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Our Most Successful Day
Then the morning dawned. It ushered in a day which was to bring to our Tiger and its crew the greatest proof of worth and outstanding success. It was 7 August 1944.
We were still waiting for the grenadiers who were to join the Tigers in the attack that morning; it was to start after a preparatory artillery fire. The platoons and groups of Pionier-Bataillon 600, comrades from a division of the Heer, had arrived at our Panzer. They spread out and sought cover in trenches and behind bushes. We waited and waited, but still there was no artillery salvo to indicate the start of the attack. Hour after hour passed, and then it started, but not on our side. Some pioneers to our left gave us a tank alert. Shortly after we surveyed the situation from our Tiger. The Shermans rolled out of a wooded area, down the hill. We spotted ten - twelve - fifteen enemy tanks, between them scout cars, armored personnel carriers with mounted infantry, and wheeled armored personnel carriers. The whole slope came to life. The distance was approximately 1,200 m. Until then not a shot had been fired. The scene looked like a tank attack as taught in military schools, everything that was required was there. The grenadiers watched us. What would we do? They, and their company chief, started to show a certain nervousness. An Oberleutnant (1st Lt.) climbed onto our Panzer, asking us to open fire. But he had to leave that to our commander. The radio operator was given a message to send to all: "15 Panzers will attack, with infantry, from the left flank. Open fire at 600 m!" Immediately, the order by radio came from commander WeilS: "Ruderboot (row boat) to Ofenrohr 3 (stove pipe), start out immediately. (Ofenrohr 3 was the code name for our Tiger in radio traffic). That was all we needed. The commander ordered the operator not to acknowledge and to turn off the receiver immediately, from then on we only transmitted.
The enemy tanks arranged themselves and rolled towards us in a wide wedge formation. The distance was still approximately 800 m. Long before, the loader had readied anti-tank shells. The driver was told, when so ordered, to immediately let the Panzer roll back over the left track for a few meters while pulling up on the right track. In this way we brought the front of our Tiger into a favorable defensive position within a few seconds. The comrades with the other field: post number had something in store for us, and the side of our Panzer, facing them, was too sensitive for that.
Then the time came, 600 m. We maneuvered our Panzer into the desired direction for firing. The gunner had already had his first target in his sight for some time. It was the tank at the point, exactly in the center of the attacking pack, probably its leader. The second and third targets were also determined, first its neighbor to the left, then the one to the right. After that it was to be the Shermans at the extreme left and right. They could have been dangerous if they were able to come around on our flanks; even a Tiger was vulnerable inside the 400 m range.
Finally, the relief-bringing order came: "Anti-tank shell - 600 - Fire!" The first shot was wide, realizing this froze us only for a few seconds. "Gun sight 400 - Fire!" That was a hit. A second shell followed immediately, another hit. Then, the next target: "Tank on the left - Fire!" It too, took two shells. Within a short time, four Shermans stood in flames on the slope. The enemy then overcame their first confusion, they stopped and opened fire. We took hit after hit, on the turret, to the front, the tracks. Nuts, bolts, and rivets whistled through the interior. The Oberleutnant of the grenadiers who had been inside the Panzer until then, jumped out head over heels, and withdrew with his soldiers. There were to be no more attacks started that day! The radio operator reported constantly on the development of the battle, in between he found plenty of work for his machine gun. The commander radioed again: "Withdraw to own lines!" We counted six burning and smoking tanks by then, there had to be an awful confusion over there! Their infantry dismounted and ran about, looking for cover. Vehicles ran into each other as they tried to turn around. Then, the seventh and eighth tanks were knocked out. As they were tangled up, our 8.8 had taken aim and brought about their quick end. They burned out, close to each other,
Was it minutes which had passed, or hours? We did not know. Our loader, the Volga German, strong as an ox, sank to his knees. Standing the closest to the breech, he had inhaled too much gun powder gas and passed out. And our Panzer took more and more hits. The loss of the loader caused our operation to stall. The gunner manned the turret MG, while the radio operator had already worn out the fourth barrel. By then, all the Shermans had zeroed in on us and we had to try to get out of their range, otherwise they might have found one of our weak spots. "Driver, backwards, march! Halt!" We took another hit, the Tiger jerked backwards. That was a different caliber, that was a Pak! Smoke drifted inside through the hatches, the shell had come from the left. We had to act, a second hit landed between the driver's and radio operator's sights and wiped out the bow MG. The driver took the place of the unconscious loader, there was nobody left to drive! The left track was ripped off and the Tiger was no longer mobile. Then we spotted the Pak by its muzzle fire, it sat at the far left near a bush. The turret was turned to 9 o'clock, Albert received quick and accurate directions, a high explosive shell was loaded and then: "Fire!" We spared three shells for this enemy, then explosions and whirling parts of metal testified to the end of this well-positioned Pak. |
The tank battle continued. We felt neither hunger nor thirst, the fighting demanded all of our concentration. Drippingsweat our eves reddened we gasped for air in the thick fumes of salpeter. With every shot from our gun, a gray-blue cloud of smoke came rom the breech. The ventilation system was unable to keep up. Paul lay between Hermann's legs on the turret mechanism his eyes turned up. We still faced a few Shermans; it was really not easy! While we were firing at the Pak, two Shermans took aim at us. When we took on the Shermans, the anti-tank guns gave us hell It was a real chore, having to fight two enemies at once. In the meantime, twelve burning enemy tanks were witness to our battle. Then the commander radioed, having received the report on our Tiger's inability to move: "Blow up the Panzer, fight your backwith the crew!" But that was impossible for us. As long as we had one shell left, one round of MG ammunition, we would not quit this battle and our Panzer! Once more, we remained silent and forgot to acknowledge receipt of this message. And the tank bartte went on. We took more hits to the turret, the front and the right track, but knocked out two more enemy tanks Then both MGs failed, we were running out of anti-tank shells. Fourteen Shermans gave up their ghosts and ended their march towards Berlin prematurely northwest of Vire at noon on a beautifully bright August day. And the whole engagement took only 30 minutes! But there was more fighting to do! We could not spot any more Shermans on the move or firing but we thought there had been fifteen attacking Shermans! A gully just ahead of us, covered with trees and bushe, demanded increased attention. We fired one high explosive shell after another, there were enough targets. Abandoned armored reconnaisance vehicles and other supply vehicles went up in flames. Half-tracks at full speed, some of them with mounted anti-tank weapons, so-called stove pipes, were knocked out. The whole slope was covered by dark blue smoke which gently covered the recent drama. From time to time, tanks blew up with sky-high bursts of flames and deafening noise. The smoke from the burning vehicles which enveloped the battleground allowed a number of enemy soldiers to escape this inferno alive. Since we did not know how much longer we would have to stay with our Panzer, and our ammunition had been used up except for a few shells, we wanted to add to our supplies during the developing break in the fighting The commander slid down from the Panzer and ran and crawled to get out of the enemy field of vision. Harassing fire had set in. The enemv slowly zeroed in on our position, having recognized that his attack had faltered at this point. Completely exhausted , the commander reached a Tiger of our company and tried to attract attention at the dnver's and radio operator's hatches, both locked because of the steady artillery fire. Finaly a lid was lifted and the commander was able to make his request for a few anti-tank shells but without success. There was no explanation why we could not get anything, the hatches remained closed and any further questions remained unheard. He continued on to the next Tiger, again crawling, running and jumping a few hundred meters. This effort was not in vain, With an anti-tank shell under the arm, the commander crawled back to his Panzer. The artillery fire constantly increased in strength. Unfortunately, we sat in the middle of a meadow without cover and took the first artillery hits to the hull and turret. We learned from one of the last radio messages of the day that Schwab s platoon with three Tigers was to pull us out with the coming of darkness. But it was to be a long time before night fell. On top of everything else, our radio packed in under the constant fire. Fighter-bombers circled above us, diving and firing from all barrells on our brave Tiger which sat, immobile, as if for target practice. Their bombs were too damn close! Was that to be the end? But just before the next formation flew in, we had a saving thought: smoke candles were placed on the rear and front and we played the role of a knocked-out, burnt-out Panzer! We had enough of these smoke candles on board and managed to remain unnoticed for some time Suddenly, we were wide awake again, ripped out of our half-sleep. We heard the familiar rattle of tank tracks but not from one of our comrades. It came from half-right ahead of us, where the gully flattened into groups of trees and bushes. We slowly brought our gun around, almost unnoticeably. We aimed it, with the lowest possible elevation, at the cluster of bushes. We only had two anti-tank shells left, one of them already in the barrel. Our nerves were tensed to he breaking Was it one tank or two? There were only 100 m between us and the gully. The driver and radio operator sat in the open hatches ready to bail out. Paul, who had recovered, was holding the second, and last, shell ready in his arms. If these two were Ifired and missed it would have meant bailing out as quickly as possible. The rattle of tracks and engine noise came ever closer. Seconds turned into eternity! Maybe, the others did not know that a German Panzer, ready to fire was sitting there. Our other Tiqers had long since pulled back, and we had been giving off smoke all afternoon. But enough of these thoughts! Ahead of us the bushes parted. A long, smooth barrel without muzzle brake came into view, no doubt, a Sherman. Then the curved hull and the turret appeared. "Fire!" Our first shell glanced off and we saw it rise steeply into the sky. Surprising, the detais one noticed even during such a tense situation. "Aim lower - Fire!" We roared loudly as the shell disappeared precisely under the barrel, at the base of the turret. As if gripped by an iron fist, the tank stopped with a jerk. A fine column of smoke growing increasingly denser, rose vertically into the sky. It was the fifteenth tank kill of that day. Counting the tank knocked out the Previous evening in the same area, the total was sixteen, a whole tank company; not even counting the armored cars, reconnaissance vehicles, half-tracks, and other vehicles which were impossible to tally. Despite all these successes would we be able to hold off the enemy?
It had suddenly turned quiet. We quit talking. We were suddenly indescribably tired, and waited only for the Tigers to pull us out. We were tnankful and reassured when. suddenly, rocket launchers threw a wall of fire. with an immense roar and whistle, into the gully and onto the adjoining slope. We thought no-one could live through that. Just as the last salvos of the rocket launchers had whistled by, exactly as per plan, the three Tiges of Schwab s platoon showed up and pulled us out. Two Tigers did the pulling, the third provided cover. So we rolled, pulling our tracks behind, into the dark nignt. After a short stop at the company command post where our chief. Kails congratulated us on our success we reached Vassy the next morning. But what condition our Tiger was in! Holes, big enough to put one's head in! The drve wheel with steering mechanism was cleanly shot through. The shell was still stuck in the hull. That was to give the repair company a few days of welding and patching! But we felt all the more proud and close to our Panzer. The more holes and scars it had, the more precious it was to us! It was much more than cold metal to us, it was a part of us!
Modern day map of the area
From the 23rd Hussars History
From 11th Armoured Division History
Let us compare this with the account by the 23rd Hussars. They were directly in front of Chenodelle on 2-6th August at least.
'The Story Of The Twenty-Third Hussars 1940-1946
Published April 1946.
By the evening of August 5th it really began to look as though
the Ninth SS Panzer Division had had about enough. They had
made no ground and the only casualties they had inflicted on us that:
day had been from shelling. Our ears were by now very well tuned
to hear any noise that might be an approaching shell and everyone
certainly knew the quickest way into his slit trench. By staying in
our tanks or slit trenches, and by doing the minimum walking in the
open, our casualties could not be greatly increased by shelling alone,
and the enemy appeared to be tired of counter-attacking. It was de-
cided to withdraw 'A' and 'B' Squadrons that night, and to leave 'C
Squadron with a troop from 'W to take over the whole regimental
position and support the "Warwicks. In the darkness the two squa-
drons withdrew to La Barbiere, and the next morning (6th) there was only
RHQ left to watch 'C' Squadron take up their new positions. All
was quiet until about midday when the unmistakeable crack of an
eighty-eight put everyone on the alert. For the first time the enemy
had worked a Tiger up onto the ridge to our south and, concealed
in the trees, it could not fail to see most of our tanks on the south
side, which had been completely immune from A.P. fire for the last
three days. Luckily we were all covered with cut branches, or it
might have been serious, for it was quite impossible to see where the
Tiger was. It first of all put three shells through a RHQ scout car,
but, although its shots were passing within ten yards of the RHQ
tanks, for some reason the Tiger did not notice them, though every
moment it seemed more certain that they could not fail to be seen
and destroyed eventually. A tank in 'C' Squadron began to fire back,
and must have worried the Tiger, for it turned its attention towards
the other side of the road. Without delay it knocked out a self-propel-
led seventeen-pounder, one of a troop which had been sent to our
support. This SP happened to be surrounded by slit trenches filled
with men of the Warwicks and, seeing that if the ammunition began
to explode it would undoubtedly injure them, Lieut. Robson and an
infantry officer courageously jumped into the burning vehicle and
be^n to throw out the rounds. This very brave action cost them
bodi their lives, for the Tiger, seeing movement on the SP put two
more shells into it, killing them instantly, and depriving the Regi-
ment of a very gallant and popular young officer.
The Tiger evidently was also having difficulty in seeing, and he
either withdrew or ceased fire, for no more was heard from him tor
a while. Regimental Headquarters withdrew and the C Squadron
force was left covering the whole hill.
The Guards, meanwhile, were slowly closing the gap on our left
flank, and were level with Le Beny Bocage. They were unable, how-
ever, to advance any further, because Estry proved to be an exceptio-
nally well-held strong-point. Moreover, their own left flank was
having its share of counter-attacks, and there was no prospect of a
further advance by them for several days yet. On our right the Fifes
and the Herefords had had much the same sort of a battle as we,
with the advantage, however, that we were on their left flank But the
Americans were now well into Brittany, and the speed-and direction
of their advance gave most cheering indications of what might be in
store for the Germans.
On Bas Perrier hill the situation looked quite satisfactory for
complete peace reigned for the early afternoon and everyone began
to think that the worst was over. But, as on so many occasions in Nor-
mandy, the quietest hour was but the prelude to the storm. It burst
upon Bas Perrier hill at four o'clock - a concentrated bombardment
by all the artillery the Germans could muster. The first concentra-
tion of minutes' landed all round the Warwicks' Battalion Headquar-
ters It caused casualties and handicapped the measures which had
to be taken at once to deal with the German counter-attack coming
in from the south. Very soon the rattle of Spandau came closer
through the trees and the same Tiger, which had appeared in the mor-
ning, began to fire again, this time with two or three friends to assist
him. Immediately our artillery swung into action, giving liner support
than ever. It was answered by German guns of all calibres and the
shelling of our positions continued unabated, while our tanks hurled
high-explosive into the trees and tried to destroy the Tigers with their
17-pounders. Soon, however, the leading company of the
Warwicks was driven back, and the enemy closed in to our main posi-
tion. 'C' Squadron were beginning to lose tanks. Captain Phillimore,
having destroyed a Panther, was severely wounded and Corporal
Gilbertson's tank and crew were also victims. Trooper Duck distin-
guished himself by pulling Corporal Gilbertson and his gunner to
safety under heavy fire. Sergeant Johnson moved his tank
forward into an exposed position, knowing it to be the only means
of dealing with the enemy tanks. He fird, but a Tiger retaliated,
knocking off his tank's track. Sergeant Johnson got out with his crew
and coolly mended it under intense shelling. In the village a company
of Warwicks were in a serious condition, harassed by tank fire, and
Major Hagger sent a troop down to assist them. It was commanded
by Sergeant Smith and, by the time it reached the village, it consisted
of only Sergeant Jackson's tank besides his own. Sergeant Jackson
had just arrived in a replacement Sherman, which was in a hopeless
mechanical condition, and it broke down on the outskirts. Sergeant
Smith continued alone into the village where he gave valuable sup-
port. At one moment he found himself within thirty yards of a Pan-
ther on the other side of a house. Neither could move for fear of
putting himself at the mercy of the other, and, while they remained
still, the house gave protection to each of them. Small arms fire was
hitting his turret and Sergeant Smith had to remain in this unpleasant
predicament until the Panther managed to withdraw. He was then
called back to the Squadron and on his way found Sergeant Jackson,
who had been surrounded by German infantry in a narrow lane in
his immobile tank, but had refused to abandon his now almost useless
machine despite all attacks and although told to do so by the Squa-
dron Leader. Both Sergeants and their crews descended from their
tanks and, although under fire, managed to tow Sergeant Jackson's
back to the hill.
The battle continued unabated, and despite all efforts by ourselves,
the Warwicks, and the artillery, whose guns were nearly red. hot by
now, the enemy began to creep round the left flank. As darkness was
falling they reached the top of the hill and began to 'bazooka' the
tanks. The fact that this serious situation was overcome was due very
largely to the bravery of Lieut. Bishop, commanding the left hand
troop, who was quite unshakeable and whose coolness put fresh heart
into the Warwicks. When light failed, the tanks drew back into a
close leaguer with the infantry in order to beat off a night attack..
Shortly before this Lieut. Treanor, who had Just joined the Regiment,
The Germans did not continue their onslaught after dark and
when dawn (7th)came we were able to re-occupy most of our positions.
Sporadic and half-hearted attacks were launched during the morning,
but in nothing like the strength of the previous day. When patrols
were able to go into the woods in front of our position the reason for
this was obvious, for the slaughter was found to have been terrific.
We knew later that the last counter-attack was made by the newly
arrived Tenth SS Panzer Division, whose orders had been to take
our ndge and that of the Fife and Forfar whatever the cost. But the
cost had been too high and that badly mauled formation never fought
again until much later when, with its equally battered brother the
Ninth SS, it was launched against Arnhem.
'C Squadron and the 'B' Squadron troop were relieved at midday,
having fought a magnificent battle. Particular praise is due to Maior
Hagger, whose first big engagement as a Squadron Leader it was, and
whose determination and coolness had been a great factor in the
holding of Bas Perrier on August 6th. His leadership undoubtedly
had a most excellent effect on the hard-pressed Warwicks.
The Regiment re-assembled at La Barbiere and began to reform
for the next battle. All ranks were able to look back on a week of
great achievements. For rather less casualties than at Caen, the Regi-
ment had inflicted heavy damage on the enemy and had advanced a
substantial distance. They had withstood every kind of assault and
had given far more than they got. Moreover, everyone felt that the
enemy could not withstand such treatment for long and that some day
soon we should be advancing into France with the Americans, leavinc.
the battered slopes of Bas Perrier ridge many miles behind.
During the week of August 1st to 7th, the advance to Chenedolle
and the battle on the hill cost the Regiment the following casualties :-
Killed 2 officers
19 other ranks
Wounded 6 officers
47 other ranks
War Diary 23rd Hussars
0700 Regt in posn high ground S River Souleuve. B Sqn patrols towards BENY BOCAGE. 3 RTR pass through
1400 (6742) Move to BENY BOCAGE. Harbour there. 1 OR KIA, 4 wounded. 6 Shermans received. 2 Shermans 1 Stuart struck off.
0500 (7135) Advance 23 H leading with 8 RB on route. BEAULIEU-LE DESERT-PRESLES
100 2 a/c's destroyed LA INHHARDIERE
1500 B Sqn made contact CHENODELLE and held up. A Sqn attacked by Panthers EAST of LE BAS PERRIER
2000 (T 7233) Regt moves tp posn S of LE BAS PERIERE with 8 RB in support. 3 OR's KIA, Majot WATT, 2/Lt GUNYON and 9 OR's wounded.
In posn LE BAS PERIER Heavy shell fire and mortaring
1400 8 RB relieved by 2 Warwicks. 4 OR's KIA, 12 OR's wounded
LE BAS PERIER. 3 OR's KIA, 5 OR's wounded 4 OR's missing
0300 A and B Sqns withdrew to harbour LA BARBIERE 6938
1500 RHQ move to LA BARBIERE
1600 Enemy begin to counter-attack LE BAS PERRIER posn. Beaten off by C Sqn and 2 Warwicks. Estimated enemy strength-1 Bn.
Lt. ROBSON and 3 OR's KIA Capt. PHILLIMORE, 2/Lt.TREANOR, Capt. CROUCH and 9 OR's wounded. 2 OR's missing.
1500 C Sqn harbour LA BARBIERE. Capt. TAYLOR and 7 OR's wounded.
LA BARBIERE 6 Sherman V, 3 Sherman Vc 1 3 Ton lorry 5 Half tracks received.
4 sc cars, 1 3ton lorry 4 half tracks 12 Sherman V 3 Sherman Vc struck off. 1 OR killed
LA BARBIERE 1 Sc car, 6 Sherman V, 3 Sherman Vc, 1 3 ton lorry, 1 M/c reseived
5 Sherman V struck off.
30 Corps Op "KITTEN"
1700 (695376) Break harbour and move to MONTCHAMP Peace time march
1900 (744407) Arrive harbour area
Note that on 8/11August 20 Shermans were written off. Presumably that was catching up with the losses sustained 1 -6th August. Thus the total of Shermans lost in 6 days was 20.
Fey claimed 14 in one day when you can see the 23rd Husars were not even in action!
Now it apears that the Fife & Forfar Yeomanry were in action on August 7th. They were on the left of 23rd Hussars and reported incidents with Tigers so let us see what their War Diary says for the relevant days.
War Diary for Aug 2-14th, Fife & Forfar Yeomanry
road protected by one pln. of the Mons. Remainder of A&C Sqns. Withdrew for the night on to the high ground at 7033
At first light A Sqn were moved again up to the main road they came under heavy fire from 88's and tanks. After suffering a loss of 3 further tanks it was decided to withdraw A Sqn. as our coln line had outstripped those on our flanks. They were then sent back to watch the high ground west of our position. B Sqn were sent back to support the Herefords in the area of Forgues, and one troop had to go back to the main road south of Le Reculay because some Tiger tanks were harrassing our communications in that area. At 17:00 hrs. A Sqn withdrew to Burcy to protect that from the west. They remained there until midnight when they moved back and harboured with B Sqn. RHQ and C Sqn. remained forward.
Casualties-wounded. Capt. W J Hetblack and 7 OR's
At First light A Sqn. moved out to protect the west and clean up some enemy infantry that had infiltrated during the night. During this time some of the enemy had got into Burcy. During this day C Sqn. has little activity and harboured where they were.
Casualties were as follows 1 OR killed and 5 OR's wounded.
During the morning trhe infantry regained Burcey and A Sqn. were brought forward on to the high ground to cover the road running south.from Burcey. During the afternoon an enemy counter attack from the south was put in by Infantry. They were effectively driven off and C Sqn. were moved forward in an endevour to mop up to the south, under cover of smoke from the high ground, but did not succeed in rounding up any more prisoners.
Casualties were as follows- wounded 5 OR's. Killed 1 OR.
On the morning of the 6th there was little enemy activety. A Sqn. moved out to watch the road with C Sqn. watching to the south and east at first light. At about 14:00 hrs. enemy shell fire started to be brought down on us and gradualy increased. Mortars, menin werfer and guns were also directed on to us. Finaly a number of aircraft with Allied markings dropped a number of bombs on our positions. This continued until C Sqn. reported the approach of enemy infantry from the east. These were fired on and
immediately withdrew. Almost immediately A Sqn. on the right were heavily attacked from the west by tanks and infantry. They succeeded in knocking out 3 enemy tanks and 2 SP guns and killing a large number of infantry as they advanced. They also directed our gun fire on the area from which the enemy were approaching. Two Tiger tanks succeeded in getting through and knocking out 2 tanks out of a troop in C Sqn. These Tigers were just beginning to cause casualties to the infantry when Sgt. Scott of C Sqn. with his troop arrived and succeeded in getting his tanks into position and destroying one of the tanks and damaging the other to such an extent that it withdrew. This battle continued until approx. 21:00 hrs before the enemy were finaly driven off, leaving a large number of dead on the ground. In the closing stages of the battle B Sqn. were brought forward in reserve.
Casualties were as follows:-3 OR's killed, 7 OR's wounded, and 5 OR's missing. Lt. G.G.O.Hutchinson wounded.
Owing to their losses in tanks A and C Sqns.were amalgamated under Major J.D.Hutchinson, Major J.E.F. Miller recieving an injury to his foot the previous day
There was again an attempt by the enemy to come in from the west. This was effectively dealt with by A Sqn., who destroyed 2 Mk IV's which had come near to them.
Meanwhile a number of Tiger tanks had established themselves on the high ground on our eastern flank at Le Haut Periere( M.R. 7233) and were able to engage A Sqn. from the rear at a range of about 2500 yds. These Tigers quickly caused A Sqn. 5 tank casualties.
Major Gilmore then went forward with a troop of B Sqn.to try and engage these tanks and succeeded in knocking out one of them. During the day our position was continually under shell and mortar fire by the enemy.That night the Regt. remained in the same position. The Regt. remained in the same position. The Regt. was now reduced to 25 tanks on the road.
Casualties were as follows:- Wounded 9 OR's, Killed 1 OR and missing believed killed 6 OR's. Comdg. Offr wounded.
The CO of the R.Scots Greys came up early in the morning to see our positions and one Sqn. of that Regt. came up to relieve us in the late afternoon at about 17:00 hrs.
Both colns moved forwards and backwards respectively under cover of smoke so as to prevent the enemy tanks from being able to direct AP fire on our tanks as we were moving. This however did not prevent them from putting down a certain amount of HE but this caused no casualties or damage. The Regt. withdrew to Le Queille 678376 where we remained for a few days.
Casualties were as follows:- Killed 2/Lieut D.B. Lovelock and wounded 1 O.R.
This period was spent in reorginising, maintenance and rest. We were now joined by 2 complete troops from the 24th Lancers and one troop from 1st L&B Horse. New officers were Lieut.Fuller, F.W. Lieut. Jewell's B.A Lieut. Munroe A.N.G.
We left Le Queille at 17;30 hrs. and advanced to a different front at Le Bruyers 7642 to take over from 15(S) Div. The F&F were in reserve here.
We remained all day lying up at La Bruyere. New offrs. were Lt. McNinch, R.C. and 2/Lt. Rix G.H.
The Regt. moved at first light-Centre line Lasay-La Roque-Vassy. 159 Bde. were on the left, 29 Armd. Bde on the right. 29 Armd Bde was divided into the 23 H and 8 R.B. on the right and 2 f.f. and 3 Mons on the left.
Note that they report the loss of 5 Shermans to Tigers on the 7th August. Not quite 14 is it?
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So whats the problem ? miscounting, not a serious sin is it in the heat of battle, smoke, confusion etc., and unless Fey subsequently occupied the ground over which the action took place, he had no direct means of making sure anyway.
On the opposite tack, I once talked to a WWII Typhoon pilot at a Typhoon pilots reunion who said that whilst flying over the Falaise pocket he saw five Tiger tanks, attached each one from the rear firing a pair of rockets at each and knocked all five out, do you believe it ?
Apart from the obvious fact that a Typhoon only carried eight rockets so therefore could only fire four pairs at four targets anyway, add to this the previosuly mentioned "heat of battle, smoke, confusion etc., " plus the appauling inaccuracy of the Typhoon's non-armour piercing rockets etc.,
But what do you say to him ??? , I said nothing and left him to his memories.
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Not trying to put words in Mr. Kenny's mouth, but I believe the point is that people should take the hugh claims attruibuted to German armor commanders with a grain of salt, and not calling Will Fey to task. Just the same as you did with the Typhoon pilot.
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(There seems some contradiction on this site http://www.normandie44lamemoire.com/ver ... oius2.html )
If this was the night of 7-8 August that Fey was towed back to Vassy, it seems doubtful given the terrain and the distance involved. Plus the Vire Vassy road around that part was not fully in German control at that time and if he had been towed South from the Church at Chenedolle, dragging his tracks, its likely he would have been spotted by British patrols who were maybe 500m or less away on the edge of the Vire Vassy road. There was an armoured repair shop in Vassy and also a temoprary one in Estry during the battle.
I believe that 12 Shermans were lost from A sqdn 23 Hussars when they were ambushed en route to Bas Perrier on the 2nd August by several Panthers. Trouble is there are so many conflicting reports.
this may be of interest to you... found just west of Chendolle
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thanks for all that info,will have to print off, too much to read
sitting at the computer
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Fey claimed 14 in one day when you can see the 23rd Husars were not even in action!
23 husars war diary :
LA BARBIERE 6 Sherman V, 3 Sherman Vc 1 3 Ton lorry 5 Half tracks received.
4 sc cars, 1 3ton lorry 4 half tracks 12 Sherman V 3 Sherman Vc struck off. 1 OR killed
maybe his claim is off by date 7th verses 8th
40 or 50 yrs later off by a day! hmmm!
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It is very simple really. On 7/8/44, the day Fey says he single-handed destroyed 14 Shermans, 23rd Hussars spent the day regrouping.herrlabe sr1 wrote:I'm a little lost here . the statement made :
Fey claimed 14 in one day when you can see the 23rd Husars were not even in action!
The Shermans are the losses for the previous days fighting. Thus the 15 Shermans are for the fighting for the period Aug 1-7th.23 husars war diary :
LA BARBIERE 6 Sherman V, 3 Sherman Vc 1 3 Ton lorry 5 Half tracks received.
4 sc cars, 1 3ton lorry 4 half tracks 12 Sherman V 3 Sherman Vc struck off. 1 OR killed
The period 8-10th August were spent in the rear so they did not lose 15 Shermans in action on those dates.
I searched extensively and could not find 14 losses for one action in any of the British Armoured Units Aug 1-9th.maybe his claim is off by date 7th verses 8th
40 or 50 yrs later off by a day! hmmm!
I concentrated on those Units facing Chenedolle and as you can see there is no mention of this action.
You can find Infantry attacks that MIGHT be the ones were Fey was involved but then he only plays up the tank losses.
The first hand accounts are there for all to read and I leave it to the viewer to make their own minds up as to which is credible.
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On August 1st at first light we renewed our attempts to enter
Le Beny Bocage. 'B' Squadron went back to their hill through the
woods to guard the flank and, in doing so, discovered an abandoned
quartermaster's store, which caused much excitement until it was
found to contain nothing of any great interest. 'C' Squadron, with
the help of some Sappers, cleared the mines and began to push for-
ward to Le Beny Bocage when orders came from above chat the
Third Tanks would move through us. 'C' Squadron's Third Troop
nearly reached the centre of the town, and Sergeant Sear, in the lea-
ding tank, there disabled a German Mk IV tank, which limped back
round a corner and was destroyed by its comrades. The Third Tanks
occupied Le Beny Bocage with no opposition and pushed through it to
guard it from an enemy counter attack. The Twenty-third Hussars
were then separated from the Monmouths, and we moved into the
little town on a beautiful sunny afternoon to have a brief rest. It
was a charming place, a big village rather than a town, and the
inhabitants were so friendly that everyone hoped we would not hear
the cry 'push on' for a least another twenty-four hours.
But the afternoon and evening were all the respite we were given.
Despite the non-appearance of the Guards on our left, owing to heavy
fighting near their start line, it was decided that the Division should
try to gain the Vassy-Vire road, regardless of exposed flanks. This was
of course a perfectly justifiable risk and one which has been taken
many times since, sometimes with spectacular results. On this occa-
sion it certainly paid to take the chance, though during the next few
days many strange situations resulted from it and we became in-
volved in one of the toughest battles we ever fought. Our"infantry
colleagues were now to be the Eighth Battalion, the Rifle Brigade. It
was the first occasion on which we had worked together as a group
and force of circumstances parted us after only three days, but the
experience laid the foundations of a remarkable partnership between
our two units which soon became almost a permanency for any op-
eration and about which more will be written in a later chapter. We
decided we could move on a company-squadron basis but, as the Rifle-
men had their own armoured vehicles, they naturally rode in them and
not on the tanks as the Monmouths had done. Our road ran south
from Le Beny Bocage, through Le Desert, up to Point 218, down the
valley through Presles, up again to the high ground of Bas and Haut
Perrier, and on to Chenedolle and our objective. The Fife and Forfar
were on our right, and our left, as has been shown, was open.
August 2nd was an eventful day from the start and the leading
tank of 'B' Squadron, commanded by Sergeant Williams, neatly
knocked out two armoured cars which were trying to get away to an-
nounce our arrival to their bigger brethren. They were identified as
belonging to the Ninth SS Panzer-Division, and 'B' Squadron con-
tinued with a sharp look-out, as we did not suppose we had seen the
last of this redoubtable formation. All was quiet until on Point 218
there was some infantry opposition. It was speedily dealt with, though
the Commanding Officer's operator, Sergeant Waike, chose an incon-
venient moment to give Sergeant Jones, of 'B' Squadron, a netting call.
It happened to coincide with a battle Sergeant Jones was having with
a German, armed with a bazooka, in a hole a few yards from his tank.
After a few minutes of patiently answering to interminable tuning
alphabets and reports of signals, he found that he really could not
allow this extremely belligerent German any more latitude and,
throwing restraint and wireless discipline to the winds, he cried into
the microphone: "For God's sake give me more time!", and despat-
ched both the German and the bazooka. He then expressed his wil-
lingness to be put 'on net'.
After this, 'B' Squadron advanced into the village of Presles with-
out incident, but on the other side they spotted two self-propelled
guns and, having knocked one out, saw the crew abandon the other.
While this was going on Regimental Headquarters halted on the
cross-roads at Point 218 with 'A' Squadron behind them. Major
Biacker then had occasion to walk over the cross-roads to remon-
strate with our Medium OP officer, who was briskly firing his tank
gun at the Fife and Forfar, visible in the distance on our right.
Having explained his error to him Major Blacker was retur-
ning to his tank, when, while in the middle of the cross-roads, he
happened to glance in the direction of Estry. It was well he did, for
only one hundred yards away was a Panther, advancing down the
main road towards him. Fortunally the Panther did not react
quickly. Equally fortunately the tanks of RHQ were protected
from it by a bank, which, however, was too high to allow their guns
to bear on it. A good deal. of confused firing on both sides then
ensued, the Panther letting off an armour-piercing and a high explo-
sive shell and a burst of machine-gun fire in quick succession. It
succeeded only in knocking a telegraph pole down over Sergeant Ro-
berts' 17-pounder which had been sent to the rescue. This
stalemate was broken by Eieut. Payne's troop, which assaulted the
Panther in flank and destroyed it. One or two of its friends were
lurking fairly close, but withdrew without damage to themselves.
RHQ was then relieved to find that 'B' Squadron had moved on
through Presles and that it was possible to hand over this rather too
eventful spot to someone else.
With Panthers liable to arrive so unexpectedly, it was thought
better to push 'A' Squadron out as a left flank guard, and they con-
tinued parallel to the main axis down a very narrow track, without
their company of RBs. 'B' Squadron was still pushing on and had
reached Bas Perrier when sounds of battle were audible from 'A'
Squadron, who at the time were a mile away to the left. They had at
last managed to quit their narrow track and spread out in a field
At the other end of the field, playing the 'lying-in-wait' game which
was the delight of the German tank man, lay hidden a number of
Panthers. At close range, and with well distributed fire, they all
opened up at once with deadly effect. All but four of the 'A' Squa-
dron tanks were hit and blazing within a matter of minutes, and the
remaining four fought their way back to cover, destroying three
Panthers as they did so. Major Watt's tank was one of the first to
be hit and the crew 'baled out', comparatively unhurt. Seeing the
plight of his squadron and realising that he could not control the
battle without using a wireless, Major Watt ran back to' his tank,
which was not yet on fire, but which he well knew to be in full view
of the enemy. When he jumped onto the turret to seize the micro-
phone, a Panther opened up on him at point blank range and Major
Watt fell, badly wounded. Corporal Harris, his driver, rushed for-
ward and pulled him to safety, though under very heavy fire all the
time. Having done this, Corporal Harris went forward alone with
a Sten gun to assault the enemy infantry, which were threatening to
advance upon them. Major Watt refused all medical treatment until
the other wounded could be attended to and kept trying to resume
command although his wounds made this quite impossible. The
baled-out crews ran about under heavy fire helping the wounded.
Captain Taylor had in the meantime, with great coolness and courage,
reorganised the survivors. The Recce Troop were sent across to eva-
cuate the wounded and after a brisk battle, which cost them one man
killed, they fought their way back down 'A' Squadron's route, which
by now had been cut by some very aggressive Panzer Grenadiers-
When he was satisfied that all possible survivors had been evacuated,
and that there was nothing more that could be done Captain Taylor
brought the remnants of the Squadron across to the main route and
joined the rest of the Regiment. One crew which was missing was that
of Sergeant Roberts, who had been isolated by the Germans and
could not get back. They had to spend two very uncomfortable days
amongst the German lines, being heavily shelled by our guns and
having constantly to hide from German patrols. Eventually Sergeant
Roberts managed to rejoin the Regiment, bringing his whole crew
with him, and having gained much useful information about the
While 'A' were fighting their battle on the left, 'B' Squadron had
also bumped trouble, though not in such a serious way. The village
of Chenedolle lay in a hollow below the rise up to the Vassy-Vire
road, which was our objective. The villagers seemed to have some
premonition of the horror that was to befall their little community
during the next seven days, for they appeared quiet and apprehensive
as the leading tank apeared. Almost immediately, there was the
familiar crack and whistle of a German anti-tank gun, followed by a
sickening thump and flash as Sergeant Allsopp's tank was knocked
out, fortunately without much damage to the inmates. The crew
commander walked calmly back past the rest of the Regiment with
his crew, looking rather irritated, like someone whose car has broken
down at a tiresome moment.
The Riflemen dismounted and with a troop from 'B' Squadron
started to try to clear the village. They had not got far when
a Panther appeared in the main street and advanced upon them. A
rifleman promptly put two rounds of P.I.A.T. through its turret, and
was furious when it merely emitted clouds of smoke and drove away,
though everyone in the turret must have been dead.
While this situation was being dealt with, the news of the 'A'
Squadron disaster began to come in. The first reaction was to try and
send another squadron across to their rescue, but the country was so
impossibly thick, that it could not be done. When Captain Taylor re-
joined with his remaining four tanks, we began to realize that Chene-
dolle was not going to be very easy either. The thought
uppermost in most people's minds was that we had a completely open
left flank for four miles, and only too obviously there was a strong
force of German armour placed in an ideal position to assault it.
That the main German force was on our left, or east, side was obvious
from the information we had just received that the Fife and Forfar,
the other side of us, were on their objective without meeting any
opposition. And so it was decided to withdraw from Chenedolle and
take up a firm position for the night on a piece of high ground above
the little village of Le Bas Perrier, about a mile short of the farthest
point 'B' Squadron had reached during the day.
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Use the section below (pages 95 to 103) to link pages 88-94 ( post just above) with
pages 104 to 107 ( in my first post )
Title: The Story Of The Twenty-Third Hussars 1940-1946
The book was published by the Regiment in April 1946.
"The night passed
quietly, and August 3rd dawned with the promise of a really hot
summer's day. And hot it proved eventually to be, though not alto-
gether in the way we expected.
Orders came through during the night that we were to advance
no further until the Guards had caught, up to cover our left flank.
They had still been prevented from reaching even as far as Le Beny
Bocage, so there was a most vulnerable and exposed gap stretching from
our position for about five miles back to where the most advanced
Guardsmen were battling. Apart from our immediate west, which
was covered by the Fife and Forfar, we expected trouble from any
direction, but not, it must be admitted, quite as soon as it came.
Our position was on a hill of the usual Normandy type, covered
in high hedgerows, banks and cornfields. It was not big enough for
the number of tanks we had, and overcrowding could not be avoided.
The road from Presles to Chenedolle ran over this hill and it divided
'B' Squadron, who were on the west side, from 'C' who were respon-
sible for the east. 'A' Squadron were in reserve on the northern slopes
of the ridge and the Rifle Brigade companies were, of course, still
Our hill was a high one, and a splendid panorama of unspoilt
Normandy country lay behind us. Directly to our north the ridge of
Point 218, running parallel to our own, was visible two miles away,
and beneath it lay the little village of Presles, which we had liberated
the day before. Between us and Presles stretched a rich green valley,
running east and west, apparently open, but in reality honeycombed
with sunken lanes, banks, high hedgerows, orchards, and all the other
intricacies of the 'bocage', terminating in thick woodland to the east.
Far in the eastern distance, we could see the spire of German-held
Estry, the rock which was later to break the assault of two successive
British divisions and which was the last fortress to be abandoned by
the Germans when they began to disappear into the vortex of the
Falaise pocket. But although we could see clearly to the north, the
view to the south was very different. Below us, completely obscured
by orchards and woods though only half-a-mile away, was Le Bas
Perrier. A wooded ridge immediately south of our own prevented
us from seeing Chenedolle, but it also looked as though it would be
impossible for many Germans tanks to engage us from it at the same
time, owing to its undergrowth. The trees, however, stretched down
into the little valley to within two hundred yards of our position,
making a covered approach easy for an infantry assault upon us,
Knowing that Chenedolle had been held the night before, we expec-
ted trouble to come from the south, but a keen watch was kept all.
round our hill.
The tanks had been going now for four days with very little re-
spite, and we therefore ordered up the fitters to carry out a few
repairs. They set off from A 1. Echelon, which was in Le Beny Bocage,
led by Major Whitehill and Captain Sandford in a jeep. Their little
column consisted of the three fitters' half-tracks, followed by a Rifle
Brigade scout car and an ambulance, which was required by the M.O.
They passed through Presles at about 10 a.m., without seeing any-
thing unusual, and began to cross the valley.
Up on our hill, the crews that were not on 'look-out' duties were
peacefully washing or writing letters in the sunshine. Down in the
valley a faint noise broke the stillness and aroused the attention of
one of the look-outs. He shouted that there were Germans in the
valley and that they were walking about on the road behind us.
Immediately tanks were manned, and through glasses there could
be seen a puzzling sight. About six khaki clad figures were standing
in the road, apparently examining us with binoculars, for their hands
were raised before their faces, whilst behind them a wisp of smoke
wreathed slowly upwards. Suddenly a figure in field grey stepped into
view before them. He held a weapon in his hand - and at once we
realised what had happened. Our fitters had been ambushed, and it
was some of the survivors that we could see with their hands raised,
standing before their captors. Simultaneously another look-out poin-
ted excitedly towards Presles. There, on the main cross-roads in the
village, was the unmistakable shape of a Panther. Immediately the
tanks of RHQ opened fire upon it, but it was at least two thousand
yards away and no damage could be done to it. Before a 17-
pounder could move into position, it waddled back behind a house.
Major Whitehill and Captain Sandford then arrived in their jeep,
having run the gauntlet and had the narrowest of escapes, due to their
vehicle being the leading one and a small target. They told us some
of the story, but it was not till later that we really knew the full
details. Half-way across the valley, the leading half-track, which was
'C' Squadron's, received a direct hit from a shell, probably from a
German tank, which killed Sergeant Beresford and half of his crew.
The half-track slewed sideways, preventing the others from getting
past, and forced them to a halt. As the crews jumped out, they were
surrounded by German infantry and owerwhelmed without a chance
of fighting, though in the confusion Sergeant Kellett, Sergeant Cook-
son and a few others managed to disappear into ditches and crawl back
to safety. The survivors from the 'C' Squadron half-track were all
wounded, some more seriously than the others. Lance-corporal Brad-
ley though shaken by blast and burns, pulled Lance-corporal Legg,
who was more seriously hurt, to some cover, from which he eventually
helped him back to our lines. On the way he had several skirmishes
with the SS infantry and shot two with his pistol and took another
prisoner, whom he handed over on arrival. Private Barnett, of the
RAMC, who had been in the ambulance, refused to take cover and
went to look after a seriously wounded man. He refused to obey the
Germans' orders to leave him and, despite the numbers of the enemy
troops which surrounded him by this time, he calmly walked past
them with his patient, and eventually regained friendly territory.
Whenever a German stopped him he pointed to his Red Cross armlet,
and on every occasion they let him pass. It was a remarkable display
of courage and endurance, for the wounded man could hardly walk,
and Barnett knew that the Germans round him were SS men and
quite capable of shooting them both.
We had seen enough by now to know that the battle for our left
flank was about to begin. Sure enough, down the valley from the east
came large numbers of enemy infantry, walking in open order on a
wide front, but with the clear intention of occupying Presles. We
engaged them, and must have killed a few, though the hedgerows and
orchards were a great handicap to us. Soon we saw them creeping into
the village, and spreading out round it. Two Germans went into the
church, with the obvious intention of using it as an O.P., but a few
high-explosive shells on the spire made them bolt out again like rab-
bits. We had our artillery support in action by now, but the enemy
were so spread out and so well concealed that it could not be very
effective. There was no counter-attack force available and the Ger-
mans were now astride our only supply route. In short, we were cut
off. But we had refilled with ammunition, we had plenty of food and
being stationary needed no petrol. Evacuation of wounded was going
to be a problem and obviously we should have to conserve our am-
munition, but otherwise we were confident that we could keep our
end up till a counter-attack could materialise. To launch a counter-
attack of our own was quite impossible, as it meant descending from
our high ground into the valley and, with the tanks road-bound by
the high banks, the enemy would have had an easy time of it. Also
we fully expected an attack from the south as well as from the north,
for we could by no means ignore the threat from Chenedolle.
It was not long before enemy tanks began to work along the side
of the hill above Presles to support their infantry. There were not
many of them, but they seemed to be nearly all Tigers and Panthers,
using sunken lanes down which they would crawl until they could
see a target. Then they would fire a few shots and draw back to
cover. They had several advantages over us. They could choose their
fire positions, which we could not, being wedded to our stationary
position on the hill where we had to sit on a forward slope with
camouflage as the only cover. It would seem from this that we had
chosen a bad tactical position, but, in fact, the circumstances of the
day before had forced it on us with no alternative, except to retire
a further two miles, which we would not do. Another advantage the
Germans had was that the battle was fought at long range, which
virtually discounted our seventy-fives for anti-tank work, and left
us only our seventeen-pounders, of which we had nine left, to com-
pete on equal terms. Another handicap was that our shells went off
with a big flash and puff of smoke, which gave the tank's position
away, whilst the Germans had flashless and smokeless powder in
their ammunition. It was, therefore, almost impossible to spot a Ger-
man tank when it fired. Sometimes if one happened to see the shell's
tracer coming towards one, a rough guess could be made as to where
it started from, and occasionally the German gun would blow away
some of its camouflage and expose the turret. But usually one knew
nothing until the German shell arrived.
So artfully did the Tigers and Panthers get into position that we
did not at first notice their arrival. But we were not long left in
suspense. A series of resounding cracks followed by sudden puffs of
dust rising around our tanks announced that we were under fire from
their guns. 'B' Squadron and Regimental Headquarters were on the
most exposed side of the hill and had to bear the brunt. RHQ had
a hedge which partially concealed them, but 'B' Squadron were un-
avoidably in full view. They fired back but the range was too great
for the seventy-fives of the Shermans to have any effect. Gradually
those ominous puffs of dust began to creep nearer to our tanks as
the Germans found the range. The crack and whistle of enemy ar-
mour-piercing shot grew in intensity, mingling with the roar of our
seventeen-pounders as they retaliated. Inevitably, there was soon a
crash and a spurt of flame. A cloud of black smoke rose from a 'B'
Squadron tank which had been hit. A few minutes later Major Wigan's
tank was hit low down and began to smoke threateningly. He refused
to bale out without permission, though clearly the next shot would
complete his tank's destruction, and he calmly rang up the Colonel
to ask if he might dismount. The Co'lonel was engaged, and Sergeant
Waike said "Wait-out". Major Wigan accordingly waited - a most
unpleasant few minutes. Eventually he rather anxiously enquired
again and this time Sergeant Waike was more encouraging for he said
"O.K.-over". He got no reply from Major Wigan, who lost no time
in taking advantage of this permission, followed through his...hatch by
Sergeant Hutchinson, enveloped in a monstrous swarm of codes, pa-
pers, maps and note-books. Major Wigan took another tank, which
met the same fate twenty minutes later, this time giving the crew no
choice whether they remained in or out, for it caught fire at once.
His third tank managed to avoid trouble.
Meanwhile, yet another 'B' Squadron tank was burning while
behind it men were bending over some still figures. The battle was
not going well. Gallantly as 'B' Squadron fought, they were comple-
tely outranged and indeed practically never caught a glimpse of their
target. On 'C' Squadron's side, Sergeant Hoggins had managed to put
a shot through a Tiger's turret with his seventeen-pounder, and other
commanders made claims which could not be substantiated. We kept
slogging back, straining our eyes for targets, and within another few
minutes one of our attached self-propelled guns was knocked out.
Then the H.E. shells started to arrive, at first from the high
velocity tank guns. The whistle and crash of the explosions occurred
almost simultaneously. Then, as the afternoon wore on, heavier guns
were moved up against us. Salvos of shells began to fall around the
hill, causing casualties to the RBs as they crouched helplessly in their
slit-trenches, and badly wounding Sergeant Straughan of 'B' Squadron.
The Medical Officer had many wounded collected in his Aid Post,
which was in a small sunken lane behind the RHQ tanks. It proved
to be the hottest corner of all, a fate which was to dog Captain
Mitchell wherever he moved during the next two days. One of his
half-tracks was hit and some of his staff killed and wounded. Then
the German tanks spotted RHQ behind its hedge, and concentrated
upon them. The Battery Commander's tank was hit at once. quickly
followed by a medium gunner OP tank. Then a Rifle Brigade motor-
cycle next to the Colonel's tank sprang five feet into the air, struck
by a heavy armour-piercing shot. The Colonel wisely decided to
move to the other side of the hill, but RHQ was almost pinned
down by fire. Lieut. Turner, the Troop Leader, most coolly put down
smoke, giving his own position away completely but covering RHQ
as it moved amid a rain of different missiles to its new position. As
the tanks moved a heavy H.E. bombardement began and a 'C'
Squadron petrol lorry exploded with a tremendous roar and flash.
Flames rose high in the air and the combined noise was so great that
for a moment complete confusion reigned on the hill. Wounded figu-
res ran to and fro while a trail of stretchers, borne by the surviving
members of the baled-out crews, marked the progress of the R.A.P.
to a secluded orchard on the west side of the hill. Captain Mitchell
proclaimed this a perfect spot until he discovered it was outside our
perimeter and was not defended by anyone. Exasperated, he refused
to move again and, spreading out a large red cross, he hoped for the
best. "Without delay an American Thunderbolt, apparently failing
to see the red cross, swooped upon him and discharged all its rockets
at the Aid Post. Another half-track was destroyed but miraculously
no one was hurt. RHQ's new position was also far from ideal, for if
the enemy attacked from the south it would be liable to be even
more involved than it had been on the north of the hill, being the
first tanks the enemy would meet. But there was nowhere else to go,
and the tanks were thickly covered with branches for camouflage
a precaution which almost certainly saved them from destruction
during the next few days.
As visibility decreased, the German fire grew much lighter and we
had a chance to review our position. If the Germans made a repeti-
tion of this the next day we should lose more tanks, but, provided
our ammunition did not run out, we would not lose the hill. The most
serious worry was the condition and numbers of the wounded. Both
Captain Mitchell and Captain Wilcox of the Rifle Brigade were run-
ning short of medical stores and there seemed less chance than ever
of being able to evacuate the casualties for at least another twelve
hours. Both doctors were magnificent in this crisis and inspired the
whole force with confidence by their complete and unshakeable calm-
ness. Captain Mitchell worked tirelessly, at times under intense fire
and under circumstances which could not have been more trying.
Beside him worked Padre Taylor, displaying a devotion to duty which
no one who saw it will ever forget, and which will remain in all our
memories as the perfect example of how a regimental padre should
behave. It is impossible to estimate how much we all owed to those
two men during that twenty-four hours and later.
From the Brigadier came the news that an infantry battalion was
to counter-attack Presles that night, make its way across the valley
and relieve the RBs. This news cheered everyone considerably. Dark-
ness fell, though all around light flickered from smouldering tanks,
half-tracks and the petrol lorry. In slit trenches and underneath the
tanks those who were not on guard duties slumbered uneasilv, while
'look-outs' strained their eyes and ears for the enemy. But apart from
the roaring of tank engines in the distance and an intermittent shell,
At midnight, the Second Warwicks attacked Presles and took it.
By dawn they were up to the hulks of our unfortunate fitters' half-
tracks in the valley, meeting but little resistance. Obviously the enemy
had withdrawn, temporarily at any rate, and at midday the road,
to our relief, was open again. First priority was given to ambulances
and fifteen of them were on their way to us in a matter of minutes.
The leading company of the Warwicks arrived and by 3 p.m. the
change-over was under way, with two companies of Warwicks gra-
dually getting into position, and with all the RBs departed to Pres-
les except for one company, which had not yet been relieved. Just
at this highly inconvenient moment the unmistakeable 'whirr, whirr"
of several 'moaning minnies' was heard in the distance. The air was
filled with their throbbing moan as everyone rapidly went to ground,
and the next ten minutes were extremely unpleasant. As the bom-
bardment began to ease, our ears caught the rattle of a Spandaa
machine gun, this time from the south. The enemy were counter-
attacking us through the woods from Chenedolle. Immediately Co-
lonel Hunter of the RBs rallied his mixed and rather disorganised
force of infantry to meet the attack, and our tanks poured H.E. shells
into the thick trees. The divisional artillery opened up with their
medium 5.5-inch guns on Chenedolle, which we reckoned was sure to
be the forming up position for the enemy reserves. 25-pounders were
fired to burst in the trees just in front of us. This treatment had an
excellent effect on the Germans and they abandoned the attack.
But they remained in Le Bas Perrier village and in the trees,
sniping at anyone who moved on the hill and handling any
patrol that entered the village very roughly. The Warwicks then
completed the hand-over and the Riflemen went back to defend
Presles which, although constantly shelled, was never directly assaul-
ted again. The enemy were obviously concentrating on making their
effort from the south to-day, and it was very fortunate that it was
almost impossible for an enemy tank to get into a fire position from
Later in the evening another heavy bombardment heralded the
second counter-attack, but it was dealt with in the same way as the
first, and another fairly peaceful night was passed.
The morning of August 5th found Bas Perrier hill still firmly held.
It presented an extraordinary picture, with the peaceful fields dis-
figured by the ugly shape of tanks, pitted with shell holes and torn
up by tracks. Burnt and blackened vehicles dotted the hedgerows,
and beside many of them were a few rough crosses made of two
twigs with a beret or a rifleman's steel helmet resting upon each of
them. Spoil from slit trenches was heaped between the tanks, and
below ground crouched the riflemen not on look-out duties, to-
gether with the small number of echelon personnel who travelled
with the tanks. Most of the latter's vehicles had been knocked out,
and they had the unnerving job of sitting quite inactive while those
around them had a definite part to play. The tank crews were tired
but still full of fight. Most of them had not spent more than thirty
minutes outside their tanks for forty-eight hours, and were destined
to do the same for another two days. The tanks could not move for
fear of giving away their positions, and many in the end had been
stationary and camouflaged for five days - a very considerable strain.
No one doubted that the Germans meant to take Bas Perrier hill.
On August 5th we sustained and beat back three counter-attacks of
a very similar nature, using the same methods as on the day before.
Chenedolle must have been a shambles by that time.
During the preliminary bombardment of the first of these counter-
attacks a distinguished visitor in the shape of the Brigadier was glad
to accept the hospitality of the hole underneath the Colonel's tank.
So many officers from Brigade and RHQ took shelter in this hole
on this occasion that the Quartermaster, Captain Garcia, was left
outside. When the shelling ceased he was still standing outside, wa-
ving a Naafi cheque he had brought for signature and saying plain-
tively, "Isn't there any room for me?". That particular shelling had
a less humorous result, however, as Captain Mitchell, whilst crossing
the open field to attend to some wounded, was badly hit in the chest.
His loss was a severe blow to everyone and it says a great deal for
his successor, Captain McBeath, that he was able to restore confidence
as quickly as he did.
The last two counter-attacks of the day were mainly notable for
the extremely cool and competent handling by Lieut. Harte of 'B'
Squadron's Second Troop. He first of all destroyed a 75-
millimetre gun which the Germans had man-handled into position in
the trees and were firing at us. He was then ordered to accompany
a platoon of Warwicks into Bas Perrier village, where they were sur-
rounded by enemy infantry, and had a very difficult time, with almost
no visibility. Sergeant Pike came face to face with a Tiger at very
close range in the street and, although he hit it three times without
effect, one shot from its gun was enough to knock out his 75-
millimetre Sherman. He brought his crew back intact, and even-
tually the whole troop were ordered out, having done valuable work.
Meanwhile, back in Le Beny Bocage, great excitement and alarm
was being caused by shelling and by reports that Tigers were coming
from the east. Captain Geikie, who was in charge of A 1. Echelon at.
the time, was ordered by a despairing staff officer to be responsible
for the left flank of the entire Eighth Corps and to hold Le Beny Bo-
cage at all costs. Captain Geikie accordingly arranged his forces before
the town, but was slightly dubious as to whether they would be a
match for a force of Tigers. Apart from his lorries and their crews,
he had two seventy-five Shermans, one of which was immobile, and
a seventeen-pounder Sherman, whose gun would only fire once in
every five attempts and which, when it did fire, was very uncertain in
its accuracy. Fortunately for everyone, the Geek Force was not
called upon to fulfil its important role, but its members no doubt
passed some very uneasy moments.
Apart from its commitments in Le Beny Bocage, the Echelon still
had to send columns up during the day and night. These had a nerve-
racking time in the valley between Presles and our hill, for German
patrols were still liable to appear in it. Every time a vehicle crossed
the valley the Germans blew the most eerie sounding instrument,
rather like a hunting horn, which appeared to be some sort of alert.
By night there was an unpleasant self-propelled eighty-eight, which
knew that transport was using the road and kept banging away in
the hope of hitting something. It never did, but the knowledge that
it was there was rather unsettling. Despite all hazards, however, the
echelon crews were always in great heart, and had very few casualties
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I don't know if this is for sure the first place where it was published. I suppose it is possible that he had been interviewed for other books or articles and therefore his story might have been published before 1960.
I can't do a translation at the moment. Maybe in a few days if anyone wants one (and if you do, you will get what you pay for). It appears that "Our most successful day" occurred o 8.8.44 according to this account (Pg. 95-101):
UNSER ERFOLGREICHSTER TAG
Dann graut der Morgen, um einen Tag anzukündigen, der unserem Tiger und seinen Männern höchste Bewährung und schönsten Erfolg bringen sollte: es ist der 8. August 1944.
Noch warten wir auf die Grenadiere, die heute morgen mit unseren Tigern den Angriff vortragen sollen; sein Beginn ist nach erfolgter Artillerievorbereitung festgesetzt. Nun sind die Züge und Gruppen der Grenadiere - es sind Kameraden von einer Division des Heeres - bei unserem Panzer eingetroffen; sie verteilen sich im Gelände, suchen Deckung in Gräben und hinter Büschen. Wir warten ab; aber noch kommt keine Artilleriesalve, die den Beginn der Vorbereitung anzeigt. Es vergeht Stunde um Stunde, bis es losgeht, aber dann nicht bei uns. - Einige Grenadiere links von uns geben Panzeralarm und bald können wir auch aus unserem Tiger die Lage übersehen: über eine Anhöhe herab kommen die Shermans aus einem Wäldchen hervorgerollt. Wir erkennen 10 - 12 - 15 Feindpanzer, dazwischen Spähwagen, SPW mit aufgesessener Infanterie, Karetten und MTW: der ganze Hang ist lebendig geworden! Entfernung ca. 1200 m. Noch fällt kein Schuß. Das Ganze mutet wie ein schulmäßig vorgetragener Panzerangriff an, mit allem, was dazugehört. Die Grenadiere schauen auf uns: was werden wir tun? Bei ihnen und ihrem Kompanieführer macht sich eine gewisse Nervosität bemerkbar. Ein Oberleutnant steigt zu uns auf den Panzer: wir sollen das Feuer eröffnen! Aber das muß er schon unserem Kommandanten überlassen. Der Funker muß einen Spruch an alle absetzen: »15 Panzer greifen mit Infanterie aus der linken Flanke an; wir eröffnen bei 600 m das Feuer!« Sofort kommt Funkbefehl vom Kommandeur Weiß: »Ruderboot an Ofenrohr 3 (das ist im Funkverkehr der Tarnname für unseren Tiger) - sofort absetzen! « Das hat noch gefehlt! Der Kommandant gibt dem Funker den Befehl, nicht zu quittieren und sofort den Empfänger abzuschalten; wir werden jetzt nur noch senden!
Die Panzer haben sich formiert und rollen im Breitkeil auf uns zu. Die Entfernung beträgt noch ungefähr 800 m. Längst hat der Ladeschütze Panzergranaten bereitgelegt. Der Fahrer ist informiert, daß er auf Befehl hin den Panzer sofort wenige Meter auf der linken Kette zurückrollt, während er die rechte Kette anzieht: so bringen wir in einigen Sekunden unseren Tiger mit der Stirnseite in die günstige Abwehrposition; denn auch die Kameraden von der anderen Feldpostnummer werden uns was zukommen lassen, und dafür ist unsere Breitseite, die wir jetzt zeigen, zu empfindlich!
Dann ist es soweit: 600 m. - Wir manövrieren unseren Tiger in die gewünschte Schußrichtung. Der Richtschütze hat schon seit geraumer Zeit sein erstes Opfer durch die Zielansprache erkannt! Es ist der Panzer am weitesten vorn, genau in der Mitte des Angriffspulks, wohl der Panzerführer. Das zweite und dritte Ziel ist ebenfalls festgelegt: erst der linke Nachbar, dann der rechte! Als nächstes sind die Shermans ganz links und ganz rechts außen vorgesehen; denn die könnten uns gefährlich werden, falls sie uns umfassend in die Flanken kämen; auch ein Tiger ist ja innerhalb der 400-m-Grenze verwundbar!
Dann kommt der erlösende Befehl: »Panzergranate - 600 - Feuer frei!« Der erste Schuß geht über das Ziel; aber nur kurz lähmt uns diese Feststellung. Visier 400 - Feuer frei! - und der Schuß sitzt! Ein zweiter gleich hinterher, - Treffer! Nächstes Ziel: »Panzer links«! - Feuer! - Auch ihm werden 2 Granaten genehmigt. In kurzer Zeit stehen 4 Shermans in Flammen am Hang. Die erste Verwirrung bei den Gegnern ist gewichen: sie halten an und eröffnen das Feuer. Wir erhalten Treffer auf Treffer am Turm, am Bug, an der Walzenblende; Schrauben und Nieten wirbeln im Kampfraum umher! Der Oberleutnant der Grenadiere, der sich bisher im Kampfraum befand, verläßt kopfüber unseren Panzer, räumt mit seinen Leuten das Gelände; denn hier wird heute kein Angriff mehr gestartet. Der Funker sendet ununterbrochen den Gefechtsverlauf; dazwischen findet er reichlich Arbeit für sein MG. Der Kommandeur funkt wieder: »Absetzen auf eigene Linien!« Wir zählen jetzt schon 6 brennende und qualmende Shermans: es muß eine heillose Verwirrung drüben herrschen! Ihre Infanteristen sind abgesessen und springen Deckung suchend umher; Fahrzeuge verkeilen sich ineinander beim Versuch zu wenden. So wird auch der 7. und 8. Panzer erledigt. Während sie beim Manövrieren ineinanderfahren, hält unsere 8,8 dazwischen und sorgt für ein schnelles Ende: dicht beieinanderstehend brennen sie nun aus.
Sind Minuten vergangen - oder Stunden? Wir wissen es nicht. Unser Ladeschütze, der bärenstarke Wolgadeutsche, sinkt in die Knie. Als zunächst am Verschluß Stehender hat er zuviel Pulvergase geschluckt und ist ohnmächtig geworden. Und immer wieder krachen Treffer an unseren Tiger. Bei uns ist durch den Ausfall des Ladeschützen eine Stockung eingetreten. Der Richtschütze betätigt das Turm-MG, während der Funker schon seinen vierten Lauf glühend geschossen hat. Nun haben sich alle Shermans auf unseren Tiger eingeschossen und wir müssen sehen, daß wir etwas aus der Schußlinie kommen; sonst finden sie am Ende doch noch ein Loch bei uns. »Fahrer rückwärts marsch! Halt!« Da knallt es auch schon wieder bei uns; der Tiger ruckt zurück. Das war ein anderes Kaliber, das war Pak! Pulverqualm quillt durch die Luken; der Treffer kam von links. Jetzt heißt es handeln; denn schon landet der zweite Treffer zwischen Fahrer- und Funkerblende und macht unser Funker-MG unbrauchbar. Der Fahrer hat den Platz des ausgefallenen Ladeschützen eingenommen. Nun gibt es nichts mehr zu fahren! Die linke Kette ist abgeschossen und der Tiger somit nicht mehr bewegungsfähig. Wir haben nun die Pak am Mündungsfeuer erkannt: sie steht ganz links außen an ein Gebüsch angelehnt. Der Turm wird auf 9 Uhr gedreht, Albert schnell und genau eingewiesen, Sprenggranaten ins Rohr und dann: »Feuer frei!« 3 Granaten lassen wir uns diesen Gegner kosten; dann zeugen hochwirbelnde Teile und Explosionen vom Ende dieser gut in Stellung gebrachten Pak.
Das Panzergefecht geht weiter. Wir haben weder Hunger noch Durst; der Kampf nimmt uns ganz in Anspruch. Schweißtriefend, mit entzündeten Augen schnappen wir in diesem dicken Salpetergestank nach Luft; denn nach jedem Schuß der Kwk entquillt eine graublaue Wolke dem Fallkeilverschluß. - Vergeblich bemüht sich der Ventilator, seiner Bestimmung gerecht zu werden. Paul liegt mit verdrehten Augen zwischen Hermanns Beinen unten auf der Drehbühne. Noch stehen uns einige Shermans gegenüber; wir haben es verdammt nicht leicht! Während wir die Pak anrichten, nehmen uns die Shermans aufs Korn; rücken wir aber die Shermans ins Fadenkreuz, gibt es Zunder von der Panzerabwehr : es ist schon eine wahre Plage, sich mit 2 verschiedenen Gegnern gleichzeitig befassen zu müssen. 12 brennende Feindpanzer zeugen inzwischen von unserem Kampf.
Nun funkt der Kommandeur nach Empfang der Meldung betreffs der Bewegungsunfähigkeit des Tigers: »Panzer sprengen, mit Besatzung durchschlagen!« - Aber das geht auf keinen Fall Solange wir noch eine Granate und einen Schuß MG-Munition haben, geben wir dieses Gefecht und unseren Panzer nicht auf! Wieder einmal hüllen wir uns in Schweigen und vergessen diesen Spruch zu quittieren! Helles Gelächter trotz der beschi ...
Lage löst der Funkspruch des Kompanietruppführers aus: »Ofenrohr 3 bitte Abschußbestätigung nicht vergessen!« Wir antworten postwendend: »Es sei uns eine Ehre, den Kompanietruppführer in unserem Panzer empfangen zu dürfen, zwecks Feststellung der erfolgten Abschüsse!« Danach hüllt sich jener in absolutes Schweigen.
Nun sind beide MG ausgefallen; die Panzergranaten gehen zu Ende. 14 Shermans haben das Zeitliche gesegnet und ihren Marsch nach Berlin nordwestlich Vire an einem strahlend schönen Augusttag vorzeitig in der Mittagsstunde beendet. Und das ganze dauerte nur 30 Minuten! Aber noch geht der Kampf weiter. Wir können nun keinen Sherman mehr erkennen, der in Bewegung ist oder sich im Feuergefecht befindet; aber es waren doch 15 angreifende Shermans genau erkannt worden!? - Eine Mulde dicht vor uns, mit Bäumen und Gebüsch bestanden, verlangt erhöhte Aufmerksamkeit; mit Sprenggranaten wurde Schuß auf Schuß abgefeuert, und immer fand sich ein Ziel. Verlassene SPW und sonstige Versorgungsfahrzeuge gingen in Flammen auf. In voller Fahrt befindliche Karetten, zum Teil mit aufgebauten Panzervernichtungswaffen, sogenannten Ofenrohren für die Panzernahvernichtung, ereilte ihr Schicksal. Der ganze Hang ist von dunkelblauem Qualm überdeckt, der gnädig das vollzogene Drama einhüllt. Von Zeit zu Zeit birst unter donnerndem Getöse ein Panzer mit haushoher Stichflamme auseinander. Der Rauch der brennenden Fahrzeuge, der den ganzen Kampfraum überzog, ermöglicht es manchem gegnerischen Soldaten, di~sem Inferno lebend zu entkommen.
Da wir nicht wußten, wie lange wir noch in unserem Panzer aushalten mußten, die Munition aber bis auf einige Granaten verschossen war, wollten wir vorsorgen und in der nun eingetretenen Kampfpause unsern Bestand etwas ergänzen. Schnell gleitet der Kommandant am Panzer herunter und kriecht und läuft, um aus der Feindsicht zu kommen. Störungsfeuer hat nun eingesetzt. Langsam schießt sich der Gegner auf unseren Standort ein, nachdem er erkannt hat, daß sein Angriff an dieser Stelle gescheitert ist.
Völlig erschöpft erreicht der Kommandant einen Tiger unserer Kompanie und macht sich an der Fahrer- und Funkerluke bemerkbar, die beide wegen ständigen Artilleriefeuers geschlossen sind. Endlich hebt sich ein Lukendeckel und der Kommandant kann seine Bitte um einige Panzergranaten vortragen, doch vergeblich! Unerklärlicherweise können wir nichts bekommen und die Luken bleiben dicht, womit jeder weitere Appell ungehört verhallt! Weiter, zum nächsten Tiger, wieder einige 100 m gerobbt, gekrochen und gesprungen! Hier war der Weg nicht vergeblich: mit einer Panzer granate im Arm kriecht der Kommandant wieder in Richtung auf seinen Panzer hinweg!
Das Artilleriefeuer nahm ständig an Stärke zu. Zu allem Unglück standen wir ungedeckt mitten auf einer Wiese und erhielten die ersten Aritreffer auf Wanne und Turm. Einem der letzten Funksprüche dieses Tages entnehmen wir, daß wir mit Einbruch der Dunkelheit durch Zug Schwab mit 3 Tigern rausgeschleppt würden. Aber bis zur Dunkelheit war noch eine lange Zeit. Zu allem übrigen fiel im ständigen Beschuß auch unser Funkgerät aus! Jabos umkreisten uns, stürzten herunter und feuerten aus allen Rohren auf unseren braven Tiger, der hier bewegungsunfähig, wie auf dem Präsentierteller stand. Ihre Bomben lagen verdammt nahe! Sollte das unser Ende sein? Aber bevor die nächste Kette anflog, hatten wir die rettende Idee: Nebelkerzen wurden auf Heck und Bug gesetzt, und wir spielten den ausgebrannten, vernichteten Panzer! Wir hatten genügend von diesen Nebelkerzen an Bord und kamen ungeschoren über die Zeit. Plötzlich aber werden wir hellwach und aus unserem Dämmerzustand herausgerissen: wir hören das vertraute Panzerkettengeklirr - aber nicht etwa hinter uns von eigenen Kameraden, sondern halbrechts vor uns, wo die Mulde in Gebüsch- und Baumgruppen ausläuft. - Wir bringen unsere Kanone langsam, kaum bemerkbar, in tiefster Stellung auf die Buschgruppe. 2 Panzergranaten sind noch vorhanden, davon eine bereits im Rohr. Unsere Nerven sind zum Zerreißen gespannt: ist es 1 Panzer oder sind es 2? Wir haben nur 100 m zwischen uns und der Mulde. Fahrer und Funker sitzen absprungbereit an den offenen Luken; Paul, der sich wieder erholt hat, hält die zweite und letzte Granate im Arm. Wenn diese beiden fehlgehen und verschossen sind, heißt es ausbooten, so schnell man kann! Das Kettengeräusch und Brummen kommt immer näher; Sekunden werden zu Ewigkeiten! Vielleicht weiß er gar nicht, der andere, daß hier noch ein feuerbereiter deutscher Panzer steht? Längst sind unsere anderen Tiger zurückgezogen worden, und wir waren ja den ganzen Nachmittag am Qualmen. Aber nun Schluß mit den Gedanken! Vor uns teilt sich das Gebüsch; das glatte, lange Rohr ohne Mündungsbremse, zweifellos ein Sherman, wird sichtbar. Dann kommen die Rundungen der Wanne und der Turm hoch. »Schuß!« Unsere erste Granate rutscht ab: steil steigt der Leuchtsatz zum Himmel! Merkwürdig, daß man solche Kleinigkeiten in dieser knisternden Atmosphäre noch wahrnimmt! »Tiefer halten - Schuß!« - und wir brüllen laut auf; denn der Leuchtsatz unserer Panzergranate verschwand genau unter dem Rohr, also am Ansatz des Turmes. Wie von einer eisernen Faust gepackt, bleibt der Panzer mit einem Ruck stehen. Eine erst feine Rauchsäule, die immer dichter wird steigt senkrecht in die Höhe: der 15. Panzer dieses Tages. Mit dem Panzer vom Vorabend im gleichen Einsatzraum waren es genau 16, also eine ganze Panzerkompanie; nicht zu reden von den MTW, SPW, Karetten und sonstigen Fahrzeugen, die zu zählen unmöglich war. Aber werden wir trotz aller Erfolge den Gegner aufhalten können?!
Nun ist es mit einem Male ruhig. Wir sprechen kein Wort mehr. Wir sind plötzlich so unsagbar müde und warten nun nur noch auf die Tiger, die uns rausschleppen sollen.
Wir empfinden es dankbar und als Schutz, daß plötzlich in den Abendstunden DO-Geräte mit unheimlichem Fauchen und Zischen eine Feuerwand in die Mulde und auf den angrenzenden Hang legen, die alles Leben dort ersticken muß.
Nach genau festgelegtem Plan erscheinen, kaum daß die letzten Salven der Nebelwerfer verrauscht sind, die 3 Tiger des Zuges Schwab und schleppen uns ab. 2 Tiger werden vorgespannt; einer übernimmt die Sicherung; so rollen wir, unsere Ketten hinten nachziehend, in die dunkle Nacht. Nach kurzem Halt am Kompaniegefechtsstand, wo uns Chef Kalls zu unserem Erfolg beglückwünscht, erreichen wir am nächsten Morgen Vassy. Wie aber sieht unser Tiger aus! Löcher, in die man einen Kopf legen kann! Das Antriebsrad mit Lenkgetriebe und Vorgelege ist glatt durchschossen; das Geschoß steckt noch in der Wanne! Da wird die WK einige Tage zu schweißen und zu flicken haben! - Aber wir sind um so stolzer und enger verbunden mit unserem Panzer, je mehr Löcher und Schrammen er hat; um so kostbarer wird er uns! Er ist für unS viel mehr als nur totes Metall; er ist ein Teil von uns!
Der Aufenthalt in der WK ist stets eine willkommene Gelegenheit für die Panzerkommandanten Erfahrungen und Erlebnisse auszutauschen. Wir hören Berichte anderer Kommandanten, die uns zu denken geben und auch zeigen, daß es im mörderischen Kampfgeschehen ein »Fair play« gibt:
Ein Panzer kommandant berichtet:
»Wir standen in Lauerstellung, als plötzlich englische Panzerwagen in Richtung deutsche Front anrollten. ,Alarm!' - doch halt - sie trugen ja das ,Rote Kreuz'! Es waren englische Sanitätspanzerwagen, die frei bis kurz vor die deutschen Infanteriestellungen anrollten, neben einigen abgeschossenen englischen Panzern stehen blieben, um ihre toten Kameraden zu bergen. Deutsche Infanteristen verließen ebenfalls ihre Stellungen; Zigaretten wurden ausgetauscht und bald war eine lebhafte Unterhaltung im Gange: der Krieg hielt für einen Augenblick den Atem an! Nachdem die Tommis ihre traurige Pflicht erfüllt hatten, begannen die Motoren ihrer Fahrzeuge wieder zu laufen; die Wagen rollten wieder zurück. Ein letztes Winken von beiden Seiten - und der Alltag des Krieges nahm seinen Fortgang.«
Ein anderer Panzerkommandant stand mit seinem Tiger im Kampfraum Maltot. Nacht. Plötzlich kommt aus dem Dunkel eine Gestalt auf Rodingers »Tiger« zugewandelt. Rodinger ist nicht wenig überrascht, einen amerikanischen Offizier zu erkennen, der ihn in seinem Wiener Heimatdialekt anspricht: es war ein emigrierter Wiener, der nun bei den amerikanischen Streitkräften Dienst tat und sich jetzt alle nur erdenkliche Mühe gab, Rodinger und die anderen Panzer zum Überlaufen zu überreden! Eine recht lebhafte Debatte entstand: Rodinger macht ihm klar, daß ein deutscher Soldat, auch wenn er aus der deutschen Ostmark stammt, nicht desertiert! Als der Offizier dringlicher wurde, mußte Rodinger ihm schließlich mit Gefangennahme drohen; da erst ging er wieder in die amerikanische Stellung zurück.