Saturday, July 18, 2020

Operation Goodwood, Morning...


Lindner and his platoon had reached the crossroads with their battalion commander riding along. They were in the small village of Cagny and they were met by an Oberstleutnant¹ from the 21st Panzer Division.

"Major, are you hurt badly?"

Major Fromme climbed carefully down from Tiger 224, saluted the Oberstleutnant and said, "It can wait, I've sent the last two companies of my battalion to Manneville, next village to the north I believe, and I'm here with my very last platoon. I lost my car and driver to a strafing attack. I was told to leave one platoon here, and I'd like to join the rest of my battalion as soon as I can get this scratch patched up."

"Natürlich, my dear major. We can certainly use these Tigers as we have word of, ahem, 'hundreds' of British panzers allegedly preparing to sweep down upon us from north of Caen."

"Hundreds?" Major Fromme couldn't help but question that. He knew the Allies had many men and lots of vehicles ashore, he'd seen them, but 'hundreds' of tanks? That he found hard to believe.

"The Milice in Bénouville got a message to headquarters last night, they indicate that there are at least three British panzer divisions waiting to cross the Caen canal and the Orne River. These men have proven reliable in the past."

"You trust the French? With the Allies coming ashore in their thousands? They're just waiting to turn their coats again." Major Fromme had a low opinion of the French, even the ones allegedly on his side.

"We believe the report to be credible. Now, I'd like to use this platoon at the northern end of the village, they will have a good field of fire for some distance. With four Tigers, we should be able to whittle the Tommy numbers down significantly. I also have two 8.8 cm guns positioned forward in Le Mesnil Frémental to the north and west of here."

"Gerhard, deploy as the Oberstleutnant desires, I'll be next door, so to speak, in Manneville."

"Jawohl Herr Major!" Lindner signaled to the other three Tigers to follow 224. He wanted to get settled in before the sun rose any higher.

The crossroads at Cagny, looking north.

Sgt Fitzhugh stood in his commander's hatch and watched as wave after wave of British bombers passed overhead at what couldn't have been more than 3,000 feet. He had never seen so many RAF heavy bombers in the air in daylight, usually they flew at night. They were all headed south, hopefully to pound the Jerry positions he and his lads were supposed to take.

The men around him began to cheer as they felt the earth tremble beneath them as the bombers began to drop their loads. Some of the younger men felt that they would merely have to walk over the German positions as the bombs would have killed anyone who cared to fight. Sgt Fitzhugh knew better.

He lit another cigarette and consulted his map, his hope was that the bombers didn't produce too much rubble in the villages along the way, and dear Lord don't chew up the terrain too badly. He'd seen what the bombers had done to Caen, what the British had seized at any rate. It was a moonscape.

Thee Tigers had taken up their positions just as the first aircraft came overhead. Lindner was amazed, he could actually see the bombs separating from the aircraft. He ordered his men to button up, things were going to get very bad, very quickly.

The first stick of bombs landed approximately 150 meters to the east of Lindner. He watched through his vision blocks as the bombs marched through the fields and into the village. He was very glad not to be under those bombs.

The next stick landed about 100 meters behind them. By some miracle, not a single bomb landed anywhere near the platoon, the paint on their tanks wasn't even scratched. But as the last flight of bombers droned off, Lindner could hear the crackling of the flames and the screams of the wounded.

"I guess we're it for defending the village of Cagny." he muttered to himself.

(Upper map updated, I had Lindner's position wrong. Thanks to an alert reader!)

Major Fromme and the bulk of schwere Panzer Abteilung 503 had not been so fortunate. The RAF bombs had inundated their positions, not a single tank remained. Major Fromme had taken over a tank and that vehicle had been partially buried during the bombing. When he regained consciousness he thought perhaps that it was night, the inside of the vehicle was pitch black.

Reaching for his torch, he managed to turn it on, amazingly it still worked. He could see that his driver and bow gunner were dead, their heads were at unnatural angles and they were completely limp. His loader was moaning, so he was alive, but how badly hurt he didn't know. His gunner was also alive, he could see the man breathing.

He then noticed that there was a bit of light coming from his vision blocks. Struggling to get up into his hatch, he could see that there was a lot of debris obscuring his view. He tried the hatch, no luck. Something was holding it closed. He tried one more time. No, he was not going to budge it.

As he tried to get to the loader's hatch, he heard his gunner moan, "Herr Major, are we still alive?"

"Some of us are Gustav, are you badly hurt?"

"Nein, but I have a massive headache."

"Probably a concussion injury."

Fromme had reached the loader's position, he checked the man's pulse, he was alive, he appeared unwounded. Probably knocked out by the bombs Fromme thought. It was then that he noticed his shoulder wound was bleeding again. A Sanitäter from the 21st had patched him up before the Oberstleutnant in Cagny had had him driven over to Manneville. He'd worry about the wound later.

He tried the loader's hatch, there, it moved.

"Gustav, help me move Karl, I need to get onto his seat."

Gently they moved the unconscious loader over to the commander's seat. He didn't move, he must be badly concussed, Fromme thought. But now, up on the loader's seat, Fromme could put his good shoulder against the hatch and push. Gott sei Dank², it's opening!

Tiger I of the sPzAbt 503 overturned at Manneville by the bombing during Operation Goodwood.

Pushing the hatch open and managing to wriggle himself out, Major Rolf Fromme looked around at a scene of utter devastation. Tiger 313, about 50 meters away, had been flipped onto its back, he couldn't see anyone around it. He saw a pillar of fire where he knew Kurt Schoerner's tank had been, as to the village of Manneville, there was nothing left but rubble.

Major Fromme doubted that he had a battalion left to command.

British Shermans and infantry, beginning of Operation Goodwood

Sgt Fitzhugh's troop joined the column passing over the Bailey bridges laid down by the engineers during the night. Overhead the shells from hundreds of artillery pieces passed on their way to hit the Germans. While it seemed impossible for anything to survive first the bombers and then artillery, Fitzhugh knew that humans always found a way.

He fully expected to meet fierce resistance the further they advanced. He just couldn't figure out why the Germans hadn't started shooting yet. He had a bad feeling about that.

"We're in for a long day lads," he announced over the intercom, "stay sharp and keep your eyes open!"

Cromwell tanks moving across York Bridge, a Bailey bridge built over the Caen Canal and the Orne River.

¹ Lieutenant colonel
² Thank God


  1. In the first section, you refer to two 88 cm guns. Those are pretty dang big bore! Even 88 mm ones were bad enough. :-). I think they were 8.8 cm auf Deutsch, we called them 88 mm. But you know that, nicht wahr?

    1. D'oh! Fixed it.

      I call them 8.8 cm when writing on the Germans, 88 mm when writing on the Allies. Seems I was caught betwixt and between in that sentence!

    2. I didn’t know the P.1500 ever made it out of an engineer’s fever dream and into production. :)

    3. 15 yards, unnecessary roughness, piling on.

      But hey, I deserve it.

    4. Did someone just Ratte on you?

    5. Project name for the P.1500 land cruiser, armed with a cruiser's turret.

      Lame attempt at a bad joke. If it was a horse, I'd be shooting it right now.

  2. Don't think I'd like to be the PBI on the back of that Firefly considering it would attract the attention of every German gun that saw it. Oh.....nice work on that first photo Sarge........:)

    1. Yes, they did attract rather a lot of attention.

      Thanks, glad you noticed. 😁

    2. And the flash/concussion from the 17lb-er if the Firefly was first to engage...

      BTW, a good account - semi-fictionalised* - of the British fighting in Shermans around this time (actually Op. Totalise, just after Goodwood) is Ken Tout's "Tank!", which IIRC has Witmann's last engagement as an off-camera action.


      * Some of the participants he decribes are amalgams, and some of the incidents are from slightly later.

    3. That 17-lb gun certainly attracted a lot of attention.

      I see that Mr Tout has written a few books on tank action in Normandy and after. Too bad that "Tank" is out of print. (Amazon can get me a copy for ~$134!)

  3. I'm trying to get my mind wrapped around just how many bomb craters there are compared to the results.

    And I did have a few eye blink moments when my less-than-mature mind sector realized that the words, "good, wood, and morning," were all in the same sentence.

    I don't think that I would want to be anywhere near Major Fromme during combat.

    1. Jon - Major Fromme was a real person, highly decorated, survived the war and entered the Bundeswehr and became a lieutenant-colonel. He died in 1992 at the age of 77. He was a fine soldier.

    2. PA - You guys...

      (I just noticed that, d'oh!)

  4. Brings to mind Russel Davis' description of the pre-landing bombardment at Peleliu in his book "Marine at War." None of the Japanese could have survived. The projected three-day fight took 2.5 months and 10,000 Japanese killed and wounded 10,000 U.S. Marines and Soldiers. Yeah, ape-lizards are often hard to kill and often fiercely resist being killed. Oh yeah, all 10,000 Japanese soldiers perished. IIRC something less than 20 laborers -- possibly Korean (?) -- lived to be captured.Quite the little battle.

    Once again you've painted a great picture Sarge!

    1. The best a pre-invasion bombardment can hope for (in my estimation) is disorganizing the enemy and keeping his head down.

      Of course, you have to go in on the tail end of the bombardment otherwise you give the enemy time to clear his head and man his post. Which the Japanese were pretty good at.

    2. Coral and volcanic islands are particularly suited to surviving a massive bombardment, coral because that stuff is just... tough and volcanic because the volcanic rock has sufficient flex in it so it acts like foam, very hard and crumbly foam but foam.

      And the Japanese were very good at constructing survivable shelters.

  5. Heavy and prolonged bombardments in conventional warfare usually disrupt the enemy but they also slow any possible advance and render much of the terrain impassible. The British armor in Goodwood was hindered and channeled unnecessarily resulting in incredible tank losses. Remarkably many tanks were recovered and repaired, the advantage of the attacker, but the crew losses were horrific. The use of close support aircraft which the Russians and Germans used repeatedly in the East would have been far better than heavy bombers. By the way air power has consistently overstated their claims by factors of about 20 fold.

    1. All true.

      Aviators, while not necessarily prone to exaggeration, might be forgiven due to the speeds with which things happen in the air. Over in a flash, hey, I saw something blow up, must be the tank I was shooting at. Or the fuel truck down the road...

      Hard to tell without gun camera footage.

      Um, interesting moniker...

  6. Excellent piece.

    Interestingly, in the picture of Cagny, 1944, it looks like there's a section of zig-zag trench or anti-tank trench right in the upper middle of the picture. Hmmm.

    High explosives vs armored vehicles. Never a fun thing, if the HE is large enough. The Soviet KV-2 got a bit of a reputation for shattering the crews of German tanks by hitting them with 152mm HE. And an aerial bomb tends to pack more wallop than any stinking artillery shell, unless said artillery shell is rather naval in origin and on the upper scale of naval gunnery at that.

    1. I saw that, I think it's a sunken road as it's oriented in an odd direction. And it's still there in the modern overhead imagery. Does look like a trench, doesn't it?

      Because of the weight of armor, where do you put the thin stuff? Top and bottom, the danger from mines is more from mobility kills (take out a track and a tank can do donuts, not much else), though I would not want to be in a tank with mines exploding underneath.

      Thinner armor on top leaves one susceptible to direct hits from above. In an account I read recently, a platoon of Panthers (maybe a company) had to withdraw as they got caught by artillery. Didn't damage any of the fighting gear but did destroy all of their radio antennae, if you can't communicate it makes it tough to fight in a coordinated fashion!

    2. (Don McCollor)...At Omaha Beach when things were going bad, destroyers were called close in to give fire support. In one account, the destroyer saw a Sherman firing up a draw. Her big rangefinders saw where the shell hit. The tank's next shot coincided with the arrival of full salvo of five inch shells on the same target. The tank commander popped his head out of the turret, saw the destroyer offshore, popped back in, and swung the turret toward his next target...

    3. The destroyer men earned their pay that morning!

  7. Great Reading, I look forward to each installment.

    As for the trench, curious, until you look at it in Street View. Your probably correct with it being a partially sunken road, it's a wall, odd about it's direction and zig zag. There is what appears to be a long drainage pond about 75 feet to the west.

    And, not to nit pick, but your circles do not line up on the same spot. In the 1944 image, the circle should be 650 feet to the NW, or at the very top left corner of the '44 image. ( on another note, the "2020" image is actually from 7/2/2019 )
    The Saint Germain Church seemed to survive the bombing.

    1. I believe you're right on the misplacement of the circle. (I based the date of the second image on what Google maps said, might be off by a tad. Doubt that Cagney has changed much in a year though.)

      Street view?!?!? D'oh! Why didn't I think of that.

      Off to make repairs to circle placement!

      Good eye!

  8. Hey AFSarge;

    Escellent Story, The carpet bombing the Allies used around Caen were hit or miss...Literally, then they tried it on operation Cobra I believe in the hedgerow country in Normandy on a larger scale and it was a disaster from I read on the after action reports, they dropped more bombs on our troops then the Germans. It was brutal fighting conditions. A German with a panzerfaust could do a lot of damage to the Allied armor.

    1. The airmen tried to err on the side of caution at times and would push the bomb line back too far, often missing the German positions entirely. At Avranches they tried to fix that, and bombed their own men, as well as killing General Lesley McNair, Chief of Army Ground Forces.

      For some time afterward the 9th Tactical Air Force was referred to as the "American Luftwaffe" by many in the ground forces.


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