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Chef-du-Pont Collection Point

July 11 2008 at 9:50 PM

Niels Henkemans  (Login jpz4)
GDDG Member

Hello Everybody
In Normandy several collection point were raised for captured or destroyed equipment. The dumps at Isigny and Trun are probably the best known. There were also several others, but little is known about most of them. One of these collection points is said to have been located at Chef-du-Pont, but the exact location is not clear. From analyzing the available photographs we can finally identify the location. To be fair, three options appear to be possible. But two do not seem to match all the details.

The "key" for locating the dump can be seen on the close up in the upper left corner:
-a double railway line running along the vehicle dump. This limits the location of the dump to somewhere along the Cherbourg-Carentan railroad. By looking at the shadows it appears to be located on the west side of the railroad.
- The picture also shows an overpass. Only a handful cross the railroad and this narrows the search considerably.
- By looking at the shape of the field, the longest border appears to run diagonally on the railroad.

If we combine all these observations, only three possibilities remain: One at Chef-du-Pont and two between La Fière bridge and Sainte-Mere-Eglise.

Considering the reports the location at Chef-du-Pont looks promising, but a 1944 map suggest that the bridge there was far too narrow to fit the image (only three feet wide). According to the same map, the field across the railroad seems to have had too many hedgerows to match the available images of that field.
The 2nd location has a bigger bridge, but the shape of the field does not seem to match the pictures.
The 3rd location is more promising. The bridge is wide enough and the shape field also matches. Apart from this the field can easily be accessed by large vehicles and is located along an important route and between two bridges across the railroad. An aerial reconnaissance photo taken later in 1944 also appears to show this area to be covered by “non-natural” objects. Quite possibly the dump itself.
All the evidence combined, this 3rd field is the most logical location for the dump, with the field a Chef-du-Pont a distant 2nd option. The other location does not seem to match the available images on any point, except for the overpass.

1: The probable location of the dump is presented in red below.


2: More evidence appears to be provided by the terrain itself. The treeline seems to match the available images.

So it appears that the Chef-du-Pont was actually not as close to the town as the name implies. Still I'd prefer to continue to use the name to avoid confusion. This shouldn't be a problem. After all, the Isigny dump is also located about a mile from the town.

Apart from the location it is also possible to take a look at the lay-out of the collection point. The dump appears to have had different area's for soft-skins, artillery/AA-guns and armor. Later on, the open space was filled with other debris such as aircraft and glider wrecks.


Analyzing the Chef-du-Pont collection point is unfortunately not as straightforward as it might look. A serious problem is the date and location of several images. These do not seem to match the location and armor was moved around at one or more occasions. There seem to have been several moves:
- from the battlefield to a collection point (obvious of course)
- analyzing and numbering the captured equipment by putting them in rows (either within the same dump or at a different location)
- moving them to a final position after the examination (possibly to make room for new equipment or to facilitate the removal, either within the same dump or at a different location)

Evidence for this can be found because the numbered vehicles can be seen neatly in rows, while at a later moment these can be seen scattered around the field. Apart from this there are other ways to identify particular vehicles. Note the following example:

Position when knocked-out:


Initial position of the PzIII in collection point. Note the Marder1 and MarderIII


No position of this PzIII is known within a row, but the MarderIII can be found in such a row. (Scroll down three images)

Still, the final position of the PzIII is known. Compare the damage to the first image. Also note the Marder1.


So it appears that the vehicles were moved at some point, either to a new collecting point or to a more convenient location within the same location. From the available evidence this can not yet be determined.

Presuming the vehicles where only moved once after they were collected. We might be able to divide the available images in three periods. To illustrate this we can look at the following images.
Step 1: Gathering equipment from the battle field:

Ordering and numbering vehicles:

Step 2: Neath row. Vehicles numbered in consecutive order. Note the Marder3H.


Step 3: Relocation after evaluation:


For now, we can conclude the location of the "Chef-du-Pont" dump, was probably just behind La Fière bridge. Another locations at Chef-du-Pont is perhaps also possible, but far less likely. A third location only seems to match on being near to a railroad overpass, and probably can be dismissed.
The second conclusion is that the material that finally ended up at the collection point has been moved around quite a lot. It is difficult to prove if some moves happened on the same field or they were transferred from one or more other temporary locations.

More information will follow in a later post.
Thank you for reading. Comments and information are always welcome.


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Niels Henkemans
(Login jpz4)
GDDG Member

Chef-du-Pont Collection Point - Part2

July 11 2008, 9:55 PM 

Hello everybody,
As promised, here is part2 on the "Chef-du-Pont" collection point.

After identifying the location I’ve been trying to find links between the available images to determine the content of the dump and to be able to identify equipment from different units. PzAbt100 and PzAbt206 in particular. This is also the reason I did not include all the US equipment unless they were relevant for locating the position of the German material.

As you may understand, the images were not taken at the same time, so changes may have occurred between them. Still, I think the analysis is fairly accurate. To identify the positions I've used the characteristics of the vehicles to identify every single one of them and find their position.
To be sure of these positions and the distances between the vehicles, I've used the "line of sight" of the camera's. And made sure all vehicles had the correct scale. I've not included these LOS tests because the post is already quite complicated. Perhaps I will add some later to illustrate the process.

Apart from vehicle characteristics, I've also used some recognizable trees to link several images directly (or indirectly) to this collection point. Still, I've not yet been able to conclusively identify the position were all images were taken. In those cases I've included question marks, just to be safe.


Let's start
1: I've been having considerable problems to identify the exact location of this picture and to conclusively identify it as Chef-du-Pont. The location would certainly be the most logical, but I'd like to be as certain as possible. I think the trees, outlined in green, finally end the discussion. (Scroll down to see them on other images)


2: The same Char with a FT17 next to it. A small piece of what is probably a H39 can be seen to the right.


3: On the left side of the FT17 is a R35 and there appears to be another H39 behind the FT17.


4:


5: On the left side of the FT17 is a R35 and there appears to be another H39 behind the FT17.


6: By now a well known image showing six H39 tanks. The short-barreled tank probably belonged to PzAbt206.


7: A good view of a SdKfz9. Alongside is a Sdkfz251, with what appears to be a marking for a panzer unit.


8: Same H39. The PzIII was destroyed at La Fière and the StuGIII at Sainte-Mere-Eglise on June 7th.


9: The same PzIII and StuGIII. To the left is a MarderILorraine that has seen better days. In the distance, between the US vehicles, some French tanks and a M7 priest can be observed.


10: Next to the StuGIII is a MarderIIIM and a turretless R35. It does not appear to have been modified to carry the Czech 47mm gun as the turret ring is intact. It probably belonged to PzAbt100.


11: The same Marder and R35. Several more French tanks can be observed. The S35 tanks probably belonged to PzAbt206 while the R35's were probably part of Pz.Abt.100.


12: It is difficult to determine the exact position of the Sherman and French turret on the foreground. Perhaps they were located next to the turretless R35 or other some vehicles were located between them.


13: Note the trees in the background.


14: More or less the same shot. Note the presence of three H39 tanks. One almost hidden behind #35. Again note the trees


15: Another shots shows one of the H39's has a short barrel. Probably another PzAbt206 vehicles. The Balkenkreuz also matches the one seen on the other vehicles. If you look closely you can also see the barrel of a S35 tank to the left of the "40".


16: This close-up of picture nr10 shows the same S35.....


17: ...but that vehicle is most obvious on this picture.

It may be possible to link one more image to this dump and determine its position. To do that, we first should return to two shots we have seen already.

18: Note the two Shermans in the background and the position close to the edge of the field


19: It could be a coincidence, but here we have a M4a1 and a H39 in a similar position as we have seen above, close to a hedgerow. Also note that on both images the French turret appears to be missing a hatch. These are quite probably the same vehicles after all.

If we put all the steps together, we get a layout that basically looks like this:

20:


Presuming this picture is correct, at least the following armor was present in the collection point:
13 x H39
6 x R35
3 x S35
2 x CharB1bis (1 x training, 1 x regular gun tank)
2 x Marder3M
1 x Marder1L
1 x StuGIII
1 x PzIII
1 x PzI (Training Holz-gas)
1 x Ft17

Thank you for reading.


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