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.