German Commando raid, Granville 1945.

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German Commando raid, Granville 1945.

Post by Ezboard » 30 Sep 2002 20:17

Bill Medland
Veteran Member

Posts: 105
(3/2/02 7:00:05 pm)
German Commando raid, Granville 1945.
The mission is planned
In December 1944, Vice-Admiral Huffmeier, the second in command, in the Channel Islands was in radio contact with Berlin. He asked if he could mount a raid against the town of Granville, about 30 miles (50km) from the island of Jersey.
Granville, a town on the western base of the Cherbourg peninsula was the only harbour of any significance in the area. It was being used by the Allies to bring coal and other supplies to France.
The idea of the raid came about because five German POWs escaped from the Americans, in a stolen landing craft, attacked by the Royal Navy, the Germans made it safe to the Channel Islands. They had been prisoners in Granville and had been able to give much intelligence about the harbour layout.
Sadly the five were later killed flying back to Germany when the aircraft was shot down over Bastogne.
Huffmeier now planned a combined operation. He put his proposals in a private letter to Admiral Krancke, in command of Naval Group West. Krancke decided that the enterprise had a good chance of success and gave his blessing.
The plan was to disrupt the traffic between England and Granville, capture a ship carrying coal (the Channel Islands had no supplies) and destroy the harbour.
In January 1945 a number of men were given special training, there were plenty of volunteers. An Allied intelligence agent reported that 400 handpicked men were being given commando training, but the report when it reached London was not taken seriously.
A flotilla of patrol boats left St.Helier in Jersey on the night of 6th Feb.1945, but fog closed in and the expedition was recalled. Three patrol boats and a tug did not receive the recall order, they came so close to Granville that they could hear the music from the Americans in the Hotel des Bains. Only then did they realize that the rest of the force had returned to St.Helier. They withdrew undetected by the American radar station.
Berlin informed Huffmeier that he was now commandant of the Channel Islands. He set himself to work on a new raid on Granville, no doubt encouraged by the fact that no ships had been detected by Allied radar in the first attempt. Training exercises were carried out by 800 men on Guernsey, the island furthest away from the French coast, and away from the civilian population.
At the end of the first week of March 1945, a German observation post reported that a number of Allied ships were headed for Granville. Vice-Admiral Huffmeier decided that the moment had come to launch the attack. The assault force was dispatched from St.Helier on the evening of 8th March, and moved of in the darkness.
The full scale commando raid flotilla consisted of six minesweepers (masts removed so they would make smaller targets for Allied radar), three heavy gun boats, two landing crafts, three motor torpedo boats, a tug and some smaller craft. Of the landing force, 70 men were assigned to the destruction of port installations.

Edited by: Bill Medland at: 3/2/02 7:02:42 pm

Bill Medland
Veteran Member

Posts: 106
(3/2/02 7:05:26 pm)
Re: German Commando raid, Granville 1945.
Part two follows shortly.

Bill Medland
Veteran Member

Posts: 107
(3/2/02 8:09:50 pm)
Re: German Commando raid, Granville 1945.PART TWO
Continued...eight naval ratings were to go through the ships in the harbour destroying vital equipment; and 7 Luftwaffe men arrived with LMGs were to cover these parties.
A third party of 25 men was ordered to land on the beach by the Hotel des Bains to create a diversion of American forces; a fourth party of 12 men was to try to destroy the radar station.
Inside the harbour on the night of the raid were 5 coastal steamers, they were Kyle Castle, Parkwood, Eskwood, Nephrite, Helen and outside the harbour was the coastal steamer Gem, HM Trawler Pearl and PC 564.
Radar reported the German task force to the Royal Navy, but authorities were unmoved, and 4 hours were wasted before Plymouth was informed, the Americans at Granville assumed matters could be safely left to the Royal Navy.
PC 564 intercepted the German force, her gun jammed and she was heavily damaged with half the crew dead or wounded, PC 564 beached near St. Malo. Half the German flotilla waited outside the harbour, to intercept any further patrol craft attacks, whilst the rest sailed into the harbour.
The Americans signaled the Germans, but because the Germans didn´t know the correct code, they repeated the challenge. The Americans thought the ships had stupidly got the signal muddled and gave the the benefit of the doubt.
Two minesweepers docked and 70 men equipted with demolition charges poured onto the quay-side, covered by the Luftwaffe men with the LMGs. They blew up 9 of the 18 new cranes and a locomotive, laid mines and booby traps.
The American forces were now put onto full alert, the 3rd Battalion of the 156th US Infantry Regiment, some Military Police and a French light infantry company were no match for the German automatic weapon fire.
HMT Pearl guarding the Coastal Ship Gem, used star shells but failed to make contact with the Kriegsmarine.
The smaller naval party was the next in action, destroying the Kyle Castle, Nephrite and Parkwood, but they had no time to deal with the Helen. The tug was brought into the harbour and towed the Eskwood (which was still half full of coal) back to the Channel Islands.
The diversionary attack at the Hotel des Bains was completely succesful, met with little resistance, they also attacked the Hotel Normandie, a French woman helped the Germans, who captured 9 Americans.
The force that was to attack the radar station, ran into a problem when one of the landing craft ran aground and had to be destroyed.
The Germans stayed for a couple of hours, leaving at 3a.m. taking with them 67 of the 79 POWs taken. The Royal Navy and the 156th Infantry Regiment both arrived at 4a.m., the Germans had gone.
On their way back to Jersey in the Channel Islands, the Germans attacked the lighthouse and signal station on the Grand Ile de Chausey.
The German losses were 1 missing, 5 wounded and 1 taken prisoner.
The Allied losses were 9 dead, 30 wounded and 67 POWs taken back to the Cahnnel Islands.
According to Admiral Ruge " Boldness, a sound plan, thorough preparation and complete secrecy had enabled the Channel Islands to strike a shrewd blow".
The raid was important enough to merit a reference in Goebbels Diary.
The Allies improved security after the raid,
and two small German parties that landed on the Cherbourg Peninsula on the 4th and 7th April 1945, were captured - perhaps as a result of improved security.
Bill Medland

(3/4/02 6:38:18 pm)
Reply Thanks,Bill
for posting that.

Veteran Member

Posts: 358
(3/4/02 6:57:28 pm)
Reply Re: Thanks,Bill
Very interesting info Bill. Thanks for writing and posting this article.


Veteran Member
Posts: 374
(3/4/02 8:04:26 pm)
Reply Re: German Commando raid, Granville 1945.PART TWO
Great post Bill! Reads like something out of C.S. Forester or Patrick O'Brian. Regards.

(3/5/02 11:41:22 am)
Reply Superb info. Few questions:
Mr. Meldland:

Thank you very much for such interesting story. Few questions, if you can answer them:

1) Which unit or army (Heer, Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe) belonged the 5 escaped men?
2) Which type of aircraft were used to transport them back to Germany? Were there not suicidal such flights –even at night- through allied France and just in front of the British islands?
3) About the two landing craft used at the raid, were they captured allied ones? One of them the perhaps the one used by the 5 men to escape?

Thanks again for this superb story. Congratulations.

Best regards

Bill Medland
Veteran Member

Posts: 113
(3/5/02 5:01:00 pm)
Re: Superb info. Few questions:
Hello Santiago,
I did not include all of the information in the story because it would have been too long, but to answer your questions.

1/ The five escaped men were Kriegsmarine. The leader had just been awarded the Iron Cross first class.

2/ It does not say in the report which aircraft was used, the journey was full of risk, but the chance had to be taken, if only because of the propaganda value, of escaped former POWs parading in Berlin ( the same thing happened to the survivors of the Bismarck picked up by a German u-boat earlier in the war).The aircraft was shot down by an Allied night fighter. One of the men on the aircraft was Fritz Breithaupt,who had commanded the minesweeper flotilla in the Channel Islands, flags on the Islands were flown at half mast afterwards.

3/ The two landing craft, one of them would have been the American one that had been captured, the other one remains unknown.

Best regards,Bill.

Marcus Wendel

Posts: 1657
(3/5/02 6:38:32 pm)
Re: German Commando raid, Granville 1945.

Thanks for that interesting article.


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