Notes on the Capture of BOULOGNE by a German Mechanized Column.Preliminary
The following notes are made on the landing and defence of BOULOGNE by two Battalions of the 20th GUARDS BRIGADE without transport and supported by nine 28mm infantry Anti-Tank and eight 2-pounder Anti-Tank guns. These two Battalions were the only combatant troops at BOULOGNE, excepting about 2,800 A.M.P.C. personnel, one small detachment ROYAL MARINES, 5,00 Belgians who did not co-operate and 2,000 French who remained within the walls of the Old Town.
One Battalion, strength approximately 700, held a front of 3,000 yards, the other Battalion, strength approximately 900, held a front of 6,000 years. The perimeter held was the outskirts of BOULOGNE. The country round BOULOGNE is of an open nature without fences or ditches.1. Composition of the German Force.
As far as could be assessed from reports and recce, the column was divided into two, one part of which was attacked from the South-East and the other from the North-East. Each of these columns evidently included mechanized infantry, tanks and artillery, the artillery being drawn by tractors. It was hard to assess whether the tanks were light or medium, but undoubtedly a proportion of tanks was much larger than the majority seen, and were presumably medium tanks. The estimated strength of these two columns is as follows:-
Column 1, South-East of BOULOGNE:-
20 to 30 tanks and ? field artillery.
2 Companies mechanized infantry.
Column 2, North-East of BOULOGNE:-
Approximately the same numbers, but including at least three medium tanks.
These figures must, of necessity, be a very rough estimate, and the forces may have been considerably larger.2. Particulars regarding weapons.
During the preliminary phases of the attack, shelling was carried out by a light field gun, probably infantry close support weapon.
The tanks were armed with machine guns, a light mortar with a range of approximately six to seven hundred yards, possibly more, and a gun which fired an incendiary bullet, which was extremely efficient in setting fire to road blocks.
Motorised infantry were carried on motor cycle combinations, and the infantry were supplied with grenades, which they used for attacking crews of Anti-Tank weapons, particulars of which are given later.3. Tactics employed by this force.(a) Tanks.
In this operation, the German tanks were used at night and the technique of knocking out Anti-Tank weapons was as follows:-
One tank would approach slowly and obviously attempt to draw fire. As soon as fire was opened on the leading tank, it halted, possibly as a result of being hit. A second tank then approached on the same front, but further back. The Anti-Tank gun having been identified and its location seen, attempts were made to put the weapon out of action by shelling or, in some cases, stalking carried out by infantry with grenades.
The approach of the tanks was slow and cautious, but in one case the following ruse was adopted:- A French civilian approached the forward posts, stating that French tanks were approaching to help the forces engaged. He was followed by a tank with a French soldier walking each side. As soon as the tank reached the forward post, it opened fire and destroyed it.
In one case where a section in a house was passed by a tank, it was noticed that five or six men were following immediately behind the tank on foot and under cover of it.( Artillery.
Artillery fire at the start of the attack was by light field gun. A short time before the evacuation, a heavier calibre gun was used, possibly 45 Howitzer or equivalent. Artillery fire was concentrated on suitable targets with considerable speed, e.g. BRIGADE H.Q. was shelled within seven to eight hours of its location. This may have been through the activities of the FIFTH COLUMN.© Motorised Infantry.
Very little was seen of motorised infantry and, as far as this operation was concerned, their use appeared to be restricted to stalking and knocking out the crews of Anti-Tank weapons. Few casualties were inflicted on German infantry and they did not expose themselves much during daylight.4. Effects of Anti-Tank Weapons.(a) 2 Pounder Anti-Tank Gun.
According to reports from the Commander Anti-Tank guns, this gun was effective, and enemy tanks were immobilised, if not destroyed. This probably only applies to light tanks.( .25mm Infantry Anti-Tank guns.
This gun was also stated to be effective, but in cases of both these Anti-Tank weapons, directly they had opened fire, attempts were made by enemy to put them out of action by shell fire or infantry stalking.© Boys Rifle
In one definite and authentic case, an enemy tank was set on fire by a Boys rifle.(d)
Although all of the above weapons appear to have had some effect on enemy tanks, the effect of 4.7-inch gun from British Destroyers was very great and the morale effect must have been considerable. One medium tank was completely demolished by a direct hit from a 4.7-inch gun.5. Notes on Air Attack
Raiding by approximately twenty planes, the majority of which were driven off by fighters. Prior to the raid, all German troops were withdrawn from the Town. Only light Anti-Tank personnel bombs were dropped and the number of casualties resulting was very small. There was a certain amount of machine gunning from the air which appeared to be carried out fairly high, i.e. over 1,000 feet.6. Use of Fifth Columnists.
It is impossible to say what number of these were employed, but they undoubtedly co-operated during the attack on the Town. The casualties inflicted by their sniping or firing with sub-machine guns were probably not very great, but the effect of their presence was considerable and created an atmosphere of distrust and tension, which caused a great deal of unnecessary firing, especially among the more undisciplined personnel of the labour units. The presence of FIFTH COLUMNISTS in an operation of this kind calls for extremely good discipline among the troops engaged, whose task is made more unpleasant by their activity. It is impossible to check all reports, but numerous instances were seen of signalling from windows, etc.
Edited by dbf, 28 June 2011 - 10:33 PM.