Discussion in 'RAC & RTR' started by von Poop, Dec 19, 2017.
Very nice war diary appendix Drew's dragged out of 49Div GS War Diary.
There's a quote in "None Had Lances" - the Regimental History of the 24th Lancers - on p165:
"The action demonstrated how the defence had the advantage over the attack. For once we were defending and the Germans attacking and they paid dearly for it. While we had an ample supply of tanks in reserve to replace those lost in battle the Germans did not and the loss of so many tanks and self-propelled guns was very serious for them. Altogether the "bag" on the brigade front was thirty-four Panthers of which thirty-one were destroyed in the Rauray area. Of these C squadron took nine as well as two self-propelled guns. "A" squadron killed about 200 of the enemy. Our losses were three men killed from C squadron, Trps. Thomas Turner and Reginald West and Trp. Arthur Constable who died later in the UK from his wounds. C squadron lost two Shermans and B squadron one Sherman".
Nb. there is a picture of Trp. Thomas Turner here: 24th Lancers - Roll of Honour
The battle at Rauray prompted a rather 'unusual and macabre' 49 Div 1944 Christmas card. Note: I'm currently out and about so unfortunately can't post image of the card.
Merry Xmas 1944: http://www.irdp.co.uk/JohnCrook/ButcherChristmasCard.jpg
From the site: Polar Bears
To quote: "The Polar Bears became notorious to German troops and merited a vicious attack by Lord Haw Haw on the radio during the Normandy campaign. He called them 'The Polar Bear Butchers' and the insult formed the basis of a somewhat bloodthirsty 49th Divisional Christmas Card for 1944. This extreme rhetoric reflects the ugliness of fighting in Normandy."
Just like to point out that 24 L were not the only people in the field that day.
“My troop had gone into a position E of Rauray and just N of Pt 110 during the night to relieve B Tp. The troop spent the time up to stand-to digging. At about 0600 information was obtained that an attack was imminent from the South. This was preceded by a very heavy mortar barrage, closely followed by their Infantry supported by tanks sitting behind to shoot then in. Fierce fighting developed between the enemy and our forward troops. The infantry anti-tank guns prevented the tanks from advancing on to our left flank and so they deployed rather hesitatingly to the right. At about 0630 hours the forward company of the TS withdrew past our posns. Sergeant W Hall was informed that tanks were creeping down behind him on the other side of a high bank behind which Sgts Hall and Haines guns were defiladed and subjecting them to fire, putting Sergeant Haines’ gun out of action. Sergeant Hall rallied both gun teams and during a period of mortaring man-handled his own gun a distance of 350 yards to a fresh position where he could get a limited arc of fire at a range of 450 yards. No sooner was he in position than a Tiger showed up hull down in front, creeping from behind a tank which was already burning. Lance Bombardier Sparrow laid and fired 2 rds, the second one causing the tank to brew up. Both rounds were through the turret. A few minutes pause and then another Tiger repeated the tactics of our first, creeping from behind both burning tanks. One round this time was sufficient to cause brewing up and my own impression is that the shot entered just above the track. Except for mortaring and machine gun fire things were quiet for a time. Then a Mk IV moved across the front from some trees on the right and fired at the gun, killing one infantry man and wounding several. Sergeant Hall, who had observed the enemy from the FOOs posn, came down to his gun and engaged. After a few rounds the tank withdrew and soon after was observed by me in flames. Later there was a concentrated effort by about four tanks in our gun area, but the team had warned by the FOO and were ready. The remaining inf, seeing the tanks, then retired leaving only myself and the gun team in the field. Sergeant Hall engaged the targets as they appeared and was fired back on, and during a quiet spell I went back to the FOO’s post and observed two new tanks in our area; one was blazing furiously and the other was smoking. She was soon out of view of our gun but was still there at the end of the day. I don’t know what happened to the remaining tanks but later one fired and destroyed a British tank on our right. During this phase an mg was being particularly awkward on our right and Gunner Savage, after a careful study decided he knew where this enemy lay. He crawled from his slit trench to one on the flank, and raked the position with Bren fire. No more fire came from that enemy posn. The time was now about 1100 hours.
At midday it was reported that tanks were moving across the front from our right to left out of sight of Sergeant Hall’s gun. The only gun on the left sector was Sgt Sturgeon’s – the Infantry guns all being out of action. At length Sergeant Sturgeon got a Panther under observation about 900 yards away head on. At 700 yards our guns loosed off – the rd entering the gun mantlet. It stopped and began to back away, still head on and 4 more rounds were fired without effect. At last it turned slightly and the layer, Gunner Moss, had a narrow view of the side. One round through this and the tank brewed up. The rest of the day was confined to infantry fighting, tanks being stopped from coming close by the cooperation of the FOO.” Lieutenant Vaughan’s report 55 Anti tank Regiment WD July 1944
IIRC Vaughn was awarded the MC and Hall the MM
Got a very good no-nonsense sort of book on the fighting around Rauray.
Kevin Baverstock's 'Breaking The Panzers'
I'd recommend it as an excellent account revolving around a single day. Well-illustrated and intense.
I got Kevin Baverstock's "Breaking the Panzers" a good while back and would recommend it too. Despite the bit on the cover saying "The Bloody Battle for Rauray, Normandy, 1 July 1944, it does cover quite a bit more than just that one day, but far and away its main detail is very in-depth on the 1st July 1944. There's great pictures and maps and to go with...
(Under the section "books")
"This book records the part played by the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division in the day long defensive action at Rauray in Normandy on 1st July 1944. Among the British units which played a major role that day, particular mention is given to the 1st Tyneside Scottish (Black Watch). Renowned for their sacrifices in the First World War, little had been written about the men of the Tyneside Scottish in the Second World War and their story was largely forgotten. Breaking the Panzers attempts to redress the balance."
It's not mainly focused on the 24th L ;-)
Ps. I did watch a few minutes of this:
A month or so back.
Rauray - Normandie 1944 [GER] - Mission Pack 2 |FOW| - MOWAS 2
I think the game itself is made by a company in Ukraine. But I wasn't really too sure of the veracity of the scenario or the topography etc.
Defence of Rauray by the 24th Lancers, Tyneside Scottish et alia
Upcoming book. It maps tank wrecks in the Fontenay/Rauray area and links period film/photos to locations. Very detailed work which brings much new insight.
On a similar vein, Karl at: The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry 1939-1945
Recently posted this (14th Dec 2017) on his Fb page, for what looks like another upcoming book: Frederick Jne
At last the battles around Tessel Wood and Rauray are getting the recognition they deserve. Those battles were the turning point of the Normandy campaign and gave rise to a remarkable piece of advice from Von Rundstedt and a very angry Mr Hitler.
(Apologies if this is slightly confusing musings ;-)
Major Luddington was leading "C" squadron 24th L itself (his M.C. citation for Rauray is quoted for instance on p219 of NHL). After Major J.Noel Cowley (the previous leader of "C" Squadron 24th L) was "hit by a small piece of shrapnel in the temple" (NHLp143) around the 10th July 1944. (Nb. there is a picture of Major J.Noel Cowley on p199 of NHL, and one of Major William H.C. Luddington M.C. on p219 of NHL)
Looking back through the letters (gd's) the one on 2nd July 1944 doesn't have a censor signature that I can see at the mo. - but there's one sent on 5th July 1944 with Lt.Cameron's signature on it. I've had a feeling that Lt.Hawkins was possibly leading "C" Squadron's "1st Troop" on the 1st July 1944 (he'd led that troop at around the time of D-Day) but was perhaps wounded then (or thereabouts) and hence Lt.Cameron was later (by 5th July 1944) I think leading my gd's troop. That said though the person signing the letters/censoring them might not of been Lt.Hawkins at that point as he was I think, when wounded, "wounded in the arm" and I don't know (yet) how incapacitated he was, so at that point on the 5th July 1944 Lt.Cameron might just have been "helping out".
This is the top of the 5th July 1944 one... with Lt.Cameron's signature on it.
And this is the end of the one from the 2nd July 1944 - Transcribed...
from Page 2 - "....So Spud* did write, I’m glad about that. I was with him immediately after he hurt his arm “You would be here, says he” so I held his hand, help(ed) him drink some tea. I miss him an awful lot I don’t mind telling you. I have written to his home address, about eight of us wrote the letter, you know how difficult it is to get stuff pass the censor; anyway we managed to convey plenty to him, not of any military…
(nb. Spud* was a Sgt.Taylor - the tank commander of the 2nd Tank in the 3rd Troop of the "C" squadron of the 24th L.)
from Page 3 - ".…value to the enemy of course.
We keep cheerful enough. The hours of work are sometimes very long, but then it’s summer + lots of daylight. We are doing good work too, good enough to get a letter from Monty to the Regiment, + he sent ten cigs a man, we get 8 per day + 40 per week so we just manage.
This old blighter isn’t enjoying it though so don’t you get that idea. You know what I think of a job of work, well, this is one of those, not that it’s like a job, there are too many parts I don’t like + goes against the grain but there is something bigger than me + greater than I can understand behind all this. I’ll tell you all about that side of it…"
from Page 4 - "
…sometime, I ain’t one to talk about Crusades or any old stuff the papers’ write, it’s up to each one of us to see this thing from his own angle + I’ve seen lots of things in a different way + from a different angle now. One gets a lot of contentment after settling a problem that’s been niggling for years,
It’s getting too blooming dark to see now so I’ll have to give young Beddow his pencil back + go to bed. We had a grand shower in a field today, a milk churn with holes in the bottom.
Cheerio + chin up from your loving husband Ben XX.
P.S. They say in the papers they don’t want us to spend, we haven’t had any pay yet!!!!"
Understated but true ;-)
James Holland on Twitter
From the IWM: Search Our Collections for "Rauray " | Imperial War Museums
By the way one of the Sherman tanks at Rauray was "T-263137" - there's a IWM picture of this on p90 of "Breaking the Panzers" and:
THE BRITISH ARMY IN NORMANDY 1944 (B 6225)
Infantry of 49th Division digging in beside Sherman tanks near Rauray, 30 June 1944.
I googled this "T-263137" a while back and got::
Allied WWII AFV Discussion Group: Help me finish this Firefly... 22 ARM Brigade, East Riding Yeomanry
To quote from which: "Did you know that a ERY tank with number 56 on the hull was T263137, credited as C Squadron it was a Sherman I Hybrid and maybe a Firefly as well but the gun cannot be seen. Photo taken at Boxtel in Holland 1944. It has a name in small letters above the hull-side applique armour plate but printed photo is not clear enough to read"
Which is a bit curious, I guess they could be same tank - with the potential that this was an ex-24th L tank that was transferred to the ERY after the 24th L were disbanded at the start of August 1944. Albeit it could also have been another regiment's (maybe Rauray?) damaged tank that was subsequently fixed up and transferred to the ERY.
Additionally: THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE NORMANDY CAMPAIGN 1944 (B 6218)
Sherman tanks of 1st Nottinghamshire Yeomanry, 8th Armoured Brigade in an orchard near Rauray, 30 June 1944.
Whereas this one is credited on p166 of NHL as 24th L (? Rm) "HQ tanks harboured in orchard near Rauray, 29th June 1944. Sherman, 75mm and Humber Scout Car." With a different date and regimental attribution.
The lightness / yellow to whiteness / colour to b&w of the Diamond/Lozenge suggesting perhaps that this is a 24th L - HQ tank - and less likely maybe to be a 1st Nottinghamshire Yeomanry one (the blue might tend to come out a bit darker in black and white perhaps.)
There is an example of the 8th Armoured Tactical markings for Normandy here:
I wonder if there was a clear commander on the German side?
Operation Martlet - Wikipedia
Albeit, under "German counter-attack, 1 July" I'm a bit confused by these lines on the "wiki": "German tanks and Panzergrenadiers swung north, 300 yards (270 m) behind B Company, where they were engaged by tanks of the 21st Lancers."
& "German infantry encroached on defensive positions but were pushed out by counter-attacks, which were costly for both sides. C Squadron of the Sherwood Rangers lost two tanks in support of the 10th DLI and the 55th Anti-Tank Regiment RA, which was deployed behind the DLI battalions, knocked out six Panthers"
The ref. says: "Delaforce, P. (2003). The Polar Bears. Stroud: Sutton." - a book I haven't (yet;-) got.
Previously when I've come across some reports from the German side I've seen "Kurt Meyer" fairly prominent i.e.:
Kurt Meyer "Rauray" - Google Search
I don't think I've noticed Kurt Meyer disparaging the quality of the troops that they had there or that the Germans at Rauray were noticeably fielding sub-par units against the allies.
However, I saw a recent comment online that the 49th Div. report "says more about the quality of Pz crews faced than Pz."
But there's also a fair amount in "Breaking the Panzers" i.e. p24-25 under "German Tactics" on the qualities of the German tanks - "the heaviest and best-armed tanks in Normandy" - frequently used dug in and covering lines of advance. As well as the high quality (the elite troops of the German army).
The 1st SS Panzer Corps was placed in command of the Caen front on 7th June with Op Epsom hitting the sector defended by 12 SS commander by Meyer.
The II SS Panzer Corps was tasked with launching a counter attack on the eastern side of the scottish corridor salient.
Around the 28th the II SS Corps (commanded by Hausser) took over the sector. But around the same time Hausser was promoted to command 7th Army on the death of Dollman and the invasion front sector was split with Panzer Group West taking over the Caen sector. Bitterich commander 9th SS took command of the IInd SS Panzer Corps, replaced temporarily by Colonel Muller commander 20th SS PG Regt. KG Weidiger from 2 SS was placed under command of 9th SS Pz Div.
So there was a command hiatus around this time on the German side which lasted until the 1st July - not helped by allied bombing of the assembly areas and intense british artillery fire. Weidinger seems to have been sufficiently confused that his memoirs mix up the 9th and 10th SS so it may not have been particularly clear to him!
Here is the German situation map for 1st July
What Von Rundstedt concluded about all this was much to the point, reference my post #11, normally expressed in English as "Make Peace you fools". The following is from Wikipedia (so it must be true!):
On 29 June Rundstedt and Rommel were summoned to Berchtesgaden for a further meeting with Hitler, at which they repeated their demands, and were again rebuffed. On his return to Saint-Germain, on 30 June, Rundstedt found an urgent plea from Schweppenburg, who was commanding the armoured force at Caen, to be allowed to withdraw his units out of range of Allied naval gunfire, which was decimating his forces. Rundstedt at once agreed, and notified OKW of this decision. On 1 July he received a message from OKW countermanding his orders. In a fury, he phoned Keitel, urging him to go to Hitler and get the decision reversed. Keitel pleaded that this was impossible. "What shall we do?" he asked. Rundstedt is said to have replied "Macht Schluss mit dem Krieg, ihr Idioten!" (one version of the story as told by Blumentritt did not include the "ihr Idioten"). This literally means "End the war, you idiots!", but has commonly been reported in English-language accounts as "Make peace, you idiots!" There has been some doubt raised as to whether Rundstedt actually said this, but Wilmot says the incident was recounted to him and Liddell-Hart by Blumentritt, who was present.[Notes 17]
From the IN OUR TIME - series" BBC-Radir 4 - "Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how history has struggled to explain the enormity of the crimes committed in Germany under Adolf Hitler: we have had theories of ‘totalitarianism’, and of ‘distorted modernity’, debates between ‘intentionalists’ and their opponents the ‘structuralists’. The great political philosopher Hannah Arendt said, “Under conditions of tyranny, it is far easier to act than to think”. But somehow none of these explanations has seemed quite enough to explain how a democratic country in the heart of modern Europe was mobilised to commit genocide, and to fight a bitter war to the end against the world’s most powerful nations.With Ian Kershaw, historian and biographer of Hitler; Niall Ferguson, fellow and tutor in Modern History at Jesus College Oxford; Mary Fulbrook, Professor of German History at University College London."
- It does seem a bit extreme to imagine that Germany could have won just by having good quality Pz.
Cheers Adam...Nice to see it has created some discussion. Now I have 'proper' internet (from today) I'll check out my copy of the 24th Lancers war diary.
Kevin Baverstock's - "Breaking the Panzers" - "BtP" -
has a ref on p.56 on the total German confusion at the start of the German's attack on Rauray due to the wounding of SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer (Lt.Col) Woith - CO of the 9th SS-Panzer div. in an artillery barrage and his consequent failure to arrive. Woith had apparently been the one actually meant to deliver the German attack order.
Woith's failure to deliver the attack order and subsequent confusion helping to causing the initial 0300 hrs attack to be postponed and reset to begin at 0600 hrs.
There's also a quote on p117 of "BtP" from the midday report of the German tank commander SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Otto Meyer in response to the colossal artillery "stonk" on Queudeville and Brettevillette (both a very short distance to the SW of Rauray in the German sector) - itself taken from Dante - i.e. "Abandon hope all ye who enter here"
Separate names with a comma.