Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Ramiles, Apr 1, 2015.
Then so shall I do...
As Steve has already mentioned my fathers tank (24th Lancers "A" Squadron) was involved in an action quite early on 26th June, in which the driver and co-driver perished, and where he (gunner) and radio op were seriously injured and where their commander behaved pretty heroically in attempting a rescue of the trapped crew, and getting my father away quickly to a casualty clearing station, an act that almost certainly saved his life.
The action took place at the crossroads just above the E and S on Vendes, south of Tessel Wood, and to the best of my knowledge took place around 9 a.m. or thereabouts. As much as my father would ever say to me was that he hit a Panther tank with two shots, the first bouncing off and the second disabling it as they saw the crew bail out. They heard a warning about a second tank, but he never saw it before they were hit twice as far as he could recall. He felt in later life they quite possibly contributed to their own situation by having too much ammunition inside the tank which ignited and worsened the inferno.
I've never been quite sure if the German tank was moving east west or west east when they encountered it, but he said it turned south to gain cover after he first hit it, then reappeared on the Road south of the crossroad moving North on the counter attack when he knocked it out.
You must undertand I could never press him on these matters, nor really wished to, so a lot was left to the imagination to fill in the gaps, but with the inevitable consequence that a lot of what I imagined was inaccurate.
He never really said much about it as it was mostly a 'closed' subject, but he did relate the destruction of the church steeple and railway station at Audrieu. It went round on the radio 'net' that there were snipers in both locations and so both were plastered with shells. He said that in later life they had never actually seen snipers or felt under fire there, but they had learnt already not to take chances, and if someone said "snipers" you acted.
The tank knocked out just near to the Vendes crossroads to the south of Tessel wood is mentioned in the brilliant book by Dob Scott 'The Polar Bears from Sheffield' about the Hallamshire Battalion of the York and Lancs (who spent 3 weeks dug in around Tessel wood from the 26/27th June).
The tank is noted as being at point 'E' on the sketch as "Another knocked out Sherman tank. This one was used as a Forward Observation Post. It was also here that Ken Godfrey stumbled across the body of one of its crew members."
Ken Godfrey's describes the following:
"I was told to do a recce beyond this tank towards the crossroads to see if it was suitable for an OP and decided to make my way up on the field side of the hedge. I heard a ping and threw myself forward in the ditch and put my hand on this lad and I was so scared. He was burnt and I got up and threw myself up and over the hedge into the lane and carried on walking towards the crossroads.
I thought later that if I had any gumption I would have removed this lad's identity tag but they must have found him after we finished there anyway. He definitely came from the tank because he still had his earphones on."
Thanks immensely for that "Badger123" - Ivan, it's fascinating that this info is all "out there"
By the way - I recently read this The Creully Club - Newsletter and I'm not sure if it's an account that's been particularly "widely" seen. There's still many of these "creullyclub" pages that I have yet to read through, many of which will no doubt be highly relevant here and in close threads here abouts.
"The Battle for Tessel Wood (La Grande Ferme) 26th June 1944" looks like a tall order to "unpick", just goes to show how confusing war can be. I've tried to break it down into discrete pieces but with things moving from Pt.102 to almost Rauray and practically all points in-between drawing an accurate map of all movements for just this particular day could be like trying to copy an Escher print with an eye to actually building a model of the thing
There's an "orchard" location for example that I have yet to pin down: Between moving off at 0100 hours and the next actions at 0645 hours - "The orchard marked on the map was cleared by ‘A’ Company (of the KRRC infantry? Rm) with the help of the Essex Yeomanry guns with one troop of 24th Lancers (of "B" squadron presumably - Rm) whilst ‘C’ Company (of the KRRC infantry? Rm) with the assistance of two troops of the 24th Lancers (of "B" squadron presumably - Rm) worked around to the south east." The church though in Le Manoir - roughly at the centre of the map below is one constant land mark in the area that is difficult not to pick out.
Current thoughts On Tessel Woods 26d6m1944 Rm by Ramiles posted Apr 12, 2015 at 4:52 PM
My guess at the moment would put this IWM picture: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205205958
"Sherman tanks of the 4/7th Dragoon Guards, 8th Armoured Brigade, waiting to go into action near Rauray, Normandy, 28 June 1944."
As being one in relatively close proximity to the Tessel Wood (and this looks much more like a wood than one of the many orchards dotted about the place back then and the orchards were closer to Rauray than the Tessel Wood)
Again the fact that
No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit
Were filming and photographing all this fits with my own recollection of what I remember being told "occurred there"
And once more there's some nice numbers (this time large turret ones) as well as a tank name apparent there.
(I'll look up "Dingman" and the turret number "27" for the 4/7th Dragoon Guards - in case there is more to learn about these at some point).
It might be quite poignant though as the 4/7th Dragoon Guards did not fair well at Tessel Wood.
The Battle for Tessel Wood (La Grande Ferme): http://www.creullycl...k.com/feb12.htm
All the best,
Way back in an early post in the Tessel Wood thread there's a 24th L WD quote:
26/6/44 At 2230 hours some Panthers stalked ‘C’ Sqns position from the East, coming very quickly up hedgerows. The Sqn deployed into suitable concealed positions and switched all engines off. By the time the Panthers were within range it was too dark to use the sights. Finally, one Panther was blown up by one of ‘C’ Sqns tanks at a distance of only 25 yards. The Sqn opened fire on what tanks they could see but the darkness prevented any accuracy and the remainder of the Panthers slipped away.
For the remainder of the night, the Sqn remained in close leaguer and at first light it was discovered that snipers had worked their way into the hedgerows round the position. The first hour was spent in getting them out with our machine gun fire."
... this is earily similar to a contemporary quote I have recently found in my Gd's war time correspondence from there:
"Eric came in with a broken leg. I didn’t see him. Next day we came back to the FDS (Forward Delivery Squadron) for another crate. After that more stuff was getting off at the beaches so we were eased off. Those first few days were a bit hectic, there wasn’t much stuff around and this country is thick with trees and high hedges, there could be a hidden Boche in every hedge and you just couldn’t spot them We didn’t rely much on the French, they are only farmers and haven’t done too badly.
One other little thing Sgt. Cooper was sat in a hedge late one evening when a Tiger tank came up, he didn’t know what it was until it was twenty five yards away, Cooper is quite bold, so was the Boche and they sat there looking at each other for a moment. Cooper was quickest to the draw and got the Tiger.
The weather out here was lovely yesterday but today its misty and doesn’t look like clearing.
I don’t know how your mail will come now it may be okay as they know where we are."
Gd was I think (and am fairly sure) in 1st troop "C" squadron 24th Lancers at the time (a (TC) tank commander under Lt.Hawkins) and Sgt. Cooper was TC in the 3rd Troop "C" squadron 24th Lancers (under Lieut B.A.Jewell).
Of course there is the "difference" between a panther and a tiger to consider in the "accounts" but I wonder if anyone's aware of anything more about Sgt.Cooper's "quick draw" out there?
All the best,
Must be brief today due to family commitments but this incident with Cooper v Panther is described in detail on pages 155-156 in None Had Lances.
The above is 99% certain to be just before the junction of the D173A (from Tessel to Cheux) and the D139 from Fontenay to Rauray. The Shermans are on the D139 heading to Rauray. Tessel is down the road running along the treeline off to the left side of the Sherman on the left of the photo.
This is something I made a while ago to sort the various Rauray photos and the Shermans would be just above the pink and yellow 'X' at the top of the photo. The back end of the Panther is towards Tessel Wood.
Lovely mosaic m kenney (post # 48 above) ! And intriguing to be matching the pictures and the maps up. I think where I tend to come unstuck is not really knowing what is still "unknown", but genuinely being interested in what already is (known) so I can find out what actually is still to research there...
I had an (all too brief!) glance at "None Had Lances" in the Bod but didn't recall / notice that the Cooper incident was in there and can't borrow from the Bod. That said my gd's ref. to it was a "new find" to me so it's nice to find that there is the factual overlap there.
I think we discussed the Tiger/Panther recognition issue (in the past, fog of war, heat of battle etc. i.e. "all enemy tanks were "tigers" there) and the "bad light" referenced for the evening/night might have had a bearing on recognition (though one assumes that the wrecked tank was "left" there to peruse (although most probably the 24th L had all too swiftly to move on).
There was a flimsy called "Lancer Life" published nr. the front at the time. A few editions perhaps I think? Does anyone have a copy or coppies of this/ these still? I think my gd. sent a few back but I have yet to unearth them so far...
All the best,
I have what I assume to be a full set of 'Lancer Life'. Sounds impressive but I think there were only three issues of it before the 24L were disbanded. They were written by the Padre, Mark Green. They are oversized (compared to A4) and difficult to scan due to their poor physical condition and which makes them also difficult to read. I'm not sure how they were reproduced in the field; some sort of copier?. Scanning and getting them into a readable format are on my 2016 'to do' list.
Lancer Life's posted here: 24th Lancers Newsletter: 'Lancer Life'.
Re. the German tank wrecks at Tessel and nearby at Rauray.
Is there any evidence that rings a bell of a particular German tank hit first on the track (by an armour piercing shell? possibly?) and thereafter brewed up by an HE?
My reference to this is in my gd's account:
"Then the German tanks started to roll across our front about 800 yards away. It was a nuisance because they came into view and then went out of sight so I had the turret swing to pick one up as he came into view. I had nice time to range him and had him close in my binoculars, as I said my gunner was good and he hit him right between the tracks, I told him to put an HE through the hole he had made, which he did and that started the day's work. A tank carried about 100 mixed shells, some High Explosive some armour piercing, well we used these and sent one tank back to load all it could to replenish the troop and we fought on till almost dark and also we had called to the artillery to bring down a barrage. A lot of tanks, Germans, were knocked out that day and yet when asked how many tanks we had knocked out (this is cross your heart stuff) I could only say one, if anyone had said did you have a cup of tea or eat anything or jump down to go to the lavatory, I couldn’t have told them. There is a point where concentration is so intense that you know what to do every second and you do it but to explain it afterwards was to me academic."
It has something of a "Rauray" feel to it for me, however it is possibly also chronologically/geographically just in the area of the incident with Cooper mentioned in posts #46 & #47 above, which if it ties to the 24th L wardiary is a bit closer to the tanks K.O'd near Tessel wood.
By the way in terms of numbers, in the month of June 1944:
The (24th L) Regiment lost 28 Tanks destroyed and 10 damaged.
The Regiment inflicted the following casualties in vehicles on the enemy during the same period.
Tanks destroyed 19
A/Tk guns 2
SP guns 3
½ Tracked vehicles 5
Armoured cars 5
All in all I think they did rather well against what they had to face.
All the best,
I was glancing through this intense recollection of Rauray again recently:
Black Watch: Liberating Europe and catching Himmler - my extraordinary WW2 ... By Tom Renouf
And thinking about it all in light of my gd's account given about in post #51.
There are certain similarities in the time of day, and it matches well with the account in the WD of the 24th L for 1st July 1944 at Rauray*.
Were this so then the panzer gd's tank hit would have been one of those approaching Rauray I suspect about 800 yards away from the direction of Queudeville. Remembering my gd was in the 2nd tank of the 1st troop of "C" squadron 24th L therefore:
Suggested thoughts On troop placements Nr Defence Of Rauray Rm by Ramiles posted Apr 7, 2015 at 7:22 PM
* Excerpt from the WD 24th L for the 1st July 1944:
The first enemy attack was on the Tyne Scots right flank positions and after passing through them the enemy fought their way into the West side of the village. Our tanks except to prevent the enemy moving west to east, were more or less useless on that side as the country was heavily wooded and covered with dense orchards. The attack was eventually stopped however by 1 and 3 Troops, ‘C’ Sqn on the west side; and a rapid counter attack by the infantry supported by two troops of ‘A’ Sqn on the right flank, was successful in that it drove the enemy infantry out of the village into the woods behind. During this attack the enemy used 15 Panther tanks and one Tiger tank, and although our tanks by virtue of the thick country were unable to engage them, the Anti tank gunners and the infantry got eleven of them before their positions were overrun and most of the gun crews killed.
The enemy quickly put in another attack, this time against the Tyne Scots left forward company and the East of the village. 1 and 3 Tps, ‘C’ Sqn were withdrawn from the west side of the village to reinforce 2 and 4 Tps in an orchard east of the village, from which they had a fair field of fire of about 800 – 1000 yards. Our tanks were unable to go forward (South ) of the orchard as two Tiger tanks dominated the ground from positions on each flank.
The enemy then put in a further attack in which the left forward company of our infantry was overrun. But the enemy’s advance towards the village was halted by our tanks which destroyed all the six visible Panthers supporting the attack. The enemy infantry and remaining tanks then retired.
Throughout the rest of the day, repeated smaller attacks were made by the enemy, usually with 3 –5 Panthers supporting about a company of infantry. They were all beaten off.
There was an open field which dominated the village of Rauray, to the left of our position. No cover could be found for our tanks in this field, and although one major and several minor attacks were put in by the enemy against this feature, they were all beaten off by the following method.
Sgt.Wilcox, the Troop Serjeant of 2 Troop, ‘C’ Sqn camouflaged his tank and advanced very slowly along a hedge until he was able to see the enemy FOP’s. Then he waited completely in the open, disguised as part of the hedge, until each enemy attack was committed and all enemy troops were clear of the orchards in which they formed up. Sgt.Wilcox then called up the remainder of his troop and also 1 Troop, who speedily came up level with him, fired furiously for about 30 seconds and then retired to their
concealed positions under cover of smoke before the German 88mm guns could register on them. Later in the day the enemy discovered what we were doing and several times Sgt.Wilcox had to retire under heavy fire. But as soon as the firing was over he always wormed his way forward again to a position of observation.
There's a thread for this bit of Rauray here:
And there's a map locating some of the K.O.'d German tanks there here:
I forgot to ask - re.
i.e. in my post # 46 - does this match the incident in the 24th L W.D. by date - so the Cooper v Panther incident as described in detail on pages 155-156 in None Had Lances - was on the 26/6/1944?
All the best,
According to NHL, Cooper v Panther was late evening 10-10.30pm 25th June 1944, the end of the first day of the battle for Tessel Wood.
I've been meaning to check the versions of what occurred around the Tessel woods in some of the German accounts and a better understanding of the actual date and time should be helpful (in terms of cross-referencing things) there.
The 24th L war diary seemed to suggest (to me) at first a date of 26/6/44 since perhaps it was written up the following day, with an "update" on what had occurred during the prior (25/6/1944) night.
25/6/44 At 2230 hours some Panthers stalked ‘C’ Sqns position from the East, coming very quickly up hedgerows. The Sqn deployed into suitable concealed positions and switched all engines off. By the time the Panthers were within range it was too dark to use the sights.Finally, one Panther was blown up by one of ‘C’ Sqns tanks at a distance of only 25 yards. The Sqn opened fire on what tanks they could see but the darkness prevented any accuracy and the remainder of the Panthers slipped away.
For the remainder of the night, the Sqn remained in close leaguer and at first light (26/6/44) it was discovered that snipers had worked their way into the hedgerows round the position. The first hour was spent in getting them out with our machine gun fire."
And... just prior to this all...
"Just before darkness, OC ‘C’ Sqn sent one of his troops to cover an infantry patrol to the SE corner of the wood. The wood was found clear but the troop was attacked by three Panthers. A further troop was sent up and in the resultant battle one of the Panthers was destroyed for the loss of one of our tanks. The other Panthers withdrew after being repeatedly hit by our gun fire."
Re. the loss of this particular Sherman - in terms of tank losses: Tank losses of the 24th Lancers in Normandy – June and July 1944
To me one tank in particular that this might have been seemed to have been was perhaps "Lt. Frank Fuller's B squadron tank BUCCANEER brewed up at Tessel Wood Normandy 25th June 1944" - Allied WWII AFV Discussion Group: 24th Lancers: a tank name and number for you..........
...however were the "A further troop" that "was sent up" to have been a further troop of "C" squadron then it could hardly have been a "B squadron tank BUCCANEER" and "I have seen accounts of five 24th Lancers KIA on this date, three "A" squadron and two "B". " - but don't (as yet) see any casualties for "C" squadron outlined for there.
There are certainly instances in this:
Waffen-SS Armour in Normandy
That feel like they might be a match, but it's rather hard to be sure of anything really though it is nice to see the Germans had clearly numbered their tanks i.e. Nos. 415, Nos. 416, Nos 417 etc. and there's a good lot of detail there, so for instance its account seems to have in "a small wooded area controlled by the enemy" German Tank Nos 417 being hit 3 times whilst mounting a hedge and the German tank Nos. 438 hit, knocked out and burnt out. (all on page 71)
With a long interest in this campaign, i thought i would show this comparison shot. The Fontenay Calvary is clearly visible. I first thought it was just another shattered tree until i compared it with the google shot.
Thanks Gaz. Well spotted.
Did a quick search: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Fontenay+Calvary&oq=Fontenay+Calvary+&aqs=chrome..69i57.1482j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
And found an interesting post re. the Fontenay Calvary on the old BBC WW2 people's war site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/61/a9004961.shtml
Nb. This article is also ref'd. in the following thread here: http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/17506-desperately-seeking/#entry201683
On "The Road to Calvary - At 0415 on the morning of the 25th of June 1944, the British 49th Infantry Division launched OPERATION MARTLET. The first objective was the village of Fontenay-le-Pesnel. Leading the attack into the village from Le Parc-de-Boislande was the 11th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (RSF)."
With... "Just after 0500, a leading group of over forty men of the RSF found themselves pinned down at the outskirts of the village where there was a monument to Christ On The Cross, or Calvary. Here the SS rained mortar shells and sprayed the area with Spandau fire from the buildings and fields to the north and east. The RSF replied with rifles and bren guns."
and... "The fanatical teenagers of the SS made many counter attacks on the Calvary as the mist finally began to clear. Several were repulsed after savage hand-to-hand fighting with grenades, sub-machine guns and bayonets. These attacks lasted throughout the afternoon with heavy casualties on both sides. Three tanks from the Sherwood Ranger Yeomanry came south along the Cristot road, termed “Hell’s Highway” (there were many “Hell’s Highways” in Normandy) in support of the RSF. However, one tank broke down while another was knocked out. The remaining tank had to transport the other tank crews back behind British lines. German Panther tanks from Panzer Lehr attacked from the west of the village, but were driven away by anti-tank fire from the Hallams."
For the SRY their War Diary for the 25th June has:
"The attack on Rauray commenced at daybreak “B” Sqn started off with their Inf with the final objective the road, the road North of FONTENAY. As a result of the barrage and mist visibility was NIL. The fighting became very confused and tanks and Inf. immediately lost contact. Jimmy McWilliam was working as L.O. and had a very sticky time from enemy mortaring. Unlike the Infantry he could not go to ground. During the afternoon he was wounded and had to be evacuated. In the evening, C Sqn moved down into FONTENAY for Phase II. However they were not able to move Southwards owing to the village not being cleared of the enemy."
The Fontenay Sherman after it was tipped of the road.
Good find. Haven't seen that photo before.
Don't want to sound greedy, but any more where that came from?
Separate names with a comma.