Make your own free website on Tripod.com

 

 

Villers-Bogace

"Wittmann in Villers Bocage"
On 13th June 1944, a week after D-day, following a drive from Beauvais under repeated air attack, 2nd Kompanie of sSSPzAbt 101 led by Michael Wittmann had 6 Tigers located in the area of Hill (Point) 213 ahove Villers Bocage. His orders were to stop the advance of the 22nd Armored Brigade of the British 7th Armored Division (the famous 'Desert Rats') from advancing through the township, outflanking the German line and gaining the road to Caen. Wittmann's company hidden behind a hedgerow spotted the enemy column, which passed him at a distance of 200 meters. At about 8:00am, Wittmann attacked the British column on the main road, while the rest of his company (4 Tigers as one brokedown) attacked the British forces around Hill 213. Soon after, Wittmann destroyed Sherman Firefly and Cromwell IV and headed south to attack the rest of the enemy transport column. After knocking out 8 half-tracks, 4 Bren Carriers and 2 6 pdr anti-tank guns, Wittmann reached the crossroad with the road to Tilly-sur-Seulles. At the crossroad, he destroyed 3 Stuart tanks from recon unit and reached the outskirts of the town of Villers-Bocage. While in town, Wittmann destroyed 4 Cromwell IV tanks and single half-track and turns into Rue Pasteur. Following up the street, he knocked out Cromwell IV and Sherman OP tank, reaching the main street of Villers-Bocage. At the end of Rue Pasteur, Wittmann's Tiger was hit by Sherman Firefly from B Squadron and he decided to turn back as being too far forward without any infantry support and in a build-up area. He turned in the direction of Caen to join the rest of his company. On his way back, Wittmann's Tiger was attacked by another Cromwell IV, which he destroyed as well. Back at the Tilly crossroad, British soldiers from 1st Rifle Brigade opened fire at Wittmann with their 6 pdr anti-tank gun, immobilizing his Tiger. Wittmann and his crew managed to escape on foot towards the Panzer Lehr positions 7km away near Orbois. The rest of his company at the Hill 213, destroyed the rest of the A Squadron of 4th County of London Yeomanry Regiment ("Sharpshooters") including 5 Cromwell IV and Sherman Firefly, while capturing 30 men. During this short engagement, Wittmann's company destroyed 4 Sherman Firefly, 20 Cromwell, 3 Stuart, 3 M4 Sherman OP, 14 half-tracks, 16 Bren Carriers and 2 6 pdr anti-tank guns. Wittmann's attack was followed by another one by Tigers of Hauptsturmfuehrer Rolf Moebius' 1st Kompanie of sSSPzAbt 101 and Panzerkampfwagen IV tanks from Panzer Lehr but was repulsed by anti-tank guns from 22nd Armored Brigade. Following day, British withdrew from the town leaving it to the Germans, who occupied it for next two months. The British drive on Villers Bocage and Caen was stopped cold by Wittmann's attack and following actions.

Villers Bocage

Place l'Hotel de Ville in Villers-Bocage. A destroyed Tiger. Beside it the wreck of a Panzer IV of the 2nd Battalion of the 130th Panzer Lehr Regiment. Rear view of the first Tiger destroyed during the battle in the afternoon of 13 June 1944 in Villers-Bocage The Tiger destroyed on the crossroads of Rue Jeanne Bacon and Rue Emile Samson. It was hit by a shell from a 57 mm anti-tank gun. One of the two assault-guns of the 17th SS Panzer Battalion destroyed on 13 June1944.

101st SS Heavy Tank Battalion

This Tiger of the 101st SS Heavy Tank Battalion was admirably camouflaged in a sunken lane. Tiger "211", the 1st Section Commander's tank, Ustuf. Georg Hantusch seated on the right in overcoat of the 2nd Company commanded by Wittmann. An M10 tank destroyed knocked out in the Villers-Bocage area, being examined by a junior officer from an Army (Heer) tank unit. This tank officer admired the effect achieved by German anti-tank shells on the turret of the M10 left. The man is wearing a tank crew blouse, sailcloth trousers and the old style soft field cap which had been standard pattern before 1938 but continued in use. On his arm can be seen the badge awarded for the destruction of a tank in close combat with a handheld weapon. Attached under the eagle on his chest is the German Cross in Gold, known as the "fried egg" by the troops.

 

A Sherman of the 47th Dragoon Guards knocked out beside the Lingèvres church which had received at least five direct hits on its frontal armour. Panther "225" suffered a wrecked track from a direct hit by Sergeant Harris's Sherman Firefly. The Panther finished up against the Lingèvres war memorial. Panthers "J" and "K" on the plan which were pushed into the ditches on either side of the bridge 200 metres west of the church at Lingèvres where they remained for two years. Sergeant Harris's Shermah Firefly was 90 metres in front of the Panther on the left, behind the trees. British infantry marching up to the front, pass a type "A "Panther destroyed on 15 June 1944 in the Tilly-sur-Seulles sector.

 

Antother type "A" Panther of the 1st Battalion of the 130th Panzer Lehr Regiment destroyed during the night of 15-16 June 1944. A type "G" Panther in the centre of the village of Fonteney-le-Pesnil, 3 km east of Tilly-sur-Seulles on the road linking Caumont-l'Eventé and Caen. A type "D" Panther, an older model. arriving along the road leading in from the north of Tilly-sur-Seulles.

 

A type "G" Panther, number 219 is taking up position. The wreck of TIger "311". The 8th Company, equiped with Panzer IV type H, of the Panzer Regiment 3 during a training in the area of Amiens in the winter of 1943-1944. The Spiess (Company's warrant officer) of the 8th Company during the same exercise in Picardie.

A good frontal view of the Panzer IV, the most manufactured tank in the German army. Its turret at "two o'clock". Note the trident symbol on the right mudguard, emblem of the 2nd Panzer Division.

A good frontal view of a Panzer IV, the most manufactured tank in the German army. Its turret at "two o'clock".  Note the trident symbol on the right mudguard, emblem of the 2nd Panzer Division The crew of a Panzer IV from the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Panzer Regiment, busy refuelling. To do the job the men had to remove one of the side "skirts". The large-toothed rail can be seen on which these 5 mm thick side protection plates were hung. The marking "4L" indicated the fourth plate on the left side. A Panzer IV of the 9th Company of the 12th SS Panzer Regiment. Another Panzer IV of  the 9th Company of the 12th SS Panzer Regiment, knocked out at Esquay-Notre-Dame  towards the end of June.

 

A Sherman wrecked in Fontenay-le-Pesnil, after a duel with the Panther on the left, which belonged to Kampfgruppe Wunsche. The photo was taken on 27 June 1944. Two wrecked Panthers south of Cheux on 27 June 1944. This type "D" Panther was wrecked beside the RN175 at Tourville-sur-Odon Assault-guns of the Hohenstaufen Division on exercise during the autumn of 1943.

 

A type "A" Panther, the "204", hit beside the D173 road between villages of Rauray and Fonteney-le-Pesnil. British troops and vehicles passing the wreck of the Panther "204".

 

 

A Tiger "E" belonging to the 101st SS Panzer Battalion captured in running order near the Chateau de Rauray and taken over by crewmen from the Nottingham Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry. The front of the tank bears the scars of numerous impacts which failed to penetrate the 100 mm and 110 mm thick armour plate.

On leaving Belgium, the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler arrived at the front in Normandy between 17 and 23 June 1944. A war correspondent took this series of pictures of the 1st Battalion of the tank regiment in transit through Paris. The photo's are of type "G" Panthers.

4 to 10 July 1944    Caen - the final assault

Montgomery intended to hinge his left flank on the important port, road, and rail centre of Caen. He hoped to seize it in the first day or two and then push southeastwards, threatening to break out towards Falaise and eastwards towards the Seine...That would provoke the phase of German counterattacks ... in comparatively open farmland interspersed with stone villages and inflict heavy casualties on the attacking Germans with his dominant artillery and tactical air force. That did not occur because Caen did not fall until July. Montgomery's failure to take Caen in the first rush changed the tactical nature of the campaign. At the very beginning there was a possibility that the Germans might turn the tables by holding the hinge against the British and switching their reserves to the American front before the Americans had taken Cherbourg, the essential port the Allies needed and which lay behind the American front. Consequently it was the British and Canadians who had to attack all through July to hold the elite German panzer grenadier and panzer divisions on their front..."

When the Allies were unable to take Caen in the first rush of D-Day, the tactical shape of the battle changed. It was necessary to hold the German divisions off balance and keep them committed to holding the front. This extended the length of the German defence line, and prevented them from concentrating their attack on the American attempt on Cherbourg. But it also made the Allied advance slow, which in turn led Eisenhower and other senior commanders to question Montgomery's performance

 

1st SS Panzer Regiment was refitting in Belgium when the Allied landings took place. The photo shows a SdKfz 7/1 tractor mounting a quadruple barrel anti-aircraft gun. On the back of the railer can be seen the regimental tactical sign on the left and on the right, the divisional emblem. A Panther from the regiment traversing a small Flemish town passing a signboard bearing the word "Peiper". Another regimental Panther passing the lens of a war correspondent. The Tiger of the commander of the 1st Section of the 102nd SS Heavy Tank Battalion, the "211" en route for the Normandy front at the beginning of July 1944. This photo comes from a series showing the Battalion's tank crossing through Falaise.

 

 
This photo taken on 13 July show two Panthers destroyed on either side of the road during the 11 July 1944 counter-attack. They belonged to the 1st Company of the 130th Panzer-Lehr Regiment. After their failure on 6 June 1944, some of the tanks of the 22nd Panzer Division were dug-in. These photos were taken on 13 July 1944 along to road leading from Caen to Lebisey, to the north-east of the city on the banks of the Orne. "134", a type "H" Panzer IV if the 1st Company of the 22nd Panzer-Regiment had received a hit which had punched through the plate at the front of the turret in spite of the thickness of 50 mm. A large round hole is visible below the gunners visor. Note the camouflage.  

 

A Panzer IV "612" of the 6th Company was recovered intact on 3 July 1944 by the Royal Electical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) who are preparing to low it away behind a Sherman. It was used for training replacement tank crews arriving from England. Note that the turret numbers were stencilled in white as was the case with the 1st Company tanks.

Goodwood 18 to 20 July 1944   

After the initial successes at the Normandy beaches, by the start of July the Allies were still bottled up. The fighting was costly for both sides, with little progress. With the prospect of fresh German reinforcements arriving from the Mediterrainean, Montgomery saw the need and opportunity to strike first.  The Norman countryside was ideal defensive terrain, with its hedgerows, woods, and broken terrain, but the area along the Caen-Falaise road, to the east of Caen, was fairly open. Second Army, with 7th, 11th, and Guards Armoured Divisions, was fresh and was chosen to spearhead the attack.

 The attack was preceded by a huge air bombardment dropped by over 1,000 British and American bombers. This carpet-bombing was severe enough to flip Tigers upside down, bury vehicles, and drive German infantrymen to madness. German lines and communications were completely disrupted.  But logistics slowed the British armour: minefield crossings, railroad line crossings, and dealing with hundreds of enthusiastic but inexperienced drivers. By the time the 11th Division reached the heart of the battlefield, the Germans had begun to regroup. 7th armour followed the 11th; and Guards held the eastern flank in close terrain. In Cagny, Hans von Luck organized a flank attack using an 88mm AT gun, a handful of 88mm AA guns, and a small number of PzIVs, destroying several of the 11ths Shermans before the bulk of them moved on. To the east, Guards Division ran into a company of Tigers of the 503 Heavy Tank Battalion and fared poorly until 17-pounder-armed Fireflys could be brought to bear. In Grentheville and le Mesnil-Frèmentel, Major Becker organized a defense with his remaining 105mm guns on French Hotchkiss chassis.

 Despite these small German successes, 11th Armour still had a lot of Shermans and Cromwells and moved into position for the major assault towards the high ground at Bourguèbus. They expected little resistance, but the Germans had pulled elements of 21st Panzer and reinforced them with Panzer IV's and V's from 1st SS Panzer Division (LAH). The fighting around Hubert-Folie was especially viscious.

 This battle recreates the 11th Armour's advance from its encounters near Cagny, through Soliers, Four, and to the assault on the ridge at Bourguèbus and Hubert-Folie.

A 10.5 cm Field Howitzer 18 mounted on a Sfl 39 H chassis of the 200th Assault-Gun Battalion. This side view of an assault-gun of the 200th Battalion shows the typical camouflage of such vehicles. A gun from the 2nd Battery was destroyed at Giberville. The type "B" Tigers of the 1st Company of the 503rd Heavy Tank Battalion in shelter under the trees of the avenue of the Chateau de Canteloup, near Argences, south-east of Caen, a few days before Goodwood.

 

f
Tiger "313" overturned by the bombs at dawn on 18 July. The blast was so great that the 56 ton vehicle was turned upside down like a toy. Another Tiger partly covered with earth which was abandoned. Near Ermiiéville, the 22nd Panzer Regiment was to a large extent annihilated under the hail of bombs at dawn on 18 July 1944. These are two of their tanks. One of which was completely overturned. The left hand track was blown off and one can see the suspension of the pairs of running wheels.

 

hhMid-July 1944. A Panther tank covered with camouflage branches advancing through the middle of a ruined village. When the 101st SS Heavy Tank Battalion was on the way to the front line in June 1944, a column of army vehicles passed the Tigers which were parked besides the road to hide them from the view of Allied aircraft. The tanks and vehicles were covered with branches to confuse the fighterbombers which were particularly active over the German rear areas in Normandy.

The 301st Remote-controlled Panzer Battalion

Assault-guns of the 4th Company moving up to the front

17th SS Panzer Battalion Gotz von Berlichingen

This was the only unit of German motorised infantry engaged in Normandy, created on 3 November 1944, and formed up around Angoulème in France. This assault-gun (StuG) IV from the 1st Company of the 17th Battalion was destroyed on the road between Carentan and Péniers, near the crossroads with the D223 leading to Baupte and La Haye-du-Puits. Carentan itself lying about 3.5 km to the north. The scene was photographed on the 19 June 1944, a week after the defeat of the German counter-attack. In the foreground, American parachutists from the 101st Airborne DIvision are manning a 57 mm anti-tank gun, positioned to repel any further attempt by German armour. The same place as it appears today, as wel as a running wheel from a StuG found nearby.

2nd SS Panzer Division

 The Sd. kfz 7/1 was an 8 ton half-track tractor fitted with an armoured cab and on which was mounted a quadruple-barreled 20 mm. anti-aircraft gun (Flakvierling 38) The tactical insignia painted on the left had side at the rear of the vehicle identifies it as belonging to the anti-aircraft section of the 9th Company of 2nd SS Panzer Division and was camtured intact by the Americans during their advance. On 9 July 1944 a column of Sherman tanks drove past two type "J" Panzer IV's belonging to the 2nd SS Panzer Division, near Saint-Fromond, during the time when the Germans were attempting to block the American advance towards St-Lo. The two tanks had been put out of action by the men of the 117th Infantry Regiment (30th Infantry Division. The insignia of the 2nd SS, the "runes of combat" can clearly been seen on the left of the rear hulls of the two tanks.

2nd SS Panzer Division

The Sd. kfz 7/1 was an 8 ton half-track tractor fitted with an armoured cab and on which was mounted a quadruple-barreled 20 mm. anti-aircraft gun (Flakvierling 38) The tactical insignia painted on the left had side at the rear of the vehicle identifies it as belonging to the anti-aircraft section of the 9th Company of 2nd SS Panzer Division and was camtured intact by the Americans during their advance. On 9 July 1944 a column of Sherman tanks drove past two type "J" Panzer IV's belonging to the 2nd SS Panzer Division, near Saint-Fromond, during the time when the Germans were attempting to block the American advance towards St-Lo. The two tanks had been put out of action by the men of the 117th Infantry Regiment (30th Infantry Division. The insignia of the 2nd SS, the "runes of combat" can clearly been seen on the left of the rear hulls of the two tanks.

12th SS Panzer Division

During the fighting a group of SS grenadiers assembling in Fonteney-le-Pesnil before counter-attacking with the support of the Panthers of the 12th SS Panzer Division. The same view today, taken looking west along the road which leads to Caumont-l'Eventé, level with the intersection with the D139 which goes off to the left, running south towards Rauray, 2 km distant.

 

A recent view of the Chateau de Rauray, which between 9 and 26 June, housed the headquarters of the divisional tank regiment. During that period, the regimental commander, Obersturmbahnführer Max Wunsche pinned medals on men from his unit, and on the left is his deputy, Georg Iseke.

 

These photos were taken in Soumont-St-Quentin, a neighbouring village to Potigny on the other side of the N158, show two Panthers.

503rd Heavy Tank Battalion

A Tiger I of the 3rd Company of the 503rd Battalion, bearing the number "301" which theoretically was that of the company commander, Captain Walter Scherf.

 

Panzer IV of Panzer-Regiment 22 guetting over the railway between Caen and Troarn some time before "Goodwood" operation. The same place today.

1st SS Panzer Regiment

Panther tank type "G" as seen on the champs Elysée when the regiment paraded through Paris on its way to the front. The camouflage consisted of large green blotches and it carried no markings other then the German cross (Balkenkreux) roughly painted on the front. The small measurements of the latter are explained by the easily identified silhouette of the tank which could thus dispense with highly visible national markings. Note the wire netting rolled around the gun barrel which served to fix camouflage branches.

 

As its markings indicate, this Panther "RO2" belonged to the regimental staff.

 

Two Mark IV assault-guns in the Normandy "bocage" country in July 1944, one apparently towing the other. These two vehicles belonged to the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division.

Insignia of the German armoured units engaged in Normandy