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    A new account of the Battle of Villers Bocage

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    33lima
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    A new account of the Battle of Villers Bocage

    Post by 33lima on Sat Feb 27, 2016 11:57 pm

    Couldn't resist picking this up at Carmina Hobbies in Fuengirola, Spain...



    ...though what I actually got was a two-part magazine version of the above book, with the same content and the same 192 pages. 'Villers Bocage - autopsie d'une bataille' by Frédéric Deprun and Yann Jouault is an excellent and detailed reconstruction of the battle, based on the latest research, including photos, eyewitness accounts (civilian as well as military) and unit histories. Much use is made of aerial photographs (including some taken around 13 June 1944), many zoomed in and with the positions of individual, named tanks shown in different locations, as the action developed. There are also some 'then and now' photos; the difference with the usual sort is that the 'now' versions often show a tank wreck superimposed on the modern view. Captions are extensive and there are notes on each chapter which add detail on sources and deductions or conclusions. Nothing's in English but it's not proving too much of a challenge for my schoolboy French!

    Part 1 covers the build-up including the approach march of s.SS Pz. Abt 101 and the advance of 22nd Armoured Brigade to Villers Bocage. Part 2 covers the afternoon battles, including the moves by Panzer Lehr, 2nd Panzer and the counterattack by 1 Kompanie of the Tiger battalion, which was very roughly handled by the British, demonstrating their typical tenacity in defence.

    I'm sure we have all read several accounts of the battle and know that sources differ. Most if not all recent sources now seem to recognise that Witmann did not make a second attack into the town and that even in his own attack, he was supported by fire from at least some of the other Tigers in his 2 Kompanie, which seems to have helped keep the British tank spearhead occupied, which would otherwise have made it very dangerous, if not suicidal, for Wittmann to turn left and engage the light AFVs lined up along the N175, back into Villers Bocage.

    For me, the most interesting conclusions or opinions of this new work were:

    - Witmann had left one of his six tanks - identified as 211 - on 'outpost duty' near a roadside cross at a junction on the north side of the N175, just east of Villers Bocage. Once Witmann went into action, this Tiger supported Wittmann's attack, and possibly hit some of the half-tracks or carriers at the rear of the Rifle Brigade column on the N175. That Tiger was seen there by a reliable local civilian source and it matches the location of one reported hit in a radio transmission recorded at this time, by one of the Rifle Brigade column's two 6 Pounder AT guns;

    - contrary to some even recent accounts, Wittmann had not turned around when he was shot at by Pat Dyas, but was engaged unsuccessfully from the rear, rotating his turret by 180 degrees to knock out Dyas's Cromwell, which had been stalking the Tiger after it passed by;



    - while Wittmann's Tiger then met Stan Lockwood's Firefly further down the road, exchanged fire and and backed up before turning around and heading back east, Witmann was NOT then stopped, as most accounts still say, by track damage from a 6 Pounder AT gun outside the shop where he soon after abandoned his Tiger. The shop is where his damaged tank came to a halt and was abandoned, but is not where the damage which eventually caused it to halt was sustained. Possibly it was Lockwood or Dyas who caused the damage, and possibly Wittmann, in blaming an AT gun, did not accurately identify his attackers (he was certainly not familiar with a Firefly);

    - one of the two 6 Pounder AT guns with the British column escaped with its Lloyd Carrier tractor, probably through a gap in the hedge behind the one pictured after being deployed and burned out. The escaped gun is probaby the one credited by the British with later (during the afternoon battle) knocking out some German light AFVs but despite being the only other 6 Pounder in the area at the time of Witmann's attack, did not engage Wittmann in the town;



    - the group of Cromwells often pictured amongst hedges and trees is not as often said, on Point 213, they are in a field just north of the N175 about half-way between the town and Point 213.





    I am still reading part 2 (while dipping back into part 1, to improve both my French and my understanding of what the authors are saying! Production quality is very good indeed and the huge number of illustrations includes many of the well-known and some not-so-well-known Kriegsberichter pics of the aftermath, and some nice colour profiles of many of the actual vehicles involved  - including a Universal Carrier with a nice big US .50 cal HMG in front, like this one:



    For 12.50 Euros each, I'd definitely recommend 'Villers Bocage - autopsie d'une bataille' to anyone who is interested in a new, forensic but very human and superbly-illustrated of the famous battle. There's talk of an English edition at some point, but no deals yet.
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    slavic99

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    Re: A new account of the Battle of Villers Bocage

    Post by slavic99 on Sun Apr 24, 2016 2:38 pm

    Hi 33lima,

    i´m a new member and first...i have to say "hello" Smile

    I read a lot of stuff about the "Wittmann Story" to find out the truth. It´s hard to do research about things
    that happend 72 years ago but Yann Jouault is a really an expert about Villers-Bocage. I wanted to buy this
    too but it´s only in french language. Yann Jouault and his publisher´s try to translate it in english language,
    maybe this year.

    Did you know the original Wittmann interview [with subtitle]?
    I can´t post a link because i´m new but if you don´t know it,
    search it on youtube Wink

    It is clear...the official story is bullsh*t...just propaganda!
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    kapulA
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    Re: A new account of the Battle of Villers Bocage

    Post by kapulA on Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:20 pm

    The Nazis? Utilizing propaganda?! In my historical records!?! Razz Laughing
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    frinik
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    Re: A new account of the Battle of Villers Bocage

    Post by frinik on Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:40 pm

    Propaganda? No way. If you read it on the internet than it's true! Besides I know it's not propaganda because I read the story on Signal.

    Lima33; I am fluent in French if you need any help with words , sentences or expressions.


    Last edited by frinik on Mon Apr 25, 2016 4:43 am; edited 1 time in total
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    slavic99

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    Re: A new account of the Battle of Villers Bocage

    Post by slavic99 on Sun Apr 24, 2016 4:37 pm

    Sorry but my english isn´t good enough for joking, ironic or whatever.

    Maybe there is just a misunderstanding. With propaganda i doesn´t
    mean the book from Yann Jouault.

    I´m not interested in details like "which turret number Wittmann had?"
    or "wich exactly way he drove?" or if he did a brake and smoke a
    cigarette. I´m only interested in his kill claims [the only reason why he is
    so famous] and the original german version of this battle is propaganda.
    All the destroyed british tanks where credited to Wittmann but must of
    them were destroyed by his comrades...from his company in the second
    attack.
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    frinik
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    Re: A new account of the Battle of Villers Bocage

    Post by frinik on Mon Apr 25, 2016 4:50 am

    I agree with you Slavic, Witmann was a member of the Waffen SS so he was the darling of the National Socialist bonzen and media. I am sure his wingmen would have willingly given up some of their kills so he could boost his stats and look good on the Wochenschau. That being said it does not detract from the fact that he and his team were certainly oustanding tankmen. Also to be truthful in the heat of action men have a tendency to react under the influence of stress hormones and exaggerate the threat they faced, their kills or their actions.This goes for all sides.

    The real Panzerknacker was the unheralded Kurt Knispel ( 192 confirmed kills)who had 3 major flaws:

    Not member of the Waffen SS
    Unconventional
    Ethnic German not from Germany proper( form the Sudetenland)
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    slavic99

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    Re: A new account of the Battle of Villers Bocage

    Post by slavic99 on Mon Apr 25, 2016 9:03 am

    Hi frinik,

    so he was the darling of the National Socialist bonzen and media wrote:

    Yes, that´s right. They made him to a "star" in the time between Eastern and Western Front.
    He had to do a lot of public relations work for the SS and visit the "Henschel & Son´s" factory
    and was often in the newspaper.

    I am sure his wingmen would have willingly given up some of their kills so he could boost his stats and look good on the Wochenschau wrote:

    That´s a fact. The question is...when did it started? I knew it to 100% regarding Villers-Bocage but i also think it´s started
    not until the 101st SS Heavy Tank Battalion was send to france. Wittmanns time on the eastern front and the beginning in his
    StuG III Ausf. A [later Tiger] are in accordance with the truth [including his kills/hits] because at this time, he had one of the best
    gunner´s of ww2 in his tank crew. Wittmanns best friend Balthazar "Bobby" Woll.

    That being said it does not detract from the fact that he and his team were certainly oustanding tankmen wrote:

    You´re right, they was outstanding. For example Villers-Bocage...of course there are differences between the truth and the propaganda
    version but in all versions , there is agreement about the beginning of this battle...Wittmann started the fight alone against the
    Desert Rats spearhead...and to do such a thing like that...you have to be brave and you have to be outstanding skills as a tank
    commander.

    The real Panzerknacker was the unheralded Kurt Knispel ( 192 confirmed kills) wrote:

    Yes...Kurt Knipsel!!! Wehrmacht, Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503. Most of his "hits" he did it himself as the gunner.
    Unconventional wrote:
    He didn´t like officers and officers didn´t like Knispel.
    Ethnic German not from Germany proper( form the Sudetenland) wrote:
    It only mean´s that he was one of 3 million Germans that lives in Czech Republic, not that he wasn´t a German.

    Did you read about another "unknown" tank ace Franz Staudegger? Battle of Kursk, same division like Wittmann and maybe
    a inspiration for a new mission in Steel Fury Wink

    And btw...i like Otto Carius. There is an interview with O.Carius were he spoke about his kill claim [150] and he
    said, that´s not the truth...maybe 70-80, rest is propaganda.
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    frinik
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    Re: A new account of the Battle of Villers Bocage

    Post by frinik on Mon Apr 25, 2016 1:38 pm

    It only mean´s that he was one of 3 million Germans that lives in Czech Republic, not that he wasn´t a German.

    I agree with you but I said he was ethnic German( Volksdeutsche) rather than Reichsdeutsche. At the time it was an important distinction that the Nazis made as much in the treatment accorded as to the honours granted with Germans from the Reich always given preferential treatment versus ethnic Germans from outside the Reich being looked down upon as coming from backward countries..

    Staudegger was a Stug ace wasn't he?

    Carius was unusually honest and it's probably true that most Aces scores were inflated whether on the ground or in the air. It was not always a matter of propaganda but of the fact that during battle conditions it was physically impossible to verify kills unless you retained control of the battlefield and sometimes the enemy would take/tow their dead or wrecks away and you wouldn't be able to count them. Also what was counted as a kill was in fact a completely disabled vehicle that could and was eventually repaired


    Last edited by frinik on Tue Apr 26, 2016 4:40 am; edited 1 time in total
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    slavic99

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    Re: A new account of the Battle of Villers Bocage

    Post by slavic99 on Mon Apr 25, 2016 2:42 pm

    agree with you but I said he was ethnic German( Volksdeutsche) rather than Reichsdeutsche. At the time it was an important distinction that the Nazis made as much in the treatment accorded as to the honours granted with Germans from the Reich always given preferential treatment versus ethnic Germans from outside the Reich being looked down upon as coming from backward countries.. wrote:

    You´re right, i've got it wrong.


    Franz Staudegger [copy from wot-news, written by silentstalker]

    Staudegger’s Run

    Operation Citadel was one of the turning points in the war. The Tigers of the LAH were one of the strongest German units and they were assigned to hammer the Soviet defenses on the southern part of the designated area. However, the fighting took a heavy toll and many of the steel titans were damaged. Staudegger’s Tiger was one of them and on July 8th, 1943, he was unable to participate in the upcoming attack. Frustrated, he just sat around, watching his Tiger being fixed, thinking he wouldn’t see action that day. However, that was not to be the case.

    Around 10AM, a message came to the company repair camp at Teterevinovo, that a Soviet assault force of 50-60 tanks is approaching from the northwest. Staudegger’s Tiger was the only available tank to counter it – all the other Tigers were already committed to other goals. Staudegger decided quickly: he and his crew would perform some emeregency repairs on his Tiger and meet the threat head on. His crew (Herbert Stahlmacher – driver, Gerhard Waltersdorf – radio operator, Heinz Buchner – gunner and Walter Henke – loader) agreed.

    After the quick repairs were completed (the tracks were barely holding together however), the Tiger slowly advanced towards the Soviet onslaught. They arrived just in time to rescue elements of the infantry batallion “Deutschland” from being overrun. Two Soviet tanks were already burning, destroyed previously by the infantry. The arrival of the steel behemoth changed the tide of battle. The Tiger crew, guided by the infantry, quickly took out three Soviet T-34 tanks.

    In the following brutal hours of combat while changing his position carefully but constantly to avoid being too easy target – Staudegger knocked out 17 Soviet tanks, before the Russians decided to call it a day and started retreating. The Tiger was hit numerous times, but its thick hide proved to be impenetrable to the Soviet 76mm guns.

    At that point, Staudegger’s crew was exhausted (especially the loader, who did a tremendous job), but Staudegger wasn’t done yet: he ordered the crew to advance on Soviet positions. When the massive steel monster started moving slowly to pursuit the retreating Soviet tanks, loud cheers came from the infantry.

    Staudegger didn’t have to move far. The Soviets were regrouping right behind the lines, in a forest. Not expecting to be attacked by a single tank, they were in for a shock, when they saw the Tiger slowly emerging from the woods, like a vengeful spirit of old.

    The massive 88mm gun screamed its anger yet again and within minutes, 5 more Soviet tanks were torn to pieces by Tiger’s shots. At that moment, however, the Tiger was out of AP ammo and Staudegger ordered the driver to retreat. Slowly reversing back into the woods, Staudegger’s tank was again hit numerous times, while the gunner continued to shell the retreating Soviets with HE and smoke shots. By the time Staudegger returned to German lines, his suspension was heavily damaged, his track was nearly gone and the tank itself was hit no less than 67 times by the Soviet 76mm guns. The crew – including Staudegger himself – was totally exhausted and on the verge of collapse, but the Soviet attack was broken.

    For this action, Staudegger recieved – as the first Tiger tanker ever – the Knight’s Cross. He was also later personally invited to appear before Adolf Hitler to recount the operation.
    --------------------------------------------------------
    There are different version in the internet about his hits and which tank he command [Tiger I or PzKpfw IV Ausf. F2 or H].

    It was not always a matter of propaganda but of the fact that during battle conditions it was physically impossible to verify kills unless you retained control of the battlefield or sometimes the enemy would take their dead or wrecks and you could not count them. Also what was counted a s a kill was in fact a completely disabled vehicle that could and was eventually repaired wrote:

    That´s true. I was interested for some time how the Germans confirm her hits/kills and that´s the way it works:

    For every single kill, you need a second guy that confirm the hits. So normally you did that after the fight/battle
    between the tank commander and his gunner but often the units return to the battlefield and the Commander of
    the company or any other officer had to confirm the hits/kills [i don´t know the right word for it Smile ]. Usually all
    the kills credited to the tank commander, not to his gunner [but there are many exceptions like Wittmann and Bobby Woll]

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    Re: A new account of the Battle of Villers Bocage

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