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A radio rack with an interesting story - part 1
Old 05-02-2016, 04:03 PM   #1
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Default A radio rack with an interesting story - part 1

Introduction

Hill 112 saw some of the most intense fighting in the Normandy campaign. Operation Epson (26-30 June 1944) was launched over the Orne river with the key objective to draw the newly arrived German II SS Panzerkorps into action. Operation Jupiter (10-11 July 1944) focussed again on Hill 112, trying to dislodge the German defence from these strategic heights. During and in between these major battles, Hill 112 was subject to some of the most intense artillery bombardments of WW2.

The area around Caen was defended by the Panzergruppe West. This highly mobile Panzer army was originally intended to counterattack the allied invasion and was planning to concentrate its forces west of Caen to sweep north and than west along the invasion Coast. Commanded by Gen. Geyr von Schweppenburg its HQ was set up in La Caine, about 8 km behind Hill 112.

Geyr von Schweppenburg’s HQ location was identified through an “Ultra” intercept (the breaking of an Enigma coded message at Bletchley Park) and consequently attacked and destroyed on 10 June 1944.

Following the attack on the HQ of Panzergruppe West, General Montgomery (who knew of the German offensive intentions through the “Ultra” intelligence) forced the Germans to commit these divisions in defensive actions around Caen, robbing the Germans of any offensive potential and so protecting the invasion beaches from counterattack.

Panzergruppe West commanded the I and II SS Panzerkorps under Sepp Dietrich and Paul Hausser. The key German units fighting on and around Hill 112 were the 10 SS Panzer Division “Hohenstaufen” on the left, the 9th SS Panzer Division “Frundsberg” in the centre and the 12th SS “Hitlerjugend” on the right flank.

Discovery of a radio frame on Hill 112

Early in 2016 a local historian excavated a bomb crater on the former battlefield on Hill 112 in Normandy. The bomb crater sat right on the front line, about a hundred metres from the current monument on top of Hill 112. It was usual for bomb craters to be filled in after the war with the debris of the fighting, so not unusually the dig yielded a mixture of German and British ammunition and scrap. Finally, at a depth of over 4 metres, a large piece of scrap emerged which forms the basis of this story.

The piece of scrap was identified by another local historian as a German radio rack of an unknown kind. Being a keen collector and researcher of German radio equipment, I was contacted if I could shed some more light on the find.

 photo fig1_zpstqfxvge9.jpg
Figure 1: The radio rack as it emerged from a bomb crater on Hill 112 [© author’s collection]

Finding a WW2 German radio frame of any description is unusual, as most were scrapped after the war along with their vehicles.

The size and configuration of the radio mountings pointed at the rack originating from a German half track. Typically radio racks in earlier versions of German half-tracks e.g. the Sd.Kfz.250 and Sd.Kfz.251 are constructed in tubular steel, quite different from the rack that emerged from the bomb crater.

 photo fig2_zpspovexwpo.jpeg
Figure 2: Typical radio frame used in German half tracks. Note the tubular construction. [© author’s collection]

 photo fig3_zpsdul5nnel.jpg
Figure 3: Early version of a Sd.Kfz.251/6 command half-track. Note the tubular frame construction of the radio frame. It is just possible to recognise a 100 W.S transmitter and Torn. E.b receiver and what appears to be a 30 W.S.a transmitter [© www.worldwarphotos.info]

To be continued....
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A radio rack with an interesting story - Part 2
Old 05-03-2016, 02:30 AM   #2
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After some further research, I could confirm that it was indeed a German radio rack of a relatively rare and late war type, specifically used in half-tracks of the type Sd.Kfz. 251, Ausf. D. The radio frames used in late war Sd.Kfz 251 Ausf. D used simple angular profiles. A surviving Sd.Kfz 251/3 Ausf. D found in a river in Poland illustrates a similar construction to the rack found on Hill 112:

 photo fig4_zps4vgh43qb.jpeg
Figure 4: Radio rack in a Sd.Kfz 251/3 Ausf.D surviving in Poland [© Sd Kfz 251 in Polish museums -Janusz Ledwoch]

The rack consists of an inner frame which holds the transmitters and receivers, fitted by rubber buffers to an outer frame which in turn is bolted to the body of the halftrack. The outer frame also support the "Umformers" power supplies. The rack found on Hill 112 is the inner rack only.

Racks of this type could be configured for different transmitters by moving the supports. The example found in Poland had the transmitter support moved upwards (to hold a 30 W.S.a) and a metal case place underneath. In the example found on Hill 112 the support was lowered and the case omitted. The one found on Hill 112 also had an extra section bolted to the front end which lacks on the Polish example.

Closer inspection of the frame found on Hill 112 revealed the radio configuration that once was held by the frame:

 photo fig5_zpsfs6gvrgp.jpg
Figure 5: Reconstruction of the radio configuration [© author’s collection]

On the front was a medium wave 80 Watt transmitter (80 W.S.), on the right was a long wave 100 Watt Transmitter (100 W.S.) and in the centre were two receivers, a wideband receiver “Torn.E.b” and a medium wave receiver “Mw.E.c” . This reveals that the rack once held two radio sets: the Fu11SE100 (100 W.S. + Torn.E.b) and Fu12SE80 (80 W.S. + Mw.E.c).

 photo fig6_zpsdvhem3ev.jpg
Figure 6: The Fu11SE100 radio installation with Torn.E.b (left) and 100 W.S (right). In this case the installation is fitted to a soft skin radio vehicle [© author’s collection]

 photo fig7_zpswmo4kzfs.jpg
Figure 7: 80 W.S. transmitter of the FU12SE80 installation [© author’s collection]

 photo fig8_zps5a8iyung.jpg
Figure 8: A period photograph of a Sd.Kfz. 251/3. Note the placement of the 80 W.S. on the front side of the radio rack like the example found on Hill 112. The absence of a frame antenna indicates that this specific vehicle does probably not contain a 100 W.S. [© www.worldwarphotos.info]


So now we not only know that the rack comes from an armoured half track Sd.Kfz.251/3 Ausf. D; the combination of radio sets is even more specific which allows us to pin down the exact vehicle type from which it came.

It was the "Kommandofunkwagen" the Sd.Kfz.251/3 IV, which was the successor to the Sd.Kfz 251/6 (In the summer of 1944; both denominations for the vehicle can be found in period documentation). It is a vehicle used by Generals!

To be continued...
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A radio rack with an interesting story - Part 3
Old 05-03-2016, 01:48 PM   #3
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So how rare was the "Kommandofunkwagen" during the battle for Normandy? To investigate this we first have to look at the "KStN" tables (tables of organisation and equipment) for German units. The "Funkkompanie" (radio company) in the Panzer division and Panzer Corps Headquarters had a similar organisation as those at Panzer Army headquarters:

 photo fig9_zpsqwknrl2f.jpg
Figure 9: Table of Organisation and Equipment of the radio company of model 44 Panzer Army headquarters such as “Panzergruppe West”. The radio troop is marked as a “Kommandofunktrupp 100/80 Mw (gp) and the vehicle is listed as a Sd.Kfz 251/3 “ [KStN 946 - NARA Publication T78]

It is worth noting that the document in figure 9 comes from the slightly later “Kriegsetat 44” Tables of Organisation and Equipment (TO&E’s), which shows two Sd.Kfz. 251/3 IV’s in the unit. This type of organisation was due to be implemented in the summer of 1944 but due to the heavy fighting few units could complete this reorganisation during the Normandy battles. It is almost certain that most SS Panzer units, including the higher headquarters were only allocated a single vehicle of this type. It also emerged that several units even lacked the vehicles they were due when they mobilised to the Normandy front.

So we can safely assume that the panzer formations at division, corps and army only had at most one Sd.Kfz. 251/3 IV armoured half-track equipped with the Fu11SE100 and Fu12SE80 radio installations: The commander’s “Kommandofunkwagen”! Likewise, General Geyr von Schweppenburg probably had one such vehicle available at his HQ of “Panzergruppe West”.

Administratively, the vehicles were the responsibility of the radio company of the formation. The radio company would provide the driver and four operators for the radios in the vehicle. The vehicle was available for use by the commander as a mobile command post.

Likewise, the communication vehicles at the Panzergruppen West HQ belonged to the Panzergruppen-Nachrichten-Abteilung 676, a unit newly formed in the summer of 1944 so most likely equipped with the latest standard vehicles.

At this point it is important to consider the antenna configuration used by such a vehicle. Early in the war, most vehicles equipped with the medium wave command radios of either 30 or 80 watts used a characteristic frame antenna. This could be found on both Sd.Kfz.250 and Sd.Kfz.251 radio half-tracks of earlier types. By 1944 the frame antennas were largely replaced with a simple star antenna; the “Sternantenne D”. Cheaper and less conspicuous it also proved to be a more effective antenna than the old type frame antenna.

 photo fig10_zpsrr4h5cz2.jpg
Figure 10: Sternantenne D [© author’s collection]

It is certain that all late war production armoured halftracks equipped with the medium wave radio sets would have been equipped with the new Sternantenna D.

The 100 W.S. -being of longer wavelength and higher power- could not use the Sternantenne D. It would need a 9 meter telescopic mast with a larger star antenna which could only be deployed when the vehicle was stationary. To operate the Fu11SE100 radio set on the move, the vehicle would require again a frame antenna. For this reason the Sd.Kfz. 251/4 IV was the only late war armoured half-track type fitted with frame antenna this late in the war, making the vehicle easily recognisable.

The use of Heinz Harmel’s Kommandofunkwagen in the Hill 112 area is well documented:

 photo fig11_zpsxa2urt5f.jpg
Figure 11: Heinz Harmel in his Kommandofunkwagen during the battles for Hill 112. Note the large frame antenna for the 100 W.S. [© Bundesarchiv]

So what was the radio rack of a Panzer commander doing in a bomb crater on Hill 112? The shortlist of potential vehicles from which it could have come is not too long:

1. Command Vehicle of Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg (Panzergruppe West)
2. Command vehicle of Heinz Harmel (10th SS Panzer Division “Frundsberg”)
3. Command vehicle of Willi Bittrich / Thomas Müller / Sylvester Stadler (9th SS Panzer Division “Hohenstaufen”)
4. Command Vehicle of Kurt Meyer (12th SS Division “Hitlerjugend”)
5. Command Vehicle of Paul Hausser / Willi Bittrich (II SS Panzer Korps)
6. Command Vehicle of Sepp Dietrich (I SS Panzer Korps)
7. Command Vehicle of Heinrich Eberbach (Panzergruppe “Eberbach” successor to “Panzergruppe West”)
8. Command Vehicle of Theodor Wisch (1st SS Panzer Division “Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler”)

So at most, there were eight "Kommandofunkwagen" in the wider area; probably less as not all units had received their equipment as per KStN.

So can the rack itself provide some answers?

To be continued...
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Old 05-03-2016, 02:34 PM   #4
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..!!..wow, very interesting piece of archeology and investigation..look forward to part II...
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Old 05-03-2016, 03:42 PM   #5
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Nice work FS. Keep it coming :-)
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A radio rack with an inte
Old 05-04-2016, 02:54 AM   #6
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Impact damage on the radio rack

A closer inspection of the rack revealed impact damage on at least two locations. The 80 W.S. has at least one (possibly two) bullet entry holes in the back and a large exit hole in the bottom of the case:

 photo fig12_zps68bnsldw.jpg
Figure 12: 80 W.S. case showing the approximate impact angle. Also note the tar deposits on top and rear of the box. [© author’s collection]

The 80 W.S. was hit from quite a high angle from the rear right side of the vehicle

The 100 W.S. was also hit:

 photo fig13_zpsh39jtwxa.jpg

Figure 13: Approximate trajectory of bullet hitting the bottom tray of the 100 W.S. rack. You are looking downwards on the bottom support with the rear to the left. [© author’s collection]


On the 100 W.S., the bullet entered the rear of the support tray for the 100 W.S. and dented the bottom of the tray. The bullet did not have enough energy to exit through the bottom. The 100 W.S. would definitely have been put out of action by this damage. Again the trajectory was from a high angle (albeit lower than on the 80 W.S.) from the right rear of the vehicle.

Both bullet entry holes measured approximately 20 mm. This provides strong indications that the vehicle was hit from the air during a strafing attack. The differing angles suggest that the two transmitters were hit during different passes.

A prime suspect for inflicting such damage must be the Hawker Typhoon. Fitted with four 20 mm cannon and often fitted with additional rockets, it was ideally suited as a ground attack fighter:


 photo fig14_zps2xxtp7pi.jpg
Figure 14: Hawker Typhoon with the typical black and white invasion stripes used during the Normandy battle. Note the four 20mm cannon protruding from the wing. (© www.Globalaviationresource.com)


The rack is also slightly bent which cannot be explained by the strafing. There is no evidence of significant shrapnel damage and it would have been protected inside the armoured vehicle from the effects of a nearby blast. The excavation work was conducted carefully enough not to have bent the rack so there must be another explanation

The rack is covered in several places by a tar deposit. A lot of tar was found in the casing of the 80 W.S. so at first I thought this might have come from capacitor blocks in the transmitter, which melted in a fire. There was however far too much tar in the box and also several sections outside the box were covered. When the rack was found in the bomb crater it looked like somebody had poured tar over it, as several puddles of tar were found during the excavation.

To be continued...

Last edited by Funksammler; 05-04-2016 at 02:59 AM.
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Old 05-04-2016, 04:07 AM   #7
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Great investigation work FS.
So your next project is to build the 251/3 IV around the rack ?

Cheers
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A radio rack with an interesting story - Part 5
Old 05-05-2016, 05:14 AM   #8
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Default A radio rack with an interesting story - Part 5

So which general's "Kommandofunkwagen" did the rack come from? It will be difficult to find the ultimate proof, but there is a likely candidate. We are looking for a vehicle that was stationed in the proximity of Hill 112 and we are looking for historical evidence of a General's halftrack being attacked from the air.

8. Command vehicle of Theodor Wisch
No photographic or anecdotal evidence of the use of a Kommandofunkwagen by Theodor Wisch has emerged. Wisch’s operational area was relatively far removed from Hill 112. Surviving vehicle status reports of the 1st SS Panzer division state that they had zero Sd.Kfz.251/6 on 1 July 1944 so it is almost certain the division lacked its Kommandofunkwagen during the battle for hill 112.

5.6. and 7. Command vehicles at Corps level and ”Panzergruppe Eberbach”
No photographic or anecdotal evidence has emerged of the use of a Kommandofunkwagen at these headquarters. Being a relatively static battle, there would have been little reason for a corps/army commander to use a mobile headquarters for visits to the divisional headquarters near Hill 112. There are some indications that Sepp Dietrich used a Steyr 1500 “Kommandeurswagen”, it is likely that Paul Hausser, Willi Bittrich and Heinrich Eberbach also preferred this more convenient mode of transport.

4. Command vehicle of Kurt Meyer.
No photographic or anecdotal evidence of the use of a Kommandofunkwagen by Kurt Meyer has emerged but the relative proximity of it’s potential operating area makes it a potential candidate. On 1 June, a strength report from the 12th SS Division reports “Fehl von 11 SPW bei SS-Pz. Nachr.–Abt. 12” so it is not clear if the division even received its Kommandofunkwagen.

3. Command vehicle of Willi Bittrich / Thomas Müller/ Sylvester Stadler
As commander of the 9th SS Panzer Division “Hohenstaufen”, Bittrich was replaced by Thomas Müller as commander on 30 June who in turn was replaced by Stadler on 10 July. Although there is some anecdotal evidence of the use of a Kommandofunkwagen by the commander of the 9th SS Panzer division, no evidence of the destruction of a Kommandofunkwagen has emerged. The close proximity to its potential operating area makes it a possible but weaker candidate.

2. Command vehicle of Heinz Harmel
The use of a Sd.Kfz. 251/3 Ausf.D by Heinz Harmel -commander of the 10th SS Panzer Division “Frundsberg”- during the battles for Hill 112 is well documented. Figure 11 show the vehicle in use. Below another sideways view, the sloping rear of the late war Ausf. D can just be recognised:

 photo fig15_zpsubtwq8re.jpg
Figure 15: Harmel's Kommandofunkwagen in Normandy. Part of the tactical number “211” is visible on the side. The complete marking was probably “N211” denoting the first vehicle in the first platoon of the second (radio) company of the Signals regiment. [© Bundesarchiv]

There is an anecdote describing a conference in an armoured command vehicle by Harmel and Bittrich on 6 August near Haute–Perrier . This provides some indication that Harmel’s command vehicle may have survived the battles around Hill 112.

There is no strong anecdotal or photographic evidence about what happened to Harmel's vehicle. Had it been destroyed during the Hill 112 battles I would expect some historical evidence to have emerged. The close proximity of its operational area to the finding site of the rack however still makes it a credible candidate.

To be continued...
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Old 05-05-2016, 10:35 AM   #9
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Great thread.
If I want to know something in detail about the Normandy battle I also will investigate it by all means. I love to do that.

Great work!

Hope you wil eventually find the former owner.

Cheers

Jan
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Excellent research
Old 05-05-2016, 12:29 PM   #10
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Default Excellent research

Well done this is excellent research!

Hilary Louis Doyle
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A radio rack with an interesting story - Part 6
Old 05-05-2016, 01:52 PM   #11
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Default A radio rack with an interesting story - Part 6

Attack on la Caine

As mentioned before, Bletchley Park decyphered an Enigma message revealing the location of the HQ of "Panzergruppe West". It was located in la Caine, roughly 8 km further inland from the future battlefield on Hill 112 where the rack was found. For the Allies this was a unique opportunity to do some serious damage to the command structure of Hitler's fabled Panzer reserves in the West.

On 10 July, the RAF attacked Geyr von Schweppenburg’s HQ in la Caine. 61 B-25 Mitchells bombed the area while 40 Typhoons conducted strafing attacks and fired rockets.

It is reported that “Although the château was not badly damaged, the nearby orchard, in which the HQ vehicles were parked, was thoroughly bombed and communications equipment was destroyed” .

Geyr von Schweppenburg was wounded and eighteen members of his HQ staff were killed during the attack, putting his HQ out of action and frustrating the German counterattack on the beaches.

So here is a direct historical reference to communications equipment and vehicles being destroyed by Typhoons.

1. Command vehicle of Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg

The Panzergruppen-Nachrichten-Abteilung 676 was a newly formed unit at the time of the attack, it is likely that it had just received new equipment of the latest standard like a Sd.Kfz.251/3 IV Ausf.D "Kommandofunkwagen"

So there is a distinct likelihood that Geyr von Schweppenburg’s Kommandofunkwagen was one of the vehicles destroyed during the attack. The damage on the rack certainly ties in with an aerial strafing by a Typhoon.

The question remains why parts of it would end up 8 km away in a bomb crater on Hill 112? The following theory cannot be proven but it does demonstrate motive, means and opportunity:

From la Caine to Hill 112

The first thing to realise is that the attack on la Caine took place only four days after D-day while the battles for Hill 112 only commenced several weeks later with operation Epson from 26 to 30 June. Epson was planned by Montgomery to draw the German Panzer reserves into the defence, in particular the II SS Panzer Korps newly arriving from the eastern front. Montgomery was forwarned of the German moves by the "Ultra" intelligence.

As the British moved across the Odon and threatened to outflank Caen the Germans responded as expected and threw the 9th and 10th SS panzer divisions into the defence of Hill 112.

The German pioneers of the 9th SS Panzer Division (responsible for building defensive earthworks etc.) would have been scouring the surrounding area for suitable materials to use. They would have come across the debris of the attack in la Caine and would probably have recovered any material they could use. More recent excavations in the la Caine area have not yielded any significant sized finds, giving credence to the area having been thoroughly cleaned up.

The radio rack would have been useful to reinforce the roof of a dugout. The rack, some wooden boards and a meter of soil on top would have built a suitable dugout on Hill 112. The weight of the soil on top and any vehicles moving over it may well explain why the rack is slightly bent.

In the years following the war, the area was de-mined and reconstruction of the roads was commenced. During the reconstruction of the D8, running over the summit of Hill 112, the workers may have stumbled into the remains of the dugout, removed the rack and dumped it into the bomb crater. Perhaps a few days later, road workers used the same bomb crater to dispose of some tar, perhaps after cleaning their tarmacking machine. The tar deposits on the rack certainly places the dumping of the rack in the bomb crater within the timeframe of the road building.

A lot would be explained by this sequence of events and so the command vehicle of Geyr von Schweppenburg, destroyed in the la Caine attack makes it the most likely source of the radio rack.

The story of the radio frame will continue

So there is a good argument to be made that we have found the radio rack from Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg’s command half track, destroyed on 10 June. Research will continue in the hope that further evidence will emerge. I am particularly interested to study the aerial intelligence of the attack on la Caine residing at Norwich University library. The problem is you have to go over there to study it.

What is certain is that the radio frame dug out from Hill 112 came from the command vehicle of one of the key players in the Normandy campaign. Its connection to the German command structure during one of the major battles in WW2 alone makes it an important relic.

If indeed we accept the most likely provenance, the radio rack is a unique relic of the la Caine raid. It possibly ended up where it did as a direct result of the code breaking in Bletchley Park linking it to one of the great success stories of WW2.

Wrecked and discarded, the rack than may have served to provide shelter in the forward German defence line during the Hill 112 battles, providing testament to the gritty determination of the German defenders.

Even without any provenance, the radio rack in this configuration is likely to be a unique artefact of one of the rarest variants of armoured radio vehicles.

I am as yet undecided whether to keep the frame in its current condition and let it tell its unique story or to restore it and re-equip it with the radio sets it once held.

hope you enjoyed the story (so far...)

Funksammler

Last edited by Funksammler; 05-05-2016 at 01:57 PM.
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Old 05-05-2016, 04:00 PM   #12
Yuri D.
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FS, this is an excellent research endeavor and great forensics on your part. May I suggest that you keep the rack the way it is, but protect it from further corrosion, and create a copy of this rack so we can all see how it looked originally with its equipment. Easier said than done, but you are very good at this.
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Reference to the la Caine Raid
Old 05-06-2016, 02:23 AM   #13
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This is the best reference on the la Caine raid that I have been able to find...

The 'Dinner' Raid

By Malcolm Scott DFC


10 June 1944

A number of spectacular daylight strikes were carried out by the bombers of 2 Group during the war years and among the numerous operations undertaken by that Group's Mitchells, probably the most important but certainly least publicised was the evening raid on 10 June 1944. It received no publicity at the time because the intelligence leading to the operation had been gathered at Bletchley Park, by ULTRA, the existence of which had to remain secret. As a cover, it was 'leaked' afterwards that the attack was based on information passed by the French Resistance and confirmed by aerial reconnaissance.

Panzer Group West - established by von Rundstedt in November 1943 - was a Command Post set up under General Geyr von Schweppenburg for the purpose of training and administering the seven Panzer Divisions in Northern France to be held in reserve for mass manoeuvre, when the Allied invasion came. This conflicted with Rommel's plan to deploy the tanks forward and destroy the invading force on the beaches before any bridgehead could be established. Rommel appealed to Hitler, who compromised by giving him (via von Rundstedt) control of three Divisions, but reserving the other four to the orders of OKW - the German High Command. Von Schweppenburg shared the views of von Rundstedt as regards employing mass manoeuvre in a counter strike. Rommel having deployed his available Panzers in an effort to stop the Allied advance, but to no avail, realised he must now make a co-ordinated counter-attack.

Motoring to and from Panzer Group West on 9 June, Rommel was forcibly reminded of the enemy's air superiority, having to abandon his car some 30 times to seek shelter from marauding Allied fighters. Having eventually reached von Schweppenburg's HQ, Rommel ordered him to plan a decisive counter-attack. Panzer Group West became a hive of activity and the volume of radio traffic increased significantly. These transmissions were picked
up by the British Monitoring Section and HF/DF bearings located the source.

The Headquarters of Panzer Group West were accommodated in Chateau de la Caine some 12 miles south-west of Caen: uncamaouflaged radio trucks, caravans, AFVs and other transit vehicles stood outside in the grounds of the orchard. Nearby, the village of Montigny where it was thought the NCOs and other ranks were billeted.
Once the messages had been decoded by ULTRA at Bletchley Park and their importance realised, immediate advice was pas to SHAEF HQ. In the early hours of the next morning, 10 J. orders were received by 2nd TAF HQ to carry out a strike with immediate effect on the Chateau de la Caine, with maximum effort. It was planned to use rocket-firing Typhoons attacking at low-level, with Mitchell’s bombing from medium height.

At Hurn airfield 124 Typhoon Wing, comprising 181, 182 ; 247 Squadrons, came to immediate readiness together .' 245 Squadron of 121 Wings at nearby Holmsley South. At same time, 139 Mitchell Wing, comprising 98, 180 and 320 Squadrons at Dunsfold, and 226 Squadron of 137 Wing; Hartford Bridge, were similarly alerted. Four Spitfire squadrons were placed on 'stand-by' for escort duties. Flight plans were drawn up and the aircraft armed. The Typhoons were loaded with eight 60lb rockets apiece, the Mitchell’s with the!' bomb load of 4,000 Ibs, made up of eight 500 pounds maximum effort had been called for - which meant ten aircraft from each of the Typhoon squadrons and 18 from each Mitchell squadron. When the time came, 40 fully-armed 'Tiffies : two 'spares' were ready to take off, plus 53 Mitchell’s at Dunsfold, and 18 at Hartford Bridge were equally ready to take part in the operation.

The morning was heavily overcast with thick cloud stretching across the Channel and the briefing scheduled for 1030 was deferred. Later the cloud began to lessen and the aircrews were called in for briefing. As the weather conditions were still not ideal, the lead bomber of each squadron was to carry a 'Gee-H' operator in case cloud precluded visual bombing. Meanwhile the Typhoons of 124 Wing carried out two operations against gun positions near Caen.

180 Squadron, headed by Wg Cdr Lynn, 139 Wing Commander Flying, was to lead the whole formation and 18 Mitchell’s in three catches of six aircraft became airborne at 2000. Within five minutes another 17 aircraft from 320, the Dutch Naval Squadron, were roaring down the runway, led by Cdr Burgerhout, and by 2010 Sqn Ldr Eager was leading 16 Mitchell’s of 98 Squadron in similar style into the air to join the two squadrons ahead of him.

The bombers climbed steadily, circling over base as they formed up, before setting course at 2022. Over Selsey Bill they were joined by another 18 aircraft of 226 Squadron led by their Commanding Officer, Wg Cdr Mitchell. Soon after, 33 Spitfires took up their escort positions, close escort being provided by Mark Vs from an ADGB squadron while three Mark IX squadrons of 84 Group flew high and low cover to the Mitchell’s. One 226 Squadron aircraft had to abort with mechanical trouble. Two others from 180 Squadron turned back before bombing; one with an oil pressure problem and the other with an instrument fault. Yet another suffered bomb release failure and brought its bombs back.

Two of the four Typhoon squadrons flew their 'spare' aircraft also, and of the 42 Typhoons taking part in the operation, two from each squadron were 'fighters' with no rockets but fully-loaded cannon, the remaining 34 were ail rocket-firing 'Tiffies'. The plan was for the Typhoons to attack in two waves with 30 minutes between them, the first wave's attack on the parked vehicles and tanks to coincide with the assault by the bombers, the second wave's task was "to clear up".

That evening, in the large candelabra-lit dining room of the chateau, von Schweppenburg's Chief of Staff, General von Dawans and his retinue of 18 staff officers were seated at the table enjoying their dinner when the air raid sirens gave imminent warning of the approaching attack. The table was hurriedly vacated as the officers rushed out to watch the proceedings. In service dress uniforms with their broad red-striped trousers, they must have been very obvious as they watched the Typhoons through binoculars wheeling into lines of attack, only realizing at the last moment that the Chateau and they were the target! It was reported that von Schweppenburg in his staff car, suitably emblazoned, swept into the ground just as the raid began. Seventeen Tiffies' from 181 and 247 Squadrons loosed off 136 rockets from 2,000 feet with devastating effect.

Above at 12,000 feet, the three squadrons of 139 Wing spread in a 'vie', with the Mitchell’s of 226 Squadron flying tight up behind 180 Squadron in the No 4 position, converged on the target in boxes of six aircraft. At 2115 the Mitchell’s released 536 x 500 Ib bombs with great accuracy and saturated the chateau and the whole target area. Great clouds of dust and debris, flame and smoke rose into the air. Geyr von Schweppenburg and another officer were wounded, but von Dawans and the remainder of his staff perished in the attack.

Four 'fighter' Typhoons meanwhile swept into the nearby village of Montigny, shooting up the place with their cannon. As the Mitchell’s swung onto a north-westerly course after dropping their bombs, some Flak was experienced from Caen, but no real damage was suffered. By the time the second wave of RP Typhoons arrived on the scene, the chateau was a charred and smoking ruin and the radio trucks and other vehicles were shattered and scorched wrecks. The 'Tiffies' fired their rockets and cannon into any outbuildings that remained standing. All the bombers were down by 2225 (2025 GMT) and there was an immediate call for a 'turn round' for night operations. At de-briefing the elated aircrews of each squadron reported on the complete success of the operation. Almost everyone claimed they had seen their bombs fall on the target or close to it; Flak had been light, there was no enemy fighter opposition and the raid appeared to have taken the enemy defences completely by surprise.

With the whole planning staff wiped out and any plans for the Panzer counter-offensive that had been made now, quite literally, in ashes, it was a most serious setback for the Germans. Panzer Gruppe West had temporarily ceased to exist and SS-Obergruppenfiihrer Sepp Dietrich of the 1.SS Panzerkorps took command of the armoured divisions in the interim.

After Bletchley had decoded the signals emanating from von Rundstedt's Headquarters of Armee Gruppe 'B' to OKW informing that Panzer Group West had been completely destroyed and would need to be re-established in Paris, the full significance of the results of this single co-ordinated strike became apparent. The appointment of new staff under General Eberbach and the preparation of plans for the armoured counter-stroke were delayed by some three weeks. The vital counter-attack never materialised as events overtook the situation, with the British 7th Armoured Division already ashore in full strength and heading south-east towards Caen.


2nd Tactical Air Force Vol.1. Spartan to Normandy June 1943 to June 1944. - Shores / Thomas.
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Old 05-06-2016, 04:10 AM   #14
philip turland
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what a superb story - well researched and well written.... Excellent
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Old 05-06-2016, 05:19 AM   #15
FrenchVolunteer
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Hi,

amazing work !!!!


So the best could be to find aerial reconnaissance pictures taken after the raid ?
Is it known if they still exist ? The RAF did a post-attack mission for sure.

See You

Vince
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