Extracts 'Battle of the Falaise Gap' (Free French)

Discussion in 'Free French' started by Pat Curran, Sep 14, 2016.

  1. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
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    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    Hi All,

    This thread is being opened to facilitate discussion on extracts pertaining to units of the Free French 2nd Armoured Division attached U.S. Third Army's XV Corps from Eddy Florentin's book 'Battle of the Falaise Gap', first published in French in 1964. I am using the first English edition published a year later by Elek Books Limited of London.

    Associated threads dealing with other extracts from the book are already under way at the following locations:


    The French 2nd Armoured Division landed on Utah Beach on the 1st August and was commanded by General Philippe Leclerc. Its Order of Battle is shown below from the back cover of my 1965 edition of the book:
    [​IMG]

    Footage of the Division landing at Utah Beach can be viewed in this PhotosNormandie film:

    <iframe width="780" height="438" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0tcfq0rXQzM" frameborder="3" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

    We first meet the Division on page 100 of the book in the small village of Bourg le Roi, which is situated about 10 Kms south east of Alencon. The date appears to be the 10th of August, though this is not specified in the narrative.

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  2. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
    9
    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    To continue...

    Page 100 refers:

    The French page here appears to confirm the liberation of the village of Bourg le Roi as occurring on the 11th August, so I am going to use that date for extracts in this post.

    Below is a live IGN map showing our present area of interest:

    <iframe width="725" height="350" frameborder="3" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="http://www.geoportail.gouv.fr/embed/visu.html?c=0.1350822207414481,48.347750925620296&z=0.000021457672120657332&l=GEOGRAPHICALGRIDSYSTEMS.MAPS.3D::GEOPORTAIL:OGC:WMTS==aggregate(1)&permalink=yes" allowfullscreen></iframe>​
    Live Map - Press F5 to Reset​

    Below is a map showing the movements of XV Corps during the period 9th - 12th August. I have indicated in red arrows the demarcation line between the French 2nd Armoured and the American 5th Armoured under General Lunsford E. Oliver with two red arrows:


    [​IMG]


    The village baker of Bourg le Roi now enters the fray:

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  3. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
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    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    To continue from page 102...

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  4. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
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    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    More...

    I note present day IGN mapping indicates a monument, just south of the railway overpass on the D55, which more than likely refers to this action on the 11th August:

    <iframe width="725" height="450" frameborder="3" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="http://www.geoportail.gouv.fr/embed/visu.html?c=0.1261630240321174,48.38126732819569&z=0.00004291534423764136&l=GEOGRAPHICALGRIDSYSTEMS.MAPS.3D::GEOPORTAIL:OGC:WMTS==aggregate(1;g)&permalink=yes" allowfullscreen></iframe>​
    Live Map - Press F5 to reset​

    The Google Maps street view of the monument here appears to refer to the French 2nd Armoured Division, but I cannot be sure.

    Anyone able to shed more light on the wording thereon?

    Thanks,

    Pat
     
  5. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
    9
    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    To continue (page 103 refers)...

    The Google Maps 'street view' here is the view I assume the Mk IV had of Lieutenant Krebs's Sherman, which was probably taking the left fork towards the village church.

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  6. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
    9
    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    Hi All,

    I found this photo of the monument on D55 which appears to confirm it was erected to honor the casualties of the Free French 2nd Armoured suffered on the 11th August. I presume the six names are crew members from "Blois" and "Brantome".

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  7. Jpz4

    Jpz4 Active Member
    Researcher

    Oct 24, 2012
    361
    6
    Don't forget this site when looking for info on French armor: http://www.chars-francais.net/2015/index.php/classement-individuel/m-4-sherman
     
  8. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
    9
    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    Thanks Niels,

    I had not seen that site before.

    Going through the various tank regiments, it seems our men are from the 3rd Squadron of the 12th Regiment de Cuirassiers. I found a possible candidate for 'Blois' at 05:09 on this AP Archive film, disembarking at Utah Beach. However, I cannot be sure of the first two letters.

    Anyone able to confirm or correct?

    Thanks,

    Pat
     
  9. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
    9
    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    To continue from p104...

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  10. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
    9
    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    A bit more...

    I see the church in Champfleur has steps leading to at least three doors in this Google Maps 'street view' (one around the far gable), so its difficult to picture the exact scene of General Leclerc sitting at the table with his own shells hitting the steeple over his head. However, despite this I have to smile at the thought of the poor innkeeper pouring the cider with trembling hands :D

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  11. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
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    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    More...

    We still appear to be dated the 11th of August.

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  12. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
    9
    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    To complete chapter 9, p108-109 refers...

    I have seen photographs of General Leclerc sitting on the parapet of Pont Neuf Bridge which I will post here when I find them again.

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  13. allan125

    allan125 Active Member
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    Apr 20, 2013
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    Retired - although it doesn't feel like it
    Cornwall/UK
    thanks Pat - always nice to read from the French troops perspective.

    regards

    Allan
     
  14. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
    9
    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    Hi Allan,

    The prose is a bit flowery at times but nonetheless has a unique ability to impart the story to the reader in a powerful manner. The next section is a case in point, but the photograph below ties it all together - almost like watching a silent movie with sound running in tandem, but slightly out of sync. :D

    General Leclerc sitting on the wall of Pont Neuf Bridge in Alencon...note the then recent tank track damage to the edge of the footpath, which now appears buried under a higher road surface here:
    [​IMG]

    To continue from p. 111...

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  15. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
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    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    More...

    Page 113 refers:

    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  16. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
    Staff Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    2,541
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    Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
    To continue from p. 121...

    '"A costly day for some of the French units," writes Pierre Bourdan, "and a bloody one for the enemy.. Hustled, overrun by the French armour and by men whom no fire power seemed to halt, seeing them appear from everywhere, from the fields, the roads, the hedges, attacking, passing and returning to attack without respite, the Germans, after an efficient and obstinate resistance, were finally no more than a disorderly, disrupted, decimated rabble trying to find an outlet, an opening, machine-gunned down in mid flight, sometimes at point blank range."

    This account is referenced in the Notes section of the book thus:
    Pierre Bourdan: Carnet de Retour avec la Division Leclerc (Tremois, 1945) At Francheville and at Le Cercueil, Captain Branet had a remarkable "bag".

    At the time Patton was trying to convince Bradley, the four companies of the 501st Tank Regiment, which had also crossed the sacrosanct line of demarcation between the Americans and the British, advanced in an unpleasant atmosphere of insecurity. It was by the light of fires that the rest of the column made its sinuous way round the carcasses left by its predecessors and finally arrived at the slope which descends to Ecouche and the Orne. There, faced with a resistance which had grown stronger, they formed a square for the night.

    "At dawn it was a mirage. At the bottom of the slope was N 24 bis, the goal of all our efforts. It emerged from the village just about where we were to enter it. Behind a triangle of meadows fringed with hedges was a mass of vehicles. They seemed to glide beneath the foliage which half masked them."

    This prey within gun range electrified Captain Buis's company: every gun fired at the same time. The tanks sped to the Orne bridge, bottled up 400 vehicles of the 116th Panzar and cut the N 24 bis.

    The Seventh Army of the Wehrmacht had literally cracked its head on an impenetrable barricade and lost its last escape route to the east. Its retreat was deflected to the potholed forest roads which, descending into the Dives cauldron, cross it in open country before climbing across the Auges hills towards the Seine.

    It was 0645 hours; the battle of the pocket had begun.

    Colonel Billotte made a dash for the house which was to become his HQ, abandoned that very moment by a Luftwaffe company. On a table the porridge prepared for the fugitives was still piping hot. Colonel Billotte seized the bowl, devoured its contents and considered his breakfast well-earned.'


    More follows...

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  17. allan125

    allan125 Active Member
    Researcher

    Apr 20, 2013
    356
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    Male
    Retired - although it doesn't feel like it
    Cornwall/UK
    Thanks for all the different updates, nice to catch up with everything.

    Kind regards

    Allan
     

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