Bergepanther Travels to the UK

Bergepanther at Chertsey

Greetings Panzerwreckers.

The following passage comes from a report by Major AG Sangster, whose photos have appeared in a number of Panzerwrecks. His report covers a few days in August 1944, when he brought a Bergepanther back to the UK from Normandy.

Main HQ First Cdn Army
14 Aug 44

Report on trip to the UK by Maj AG Sangster CAC to deliver Panther Recovery Tk to DTD and to investigate shipping facilities with a view to future consignments of enemy eqpt being shipped to DTD

6 Aug 44
Proceeded with Lt Col King to 2 Armd Tps Wksp at BENY-SUR-MER. Checked recovery tk and found it to be in running condition. With Col King acting as guide and an OR borrowed from the Wksp acting as traffic control, proceeded together with Tpr Evers to drive the tk to Juno Beach via authorised tk tracks. After about a half mile, a jet of oil was seen squirting out of the offside steering hydraulic control. This was found to be due to the separation of a rubber pipe. This was repaired with the aid of a piece of string and the tk then proceeded but without the hydraulic assistance on the steering. Second and third gears would not remain engaged, therefore, when ground permitted it was necessary to jump from first to fourth gear. This made control of the veh very heavy as the turning radius in fourth gear was not short enough to cope with many of the corners. When within sight of the beach, violent vibrations suddenly shook the vehicle and it was found that the rear universal joint at the engine end of the propeller shaft had broken up. A beach recovery veh was obtained and the tk was towed the remaining 300 yds to the landing craft. The tk was then pushed onto LCT 442 and the craft moved to its anchorage at 1200 hrs. At 1530 hrs a convoy of 8 LCTs formed up and sailed for the UK. At 2030 hrs the LCT developed engine trouble and had to cut to half speed on the port engine.

7 Aug 44
Craft was able to keep up with the convoy although it had to drop to rear post, arriving safely and dropping anchor in the east Solent at 0230 hrs. 0700 hrs the craft reported to the control over by light and requested instructions. By the time that control had instructed craft to move to a waiting area at 1200 hrs, preparatory to beaching, the engine of the craft had been examined and it was found that both engines had thrown big ends. Tugs were not available until 1730 hrs and the craft eventually beached at 1830 hrs. After some difficulty due to the ineffective steering on the tk and the restricted opening on the LCT, the tk was unloaded and towed to a parking area at 0200 hrs. It was then found that no preparations had been made for the acceptance of the veh and no one on the beach had any idea where it was going or why. The Embarkation Staff at Stokes Bay, where the craft beached, were most helpful but were unable to provide a transporter that night. They did, however, arrange accommodation for personnel and guard for the vet by 2230 hrs. By this time contact had been made with 21 Army Gp rear, Dept of Tk Design, and War Office, but no one was reached who could offer any helpful suggestions as to movement of the vehicle. It is pointed out, that in addition to being after normal working hours, it was also the Aug Bank Holiday. No Duty Offr was available at DTD but the FVPE Duty Offr made extensive investigations at his end, still without results. Lt. Col. McCrudden, in charge of movement control for the area, tried to reach all his available connections in the War Office, but by 2300 hrs there were still no results.

8 Aug 44
Telephoned DTD who were not expecting the veh. Telephone connections were very poor and it was 1300 hrs before Maj Huckin was reached. From then on action was taken very quickly. Capt Hacker arrived at 1730 hrs with a transporter following. The transporter arrived at 2000 hrs and by 2230 hrs all personnel had been fed, and the transporter loaded, and the party had moved off for Longcross. Accommodation for Tpr Evers was provided at FVPE.

9 Aug 44
Tk handed over to DTD and then to FVPE Wksps. Reported to Maj Huckin at 0900 hrs. Spoke to Mr AMM Durrant and advised him of the various delays encountered, and discussed the system presently in force with the RAF, of a transporter and recovery crew working on a shuttle system, thereby avoiding any delay, particularly on disembarkation. This system provided a five day turn-around, and would seem to be of great value, if very many enemy vehs are required by DTD. Tpr Evers was given 36 hr pass and warned to be ready to move off at 2400 hrs on 10 Aug 44. Departed for London 1140 hrs and reported to Lt Col Reeves 1245 hrs. Recounted to him details of trip, and information gained on the beach about Air Force recovery system and stated that this had been discussed conversationally with Mr Durrant. Reported also that beach staff had stated that the majority of LCTs returning to the UK travel empty and therefore no shipping problem exists travelling from France to UK. As to traffic going from the UK to France, the beach staff had stated that due to last minute changes, it was always possible to squeeze in an extra vehicle on some craft and it was reasonably certain that space could be found within 12 hrs. Lt Col Reeves stated that Lt Col Bright would not be returning as planned and therefore his seat on the CMHQ Courier Plane would be available. Made the necessary arrangements with CMHQ for this air passage.

10 Aug 44
Returned to Longcross to pack up personal kit. Found that FVPE had already repaired the damaged universal joint on the Panther and were checking the veh all over. Saw Brig Borough and thanked him for his co-operation in sending a transporter to Gosport. Recounted the tale of delays encountered during the trip and also RAFs system of recovery. He felt that if such a system were put in force for AFVs that it would be an excellent experience for his own experimental personnel to come over with the transporter, recover any vehicle requested, and take it back. It was pointed out, however, that this was purely unofficial comment, but that if action were taken later, at least he would be in the picture first hand.

11 Aug 44
Stood by at CMHQ until 1400 hrs for Courier Plane. Movement delayed from 0645 hrs as originally planned due to weather conditions. Plane took off at 1520 hrs from Gatwick and arrived Banville 1700 hrs. Tpr Evers returning 21 A Gp Rear.

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