A Tiger in Fontenay-le-Pesnel !

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Little Black Devil, Nov 4, 2019.

  1. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Idly looking through the war diary of 7th Heavy Recovery Section this evening, I came across these entries for 28th/29th June 1944 which reminded me of this thread and made me giggle!

    28 June - Fontenay.PNG

    Source is WO171/2936.

    And then I saw this entry for 1 July 1944:


    What I'm not quite sure about is what the definition of "recovered" or "backloaded" is within this unit's war diary. I'd thought that "recovered" would have meant get out of a ditch (for example) and put back on the road, but in this context I'm not so sure.


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  2. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    And could this be a candidate for the "knocked out" Tiger that Major Cotterell saw being towed:

    Tiger - 25 Jun.PNG

    Source: WO171/336 - 30 Corps HQ War Diary - June 1944.


  3. idler

    idler GeneralList

    If it really did brew up, I can't imagine why anyone would bother recovering it and then use the demo charges. Perhaps the gunners' terminology was less accurate than their shooting?

    That said, being towed in from the West would match with its final orientation. Given it was on tow during the battle, I can't see the towing Tiger turning North towards the advancing Tommies with the crock still hitched up; let alone trying to manoeuvre it into a minor road. It seems much more likely it was uncoupled on the main road, scuttled then later moved out of the way. If it was dumped to the West of the junction, it would have been head-on to Semken as he came out of the junction without obstructing him which sort of fits with his account.
  4. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    This is a truly fascinating thread but I'm now totally confused about all the who/what/where/when stuff. Could someone please summarise it all on an annotated photo reconnaissance shot or map please!
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  5. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    I don't think all the information is available yet...

    Looking at the entry in the Heavy Recovery Section's diary about "moving" three Panthers in Fontenay made me think whether we had photos of all 3.

    This one is well known, and I believe there are photos showing the Panther shoved over more off the road:

    Panther - Fontenay.PNG

    And this one is described as being in Fontenay by Georges Bernage in his book "Battle of the Odon"; only photo I know and perhaps that house in the background would allow its exact location to be identified:

    Panther 438 - Fontenay.PNG

    But I can't recall seeing any others. Can anyone help.


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  6. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Hang on, doh!!!

    Looking more closely at that last photo, isn't that another Panther further up the road level with the house. Right in the middle of the road and definitely needing to be moved.


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  7. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Good job that they didn't use tipex ;-) I like seeing the IWM cards and corrections :)
  8. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    I've been doodling around with Street view and think I might have found the location of Panther '438':

    Panther 438 - modern location street view.PNG

    Which kind of makes sense in view of the direction the Panther's gun barrel is pointing:

    Panther 438 - modern location satellite view - annotated.png

    One Panther maybe facing north up the road into Fontenay village and the other facing west across the fields towards where the 49th Division and accompanying armour had moved south towards Tessel Wood.

    These would have been blocking the road south from Fontenay to Rauray and so definitely would have needed moving to free up that route.

    I expect this has all been done already by some local historian but these new fangled technologies certainly give a whole new aspect to the term "armchair historian"!


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  9. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    They are not knocked out and are very much 'live'

    This Panther wreck still there in 1946

    and a Panther turret in this farmyard

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  10. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    This is the Panther next to the M4 after the RE had finished with it.

    Fontenay Panther June 1944 ... (1).jpg

    and the M4 was also tipped off the road

    Sherman Fontenay June 1944 (2).jpg
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  11. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

  12. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Oh, bugger!

    That will teach me to not to get too excited about my "google zen"!

    Great photos, thanks.

    Was that photo of the two Panthers taken by the same German photographer who took the other photos inside Fontenay itself on 25 June?

    Looking at Szamveber, it seems that '438' was knocked out during the early evening of 25 June - not long after that photo then?

    Noting the way the turrets have been popped on those Panthers - was that standard practice for combat engineers in WW2? I seem to recall that it was SOP during Gulf War 1 in 1991 leading to much debate about the effects on Allied engineers of the residue of depleted uranium in Iraqi tanks being blown out over the desert.


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  13. idler

    idler GeneralList

    There are photos of four Tigers in the Fontenay area:

    114 'suppressed' and abandoned at the crossroads south of Fontenay. Recovered. This is the one with the visor damage mentioned by Hills as being Semken's prize.

    334 abandoned undamaged in Rauray. Recovered.

    The Tiger brewed up with its nose in the hedge- location not known but assumed to be in the Rauray area from the date.

    The towed, abandoned and scuttled crock in Fontenay.

    My attempt at a summary (which includes a few details from the Hallams' Polar Bears from Sheffield and awaits correction):

    Fontenay 25-26 June 44.jpg

    A possibility that should be considered is that Semken could have engaged both the crock and 114, with two good yarns getting confused and conflated over time.
  14. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    The Liaison Letter is the (single) source for the detailed damage reports on 3 Tigers and as it is dated July 1944 the confusion was there right from the start. If it is correct then it does not mention Tiger 334 and more importantly appears not to know anything about it. In my opinion '334' shows signs of fire in the rear (engine) area. There is a technical report from late July that locates and describes a further 2 Tiger wrecks in a field south of Cheux just above the railway line to Caen. It lists other wrecks in the same area and an October 1945 air view shows some of them still there but sadly not the Tigers.

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  15. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    The description of an engagement with several Panthers in the war diary of the Hallams certainly matches the locations on your summary map and the 1946 aerial photos. The only problem with the relatively detailed account is that their are no times other than for crossing the start line. It certainly brings out the confusion though with parties of lost RSF being redirected back towards the eastern part of Fontenay and disappearing off into the mist.

    I also liked his description of the reaction of the attached sappers from 294 Fd Coy when they were ordered to form up and advance south on their own:

    "The picture of the RE fixing bayonets in astonished surprise will never be forgotten."


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  16. LBD,

    Do you have Maj Semken's IWM oral interview or its official transcript by the IWM?
    Although recorded a long time after the events, it might shed some new light on them (probably murking the waters even further though!) :D

    I note that the Content Description says "encounter with Tiger tank at Fontenay le Pesnel" rather than "in Fontenay le Pesnel", which is not exactly the same thing...

    Another interesting point is the mention of the "examination of Tiger Tank in captured German workshop". This might relate to one of the Tigers in the photos.

  17. The latest Normandie1944 magazine is out:
    Normandie 44 n°34

    It includes the latest research by Frédéric Deprun and Yann Jouault about the Fontenay Tiger, who, in addition to identifying the Tiger, propose a rather convincing scenario for its demise and subsequent immediate fate.

    The authors weigh all the various reports, testimonies and physical evidence as discussed in this thread, and come to a very plausible conclusion.

    I still believe a slightly different conclusion might be made as to which road the Tiger was on when first disabled, depending on where exactly 5 Tp A Sqn SRY was located in the early afternoon of 26 June, which, if my understanding is correct, seems to vary with the different accounts. Was 5 Tp on the left or on the right (looking South) of the Fontenay-Rauray road?

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  18. 101yann

    101yann Junior Member

    thanks and glad to hear our article was of interest.
    I think the confusion regarding the location of Render's 5 Tp comes from a wording error in his book when he says "...and then led my tanks into a large field on the right-hand side of the road" as I reckon it should have read : "...and then led my tanks into a large field on the left-hand side of the road", since later he says he saw a German head / vehicle passing on his right and this can be found in other accounts of his, including an interview he did for the IWM back in 2001 but in other instances as well. Also his own map/sketch in his book has his Troop on the left-hand side of the road too. Obviously, if he had been on the right hand side of the road then he would have seen the German on his left!


    Attached Files:

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  19. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Re. "Battle of the Odon" - By Georges Bernage

    Battle of the Odon

    "The Battle of the Odon evokes the clash between the British Army and the II SS-Panzer Korps, as they attacked across the Odon Valley during Operation "Epsom" in June 1944.
    Using contemporary photographs and documents, this book provides day-by-day details of the operation that was just one part of what is commonly referred to as the 'Battle of Normandy'."

    Tiger refs. - Battle of the Odon

    And incidentally, too, some 24th Lancer refs. - Battle of the Odon
  20. Bala

    Bala Member

    To the best of my knowledge - "Recovered" means the vehicle casualty is recovered back to the same unit as the Recovery Vehicle
    "Backloaded" means the vehicle casualty is transported to the next higher REME Unit with greater repair facilities.
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