German Gun Boats Pegasus Bridge

Discussion in 'Airborne' started by brithm, Jun 2, 2014.

  1. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    Two gunboats headed up the Caen Canal from Ouistreham on the morning of the 6th June 1944 towards Pegasus Bridge.

    Back in March Stanley Taylor (6th Airborne Division, Royal Signals, K Section, attached to the 7th Parachute Battalion) had some items of his come up for sale at Lockdales auction; maps, aerial photographs, medals, AB64, photos, radio transcripts (which I was able to get) and a flag, a Kriegsmarine flag, which I believe he purloined from one of the two gunboats. I am hoping someone could confirm this but thought a good topic to throw up with D-Day 70th Anniversary coming up this week.

    http://www.lockdales.com/CnCAucStanTaylor.html

    Cee gave me a great link (below) so I have put together all of the testimony I could find of those who witnessed the two gun boats in the morning of D-Day.

    I believe No. 4 Commando captured one gunboat while the other was taken out by a PIAT of the Ox and Bucks Cheesley & Godbold.

    http://sgmcaen.free.fr/navire-allemand-canal.htm

    Richard Gale, With The 6th Airborne Division in Normandy p. 81.
    Napier Crookenden, Dropzone Normandy pp.221
    Barbara Maddox, The Tale of Two Bridges p.34
    Richard Todd, Caught in the Act The Story of My Life
    Carl Shiletto, Pegasus Bridge & Merville Battery, pp.69-70
    John Vaughan, All Saints pp.83-84
    John Howard The Pegasus Diaries p.133

    Max Arthur, Men of the Red Beret p.131
    Bernage Georges, Red Devils In Normandy: 6th Airborne Division 5-6 June 1944 p.123
    Neil Barber, The Pegasus and Orne Bridges, pp.196-198
     

    Attached Files:

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  2. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Brithm,

    The flag could well be from one of the gunboats as I can't think of any other time 7 Para would have been in contact with a German naval vessel while in Normandy. There's a photo available with the same description on the following Lockdale Auction page:

    http://www.the-saleroom.com/en-gb/auction-catalogues/lockdales/catalogue-id-2903280/lot-21207351

    As expected there are variations in the gunboat stories. General Gale describes them as "German Naval coastal craft of the double-ender trawler type. Napier Crookenden says they were 50 footers, whereas according to Lt. Col. Pine-Coffin they were only 20 feet in length. I would think turning a 50 foot craft around in the Caen Canal would take a bit of manoeuvring. The knocked out craft according to Cpl. Godbold ends up on his side of the canal. In Stephen Ambrose's book, "The gunboat turned sideways, the bow plunged into the para bank, the stern jammed against D Company's side." The incident Barbara Maddox describes is a different encounter altogether occurring later and involved a German vessel coming from the direction of Caens, which Wally Parr fired on and eventually hit with the tobruk gun.

    I have yet to run across a photo of the gunboat hit and disabled by Cpl. Godbold's piat shot. There is a smallish boat visible on some period aerials just down from the bridge on the west bank.

    Unknown Boat-July 5, 44.jpg

    Regards ...
     
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  3. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    I saw that picture too, but they all refer to the boat being beached on the East bank. Were 7th Parachute Bn up that far up the bank?

    Brigadier Poett, Pure Poett p.70
    Brithm
     
  4. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Brithm,

    That aerial was chosen as it was the only one I could find showing a boat in the area. Hopefully something better will come along. I agree the gunboat knocked out by Cpl. Godbold was fairly close to the bridge and came to rest on the east side where two Germans were captured.

    The ones who are forgotten in all this is Lt Parrish and his depleted 7 Platoon of C Coy who were the farthest down the canal in various outposts. They dealt with gunboats throughout the day both coming, going and at a landing. The Germans realizing their hopeless situation set fire to three of their vessels at one point setting off on-board ammunition. Parrish makes the boastful claim:

    "The platoon score was distinctly gratifying now. Besides the enemy casualties inflicted we had captured three vessels which I must now describe as men of war. Surely no other parachute unit, or any other sort of unit for that matter, had accomplished that much"

    This is the only map position I could find for 7 Platoon (105765). They were obviously closer to the canal than what is shown there.

    7 Platoon-105765.JPG

    To give a sense of scale here's a modern day view showing a vessel close to the bridge that is more than 20 metres in length.

    Modern Day View.JPG

    Regards ...
     
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  5. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Brithm,

    You may have already come across the huge (8 MB) German excel document listing ship losses in WW2. The section that covers the German losses on D-Day is quite interesting:

    Schiffsuntergänge allgemein 09.1939-09.1945 - XLS

    I'll attach the relevant bit here converted to jpg that I left large for fear of losing legibility which is best viewed downloaded to your computer. What strikes one immediately is the large number of Hafenschutzbootes or harbour protection craft from various flotillas listed under the Caen and Ouistreham area. I'm not sure what criteria they used for deciding what is a "loss" other than the obvious one of being destroyed or incapacitated by enemy forces. Here is a translation of some of the remarks:

    Flugzeugartillerie - aircraft artillery
    FliBo - Fliegerbombe - aerial bomb
    Sprengung - blasting (with explosive)
    wahrend umbau - during conversion


    The Hafenschutzbootes listed vary in size from 13 to 21 metres. They were requisitioned fishing craft pressed into service and usually armed with a 20 mm. gun and one machine-gun mounted forward. From the various descriptions given on size and armament of the two vessels encountered by the Airborne troops at the bridge on D-Day it was very likely a Hafenschutzboote that was struck by the Cpl. Godbold piat bomb. Note there are two large Vorpostenbootes over 50 metres in length as well as two Räumbootes on the list. A very good discussion on the subject can be read on this Axis History Forum thread:

    http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=61&t=128185&sid=fa3fa0c5d7c91d3542555ea99fbc3060&start=15

    Regards ...

    Edit: Removed - the editor downsized the file to the point of being unreadable. I'll send it privately.
     
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  6. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    I'm still searching for a decent photo of the elusive gunboat. I believe you can see it in this June 7th oblique aerial on the eastern bank below Le Port (top right). Still not the best, but it's where it should be according to the accounts of the incident.

    0037-Aerial004-7June1944.JPG

    That belongs to the interesting collection of RCAF photographer Larry Nelson. It also includes other aerials of the Normandy LZs, etc. which may be of interest to members.

    http://www.lordadmiral.com/WWII/PhotoHome.html

    Regards...
     
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  7. Nijmegen

    Nijmegen Member

    There is a boat, on the west (...) bank of the canal.

    [​IMG]
     
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  8. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Thanks Nijmegen,

    My tentative theory is that the gunboat was moved downstream to the western bank sometime between June 7th and June 14th and ended up where your site aerial (July 5th) shows it. What's the date for the other Orne Bridgehead aerial on your site? Anyone wanting a direct copy of the July 5th aerial in decent quality can download from here:

    http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/static/national/dday/warphoto-lg.jpg

    To give a sense of scale the main span of Pegasus Bridge is said to be 42 -43 metres. The canal looks a little wider where your photo shows it, perhaps 50 metres. So assuming it's the same vessel it's not that long. If the artistic rendition is anything to go by the wheelhouse is towards the rear of the gunboat.

    Regards ...
     
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  9. Nijmegen

    Nijmegen Member

    15 June 1944.

    "However, Corporal Godbold’s platoon took cover on the Benouville bank of the canal [west] and waited until it came in range of their PIATs gun. This time it was fired by Private Cheesley and he had a direct hit on the gunboat and it slewed round and became grounded on that [west] side of the canal."
     
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  10. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Nijmegen,

    That's interesting and you could interpret the piat shot coming from the west bank according to John Howard's account. Crookenden, Shiletto and Barber (by way of Nobby Clark ) all have the piat action coming from the east bank north of the bridge and the gunboat careening into the same side. Nobby Clark was actually with Cpl Godbold, and Jess Cheesley when the piat was fired and he says:

    "We heard the 7th Battalion about two hundred yards down the other side (west bank), firing at them."

    You would have to find an aerial showing a gunboat on the west bank early on. It certainly doesn't show up on the June 7th one above, unless it was closer to the bridge and not shown in that aerial. I do have another one from June 7th that is so small that it is next to useless. It does show a few specks closer to the bridge but it's hard to make out anything there.

    June 7.jpg

    Regards ...
     
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  11. Nijmegen

    Nijmegen Member

    I love these kind of topics, with a lot of pieces (accounts, pictures)!
     
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  12. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I have 4 Commando's and the Ox and Bucks war diaries if you want me to look in them?
     
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  13. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    It doesn't say much in the 2nd Ox and Bucks' WD on the Pegasus Archive about the incident:

    "Soon after 1st light a Gun Boat moved up the Canal from the sea and shot HQ 7 Para Bn. another well aimed PIAT bomb put this out of action."

    Regards ...
     
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  14. Nijmegen

    Nijmegen Member

    [​IMG]

    Cee, your picture of 7 June contains "something", that is not there anymore on 5 July. :)
     
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  15. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    If Harry "Nobby" Clark's memory is correct the gunboat was pretty darn close to the bridge when they took it out:

    "When it got level with us, we were probably fifty yards down on that side, on the bank, myself, Corp Godbold, and Jess Cheesley, Godbold it was, he fired the PIAT…We fired at the rear end of the wheelhouse, where we thought the engine might be. It went off in the boat internally and it immediately swung in, came into the bank."

    Also from an internet page devoted to his account one gets the impression it was a little further out when hit??

    "Later during the morning a German patrol boat was spotted coming from the direction of the coast. When it was some 200 yards away Corporal Godbold, Pete Cheesely and myself ran with a PIAT to some cover on the canal bank. We kept a close eye on the boat, and whilst there was little sign of life, the engine was ticking over and someone appeared to be steering it. At about 50 yards range Corporal Godbold fired a PIAT grenade at the boat. It struck it just behind the wheelhouse and exploded internally. The boat drifted into the canal bank and two very frightened Germans emerged from below deck. John Howard ordered me to march them down to the 5th Para Brigade Headquarters, at Ranville, along a stretch of road exposed to enemy snipers."

    Regards ...
     
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  16. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Nijmegen,

    That is the same boat as shown in the June 7th aerial above for which I'll attach a crop. I'm not sure how far exactly that one is from the bridge but it looks to be 200+ yards which has me a little worried about the distance ... :mellow:

    0037-Aerial004-7June1944-Crop.JPG

    Edit: Just turn it upside down and you will see how it aligns with yours (or vice versa).
     
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  17. Nijmegen

    Nijmegen Member

    Clearly, and on the east bank. After being hit, it could have drifted the 200 yards. N'est ce pas?
     
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  18. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    It's possible and it's the one I favour, but I would also like to get a better look at some of those blobs closer to the bridge in the small June 7th aerial.
     
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  19. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    What the hell is all that stuff close to the bridge (June 7) - weird ... :P Perhaps just splotches or blemishes of some kind?

    June 7-Crop.jpg

    Regards ...
     
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  20. HighTow

    HighTow Junior Member

    Probably all the newspapers that were dropped and landed in the water ;)
     
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