Battlegroup Fehrmann Tiger v. three British Comets, 3RTR

Discussion in 'RAC & RTR' started by SDP, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    A Tiger tank of Battlegroup Fehrmann was engaged in clashes with a number of Comet tanks of the British Third Battalion Royal Tank Regiment (3RTR) on 12th and 13th April 1945 at a bridgehead over the River Aller near the town of Essel. Documented accounts available on the internet all seem to draw on information provided in 'Tigers in Combat' but some of this information appears spurious.

    In summary:
    12th April 1945: Tiger clashes with 3 Comets of 1st Troop A Squadron 3RTR. One of the Comets is knocked out. Tiger withdraws.
    13th April 1945: Same Tiger, when advancing again towards the bridgehead, is knocked out by a 3RTR Comet commanded by Sgt Harding.

    Key 'words' in the various accounts are Tiger, Fehrmann, Aller, Drebber Stream.

    MY QUESTIONS: Where, exactly, were the clashes on 12th and 13th April 1945?

    I've looked at various current maps and Google Earth and have found the general area but, partly because the area is forest, and trees do change over the course of the odd 65 years etc (!), I'm finding it difficult to pinpoint the exact position.

    Does anyone have access to period maps or other information that could help me?

    Why do I need to know? Simple, my father was Driver of one of the Comets (T335335 'Celerity') involved in the clash on 12th April 1945.
     
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  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Have you checked the regiments war diary and appendices?
     
  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    ....
     
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Nothing much in 'Taurus Pursuant' I'm afraid.
    Couple of sentence about it in the 'Black Bull' by Delaforce on pages 230 & 231 but nothing to able to pinpoint the location.
    As Drew suggests best bet will be 3 RTR war diary and also 4 KSLI who they were grouped with.
     
  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

  6. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Thanks for the various replies.

    In summary, I've not been able to check the 3RTR War Diary yet but plan to do so.

    I've got a copy of Taurus Pursuant but that does not show the sort of map detail I'm looking for.

    Dad did serve in the Ardennes. The tank Commander (Ardennes in Sherman and Comet T335335 Celerity for the Rhine Crossing and thereafter) was a Peter Elstob who was a well-known author after the War. His titles include 'Warriors for the Working Day' (supposedly total fiction but, from what I know, actually semi-autobiographical!)

    For information some detail is shown at the following link: all fascinating stuff!
    Armortek • View topic - A34 Comet Mk I Type A - New Build
     
  7. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Delaforce's Taming the Panzers has an account of the engagements but - again - no detailed map.
    The axis of the advance was Essel - Ostenholz. On Googlemaps this is the K149 Esseler Damm. Unfortunately, it isn't clear which one of the many watercourses is the Drebber.
    A good bet for absolute locations might be the 13 Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), the artillery regiment in support - it's likely that their war diary will be peppered with grid references. This was Delaforce's unit and he was in the bridgehead and went Tiger hunting with his signaller (who got an MM) and a PIAT.
     
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  8. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    What would be the reference number (if that's the correct term!) for the Allied Map covering that area?

    I have a feeling that, if I can get a copy of a WWII vintage map, I will be able to pinpoint the location. The problem is that, because trees grow and get cut down etc (the area concerned being heavily forested) what appears on a period photo as a clearing might now be fully mature forest....or have even been cut down again (bearing in mind the economic life cycle of fir trees etc!).
     
  9. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    The old saying that the British Army always fights at the junction of four maps holds true: the Essel battlefield is somewhere around the junction of GSGS 4414 Sheets 3233, 3234, 3323 and 3324. The British Library should hold these maps but I have not been there. I suspect it's not a cheap option.

    An alternative, once you have some grid references, is:
    i) Get a modern map of the area.
    ii) Draw up a 1km grid to the same scale as the map on tracing paper or clear film.
    iii) Number the grid lines in accordance with the grid refs in the war diaries.
    iv) Plot and label the grid refs from the diaries on the wartime grid.
    v) Place the wartime grid over the modern map and align a couple of identifiable points, e.g villages, bridges and road junctions - now you know where all the unidentifiable points are.

    Another book you might want to look up is No Triumphant Procession. This covers the last battles in Germany in quite some detail from both sides.
     
  10. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    If you get grid refs from the war diaries you can translate them in co-ords you can use on Googleearth/maps & a GPS on here.
    The "Coordinates Translator"

    using this grid.
    Nord de Guerre Zone Grid

    If you get stuck give me a shout.

    Another book you might want to look up is No Triumphant Procession. This covers the last battles in Germany in quite some detail from both sides.

    Map on page 166, I'll edit it in here in a mo.
    EDIT : hope these extracts from said book help.
     

    Attached Files:

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  11. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Owen:

    That's brilliant for 13th April when the Tiger was knocked out and helps put the whole thing into context.

    Does the document also cover 12th April? That was the day when 1st Troop were the first over the Aller on a raft (2 Comets at a time, Langdon's and Elstob's/Dad's Comets being the first over) before the Engineers fixed the bridge and the day they first clashed with the Tiger (number F01 according to credible period photographs available on the internet).

    Steve
     
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  12. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Does the document also cover 12th April?

    Yes on page 141.
    Give me 5 minutes & I'll be back.
     

    Attached Files:

  13. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Owen:

    Perfect! It all now falls into place!

    The only bit missing is that I understand that the Aller bridgehead was established as follows:
    Main Aller road bridge well defended so British infantry troops cross via the railway bridge just to the west and attack the road bridge from the north. Road bridge blown at the last minute by the Germans but area captured. First Comets put across the Aller on rafts while bridge fixed. The rest being as described in earlier posts.

    Steve
     
  14. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Yup, just checking the book, it mentions that.
    page 139
    During the night of 11-12 April a squadron of Comet tanks from A Squadron 3 RTR had been ferried across the river on a Class 40 raft.
    Worth getting.
    Some cheap copies here.
    russell - no triumphant - AbeBooks

    If you need the war diaries copying , a few of the lads on here go to the archives rather alot.
    some charge about 10p a page.
     
  15. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Owen:

    Brilliant again! I'll get a copy of the book. A very productive evenings work; now for some shut-eye!

    Best Regards and thanks again
    Steve
     
  16. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    I've received scans of a few pages of a book 'Kreig in der Heimat' by Ulrich Saft that describes the crossing of the River Aller and the clashes with the Tiger in some detail. There are also maps which show the location of the Drebber Stream, photos of personnel involved and, most interestingly, IWM photos of the KSLI crossing the Aller and the Engineers building the Bailey bridge.

    I've searched the IWM photo database but can find no trace of the IWM photos on pages 150 and 156 of Saft's book; possibly I'm using the wrong key words in the search or they are not on the publically available database....anyone have any clues that could help?
     
  17. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Just thinking if you're looking for pics of 4 KSLI in 1945 it might be worth seeing what's in this book.
    Sorry I haven't got it, I've only got the Normandy one.
    Welcome to Discovering Shropshire's History
    732 AFTER ANTWERP :
    Third part of Thornburn trilogy on 4-KSLI to 1945. A4 softback, 170pp. £8.00
     
  18. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Thanks Owen. Looks like a good excuse to visit Shrewsbury, only an hour or so up the road, to visit the Regimental Museum when they reopen sometime in February.

    That book could be very useful to me because it corresponds roughly to when my father joined 3RTR and I know that 3RTR/KSLI were frequent partners during the NWE campaign.

    Now waiting for my copy of 'No Triumphant Procession' to arrive. Will then no doubt suffer from information overload so will have to pick my way through very carefully.......
     
  19. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic Patron

    Yup, just checking the book, it mentions that.
    page 139

    Worth getting.
    Some cheap copies here.
    russell - no triumphant - AbeBooks

    If you need the war diaries copying , a few of the lads on here go to the archives rather alot.
    some charge about 10p a page.
    Book arrived in record time: brilliant and also answers a few other questions. Thanks Owen
     
  20. maloney

    maloney Junior Member

    My uncle was in the 4th ksli. His name was David Watkins. He was badly wounded on the 15th apr shortly after crossing the Aller. He died the next day in Celle Military Hospital. My mum has visited his grave on several occasions but facts about what actually happened that day are what she would like to know. Just joined the forum, Some emotional stuff
     

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