Extracts 'Battle of the Falaise Gap' (British)

Discussion in 'British & Commonwealth' started by Pat Curran, Apr 28, 2015.

  1. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Back to the 'Totalize' battlefield for a moment:

    Despite the chaos, gains were immediately made through the night of the 7th/8th August. Rocquancourt fell at 00:45 hours. Cramesnil, Garcelles, Sacqueville and Saint Aignan fell at dawn; Tilly la Campagne at 0700hrs and Caillouet about noon.

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  2. allan125

    allan125 Active Member
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    Hello Pat

    ref your mention about the Australian war correspondent Alan Wood (of the London "Daily Express") - see http://oztypewriter.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/allicott-alan-whitfeld-wood-australian.html for him in "action" with his typewriter at Arnhem/Oosterbeek in September 1944. And, until now, who would believe that you could buy a set of British & Commonwealth War Correspondents to build!

    I realise it is a quote but you have Beauforts and it should of course be Bofors in the Operation Totalize advance.

    "A thick fog suddenly enveloped my column," related Captain Sevigny, whose tank was on the right wing. "It grew so think that I could not even see the tank ahead of mine. The tracer shells of the Beauforts disappeared in turn behind this strange green screen."

    regards

    Allan
     
  3. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Morning Allan,

    I stick those typos in to check if everyone is awake. In this case you are obviously the only reader who is :D

    'Beauforts' is the spelling used in the book, with the uppercase 'B'. I think the misspelling is down to the translation process again!

    I had a look yesterday for NCAP cover of the 'Totalize' battlefield and found excellent frames from sortie US7/2806 flown on the 8th August right in the middle of the daylight bombing (green hatched areas on Chester Wilmot's map above). Note the flight of 10 B17s caught by the camera in frames 3044, 3045, 3046 and 3047. I presume the smoke trail is a target indicator and not an aircraft going down. Anyone able to confirm?

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  4. allan125

    allan125 Active Member
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    Hello Pat

    Definitely awake - note the time of my posting, I learnt from the master in Ireland to be up early, or late (depending as to whether the glass is half full or half empty!), and on the web :)

    I initially had a hard enough job finding the flight of 10 B.17's in the photos let alone working out as to whether it was a TI or an unfortunate flak loss!!

    Working on the basis that 10 together is okay, and that 11 would be an odd amount I speculate that it is an unfortunate flak loss, and probably one more before that making a formation of 12 originally.

    my thoughts anyway - I will leave it to any 8th Bomber Command experts amongst our members as to whether a flight of 10 is normal!!

    How about the war correspondent models - I bet the sales figures for them are not in the same league as a Battle of Britain Spitfire somehow!!

    regards

    Allan
     
  5. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Hi Allan,

    The smoke could be from a falling, out of control aircraft and there are 12x B17s in frame 3035 with no smoke!

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  6. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    ...or, is the smoke coming from some form of German aerial dispenser to create a smoke screen :idea:

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  7. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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    Hey guys,

    I count 12 B-17's in each photo... two are darker in tone, but they are still there.
    Coincidently, they are nearly directly over the area Michael Wittmann was killed on August 8th.

    John
     
  8. allan125

    allan125 Active Member
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    Hello Pat

    As I suspected then, formerly a flight of twelve, one now visible as a smoke trail, and one missing, reason unknown.

    Regards

    Allan
    [hr]
    Okay, following the detective work by our own investigator - target indicators

    Regards

    Allan
     
  9. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Hi Guys,

    Well spotted John :D

    While looking for the account of the dinner conversation between Ike and Churchill re Montgomery in Captain Harry Butcher's 'My Three Years with Eishenhower', I checked to see if there was an entry in the diary for either 7th or 8th August and got this nugget:

    So for the first time we can put a reasonably accurate time of day on reconnaissance cover. I don't know that the troop carriers to which Capt. Butcher refers were 'specially constructed'; as far as I know they were just Shermans with the turret removed and M7 'Priests' which had been 'defrocked'.

    In any case, it looks like we are seeing a horrendous baptism of fire on the Poles in these recon photos, much the same as happened in Operation Cobra two weeks previously - the price to be paid for using strategic air power in a tactical role.

    Speaking of 'Cobra', I have some new stuff relating thanks to an Ebay heads up from Niels. I'll post in the 'Latest... / Members / News section after a tea break :D

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  10. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Hi All,

    Having received my copy of Brian Reid's excellent book 'No Holding Back', I was anxious to see if Eddy Florentin's account of Operation Totalize would marry well with Reid's research.

    So far, I have not seen any glaring deficiencies in our subject book when compared to the newer and fuller account in 'No Holding Back'. However, rather than a direct comparison, which would be unfair to the older work (by 41 years!), I will limit my comments to some interesting additional details from the newer work.

    One of the things which crossed my mind when I first begun to study Operation Totalize in any dept for this thread a few weeks back was - why change from RAF heavies to 8th USAAF B-17s for the Phase 2 aerial bombardment on the 8th August?

    The answer is indeed in 'No Holding Back' as I had hoped, and confirms that the initial 'Air Plan' was to use RAF aircraft. Page 129 of the Stackpole book refers:

    Further reading of 'No Holding Back' reveals that the final 'Air Plan' for Phase 2 bombing on the 8th August was to include not just B-17 'heavies' but also three additional components. Medium bombers (presumably Marauders and/or Havocs) were to lay down what was termed 'fragmentation carpets', while the heavies dropped both HE bombs and also fragmentation bombs to deal with gun positions to the south of the medium bomber 'bomb box'. In addition, fighter bombers were assigned to target individual gun positions and tanks beyond the bomb line, and finally reconnaissance aircraft were specifically designated to search for the 12th SS Panzer Division, which was know to be in the rear areas and was (correctly) assumed by Guy Simonds's II Canadian Corps intelligence staff to have been placed in readiness for counter-attack in the event of an Allied offensive in the area.

    The American bomb run was made parallel to the Canadian lines, but while this was intended to minimise the danger to friendly troops, it also resulted in long exposure to German anti-aircraft fire, made worse by the lower than normal altitude, resulting in the loss of ten bombers from a force of 678 (some sources say 681) B-17s. However, only 497 actually dropped their loads.

    Additionally, errors were made by the aircrews because the force was divided into 55 'boxes' of 12 or 13 aircraft each. This was necessary due to the close proximity of Allied troops to the north and meant than not enough experienced crews were available to have one such crew per box. In their more familiar role as a strategic force over targets in Germany, the American bombers operated in much bigger formations with all aircraft bombing on release by the lead aircraft. There were simply not enough of these experienced crews to go round.

    The result was that 3 of the 55 boxes made serious errors in navigation. One box dropped their loads on British troops near Thury-Harcourt and the others on British, Canadian and Polish troops just south of Caen. Casualties were high, among the heaviest being the North Shore Regiment loosing a full company of men. Some Canadian observers were fully convinced that the 'shorts' were due to the Germans using captured B-17s!

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  11. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Just another angle on the 'shorts' which occurred in both operations 'Cobra' and 'Totalize'.

    This is cut from 'My Three Years with Eisenhower', by Captain Harry Butcher:

    I am not sure what Captain Butcher is alluding to regarding the bomb bay doors being open possibly contributing to the 'shorts'; I presume this would have been factored into the sight calibration process. In addition, the Phase 2 bombing was done parallel to the Canadian/Polish lines (west to east).

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  12. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Hi All,

    I have been looking for 'Totalize' footage, but have so far only found 'Goodwood' related stuff. The film here on the AP British Movietone site (Story No. BM44975) shows several good scenes from the July 18th - 20th operation. I use it here as an example of the scenes which would have been present some three weeks later in 'Totalize' - just ten kilometers further south, over very similar ground. Note the bombs falling on the 'Y' shaped housing just south of the steel mill and the huge dust clouds forming as the RAF heavies unleash their loads. Marauders were also used to drop fragmentation loads in 'Goodwood' and ACM Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, together with AVM Harry Broadhurst can be seen looking up at the air effort.

    If anyone knows of confirmed 'Totalize' footage, I would appreciate a link please.

    Thanks,

    Pat
     
  13. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    To continue from page 80...

    Kurt Meyer's 12th SS Panzer counterattack on the afternoon of the 8th August did not deceive von Kluge into the euphoric sense of victory felt at the Wolfsschanze in east Prussia. The Feldmarshall knew that the Hitlerjugend actions had been local and merely delayed the inevitable.

    The next account introduces the reader to the Polish elements attached to First Canadian Army.

    In an attempt to find these Polish Sherman losses, I first consulted 'The Struggle for Europe' by Chester Wilmot and found this passage on p. 413:

    A more detailed account of the action is to be had in 'No Holding Back' by Brian Reid, in which the author clearly lays out the Polish assigned objectives as Phase II of 'Totalize' got underway:

    I have reproduced on an IGN map below the locations which Brian Reid shows on his 'Phase 2 Polish Dispositions 8 August 1944' map on page 287 of 'No Holding Back':
    [​IMG]

    As can be seen from the contours, the 2nd Polish Armoured Regiment (2. Pulk Pancery) appear to have driven onto a very exposed slope, marked "Delle du Vieux Gournay", which is where I assume the heavy Polish losses of 26 tanks occurred.

    Anyone able to confirm or correct the location?

    I scanned this photo from page 81 of our subject work:
    [​IMG]
    It shows Shermans of the 2nd Polish Armoured Regiment 'near Jort'. The village is about 20 kilometers further to the southeast, so presumably it was taken during the week following the opening of Operation Totalize. Shermans of the Regiment are not lacking in numbers here, despite the severe losses suffered on the 8th August!

    More from our subject work:

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  14. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    To continue from p. 87...

    If the Poles had a bad first day during Phase 2 of 'Totalize'. the Canadians, also primarily a force of green units, were to have an even worse experience on the next morning, 9th August. The account which follows from our subject work does not specifically refer to it by name, but I am reading 'No Holding Back' in tandem and I deduce that the account relates to 'Worthington Force'; see chapter 15 in the latter book.

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  15. allan125

    allan125 Active Member
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    Hello Pat

    I realise, once again, that you are quoting from a book - I am just so surprised that the author has got away with murder with his text.

    As I am proof reading another book at present - military, aviation WW2, non-Normandy, subject vetoed at present - these things just jumped out at me - but just a brief glance shows that we have a mish-mash of ranks that do not fit the reality of the situation.

    A General in charge of a 4th (Canadian) Armoured Division, instead of a Major-General, then it shows it as 4th (Canadian) Armoured Brigade from another book (which is correct), and Lieutenant-General Worthington (!), as naturally a Lieutenant-General would be a Corps Commander, not a humble battalion commander a relatively lowly, in comparison, Lieutenant Colonel.

    Major-General George Kitching was actually in command of 4th (Canadian) Armoured Division, Lieutenant Colonel, not Lieutenant-General, Donald Worthington in command of the British Columbia Regiment, and Brigadier, not General, E L Booth in command of 4th (Canadian) Armoured Brigade.

    If Booth had been a General he would have been up there with the other Army commanders. But later in the same article it correctly shows Brigadier Booth, and Lieutenant-Colonel Worthington!

    Much better for your story is this pdf http://canadianmilitaryhistory.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Bechthold-Worthington-Force.pdf

    regards

    Allan
     
  16. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Hi Allan,

    Thanks for the rank and unit corrections.

    Despite these mistakes, I have yet to read a more agreeable (if that's the right word) account of the Falaise Pocket and how it came to pass. Other, some no doubt more accurate, accounts are indeed published but, at the risk of sounding flippant, I would prefer to read in the footnotes for chapter 8 (which is where we are just now) that there is a 'roadside Calvary between Estrees and Maisieres, recalls the tragedy' (of the Canadian setback on 9th August), that have a fully correct account in every respect, but devoid of these little observations which are quite clearly inserted by a passionate author.

    Keep the corrections coming Allan so that we can enjoy the best of both worlds! :D

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  17. allan125

    allan125 Active Member
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    Hello Pat

    If I had turned in a proof with those mistakes I would be out of a hobby, that's for sure!!

    Enjoy the pdf, it has some excellent maps and aerial photos, plus the memorial to the battle.

    Simple things became difficult when the FOO lost his special tank, and then the ones he travelled in were rapidly hit, and he had no radio link to his medium regiment.

    Returning tanks and half-tracks (containing wounded) either did not advise, or were ignored when they advised, of the correct location of the battle group; whatever the scenario it was not passed upwards to bring the fighting survivors succour.

    The biggest surprise is when some Canadian veterans of the action returned in 1945 they found the Sherman's still in situ - such is the abundance in the supply system that they obviously had more fresh, or freshly repaired, Sherman's available and did not need to retrieve and repair these. I only hope, and pray, that the crews were not still entombed in them.

    regards

    Allan
     
  18. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Hi Allan,

    Many thanks for the link to Mike Bechthold's 'Lost in Normandy' article. It is indeed a detailed account relating the loss of 'Worthington Force' and complements well the work done by Brian Reid in his book 'No Holding Back' (see chapter 15 therein). I'll continue with the thread subject book and see where further updates and corrections are required.

    To continue (p 89 refers)...

    It is relatively rare to read of an 'Alamo' situation in Normandy once the initial landings had been successful, but at this point in the book we read of two occuring on the same day - one Canadian and one American. While the beleaguered men of 2nd Battalion, 120th Infantry of the US 30th Division were in their second day holding the rocky crags of Hill 314 above Mortain, the 9th of August saw the Canadians of 'Worthington Force' on the featureless arable fields of Hill 140, 1½ miles east of Estrees la Campagne, a small hamlet on the east side of the N158 Caen-Falaise road.

    I doubt that the American 'Old Hickory' veterans would deny that it was the Canadians who were in the tighter spot - at least the GIs knew where they were and contact with their Division remained intact throughout their siege. Worthington Force, however, assuming they had successfully gained Hill 195 on the morning of the 9th of August, were in fact well over four miles to the east of that objective, on another very similar piece of high ground, Hill 140.

    One man however knew exactly where the Canadians were:

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  19. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    To continue from p.117...

    'At Creullet Manor, whose shrubbery of oleanders and rhododendrons hid the three cars of the Twenty First Army Group Tac. HQ, Montomery studied the situation as he did each night before dinner in the mess, with Francis de Guingand, an old friend from the desert.

    The two men went for a moment into the map room, a specially converted truck, and stopped in front of the large scale two-colour mapcompilied a few days earlier for Operation Totalize. On it were marked the exact positions of weapons and strong points.

    "The R.A.F.," began the Chief of Staff, "has reported the strafing of a long column of 1,800 vehicles which was trying to reach the Seine ferries. The destruction of the column took place in the plain between Falaise and Argentan.

    "The enemy obviously plans to extricate the largest possible part of his infantry and armour from the salient, and to reform on a north-south line much further to the east," Monty replied quietly.

    "In that case why the frantic resistance? Why are they apparently trying to hold their positions inside the salient?"

    The bony, ascetic face of Monty looked up at the cheerful ruddy face of "Freddie", 14 years his junior.

    "Probably because for the moment only the 2nd line troops are moving toward the Seine."

    Montgomery pinched his left cheek and said with a deprecatory gesture: "If we could close our pincers on the Falaise-Alencon gap we should catch most of von Kluge's fighting units in the trap."

    Sir Francis de Guinguand noticed that on the right side panel above the desk, Rommel's photo had been replaced by that of von Rundstedt. Monty was one photo behindhand.

    "Every hour that passes," remarked the Chief of Staff, "empties the sack we want to close."

    Montgomery with a nervous gesture switched on the light above Map 40° 14' SW: a blue line, the river Laison north of Falaise, flowing south- west, north-east, disappeared beneath a line of inverted Y's, whose arrows threatened General Simonds' armour - Kurt Meyer's 88's.

    "To complete the encirclement won't be easy. The enemy knows his life depends on this corridor."

    Another seven days were to pass and we shall see how.

    At the same moment a few miles away at "Shellburst", General Eisenhower's HQ, Ike noted that the fanatical tenacity of the Nazi leaders and the inveterate obstinacy of their men had caused the Germans to cling too long to a position from which military experience would have advised them to beat a hastier retreat.'


    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     

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