Ultra and La Caine, June 1944

Discussion in 'Top Secret' started by Drew5233, Jan 2, 2009.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    On the 8th June General Geyr von Schweppenburg, Commander of Panzer Group West arrived at his battle headquarters and received his orders. Ultra picked up two of the signals he received and the second one included a pinpoint location of Panzer Group West's HQ.

    On the 10th June a bombing attack was launched against the HQ and so many of Geyr's staff were killed or wounded that Panzer Group West was not operational again for a fortnight. The raid was carried out by aircraft of the Second Tactical Air Force. The raid consisted of 40 rocket-armed Typhoons which attacked in three waves from low altitude and by 61 B-25 Mitchell bombers which dropped 500lb bombs from 12,000 ft. Some four hundred bombs were dropped but only around a hundred found the target. As a result of the raid a counter attack by the Germans planned for that day was halted in its tracks. It was first delayed for 24hrs then 1 SS-Panzer Corps was asigned to direct it, but it was eventually cancelled altogether.

    Eighteen members of the HQ staff were known to have died in the raid, including the Chief-of-Staff Generalmajor Sigismund-Helmut von Dawans the most senior officer to be killed in the raid. The group's commander, Generalleutnant Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg, was wounded in the raid. Although the Chateau used as the HQ was not badly damaged, the nearby orchard in which the HQ's vehicles were parked, was thoroughly bombed. and communications equipment was also destroyed.

    Rommels chief of intelligence has been quoted as saying that they would have been better off without wireless even though at the time the Germans did not suspect that their communications had been compromised. Indeed a aircraft from the RAF had been seen reconnoitring the target prior to the raid and the Germans believed this aircraft gave the HQ's location away.

    It was about this time that the initiative swung decisively in favour of the Allies and Ultra may claim (and rightly so in my opinion) a share in the credit for this happening. By providing the infomation to allow the Allies to effectively strike and wipe out Panzergruppe West's HQ. Ultra virtually destroyed the nerve centre of the armoured striking force and impeded Rommel's plan for a mass blow to split the Allies bridgehead in two and drive the Allies back into the Channel.

    The Chateau at La Caine today once used as the the German HQ
    Generalmajor Ritter und Elder von Dawans, Chief of Staff of Panzer Group West.
    The German War Cemetery at La Cambre. The final resting place of Von Dawans.
    Initially all the casualties were buried in a bomb crater near the chateau. In 1957 the Volksfund Deutsche Kreigsgraberfursorge moved the remains from Le Mesnil-Auzouf to La Cambre. Their remains can be found at Block 30, Row 10, Graves 383-400.
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Location in relation to the Normandy Beaches. La Caine is marked with the letter A
  3. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    That was a good piece of work between Bletchley Park and the RAF.
    I cannot think of a better and safer way of knocking out Tanks and their communications, than what occurred on this occassion.
    A great piece of co-ordination.

    Nice post.
  4. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Duplicate post
  5. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    The 'Dinner' Raid

    By Malcolm Scott DFC

    10 June 1944

    A number of spectacular daylight strikes were carried out by the bombers of 2 Group during the war years and among the numerous operations undertaken by that Group's Mitchells, probably the most important but certainly least publicised was the evening raid on 10 June 1944. It received no publicity at the time because the intelligence leading to the operation had been gathered at Bletchley Park, by ULTRA, the existence of which had to remain secret. As a cover, it was 'leaked' afterwards that the attack was based on information passed by the French Resistance and confirmed by aerial reconnaissance.
    Panzer Group West - established by von Rundstedt in November 1943 - was a Command Post set up under General Geyr von Schweppenburg for the purpose of training and administering the seven Panzer Divisions in Northern France to be held in reserve for mass manoeuvre, when the Allied invasion came. This conflicted with Rommel's plan to deploy the tanks forward and destroy the invading force on the beaches before any bridgehead could be established. Rommel appealed to Hitler, who compromised by giving him (via von Rundstedt) control of three Divisions, but reserving the other four to the orders of OKW - the German High Command. Von Schweppenburg shared the views of von Rundstedt as regards employing mass manoeuvre in a counter strike. Rommel having deployed his available Panzers in an effort to stop the Allied advance, but to no avail, realised he must now make a co-ordinated counter-attack.
    Motoring to and from Panzer Group West on 9 June, Rommel was forcibly reminded of the enemy's air superiority, having to abandon his car some 30 times to seek shelter from marauding Allied fighters. Having eventually reached von Schweppenburg's HQ, Rommel ordered him to plan a decisive counter-attack. Panzer Group West became a hive of activity and the volume of radio traffic increased significantly. These transmissions were picked
    up by the British Monitoring Section and HF/DF bearings located the source.
    The Headquarters of Panzer Group West were accommodated in Chateau de la Caine some 12 miles south-west of Caen: uncamaouflaged radio trucks, caravans, AFVs and other transit vehicles stood outside in the grounds of the orchard. Nearby, the village of Montigny where it was thought the NCOs and other ranks were billeted.
    Once the messages had been decoded by ULTRA at Bletchley Park and their importance realised, immediate advice was pas to SHAEF HQ. In the early hours of the next morning, 10 J. orders were received by 2nd TAF HQ to carry out a strike with immediate effect on the Chateau de la Caine, with maximum effort. It was planned to use rocket-firing Typhoons attacking at low-level, with Mitchell’s bombing from medium height.
    At Hurn airfield 124 Typhoon Wing, comprising 181, 182 ; 247 Squadrons, came to immediate readiness together .' 245 Squadron of 121 Wings at nearby Holmsley South. At same time, 139 Mitchell Wing, comprising 98, 180 and 320 Squadrons at Dunsfold, and 226 Squadron of 137 Wing; Hartford Bridge, were similarly alerted. Four Spitfire squadrons were placed on 'stand-by' for escort duties. Flight plans were drawn up and the aircraft armed. The Typhoons were loaded with eight 60lb rockets apiece, the Mitchell’s with the!' bomb load of 4,000 Ibs, made up of eight 500 pounds maximum effort had been called for - which meant ten aircraft from each of the Typhoon squadrons and 18 from each Mitchell squadron. When the time came, 40 fully-armed 'Tiffies : two 'spares' were ready to take off, plus 53 Mitchell’s at Dunsfold, and 18 at Hartford Bridge were equally ready to take part in the operation.

    The morning was heavily overcast with thick cloud stretching across the Channel and the briefing scheduled for 1030 was deferred. Later the cloud began to lessen and the aircrews were called in for briefing. As the weather conditions were still not ideal, the lead bomber of each squadron was to carry a 'Gee-H' operator in case cloud precluded visual bombing. Meanwhile the Typhoons of 124 Wing carried out two operations against gun positions near Caen.
    180 Squadron, headed by Wg Cdr Lynn, 139 Wing Commander Flying, was to lead the whole formation and 18 Mitchell’s in three catches of six aircraft became airborne at 2000. Within five minutes another 17 aircraft from 320, the Dutch Naval Squadron, were roaring down the runway, led by Cdr Burgerhout, and by 2010 Sqn Ldr Eager was leading 16 Mitchell’s of 98 Squadron in similar style into the air to join the two squadrons ahead of him.
    The bombers climbed steadily, circling over base as they formed up, before setting course at 2022. Over Selsey Bill they were joined by another 18 aircraft of 226 Squadron led by their Commanding Officer, Wg Cdr Mitchell. Soon after, 33 Spitfires took up their escort positions, close escort being provided by Mark Vs from an ADGB squadron while three Mark IX squadrons of 84 Group flew high and low cover to the Mitchell’s. One 226 Squadron aircraft had to abort with mechanical trouble. Two others from 180 Squadron turned back before bombing; one with an oil pressure problem and the other with an instrument fault. Yet another suffered bomb release failure and brought its bombs back.
    Two of the four Typhoon squadrons flew their 'spare' aircraft also, and of the 42 Typhoons taking part in the operation, two from each squadron were 'fighters' with no rockets but fully-loaded cannon, the remaining 34 were ail rocket-firing 'Tiffies'. The plan was for the Typhoons to attack in two waves with 30 minutes between them, the first wave's attack on the parked vehicles and tanks to coincide with the assault by the bombers, the second wave's task was "to clear up".

    That evening, in the large candelabra-lit dining room of the chateau, von Schweppenburg's Chief of Staff, General von Dawans and his retinue of 18 staff officers were seated at the table enjoying their dinner when the air raid sirens gave imminent warning of the approaching attack. The table was hurriedly vacated as the officers rushed out to watch the proceedings. In service dress uniforms with their broad red-striped trousers, they must have been very obvious as they watched the Typhoons through binoculars wheeling into lines of attack, only realizing at the last moment that the Chateau and they were the target! It was reported that von Schweppenburg in his staff car, suitably emblazoned, swept into the ground just as the raid began. Seventeen Tiffies' from 181 and 247 Squadrons loosed off 136 rockets from 2,000 feet with devastating effect.
    Above at 12,000 feet, the three squadrons of 139 Wing spread in a 'vie', with the Mitchell’s of 226 Squadron flying tight up behind 180 Squadron in the No 4 position, converged on the target in boxes of six aircraft. At 2115 the Mitchell’s released 536 x 500 Ib bombs with great accuracy and saturated the chateau and the whole target area. Great clouds of dust and debris, flame and smoke rose into the air. Geyr von Schweppenburg and another officer were wounded, but von Dawans and the remainder of his staff perished in the attack.
    Four 'fighter' Typhoons meanwhile swept into the nearby village of Montigny, shooting up the place with their cannon. As the Mitchell’s swung onto a north-westerly course after dropping their bombs, some Flak was experienced from Caen, but no real damage was suffered. By the time the second wave of RP Typhoons arrived on the scene, the chateau was a charred and smoking ruin and the radio trucks and other vehicles were shattered and scorched wrecks. The 'Tiffies' fired their rockets and cannon into any outbuildings that remained standing. All the bombers were down by 2225 (2025 GMT) and there was an immediate call for a 'turn round' for night operations. At de-briefing the elated aircrews of each squadron reported on the complete success of the operation. Almost everyone claimed they had seen their bombs fall on the target or close to it; Flak had been light, there was no enemy fighter opposition and the raid appeared to have taken the enemy defences completely by surprise.
    With the whole planning staff wiped out and any plans for the Panzer counter-offensive that had been made now, quite literally, in ashes, it was a most serious setback for the Germans. Panzer Gruppe West had temporarily ceased to exist and SS-Obergruppenfiihrer Sepp Dietrich of the 1.SS Panzerkorps took command of the armoured divisions in the interim.
    After Bletchley had decoded the signals emanating from von Rundstedt's Headquarters of Armee Gruppe 'B' to OKW informing that Panzer Group West had been completely destroyed and would need to be re-established in Paris, the full significance of the results of this single co-ordinated strike became apparent. The appointment of new staff under General Eberbach and the preparation of plans for the armoured counter-stroke were delayed by some three weeks. The vital counter-attack never materialised as events overtook the situation, with the British 7th Armoured Division already ashore in full strength and heading south-east towards Caen.

    2nd Tactical Air Force Vol.1. Spartan to Normandy June 1943 to June 1944. - Shores / Thomas.
    Drew5233 likes this.

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