Panzerwrecks 18 – Terrier Battle narrative

From ‘Current Reports from overseas No.82’, I found this narrative of the ‘Raamsdonk Terrier Battle’ as featured in Panzerwrecks 18, pages 66-73:

Introduction
1. This report of an action by a troop of Sherman tanks and an infantry platoon affords a good example of quick thinking and initiative on the part of individual tank commanders. The country was such that tanks could only operate along roads, and the flat open fields yielded no cover for infantry.

The plan
2. During the operations designed to clear the enemy from the south bank of the River Maas, a battalion of a Highland regiment, supported by one squadron of a Yeomanry tank regiment, were to advance through our forward positions in the area of Raamsdonk, with the task of seizing the bridge at Geertruidenburg, thereby cutting the enemy’s escape route to the north.

3. The enemy were known to hold the stretch of road north from Raamsdonk with machine guns and infantry anti-tank weapons, and unconfirmed reports stated that one Mark IV tank was also located in this area. An attack by tanks and dismounted infantry the previous day had proved unsuccessful and two tanks had been destroyed by enemy Bazookas.

4. It was decided to push a troop of tanks, and one platoon of the Highland battalion mounted in two Kangaroos, through and on to Laan by the road that turned west near the church, relying on speed and armour to overcome the opposition. If this project was successful a second troop, leading the rest of the company-— also mounted in Kangaroos—was to follow in their wake, leaving the mopping up to the remaining, dismounted companies. On arrival at Laan the leading company was to dismount and push on towards Geertruidenburg, supported by a troop of tanks. The other companies would follow up after the completion of mopping up operations in the Raamsdonk area.

Execution of the plan
5. At 1600 hours, after ten minutes’ shelling of the road leading to the church, the troop of tanks and platoon of infantry set off. The order of march was Serjeant “T” (75 millimetre gun tank). Lieutenant “M” (75 millimetre gun tank), the two Kangaroos, Corporal “P” (75 millimetre gun tank), and Corporal “G” (17 pounder gun tank).

6. The column advanced at a good speed, firing into the houses on either side of the road, and were approaching the Red House at H plus 10, when the artillery concentrations, which had been directed on to the area of the church, lifted. On reaching the Red House Serjeant “T” fired one round of HE at the White House, and a vivid green flash followed by flame and smoke, testified both to the accuracy of aim and to the happy thought that had inSpired the shooting. By this time SP Gun No. 1 had suddenly appeared on the left hand side of the road south of the church, having probably moved out from the White House area. Serjeant “T” himself did not see it, due to the smoke, but his gunner -Trooper “D” – spotted it and promptly put three AP rounds six inches apart into the front centre, thereby putting the SP gun out of action. The driver – Trooper “O” – kept going and just managed to squeeze past this obstacle, but rounding the bend opposite the church, he swerved to avoid some rubble and the right hand bank gave way, with the result that the tank dropped four feet into a ditch, at an angle of 30 degrees. It was then that Serjeant “T” spotted SP Gun No. 2 through the smoke; the gunner traversed and brewed it up with the first shot from their position in the ditch. So far, owing to quick and accurate shooting, two SP guns had been knocked out before either had been able to fire a shot.

7. Meanwhile, Lieutenant “M” passed SP Gun No. 1, and probably due to the smoke, had the misfortune to ditch himself. The Kangaroo that followed, under a legitimate misapprehension that the SP gun was still in action, most gallantly charged it, lost a right hand sprocket in the process, skidded and also ended up in the ditch. The commander of the second Kangaroo, to whom the situation appeared far from clear, gave the order to halt.

8. The advance had now come to a standstill and the infantry platoon dismounted from the two Kangaroos and reorganised in the area of the church.

9. It was then that Serjeant “T” got through to the squadron commander on the wireless and, considering the circumstances, gave a clear picture of what was happening, and so enabled the commanding officer of the infantry battalion to size up the situation and to despatch a second troop of tanks and platoon of infantry round by the southern road to Laan. Serjeant “T” also rang up corporal “P” and ordered him to try and come up past the obstacle in order to give protection on the front and left flank. Corporal “P” duly succeeded and took up a position near Serjeant “T” to where he shot up three 20 millimetre anti-aircraft guns mounted on half tracked vehicles and compelled the enemy infantry, who were firing their Spandaus and rifles at the ditched tanks, to run for cover. Later, by patrolling up and down the road, he scotched all enemy attempts to approach and destroy the tanks and Kangaroos.

10. Corporal “G”, for his part, had attempted to follow Corporal “P”, but since his tank was the fifth vehicle to swing round SP Gun No. 1, the bank had become so loosened that it gave way and he was ditched.

11. Lieutenant “M” dismounted from his tank to try and contact the platoon commander in the area of the church and was killed by Spandau fire.

12. By this time SP Gun No. 3 had approached from Raamsdonk with the object of taking the column in rear. It dealt faithfully with the second Kangaroo and, believing Corporal “G” to be out of action, drove up and ground to a standstill immediately in front of his ditched tank. Corporal “G’s” gunner was just able to traverse the necessary few inches to get on, but even then could only see the top six inches of the target owing to the steep angle at which his tank rested in the ditch. But he let fly with a round of HE and the SP gun straightway burst into flames. At the same time Corporal “P” spotted this SP gun through the smoke and put two rounds of AP into it from the opposite direction.

13. During the whole period covered by this operation, the column was subjected to heavy shelling and fired at from all directions by Spandaus. The crews of the ditched tanks remained inside and used Sten guns and grenades as opportunities appeared. The White House, three SP guns, and two Kangaroos were on fire, and the whole area, was wreathed in smoke. Some time later Lieutenant “M’s” tank, caught fire and added to, the conflagration, and the crew baled out and joined forces with the infantry platoon. At the same time Serjeant “T” shouted across to the platoon commander and told him that the bulk of the battalion were going round by a different route and that the platoon was to hold on until dark and then to rejoin the battalion as best it could. He also communicated with Corporal “P”, kept the situation under control, and found time to send back information. The squadron commander also talked direct to Corporal.“P” who gave him a clear picture of the
situation.

14. Two further half-track‘s were destroyed and at approximately 1830 hours, just as it was getting dark and the shelling and explosions were dying down, orders were given to withdraw.

Map

Like the sound of all that? Get the lowdown in photos in Panzerwrecks 18.

Panzerwrecks 18 page 55 – Another match up from Matthias Radu!

Just realized that I made a near-perfect “Now” picture of the Middelburg Stadthuis on p.55 in PW18 when I was on holiday in the Netherlands in August this year. It lacked the situational awareness that I had seen the picture a month before in your pdf-file. But the penny dropped when flipping through the book.

Thank you Matthias!

Panzerwrecks 18, sPSW (2cm) (Sd.Kfz.234/1) page 91

Interestingly enough, on 23 April 1945, the 47th AFA Bn fired
Concentration 52 at a “20mm on truck,” using 25 rounds of M48 and
2 rounds of WP. “Effect: vehicle destroyed, burning.” The 234/1?

They also threw in a lot of Pozit-fuzed rounds:

April 12 con.15 Personnel, 68 Rds M54, 20 Pozit.
April 13 con.14 Personnel, 79 Rds Pozit.
April 15 various 290 Rds Pozit, 11 Propaganda.

It was perhaps a good idea to surrender after receiving close to 300 air bursts, and it may well be the reason splinter protection was added to the engine decks of the Jagdpanthers.

Panzerwrecks 18, Jagdpanther on pages 6 – 8

Every once in a while, when deadlines loom and Lee and I are having a “Hurtgen Forest” Moment (each wishing to kill the other, but each too mentally and physically exhausted to lift a finger), it is inevitable that information comes to light that can only seem tangential to the subject matter at hand, and it gets the boot. This happened when I was grasping for verbiage to fill out the captions on the Jagdpanthers on pages 6 through 8 of PW18. I had overlooked the mention of “Wittingen” on the reverse of one of the photos. Searching the internet turned up one slim lead:

From page 433 of “Tainted Blood? Memoir of a Part-Jewish Girl in the Third Reich 1933-1945,” by Margaret Baache, Ph.D., regarding events she witnessed in Wittingen, circa 13 April 1945, the author records:

“More injured soldiers were admitted to the hospital [a converted school building]. So fighting was going on around Wittingen. Then we heard the sad story of a twelve-year-old [HJ] boy who tried single-handedly to crack an American tank with his bazooka. He failed, and was killed… I also heard about one German SS tank crossing a field. Were the SS men inside the tank lost? Or looking for their unit? Or were they fighting to the last man? Or perhaps trying to hide in a nearby forest? The tank was shot aflame. A farmer brought three badly burned SS men in his horse-drawn farm vehicle to the hospital, their hands and faces burned to a deep black, like unrecognizable masks. One of them died the next day, another soon afterwards. Only one man survived, suffering excruciating pain.”

Could they have been connected to that Jagdpanther? In any event, we should always be cognisant that there were men behind the metal.

Since then I have discovered that the author moved to the U.S. after the war and taught German to university students. Her writing style was such that I ordered a copy of her book. To write well, you must read well.

Panzerwrecks 18, Bazookamen, cover & pages 94-95.

Mud? Check.
Cold? Check.
Bazooka? Check.
Attitude? Check.


Gentlemen, meet Pvt. Charlie Rattler from Jefferson, TX.

It was purely by happenstance that I came across “Yank – The Army Weekly,” dated Feb 23, 1945 (Vol.3 # 36), with this photo illustrating an article entitled “Negroes in Combat” on pages 6-7. The caption read, “Pvt. Charlie Rattler of Jefferson, Texas, a fighter on the Western Front, strikes a pose with his bazooka.” The article divided into sections on France and Italy. The “France” section was written by Sgt. Ralph Martin of the Seventh Army. It mentioned the battle of Climbach, where the 103rd Infantry Division faced 88s, Mark IVs, artillery, snipers, etc. So they created Task Force Blackshear, consisting of a platoon of Engineers, a company of infantry from the 411th Regiment, seven medium tanks and a platoon [four guns] of towed three-inch TDs from the 614th to take Climbach. The 614th lost 3 or 4 guns immediately but won several Bronze Stars and one Silver Star for accomplishments during the battle.

A full account of the battle can be found in an article entitled, “Climb to Climbach,” by Sgt. Ralph G. Martin, on page 3 of the Feb. 4, 1945 (Vol.1 # 28) (Continental Edition) of “Yank.”

It turns out Pvt. Rattler was a member of the 614th (colored) Tank Destroyer Bn, a towed 3″ AT Gun unit attached to the 103rd Infantry Division all the way from October 1944 till the end of hostilities. More specifically, he was in the ill-fated third platoon of “C” Company. Third platoon won a unit citation for their action in Climbach, France, on 14 Dec 44, when they were almost completely wiped out, losing an M20 Armored Car, several jeeps, several half-tracks, 3 out of 4 of their 3″ guns, and most of the four 10-man gun crews.

From the unit history:

On the 25th of January Company C suffered again, and again it was the third platoon. This platoon was stationed in Schillersdorf in support of the 411th Infantry. Suddenly about 450 German SS troops attacked. It was later discovered that the German soldiers had been given schnapps and ether to get them into a state of mind to advance down the main road leading into the town. All the TD soldiers succeeded in getting out with the exception of Lt. George Mitchell and 11 enlisted men, who were captured and held by the Germans until the end of the war in Europe. All were liberated and returned to the states then.  [Pvt. Rattler and ten other enlisted men were listed as MIA on 27 Jan 45. Lt. Mitchell was no doubt one of the white officers sprinkled throughout this segregated battalion.]

Charlie didn’t get his photo in PW18, mainly because he wasn’t standing in front of a knocked-out German tank, but, if anyone out there can come up with a photo of a Panzer lost to the 614th, I’m sure he’ll have his day in a future volume of Panzerwrecks. In the meantime, figure modelers now have three mud-splattered bazookamen to choose from.

Panzerwrecks 18, Front and Rear Gatefolds, 11th Panzer Division

I.

Space limitations prevented us from mentioning a good deal a material relating to the images of the 11th Panzer Division’s surrender. For the reasons why the division appeared when and where it did, readers are hereby referred to:

http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/the-german-11th-panzer-division-giving-up-the-ghost/

a very fine article by Brig.Gen.Raymond E. Bell Jr., that appeared in the Sept 2005 issue of WWII History.

II.

To show the lengths Lee goes to to nail down a location, here is a “behind the scenes” excerpt from one of his emails:

In the background of Roddy’s 11PD surrender pic in the rear inside jacket there is a ‘pointy’ church spire. This does not match with any of the ‘kostel’ (Czech for church) in Vseruby, but does match one at Zeltendorf. All the Czech church spires have a rounded top as do most of the German ones in the area. Therefore in the absence of a smoking gun I would slap my cash on the table and say Zeltendorf. See grabs.

zeltendorf-church-spire-1-1024x576
zeltendorf-church-spire-2-e1418824744577-1024x844

III.

And from Timm Haasler:

Tanks of Pz.Rgt.15 in Bad Kötzting, Bavaria. The pictures must have been taken after 5 May 1945. On 4 May, what was left of the regiment was ordered by Fieldmarschall Schörner to move to Prague. Knowing about the situation in the Czech capital, the officers of the regiment made the decision to move in the opposite direction during the night in order to save the lives of the survivors. At midnight the column met the first Americans on the road to Rittsteig (the village is located at the German-Czech border, on German soil). The regiment surrendered to the Americans in the morning hours and were then sent to Bad Kötzting (10 km west of Rittsteig). All tanks and vehicles were gathered in a field east of the town. (Information taken from the History of Panzer-Regiment 15.)

 

Panzerwrecks 18, page 5: A ghostly chassis number

As we pointed out in the caption, the Jagdpanther on page 5 of Panzerwrecks 18 has a faint fahrgestell nummer (chassis number) painted on the Wanne. To be honest you would need the eyes of a hawk to see it in the photo, so here is a crop from the original, albeit played with to increase legibility, or not.

A ghostly chassis number