After some months it’s time for a second version of my article on Panzer Ersatz und Ausbildungs Abteilung 100. I’ve really enjoyed the pictures and support from members of this website as well as others. Not only have they pointed out interesting details, but they also enabled me to include many more pictures and the research has widened a lot.
I’m not going to mention all the people that helped me here, because some are too modest for that. You know who you are. Thank you guys!
As you will see the article is much longer, adresses new topics, revises some of the older ones and generally looks deeper into the events following the airlandings on D-day. However I want to point out it still is far from finished or complete and mistakes are still included. I also wanted to include some maps to make the story a bit clearer, but lack of time and “row map material” has prevented that for now. I hope this will not be a problem.
Any way let’s get to business. As I’ve illustrated in my previous post, Panzer Ersatz und Ausbildungs Abteilung 100 was a very strange unit. Its composition was a bit different from what I’ve posted before, as Martin Block pointed out in his reply to the first topic. How strange this unit really was can be seen if you look at it’s composition on May 20th 1944. The original 'Zustandsbericht' of the Abteilung dated 20.5.1944 from the 'Bundesarchiv' gives the actual organisation down to platoon level:
- le.Pz.Zug (5 Pz.Kpfw. Renault R35)
- I.(Pz.) Zug (5 Pz.Kpfw. Renault R35)
- II.(Schtz.) Zug [Schtz. = Schützen = infantry]
- III.(Schtz.) Zug
- Grp.Fhr. (2 Pz.Kpfw. III 5 cm)
- I.(Pz.) Zug (1 Pz.Kpfw. Somua, 4 Pz.Kpfw. Renault R35)
- II.(Pz.) Zug (1 Pz.Kpfw. Renault B 2, 4 Pz.Kpfw. Hotchkiss)
- III.(Pz.) Zug (1 Pz.Kpfw. III 5 cm, 4 Pz.Kpfw. Hotchkiss)
- I.(Pz.) Zug (5 Pz.Kpfw. Renault R35)
- II.(Schtz.) Zug
- III.(Schtz.) Zug
1 Kwk 7,5 cm (f) (1 Pz.Kpfw. Renault B2)
3 Kwk 5 cm (d) (3 Pz.Kpfw. III)
2 Kwk 4,7 cm (f) (1 Pz.Kpfw. Somua, 1 Pz.Kpfw. Renault B2)
8 Kwk 3,7 cm lang (f) (8 Pz.Kpfw. Hotchkiss)
19 Kwk 3,7 cm kurz (f) (19 Pz.Kpfw. Renault R35)
The 4 infantry platoons were armed with just 3 light machine guns each.
This information is somewhat conflicting to the information supplied by other researchers. For instance, the data provided by Niklas Zetterling about the composition of the unit on May 18th 1944 (see http://web.telia.com/~u18313395/normandy/gerob/ghqpz/100pzabt.html
) claims the Abteilung had the following material available:
1 Char B2
5 French tanks with short 37mm guns (probably FT17’s)
There are two main differences between these reports. The different number of PzIII’s looks quite obvious, but in fact there is no difference on this point between the different OoB’s. While the OoB (of May 18th) only mentions one PzIII, it does also mentions a armament of a total of three German 50mm guns. While two of these tanks are not visible in the OoB directly, this must point to two more PzIII’s. Whoever made the report presumably forgot to include the Gruppen Führer of the second company.
Another issue between these report is the identification of the five mystery tanks. The reason for this lays in the report Zetterling uses the report of May 18th, a OoB titled 'Kleinere Verbände im Bereich LXXXIV. A.K.' from the KTB of AOK 7. This report has five French 37mm tanks listed for the le.Pz.Zug of the stab company, with out mentioning the exact types. It seems that, because the other companies had their types clearly indicated, Zetterling assumed these five tanks would be a different type from the five types already mentioned. With this assumption in mind FT17’s seem to be a logical option indeed. The data from the report two days later however shows Zetterling’s assumption was incorrect and the five vehicles were normal R35’s after all. So looking at the reports in the end there can be no doubt about the material used by PzAbt100.
Apart from Zetterling, Eric Lefèvre also comes up with the theoretical organisation of the unit, in Panzers in Normandy then and now. The OoB as he present differs on the number of PzIII’s and the number of Renault tanks in the first company. PINTAN does not mention the presence of other French short barrelled 37mm tanks as Lefèvre already lists them as R35’s.
The only thing PINTAN mentions about the actual strength of the unit is that “it is recorded that it (PzAbt100) had some 15 tanks available” at the time of the invasion. Where that information comes from and whether or not it includes combat ready vehicles and vehicles in repair I do not know.
Based on the information available, the data supplied in PINTAN is partly incorrect, just like Zetterlings report . Their information should therefor not be used as the startingpoint. The best option is probably to follow the reports from the Abteilung itself, for this research. When put next to each other the give the most complete picture.
Before I continue I must say I’m still far from an expert on French material so it’s very well possible I’ve missed or misinterpreted details. I hope I can raise an interesting discussion with my research and hopefully new ideas, facts and pictures will show up.
La Fière Bridge
The most famous engagements of PzAbt100 are without doubt the actions around La Fière bridge. Those action therefor form a good start to take a better look at the unit, especially because the vehicles at the bridge should all have belonged to PzAbt100. In different reports the presence of Renaults and Hotchkisses is mentioned, though the stories differ. Some stories seem to suggest all tanks there were Hotchkisses, while others give the impression they all were Renaults. As other people already noticed the vehicles used at the bridge were in fact a mix of those types. I’ll illustrate that here.
- As a side-note it’s noteworthy that rare tanks such as Hotchkisses and Renaults are correctly identified by the soldiers involved. In my opinion there are two factors that contribute to that. The first is the time of the reports which have been given well after the battle. Combined with the fact that these tanks actually have “Hotchkiss” and “Renault” on their hull this gives troops the opportunity to identify them. It’s questionable in my eyes however if they had already correctly identified them as such in battle -
Let’s start with a comparison of 4 different images. These images show the area at La Fière bridge and three German tanks that attacked it. At this time I’m not yet a 100% sure about the exact position of the tanks on the different pictures, but I think my guess is fairly accurate.
Source of the front shot: http://users.skynet.be/jeeper/page96.html
Source of the aerial view: http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-A-Utah/img/USA-A-Utah-p124.jpgx
Source of the British Pathe shots: Movie number 1981.12
In case there are still doubts that the vehicles on the different image are the same, take a look at the following comparison. While the left shot is probably the best known image of the battle, it gives a false impression about the tanks used during the attacks. It shows only three tanks, while in fact at least four were knocked out. I’ll return to that later.
And when still in doubt about the location of the images there is this great “front view” of the area and tanks. Don’t worry, a close up can be found later on.
Now the available images have been linked to La Fière bridge it is possible to look into the types used during the battle.
In the OoB’s eight “Hotchkisses” are mentioned. The problem with just the word “Hotchkisses” is that it’s too general. It might include the H35 and H39. So it’s impossible to say what versions were being used by the Abteilung. The available images can shed some light on this however.
If we look at the rear most vehicle, it can clearly be seen this is a Hotchkiss. One way is by looking at the six roadwheels. Though a bit difficult to see it appears on the frontal view that the drivers visor is of to the right of the vehicle. Which is also typical for a Hotchkiss. The wheels appear to be all metal indicating a H39 as H35’s were fitted with rubber rimmed roadwheels. It must be noted though that the vehicle appears to have caught fire.
This other shot shows the same Hotchkiss from the front. The open engine hatch also confirms it is a H39. Apart from the broken track no obvious damage can be found. The image is unfortunately to poor to be sure on this.
The other vehicle is a R35. Indicated by the position of the exhaust and the wheel on the rear of the hull. The location of the drivers visor to the left of the vehicle also illustrates that.
The front vehicle again is a R35, with the visor to the left. However, most telling is a picture after it was pushed out of the way. The attachments for the two double bogies and a single bogie say it all.
According to the report from the Abteilung they had three PzIII’s. Although not mentioned in any of the after the battle reports I found, there is actually proof of the presence of one of those at the bridge. The British Pathe movie that shows the R35 and Hotchkiss also includes a shot (image 8) from a PzIII. Because both PzIII’s and French tanks were rare in Normandy, I do not believe it is a coincidence these vehicles show up in the same film (and at the same vehicle dump as you will see later on). I do not think it is just a matter of editing that brings these rarities together. I am convinced it is actually possible to proof it ended up at the bridge.
John "Red Dog" Dolan (Company Commander of A Company 505 PIR) gives a clue on this in his statement: “They attacked with three tanks, which I was unable to identify for sure; but they appeared to be similar to the German Mark IV type, or maybe a little lighter”.
Though evidently he is not sure about the types used (there were definitely no PzIV’s in the area) PzIII’s do look quite similar. But they are certainly much different from the French material that also was around. Mistaking a Hotchkiss or Renault for a PzIV would be a bit much - even though of course weirder things have happened in war. And I can also imagine panzer identification is not your main concern. My point is this: it is possible Dolan in fact saw a PzIII and didn’t look to hard at the other types. Not too strange with bullets, shells and mortar rounds flying around.
Apart from his statement there is also photographic evidence to proof there was a PzIII at the bridge. It might even have come the closest to the bridge.
First take a look at the vehicle I’m talking about:
(As a side note, I wander what you think about the turret bin on the PzIII? To me it looks like is has a number in dark outlines and maybe a light interior colour. To me the number seems to be 324. Going by some other images there is also proof this type of numbering was used with PzAbt100.)
It seems there are similar tracks laying around at the bridge, a type of tracks only used on a PzIV or PzIII chassis.
Apart from the presence of the tracks there is another indication that puts the PzIII at the bridge:
Now these two roofs are very distinct for a particular building around the Bridge:
The view across the bridge from the east side of the river also supports the claim of it being a PzIII. Although difficult to see, it appears the drivers visor and sprocket can be seen. Apart from this, the vehicle also appears to be much larger than the other tanks in the area.
So it seems that at least two R35’s, one H39 and one PzIII were used in the two attacks on the bridge. Having identified these, we can try to take a more detailed look at the battles that took place at the bridge. For this I will not focus on the earlier capture of the bridge by the paratroopers, but stay with the two German tank attacks.
To do this I’ll use different eyewitness reports. One of this is the following by Marcus Heim, one of the bazooka men credited for destroying several of the tanks. He, together with his gunner, a soldier from Sweden called Leonald C. Peterson and the other bazooka team (John D. Bolderson and Gordon C. Pryne) engaged the German tanks that tried to take the bridge.
Another eyewitness report is provided by John "Red Dog" Dolan, Company Commander of A Company 505 PIR.
Let’s pick up the story just before the 1st attack and take a look at the defensive positions.
“Peterson and I took up positions on the Manor House side facing Cauquigny, below the driveway. There was a concrete telephone pole just in front of us and we dug in behind it. We knew that when the Germans started the attack with their tanks, we would have to get out of our foxhole and reveal our position to get a better view of the tanks. Bolderson and Pryne were on the right side of the road just below the pathway. I do not remember how many paratroopers were around us, all I saw was a machine gun set up in the Manor House yard. On the right side down the pathway a few riflemen took up positions.”
“There was a 57-millimeter cannon up the road in back of us along with another machine gun. We carried antitank mines and bazooka rockets from the landing area. These mines were placed across the causeway about 50 or 60 feet on the other side of the bridge. There was a broken down German truck by the Manor House, which we pushed and dragged across the bridge and placed it across the causeway”
“We dug in, the disposition of my Company as follows: First platoon on the north side of the road, the third on the south and the second in reserve, about 4OO yards back, so that it could also protect the rear.”
“Just about a half-hour before this attack, a 57MM A. T. gun was assigned to Company "A". I located this gun about 150 yards from the bridge on the road where it curves to the right as you approach the bridge. Incidentally, this was my C.P. and later the Battalion C.P. This gave the gun excellent cover and a good field of fire.
On the bridge I had three bazooka teams. Two of them were from Company "A" and the third was either from "B" or "C" Company. The two Company "A" bazookas were dug in to the left and right of the bridge. Because of the fact that the road itself was the causeway type, they were as of necessity dug in below the level of the road, so that in order to fire, they had to get out of their foxholes. The third bazooka was over more to the south where better cover was available.”
With this information I come to the following overview. The bazooka position (at least the one on the left side of the road) was next to one of the building of the manor. So this is the only possibility:
With these positions in mind, we can move on to the first tank attack:
Approach of the German attackers:
It was approximately 1700 hours, when they attacked! Two tanks (captured French H39 vehicles)* advanced toward the bridge, accompanied by a number of infantry . Another tank followed with more infantry.
* I am not sure why the information of the types is between bracket. It looks like this might have been added by the editor.
They attacked with three tanks, which I was unable to identify for sure; but they appeared to be similar to the German Mark IV type, or maybe a little lighter.
The first two tanks were within 15 or 20 yards of each other, the third was back about 50 yards.
The battle starts:
“The head tank stopped in the bend and its commander looked out from the turret, trying to locate us . He was immediately killed by one of our MGs!” (It’s possible this tank stopped to take a better look at the mines laid across the causeway.)
The first tank is destroyed:
“We had to hold our fire until the last minute because some of the tree branches along the causeway were blocking our view. The first tank was hit and started to turn sideways and at the same time was swinging the turret around and firing at us.”
“We kept firing at the first tank until it was put out of action and on fire”
“The first tank received several direct hits. The treads were knocked off, and within a matter of minutes it was on fire.”
The second tank is KO’d:
“The second tank pushed the burning wreck off the road, so we immediately opened fire against this new target and hit it between body and turret, and also damaged one of its tracks . Our third rocket proved fatal, as the tank caught fire!
“Then they went to work on the second tank, and within about 30 seconds, it was on fire. They fired every rocket that they had and then jumped into their foxholes”
The third tank is taken care of:
“The trouble was, that we were now out of ammo, and the third tank was almost upon us” “Peterson asked me to go back across the road and see if Bolderson had any extra rockets. I ran across the road and with all the crossfire I still find it hard to believe I made it to the other side in one piece. When I got to the other side I found one dead soldier and Bolderson and Pryne were gone. Their bazooka was lying on the ground and it was damaged by what I thought were bullet holes. Not finding Bolderson or Pryne I presumed that either one or both were injured. I found the rockets they left and then had to return across the road to where I left Peterson. The Germans were still firing at us and I was lucky again, I return without being hit. Peterson and I put the new found rockets to use on the third tank. After that one was put out of action the Germans pulled back to Cauquigny and continued shelling us for the rest of the night.“
“The 57mm during (all) this time was firing and eventually knocked out the last tank. The gun crew did an excellent job.”
Unfortunately only little information is available on the second tank attack.
“The second attack was with two tanks and infantry. I was unable to estimate the size. The tanks stayed out of effective bazooka range.”
“….and just about this time, two of the gun crew returned with the firing mechanism. They knocked out the two tanks”
Because of this lack of information I’ll turn to the events as described in Heimdal’s “Objectif Sainte-Mere-Eglise. This book gives a somewhat different impression of the events that took place. While sounding credible in itself, it is unfortunate that no sources are mentioned. So whether or not everything states in the texts is from eyewitness reports or are based on an interpretation of reports is impossible to say. For now we’ll assume they are correct, but I’m reluctant to use them.
Though I’d prefer to move straight to the second tank attack, the earlier events as described in the book are relevant as well and deserve their place in my analysis.
The first tank attack (time not mentioned):
“Two tanks (from PzAbt100) appear, followed by infantry, they advance towards the bridge. The para’s MG’s open fire, pinning down the Germans, but the tanks advance. The 57mm gun receives two hits and is abandoned by its crew. The bazooka teams go to action, they destroy one of the tanks and set another on fire. Suddenly, private C. Fitt from “C” company rises, with a grenade in his hand, and throws it into one of the tank’s turret. The Germans retreat to Cauquiny.”
Apart from this there is also a report on some action during the night:
“Around 2 am Sergeant Owens from A company manages to drive away a German tank that tries to clear the road from the vehicles destroyed the day before. Owens crawls up to the tank, throws a Gammon grenade and set the wreck of one of the tanks already destroyed on fire. That does it for the driver of the armoured vehicle and it turns back.”
The second tank attack:
“The shelling continues till 10 am, when four tanks from Panzer followed by infantry start to advance over the causeway. The 57mm gun commanded by lieutenant Johnson from “C”, company succeeds in destroying the lead tank. Taking advantage of the tanks already destroyed the German infantry advances up to a stones throw away from the positions of A/505PIR who again face a determined attack.”
The battle ends when a German shows up with a red cross flag to remove the wounded. The following truce is used by the Germans to pull their tanks and troops back.
Though very interesting, these are only three descriptions of the battle, and only two are about the second tank attack. One of the sources is also not necessarily from eyewitnesses and its value therefor is not completely clear. I wish I would have found more reports, but for now these will have to do. More information is on the way.
The stories match on a lot of points, but also differ on others. First take a look at the main similar points:
- According two Dolan and Heim three tanks were used in the first attack. Two in front and one following behind. The book mentions only two but is not clear if there might have been more. It’s not clear if the grenade was thrown into one of the two that were mentioned or maybe another one.
- Dolan and Heim both say the first two tanks were destroyed by bazooka fire and both catch fire
- Heim mentions Hotchkisses. Dolan identifies them as MarkIV’s or maybe a little lighter. The book doesn’t say anything on this.
- Heim claims to have put the third tank out of action. According to Dolan the AT-gun was responsible for this.
Apart from this some details are only mentioned in one of the three stories.
However, I think these are only minor discrepancies. As argued before R35’s, H39 and a PzIII were definitely involved in the fighting for the bridge and this is not really inconsistent with the statements themselves. Apart form this the R35’s and H39’s used, are very similar looking vehicles one could easily mix up.
The destruction of the last tank is very possible not a question of either the AT-gun or the bazooka team, but could very well have been accomplished together. The holes in the front of the foremost R35 show multiple 57mm penetrations so there would be enough time for the bazooka team to engage it as well. This might also be were the hand-grenade story fits in. A common effort to destroy a tank very close to the American positions.
The main question remains however which vehicles were involved in the first or second battle. I’ve come up with a scenario I’d like to share here:
A clue to what tank took part in what battle, has been given by Dolan. He is very brief about the second tank attack. He states: “The tanks stayed out of effective bazooka range”.
Unfortunately, as he claims two tanks were destroyed, there is a problem. Because only 4 wrecks can be seen on the images. Heim and Dolan do agree on 3 tanks being destroyed in the first attack, so it seems safe to assume this was indeed the case. Especially because Heim was probably in the best position to see what was going on in that battle. So for now assume Dolan was wrong on the two tanks being knocked out during the second attack. Or maybe one managed to back up the causeway (at least a bit) before breaking down. The version from the book seems to support that only one tank was destroyed in the second tank attack. The book mentions the use of no less than four tanks in that second attack, while Dolan only talks of two. Considering the turn in the road he might have seen only two, while there were in fact more. Who’s right is impossible to say for me at this moment, but it doesn’t matter too much for the story, as only one was destroyed and the other’s don’t seem to have played an important part in the battle.
The statement of the bazooka range could eliminate the H39 as a possible kill for the bazooka teams, as this tank was the furthest away from the bridge (three were closer). Combined with Marcus Heim’s statement “We had to hold our fire until the last minute because some of the tree branches along the causeway were blocking our view” this raises serious questions about bazooka’s destroying the H39. Though Heim’s statement could also mean he couldn’t hit the tanks before they reached the turn in the causeway…
If correct this leaves the two R35’s and PzIII for the bazooka teams. (As I’ve argued before the presence of the PzIII is not illogical at all, even considering the statements.)
Now if we assume the R35’s and PzIII were indeed the three tanks involved in the first battle we might even say something on the exact order of events.
The first clue is the start of the battle: the German tank commander that was KIA by MG-fire. Now if this statement is correct, it is noteworthy that (in the stories) all three tanks seem to have moved forwards after this event and have been firing at the paratroopers. Now this might not sound so interesting but R35’s only have a MG and canon in the turret and only a two men crew: A driver and gunner/commander (and the same goes for the H39). If a tank commander was indeed KIA, this could only be the one from the PzIII (a vehicle with a five man crew (driver, radio-operator/hull mg gunner, gunner, loader, commander). Even without their commander such a crew could be useful in battle, while without gunner/commander the French tanks wouldn’t really have any fighting power left.
Other clues on what specific tank is described at what time by the witnesses can be found if a closer look is taken at the condition of the vehicles.
- The PzIII obviously caught fire (note the burned road wheels for instance), as well as losing a track.
- The first R35 has no track damage, however shell penetrations can clearly be seen. It also seems to have caught fire.
- The third tank is the most difficult to judge. The left track appears to be intact and no other obvious damage can be found here. Whether or not it caught fire is difficult to say.
The trick is now to attach these observations to the testimonies.
If the first tank destroyed was the PanzerIII (caught fire and lost a track) it seems strange al the other tanks ended up behind it. As this tank got in fact the closest to the bridge, it would be strange to say it was pushed aside by another tank. That also means the statement about the second tank attack “the tanks stayed out of effective bazooka range” can’t refer to it. There for it must have been used in the first attack, being either the second or third tank to be destroyed.
The foremost R35 shows several 57mm penetrations and has intact tracks. It also appears to have bazooka hits. Because of all this it can’t have been the second tank destroyed. This means it must have been either the first or third tank to be knocked out. The latter seems the better option. As the first tank destroyed should have track damage and this R35 shows 57mm hits (as one would expect from Dolan’s statement). Being part of the second tank attack seems unlikely too, because of the bazooka hit. As it is stated that “the third one was almost upon us” that third tank should have got close to the bridge. This R35 fits the bill. This would also mean the PanzerIII has to be the second vehicle to be destroyed.
The question that remains is what was the first tank destroyed. The candidates being the 2nd R35 and the H39. The statement about the bazooka range seems to suggest the H39 is the least likely candidate. Not only is this one the furthest away but it would also mean and therefor the most difficult to hit, but the other one is quite far in front of it. How could that one have stayed out of effective bazooka range, and how would it have been knocked out if covered by the already destroyed PanzerIII? So for now this R35 appears to be the first tank to be destroyed.
To this must be added though, that two tanks are reported to have caught fire during the battle and one during the night. One tank catching fire twice seems a bit unlikely so it’s possible actually all three tanks involved in the first attack eventually burned out. This would eliminate one of the possibilities to connect them to the events in the battle(s). What tank caught fire during the night would be difficult to say. Going by the reports the PanzerIII appears to be unlikely. The two R35’s are better options. And maybe even the H39. The thing is that it’s completely unclear where the “fresh” tank was engaged during the night. It might have tried to use the cover of the dark to avoid the 57mm gun and even got up to the foremost R35. As the first tank destroyed was pushed aside during the battle that one might not be a problem and another tank might have been the one in the way. As no statement says the foremost R35 burned out during the battle, it might be the tank set on fire by the Gammon grenade. Again this is only speculation.
Based on the reports, the possible order of events may have been like this:
- Three tanks approach the bridge. The PzIII is in the lead, followed closely by a R35. Another R35 is some distance behind them.
- The PzIII stops in the turn. The commander opens the cupola to take a good look around (possibly at the mines in front of it) and is subsequently killed by MG-fire.
- The R35 following overtakes the PzIII and advances. Fires at a bazooka team, knocking down a telegraph pole. It is hit in the (right) tracks and eventually catches fire.
- The PzIII crew by now have recovered from the death of their commander and push the burning wreck out of the way
- Bazooka fire hits the PzIII between the hull and the turret as well as destroying a track and setting the tank on fire with the third round.
- The 2nd R35 is still moving forwards.
- The bazooka team (Peterson and Heim) are now out of ammo and manage to get more.
- The bazooka team again opens fire and are still supported by the 57mm gun.
- Together they manage to set it on fire.
If the story about the tank commander being killed isn’t correct it would also be possible that the PanzerIII was not in the lead. That does seem a bit far fetched because not only is a PanzerIII the strongest vehicle it would most likely have belonged the either the Gruppenführer of the second company or to the commander of the third zug in that company. Making it more likely to be in the lead.
Like I’ve said before, these are only theories and guestimates. Without more eyewitness reports and/or better pictures it is difficult to come to any solid conclusions. Eyewitness reports are unfortunately vulnerable to misinterpretation and/or bad memory. Just to show how different a situation can be judged by different people I’ll give another example. In this case on the 57mm gun.
Looking around after the first tank attack, Marcus Heim tells: “Looking back up the road toward Ste. Mere-Eglise, we saw that the 57-millimeter cannon and the machine gun were destroyed”.
Dolan’s statement is very different however, as he states about the second tank attack: “Not hearing any fire from the 57mm, I went over to it and found it unmanned. I tried to fire it, but the crew had taken the firing mechanism. I organised five or six men behind the hedge on the southerly side of the road with Gammon grenades, and just about this time, two of the gun crew returned with the firing mechanism. They knocked out the two tanks. They were two youngsters not more than 17 or 18 years old, who returned on their own initiative. I recommended them for Silver Stars”.
Dolan’s story clearly shows the gun was not destroyed. A likely explanation for the interpretation of Marcus Heim has been provided in an account of Mark J. Alexander, Executive Officer of the 505PIR.: “I had located one of our 57mm antitank guns abandoned in a defilade position about 75 yards above the bridge and on the left side of the road. There were two holes through the shield apparently from an earlier duel with the Renault tanks, and there was no gun sight.
It seems likely that the damage to the gun was the reason that Marcus Heim presumed it was destroyed. This illustrates some problems with eyewitness reports. This is also one of the reasons that, without more of them, it’s impossible to say anything definitive on what happened exactly around La Fière bridge. I do think I made a fairly strong case on my theory on hopefully more information will surface to support, disproof or extend it. With such information it might also be possible to explain some remaining mysteries:
- The truck that was pushed across the causeway, but cannot be found in any image is one of those.
- A similar thing goes for the mines deployed by the paratroopers. For now it’s unclear what role they played in the battle. Their exact use is also a bit vague. Some sources seem to suggest the were place quite war from the bridge, while others say they were in fact place close to the bridge and just in front of the truck. Were the truck was positioned exactly is still a mystery to me.
More tanks around La Fière
Apart from the pictures that can be proven to have been taken at the bridge, there are some other images available that might have been taken there as well. The one below is one of those.
According to the caption this tank should be on the La Fière Causeway. If that’s true it might be the rearmost R35 knocked out. I do have serious doubts about the exact location of this R35 however. The area doesn’t seem consistent with the other images of the causeway. There appears to be some quite dense woodland behind the vehicle, not something typical for the causeway. Apart from the terrain, the vehicle gives little to work with. If it is indeed one of the vehicles at the bridge it can only be the at the left of the road (looking from the bridge), were the trees and bushes also seem quite thick. Unfortunately there’s not much to prove these are the same vehicle. Both seem to have an open rear turret hatch and possibly some damage at the rear of the left fender and an intact antenna. Not a strong case.
Apart from similarities there are also differences. The exhaust on “522” appears to be damaged and it has an open hatch in the hull rear. Though this might have happened after the other pictures were taken, it doesn’t make it more likely this picture was indeed taken at the bridge.
I’ll have to check were the 325GIR operated exactly to give a more precise location, if that’s possible of course.
I do find it more likely however that the following image was taken at the causeway. The type of telegraph-pole is similar to other examples along the causeway. I’m positive this is not the same Hotchkiss as on the images above. A reason for this is that it’s located next to, or slightly behind a telegraph pole. None of the other vehicles can be seen in such a position. Stronger proof that this is not the same H39 is the lack of a trench skid and the intact left track. It’s however impossible to be sure that this picture was taken on the causeway. The telegraph-pole could indicate the same road but not much more. Another clue that this might indeed be the causeway is the lack of (tall) trees behind the hedgerow. The area around the causeway was flat without much trees. However a (fairly) large field behind the hedgerow could also be an option, so the causeway is far from certain.
The following image is supposed to have been taken at Cauquigny at the other side of the causeway. The telegraph pole is similar to the types along the causeway so this identification might be correct.
When comparing this shot with the Cauquigny area it seems a little difficult to identify the location. The obvious features to allow the identification are the two buildings, the pine tree between them, the bend in the road and the row of trees to the left. However when taking a look at the aerial two hedgerows play a vital role to understand what we’re looking at exactly.
Apart from the landscape the position of the H39 is also logical. Reports indicate that several tanks were knocked out by the small force of paratroopers defending Cauquigny. This tank was apparently disabled on the road leading from the postions of PzAbt100 to Ste-Mere-Eglise.
French material at the Cotentin
While this analysis of the La Fière battles illustrates the presence of H39’s and R35’s in the Abteilung, there are still some questions. Especially if the H39 was the only type of Hotchkiss used. A rather well known image of a collection point, possibly at Baupte, might shed more light on this. Low-res images do not really provide enough to go by, but the High-res image from Archives Normandie shows a lot of details (High-res: http://www.archivesnormandie39-45.org/PhotosHD/p013414.jpgx
I’ve reasons to believe this vehicle dump includes vehicles from both PzAbt100 and PzAbt206 and there is not enough information available on the picture to match the vehicles to either one. Therefor I’ll use this image to make some more general remarks on ex-French material in the US sector.
Different types of Hotchkisses can be difficult to identify. I do believe however most Hotchkisses in this collection dump are in fact H38/39. The following shots clearly show the configuration of the engine deck as seen on H38/39.
Two Hotchkisses are difficult to identify however. The first one appears to be having horizontal mounted spare road wheel, extending well behind the rear of the hull, a feature typical for the H35.
The second vehicle, however, I’m unable to identify. The sprocket clearly shows it’s a Hotchkiss but without more detailed information about the hull, I can’t say anything more about this example.
R35 - PzKpfw 35R 731(f)
Apart from Hotchkisses there are also some R35’s on the image. By looking at the rear of the vehicles, four R35 hulls can easily be identified.
However, the turretless vehicle in the front was actually not a normal R35. It appears to have been converted into a “4,7mm auf PzKpfw38 (f)”. The turret rings has been modified and some attachments for the new superstructure can be seen as well.
While we’re at it, it might also be a good idea to take a look at another vehicle pictured with some paratroopers. The following images shows a turretless R35. Whether this was a normal R35 or converted to carry a 47mm gun is difficult to tell. It might even have been a training vehicle. The white band on the front fender could be an indication for that.
According to George Bernage (Patbon) and Eric Lefèvre (PINTAN) the Abteilung used also turretless tanks, some ran on (Holz)gas, as training vehicles. This might very well be true, but I do not know were that information comes from do I can’t check.
As in the OoB of may 18th the armament of the unit’s vehicles is listed, it’s unlikely turretless vehicles were counted in the tank numbers as well. Could it be that turretless training vehicles were simply not mentioned, because they weren’t combat vehicles. Whether or not this assumption is right is impossible to say, but it is known other units did list training vehicles. According to Eric Lèfevre PzAbt206 did have training vehicles as well. But those are supposed to have been two Hotchkisses.
There are however some indications that suggest PzAbt100 might not have listed their (turretless) training vehicles. The following pictures shows two more possible training vehicles.
This rare PzI is a so called “Ausbildungspanzer I Ausf. A with Holz-Gaz Antrieb” A vehicle without turret and upper hull, intended for training tank drivers. Based on the information from Bernage and Lefèvre, PzAbt100 seems to be the most likely owner of this vehicle. There’s also another shot of a vehicle of this type available. Hidden in the row of captured vehicles the very distinct features of the “engine” are visibile.
Next to the PzI is a turretless Char B1 bis. The following picture shows a different view from the same vehicle (note the lack of tension on the left track). Instead of a gun there appears to be some kind of railing where the three soldiers are sitting on. A feature not uncommon for training vehicles. Apart from this, a small part of an R35 chassis can be seen on the right of the picture. It looks like this fender has a white band on it just like the turretless R35 that has been posted above.
As mentioned before PzAbt100 reported having 3 PzIII’s on may 20th. Apart from the vehicle at the bridge, more images of Abteilung’s vehicles might be available. The following image is supposed to have been taken by a soldier from 508PIR in the area of the airlandings. If correct, these vehicles only could have belonged to PzAbt100 and be the two “missing” from earlier pictures.
There are also some indications to support the claim on the location. Again the telegraph pole is similar to other examples wound in the area. The most important clue is the possible presence of a Hotchkiss or R35 tank in the rear. The lack of a trench skid on all the pictures of R35’s used in Normandy (also see later on) would suggest this is a Hotchkiss. The picture is unfortunately too poor to identify this vehicle for sure.
While it would be very tempting to identify these two PzIII’s as the two remaining, there is a problem with this theory. That has to do with the picture below. It’s clear this image was taken in a much more wooded stretch of road. Considering the damage it’s unlikely this would be one of the PzIII’s discussed earlier. The problem now is this would mean there were in fact 4 PzIII’s in the area. For now there are no reports to explain this.
A possible location for this picture is in the Vindefontaine, Prétot Sainte-Suzanne area. This area was just to the west of PzAbt HQ, located at the Francquetot Chateau. In their reports on June 19th 508PIR mentions that “During the evening a Mark IV tank was knocked out by a soldier from Company I with a hand thrown rifle grenade”. Another report mentions the use of a “British” grenade. From this I suspect the weapon used was in fact a “Gammon” grenade, a British invention. The writer of the 508’s report probably misinterpreted what was used.
To come back to the PzIV, considering the position of units with PanzerIV tanks, this is highly unlikely as vehicles of this type were simply not in the area, nor is there any evidence to suggest otherwise. Presuming the report is correct and the tank destroyed was indeed a German one and not an ex-French example, it’s possible the same mistake was made as Dolan did at La Fière bridge: confusing a PanzerIII for a PanzerIV.
Another possible explanation might be this picture was in fact taken even more to the south or to the west, were some Kampfgruppe of the 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich” showed up. This division also had several PzIII’s available, and this one might also have been one of them.
From what I’ve read until now, the chances for that are small however. 2SS didn’t really see action until July 4th and from what I understand the paratroopers were probably not involved in fighting against them. Around July 9th they were completely pulled out from the frontline. 2SS had by then (around July 7th or 8th) already left the La Haye du Puits area and were repositioned further to the south.
Apart from PzIII’s in their original settings there are also pictures available from the Baupte collection point. The following picture is the best I’ve seen of a PzIII in Normandy. It shows the late style cupola, early idler and early 50mm gun quite well. Those features are similar on the other PzIII’s, meaning all are probably Ausf. G’s. This makes it also more likely they belonged to the same unit.
Considering the quality it is a shame it gives little more away to identify it, or compare it with the other available images. The only distinct feature is the damaged rear fender. Of the other images just one shows this part of the vehicle, though it appears to have been damaged too. Maybe it’s the same vehicle after all.
Apart from all this there might be some very faint black outlines of a turret number. Probably this is just the light playing tricks and the marks are actually two bolts above the visor.
Behind the vehicle the cupola and turret box of another PzIII can be seen. It’s placed next to some StuGIII’s, just like the PzIII on the following picture.
Char B1 Bis - PzKpfw B-2 740(f)
Though both PzAbt100 (1) and PzAbt206 (5 normal, 1 flamethrower version) should have had CharB1. Pictures of them are hard to find. Recently I’ve received the following image. Going by the caption, this normal Char B1 should have been photographed near Carentan. If correct that would mean this example is the one from PzAbt100. Unfortunately no markings are visible.
I found this shot (already shown above), together with several other images some years ago on the internet. Unfortunately I’ve lost the URL, but they might have been taken by members of the US 90ID. The images come from a group of pictures probably also taken at the Baupte vehicle dump in Normandy. I’ve said enough about it already and only point at the FT17 and 2 tanks (probably both R35’s) at the right of the CharB1.
The first picture appears to show a normal CharB1, though turretless. It might have been a training vehicles (because their appears to be a railing on the top of the hull. Something often installed on training vehicles by the Germans.).
This turretless Char and FT17 can also be seen in the following picture. The frame on the Char can clearly be seen here. There might be some confusion about the orientation of the Char as the drivers “compartment“ is obscured by the man on the picture. To his left the rain-cover of the main access door. A feature only seen on the right side of the vehicle.
On a second image taken at the collection point another CharB1 can be found. It’s clearly a different example as it’s missing the left track.
To come back to the Chars, apart from PzAbt206 and PzAbt100 it’s remotely possible these Chars belonged to PzAbt213 that was stationed on the Channel Islands. However those Islands were still in German hands until well into 1945. The unit eventually surrendered its vehicles in working condition.
Of the vehicles on the pictures there appears to be damage on at least one of the tanks (missing tracks) and the missing turret (if not the earlier mentioned training vehicle) might also be related to battle use. For all these reasons PzAbt213 can most likely be eliminated as their owner.
Somua – PzKpfw35S 739(f)
While images of Char B2’s are difficult to find, Somua’s are probably even harder to find. One example is this one here. According to the caption it was taken in/around Cherbourg and therefor almost certainly belonged to PzAbt206.
The same goes for the next image. Captioned as “south of Cherbourg”. Again probably a vehicle from PzAbt206
FT17 – PzKpfw17R 730(f)
PICTURE While all the French material discussed so far is uncommon, there is are even rarer examples at the collection point I’ve focused on before: FT17’s.
Another example at the same collection point. This is most probably a different vehicle from the one posted above. Giving the location of the other vehicle that number should be around 3-35, not 3-25. Apart from that the turret is in a different position and the vehicle behind it has different turret markings from the one next to the other FT17, and is also positioned differently. The open hatches might be tempting, but they are nothing unusual for FT17’s.
This gunless example might have been one of the vehicles pictured already, though clearly in another location. I’ve included this picture again to illustrate that the style of Balkenkreuz is similar to the one 3-25 (and also because I think it’s a great picture)
This example is a bit more mysterious. The location is unknown and also the origin of the “2”. Was that a German marking or done by its captors. The troops are difficult to identify but I have the feeling they are normal GI’s. Not paratroopers, something else that points away from PzAbt100. What movie number this shot comes from I don’t know what the movie number of this still is. I have an idea, but the British Pathe website doesn’t work properly at the moment, so I can’t check it. If anybody has the more stills from this movie please let me know.
To what unit(s) all these vehicles might have belonged is not clear. They were not present in any regular army unit in Normandy. A possibility is that they were used for security duties around airports, for instance the one east of Cherbourg. This is a possibility as the Luftwaffe lists a considerable number as being in use in France in 1944.
In my eyes there’s also a slim chance they were training vehicles. None of the vehicles has a gun, and might therefor not have been listed by PzAbt100. “3-25” however does appear to have had it gun removed and placed inside the vehicle. Apparently it was armed after all. For now I’ll suspect the FT17’s were used for guard duties by not yet identified units.
While I wanted to stay with French armour or German material in use by PzAbt100 and 206, I can’t resist to took a look at several examples of the MarderIII H. (Marder I’s and StuG’s will not yet be addressed in this post)
In the vehicle dump the following example can be found. It appears to have “03” on the superstructure. But it might also be “103”
In it self this doesn’t say much about the original owners, but when compared with the following shots, taken next to the Carentan church, it might be possible to determine the original unit. As the vehicles show similar markings the should belong to the same unit. The vehicle above is probably not the same as the one in Carentan. Though. This other Marder might be however. Take a look at the damage and Balkenkreuz.
I have not yet looked into what unit the Marder in Carentan belonged to, but I think it has been discussed before. Now see if I can find it again.
Some distance to its right the gun and gunshield of another Marder can be seen. Also note the FT17 turret.
To end with the Marders for now, I’d like to present the following shot of a MarderIIIM. Several Infantry divisions used Marders on the Cotentin. As different types were used, it might be possible to link them to specific units. I’ll look into that later.
Markings and units
If my observations and interpretations are correct, we can say for sure PzAbt100 did indeed have R35’s, H39’s, PzIII’s and a Char B1. What units the specific vehicles in the Baupte collection point belonged to is difficult to say however.
If we take a look at the picture showing the row of captured vehicles, there are reasons to suggest these come from different units. The style of the markings is probably the most obvious clue for this.
It’s difficult to say if the H35 at the back really has a Balkenkreuz on its turret or that it is a turret number after all. For now I’m tended to identify it as a Balkenkreuz. On the vehicle in the front it might look like the numbers go all the way to the front of the turret, but remember that the left side is considerably longer. What is clear however is the stencilled “4” on the turret in the rear. Something that can not be seen on the vehicle at the front. The “possible” numbering style on this vehicle would also be different from the white with black outline we’ve seen earlier.
Apart from that there appear to be 8 Hotchkisses on the picture. To me it seems unlikely all 8 Hotchkisses from PzAbt100 would be collected so neatly. Especially because (according to PINTAN) PzAbt206 should have had not 8 but 28 Hotchkisses, divided over their 1st and second company (as reported on June 1st). Considering just the numbers it should be possible at least some vehicles from PzAbt206 should be there too. It is also unlikely however that all vehicles belonged to that unit, as there were only 2 R35’s reported (while the image shows 3). A mix of both units therefor seems logical and other units must be represented in the row as well, as FT-17’s and MarderIII’s were not used by either unit.
Another shot of probably the same collection point shows another example with black turret numbers. Unfortunately this is again a vehicle with a “2” on it. So it’s still impossible to say this type of numbering belonged to PzAbt206 or was just another style in PzAbt100. The Balkenkreuz adds to the confusion. As this style is also more or less visible on R35 “532” and H39 “203” of PzAbt100. None the less, because of the completely different style turret numbers and the fact PzAbt206 lists two companies with quite a lot of Hotchkisses, I think these vehicles belonged to PzAbt206.
Apart from these images, there are indications to suggest that the “black with white outlines” belonged to PzAbt206 and not to PzAbt100. Another British Pathe film has the following shots of a vehicle dump. Possibly the same dump at a different time.
In each case the first image shows two R35’s on the left and an H39 on the right. The H39 seems to have a number on the turret. Though not completely clear it appears to be a 4 or 7, with a dark outline and a light interior.
The second image shows two more H39’s. They don’t show any markings, but I still find them worth to mention. If only to be complete.
Apart from the images presented earlier, there are more reasons to think that the white-with-black-outline numbers are typical for PzAbt100. The following pictures also support this theory. PINTAN has the second shot with a caption that seems to suggest it is part of PzAbt100. Looking at the landscape and buildings, this could by Normandy (during wintertimes) indeed. The numbers can clearly be seen. (Also note that the markings don’t seem to be symmetrical, something that makes this particular vehicle even more interesting.)
Another example I’d like to look at is the following image. It shows the same collection point as were the two CharB1’s can be found. This example however shows a R35 that has the same turret numbers (except for the 3 of course) as “522”. Looking closer at the numbers shows the shape is identical. It’s very possible the same stencils were used for both vehicles. (Apart from this also note the FT17 turret).
The following image is also of interest. While no numbers can be recognised on the foremost vehicle, numbers clearly can be seen on the second vehicle. It’s probably 523.
Added to these shot is this turret (vehicle type unknown). At first glance I thought it might be a swastika, but a closer look shows it is probably to irregular for that. When comparing it to 532 and 522 it’s probably the same style. This example appears to have more numbers visible next to the five. Considering the shape of the element next to the “5” it is probably a “1”. A 4 (in combination with the other “piece) could be possible as well, but seems unlikely because it’s rather high, but especially because, given the style of the other markings, one would expect it to have “straight” ends. Another point of interest is the very obvious interior colour. Until now I suspected that the interior colour might be white or even none at all. This picture seems to disprove those theories though. While it is of course no proof that all the companies used a similar style, this picture raises doubts about what colour the turret numbers were. As it’s virtually impossible to guess what the colour on this picture would have been, I won’t do it here.
In the row of vehicles there’s another example I want to take a second look at. I first dismissed the dark smudges for battle damage or camouflage, but when taking a closer look it appears to be a number after all. Though it appears to be a bit narrow. The marking at the left might be a “3” or “5”. Considering the location of this digit, compared to 523, it’s probably the third. The horizontal “bar” might be mistaken for a vision port. It’s not however. No only is it located too high, it’s also located too much to the front.
Apart from the shots above we also have the following picture of a R35 with a man from 82AB. Again it’s interesting to see it’s showing a different type of markings. It’s clear these are very different from the vehicles in the “5th Co”. The presence of a 82AB (508PIR) man, would strongly indicate this one belonged to PzAbt100, which was the only unit using this type in the area of the division. The lack of any turret number is of course very obvious and I’m considering it may have been on of the Stabkp. vehicles. Actual proof of this is of course missing.
As a side note: it should be clear by now I’ve used a lot of material from the very interesting www.508pir.org website. The main reason is that they have excellent information (both written and in pictures) available but also because they ware the most likely to meet elements of PzAbt100 as they captured the area were this unit was stationed. If I look closer at other airborne units, those should give good other lead for other area’s of the Cotentin. This is an ongoing project).
The equipment as listed by PzAbt206 and PzAbt100 might also help in distinguishing their vehicles, or, to be more precise, their Hotchkisses. Let’s go back to the order of battle from PzAbt100 for this.
1 Kwk 7,5 cm (f) (1 Pz.Kpfw. Renault B2)
3 Kwk 5 cm (d) (3 Pz.Kpfw. III)
2 Kwk 4,7 cm (f) (1 Pz.Kpfw. Somua, 1 Pz.Kpfw. Renault B2)
8 Kwk 3,7 cm lang (f) (8 Pz.Kpfw. Hotchkiss)
19 Kwk 3,7 cm kurz (f) (19 Pz.Kpfw. Renault R35)
While there is no proof that all short 3,7cm guns belonged to the R35’s and all the long guns to the Hotchkisses, the numbers do add up exactly and there is also no evidence from the pictures around La Fière that contradict this. There are however shots available that do show Hotchkisses with a short barrelled gun. The H39 below is one of those. Apart from the gun the regular Balkenkreuz is different from the reversed crosses that can be seen on many vehicles. This might be a vehicle from PzAbt206. It should be noted, that the turrets of Hotchkisses and R35’s were interchangeable and it is also possible that actually happened. Apart from this any turret markings seem to be lacking and the reversed Balkenkreuz I mentioned can also be seen on a vehicle I suspect to belong to PzAbt206. For now the gun types don’t seem to give conclusive evidence.
The H35 mentioned previously might also fit in this “gun barrel theory”. It has not only a short barrelled gun but probably also a normal Balkenkreuz on its turret as well as an small “4”. (Because of the 4 it doesn’t seem logical to have large black and white turret numbers too. Considering the shape of the marking a Balkenkreuz seems to be the most logical.
Vehicle collection point(s)
The images used included many taken at collection points. It is unclear however if they were made on the same place or at different locations. From what I’ve read the first “summer” shots might have been taken at a collection point near Baupte. The winter pictures might have been shot there as well. If so there has been some movement on the collection point as (some) vehicles no longer have their place in the row.
The summer picture of this row shows quite clearly the numbers 3-43, 3-42 and 3-4?. Probably indication the third row and the number given to the individual vehicle. The row should start at 3-1 (or 3-01) and continue till the last vehicle. As the line of vehicles is very long this assumption is probably correct.
Other shots show vehicles from the same row:
3.14 (Pz1 on Holz-Gas), 3.1X (Char B2). These pictures appear to have been taken later as the vehicle are now no longer included in a line.
- The four tanks at La Fière bridge are two R35’s, one H39 and a PzIII. A little further away might be another H39.
- At the collection point there are multiple R35’s, H39’s and possibly a H35. Probably a mix from PzAbt100 and PzAbt206
- The collection point also includes one FT-17. A type not present on OoB’s of units engaged in Normandy.
- Other footage of the collection point shows more H39’s and R35’s.
- The ‘3rd’ series of pictures of this collection point shows 2 Char B1’s, more Hotchkisses, R35’s, a PzIII and FT-17’s. Probably a mix from PzAbt100 and PzAbt206 and other units (FT-17’s, StuGIII’s).
- Apart from this there are some shots of lone R35’s taken in the area of 82AB.
- There is an image available of a Char B1 around Carentan. If correctly captioned, it should have belonged to PzAbt100
- No likely images of the single Somua from PzAbt100 are available.
- The Somua’s pictured probably all belonged to PzAbt206.
- Several turretless vehicles are pictured. It’s possible these were all training vehicles from PzAbt100. Types are a special PzI, R35 and Char B1 bis.
- The markings found on three Hotchkisses (“221/224”, “23?”and “2??”) are black with thin white outlines.
- Yet another Hotchkiss might have had the same kind of numbers or just a Balkenkreuz. Apart from that, it has a stencilled small white “4”.
- A R35, almost certainly from PzAbt100, only seems to have a Balkenkreuz on the turret
- The markings found on a fourth Hotchkiss (“4??”) are probably white with a black outline.
- The same goes for the R35 with number “522”.
- The PzIII at the bridge also has similar style of markings. Possibly number “324”.
- Apart from this there are two other examples of a R35 with almost identical numbers to “522”, in this case “532” and “523”.
- There’s a picture of a possible “X15”. There clearly is an interior colour.
- There are even more (vague) pictures showing b
- The German crosses are another issue. Both regular and reversed types are seen, even on individual vehicles. The reversed types might also be black outlines only. The pictures not clear enough to be sure.
The questions that remain are to which unit(s) all these vehicles belonged (except for the vehicles at the bridge). It seems safe to say at least some of the vehicles in the dump(s) belonged to PzAbt100. For the American sector only PzAbt100 and PzAbt206 (except for some conversions) are candidates when it comes to French tanks.
For the FT-17’s this is a bit different however. Neither PzAbt206 nor PzAbt100 were supposed to have them. It remains a mystery what units did use them. They are listed as being in use by the Luftwaffe though, and might very well have come from them.
Based on the fact that PzAbt206 only had two R35’s and there are already three images of R35’s with similar markings I’m pretty sure that’s the style PzAbt100 used. Combined with the PzIII at the bridge, that must be PzAbt100, this is good evidence to proof the numbering style in my eyes, though the exact colours are still unknown.
The R35 with the 82nd AB Trooper is almost certainly from PzAbt100 too. This suggests a second style of markings. Possibly this is a Stabkp. vehicle.
However there remain some mysteries. As I’ve shown before the composition of PzAbt100 on May 20th was the following:
The point is that there are three R35’s with turret numbers starting with a 5, while there are clearly only three Co’s. Looking at the composition above, I’ve been contemplating the possibility that they also numbered their tank platoons instead of just companies.
This would be of course very uncommon and it implies they considered some of their platoons to be co’s. They might have done so for training purposes, somehow. But a major flaw in this already rather wild theory is the presence of 522, 523 and 532. This would suggest there are three platoons with at least three vehicles each. Not something you would expect from the composition. Apart from that the PzIII certainly has a strange number as well (“324”).
The last image of the R35 with a Balkenkreuz on the turret side is another problem. As I’ve no indication it belonged to PzAbt206 (considering the location it was taken), it would be a different marking style for PzAbt100. The only other vehicle to show a Balkenkreuz on the turret would be “203” on the “winter images”. So maybe this is a 2nd co vehicle. This also brings back the turret with the small stencilled “4” on it. If there is indeed a Balkenkreuz on it, they might be related after all. A problem would be it being a H35 which can not be pointed at PzAbt100.
Well, there are still more questions than answer, so the numbering of the vehicles remains a mystery. The vehicles that can be identified as PzAbt206, unfortunately do not show any markings. The pictures are simply not clear enough.
One last point to focus on, are the different numbering styles seen on vehicles (black-white vs white-black). Like I said I’m pretty sure on the style of PzAbt100. I therefor believe that the black numbers with the white outline belonged to PzAbt206. Another indication for this is the image from PINTAN if 203 is really from PzAbt100. The only way the “other” numbering style as found on “221”/”224” could also have belonged to PzAbt100 would be a change in number style, but only for the 2nd Co. Not something I believe in myself.
Fate of PzAbt100
Apart from all this tank detail talk some more general information might be interesting too. As said PzAbt100 was positioned in the area south of the Douve River. The was HQ located in the chateau of Francquetot, while 1st Co. was located at Baupte, 2nd at Coigny and 3rd around Auvers.
The 508PIR was appointed to clear this very area, a task started on June 13th by crossing of the Douve river at night. The following days saw heavy fighting, in which the 508 inflicted heavy losses to the German defenders. Based on the after action report from 508, it appears no less than 25 tanks were destroyed in 7 days.
While this list below is by no means complete, it is first attempt to list the tank losses of PzAbt100. It does at least show the unit lost around 30 tanks in two weeks. As the unit only had 32 tanks (some turretless tanks not included) the Abteilung appears to be as good as wiped out. An indication for this might also be that 508PIR doesn’t mention tank activity in the days after June 19th. While it is also possible some vehicles belonged to 77ID (at this time the 91ID appears to have been located at the north of the Douve river) the reports only mention “tanks”,“light tanks” or “MarkIV’s”. The reports of this area do not mention SP’s or anything like that, while SP’s are reported in other area’s. Apart from that the 77ID did not even have any self-propelled guns. The tanks encountered during the advance of 508PIR were therefor most probably from PzAbt100.
Tank losses by PzAbt100
Date Numbers Types Location Unit
6-jun "several" Unknown Cauquigny 82AB
3 1xPzIII, 2xR35 La Fière Bridge A/505
7-jun 1 H39 La Fière Bridge A/505
13-jun 2 Unknown Beuzeville la Bastille F/508
2 Unknown Cretteville 1/508
5 Renault Francquetot 1/508
5 Unknown Coigny-Houtteville-La Prieure A/508
18-jun 10 Unknown Baupte E/I/508
19-jun 1 1xPzIV = PzIII Prétot I/508
It might also be interesting to look closer at the loss of several German officers as reported in PINTAN and other sources. Major Bardtenschlager, the commander of PzAbt100, tried to reach the HQ of the 91st ID, but never arrived there. Oberleutnant Weber, commander of 1st Co, was KIA on the same morning. Who were responsible for these events is unknown. It is known however some 10 sticks from the 101st AB landed around St-Jores. From 82nd some 8 sticks landed scattered in the area between the Douve, Merderet and Carentan-La Haye du Puits railroad.
Apart from PzAbt100, 91ID also lost their commanding officer. Lieutenant General Wilhelm Falley was ambushed in his staffcar and killed at “la ferme de la Minoterie at Picauville”, when trying to get back to his HQ after the Kriegspiele in Rennes.
Because of these events the combination of 91ID and PzAbt100 lost their commanding officers. It’s not difficult to suspect this had an influence on the German response in this area. (Note that Fallschirmjäger Regiment 6 was also attached to 91ID. Probably to give this ‘Luftlande’ division a way to secure an airfield so that it can actually been deployed).
Thanks for reading. If you have any corrections, thoughts or remarks please let me know.