August 7th, 1944 - Operation Totalize

Discussion in 'All Anniversaries' started by canuck, Aug 7, 2017.

  1. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Operation Totalize
    Likewise, the strength of the German position during Operation Totalize has generally been under-appreciated by historians, since the traditional view that the Canadians, “despite overwhelming air and artillery superiority, five divisions and two armoured brigades comprising upwards of 600 tanks could not handle two depleted German divisions,” is not entirely accurate. In fact, during the period of 7-10 August, the II Canadian Corps encountered all or part of five divisions, together with powerful supporting units. The Canadians main adversary, the 89th Infantry Division, completed the relief of the 1st SS-Panzer Division on 6 August, and had time to firmly occupy the latter’s strongly prepared positions. Its two infantry regiments occupied approximately six kilometres of front, with four battalions in the first line and two in a second, while the divisional fusilier (reconnaissance) and pioneer battalions remained in reserve. With an authorized strength of 8500 men, the division had relatively weak support elements – three artillery battalions and a single anti-tank company. Nonetheless, at least one company of the 217thSturmpanzer Battalion with 11 operational assault guns supported the division, as did at least one regiment of the 7th Werfer Brigade. An independent heavy artillery battalion was also in the I SS-Panzer Corps area.

    During Operation Totalize, and especially on 8 August, the 89th Infantry Division generally gave a good account of itself. While the Allied armoured columns rapidly penetrated its positions during the night and then moved south, artillery, mortar and sniper fire added to the confusion of the Canadians and certainly slowed the forward progress of units pressing southward. Further hampering the Canadians was the fact that the German garrisons of bypassed towns and villages did not surrender, even though they found themselves surrounded in a torrent of advancing Allied troops. May-sur-Orne was not captured until 1630 hours, after two previous attacks by the Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal had been repulsed. Other troops of the 89th Division continued to hold Fontenay until ordered to withdraw south during the late afternoon of 8 August. Although the South Saskatchewan Regiment took Rocquancourt rather quickly, the last snipers were not flushed out of its ruins for another six hours. To the left of the Canadians, the British 51st Infantry Division was likewise unable to capture Tilly quickly. In fact, a full-scale assault during the morning of 9 August by two British infantry battalions, supported by armour and artillery, was necessary before the German garrison was finally overcome.

    While the Allied penetration forces during the initial break-in phase (Phase One) of the operation were able to seize their objectives quickly in the depth of the German position with only minor casualties, the continued German resistance in the above mentioned localities severely constricted the Allies’ advance routes. In turn, this produced traffic bottlenecks that slowed the movements of the exploitation units (Phase Two), notably the 4th Canadian Armoured Division, which reached its start line only shortly before the second stage of the operation was to commence. Although the 89th Infantry Division had suffered heavy losses on 8 August, most of its remnants withdrew southwards and by early the next day had reconstituted a front running along the Laize River to the town of Bretteville-le-Rabat. Other stragglers joined troops of the 12th SS-Panzer Division and the arriving 84th Infantry Division to continue the fight farther east.

    Deployed along the left flank of the II Canadian Corps was the 272nd Infantry Division, which was still relatively strong and had one infantry regiment in tactical reserve. Once it became apparent that the positions of the 89th Division had been breached, this regiment was deployed quickly around the forest outside Secqueville. By the late afternoon of 8 August, this division had shifted additional units so that its front extended to St. Sylvain, which it held until late on 9 August. On the right flank of the attacking Canadians, across the Laize River, was the German 271st Infantry Division. Although having to deal with heavy British pressure from across the Orne, when Operation Totalize commenced the division slowly pulled back its front to conform to the advance of the Canadians. By the late evening of 8 August, one of its infantry regiments became available to create a new line running along the Laize River. In either case, the actions of the flanking German infantry divisions restrained the penetration made by the II Canadian Corps, and thereby contributed at least somewhat to its difficulties in moving forward the reserves, artillery, and supplies necessary for a rapid exploitation. More importantly, the speed with which these divisions reacted allowed the Germans to quickly re-create a continuous front line.

    The greatest opposition the Canadians faced during 8 August came from the 12th SS-Panzer Division, and, contrary to much of what has been written, it was still a potent force. Although having been forced to reduce three of its panzer-grenadier battalions to cadres, the remaining three still possessed between five and six hundred men apiece. The division’s artillery regiment and flak battalion were still largely intact, while, according to various sources, the division may have brought anywhere from 76 to 113 tanks and assault guns to the battlefield.

    At the time Totalize began, only one Kampfgruppe of the 12th SS-Panzer Division was in the immediate vicinity, mainly around the town of Brettville-sur-Laize. By early afternoon, units of this Kampfgruppe were already counter-attacking the 1st Polish Armoured Division just south of its departure line around St Aignan-de-Cramesnil, and effectively halted its advance in its tracks. Likewise, the rapid positioning of the 88 mm batteries of its flak battalion around Bretteville-le-Rabet, together with infantry outposts stationed in Cintheaux and Hautmesnil, prevented the 4th Canadian Armoured Division from rapidly advancing down the Caen-Falaise highway. Two additional Kampfgruppen, containing the remaining units of the division, arrived during the night of 8/9 August to bolster the German line further, and it was one of these that destroyed the British Columbia Regiment when the latter advanced southwards on 9 August.

    Further significant German reinforcements quickly materialized during the course of Operation Totalize to stem the Canadian offensive. During the afternoon of 9 August, elements of the fresh 85th Infantry Division began to arrive, and participated in the destruction of the British Columbia Regiment. By the next morning, a Kampfgruppe – consisting of one infantry regiment of three infantry battalions, one pioneer company, one anti-tank company and one artillery battalion – had entered the line, while the division fully completed its assembly two days later. The 102ndHeavy SS-Panzer Battalion also arrived on 9 August, as did a further company of the 217thSturmpanzer Battalion. Elements of the III Flak Corps were also moved up to bar the Canadians advance during the afternoon of 8 August, although the extent of its participation in the battle remains something of a mystery.

    Canadian Offensive Operations in Normandy Revisited - Canadian Military Journal

    Lied4-big.jpg Operation_Totalize.jpg
    TTH, Bazz, Tolbooth and 2 others like this.
  2. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron


    Thank you for the reminder, the date had escaped me . My father was there that night, somewhere at the front of the leftmost Canadian column in a Lothian and Border Yeomanry flail

    "Diary of 1Tp B Sqn
    1700hrs 7 Aug 44 - 1900hrs 9 Aug 44

    Lt P B Carter

    7 Aug 44

    1700hrs move out with rest of sqn from assembly area at Louvigny to FUP in Ifs area. Formed up in FUP. 1Tp was allocated to centre column of lane. Order of tks in that lane was: Two Cdn Shermans - my own tk - Sgt Mackie - Cpl Edwards - Cpl Rackham - Cpl Imrie -followed by the sqn ldr and reserves.

    2310hrs moved forward to start line and along allocated centre line. The following events occurred between approx 2330hrs and 03 10hrs 8 Aug 44, exact timings and chronological order doubtful:

    (a) The column went too far to the left, hit the rd and then swung back, after this Cpl Edwards lost Sgt Mackie.

    (b) Sgt Mackie stayed with me for the whole night. We followed the Canadians in front of us until about 0045hrs, when my engine failed. Prior to this I had fired two HEs into a bunch of inf (I hope they were Germans). Sgt Mackie had not fired at all. When I broke down, by the time that Sgt Mackie had manoeuvred past me, the tk in front was out of sight. A few minutes later my own tk started. I moved off, now followed by the sqn ldr, parallel to the rd. They appeared to go too far to the left, so I halted. Orders were then given to take up defensive posns. We remained in the neighbourhood of this spot until midday 8 Aug 44.

    Cpl Edwards completely lost direction after losing Sgt Mackie. Later he became immobile and did not rejoin us until morning. Cpl Rackham kept going all night, was lit up by enemy flares, fired on, but not hit. By green Verey lights and giving my posn in relation to burning tks and moon, he managed to rejoin us about 0300hrs. Cpl Imrie became a mechanical cas and did not rejoin us until two days later."

    Tricky Dicky and canuck like this.
  3. Aeronut

    Aeronut Junior Member

    My father also took part in Totalise (or Totalize, the spelling can be either in the records) as part of the 51st HD. I have an account of the operation written by his OC Col J Hopwood as well as my father's own letters. In one of these letters he describes being photographed by an official photographer but a search of the IWM archive failed to find any stills but I did find a cine film with him in it. Its a series of clips covering the build up, the briefing of the 1st Bn the Black Watch (my father's part), the advance in Kangaroos and then the forming up and advance of the Polish armoured brigade.
    The following is Col Hopwood's description of the 1st Bn the Black Watch contribution to Totalise.

    At 2145 hours on the 7th Aug., the 1st Battalion. Black Watch and the Northamptonshire Yeomanry began to form up in four columns just South of Cormelles with two squadrons of Shermans leading, followed by the Battalion transported on dismantled Priests and White Scout Cars, while the remaining squadron of Shermans brought up the rear. The Commanding Officer and the Commanding Officer of the Yeomanry travelled in Honey and Sherman tanks respectively.
    At 2230 hours, the column moved forward to the start line which was the Soliers - Hubert Folie road, arriving at approximately 2300 hours, when it halted until “H” minus 10 (2335 hours) before moving. During this halt, the column witnessed the intense aerial bombardment of the Secqueville La Campagne woods, which in the words of the divisional operations order ‘were to be obliterated’. This bombardment was carried out with the aid of pathfinders and flares fired by our own gunners and the result as proved later, was magnificent.
    At 2335 hours, the column moved forward while the aerial bombardment continued until 2345 hours, when a rolling barrage of 700 guns advancing at 100 yards per minute commenced.
    During the advance, no minefields were encountered but as had already been anticipated, other obstacles such as sunken roads and embankments caused delay, and this resulted in the column falling behind the barrage. It was therefore necessary to trust to luck and continue the advance without immediate artillery support. This was done and strangely enough during the whole of the approach march to the objective, no enemy directed fire was encountered. Owing to the excellent navigation on the part of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry and by dint of good driving, well over 90% of the column arrived at the debussing area some 800 yards short of St Aignan at 0315 hours, some four and a half hours after passing the start line. The only direct enemy opposition encountered between the Soliers - Hubert Folie road and the debussing area came from an enemy self propelled gun which followed the column a short distance and knocked out two Priests which were carrying “B” Company men. In addition, an odd spandau opened up from time to time causing no damage.
    From the proposed debussing area up to St Aignan De Cremesnil was, as already stated a distance of 800 yards over flat uncut corn. The right of this area was bordered by a thin strip of wood which ran right up to the village, the whole of the left was completely open, except for one hedge near the debussing area which looked like an ideal place for 88 mm guns and spandaus to be concealed. St Aignan itself was a typical Normandy village, surrounded by apple orchards and thick hedges which extended for a distance of approximately a thousand yards on the far side of the village. At first it was considered necessary to clear the strip of woods on the right on approaching the objective. On arrival at the debussing area at 0315 hours however, a change of plan was made owing to the “going” being better than anticipated. It was decided to motor right up to the objective under cover of a pre-arranged artillery concentration (Brimstone) from 0325 – 0345 hours, and fire from the two leading squadrons of tanks - the Battalion was then to debus with “A” Company on the right, “B” Company on the left, and “D” in reserve and move straight into the village. “A” and “B” Company’s task was then to exploit right through to the far side of St Aignan while “D” Company in reserve and Battalion Headquarters remained on the near side clearing up any pockets of resistance which might be left. accordingly at 0325 hours Brimstone came down and the column started to move forward slowly at first as delay was caused by having to force a passage through a hedge growing on the usual embankment which we had previously thought from air photographs would be an anti-tank obstacle.
    Motoring over the last 800 yards to the objective was entirely successful owing to the heavy artillery concentration and secondly to the magnificent fire support given by the Northamptonshire Yeomanry from their 75s and Brownings, which plastered every place that could possibly have held an enemy post. On debussing, slight confusion was caused by a thick ground mist which was accentuated by the Cordite smoke from the artillery concentration, and by the fumes from the exhausts of the tanks and priests. In spite of this however, “A” and “B” Company’s maintained direction and advanced to their respective objectives. During the advance by the two leading companies’ little serious opposition was encountered, though there were the odd spandau posts which held out and which had to be mopped up. This however was fairly quickly accomplished, and by 0530 hours, the forward companies were on their objectives. The reserve Company “D”, with the Battalion. Headquarters took over the orchards on the forward edge of St Aignan and by 0600 hours company positions nearly all been sited, and the Battalion had started to dig in, while the tanks and supporting arms were moving up into company areas as additional support against any counter-attack.
    Two incidents occurred as the Battalion was occupying the positions, which deserve mention - the first concerns “A” Company. As this company was getting into position on the far side of St Aignan, a Boche patrol consisting of 7 men advanced through the orchards towards the company who were preparing to dig in. This patrol which possibly did not realise the situation, as it was far too small to take on the company, was immediately spotted by a Bren gunner who opened fire, killing five and wounding one, the remaining man being taken prisoner.
    The second incident concerns “B” Company when they were arriving on their objective. A spandau opened fire from a house wounding one man and holding up the final advance of the company. An anti-tank gunner who was moving with the company to recce a position for his guns immediately dashed into the house with a Sten gun, killing the two Boche who were manning the spandau. He carried out this action without assistance, thereby allowing the remainder of the company to continue its advance unhindered.
    The Battalion were allowed about two hours grace to organise themselves for defence before the enemy started to shell and mortar on a fairly heavy scale. This continued throughout the day causing a number of casualties. In addition American bombers came over and dropped some of their bombs in the Battalion area killing two signallers with “B” Company.
    At approximately 1200 hours, the shelling and motaring increased in intensity, and considerable fire was heard coming from “A” Company’s direction. It appeared that “A” Company were being counter-attacked by 200 infantry supported by tanks. This counter-attack continued for one and a half hours, the enemy infantry advancing to within 300 yards of “A” Company’s F.D.Ls. The Northamptonshire Yeomanry however, moved forward of our F.D.Ls. and did magnificent work against the Boche tanks, knocking out 4 Tigers and 7 Mk IV. In addition, the Divisional artillery brought down directed fire and by 1330 hours the position had been stabilised again, while heavy casualties had almost certainly been inflicted on the Boche infantry. Shortly after 1400 hours, the Polish armoured Division passed through on our left heading towards Robertsmesnil, a small wooded area with a few houses approximately 1000 yards South east of St Aignan. Owing however to the unexpected presence of some 88 mm guns and Boche infantry, this formation withdrew behind our position approximately one hour later, attracting considerable shell and mortar fire as it did so. The shelling and motaring continued for the rest of the day, but during the night it slackened off as 152 Brigade advanced to Conteville, drawing a certain amount of fire which we had previously been receiving, in their direction.
    The 9th and 10th August were quite, and on the afternoon of 10th Aug., the battalion received orders to move to St Sylvian where another attack was to be made that night.
    During the attack on St Aignan the Battalion suffered the following casualties - 11 killed, 43 wounded and 15 missing - amongst those killed were Lieuts Wilson and Dynes of “D” and “A” Company’s respectively, while Lieuts Hughes, Welsh and Sharp were wounded. We were successful however in inflicting considerably heavier casualties on the enemy, having taken 82 prisoners as well as killing and wounding a further 10. In addition, two cars, two half tracked vehicles and four 75 mm Anti Tank guns and many mortars, machine guns, field glasses and other equipment were captured in addition to the 11 tanks knocked out by the Northamptonshire Yeomanry.
    Juha, Tolbooth, canuck and 1 other person like this.
  4. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Dad was among the 5th Camerons advancing on Tilly, The Camerons were the only battalion to advance on foot while everyone else in the 51HD rumbled along in Kangeroos etc. Some very hard fighting took place during that and subsequent attacks.
    Tolbooth and canuck like this.
  5. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    I found the Stacey Victory Campaign (Canada's official war history on ETO 44-45, published in 1960) from net and take a look. I found out from the book that "...resistance about Gaumesnil, just south of the start line, held up the [Canadian phase II] advance until... The Royal Regiment of Canada captured the village at 3.30 p.m. This eased the traffic situation and tanks were able to help the 10th Infantry brigade forward...". It is interesting to note that the Shermans of the 27th Canadian Armored Regiment (A Squadron / Sherbrooke Fusiliers) at Gaumesnil are said to have killed Wittmann at around 12.45 p.m. Very odd. While I know that there are errors in the official histories that kind of error seems odd. In Reid's No Hold's Back this might be explained, but the pre-view of the book does not show that part of the story even if the appendix on Wittmann's demise is shown. In it there is a map showing the positions of the troops during the counter-attack of the schwere SS-Panzer-Abtailung 101. In it A Sqn/ Sherbrooke Fusiliers has spread all over the village. Why it took 1½ hours to took a small village already occupied by an own tank coy? What the fusiliers did after the attack by the Tigers was defeated? The war diary of the Fusiliers was lost during that afternoon when a US bomb destroyed the half-track in which the papers were but when I looked for the war diary of the Royal Regiment of Canada from the net I didn't find them so it seems that it is not digitized. The Canadians had a lot of artillery, so lot of fire support was available and one would think that it would have certainly used if any group of buildings halted the advance but I have not read that the Sherbrooke Fusiliers were heavily shelled during the afternoon. So error in Stacey's book?

    So does anyone have copies on the war diary of the Royal Regiment of Canada on 8 August 1944? Or other explanation what happened around Gaumesnil during that afternoon?

  6. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member

    The following is taken from George Blackburn's book " The Guns of Normandy":

    In the midst of this threatening uproar, which grows more dangerous by the minute, Bill Waddell, the 4th Field FOO with the leading company pinpoints the location of the German tanks and goes back on foot to lead up a troop of Sherbrooke Fusiliers tanks into position
    where they can get clear shots at them. And when he gets them close enough to be effective he directs their fire, knocking out at least four.
    Major Ralph Young, second in command of the Royals, an eyewitness to Waddell's heroism, will have difficulty later ( even forty years later ) finding words to describe it: " This guy is standing out in the open, all by his bloody self, pointing out a German tank here, another there, yelling at our tanks, ' Hit the goddam thing! or words to that effect. Those are his fire orders. Oh yes...incredible! With him pointing and the tanks shooting, they knock out three, maybe four., of them-one or two self propelled guns and a couple of tanks. Oh, I remember
    Waddell! He doesn't last long after that, as I recall."
    By noon the RHLI are dug in cloe to their objective on the right and the Essex Scottish are in the process of occupying Caillouet, and east of the highway elements of the British 154th Brigade have come up. At 2:00pm the Royals push on another 1,700 yards to Gaumesnil, where they find Sherbrooke tanks awaiting them. They are now seven kilometers south of their startline at Verrieres, at the head of what clearly is a massive breakthrough, and their casualties have been extremely light; only four killed and thirty-four wounded, clear vindication of Simonds' innovative attack, particularly his improvised armoured troop-carriers.

    Further on page 336...

    Among the dead left about Hill 122 was a Captain Michael WIttman, Germany's foremost tank commander...

    Hope this helps with your query
    Juha and canuck like this.
  7. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Hello 17th

    That helped a lot, very strong indication that Stacey made an error. Still it would be nice to know what is written in the WD of the Royal Regiment of Canada, the likely source of Stacey's claim.

    17thDYRCH likes this.
  8. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    On page 292-293 of Breakout from Juno, by Mark Zuehlke, there is a very good description of the action around Gaumesnil on August 8th, including the Royals, and some explanation of the lack of urgency from a number of units engaged.
    17thDYRCH likes this.
  9. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Hello Canuck
    thanks for the tip, checked from Amazon, Zuehlke is clearly a very productive writer. But all I need now are:

    a) when did the The Royal Regiment of Canada arrived inside Gaumesnil? And that is more out of curiosity.

    b) Did the Canadians report Tigers operating against them after 1.55 p.m.? This is my main problem because Agte writes in his Michael Wittmann and the Waffen SS Tiger Commanders of the Leibstandarte in World War II Volume Two that the 3 Tigers which survived Wittmann's counter attack stayed around the main road from Caen to Falaise, so operated against Canadians or
    did they moved east along the route the KG Waldmûller had used just after Wittmann's attack and operated during the afternoon against Poles SE of Saint-Aignan-de-Cramesnil as Schneider writes in his Tigers in Combat II. I'm inclined to think that the first alternative is the correct one because the Tiger unit had lost all its command tanks during the counter attack and so was out of touch with higher echelons, the crews probably wanted to stay a bit longer at the southern edge of the battlefield to give better chances for the surviving members of the crews of the knocked out Tigers to reach own lines and they used some time trying to find out what had happened to Wittmann and they predicted that a follow-up attack along the main road from Caen to Falaise will come soon and there were not any / only a few other AFVs to help stop it when on the other hand at least 20 AFVs of the KG Waldmüller were operating east of them to handle whatever was cooking-up there. And Agte was writing on the s.SS-Pz-Abt 101, i.e. the unit in question and Schneider on the all Tiger formations. I'm writing a short article in which the identity of the opponents of the 3 Tigers has a miniscule importance.

  10. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    There is a 'spare 'Tiger wreck (not one of the 3 with Wittmann) found somewhere in the area

    SS101 Late Tiger ,,-vertYUYTt.jpg
  11. klambie

    klambie Senior Member

    I may be slow, but I'm not sure why you assume Stacey is in error?

    From Reid, 'No Holding Back' pp 261-263
    "While one may question if the senior commanders of 4 CAD might not have been able to find a way forward for the two brigades, it also appears that Maj. Gen. Foulkes of 2 CID had become fixated on tidying up his area and getting the Essex Scottish onto its objective at Caillouet at the expense of expediting the passage of the armoured division. It might well have been preferable to picquet May-sur-Orne and Fontenay-le-Marmion and delay the capture of Bretteville-sur-Laize, to concentrate on clearing routes forward for 4 Div. Later commentators may have hit the mark, but they were aiming at the wrong target altogether, when they criticized the armoured division for not bypassing strongpoints, at least in this part of the battle.

    As a result, 4 and 10 Bdes spent a long, frustrating morning strung out on the road north of Rocquancourt waiting for the village and the ridge it sat on to be cleared. While 10 Bde was to pass through or close to the village, 4 CAB was to have swung onto the RN, following the route taken by 8 Recce Regt. In fact, the advance did not resume until after 1200 hours (the ops log of HQ 4 CAB logged "Rocquancourt now clear. You can get cracking." at 1224 hours) but even then, only limited progress was made. At least some of this may have been attributable to the fact that Gausmesnil had not yet been cleared. However, as we have seen, that village, really a collection of buildings near a chateau, lay on the far side of the bomb line and 2 CID had been cautioned not to capture it until after the Phase 2 bombing was completed at 1355 hours. As this was also H-Hour for the Canadian Grenadier Guards to cross the start line, a horrendous tactical muddle promptly resulted. At 1315 hours, the 2 CID logged a message from 4 CAD that it would now capture Gaumesnil and at 1515 hours 2 Cdn Corps logged a report from Phantom Signals that 10 Bde was attacking Gaumesnil at 1430 hours; but this did not happen and the original plan came back into force. At 1400 hours, the Royal Regiment of Canada was ordered to occupy the village, A and D Coys moved into Gaumesnil at 1530 hours and the battalion reported it had cleared and consolidated the place at 1700 hours.

    Why did it take so long to capture what was a largely enemy-free collection of buildings and orchards that grown up around a chateau? First, there is the obvious point that any attack could not start until after 1355 hours when the bombing ended, or that was the plan. Also, ripe as this little hamlet may have been for the plucking, this could not have been known to Lieut. Col. John Anderson, commanding the RR of C. Therefore, he would have rightly treated his task as another battalion attack against unknown opposition. One of his companies had gone astray during the night move and was still with the RHLI. This meant that he could employ no more than two Coys in the initial stages of the task if he was to maintain any sort of a reserve, which was all the more reason for Anderson to be prudent.

    Returning to the sequence of events, Anderson would have issued orders including tasks and the H-Hour of the attack to his Coy commanders, supporting arms representatives and the like, and this may well have taken place before 1355 hours. After that he would have expected them to get on with the job, which included personal recces by the Coy commanders. In fact, Maj. Radley-Walters of the Sherbrookes recalled meeting these officers in his position on the chateau grounds when they came forward to take a look at the terrain they would have to advance over and at their objectives. By the time they had returned to Pt 122, briefed their platoon commanders and allowed time for their own recce and orders, it would have been close to 1500 hours before the Royals were in a position to move on Gaumesnil. If all this seems slow to the casual reader, it should be remembered that all movement was on foot, and the recce close to enemy positions was often done by crawling. It perforce took time, but on the other hand the 'move now, orders later' school of tactics rarely, if ever, worked against the Wehrmacht. And finally, to secure even as small a place as Gaumesnil took time, for in clearing the hamlet each and every room in each and every building, be it a chateau or a chicken coop, had to be physically checked.

    Unfortunately, the delay was fatal. If any one thing can be said to have doomed Phase 2 of Totalize, it was the failure of 2 Cdn Corps HQ to have realized that by including Gaumesnil as a Phase 1 objective, while arranging to have it captured by 2 CID after the Phase 2 bombing, or at the same time as the vanguard of 4 CAD crossed its start line, the result would only be confusion and delay. Since Gaumesnil lay south of the safety line for the bombing, it probably should have been made a Phase 2 objective. In any case, the result was that the Germans had several hours grace to reinforce their defences south of Hautmesnil, which became the rock on which Totalize foundered. It was a fundamental error that did not reflect well on Simonds and his staff - in the army jargon of the time, it was bloody poor staff work."
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2018
    Juha and canuck like this.
  12. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    According to Zuehlke, The Royals entered Gaumesnil on the 8th around 1530 after receiving orders to do so at 1300. They found no opposition and A Squadron of the Sherbrookes had been all around the village before that time.

    Zuehlke's account describes the fire from A Squadron of the Sherbrookes, located in a courtyard near Gaumesnil, as accounting for 2 Tigers, 2 Mk IV's and a SPG. The effect of that fire pushed the German column off the highway and toward British positions near Saint -Aignan. No times were given other than the comment that the German counter-attack had collapsed by 3pm.
    Juha likes this.
  13. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Hello Michael
    yes Agte says that one of the Tiger was stopped on the road from La Jalousie to Cramesnil, near reference Point 117 (Hill 122 is nowadays 119). There was a hedge through which the road from La Jalousie to Cramesnil run in 1947. But is that based on an account of a German ex-PoW who later worked in the area clearing mines and reported a Tiger laying some 2,000 m north of Wittmann's Tiger or not I don't know. IIRC 144 RAC claimed a Tiger , it was around Cresmil and W of it up to Hill 122 and this Tiger was hit from front.

  14. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Hello Kevin
    thanks a lot, very interesting and that resolved the mystery on the part of the RRC. So Stacey's error was to guess that enemy opposition was the reason why it took so much time to reach Gaumesnil. But I must say that Reid's text sounds partly as explaining away the slow action by the RRC. Because the Chateau grounds seems to have been the most important area of the village for opening the way southward and it was found to be occupied by friendly tanks, why not ask from tankers were there some Germans still around, move the Bn straight to the Chateau grounds, put Shermans to pump 75mm shells to buildings which still might house Germans while giving orders to the platoon leaders how to clear the rest of the village if there were still suspicious buildings. I admit that it is easy to say with only a peacetime military training experience. under my belt but I'd say that if a CO of an infantry coy and I as a sapper squad leader had acted that cautiously and formally during a major counter-attack during manoeuvres I bet that the umpires and our commanding officers might have something to say to us afterwards.

    Last edited: Nov 30, 2018
  15. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Hello Canuck
    thanks a lot for the info. The Tigers etc were probably claimed during the Wittmann's counter attack, so A Sqn/Sherbrookes claimed 2 Tigers and 2 Pz IVs and a SPG, No. 3 Tr/A Sqn/1st Northants Yeo 3 Tigers and 2 Pz IVs that operated alongside the main road, 144 RAC IIRC claimed a Tiger and a Pz IV, I cannot remember B Sqn/Sherbrookes claims if any and the Germans lost at least 5 Tigers, 2 Pz IVs. Any info were there any contacts with Tigers later in the afternoon or in the evening?

  16. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Beyond the flawed staff work there was a great deal of criticism also leveled at both Lt.Col Halpenny and Brigadier Leslie Booth for being unprepared, slow and cautious.

    The only other variable recorded by Zuehlke was extensive German shelling and mortaring activity.
    Juha and 17thDYRCH like this.
  17. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Thanks Canuck
    yes, German artillery and mortar fire seems to be effective, it caused numerous losses also to the 1st Northants Yeo. But the artillery of 12-SS and the surviving artillery of the 89. Infanterie Div had to fire many targets during the early afternoon of 8th Aug, besides all the Canadian units operating the 1st Northants Yeo/1 Black Watch and the Poles, especially their 24 Lancers are mentioned suffering from heavy artillery fire.

  18. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    I am a little late to the party, however....

    What error did Stacey make? I can't see one related to the events around Gaumesnil on 8 August 1944.

    True, I think he equates the start of Phase 2 to be defined by a specific time, but then just about everybody else does too.

    Edited to add due to missing this....
    Why do you think that? Stacey is, for the most part, correct and it is understandable he doesn't want to be seen blaming the Americans for the delay/failure.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2019
  19. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Allowing for poor panzer recognition by the Canadians, could this be your missing Tiger?


  20. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Hello Mark, the WD of the RRC mentions nothing on enemy opposition in or front of Gaumesnil.


Share This Page