces in October 1940.

Thoma replaced Jurgen von Arnium as commander of the 17th Panzer Division and took part in Operation Barbarossa during the summer of 1941. Serving under Heinz Guderian Thoma played a significant role in the capture of Smolensk and Kiev. He also took part in the failed attempt to capture Moscow.

In September 1942, Thoma was sent to North Africa to take command of the Deutsches Afrika Korps while General Erwin Rommel was on sick leave. The following month General Bernard Montgomery launched the battle at El Alamein. Rommel immediately returned to the front but Thoma remained and was taken prisoner on 4th November when British ground troops broke through the German lines.

Wilhelm von Thoma remained a prisoner of war until just before his death on 30th April 1948.

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