Battle of Stonne 15-17 May 1940

Discussions on WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic.
User avatar
David Lehmann
Member
Posts: 2459
Joined: 01 Apr 2002 10:50
Location: France

Battle of Stonne 15-17 May 1940

Postby David Lehmann » 14 Mar 2004 02:28

BATTLE OF STONNE (15-18 May 1940)

See later post for updated version ...

Regards,

David
Last edited by David Lehmann on 12 Dec 2006 21:53, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Musashi
Member
Posts: 3976
Joined: 13 Dec 2002 15:07
Location: Coventry, West Midlands, the UK [it's one big roundabout]

Postby Musashi » 14 Mar 2004 11:01

You did it at last :D I am waiting for the next such topics, because I want to improve my knowledge about the French campaign in 1940 :)
The number of the the German tanks destroyed by the French Char B1 bis No. 3 is impressive. Nice photos :) Did Germans or French have any air support during this battle?
Regards,
Chris

User avatar
David Lehmann
Member
Posts: 2459
Joined: 01 Apr 2002 10:50
Location: France

Postby David Lehmann » 14 Mar 2004 14:00

Hello,

I am preparing a subject about the Abbeville battles about which I am more doucumented and will be able to discuss also all the lacks and deficiencies of the French army during these attacks on the Somme river.
In Stonne I didn't read anything about aerial support, concerning the French air force I think I can say that there was no aircraft in support, about the Germans it is possible.
Bilotte's action in the main street was impressive but the other tanks of its company simply didn't follow because of the French lack of communication and coordination unlike the German tanks, and some were immobilized.

Here an other photo of lost German PzIVs near Stonne :

Regards,

David

User avatar
Rommel8
Member
Posts: 1045
Joined: 13 Jun 2003 02:37
Location: Pennsylvania

Postby Rommel8 » 14 Mar 2004 17:08

David,

On your picture where you circled the marks on the Panzer IV, it looks like none of them penetrated.

Can you explain?

-Rom

User avatar
David Lehmann
Member
Posts: 2459
Joined: 01 Apr 2002 10:50
Location: France

Postby David Lehmann » 14 Mar 2004 17:29

Hello,

As indicated, I have found the photos on http://www.wehrmacht-awards.com/ and as written on them there are from Akira Takiguchi's collection. I haven't encircled the impacts. I don't know what exactly have fired on this Panzer IV, how it was disabled and how crew members were killed (see the graves next to the tank). I can hardly tell you more about this PzIV since I have no specific info.
It is obvious than on some other photos the penetration hole is more obvious like on this SdKfz-222 destroyed by a French 75mm shell on the move towards Paris or this PzIII from 4.PzD probably hit during the Gembloux battle. On the PzIV n°711, on the turret top it looks like schrapnels, a disabled shell ? For the others I don't know. The Panzer is in bad shape but what happened exactly I cannot tell you sorry.

User avatar
Rommel8
Member
Posts: 1045
Joined: 13 Jun 2003 02:37
Location: Pennsylvania

Postby Rommel8 » 15 Mar 2004 01:09

ah thanks David

Andreas
Member
Posts: 6937
Joined: 10 Nov 2002 14:12
Location: Europe

Postby Andreas » 18 Mar 2004 10:55

Excellent stuff.

Bob_Mackenzie
Member
Posts: 514
Joined: 22 Nov 2003 11:02
Location: UK

Postby Bob_Mackenzie » 12 Dec 2006 09:13

To resurect an old thread - anyone got a good topo map of the area pus the surrenating 5km or so?

Cheers

Bob

User avatar
redcoat
Member
Posts: 1294
Joined: 03 Mar 2003 21:54
Location: Stockport, England

Postby redcoat » 12 Dec 2006 13:09

Bob_Mackenzie wrote:To resurect an old thread

Thank you for doing so, its an amazing story :)

Thanks to all concerned

ps,
Does anyone have any info on what happened to Lieutnant Bilotte and his crew

User avatar
David Lehmann
Member
Posts: 2459
Joined: 01 Apr 2002 10:50
Location: France

Postby David Lehmann » 12 Dec 2006 21:32

Hello,

Since this old thread had been resurected, allow me to post more complete notes about this battle.
I have also collected on my HD a good number of photos of the area to give you a better idea of the theater of operations but I cannot post all of them on this forum.

The Heeresgruppe A (Rundstedt) is launched on May 10, 1940 towards the Meuse River. It will cross Luxembourg, advance in Belgium and France through the Ardennes and reach the Meuse River on May 12.

Heeresgruppe A is composed of 37 German divisions (including 7 armored divisions and 3 motorized infantry divisions) and contains, among other elements:
• 1,762 tanks in the 7 Panzerdivisionen
• About 550 armored cars (392 in the 7 Panzerdivisionen, 78 in the 3 motorized infantry divisions and about 80 in the remaining infantry divisions)
• 6 heavy self-propelled AT guns (8.8cm FlaK (Sfl) auf Sd.Kfz.8 from 1./s.Pz.Jg.Abt.8, attached to 1.PzD)
• 30 heavy self-propelled infantry guns (15cm sIG.33 auf PzI)
• 18 assault guns (Sturmgeschütz III)
• Probably all the 99 Panzerjäger I (tank destroyers) ?
--> 2,465 AFVs concentrated against the weak allied forces in the Ardennes

On May 13, after having crossed the Ardennes in Belgium, the XIX.AK (mot.) from general Guderian crosses the Meuse at Sedan with the 1.PzD, 2.PzD, 10.PzD and the "Grossdeutschland" infantry regiment, heavily supported by the Luftwaffe. On May 14-15, a breakthrough is achieved between the French 2nd and 9th Armies. The orders given to the German troops from XIX.AK (mot.) on May 14 at 14h00 are followings:
• "Grossdeutschland" regiment with 2 heavy artillery groups: take the heights of Stonne and cover the southern flank.
• 1.PzD: attack to the west, cross the Ardennes canal at Malmy and Omicourt.
• 2.PzD: attack to the west, cross the Ardennes canal at Hannogne
• 10.PzD: this division is belated and still around Sedan. It will support the "Grossdeutschland" regiment in Stonne.

The woody hills of the Mont-Dieu area are dominating the plain 15 km south of Sedan. The town of Stonne and its hill called the "Pain de Sucre" (335m high) are located between the Mont-Dieu and the Mont-Damion. At Stonne the German advance could be stopped. From Stonne a French counter-attack could eventually be launched on the flank of the German columns. The conquest of Stonne is therefore seen of importance for both German and the French armies.

On May 15, during the first combats in Stonne there is also a series of battles to delay the 1.PzD and the 2.PzD after the German breakthrough in the Belgian Ardennes The 3e BS defend the town of La Horgne during 10 hours against half the 1.PzD. Advanced elements from the 14e DI (I/152e RI, II/152e RI, 2e BCP), remnants from the 5e DLC (I/15e RDP) and elements from the 208e RI (53e DI) defend also several towns (La Bascule, Poix-Terron, Baâlons, Chagny, Bouvellemont, Mazerny, Wignicourt, Faissault etc.) against the advancing 1.PzD. This same day sees also the battle at Flavion in Belgium opposing the 1e DCr to the 5.PzD and 7.PzD.

The area of the Mont Dieu woods was held by the French troops facing German assault from May 15 to May 25. During this time there were important battles in Stonne, Les Grandes Armoises, Tannay and Le Chesne. During these battles the French lost about 3,000 men including about 1,000 KIAs. The German losses were even higher, serious studies estimate them 3 times higher.

From May 15 to May 25, fierce battles will take place in the Mont Dieu area (including Stonne), only 15 km south of Sedan. The Aisne River (and especially the area of Rethel), also south of Sedan in the Ardennes, will resist from until June 11. The French Ardennes will therefore see several of the bloodiest battles of May-June 1940. About 10,000 French soldiers died in the Ardennes (10% of the total number of 100,000 KIAs). On the German side there are about 9,500 KIAs in the Ardennes in May-June 1940 for a total of 45,218 KIAs during the campaign. Therefore about 21% of the German KIAs felt in the French Ardennes. Most of them were killed in the area of Stonne / Tannay (about 2,000 KIAs) and during June 9-10 when attacking the French lines on the Aisne River (especially in the area of Rethel) with about 3,500 KIAs.

*** The battle of Stonne (May 15-18, 1940) ***

--> GERMAN FORCES:

Guderian engages in the area of Stonne the "Grossdeutschland" motorized infantry regiment, elements of the 10.PzD (Panzer-Regiment 8) and engineers from the 1.PzD. The presence of elements of both the 1.PzD and the 10.PzD is confirmed by the Germans POWs captured by the French troops.

-- 10.PzD --
PzI: 44
PzII: 113
PzBef: 18
PzIII: 58
PzIV: 32
TOTAL = 265

The 10.PzD has 265 tanks on May 10. Panzerjäger Abteilung 521 (with 18 Panzerjäger I) is attached to the 10.PzD and the "Grossdeutschland" regiment includes Sturmgeschütz-Batterie 640 (6 Sturmgeschütze III Ausf.B) for a total of 289 German tanks, assault guns and tank destroyers.

Auflklärung Abteilung 90 (10.PzD) has strength of 56 armored cars.

Theoretically, in each of the Aufklärung Abteilung (AA) there is:
• Battalion HQ with 1 SdKfz.247
• Signal platoon
--o 1 SdKfz.263 (Fu)
--o 1 SdKfz.261 (Fu)
--o 1 SdKfz.260 (Fu)
• 2 companies of armored cars each with :
--o Company HQ with 1 SdKfz.247
--o Signal detachment with 4 SdKfz.223 (Fu) and 1 SdKfz.263 (Fu)
--o Heavy platoon with 3 6-Rad SdKfz.231 and 3 8-Rad SdKfz.232 (Fu)
--o Light platoon with 6 SdKfz.221
--o Light platoon with 4 SdKfz.221 and 4 SdKfz.222
--> TOTAL: 56 armored cars (including 20 armored cars with a 2.0cm L/55 gun)

On May 17, elements of the 2.ID (mot) cover the retreat of the "Grossdeutschland" infantry regiment and 10.PzD. They are replaced by the 16.ID, 24.ID and 26.ID of the VI.AK.

The French troops in the Mont Dieu area are then facing:
• The 16.ID [attacking in the Mont Damion area and Stonne] – on the right
• The 24.ID [attacking in the Mont Dieu woods] – on the front
• The 24.ID + the 26.ID [attacking towards Tannay and hill 276] – on the left

The later involved AA 2 (2.ID mot.) contains 26 armored cars (a single company) and the 3 infantry divisions have an armored car platoon of 3 armored cars [one was an SdKfz.14 Funk-Kraftwagen (unarmed, open-topped radio vehicle); the other two were SdKfz.13 MG-Kraftwagen (thinly-armoured, open-topped, with minimal off-road capacity but armed with a single MG34 behind a little armoured shield)].

There are therefore at first 56, then 26 and later 9 potential armored cars involved in the Mont Dieu area. That makes a total of potentially 380 German AFVs available in the area between May 15 to May 17.
From May 17 to May 25 there are therefore only a few armored cars but testimonies speak about German tanks also present during that period of time. Are these still several tanks or armored cars from 10.PzD ? Various self-propelled guns and tank destroyers units ? Army / army corps elements may have been involved too. The Germans troops had also strong support from the Luftwaffe during all the battle.


--> FRENCH FORCES:

To defend the Mont-Dieu area, the French troops include the 3e DCr (reduced to 138 tanks instead of 160 tanks), the 3e DIM and several reconnaissance groups. The tanks of the 3e DCr are not concentrated around Stonne but spread from Stonne to the east to the area around La Cassine.

-- 3e DCr (Division Cuirassée) --

The 3e DCr was created on March 20, 1940. Since at least 4 months training were required to make of a DCr an operational unit, the 3e DCr was not completely ready on May 10. The different commanders were:
• General Brochard (March 20, 1940)
• General Buisson (May 16, 1940)
• Colonel Le Brigant (June 7, 1940)
• General Buisson (June 11, 1940)

Order of battle:

• 5e Demi-brigade lourde (lieutenant-colonel Maître) (5th heavy half-brigade)
--o 41e BCC (commandant Malaguti)
--o 49e BCC (commandant Préclaire)
---> 63 Renault B1bis tanks instead of the theoretical 69 tanks (1 half-brigade command tank and 2 battalions of 31 tanks + 3 reserve tanks)

• 7e Demi-brigade légère (lieutenant-colonel Salanié) (7th light half-brigade)
--o 42e BCC (commandant Vivet)
--o 45e BCC (commandant Bézanger) – Gendarmerie battalion
--> 75 Hotchkiss H39 tanks instead of the theoretical 90 tanks (1 half-brigade command tank and 2 battalions of 40 tanks + 5 reserve tanks)

The 3/42e BCC (3rd company of the 42e BCC, 15 Hotchkiss H39 tanks) was indeed sent with the FECS (French Expediationary Corps in Scandinavia) in April 1940. In Norway it became the 342e CACC (Compagnie Autonome de Chars de Combat - independent tank company).

• 16e BCP (Bataillon de Chasseurs Portés - commandant Waringhem) but with only 50% of its all terrain vehicles (includes 9 25mm SA34/37 AT guns)

• 319e RATTT (Régiment d'Artillerie à Tracteurs Tout Terrain – colonel Laurent)
(with 24 105mm C Mle1935 Bourges howitzers)
The regiment lacks ammunition caissons and is therefore often next to the roads. Many radio sets are also lacking.

• 133/84e Compagnie mixte de transmission (mixed radio/telephone signal company)

The 3e DCr lacks many of its planned all-terrain recovery and supply vehicles. The divisional AT battery as well as the engineer company are also missing.


-- 3e DIM (Division d'Infanterie Motorisée) --

The first motorised infantry divisions were formed during the early 30's. Initially there were to be 5, but by the spring of 1935 this was increased to 7. Despite their name they were not fully motorised units, they had no organic vehicles to move all the infantry. They even had an allotment of horses and wagons. Each regiment only possessed enough vehicles to move the regimental and battalion headquarters. The motorized infantry squads of a motorized infantry regiment are classical 12-men infantry squads but carried by trucks or buses (Laffly S20TL and Lorraine 38L are only for the Dragons Portés and Chasseurs Portés units). The troops of the division were moved by a GTP "groupement de transport de personnel" for strategical movements, which when not transporting the division was withdrawn for other duties near to where the regiment was stationed. Usually 3 GTPs are assigned to a motorized infantry division (DIM), one per regiment grossly. One GTP consisted of a staff and 3 transport groups, each group having 4-5 transport companies (1 GTP = 2 companies of trucks and 3 companies of buses for about 200 trucks and 200 buses). A division on open terrain would hold a front 5 to 7 kilometers wide and some 5 deep. The 3e DIM has been mobilized on August 27, 1939. The commander was General Bertin-Boussus.

Composition of the 3e DIM:

• A divisional headquarters

• 3 motorized infantry regiments (each with a command company, a weapons company and 3 infantry battalions). Each motorized infantry regiment included an AA guns platoon (with 4 20mm Mle1939 AA guns – Oerlikon)
--o 51e RI (Lieutenant-colonel Guy)
--o 67e RI (Lieutenant-colonel Dupret)
--o 91e RI (Lieutenant-colonel Jacques)

• A (13th) divisional pioneer company – depending from 51e RI

• A (14th) divisional AT company (CDAC = compagnie divisionnaire anti-char, 12 25mm SA34 AT, motorized) commanded by Capitaine Seminel – depending from 51e RI

• A divisional training centre (CID = centre d'instruction divisionnaire)

• 6e GRDI (divisional reconnaissance group) (Lieutenant-colonel Dufour)
This divisional reconnaissance group includes various elements like motorcyclists but also armored cars and several light tanks which are probably : 12 Panhard 178 (+ 1 radio armored car + 2 reserve armored cars), 12 Citroën-Kégresse P16 and 4 AMR35 ZT3.

• 42e RAD - A light artillery regiment (RAD = régiment d'artillerie divisionnaire) (Lieutenant-colonel Morille)
--o 3 artillery groups (36 75mm Mle1897 guns) - motorized
--o a 10th divisional AT battery with 8 towed 47mm Mle1937 AT guns (BDAC = batterie de défense anti-char) (Capitaine Dufaure)
--o a divisional AA battery with 6 25mm AA guns towed by Laffly trucks (BDAA = batterie de défense anti-aérienne) originally 702e battery from 409e RADCA (Lieutenant Demont)

• 242e RALD - A heavy artillery regiment (RALD = régiment d'artillerie lourde divisionnaire) (Lieutenant-colonel Thomas) with 12 155mm C Mle1917 howitzers and 12 105mm C Mle1934 howitzers)

• Parc d'artillerie divisionnaire (PAD) (divisional artillery park) (Chef d'escadron Carron)
• 3e bataillon de sapeurs-mineurs motorisé (motorized engineer battalion)
• A telegraph company
• A radio company
• An HQ motor transport company
• A motor transport company
• A divisional quartermaster service
• A divisional medical group


THE BATTLE:

In the night of May 13-14, the French urged various elements south of Sedan to counter-attack the Germans:
• elements from the 3e DIM (Division d'Infanterie Motorisée): I/67e RI, 10e and 11e companies from 51e RI
• elements of the 3e DCr (Division Cuirassée): 1/45e BCC (Hotchkiss H39 tanks), 3/49e BCC (Renault B1bis tanks)
• 2/4e BCC (FCM36 tanks)

The 3e DCr and 3e DIM arrive only on May 14 around 16h00 for the first troops (mainly reconnaissance elements).

They will face the 10.PzD (Pz.Rgt. 8), the I/69.IR, the "Grossdeutschland" infantry regiment and the 43. Sturmpionier Bataillon.

The battle of Stonne has been called by the Germans the "Verdun of 1940". The town itself switched side 17 times in 3 days (May 15-17). The Kriegstagebuch (journal) of the "Grossdeutschland" regiment indicates that "the name of Stonne entered in the history of the regiment with blood".

Possession of the town (according to K.H. Frieser - German time probably):

- May 15:
8h00: German
9h00: French
9h30: German
10h30: French
10h45: German
12h00: French
17h30: German

- May 16:
7h30: French
17h00: German

- May 16-17 night: Stonne remained unoccupied

- May 17:
9h00: German
11h00: French
14h30: German
15h00: French
16h30: German
17h00: French
17h45: German


--> May 15:

Early in the morning of the May 15, the "Grossdeutschland" infantry regiment supported by tanks of the 10.PzD assaults the town of Stonne, which is defended by the I/67e RI and elements of the 6e GRDI. The French position is attacked on the front and on the flanks. The French are pulled back and 7 German AFVs are reported to be knocked out (e.g. Panzer IV n°711 is destroyed by the 25mm AT gun from Sergent Durand - but mainly due to the intervention of the 3/49e BCC with its B1bis tanks). 2 Panhard 178 armored cars from the 6e GRDI are also knocked out.

At 5h30, the 1/45e BCC (Hotchkiss H39 tanks) moves from the Grandes-Armoises to Stonne and they wipe out several German infantry positions. At 7h30 they are next to the town of Stonne but 2 Hotchkiss tanks are lost and the company moves back.

The 3/49e BCC (Renault B1bis tanks) carries on with the attack. The heavy tanks move into the town and the Germans have to evacuate Stonne. At 9h30 the French tanks are deployed on the southern edge of the town. Since no French infantry has actually followed the heavy tanks, the town is later again occupied by the Germans.

A renewed attack is launched at 10h30 with several tanks from the 45e BCC (Hotchkiss H39), 49e BCC (Renault B1bis) and one platoon of the 4e BCC (FCM36) supported by 1 infantry company of the 51e RI. The town is captured and again in French hands. The combats are intense and the infantry is fighting house by house. During their approach, the French tanks are already engaged by German guns (AT guns ? infantry guns ? AA guns ? tanks ?).

The 14th anti-tank company from "Grossdeutschland" infantry regiment (Lieutenant Beck-Broichsitter) is engaged later against the French tanks. This Lieutenant describes a very confuse situation (in French in "Les combats du Mont-Dieu" by Gérard Giuliano): a German tank abandoned in a ditch, German guns hidden on a hill behind his own position and firing on the French troops. His men hide behind a house to avoid a French tank which moves very closely etc.
Three 3.7cm PaK are deployed and engage 6 French tanks. The losses among the German infantry and gunners are increasing under the French fire. Then the Germans report having engaged about 10 French tanks on a large front. The combat will last about 1 hour.

What is sure is that the overall situation is rather intricate. There are many different units involved, it is not a simple duel between 3.7cm PaK and French tanks like it is often described.

The German infantry companies have to move gradually back. Lieutenant Beck-Broichsitter reports then the help of German self-propelled guns. Does that mean the StuG III Ausf.B of the Sturmgeschütz-Batterie 640 or the Panzerjäger I of the Panzerjäger Abteilung 521 ? He also reports that 4 infantry guns are deployed in support (7.5cm leIG or 15.0cm sIG ?) to engage the French troops. The German losses are nonetheless increasing, despite these reinforcements. Several AT guns of his company are scattered with splinters but continue to fire. Until yet they do not report having destroyed a single French tank.

At this moment the AT platoon of Hindelang is said to be attacked by 3 Renault B1bis tanks. Corporal in Chief Giesemann targets an area on the 'right' side of one tanks and fire burst out of the tank. The two remaining AT guns then target this area on the French tanks. Quickly a direct hit destroys one of the two German AT guns. Hindelang moves then back with its remaining AT gun and the 3 heavy tanks are said to be out of combat. From this it is generally said that the B1bis intake shutter on the left side of the tank is a weak point and that 3 Renault B1bis tanks have been knocked out by German 3.7cm AT guns.

The French troops capture the town of Stonne.

According to the description in the report, the intake shutter of the B1bis is on the wrong side but in the heat of the battle the gunner may have made a mistake. The 3.7cm PaK of the AT company are often said to have knocked out 3 B1bis tanks. From what I have researched, only 1 of the B1bis which are claimed (3) can eventually be credited to the AT guns of the "Grossdeutschland" regiment. And this was apparently at very close range in the town (≤ 100m probably). The 2 others have been neutralized by the fire of a Panzer IV.
Anyway, there were many German guns firing, it's not a simple duel at all as pointed previously. Concerning the efficiency of the 3.7cm PaK just read the German reports from 3.Panzerbrigade about the battle of Hannut. The 3.7cm KwK are inefficient against the French Hotchkiss H39 and Somua S35 tanks (40mm armor) beyond 200-300 meters.

3 Squadrons of Ju-87 'Stuka' dive bombers attack Stonne at this moment. This action is followed by heavy shelling of the German artillery. At 12h30, the French troops move temporarily back under this intense fire. About 3 hours later, B1bis tanks from 49e BCC occupy the town again and the defense is now in the hand of infantry elements of the 67e RI. The French tank move then back; the town is only defended by infantry and AT guns.

During the evening a strong German attack is launched: the "Grossdeutschland" infantry regiment is supported by all the infantry companies of the 10.PzD and takes again the core of the town. The French troops of the 67e RI are still holding the southern edge of Stonne.

The presence of Panzer IV of the 10.PzD and of Panzerjäger I is confirmed in the town and in the vicinity by various photography of German wrecks.

Only at the end of May 15, the 3e DIM is now rather complete to face the German troops.


I have found a document from the artillery museum in France about the battle of Stonne : "l'artillerie de la 3e DIM du 14 mai au 7 juin 1940 au sud de Sedan dans la bataille de Stonne". Among other things it includes a testimony from a German tanker from 10.PzD (Karl Koch, PzRgt 8, 7th company - he is in the turret of a Panzer IV) on May 15 in Stonne.

5 Panzer IVs and 5 Panzer IIs from 10.PzD are moving towards Stonne. Suddenly 3 Panzer IVs are knocked out by an ambushed French 25mm AT gun. In Karl Koch's Panzer IV the driver is hit but manages nonetheless to move the tank a little bit more. The crew bails out except the driver which is heavily wounded and the radio operator who is under shock. While abandoning his Panzer IV under French infantry fire, Karl Koch sees the French AT gun very close to the 3 German wrecks and one of the 3 Panzer IVs is burning. Behind the 3 knocked out tanks, the 2 remaining Panzer IVs and 5 Panzer IIs are waiting.

These 5 German tanks enter in Stonne while the French AT gun has already moved to another emplacement. The 3 crew members of Karl Koch's Panzer go again to the knocked out Panzer IVs, wanting to use one of them as pillbox. The driver is evacuated and the radio operator is found dead on the tank with a bullet in the head (did he commit suicide or was he shot be a French sharpshooter while trying to evacuate ?).

The 5 Panzer IIs retreat quickly out of Stonne, signalling a French tank attack. [On May 16, Karl Koch will be told that the 2 remaining Panzer IVs from his platoon had finally been destroyed in the town.]

Karl Koch and his comrades are at this moment waiting for French tanks to appear out of the town. A first French tank is knocked out after 2 shots (at 600m for the first one). 10 minutes later a second tank arrives beside the first one and still later a third one. All of them are neutralized (immobilized, destroyed) by the immobilized Panzer IV. These tanks are very probably Hotchkiss H39 tanks form the 45e BCC but on the French side only 2 Hotchkiss tanks are reported destroyed (perhaps one of them could be recovered later since the town was occupied by French troops after this attack – or one of these tanks is perhaps a FCM36). French infantry appears (probably men from an infantry company from 51e RI) but these elements are pulled back by the German tanks. The German tankers gather ammunition from the other remaining Panzer IVs.

After a long moment a 4th French tank arrives, and is described as a "monster". It is very likely a Renault B1bis tank and seems to be a surprise for the German tankers. They say having shot about 20 times on this tank with their 7.5cm KwK without effect. Finally additional shots enable to destroy one of the tracks of this French tank. Later a 5th French tank arrives, also a B1bis tank. It fires with all its weapons but has apparently not spotted the German tank (or took it as a wreck like the 2 other ones). The French tank is also probably under fire form other German units and firing against other targets. Once again all the German shots are without effect until the barrel of the 47mm turret gun is hit and the French tank is damaged while firing with it. This French tank is abandoned by its crew.

We know that 3 Renault B1bis were lost on May 15: B1bis "Chinon", "Gaillac" and "Hautvillers" from 49e BCC.

Therefore, at least 2 Renault B1bis tanks and 2-3 light tanks were destroyed or immobilized by the Panzer IV of Karl Koch. That means that these 2 B1bis tanks were not at all destroyed by 3.7cm AT guns according to this testimony; or at least not by a 3.7cm PaK alone. The French tanks were probably under fire from various German guns and tanks.

The 3rd Renault B1bis can eventually be credited to the 14th AT company of the "Grossdeutschland" infantry regiment (Lieutenant Beck-Broichsitter) [the famous intake shutter testimony] but probably not the 3 Renault B1bis like they claim it.

During the same time at least 5 Panzer IVs, 12 various vehicles and 6 AT guns have been knocked out. The Germans claim the destruction of 33 French tanks on that day but the real number of knocked out French AFVs is 10-11 tanks, including 3 Renault B1bis.

The B1bis "Gaillac" as seen on the photos has a destroyed track and would eventually be the first B1bis tank knocked out by Karl Koch.
The B1bis "Hauvillers" is also the one said to have been knocked out by Karl Koch on Antoine Misner's website. This is the one which has been hit on its turret gun.
The B1bis "Chinon" would then perhaps be the Renault B1bis knocked out at very close range by a 3.7cm PaK ?


Renault B1bis "Gaillac"
• Commander: Adjudant-chef Jean Simon
• Driver: Sergent Jean Mathis
• Radio operator: Caporal Pierre Mairot
• Driver assistant: Caporal Marie Schnoebelen
One track is destroyed and all the crew members are KIA.

Renault B1bis "Chinon"
• Commander: Sous-lieutenant Yves Rohou
• Driver: Sergent-chef André Ducasse
• Radio operator: Caporal-chef Maxime Quevy
• Driver and commander assistant: Chasseurs Roger Mauger and Henri Vanderbercq
All the crew members are shot while bailing out.

Renault B1bis "Hautvillers"
• Commander: Sous-lieutenant Jacques Klein
• Driver: Caporal-chef Emile Chanel
• Radio operator: ?
• Driver assistant: ?
The turret is blocked, the 47mm SA35 gun is damaged, the left track is cut and the armor is slightly damaged (spalling ?) with splinters slightly wounding the driver. The tank begins to burn after and electric fire leading later to an internal explosion.


--> May 16:

May 16 will see the involvement of 2 companies of the 41e BCC supporting the action of the III/51e RI. The attack is preceded by an artillery preparation of 45 minutes organized by the 242e RALD. The combats will be very intense. The "Grossdeutschland" infantry regiment and the 10.PzD are then replaced by the 16.ID, 24.ID and 26.ID. On May 16, at 01h30, the 41e BCC is ordered to attack Stonne with its 1st and 3rd companies.

The 41e BCC was created on November 16, 1939 with troops of the tank park n°511 and Renault B1bis tanks. The battalion will be integrated in the 3e DCr, the last French armored division formed before the beginning of the combats, on March 20, 1940. The battalion itself will have 6 months of intense training thanks to a good core of active/peacetime officers and NCOs. The training at the company and battalion level is then rather good but the unit had only one training at the divisional scale on May 9, 1940.

Main officers:
• Commander: Commandant Malaguti
• Staff commander: Capitaine Cornet
• Intelligence officer: Lieutenant De Witasse
• Signal officer: Lieutenant Sery
• 1st tank company: Capitaine Billotte
• 2nd tank company: Capitaine Gasc
• 3rd tank company: Capitaine Delepierre
• Reserve company: Capitaine Simo

During the battles of May/June 1940 all the tanks will be lost and the battalion will have 43 KIAs (8 officers, 14 NCOs, 21 corporals and men).

The battalion will be engaged without interruption. The main engagements are:
• in the Mont-Dieu / Stonne area (15 km south of Sedan) during May
• around Perthes and Rethel (south of the Aisne River) in a counter-attack against the 1.PzD during June
• numerous smaller sacrifice missions (defense of a bridge at Pogny-sur-Marne etc.)
The last tank of the battalion is lost on June 15, 1940.

The battalion has been awarded 8 Legion of Honour medals, 22 Military medals and mentioned in dispatches many times (64 times by the regiment, 34 times by the brigade, 43 times by the divisions, 13 times by the Army and 29 times by the Army Corps).


At 3h00, the 1/41e BCC and the 3/41e BCC are moving to the departure line in the woods of Fay. The Renault B1bis tanks will open the way to the III/51e RI of the 3e DIM. The infantry will be directly supported by Hotchkiss H39 tanks from the 2/45e BCC.

The troops could not perform a reconnaissance of the area before the attack and the intelligence about the enemy is very limited. The 41e BCC is not aware if the town is currently in French or German hands when it starts moving.

The B1bis tanks will advance in an inversed V formation. The B1bis "Vienne" of Commandant Malaguti is leading the attack.

On his left the 1/41e BCC commanded by Capitaine Billotte with 7 tanks:
• B1bis "Eure" (Capitaine Billotte)
• B1bis "Lot" (Lieutenant Delalande)
• B1bis "Vauquois" (Lieutenant Bourgeois)
• B1bis "Volnay" (Lieutenant Pignot)
• B1bis "Tarn" (Lieutenant Rabin)
• B1bis "Beaune" (Lieutenant Adelmans)
• B1bis "Sambre" (Lieutenant Bramant)

On his right the 3/41e BCC commanded by Capitaine Delepierre with 7 tanks:
• B1bis "Somme" (Capitaine Delepierre)
• B1bis "Doubs" (Lieutenant Bricart)
• B1bis "Meursault" (Sous-Lieutenant Guyhur)
• B1bis "Trépail" (Lieutenant Dive)
• B1bis "Muscadet" (Sous-Lieutenant Soret)
• B1bis "Moselle" (Aspirant Léonard)
• B1bis "Vertus" (Lieutenant Hachet)

At 4h30 the Vth group of the 242e RATTT (12 105mm C howitzers) makes a 45 minutes artillery preparation on Stonne, the "Pain de Sucre" hill (the dominating hill east of Stonne) and the southern edges of the Grande Côte woods.

At 5h15, the 1/41e BCC encounters the first German elements. These troops are from the "Grossdeutschland" infantry regiment, supported by 2 tanks and an AT defense organized in depth. The 2 German tanks are quickly destroyed. Commandant Malaguti himself said about the Germans of this elite regiment: "beautiful warriors, they fired at us until we were at 100m of them. Then they ran away, fall down and simulated death or stayed in their foxholes until we killed them".

The 3/41e BCC reaches its first objective after 12 minutes and destroys the water tower of Stonne on which the Germans had deployed MGs. The French tank company stops and fires on the edges of Stonne to neutralize MGs and AT guns.

The 1/41e BCC outflanks Stonne by the north-west but capitaine Billotte is hampered by several cliffs and important slopes. He has to move to the right, arriving in Stonne itself (from the north-west) before the battalion commander. The B1bis "Eure" arrives nose to nose with 13 German tanks of Pz.Rgt.8 (10.PzD) in column in the main street of the town. The first tank is only at 30m. Billotte orders the driver (sergent Durupt) to target the last tank with the 75mm SA35 hull gun while he destroys the first tank with the 47mm SA35 turret gun. The first shots destroyed simultaneously the first and the last German tank of the column, the others could hardly move. In several minutes, the B1bis "Eure" advances in the street and neutralize the 11 remaining tanks while numerous shells are hitting the armor of the B1bis without penetrating it. 2 Panzer IVs and 11 Panzer IIIs are reported as being destroyed (It is however not 100% sure that among them there were not several wrecks from the previous day). Billotte crosses the whole town and destroys also two 3.7cm AT guns next to the "Pain de Sucre". The armor of the B1bis revealed later to be scattered with 140 impacts and gouges, none of the projectiles penetrated the armor according to the war diary of the 41e BCC. One can see here a kind of small reversed "Villers Bocage".

Malaguti enters the main street (from the south-west) a few minutes after Billotte and fires also at all the possible targets he could spot but none of the German tanks aligned in the street reacted anymore. Malaguti moves south in two other streets and finally exits the town by the south. He spots 2 B1bis wrecks ("Hautvillers" and "Gaillac" probably) from the 49e BCC (attack of the 15th May) and joins the 10th company of the 51e RI.

Billotte contacts then the battalion commander (Malaguti) by radio to report that the woods north of Stonne are full of MGs and AT guns firing at him. He moves back to Stonne.

Delepierre, the commander of the 3/41e BCC contacts Malaguti by radio to know if he can carry on with its progression but he is ordered to wait for the French artillery. 10 minutes later, the French artillery lengthens its fire and the 3/41e BCC moves to its next objective. The company arrives in a very rough ground with many gullies and cliffs hidden by dense vegetation. The dangers are hidden and the visual contact between the tanks is made difficult. The B1bis "Somme" is isolated and attacked at 100m by two 3.7cm AT guns. In 2 minutes the armor is scattered by a dozen of impacts. None of them penetrated the armor but the turret is blocked and the optics of the observation copula is destroyed. One German AT gun is destroyed by a HE shell and the B1bis moves on. Due to a hidden gully the B1bis falls over and lies on the flank. The tank is abandoned, put on fire by the crew. The men manage to reach the French lines again.

On May 16, the following B1bis tanks involved in the French attack have been lost during or will be abandoned a bit after the attack:
• B1bis "Somme": immobilized on the flank and scuttled by the crew
• B1bis "Vertus": MIA (single tank lost possibly due to enemy fire)
• B1bis "Meursault": first immobilized in a gully and against a big tree. It is towed by the B1bis "Moselle" and B1bis "Trépail". The tank will later be scuttled south of the Grandes Armoises due to important mechanical breakdown
• B1bis "Trépail": the tank experiences engine mechanical breakdown and will be scuttled later

At 5h30, the III/51e RI (10th and 11th companies), supported by the 2/45e BCC (Hotchkiss H39 tanks), begins to move towards Stonne. They encounter German troops which have joined again their foxholes after the passage of the French heavy tanks. Around 7h00, the French infantry controls the town of Stonne.

At 10h00 and during more than half an hour the town is again heavily bombed by German dive bombers. They are followed until 12h00 by heavy German artillery shelling. At 15h00 the French tanks (41e BCC and 45e BCC) are ordered to move back to be used in other areas than the town of Stonne itself. At the end of the afternoon, the French infantry moves on the edges of the town because of the heavy German shelling. North-west of Stonne, in the woods the German assaults have all been defeated by the 67e RI. Reinforcements are arriving in the area of the Mont Damion, east of Stonne, with the III/5e RICMS from 6e DIC.

On May 16, around 17h00, the Renault B1bis "Ricquewihr" (commanded by Lieutenant Doumecq or Domercq ? Apparently the second name is the right one but the first one can be found in several books) from 49e BCC attacks towards Stonne and encounters a German infantry column, which fires at the tank with infantry weapons including anti-tank rifles, without effect. The B1bis crushes German troops and pushes into the town defended by the Schützen-Regiment 64. When the German soldiers saw the bloody tracks of the tank they fled in panic and abandoned Stonne which remained unoccupied for the night. After that action Domercq was nicknamed "the butcher of Stonne" by his comrades. It will be heavily involved in the combats of Tannay on May 23-24. The B1bis "Ricquewihr" will be the last tank of the 3e DCr, abandoned on June 18, at Sombernon north-east of Dijon, the weapons having been previously scuttled by the crew.

End 1942, Domercq (former commander of the tank and living in Paris) is in a pub on the Poincaré Avenue where a German tanker shows several photos to his friends. Domercq recognize his former tank, the "Ricquewihr". The German explains that he is now the commander of this tank, that he fired with it and that it was a good tank. He will join the tank and the rest of the crew on the Russian front. The German tanker gave the following photo of his former tank to Domercq (information by Roger Avignon).

The Renault B1bis "Ricquewihr" and its original crew:
• Commander: Sous-lieutenant Stoltz
• Driver: Sergent Ducassou
• Radio operator: Voisin
• Driver assistant: Caporal Cossec

Stonne saw very hard combats and some German officers mentioned Stonne beside Stalingrad and Monte Cassino amongst the battles they will never forget.

In two days (May 15-16), the "Grossdeutschland" regiment alone will loose 103 KIAs, 442 WIAs and 25 MIAs (570 men). For the whole campaign the "Grossdeutschland" regiment had 278 KIAs and 830 WIAs (1,108 losses). Therefore the regiment sustained 51% of its losses of May-June 1940 in only 2 days in Stonne. Then of course we would have to count all the equipment losses. I can only give details for the 14th AT company of the "Grossdeutschland" infantry regiment: 13 KIAs, 65 WIAs, 12 vehicles destroyed and 6 AT guns destroyed (50% of the AT guns of the company).

On May 15-16, the 10.PzD will definitely loose about 25 tanks and the French will loose several 33 tanks. These wrecks will remain on the battlefield. What can also be said from German sources in that later, on June 5, before the battle south of Amiens, the 10.PzD is reduced to 180 tanks [85 "missing" tanks].

Other examples of known losses can be given for the later stages of the battle in the Mont Dieu area. During May 23-24, the German 24.ID sustained 1,490 losses (347 KIAs, 1,086 WIAs and 57 MIAs) in the area of Tannay [left French flank]. During May 17-25, the I/79.IR sustained 191 losses (41 KIAs, 144 WIAs and 6 MIAs) in the area of the Mont Damion [right French flank].

Between May 15 and May 25, the French infantry lost also many men. For example the I/67e RI had 362 KIAs and a company of the 51e RI finished the battle with only 5 sergeants and 30 soldiers left !


Sources:
• "Blitzkrieg à l’Ouest, Mai-Juin 40" (Jean-Paul Pallud)
• "Fallait-il sauver le char Bayard ?" (René Boly)
• "L'Arme Blindée Française (volume 1) : Mai-juin 1940 ! Les blindés français dans la tourmente" (Gérard Saint-Martin)
• "l'artillerie de la 3e DIM du 14 mai au 7 juin 1940 au sud de Sedan dans la bataille de Stonne" (Musée de l'Artillerie)
• "Le mythe de la guerre-éclair – la campagne de l'Ouest de 1940" (Karl-Heinz Frieser)
• "Les combats du Mont-Dieu – Mai 1940" (Gérard Giuliano)
• Testimonies of various veterans including several from the 41e BCC which were used in the book by René Boly.
• War diary of the 41e BCC

Best regards,

David Lehmann

User avatar
David Lehmann
Member
Posts: 2459
Joined: 01 Apr 2002 10:50
Location: France

Postby David Lehmann » 12 Dec 2006 21:41

Still about May 15 and in the same area but more north/west:

Remnants of other units will sacrifice themselves to delay the advancing German Panzerdivisionen. The 3e BS (Brigade de Spahis) defend the town of La Horgne during 10 hours against half the 1.PzD.

Advanced elements from the 14e DI (I/152e RI, II/152e RI, 2e BCP), remnants from the 5e DLC (I/15e RDP) and elements from the 208e RI (53e DI) defend also several towns (La Bascule, Poix-Terron, Baâlons, Chagny, Bouvellemont, Mazerny, Wignicourt, Faissault etc.) against the advancing 1.PzD. Most of their few 25mm SA34 AT guns are lost but they manage to knock out about 40 German tanks and to delay the German advance. This allows the French units engaged during the previous days to retreat. A bit more north, the weakened bulk of the 53e DI cannot stop the concerted assaults of the 2.PzD and of the 1.PzD. The 14e DI is finally ordered to pull back behind the Aisne River and to establish a defensive line (between Taizy and Attigny) with a bridgehead north of the Aisne River in the town of Rethel. This line will hold until June 9-11.

Regards,

David

User avatar
David Lehmann
Member
Posts: 2459
Joined: 01 Apr 2002 10:50
Location: France

Postby David Lehmann » 12 Dec 2006 21:51

Still about the 41e BCC and a town I have mentioned previously:

On June 11, the 41e BCC has only 15 fully operational tanks and 12 damaged ones, 3 of them having to be towed (27 tanks whereas the theoretical strength is 31+3 tanks).

The battalion is then split into 3 detachments:
• GASC detachment with 1 operational tank ("Villers-Marmery") and the 12 already damaged ones
• DELEPIERRE detachment with the HQ and the logistics
• CORNET detachment with 14 operational tanks organized in 2 groups of 7 tanks – one group commanded by Capitaine Billotte (the famous tank commander from Stonne) and one group led by Lieutenant Fajeau.

The CORNET detachment disappears completely on June 12 during a counter-attack. The B1bis 'Eure' has been scuttled on June 14 in Possesse. I have seen several photos of the tank blown away, the turret standing against a wall.

The GASC detachment moves to Pogny-sur-Marne on June 12. A skirmish leads to the retreat of German reconnaissance elements. The detachment crosses the Marne River and the tanks are grouped at Togny-aux-Boeufs. General de Lattre (14e DI) requisitioned the B1bis tanks and dispersed them to defend various bidges on the Marne River between La-Chaussée-sur-Marne and Coolus until June 14.
The Germans renewed their attack to cross the Marne River at Pogny, where a very violent battle took place between French tanks ("Aisne" and "Beni-Snassen" B1bis tanks) and German tanks. The bridge is quickly blocked by 5 German tank wrecks (The "Beni-Snassen" destroyed 2 tanks with the 47mm SA35 gun and 2 additional tanks with the 75mm SA35 gun). Nonetheless, the 2 French heavy tanks are neutralized by the fire of heavy AA/field guns.

Regards,

David

Bob_Mackenzie
Member
Posts: 514
Joined: 22 Nov 2003 11:02
Location: UK

Postby Bob_Mackenzie » 13 Dec 2006 12:08

http://www.wwiidaybyday.com/ Has the KTB entries for this engagement

Cheers

Bob

__________________________________

XIX.A.K.(mot.): - Battle for Stonne -

10.Pz.Div.: In the early morning Inf.Rgt.”GD” supported by II./Pz.Rgt.8 advanced on Stonne and takes it after heavy fighting 08:00. Seven German tanks were destroyed on the road where they just could move one after the other. Until 10:45 Stonne changes owner for four times. Each time French tanks push the Germans back. Infantry and tanks were badly coordinated and so the Germans were always able to push the tanks back again.

Around 11:00 the French attack with 3./Pz.Btl.49 with Char-B, 1./Pz.Btl.45 with Hotchkiss, 2./Pz.Btl.4 with FCM, I./I.R.67, 1./I.R.51. The attack is again badly coordinated and the Char-B attack alone first. Stonne is defended by I./GD with 9 AT-guns. In the last moment Ofw.Hindelang moves the last three available AT-guns to the southwestern exit of Stonne. The Char-B attack the three guns of Hindelang and destroy one at 100m. At this time some soldiers start to flee but the AT-guns stay. OGfr.Giesemann sees a small area on the side of a Char-B which looks like cooling-intake and fires on it destroying the tank. Shortly afterwards the next AT-gun is destroyed. Hindelang withdraws the remaining AT-gun into Stonne. All three Char-B “Hautvillers”, “Gaillac” and “Chinon” are destroyed at Stonne. The other tanks withdraw to the south.

Around 12:00 the French are able to take Stonne again. The French tanks withdraw from Stonne because the French commander has order to prepare an attack on Sedan.

The division sends I./I.R.69 to support I.R.GD and they take Stonne again at 17:30.

All available Schtz.Rgter. of the division were rushed forward to defend. Tanks were ordered to meet a French tank thrust in the direction Raucourt.

18:00 Another strong French attack comes on Chémery but is stopped by French order after a while. The German AT units destroyed 43 French tanks during this ten hour battle.

Lt. Beck-Broichsitter and Ofw. Hindelang receive the Ritterkreuz for actions on this day.

During the night both German and French forces withdraw from Stonne. Rgt.”GD” suffers 103 KIA and 459 WIA during the battle of Stonne and is replaced by the 29.Inf.Div.(mot.) in the night.

Bob_Mackenzie
Member
Posts: 514
Joined: 22 Nov 2003 11:02
Location: UK

Postby Bob_Mackenzie » 13 Dec 2006 12:09

There is also a map:

Image

User avatar
David Lehmann
Member
Posts: 2459
Joined: 01 Apr 2002 10:50
Location: France

Postby David Lehmann » 17 Dec 2006 22:55

Interesting photo thread about Stonne in another forum:

http://www.wehrmacht-awards.com/forums/ ... ght=french

David


Return to “WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users