The Bridge at Gaillon, June 9th 1940

Discussion in '1940' started by Don Juan, Aug 11, 2017 at 2:52 PM.

  1. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    On June 9th, 1940, a Cruiser tank troop of 3rd Armoured Brigade under Captain Carey Thomas reported destroying 4 enemy medium and 2 light tanks at the bridge at Gaillon (or adjacent Courcelles) on the Seine.

    Is anyone aware of any German reports that confirm this event, and what German unit was involved?

    Thanks in advance for any assistance.
  2. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    The 6th Infantry Division are credited with getting to, and across, the bridges at Les Andelys and Courcelles during the evening of the 9th June. I do not have the lower level documentation to know whether the specific claims are valid.

    Captain Carey Thomas (2RTR) was leading a troop consisting of 2 x Cruiser Tank and 1 x Scout Car at the time.
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  3. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Well-Known Member

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  4. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Thanks very much Gents.

    I'm guessing the V.D.C. York account "from the tank", is from The Tank magazine, the RTR journal.
  5. Kiwi REd One

    Kiwi REd One Junior Member

    Hi Don Juan

    You want details so here is what I have found:

    The tanks are probably from 31 Panzer Regiment of 5th Panzer Division (See June 9 entry below). Mark N is correct about 6th Infantry Div crossing the bridges. Pi Bat 6 mentioned below is Pioneer Battalion 6, the engineer battalion from 6th Infantry Division which as you expect was involved in the actual crossings of the Seine.

    German Infantry Divisions did not any integral tanks units in their Divisional structure. You can see organisation of German Divisions in May 1940 here:
    German Armed Forces Organizations, 10.05.40

    I saved some pages from the WW2 day by day site many years ago to follow the German movements from 5 - 12 June against 51st Highland Division. The site no longer exists and is not available via Wayback Machine either. The entries from 8 - 10 June for German 4 Armee are as follows:

    8th June:
    Inf.Rgt.73: The regiment camps in Eterpigny. The III.Btl. is fully equipped with bicycles and joins the regiment again. In the night 8./9.June the regiment marches into the area Miraumont.
    XV.A.K.(mot.): captures several batteries, one Pi.Btl., one Construction Btl. and support units.
    7.Pz.Div.: takes Elbeuf on the Seine river and herewith cuts off Rouen.
    5.Pz.Div.: takes Rouen. (date?)
    II.A.K.: reached the Bresle- and Liger sector between Senarpont and west of Mornoy with middle and left wing and encounters enemy defenses.
    Has order to pursue the evading enemy forces to the southwest.
    The divisions start to attack at 08:00 against light enemy resistance.
    In the evening the divisions report to have reached the Therain-sector with forward units already crossed the Therain-creek.
    6.Inf.Div.: reached the area north of Grandvillers.
    46.Inf.Div., 27.Inf.Div. reach the area south and northeast of Poix.
    46.Inf.Div.: stronger enemy resistance on the left wing of the division.
    1.Kav.Div.: Is adancing slowly because of strong enemy road-barriers. The division reached the area northwest of Crevecoeur in the evening and is opposing strong enemy forces.
    27.Inf.Div.: The division pursues the enemy.
    II./Inf.Rgt.40: In the early morning the Btl. marches off in Quevauvillers via Fresnoy-au-Val – Bussy-les-Poix – Fricamp – Tieulloy – l´Abbaye – Lamaronde (3 hours rest at midday). Enemy aircrafts attack without success but hit a Kradschützen-unit in Lamaronde (2 dead, 1 wounded). Other attacking aircrafts are rejected by Flak-fire and german fighters. In Eplessier the division receives new orders to turn south. The Btl.continues via St.Segrée – Souplicourt to Agnierés where the Btl. stays for the night.

    9th June:
    Inf.Rgt.73: In the night 8./9.June the regiment marches into the area Miraumont.
    XV.A.K.(mot.): Midday elements reach Rouen. Bridges destroyed. At the coast the enemy seems to attack the bridgehead Eu with naval forces.
    5.Pz.Div.: Panzerregiment 31attacks out of Isnauville towards Rouen. The enemy is surprised and Rouen is entered without serious resistance. As the tanks approach the Seine bridges they are blown up in big explosions. At the same time the huge oil-tanks in the harbour explode and spread smoke and fire over the city. Genlt. Lemelsen orders his engineers to fight the fire and they can safe the cathedral from destruction.
    7.Pz.Div.: takes Tourville and Elbeuf.
    crossed the Bresle and established a bridgehead on the western side.
    32.Inf.Div.: reached Beaufresne and Vergenet.
    The northern corner defense of the Weygand-line is defeated and the enemy units disrupted. The Korps has order to advance to the Seine river before enemy forces build up a new defense line there. Advance units have to take the crossings undamaged. The Seine must be reached in the area of Les Andelys.
    6.Inf.Div.: An advance unit (Kdr.Oberstlt.Weis) of the division are the first which reach the Seine river at Les Andelys shortly after the french destroyed the bridge there. Under command of the divisional commander Genlt.Frhr.v.Biegeleben the enemy resistance at the destroyed bridge is broken and the first elements (3./Pi.Btl.6) cross the river. The division established the first bridgehead on the southern side of the Seine.
    Pi.Btl.6 and Pi.Btl.41 start at once to build a 168m long bridge across the Seine river.
    The Reitschwadron of the A.A.6 under Olt.Boeselager reached the Seine at Courcelles and swims across the Seine because the bridge is also destroyed.
    The third group to cross the Seine on this day is a platoon of the 3./Pi.Btl.6 under Lt.Stahlschmidt. They cross the Seine with dinghies at Muids.
    46.Inf.Div.: Advance units reach the Seine river at Vernon and establish a bridgehead after breaking enemy resistance at the destroyed bridge. During the night 9./10. the Aufkl.Abt. and elements of a Inf.Rgt. cross the river.
    1.Kav.Div.: is advancing left behind the other divisions and encounters enemy resistance southwest of Beauvais. The enemy used tanks here too.
    27.Inf.Div.: follows behind 6., 46.ID to reinforce their bridgeheads at the Seine river.
    II./Inf.Rgt.40: The Btl. marches at high speed. Breaks are very short on the march via Damérancourt – Grandvillers – Briot – St.Maur – Songeons – Hécourt where the Btl. stays for the night.

    10 June:
    Right wing turns towards Dieppe and reached Totes. Left wing reached the line Clermont – Estress (west of Compiegne) The wood of Compiegne not occupied – Villers Cotteret – road to Chateau Thierry – river Ourcq crossed – river Veslo crossed – Fismes (excluded).
    19.Inf.Div.: The division follows the main force of the Armee passing battlefields of the day before.
    Inf.Rgt.73: reaches Vauvillers in the evening and proceeds to Bouchoix which is reached around midnight after 65 km marching.
    The main force of the Korps turns to the north via Totes (5.Pz.Div.) – Verville – Yvetot to encircle the enemy forces behind the La Bethune sector.
    7.Pz.Div.: assembles at Barentin and starts to advance beside the road from Rouen via Yvetot to Fecamp at 10:30. Rear guards of the brit.31.Div. are overrun. In the afternoon the division reaches the sea and takes Fecamp. 20:00 Saint Leonard is taken. 22:00 the divisions reached Tourville.
    5.Pz.Div.: advances from Rouen north towards St.Valery.
    “II.A.K. attacks enemy at broad front in the morning to push him towards the lines of XV.A.K.(mot.). and finish the destruction of these enemy forces.”
    The Korps attacks with (from left to right): 11.Schtz.Brig., 57.ID, 31.ID, 12.ID, 32.ID from the east and pushes the enemy against the coast. The french IX.Korps with 31., 40.ID, 2., 5.KD is surrounded in this area. The french try to break out to the west but are rejected.
    46.Inf.Div.: continues to transfer forces across the Seine and expand the bridgehead between Ande and Vernon. Strong reinforcements cross the Seine at Vernon and Portmort. The bridgehead is expanded against light enemy resistance towards the Eure-valley in the southwest.
    6.Inf.Div.: brings two Inf. regiments. across the Seine and expands the bridgehead around Les Andelys. Elements continue to attack to the north and force the Eure against the 4.Hussars.
    27.Inf.Div.: follows up to the rest of the Korps and prepares to move in between the other divisions on the southern bank of the Seine.
    The division stays in reserve in the area Les Andelys.
    II./Inf.Rgt.40: Marches via Gournay-au-Bray – Neufmarché – Bouchevillers – Mainneville – Heudicourt – Etrepagny to Mouflaines the daily object.
    1.Kav.Div.: rejects several enemy counterattacks supported by tanks and breaks enemy resistance in the area. (32 enemy tanks destroyed (original source from 1940)). The division reached the area Avernes and secures the Seine and Oise crossings at the left flank of the Korps.(At the battle for Avesnes a Wachtmeister of a Reiter-Rgt. distinguished himself by capturing a french Btl. with officers (600 men) <original source from 1940>)

    Hope you find the above stuff of use.

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  6. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member


    The way I read the information you posted (which accords with the documentation that I have) would indicate that Pz.Regt.31 were definitely NOT at Les Andeleys and Courcelles. They were further to the west in Rouen itself before heading off even further west and northwest.
  7. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Thanks again everyone. I'm a bit surprised that this event is not very well known, as from my (admittedly still rather cursory) understanding of 1st Armoured Division in France, I think this would have been their biggest (or least small) tank vs. tank action.
  8. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    The limited German documentation do not indicate any German tank units there. The 6th Infantry Division may, however, have liberated some former French tanks.

    The main tank-v-tank 'battles' occured the day before. 2RTR, 5RTR and other adhoc detachments skirmishing on the Andelle and perhaps the main event being The Composite Regiment (9L by another name) at Buchy against the vanguard of 5.Pz-Div.
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  9. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Does "limited German documentation" mean that the appropriate German records are most likely lost or destroyed Mark?

    I suppose it's also possible that half-tracks were misidentified as tanks, or suchlike. I don't know if German half-tracks were mounting light AA guns or similar weapons at this stage at the war, but I could easily see these being misidentified as tanks.
  10. LondonNik

    LondonNik Senior Member

    If it muddies the water a bit, 2 Infantry Tanks Mk I were photographed very close to the town centre at Gaillon - although they may merely have been placed there by the Germans after capture. They were tanks from the Base Ordnance Depot and probably (but this is not certain as documentation is minimal) part of Colan's Force crewed by men from the RAC Base Depot. I can't recall if Gaillon is mentioned in the unit War Diary. One or possibly two more Infantry Tanks Mk I have been tentatively identified at Venables too...

    Additionally, there is the A13 T9154 'FOX' 3rd troop, 3rd squadron, (9 Royal Lancers?) that was photographed outside the same location as the 2 Infantry Tanks in Gaillon just a few yards down the road. Colan does mention fixing up a cruiser and taking it with him, but this may not be it.

    It is all very interesting but confusing as hell...

    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017 at 8:51 AM
  11. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    I possess a small amount of contemporary German documentation which is of limited detail. Limited in the sense that it is principally Army Group B sitreps that decribe down to the level of divisional advance and location. I do not possess any relevant divisional, or lower, level documenation.

    My documentation shows the nearest panzer division to be Rommel's 7.Pz-Div which skirted past Pont de l'Arche (engaging a miniture French armoured force at Igoville) heading for the bridges at Elbeuf and Tourville. Between 7.Pz-Div and 6.Inf-Div was Brigade Senger.

    Colan's Coy certainly did cross at Courcelles - according to the war diary. It also describes leaving behind at least 3 Mk.I Infantry Tanks in the Venables-Gaillon vicinity.

    Accordinng to the WD, they found and (tried to ) patch(ed) up an A13 at Rouge Perriers on the 12-14th.
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  12. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Interestingly, 9L didn't pass through Gaillon; there were operating a bit further to the west having crossed the Seine at either Pont de l'Arche or even further west - some came across the bridges in Rouen itself having been separated from the main body.

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