Sunday, July 19, 2020

Operation Goodwood, Afternoon...


Sgt Fitzhugh tossed his cigarette into the dirt and ground it out, straightening his tanker's helmet he told his crew, "Look alive lads, it's the C.O. and the Sarn't Major. Probably come to tell us where we might die today."

Fitzhugh's battalion commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Bryce-Heath, and his regimental sergeant major, Oswald Brookes, climbed out of their jeep and stretched. Riding a jeep, at speed, over some of these farm tracks was uncomfortable and jarring to one's bones, to say the least.

"Wait here Sarn't Major," Lt Col Bryce-Heath pulled his map out, then called out to Fitzhugh, "gather your tank commanders Sarn't, I shall only be briefing this once per troop."

The other tank commanders were waiting for Fitzhugh's signal, they had all wondered what the battalion C.O. wanted. Quickly they gathered by the troop commander's tank, a Sherman VC.

"Right lads, bit of a change in plan. Brigade is attaching us directly to 7th Armoured. We're to provide support for them as they push on to Bourguébus Ridge. As you can see, we're just south of Hérouvillette, just west of here, Escoville, I think..."

"I've got that on my map Sir, just here. We're right about, there."

"Yes, thank you sergeant. Now your task is to spearhead the battalion as we push towards Cagny. The RAF claim to have obliterated that village as well as Manneville, which you should pass to your left flank. Push on, mop up any German resistance, we expect a few remnants of the 272nd Infantry in the area. Guards Armoured will be to your left and will deal with any survivors from the 1st SS. Shouldn't be many after the bombings and the artillery preparation. Now get ready to move, and good hunting!"


Fitzhugh always hated to hear "good hunting" from some officers, as if this were a bloody fox hunt. He doubted the bombs and artillery had killed all of the Germans' big cats. He was quite sure there were still Panthers and Tigers to spare!

Looking south from Escoville, route of advance for Fitzhugh's troop.
Google Street View

Sgt Fitzhugh ordered his troop to move out, he had them in reverse wedge formation with his own tank at the rear angle of the wedge. That way he could respond to either flank and to the front should the surviving Germans engage them.

He stayed low in his hatch, all tank commanders were very leery of riding exposed as too many had become casualties to sniper fire. Even in this open country the Jerry snipers could hole up and use the ground to stay concealed. Without any supporting infantry, which rather irked him, they would just have to button up and stumble on if they were engaged by enemy infantry here in the open. Fortunately the bastards wouldn't be able to get close enough to use a Panzerfaust. He hoped.

Intended line of advance, Fitzhugh's troop
Google Maps

Fitzhugh had his map in hand, "There, that must be Sannerville to the southeast." Over the wireless he told his tank commanders, "Heads up lads, we should be seeing resistance at any moment."

Another 1,000 feet traveled, still nothing. Fitzhugh could see the signs of burning villages ahead. Maybe the RAF and the arty did kill all the Jerries, they seem to be non-existent today!

Northwest of Sannerville

According to his map, that burning place to his left front was, used to be, the village of Manneville. Fitzhugh had no way of knowing that the place was full of dead and wounded Panzertruppen¹ and destroyed Tiger tanks, a force which would have stopped the advance of his troop cold.

From the ruins of Manneville, Major Rolf Fromme watched in frustration as the Tommies advanced unopposed. Was there no one left to oppose them?

Just north of Manneville (to the left of the picture), which would be in flames due to the bombing and artillery earlier in the day.
Cagny lies beyond in the center of the photo. 

Google Street View

"Troop halt!" Fitzhugh commanded over the wireless.

LCpl Thomas Ginns, Fitzhugh's driver, had to ask, "What's up Sarn't? Why are we stopping?"

"Well laddie boy, it's like this. We've advanced better'n five miles so far and not a peep from Jerry. This is either the first time the RAF boys and the arty actually completely suppressed the opposition, or we're walking into a bloody trap. Truth be told lads, I've got the wind up, don't like this at all."

"Right then, I guess we need to get stuck in, orders ya know..."

"Half a league, half a league..." gunner Cpl Cecil Chapman started reciting.

"Stow it laddie, that's not funny at all."

8.8 cm Pak 43/41 Anti-tank Gun

Leutnant Gregor Hoffman watched through his field glasses as the four Shermans halted. Did they smell a trap? Hoffman had had a trap until the Tommy artillery had walked over his positions, now his second gun was a smoking wreck manned by dead crewmen. All he had left was one gun, and perhaps twenty rounds of anti-tank ammunition left. His resupply had never come in, and all of his spare ammo had gone up in the barrage.

He daubed his left ear with his scarf, it was still oozing blood and he could hear nothing from that ear. He suspected that he had a mild concussion. He wanted to be clear of this place, but both of his prime movers had been destroyed along with his other gun and his spare ammo. It was a miracle that he had this gun!

"Load Panzergrenate!²"

Cagny within range, yellow circle marks rough position of Lindner's Tiger platoon of sPzAbt 503.
To the right is Le Mesnil Frémental, the orange diamond marks the position of a German 8.8 cm anti-tank gun.

Google Street View

Fitzhugh scanned the remnants of Cagny to his front and Le Mesnil Frémental to his right. Both villages were burning, but Fitzhugh noticed a line of trees on the edge of Cagny and a couple of outbuildings which seemed untouched.

"Willis, load armor piercing." Cpl Willis Seckington removed the high explosive round from the breech, stowed it, then loaded an armor piercing round. They had been expecting infantry, Seckington wondered what his sergeant had seen to want an AP round up the spout.

"Cecil, do you see that line of trees, dead ahead. Doesn't one of them have a rather blocky, something, underneath it?"

"Got it, Jesus wept, it's a bloody Tiger!" screamed Cpl Chapman. He was still picked on for identifying a Pzkw IV in an earlier battle as a Tiger. This time he could see it clearly in his gunsight.


Just as he yelled that out, the unseen 88 in Le Mesnil Frémental fired. Its shot went into the engine compartment of the right flank tank of Fitzhugh's troop. Sgt Fitzhugh saw the vehicle in his peripheral vision as its bow slewed to the right. It began to smoke.

Fitzhugh wanted to look but there was another threat to his front. He had to deal with that one first while Cecil had it dialed in.



Willis set a personal best time for reloading a second AP round, Fitzhugh was ready to fire again within seconds.

"Again, fire!"


The round from the Sherman VC hit Tiger 113 squarely on the right drive sprocket, knocking the track off and destroying the vehicle's mobility. The second round came in and entered the lower part of the hull, destroying the transmission and killing both the driver and the loader.

Lindner saw his men bail out of the damaged tank, "Willi, shoot that big bastard towards the rear, it's one of those 17-pounder Shermans!"

"Jawohl! Got him, firing" Feldwebel Willi Hoffmeister shouted at the same time as he stomped on the firing pedal. He was dismayed to see that he had missed completely as he saw his round hit the dirt to the right of the enemy tank.

"Fritz, for the love of all that's Holy reload! Gerhard, do you see that Sherman heading to our right? What is the other bastard shooting at?"

Fitzhugh had sent one tank to flank to the east of Cagny. His other surviving tank was engaging the Jerries to his right. They had fired a single shot but nothing since, perhaps Sullivan had managed to kill whatever killed Oswald's tank.

Leutnant Hoffman stared in horror as one of the loaders dropped the next round after they had fired a single shot, and had scored as well. Their survival depended on speed, and they were not winning that race.

He put his field glasses to his face and saw that one of the Shermans was turning his way.

"Load damn it, get that damned round up!"

The young private from Garmisch was sweating bullets as he handed another round up, he didn't drop this one. But it didn't matter.

A high explosive round from Fitzhugh's second right flank vehicle hit the gun shield near the top.  The round detonated from the impact, spraying fragments of the shell, and the gun shield, over the gun crew and the ready ammunition.

Leutnant Hoffman had been hit again, this time in the lower abdomen, but he didn't have long to suffer as two high explosive rounds in the ready pile detonated. No one survived that.

Le Mesnil Frémental was clear of Germans, only Cagny and Lindner's three Tigers stood in the way of the British advance.

Fitzhugh couldn't believe what he was hearing over the wireless, they'd been ordered to fall back towards Sannerville. Apparently the weakened, probably no tanks left, 1st SS were counterattacking and Guards Armoured was in trouble.

"All tanks, fire smoke! Withdraw to the north, smartly now."

Chapman fired one last AP round at another Tiger in Cagny. He swore it was a solid hit, but now it was behind a growing smoke screen.

Probably just as well, he thought.

Chapman's parting shot hit the top of 224's turret. It didn't penetrate nor cause any spalling, but it deafened the entire turret crew. Lindner covered his ears and felt wetness, damn it, not burst ear drums, not again!

The sun began to set on the first day of Operation Goodwood, the British and Canadians were nowhere near their assigned objectives and dozens of friendly tanks had been destroyed. The day had been a disaster.


¹ Tank troops
² Armor-piercing round (AP)


  1. Man that farmland makes you feel.......undressed.....Where's the friendly TacAir when you need it? Brit armor going through the meat-grinder.

    1. It is wide open out there, when I did my terrain study I couldn't believe how open it was. What some might call good tank country. But yeah, naked and ashamed out there in the open.

    2. Good tank country, better ambush country. Yikes, could have been worse, could have been an airfield.

    3. "Naked and ashamed?" You ain't never met the right woman... Or... umm, never mind.

      The British penchant for unsupported armor attacks should've been taken behind the barn and shot since no later than Operation Crusader in North Africa. British WII armor seemed to have been a direct descendant of British cavalry, renowned for having heads made of nothing but bone. Very often a terrible disgrace. And when they did have their heads screwed on straight, their high command let them down -- badly.

    4. One of the British government's big concerns was that they were literally running out of infantry. They could afford to lose tanks but not men.

  2. Reminds me of the sight lines growing up in Lubbock county. You could see four high school stadiums from my house. Petersburg, Idalou, New Deal and Abernathy. I don't think Heckville had lights, they were six man football.

    I can't imagine trying to run naked across those fields... So when does disciplined turn the corner toward crazy? wowzers...

  3. and with long lines of sight, the famous 88s were able to fully realize their long distance potential...
    both those towed and mounted on variety of armored chassis, from Nashorn to Tiger to Jagdpanther...

  4. How very wonderful to be the tip of the spear, and to then realize only you are getting the shaft. Being hung out with no support is definitely an unfun thing to happen.

    Where's the air support? Where's the on-call artillery? Where are the other units that are supposed to be with him? Mounted infantry? A couple of scout vehicles? Someone on a bicycle? Nope, hung out on the far edge of disaster, reliant on massive follow up of supporting forces that never quite show up. Hmmm. Was this one of Monty's brilliant plans? Sure seems like it.

    1. Don't read too much into the actions of a single platoon in the midst of a much larger operation.

    2. Given just enough information to do your job, relying on "someone" to do theirs so you don't get flanked and fire-sacked. Man, the pucker factor must've been through the roof...

    3. Hey, Beans, wasn't that the motto of 13th Air Force? I don't think 13 was an accidental choice, but prophetic.

    4. Not sure I get your point Larry, 13th AF was in the Pacific.

  5. Good Story;

    despite the bad rap the Sherman got, the British version was a good tank with the 17 pounder gun on it. easier to maintain on the battlefield. But the flat country was made for the 88 of the tiger and the defense. Excellent Story!

    1. From what I've read, the 17-lbr version was anything but easier to maintain. It took significantly longer to reload, and it didn't get some of the ammo protection that later American M4s got. The flash gave it away every time it fired (there's a reason it was called 'Firefly', plus the crap kicked up by the excessive muzzle blast caused problems).

    2. The 17-pounder had big shells, though the turret for the Sherman VC was enlarged to handle the gun, it was still fairly cramped. Long shells, small space, it took a little longer to load. I believe the "easier to maintain" applies to the Sherman platform in general as compared to German vehicles.

  6. I love seeing the puddles in the tracks and field edges. Every farmer/rancher feels the same thing regardless of the heathen language they bitch about drought in.

    None of which speaks to Goodwood, but it does remind us that our awful tantrums pass unnoticed by nature and planet.

    1. I like the views over the open fields myself. We lived in a farming village in Germany, it was awfully nice.

  7. (Don McCollor)...Aside from the Jabos, it would be a lovely place to be dug in hull down with a Tiger...

    1. Ah, but the Jabos are what made life so very difficult for the Panzers.

      But yes, great sight lines in all directions.

  8. It's interesting to see the battlefields today as opposed to 1944. Have you seen that YouTube video of the effort to reconstruct (today) the battle that killed "The Black Baron" (Michael Witmann)?

    I am enjoying the serial - thank for all the effort you have obviously put into this! And tell Sgt Brandt to get off his ass!

    1. I haven't seen that video (I think), I'll track it down.

      The Big Red One is getting ready for Operation Cobra. I'm sure Sgt Brandt is training hard and not drinking too much Calvados.

    2. Witmann was rash, impetuous, and tactically-unsound -- but he was lucky. Lucky enough to be driving a Tiger I on the Eastern Front, where virtually nothing could kill it, and his idiocy wouldn't be punished. Lucky enough to be the subject of a Nazi propaganda campaign to manufacture a hero (e.g. the Villers-Bocage fight, where all the kills of his unit magically get attributed to him).

      Until he wasn't lucky, and led his unit into yet another ambush, whereupon he became the only kind of good Nazi.


    3. a bear - Bingo!

      The Germans placed a great deal of emphasis on "aces." Tank aces, fighter aces, U-Boat aces, etc., Goebbels' propaganda machine played all that to the hilt. Often to the detriment of other members of the armed forces. Did Wittmann drive the tank? No. Did he load the gun? No. Did he lay and fire the gun? No. Did he man the bow machine gun? No. The other members of his crew, whose names are well known among historians, get short shrift, Wittmann gets all the kudos. It's what an English friend of mine would term, "Rubbish!"

    4. One doesn't kill over a hundred tanks except through exceptional teamwork, training and skill. Show me a commander who isn't bash, reckless and aggressive and I'll show you a target. Tactically unsound? Wittman crushed an British armored brigade with his platoon and is a legend. Luck is always important but most men make their luck. When you talk about tactically unsound explain to me how the British lost over 400 tanks in Goodwood, more tanks than the Germans had opposing them in that sector by a factor of about 4.

      The British remembered WW!, and therefor moved with all the speed of a turtly. They saved lives but squandered material at an amazing rate and accomplished little.

    5. The British were literally running out of men to replace their infantry. If you keep that in mind, it explains some of their actions. One of the things they remembered from WWI was their losses. There were just not enough people in 1944.


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