320 (Netherlands) Squadron, RAF

Discussion in 'Bomber' started by Pat Curran, Nov 25, 2016.

  1. David Sims

    David Sims New Member
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    Oct 31, 2019
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    Pat that ORB entry was from 10th June 1944 (my late father flew that mission)
     
  2. Jpz4

    Jpz4 Active Member
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    Oct 24, 2012
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    #22 Jpz4, Nov 4, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
    That was already Baron-sur-Odon (first reported there on 8 June).
    (That HQ also plays an important part in another thread: 555th Bomb Squadron MIA's 6/22/1944)
     
  3. David Sims

    David Sims New Member
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    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 counte'r-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 accomodated in the Chateau de la Caine some 12 miles south-west of Caen; its uncamaouflaged radio trucks, caravans, AFVs and other transport vehicles stood outside in the grounds of the orchard, Nearby was
    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 passed to SHAEF HQ, In the early hours of the next morning, 10 June, orders were received by 2nd TAF HQ to carry out a strike with immediate effect on the Chateau de la Caine, with maximumeffort. It was planned to use rocket-firing Typhoons attacking atlow-level, with Mitchells bombing from medium height.

    At Hurn airfield 124 Typhoon Wing, comprising 181, 182 and 247 Squadrons, came to immediate readiness together with 245 Squadron of 121 Wing at nearby Holmsley South. At the same time, 139 Mitchell Wing, comprising 98, 180 and 320 Squadrons at Dunsfold, and 226 Squadron of 137 Wing at 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 Mitchells with their full bomb load of 4,000 Ibs, made up of eight 500 pounders. A 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' plus two 'spares' were ready to take off, plus 53 Mitchells 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 aicrews 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 Comander Flying, was to lead the whole formation and 18 Mitchells in three batches 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 Mitchells 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 of84 Group flew high and low cover to the Mitchells. 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. Yetanother 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 fullyloaded cannon, the remaining 34 were all 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 withtheir 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 Squadronsloosed off 136 rockets from 2,000 feet with devastating effect.

    Above at 12,000 feet, the three squadrons of 139 Wing spread in a 'vic', with the Mitchells of 226 Squadron flying tight up behind180 Squadron in the No 4 position, converged on the target in boxes of six aircraft. At 2115 the Mitchells 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 Mitchells 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-ObergruppenfLihrer 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 thesituation, with the British 7th Armoured Division already ashore in full strength and heading south-east towards Caen.
     
  4. Jpz4

    Jpz4 Active Member
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    #24 Jpz4, Nov 11, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2019
    I'm actually sceptical as to the importance of the attack. I'll keep it simple, but the fact the German counter-attack never materialized had much more to do with the speed in which troops could be brought up. Continued allied pressure robbed the Germans of their reinforcements almost as quickly as they were brought up. The attack, intended for the night of 10/11 June had already been cancelled earlier on the day "because of a shortage of own troops and because of enemy reinforcements". (There was no new date planned) Either way, this should be considered an allied succes, not a German failure.
    It should also be realized that on D-Day there were only four panzer divisions in the west that were, more or less, fully operational: the 21.Pz.Div., Pz.Lehr.Div. and 12.SS-Pz.Div. and the 2.Pz.Div. The first three made their appearance soon after D-Day, before the attack on the HQ of Pz.Gr.West. In fact they had been closer to the invasion front than to the Pas de Calais. Only the 2.Pz.Div. was not nearby and took more time to arrive. My point? Most of the units that could have intervened were nearby. These were however forced to plug holes and hold the front, unable to counter-attack. Divisions like the 1.SS, 2.SS, 9.Pz. and 116.Pz. were further away, but more importantly in poor condition. The 9.SS and 10.SS were on their way to the east and neither in great condition.

    Planning the counter-attack did not necessarily require the Pz.Gr.Kdo. H.Gr.B, AOK 7 and the I.SS-Pz.K. should have been able to pull that of as well. They just didn't have the forces to do it. In later stages the panzer-division were relieved on the front to build a counter-attack force, but it took time for the infantry divisions to arrive to take over the front. In late June the counter-attack might have been launched, but the Epsom offensive thwarted much of the plans.

    ___
    PS after the attack the Pz.Gr. reported the losses: 17 staff members were killed with one MIA. Among the fatalities were the CoS Gen.Maj. Dawans, Ia Maj.i.G. Burgsthaler, Id Maj.iG. v. Waldow, O1 Rittm. Kühl, O3 Rittm. Bucheim. The MIA was the Flivo, Hptm. Hinkeldeyn.
    The signal battalion (Pz.Nachr.Abt.676) had suffered 12 fatalities incl. L.d.N Oblt. Fugh. The guard company had three men killed.
     

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