Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

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Panzerspitze
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Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Panzerspitze » 04 Jun 2021 07:43

Earlier posts in the forum claimed Witt was killed by 16-inch gun fire at the Venoix part of Caen.

Given the list of Allied warships participated, is it possibly to conclude with high certainty which one was responsible?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_A ... y_landings

Looking at googlemap, Caen seems over 20km inland from the nearest coast line. I assume the three American battleships with 12- or 14-inch guns and the trio of American heavy cruisers with 8-inch guns probably had their hands full supporting their own sectors. The two obsolete British heavy cruisers with 7.5-inch main armament with alleged max range of 19km would have no chance hitting that far inland. That leaves the British battleships or monitors with 15-inch or 16-inch batteries that could fire on Caen, but which one of them fired the salvo that got Witt?
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Kingfish
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Kingfish » 04 Jun 2021 10:24

On June 9th Rodney was sent back to England to replenish her ammo stock, and didn't return until the 18th. https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chron ... Rodney.htm

Likewise, Warspite was sent back on June 11th for the same reason, and not returning until August to support the capture of Brest.
https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chron ... rspite.htm

Same For HMS Roberts
https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chron ... oberts.htm

HMS Ramilies seems to be the likely culprit
https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chron ... illies.htm
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Panzerspitze
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Panzerspitze » 04 Jun 2021 16:11

Kingfish wrote:
04 Jun 2021 10:24
On June 9th Rodney was sent back to England to replenish her ammo stock, and didn't return until the 18th. https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chron ... Rodney.htm

Likewise, Warspite was sent back on June 11th for the same reason, and not returning until August to support the capture of Brest.
https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chron ... rspite.htm

Same For HMS Roberts
https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chron ... oberts.htm

HMS Ramilies seems to be the likely culprit
https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chron ... illies.htm
Thanks! That looks quite certain. I thought it might have been Erebus, but the same site has little for its activities during the same timeframe https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chron ... Erebus.htm

Edit: Perhaps the 15-inch gun explosion explains the Erebus' lack of participation between 6/8 through 7/18:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Erebus_(I02)
"Erebus was used for coastal bombardment during the Normandy Landings on 6 June 1944, firing at the batteries at Barfleur and La Pernelle. She suffered one 15-inch gun destroyed due to a premature explosion of the high explosive round in the bore.[3]

On 10 August 1944, she was used against the defenders of the harbour at Le Havre. She was damaged by the battery at Clos des Ronces and was out of action for some time."
Last edited by Panzerspitze on 05 Jun 2021 03:28, edited 1 time in total.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 04 Jun 2021 17:39

Panzerspitze wrote:
04 Jun 2021 16:11
Thanks! That looks quite certain. I thought it might have been Erebus, but the same site has little for its activities during the same timeframe
Is there an exact time and place for Witt's death?

Regards

Tom

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Panzerspitze » 05 Jun 2021 03:03

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
04 Jun 2021 17:39
Is there an exact time and place for Witt's death?

Regards

Tom
"Fritz Witt first was buried on the spot near Chateau de la Guillerie, in Tillieres sur Avre," in the Venoix area of Caen.
ref: http://ww2gravestone.com/people/witt-fritz/

The date of his death is usually given as 1944-06-14. IIRC some sources mistakenly claim 1944-06-10. Combining elements from several earlier threads, Witt was said to be playing cards with one of his adjuncts (presumably during daytime) when a large-caliber naval shell exploded in the trees above, killing them both, in Witt's case instantly due to a large shrapnel in the face.

However, Kurt Meyer's recollection (http://archive.org/stream/KurtMeyerGren ... r_djvu.txt) puts it on 1944-06-16, and describes (or shall we say embellishes?), via obvious secondhand account, the circumstances rather differently: "Fritz Witt had been killed because he made sure the soldiers were the first ones into the trenches. When he leapt in, a round hit the ground immediately in front of the trench and killed him on the spot."

I haven't come across the exact time on any of those dates. Kurt Meyer's description seems to put it near noon or in the early afternoon.

PS: Incidentally, I just stumbled upon the source of the claim that Witt was killed by 16-inch HE shells (from Rodney), which now seems improbable given the naval-history.net link cited earlier by @Kingfish:
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Witt ... e-antony-2
D-Day. Die Schlacht um die Normandie („D-Day. The Battle for Normandy“), Antony Beevor; Bertelsmann, München 2010, ISBN 978-3-570-10007-3.
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Michael Kenny » 05 Jun 2021 04:04

The Heimdal 1995 French version of Meyer's 12th SS book has (pg 230) a photo (not wartime) said to be the rear of the Venoix HQ but does not give a location. By using Google Maps I found the building is just to the right of the railway line.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/search/ch ... a=!3m1!1e3
..
Screenshot_144d.jpg
However a June 24 air view does not show any obvious sign of large calibre strikes
..
Screenshot_1449.jpg
..
This is September 26 1944 view
..
Screenshot_14e6.jpg
October 1945 .
Screenshot_150d.jpg
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Panzerspitze
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Panzerspitze » 05 Jun 2021 06:53

Michael Kenny wrote:
05 Jun 2021 04:04
The Heimdal 1995 French version of Meyer's 12th SS book has a photo of the rear of the Venoix HQ but does not give a location. By using Google Maps I found the building is just to the right of the railway line.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/search/ch ... a=!3m1!1e3
..
Screenshot_144d.jpg

However a June 24 air view does not show any obvious sign of large calibre strikes
..
Screenshot_1449.jpg
..
This is September 26 1944 view
..
Screenshot_14e6.jpg

October 1945 .

Screenshot_150d.jpg
Nice!

Surprising, with reports of large-caliber British HE shells bursting at tree top level (reminiscent of later American GI's description of German shelling in Hürtgen Forest), how likely was it that the Church escaped obvious damage visible from aerial views?

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Richard Anderson » 05 Jun 2021 07:46

On 10 June, a British seaman on Ramillies, Ben Platt said, "We have been bombarding rail installations all the day, & have put in some very good shooting." And then on 14 June, "We have just fired 25 15inch progies, at some German camp." Unfortunately, he gives no time. Another, Edward Francis Wightman, gave more details for 10 June, "Afternoon: Bombardment of railway marshalling [sic] yards near Caen. Also troop and transport concentrations. Apparently our salvos are doing a great deal of damage. Very, very few projectiles being outside the target area." And 14 June, "Forenoon - enemy tried shelling Nelson. Presumably mobile batteries. Nelson replied. No further fire. Carried out bombardment of enemy strongpoint north west of Caen. Forward Observation Officer reported six direct hits out of 14. The other eight all within 100 yards. Range 11 miles."

The Force S AAR is pretty laconic too, but does mention that the warships were often firing AP instantaneous fuzed to conserve HE and that Ramillies was firing a large number of her AP rounds as "blinds", which were essentially harassing missions "ordered by the Bombardment Control Ship, in order to bring down heavy fire at short notice on an area of enemy activity, which was causing the Divisional Commander some anxiety." One-third of all battleship fire missions were those and another third were counter-battery, mostly fired on D-Day and then on 15 and 17 June. The rest were area harassing - 20%, observed missions on infantry, tanks, or transport - 13.3%, while the remaining 0.7% were miscellaneous or not recorded.

However, despite that it seems likely that Witt was killed in an observed shoot, albeit accidentally. Since the marshaling yards that were targeted on 10 June were across the Orne well east of the city, it seems unlikely it was the fire that killed Witt. More likely I suspect it was one of the 8 errant rounds fired on 14 June, which probably explain why there is no evidence of multiple strikes there in the aerial photography.
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Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 05 Jun 2021 08:48

Richard Anderson wrote:
05 Jun 2021 07:46
However, despite that it seems likely that Witt was killed in an observed shoot, albeit accidentally. Since the marshaling yards that were targeted on 10 June were across the Orne well east of the city, it seems unlikely it was the fire that killed Witt. More likely I suspect it was one of the 8 errant rounds fired on 14 June, which probably explain why there is no evidence of multiple strikes there in the aerial photography.
Is there any particular reason why we should believe that it was a naval round in the first place and not a round from Allied medium or heavy artillery?

Regards

Tom

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Hans1906 » 05 Jun 2021 09:55

Witt died shortly thereafter, when during the Battle of Caen on June 14, 1944, his headquarters at Venoix came under heavy shellfire from the battleship HMS Rodney. His grave is in the Champigny St. André military cemetery near Évreux, Normandy.

* D-Day. Die Schlacht um die Normandie („D-Day. The Battle for Normandy“), Antony Beevor; Bertelsmann, München 2010, ISBN 978-3-570-10007-3.
Translated from: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Witt


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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Panzerspitze » 05 Jun 2021 10:19

Richard Anderson wrote:
05 Jun 2021 07:46
On 10 June, a British seaman on Ramillies, Ben Platt said, "We have been bombarding rail installations all the day, & have put in some very good shooting." And then on 14 June, "We have just fired 25 15inch progies, at some German camp." Unfortunately, he gives no time. Another, Edward Francis Wightman, gave more details for 10 June, "Afternoon: Bombardment of railway marshalling [sic] yards near Caen. Also troop and transport concentrations. Apparently our salvos are doing a great deal of damage. Very, very few projectiles being outside the target area." And 14 June, "Forenoon - enemy tried shelling Nelson. Presumably mobile batteries. Nelson replied. No further fire. Carried out bombardment of enemy strongpoint north west of Caen. Forward Observation Officer reported six direct hits out of 14. The other eight all within 100 yards. Range 11 miles."

The Force S AAR is pretty laconic too, but does mention that the warships were often firing AP instantaneous fuzed to conserve HE and that Ramillies was firing a large number of her AP rounds as "blinds", which were essentially harassing missions "ordered by the Bombardment Control Ship, in order to bring down heavy fire at short notice on an area of enemy activity, which was causing the Divisional Commander some anxiety." One-third of all battleship fire missions were those and another third were counter-battery, mostly fired on D-Day and then on 15 and 17 June. The rest were area harassing - 20%, observed missions on infantry, tanks, or transport - 13.3%, while the remaining 0.7% were miscellaneous or not recorded.

However, despite that it seems likely that Witt was killed in an observed shoot, albeit accidentally. Since the marshaling yards that were targeted on 10 June were across the Orne well east of the city, it seems unlikely it was the fire that killed Witt. More likely I suspect it was one of the 8 errant rounds fired on 14 June, which probably explain why there is no evidence of multiple strikes there in the aerial photography.
Interesting. So the wikipedia list in my first post missed Nelson, which was present off Normandy until getting mined on 6/18, per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Nelson_(28). Therefore, it had the chance to fire the salvo that killed Witt if it ever fired on Caen during the relevant timeframe (June 10th, 14th or 16th).

If it was Ramillies, and its AP round(s), could the British AP shell used burst and produce shrapnel hitting tree tops like described in some of the accounts, or even upon hitting the ground or building structure? Could it be semi-AP rounds (if any)? One would think regular AP shells would simply pass through most structures on land without fragmenting.

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 05 Jun 2021 12:50

Panzerspitze wrote:
05 Jun 2021 10:19
Therefore, it had the chance to fire the salvo that killed Witt if it ever fired on Caen during the relevant timeframe (June 10th, 14th or 16th).
Surely the date of death for Witt must have been nailed down to at least one particular day?
Panzerspitze wrote:
05 Jun 2021 10:19
If it was Ramillies, and its AP round(s), could the British AP shell used burst and produce shrapnel hitting tree tops like described in some of the accounts, or even upon hitting the ground or building structure? Could it be semi-AP rounds (if any)? One would think regular AP shells would simply pass through most structures on land without fragmenting.
Why couldn't have been a field, medium or heavy artillery round fired by Allied land forces?

It seems strange that you seem to be taking the "naval artillery" aspect of Witt's death as gospel when there doesn't seem to be any certainty around the time or date for his death.

Regards

Tom

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Michael Kenny » 05 Jun 2021 13:26

The date is June 14th as that is the day Kurt Meyer took command of 12th SS. Hubert Meyer's book says there was a 10cm Batterie 'a few hundred meters to the south east' that they assumed was the original target.

24 June shows some 'activity' to the south which is rather tight for a bomb straddle
Screenshot_1d 51.jpg
400 0283 (3277) q.jpg
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Panzerspitze
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Panzerspitze » 05 Jun 2021 13:38

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
05 Jun 2021 12:50
Panzerspitze wrote:
05 Jun 2021 10:19
Therefore, it had the chance to fire the salvo that killed Witt if it ever fired on Caen during the relevant timeframe (June 10th, 14th or 16th).
Surely the date of death for Witt must have been nailed down to at least one particular day?
Panzerspitze wrote:
05 Jun 2021 10:19
If it was Ramillies, and its AP round(s), could the British AP shell used burst and produce shrapnel hitting tree tops like described in some of the accounts, or even upon hitting the ground or building structure? Could it be semi-AP rounds (if any)? One would think regular AP shells would simply pass through most structures on land without fragmenting.
Why couldn't have been a field, medium or heavy artillery round fired by Allied land forces?

It seems strange that you seem to be taking the "naval artillery" aspect of Witt's death as gospel when there doesn't seem to be any certainty around the time or date for his death.

Regards

Tom
By most accounts, it was 6/14. However, in Kurt Meyer's own recollection in the archive.org link above, he wrote June 16th as the date he was summoned to take over. And for the sake of completeness, I mention the third, most likely erroneous date, 6/10 from some earlier Witt threads.

Most sources specifying the cause of death for Witt claim naval gunfire. Others simply don't specify. I haven't seen a single source mention land-based fire as the culprit. Have you any conjecture as to what ground unit(s) could put in a plausible claim, similar to the case of SS-Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann?

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 05 Jun 2021 15:02

Panzerspitze wrote:
05 Jun 2021 13:38
Most sources specifying the cause of death for Witt claim naval gunfire. Others simply don't specify. I haven't seen a single source mention land-based fire as the culprit. Have you any conjecture as to what ground unit(s) could put in a plausible claim, similar to the case of SS-Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann?
Well, pretty much any British or Canadian artillery unit within range and which fired that day (or on any of those days). :lol: :lol:

Are you sure the "naval gunfire" assertion is not just one of the two standard excuses of German land forces in Normandy - it wasn't a fair fight because the Allies had ships and aircraft, etc, etc... :wink:

Regards

Tom

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