2100: 21st Panzer abandon counter-attack

A screen of 6-pdr anti-tank guns in position by the side of the Rue de la Croix Rose in Hermanville-sur-Mer, 6 June 1944. The Route de Caen can be seen going off to the right.

A screen of 6-pdr anti-tank guns in position by the side of the Rue de la Croix Rose in Hermanville-sur-Mer, 6 June 1944. The Route de Caen can be seen going off to the right.

A battery of M7 Priest 105mm self-propelled guns from one of 3rd Division's Royal Artillery Field Regiments near Hermanville-sur-Mer, 6 June 1944.

A battery of M7 Priest 105mm self-propelled guns from one of 3rd Division’s Royal Artillery Field Regiments near Hermanville-sur-Mer, 6 June 1944.

For the 21st Panzer Division it had been a deeply frustrating day. As the only significant German armoured formation close to the invasion area they had expected to be thrown into the battle at the earliest opportunity. Instead they spent the entire night constrained by orders from Hitler’s High Command.

When they eventually got going after 10am they had to run the gauntlet of Allied aircraft bombing the bridges in Caen.

Lieutenant General Edgar Feuchtinger commanded the 21st Panzer Division:

Once over the Orne River, I drove north toward the coast. By this time the enemy, consisting of three British and three Canadian infantry divisions, had made astonishing progress and had already occupied a strip of high ground about ten kilometers from the sea.

From here the excellent anti-tank gunfire of the Allies knocked out eleven of my tanks before I had barely started. However, one battle group did manage to bypass these guns and actually reached the coast at Lion-sur-Mer, at about seven o’clock in the evening.

I now expected that some reinforcements would be forthcoming to help me hold my position, but nothing came. Another Allied parachute landing on both sides of the Orne, together with a sharp attack by English tanks, forced me to give up my hold on the coast.

I retired to take up my line just north of Caen. By the end of that first day my division had lost almost 25 percent of its tanks.

Commandos of No. 4 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, and troops of 6th Airborne Division in Bénouville after the link-up between the two forces, 6 June 1944.

Commandos of No. 4 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, and troops of 6th Airborne Division in Bénouville after the link-up between the two forces, 6 June 1944.

Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade in action with a Bren gun during the advance to link up with 6th Airborne Division at Benouville, 6 June 1944.

Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade in action with a Bren gun during the advance to link up with 6th Airborne Division at Benouville, 6 June 1944.

Although 21st Panzer were isolated and under counter-attack themselves the final decision to abandon the position on the coast was prompted by the arrival of Operation Mallard. The parachute and glider borne troops that had been seen over the English coast an hour before had arrived. This was the second major drop of the day by the 6th Airborne.

BBC radio correspondent Alan Melville watched them come in:

Hello everyone, this is Alan Melville speaking from the beach just west of the little village of Ouistreham. The paratroops are landing, they are landing all round me as I speak.

They have come in from the sea and they are fluttering down, red, white, and blue parachutes, fluttering down, and they are just about the best thing we have seen for a good many hours.

They are showering in, there is no other word for it, pouring in, in threes and fours. They are fluttering down in perfect formation, just the way we’ve seen it on the newsreels, the way we’ve seen it done in exercises, and here they are doing it, the real thing, and believe me, they haven’t come any too late.

They’ll be a very unpleasant surprise to the enemy, whose fighting I can still see, the signs of a typical panzer battle. You can hear the aircraft roaring over me, I expect, as I speak.

I can still see the signs of a typical panzer battle being raged on the slightly high ground just about three or four miles ahead of me. And these paratroops are coming down between where I am speaking, which is just above the sand dunes.

Down they come . . . they’re being attacked pretty harshly, as you can hear, but they are landing in great force, between the sand dunes, between the beach area and the battle, and they may have a very decisive effect on that battle.

Jerry is putting up to try and stave this surprise eventuality off, but he isn’t able to cope.

The aircraft are sweeping inland, letting go their valuable cargo, sweeping round as if nothing mattered, and turning again out to sea. They are still coming in. I am just turning round to look out to sea and I can see, way out to the very horizon, they are coming in in flood after flood.

BBC Sound Archives SR 1626/E/B

Halifaxes towing Hamilcar gliders carrying 6th Airborne Division reinforcements to Normandy pass over the battleships HMS WARSPITE and HMS RAMILLIES, part of Bombarding Force 'D' off Le Havre, on the evening of 6 June 1944. The photo was taken from the frigate HMS HOLMES which formed part of the escort group.

Halifaxes towing Hamilcar gliders carrying 6th Airborne Division reinforcements to Normandy pass over the battleships HMS WARSPITE and HMS RAMILLIES, part of Bombarding Force ‘D’ off Le Havre, on the evening of 6 June 1944. The photo was taken from the frigate HMS HOLMES which formed part of the escort group.

Hamilcar gliders of 6th Airlanding Brigade arrive on DZ 'N' near Ranville, bringing with them the Tetrarch tanks of 6th Airborne Division's armoured reconnaissance regiment, evening of 6 June 1944.

Hamilcar gliders of 6th Airlanding Brigade arrive on DZ ‘N’ near Ranville, bringing with them the Tetrarch tanks of 6th Airborne Division’s armoured reconnaissance regiment, evening of 6 June 1944.

Horsa gliders of 6th Airlanding Brigade, 6th Airborne Division, on DZ 'N' near Ranville, on the evening of 6 June 1944.

Horsa gliders of 6th Airlanding Brigade, 6th Airborne Division, on DZ ‘N’ near Ranville, on the evening of 6 June 1944.

Troops of 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles, 6th Airlanding Brigade, 6th Airborne Division, aboard a jeep and trailer, driving off DZ 'N' past a crashed Airspeed Horsa glider on the evening of 6 June 1944.

Troops of 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles, 6th Airlanding Brigade, 6th Airborne Division, aboard a jeep and trailer, driving off DZ ‘N’ past a crashed Airspeed Horsa glider on the evening of 6 June 1944.

Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade digging in near Horsa gliders on 6th Airborne Division's landing zone east of the River Orne, near Ranville, on the evening of 6 June 1944.

Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade digging in near Horsa gliders on 6th Airborne Division’s landing zone east of the River Orne, near Ranville, on the evening of 6 June 1944.

Airborne troops of 6th Airlanding Brigade, 6th Airborne Division, hitching a trailer to a jeep which has just been off-loaded from a Horsa glider (LH344 'Charlie's Aunt') on DZ 'N' near Ranville, on the evening of 6 June 1944.

Airborne troops of 6th Airlanding Brigade, 6th Airborne Division, hitching a trailer to a jeep which has just been off-loaded from a Horsa glider (LH344 ‘Charlie’s Aunt’) on DZ ‘N’ near Ranville, on the evening of 6 June 1944.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

ccg June 7, 2014 at 3:56 am

The rigid command structure of the German army hurt them this day!

Thanks for these posts, they are very informative!

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