On 10 July the Kompanie Chef of the 1.Kompanie received his mission at the command post of the 12.SS-Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend” at Garcelles-Secqueville: his unit was subordinated to SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 25 with his seven operational Jagdpanzer IVs, and was to secure the area of Ifs from the north. Until dark the Jagdpanzers occupied positions in the appointed area.1
However, the next day a new order was received. The 1.Kompanie was withdrawn from the Ifs area and was directed to Conteville. It was only possible to carry out the relocation in the evening.2
On 12 July SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 – which was subordinated to SS-Panzer Regiment 12 – received the news that another 11 Jagdpanzer IVs had arrived for them at Versailles. The Jagdpanzers were transported by train and were unloaded.
That day 5 officers and 50 SS soldiers were called out to Dreux where they had to force reluctant French civilians to work.3
On 13 July nine Jagdpanzers reached the 2.Kompanie which had been, in the meantime, relocated to Villiers-le-Morhier. Two further vehicles became immobile on the way to the 2.Kompanie, but they reached the quarters area on that day. These Jagdpanzers were already equipped with camouflage devices.
One day later, on 14 July, around 1300 hours one of the trucks of the Abteilung was attacked in Laroiullie by French the resistance. One SS soldier was killed by a headshot, another was wounded.4
On 17 July the 1.Kompanie was stationed in the area of Renémesnil, 12 km south of Conteville. Its eight Jagdpanzers were operational, one further Jagdpanzer IV received a new engine. The Divisionsstab wanted to send a further Jagdpanzer to the Kompanie from the Abteilung, to backfill the unit to its full strength.5
The 1.Kompanie was soon engaged by the Allied forces when on 19 July at Frénouville, as in-depth anti-tank reserve of the defence, a Jagdpanzer IV knocked out the first enemy tank in the history of SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12. The knocked out tank was presumably a Sherman of the British Guards Armoured Division.6
On 20 July a Jagdpanzer (its commander was Oberscharführer Kußmaul) was rendered immobile due to engine failure 6 km west of Dreux. The vehicle was repaired on the spot.7
On 21 July six 7.5cm Pak 40 towed anti-tank guns were allocated from the division to the 3.Kompanie; they were towed with Maultier half-track trucks.
In the meantime the 1.Kompanie was again relocated; this time it was stationed in the area of Mézidon, southeast of Caen. All of its eight Jagdpanzer IVs were operational. That day the Kompanie knocked out a further Allied tank and two trucks at Frénouville, which was occupied by the British Guards Armoured Division.
After 1900 hours in the evening two repaired Jagdpanzers (their commanders were Oberscharführer Kußmaul and Unterscharführer Pusch) departed to reach the 1.Kompanie.8
On 22 July it was noted in the war diary of the unit that the written order for the reorganization of SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 according to the 1944-type battle order was ready.
On 23 July at 2100 hours part of the 3.Kompanie (Hauptsturmführer Günther Wöst) departed to the frontline with Maultier vehicles – although without its allocated antitank guns.9
The next day, on 24 July, the 1.Kompanie reported again from a new station in Vimont on the Caen–Lisieux road, 14 km southeast of Caen, that nine out of its ten Jagdpanzers were operational, and one was towed to the workshop Kompanie of SS-Panzer Regiment 12 because of engine problems.
At dawn on 27 July the 1.Generalstabsoffizier of the 12.SS-Panzer Division, Sturmbannführer Hubert Meyer, informed the Panzerjäger Abteilung by a liaison officer that he wanted the 2.Kompanie, still in training, to be operational in three days. That morning a truckload of spare parts for the Jagdpanzer IVs arrived from Breslau, and the chance of deployment of the 2.Kompanie was increased.10
The 3.Kompanie took over its anti-tank guns in Nécy, then, from midnight the next day, began to establish anti-tank positions between Argences and Moult.11
On the evening of 29 July there were 12 operational Jagdpanzer IVs in SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12.12
Combat actions of the Jagdpanzer IVs from 2.Kompanie/SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 12 in the region of Garcelles-Secqueville, 7-8 August 1944.
On 1 and 2 August the Stab of SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12, the 2.Kompanie, and the important units of its Versorgungskompanie departed to the frontline. The 2.Kompanie was given the task of replacing the armoured Kompanie fighting in the main battle line subordinated to Kampfgruppe “Schrott” (the II./SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 25) on the night of 4 August. During that night, the command post of the Abteilung had to be relocated to the northern outskirts of Beneauville.13
However, on 4 August all of the previously mentioned events were over. According to the new order SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 was to be quartered in the villages of Maizières and Rouvres, and the command post was to be set in Gauvigny. In the afternoon the 1.Kompanie was instructed to come to this new quarters area (it arrived here the next morning). The 3.Kompanie, equipped with anti-tank guns, was in Escures around that time.14
On 5 August the 2.Kompanie was to be prepared for movement by order of the division. Obersturmführer Wachter’s Jagdpanzers departed at midnight towards their new attack positions which were located northeast of Garcelles-Secqueville.
The Kompanie (with 6 operational Jagdpanzer IVs of the nine on its strength) reached the designated positions on 6 August at 0530 hours. However, SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 and the Stab of the 12.SS-Panzer Division did not know the whereabouts of the Kompanie from midnight for 13½ hours because communications were temporarily severed.15
Until 0630 hours on the morning of 6 August the 2./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 held defensive positions in the north-eastern and north-western perimetres of Garcelles-Secqueville and established communication with Hauptmann Körner’s Grenadier Bataillon16. Not long after 2300 hours a new order arrived from the 12.SS-Panzer Division, according to which all units were to be prepared for relocation on the same night.17
The above-mentioned relocation was carried out on 7 August. The Abteilungsstab regrouped into Le-Hamel, the 1. and 3.Kompanien to the area of Villiers-le-Morhier. Apart from heavy artillery fire no other activity was experienced by the Abteilung.18
However, at 2200 hours the same day the heavy bombers of the Allied air forces carried out a 2½ hour-long carpet-bombing attack in the area of the positions of the 2.Kompanie at Garcelles-Secqueville, and that was followed by heavy artillery fire.
Then on 8 August SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 found themselves in the middle of the fighting in Normandy. At 0130 hours Allied tanks set off towards Garcelles-Secqueville. The Jagdpanzer IVs of the 2./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 engaged them and knocked out nine Sherman tanks19 while it was still dark. Despite this the Germans were not able to repulse the tank attack at night.
The battle continued until around noon on 8 August, when the encircled Jagdpanzer Kompanie managed to break out. The 2.Kompanie reported at 1110 hours that until then altogether three of its Jagdpanzers had been knocked out, and these were irreparably damaged. The weary tank destroyers were gathering in Vieux-Pont.
At 0500 hours the 1.Generalstabsoffizier of the division ordered the commander of SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 to immediately despatch the 10 Jagdpanzer IVs of the 1.Kompanie to Garcelles-Secqueville, the anti-tank guns of the 3.Kompanie were to depart for Hautmesnil.
The 1.Kompanie was assembled at 0600 hours and after briefing was directed to Cintheaux from the area of St. Pierre–Potigny. The commander of the 89.Infanterie Division had himself appointed the positions for the Jagdpanzers right of the Falaise– Caen highway.
At 0900 hours in the morning the 1.Kompanie reported to SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 that it had established positions in Cintheaux from the crossroads to Hill 103.
The Jagdpanzers were previously subordinated directly to the Begleitkompanie of the 12.SS-Panzer Division, which itself was subordinated to the I./SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 25 (Sturmbannführer Hans Waldmüller). Their task originally was to advance via Estrées-la-Campagne and occupy the hill west of St. Sylvain.20
However, in the meantime the mission was changed. At 1130 hours the 1./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 was subordinated to Sturmbannführer Karl-Heinz Prinz, Kampfgruppe “Prinz”21 under the command of the II./SS-Panzer Regiment 12 equipped with Panzer IV tanks, and received the mission of advancing together with the tanks to occupy St. Aignan-de-Cramesnil and Garcelles-Secqueville. The main objective of the attack was to occupy Tilly-la-Campagne.
The Allied B–17 heavy bombers had been carpet-bombing the area when the German Panzergruppe commenced its attack at 1150 hours.
The 1./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 flanked the Le Mesnil-Robert farmstead from the right, then advancing fast, entering St. Aignan-de-Cramesnil village from the east. The Jagdpanzers reported having knocked out six Allied Sherman tanks. These were presumably tanks of C Squadron of the battalion–sized 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry armoured unit from the British 33rd Armoured Brigade, equipped with Sherman tanks. According to the war diary of the British tank battalion the total loss for that day was 20 armoured fighting vehicles and 63 soldiers (the battalion commander was also wounded).22
Combat actions of the 1.Kompanie/SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 12 near St. Aignan-de-Cramesnil, 8 August 1944.
Knight’s Cross holder Rudolf Roy (see Appendix XVIII and main text). (Mark C. Yerger)
Not long after this the soldiers of the 1./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 discovered a group of enemy tanks (approximately 22) 1.5 km east of the village. The German Jagdpanzers engaged them from the nearby hill and from an area lower down, and soon reported to have destroyed 18 tanks. The remaining Allied tanks retreated quickly. These were presumably Polish tanks from the 2nd Armoured Regiment/1st Armoured Division. According to the war diary of the Polish Division the 2nd Armoured Regiment had been engaged by heavy fire at 1425 hours 2 km southeast of St. Aignan-de-Cramesnil.23
Two Jagdpanzer IVs of the 1.Kompanie (commanded by the Kompanie Chef, Obersturmführer Georg Hurdelbrink and Oberscharführer Rudolf Roy (Zugführer of one of the platoons) advanced further through village. At the northern perimeter of the village Hurdelbrink knocked out a further five tanks, an armoured reconnaissance vehicle and two prime movers. Presumably these were also elements of the Polish 1st Armoured Division.24
The two SS Jagdpanzer held the northern perimetres of St. Aignan-de-Cramesnil until 2200 hours. The attacking Jagdpanzers were not supported by the infantry at all.
The Tiger and Panzer IV tanks attacking left of the 1./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 could not enter the village of St. Aignan-de-Cramesnil during the day due to heavy resistance from Allied forces. Because of this, the Jagdpanzers on their left received heavy flanking fire from anti-tank guns and infantry weapons. There were also Allied tanks in the village. One of them knocked out one of the Jagdpanzer IVs of the 1.Kompanie. At last, the Kompanie, together with the soldiers of the I./SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 25, brought their wounded and their vehicles out and withdrew to Soignolles.
Combat actions of the 1.Kompanie/SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 12 near Soignolles, 9 August 1944.
Knight’s Cross holder Fritz Eckstein (see Appendix XVIII). (Mark C. Yerger)
The 1./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 knocked out 29 (mostly Polish) tanks, two prime movers, three trucks and one armoured reconnaissance vehicle altogether on that day. According to the reports, the gunner of Hurdelbrink’s Jagdpanzer scored 11, Roy’s eight25, and Untersturmführer Theo Rabe’s six of the total.26 Losses of the Kompanie were, besides the knocked out Jagdpanzer IVs, three killed and 12 wounded.
The 3.Kompanie occupied firing positions at 0900 hours in Hautmesnil, left of the Caen–Falaise highway, with projections towards the northeast, east and northwest.
The Kompanie, strengthened with two more anti-tank guns from SS-Panzer-Aufklärungsabteilung 12, was attacked in its anti-tank securing positions between 1230 hours and 1415 hours by approximately 300 Allied bomber aircraft that were attacking Daville and the German artillery and anti-aircraft positions in the area.
The Kompanie lost four killed and one wounded. Two anti-tank guns were damaged due to artillery hits; they had to be blown up. Two Maultiers were destroyed, two more were damaged.
Because of the loss of the half-track prime movers it was impossible to move the other anti-tank guns. The crews wanted to tow the guns from the positions at Cintheaux to Urville with borrowed armoured personnel carriers. At 2000 hours in the evening, two of the five remaining anti-tank guns were assigned to the Begleitkompanie of the 12.SS-Panzer Division and two to the Begleitkompanie of the I.SS-Panzer Korps; the last one was directed on the next day to the Versorgungskompanie of SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12.27
On 9 August, around 0530 hours, the 1.Kompanie – subordinated to the I./SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 25 – inspected the hills south of Renémesnil in order to be able to appoint firing positions.
When the SS-Panzergrenadiers also moved off towards their appointed positions, they were attacked by the Sherman tanks of the Polish 1st Armoured Division. Some attacking tanks were destroyed by the infantry with close-combat anti-tank weapons; soon the Jagdpanzers of the 1./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 joined the fight.
It was already developing when nine Cromwell tanks of the 10th Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (10th Mounted Rifles, Polish 10 Pulk Strzelcow Konnych) got around the I./SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 25 on the Maizières–Estrées-la-Campagne highway, cutting the supply lines of the unit with this manoeuvre. The gunner of Oberscharführer Roy’s Jagdpanzer, Rottenführer Eckstein, destroyed all of these vehicles in a short time around Hill 111, thus allowing the re-supply of the Bataillon.
During the day heavy artillery, mortar and infantry fire on the German positions. The I./SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 25 scheduled its retreat at 2200 hours, though the 1./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 ahd already began to withdraw at 2130 hours in the face of constantly increasing Allied fire.
In the middle of the disengagement manoeuvre the Sherman tanks of the Polish 1st Armoured Regiment28 suddenly attacked the village of Soignolles. The Jagdpanzers of Hurdelbrink and Roy securing on the outskirts of the village took them in the flank and, apart from two, destroyed all of the enemy tanks. Rottenführer Fritz Eckstein, the gunner of Roy, again knocked out four tanks in this engagement.
After having smashed the Allied tank attacks, the SS Panzergrenadiers were able to continue their retreat because the enemy tanks did not advance further.
Soignolles was vacated around 2230 hours by the 1./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 who were acting as rearguard, and moved to Maizières during the night. That day the Kompanie knocked out 22 Polish Sherman and Cromwell tanks altogether. Of this number, Roy’s Jagdpanzer IVs destroyed 13, Hurdelbrink’s destroyed six tanks.29 The armourer of the 1.Kompanie, Unterscharführer Ortlep, knocked out two, and Untersturmführer Helmut Zeiner – a Zugführer from one of the platoons in the Kompanie – knocked out one tank.30
Two of the towed anti-tank guns of the 3./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 were in infantry positions on 9 August, together with the Begleitkompanie of the I.SS-Panzer Korps in Château du Fosse, two other guns were subordinated to the Begleitkompanie of the 12.SS-Panzer Division between Château du Fosse and Soignolles. The two 7.5cm anti-tank guns of the 3.Kompanie assigned to the Begleitkompanie of the 12.SS-Panzer Division knocked out at least three tanks.31
At 1400 hours in the afternoon the positions of the Kompanie were attacked by Polish tanks and their supporting infantry. After half an hour, the tanks broke through the defence of the I./SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 25 and its whole left flank was eliminated. The above mentioned tank battle was raging around the anti-tank gun positions. Around 1500 hours the Canadian tanks reached Château du Fosse. One gun was rendered disabled due to a high explosive shell hit, another was lost due to a direct hit. A third gun was blown away together with its Maultier prime mover after 1700 hours during the ordered retreat towards Rouvres. During the fighting on 8 and 9 August the Kompanie lost altogether five killed, six wounded and six missing.32
In the morning hours of 10 August, the 1./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 moved from Maizières via Potigny and Fontaine-le-Pin towards Hill 195, because enemy tanks were reported in that area. Reaching the crossroads 1.5 km north of Fontaine-le-Pin the Kompanie could not occupy its securing positions on the Hill northwards as ordered, because they saw Allied tanks there (presumably two tank squadrons of the battalionsized Canadian 22nd Armoured Regiment (Canadian Grenadier Guards) and the forces of the 10th Infantry Brigade who were holding the Hill with 17-pounder and 6-pounder anti-tank guns).33
At 1130 hours the 1.Kompanie subordinated to SS-Panzer Regiment 12 was visited by Obersturmbannführer Max Wünsche, its commander, and who ordered Hill 195 to be immediately attacked.
The attack was carried out from 1155 hours by Obersturmführer Hurdelbrink’s 1./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12, which was strengthened by a remote-controlled armoured Kompanie34 (six Sturmgeschütz III assault guns and six B IV remote-controlled armoured demolition vehicles35).
The remote-controlled vehicles were at the spearhead of the battle order, behind them, on the left flank the assault guns, and the Jagdpanzers on the right flank.
The Germans reached the first hedgerow without the enemy firing at them. However the Jagdpanzers exploited the situation and from here knocked out three Shermans. At this the Allied artillery opened such a strong covering fire that any further frontal attack became impossible.
Combat actions of the 1.Kompanie/SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 12 near Fontaine-le-Pin, 10 August 1944.
Combat actions of the 2.Kompanie/SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 12 near Assy, 14 August 1944.
Commander of the Kampfgruppe, Obersturmführer Hurdelbrink decided that the assault guns had to contain the enemy until two Jagdpanzer IVs (who else, other than Hurdelbrink and Roy?) got round on the right and pushed forward.
The two Jagdpanzers soon attacked the Allied tanks in the rear, the latter attempting to retreat. They did not succeed because the two Jagdpanzer IVs knocked out all of them. Hurdelbrink destroyed 10 Shermans, and Roy three in this tank battle.36
Around 1400 hours the Hill was again in German control. The hedgerow extending behind Hill 195 was held by considerable Allied (Canadian) infantry supported by 17-pounder and 6-pounder anti-tank guns. Therefore Panzergruppe “Hurdelbrink” could not continue its attack, and rather, prepared for the securing of the occupied area.
There were also Tiger heavy tanks fighting in the area from the schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 101 and 102, besides the Jagdpanzer IVs of the 1.Kompanie.
The 2./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 – with three operational Jagdpanzers – moved towards Assy around 1500 hours. According to the report sent at 2000 hours the Kompanie had already irrevocably lost its fourth Jagdpanzer; also, two vehicles and a motorcycle were damaged. Battle casualties were five seriously and one lightly wounded.37
According to the verbal order given by the commander of SS-Panzer Regiment 12, at dawn on 11 August the operational tanks of the 2.Kompanie had to occupy positions north of Ouilly-le-Tesson and secure the road, with a projection towards the woods northwest of the village.
Infantry support for the Jagdpanzers were provided by Obersturmbannführer Bernhard Krause’s I./SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 26. The further combat vehicles of the 2.Kompanie still in motion had to gather in Assy. Around 1700 hours there were only two Jagdpanzer IVs in the positions assigned at Ouilly-le-Tesson.
During the night of 11 August the command of the 2.Kompanie was taken over by Obersturmführer Erich Krauth because a shell fragment had wounded Obersturmführer Wachter’s upper right arm. All of the remaining five Jagdpanzers of the Kompanie were in operational condition around 0500 hours.
In the evening of 13 August Sturmbannführer Hanreich ordered that the ten Jagdpanzer IVs under repair with the Nachschubtruppen of SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 in Nogent-le-Roi also had to be deployed. The tanks were led by Obersturmführer Günther Gornik towards the frontline.38 These Jagdpanzers were placed into Kampfgruppe “Wöst” three days later.
On 14 August the Jagdpanzers of the 1. and 2./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 (approximately ten operational Jagdpanzer IVs) occupied ambush positions in multiple units, north-northeast of Falaise on the north-western slopes of Monts d’Eraines and in the woods southeast of Epancy. These Jagdpanzer IVs provided armoured support for the Grenadiers of the 85.Infanterie Division deployed here.
Tanks of SS-Panzer Regiment 12 also occupied ambush positions on Hill 159, 3 km northeast of Falaise.39
During the morning hours the right flank of the 2./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 was attacked by Allied forces. The Jagdpanzers knocked out three Sherman tanks, and then in delaying combat they retreated together with SS-Panzer Regiment 12.
At 1340 hours the Kompanie reported that the Allies had broken through towards Assy, and continued the combat in the direction of Rouvres with 50 tanks and infantry.
By 1500 hours the enemy infantry had penetrated the German positions at Ouilly-le-Tesson also. All operational combat vehicles of SS-Panzer Regiment 12 – including the Jagdpanzer IVs of the two Kompanien of SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 – fought around Hill 159. During this combat the 1.Kompanie reported to have knocked out 12 Allied tanks, but one of the Jagdpanzers of the Kompanie (its commander: Oberscharführer Kußmaul) was also knocked out.
According to a report sent after 2000 hours the three Jagdpanzers of the 2.Kompanie with parts of SS-Panzer Regiment 12 were securing north-eastwards, 4 km northwest of Ouilly-le-Tesson, between the northern outskirts of the village and the woods lying northwest of the village. The Tiger tanks of schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 102 were fighting on the left flank of the Kompanie.40
From 1130 hours on 15 August the 1.Kompanie was covering the Falaise–Jort highway in the area of Hill 120 by order of Obersturmbannführer Max Wünsche.
According to a report sent at 1400 hours the 2.Kompanie with its four operational Jagdpanzer IVs was securing on the fringe of a wood southeast of Perrières. During the day both Kompanien were supplied with ammunition and fuel.41
On 16 August the 1.Kompanie was regrouped to Versainville where the Jagdpanzer IVs securing with some infantry reported to have knocked out eight Sherman tanks from the Canadian 4th (Armoured) Division. With this they temporarily prevented the breakthrough of the Canadian tanks towards Damblainville.
Around midnight the Kompanie received new orders, according to which it was to occupy positions on Hill 95, approximately 2 km south of Damblainville.
Meanwhile the 2.Kompanie retreated to the fringe of the Damblainville forest during the day.42
At dawn on 17 August the Jagdpanzer of the Chef of the 1.Kompanie was rendered immobile due to a brake system failure, and went under maintenance in Fresné-la-Mère, near the church. Hauptscharführer Rautenbacher’s Jagdpanzer remained behind during the retreat. Only the tank of Unterscharführer Rothaug reached Hill 95 around 0345 hours at dawn, where it occupied securing positions with a remote-controlled armoured vehicle. After 0400 hours Rautenbacher’s Jagdpanzer IV tank also reached Hill 95.43
After this, the two Jagdpanzer IVs stood in readiness in the area of La Balanderie subordinated to the Begleitkompanie of the 12.SS-Panzer Division. Apart from the Jagdpanzers the Kompanie only consisted of a combat strength of 15 men and two armoured personnel carriers.44
At 0300 hours at dawn on 18 August the 1.Kompanie retreated west of the railway, to the wooded hill 2 km south of Fresné-la-Mère. At 1040 hours the Kompanie was redirected to the woodland west of Vignats, and the Kompanie Chef was called to report to the command post of the Abteilung together with its repaired Jagdpanzer.
The 2.Kompanie changed positions at 0400 hours and secured on the hills northeast of Les-Creux. Around 1200 hours the Kompanie repulsed a tank attack, then an infantry assault in the evening. The Jagdpanzers knocked out one Sherman tank and three armoured carrier vehicles of the infantry.
At noon the same day there were only five operational Jagdpanzer IVs in SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12.45
At 0520 hours on 19 August SS-Panzer Regiment 12 and the vehicle column of the Stab of SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 subordinated to SS-Panzer Regiment 12 were advancing from Fourches to Bierre towards the railway when the Allies engaged the column. Obersturmbannführer Wünsche, commander of SS-Panzer Regiment 12, and Sturmbannführer Hans-Jakob Hanreich were missing in action (it later turned out that both were captured46); Obersturmbannführer Hans Weiss, commander of schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 102, was captured seriously wounded.
Lastly, the Stab of the Panzerjäger Abteilung was led by Untersturmführer Hans-Egon Schmid, Adjutant to the Abteilung around 1130 hours, creating diversions southwest of Fresnay-le-Samson. Only a motorcycle and a 3-ton Opel truck were lost, which were damaged by artillery shells.
Around 1400 hours Hauptscharführer Rautenbacher’s Jagdpanzer IV was hit by enemy artillery fire. The tank commander was wounded, and together with others, was transported to the dressing station by the armoured personnel carrier of the 1.Kompanie via St. Lambert-sur-Dives. The crew of the Jagdpanzer brought back the vehicle from the frontline even in the absence of their commander.
In the evening Sturmbannführer Erich Olboeter, commander of the III./SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 26, took over the command of the remains of Kampfgruppe “Wünsche” (SS-Panzer Regiment 12, SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12, SS-Panzer-Aufklärungsabteilung 12, and the remaining Tigers of schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 101 and 102), and ordered a breakout eastwards, between the extensive forest south of Dron and the town of Trun. The 3.Fallschirmjäger Division attacked on the right, the weary units of the 1. SS-Panzer Division “Leibstandarte” on the left side of the Kampfgruppe. What remained of the 12.SS-Panzer Division followed them.
Sturmbannführer Olboeter ordered the following marching order for his Kampfgruppe: two Tiger heavy tanks and two Panthers were at the head of the column, followed by two Hummel self-propelled howitzers, then the Jagdpanzers (at least three), behind them five self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, and at the rear the armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles were secured by at least six Panzer IVs. The breakout was scheduled at 0100 hours the next day, 20 August.
In the morning hours of 19 August the 2./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 changed its positions to an area 1 km south of Beaumais. Around 1500 hours an order was received that the Jagdpanzer IVs were to secure henceforth west of Crocy, on Hill 85. This was done until midnight when they departed to reach the hills 2 km south of Ommoy. They received the order there that remaining forces of the 12.SS-Panzer Division were gathering south of Fresnay-le-Samson in order to break out of the Falaise Cauldron. The 2./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 – what remained of it – joined the gathering units.
On 20 August the breakout commenced with delays. At 0530 hours Kampfgruppe “Olboeter” led through Tournai-sur-Dives towards St. Lambert-sur-Dives. The units tried to get across the broken country north-eastwards, in the direction of Numberville, where they were engaged by Canadian infantry and anti-tank guns. As one of the soldiers of SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 26 remembered:
“We speeded through the infantry positions of the Canadians, part of whom surrendered, and marched with us. The cover of the entrenched infantry and the antitank gun positions were simply blown away by the tank destroyers. Two hours later we broke through the enemy positions”.47
Despite this the German Kampfgruppe lost a number of tanks and armoured personnel carriers, and the column collapsed.
During the battle the Jagdpanzer of the Chef of the 1.Kompanie, Obersturmführer Hurdelbrink, was also knocked out, as was the Jagdpanzer IV of Oberscharführer Blum from the 2.Kompanie.
Around 1100 hours the Kampfgruppe reached Numberville via a detour. The Allied artillery fired at the road leading from the north towards Coudehard, and this was also swept by tank- and machine-gun fire.
The Kampfgruppe was able to break through to the hill north of the village where they established communication with a number of remaining Panzer IV tanks of the 2.SS-Panzer-Division “Das Reich”. Kampfgruppe “Olboeter” continued its way towards Bruyère-la-Fresnay where its units that had scattered during the night were gathering.48
At 0530 hours the next day, 21 August, the units that had already broken out departed to continue their way to the command post, 8 km south of Orbec, where other retreating forces of the 12.SS-Panzer Division were gathering.49 Those who had reached that point by 1000 hours in the morning successfully broke out of the Falaise Cauldron, and for them the battle in Normandy had reached its end. However, there were parts of SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 that had other hardships with which to contend.
Kampfgruppe “Wöst”, 16–26 August 1944
On 16 August, parts of the 2. and 3./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 that were still not deployed because of insufficient ammunition were stationed in Villiers-le-Morhier. Obersturmführer Günther Gornik had arrived here with eight Jagdpanzer IVs50, which were brought from Nogent-le-Roi, but had been captured by the enemy in the meantime. Officers and NCOs from the 2. and 3.Kompanien took over the vehicles and formed a Kampfgruppe commanded by Hauptsturmführer Günther Wöst, commander of the 3.Kompanie.
Around 1800 hours in the evening Kampfgruppe “Wöst”, along with eight Jagdpanzers, departed from Villiers in an easterly direction, parallel to the highway leading to Condé. Around 2200 hours three Jagdpanzer IVs carried out a combat reconnaissance mission towards Nogent-le-Roi, although due to the darkness and the falling rain they could only determine that the village was controlled by the enemy and it was held by strong forces.
One of the Jagdpanzers (whose commander was Unterscharführer Preckner) had to be towed into Versailles because of engine failure.
On 17 August, at 0700 hours in the morning, Kampfgruppe “Wöst” was following in a parallel manner the enemy tanks going towards Faverolles, with the aim of taking them in the flank when they reached the hill by the village.
Around 0800 hours the advance guard of the German Kampfgruppe abruptly crashed into the British infantry moving along in the forest 3 km south of Faverolles. The Jagdpanzers launched the attack. Naturally the Allied tanks gathering south of the village also joined the fight.
Following a 45-minute battle Kampfgruppe “Wöst” retreated towards St. Leger. The Jagdpanzer IVs destroyed two Sherman tanks and a number of armoured trucks full of infantry, without suffering any losses themselves.
The Kampfgruppe drew fuel and ammunition rations in St. Leger, then a Jagdpanzer-Zug (three vehicles) carried out a reconnaissance towards Condé, then in a southerly direction as far as Faverolles. The reconnoitring Jagdpanzer IVs saw major tank forces gathering east of Faverolles.
This way Kampfgruppe “Wöst” moved to Condé where they secured westwards together with the tanks of the Sturmgeschütz Brigade51 subordinated to Kampfgruppe “Seidel” (Untersturmführer Heinz Seidel).
At dawn on 18 August Kampfgruppen “Wöst” and “Seidel” moved to Houdan. The assault guns and Kampfgruppe “Seidel” secured the village, the Jagdpanzers of Hauptsturmführer Wöst acted as the reserve ready for action. After the supply trucks arrived the Jagdpanzer IVs had enough fuel and ammunition again, and the soldiers received rations.
At 1000 hours two Jagdpanzers carried out a reconnaissance towards the southwest. After moving 7 km they ran into Allied reconnaissance armoured cars which, upon being fired on by the Jagdpanzer IVs, retreated southwards. Following this the German vehicles returned to Houdan.
The Allied tanks, the infantry mounted on trucks and the armoured reconnaissance cars approached Houdan from the west around 1400 hours.
Due to this, after half an hour three Jagdpanzer IVs occupied securing positions 4 km southwest of the village. The advance guard of the Allied units retreated westwards from the Nebelwerfers of Kampfgruppe “Seidel”. This way the securing Jagdpanzers were also able to move into Houdan.
Oberst Seidel sent an order around midnight that the units were to retreat as far as La Queue, on the road leading to Paris.
On 19 August the Jagdpanzer IVs secured in La Queue westwards and southwards together with the Sturmgeschütz Brigade. Around 1500 hours the noise of battle could be heard 5 km east of the village, but again there was no engagement between the securing tanks and the Allied forces52.
At 1700 hours the Kampfgruppe moved on via Gevanoires, Thoiry, Autouilett and Auteuil until they reached the Chambel farmstead. Two Jagdpanzers established securing positions on the road leading to Le Pontel. Most of the Kampfgruppe spent the night on the farmstead.
On 20 August the Kampfgruppe moved as far as Le Pontel, the western exit of which was secured by four Jagdpanzer IVs with supporting infantry. The securing group was engaged by artillery fire at 1230 hours. Two hours later one of the Jagdpanzers was hit by an anti-tank gun on its glacis plate. The shell did not pierce the armour; nevertheless the crew abandoned the tank. During the escape the driver was wounded on his shoulder by a shell fragment, and the gunner was hit in his right eye by a bullet. After this the securing Jagdpanzers were withdrawn.
Le Pontel was also fired on by German artillery. The Kampfgruppe counted 15-20 enemy tanks, which turned northwards 4 km before Le Pontel on the road leading to Paris.
Around 1700 hours enemy tanks were discovered in the forest, 100 metres in front of the railway bridge, and engaged the Jagdpanzers, upon which they retreated behind the railway embankment. However, from this position the Jagdpanzer IVs fired at the attacking tanks which were withdrawing in the direction of Neauphle-le-Château. Neither side suffered any losses.
At 1100 on 21 August hours a new order was received from Kampfgruppe “Seidel” according to which the units were to move further towards Pontchartrain. En route, two Jagdpanzer IVs established securing positions north of Brechell, and three Jagdpanzer IVs secured along the road leading to the village from the west. At 1800 hours the Kampfgruppe retreated via Trappes to Bois-d’Arcy, without combat activity. Three Jagdpanzers and a Grenadier Bataillon secured the village from the west against surprise attacks.
On 23 August at 1500 hours three Jagdpanzer IVs carried out reconnaissance towards Plaisir and confirmed that there were no enemy troops in the village. An order came after 2100 hours that two Jagdpanzers had to cover the western exit of Les-Gâtines with some infantry. Their left flank was strengthened by the three other Jagdpanzer IVs, together with the Sturmgeschütz Brigade.
On 25 August at 1100 hours the two Jagdpanzers, together with their infantry support, moved into Bois-de-Arcy from Les-Gâtines. An hour later three Jagdpanzer IVs went to Versailles where Kampfgruppe “Seidel” had its command post, then the vehicles returned around 1500 hours. In the meantime, one of the Jagdpanzers had to be towed into Bois-d’Arcy because of engine failure.
According to an order from Oberst Seidel all combat vehicles of Kampfgruppe “Wöst” were to move into Versailles at 1630 hours.
The French resistance opened a heavy fire on the Jagdpanzers driving through the town. Upon reaching the command post of Oberst Seidel, the Jagdpanzer IVs were ordered to secure Versailles to the south with all of their combat vehicles. 1 km from the south-eastern exit of the town one of the Jagdpanzer IVs was knocked out by an Allied tank. The driver and the commander of the Jagdpanzer were wounded.
At 2200 hours Kampfgruppe “Wöst” was ordered to retreat to St. Germain. During the initial disengagement one of the Jagdpanzers had to be blown up 4 km north of Versailles because of technical problems.
At last the Kampfgruppe crossed the Seine on 26 August at 0530 hours. One Jagdpanzer IV had to be towed. This vehicle only crossed the bridge around 1130 hours. After this, Kampfgruppe “Wöst” moved to the northern outskirts of Paris, into Gorges.53
With this, the first operational service of the Panzerjäger Abteilung of the 12.SS-Panzer Division ended.
1 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 10. 7. 1944.
2 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 11. 7. 1944.
3 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 12. 7. 1944.
4 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 14. 7. 1944.
5 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 18. 7. 1944.
6 See Reynolds, p.214.
7 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 20. 7. 1944.
8 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 21. 7. 1944.
9 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 23. 7. 1944.
10 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 27. 7. 1944.
11 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), Anlagen zum KTB der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12 “Hitlerjugend”, Gefechtsberichte von Teilen der 3./SS-Pz.JägAbt. 12 “HJ”.
12 According to the daily report of the German Panzergruppe “West” (later Panzerarmee 5) from 29 July 1944.
13 The Kampfgruppe (and the II.Bataillon) were commanded by Hauptsturmführer Karl-Heinz Schrott who was killed on 2 September 1944. Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 3. 8. 1944.
14 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 4. 8. 1944.
15 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 5. 8. 1944.
16 This could be a bataillon of Grenadier-Regiment 1055/89. Infanteriedivision of the Army.
17 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 6. 8. 1944.
18 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 7. 8. 1944.
19 These were presumably the tanks of the British 33rd Armoured Brigade. The battalion-size 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry of the Brigade lost four Shermans from its complement of 59 tanks (of this 59, 12 were Fireflies) during the night engagement. Three were knocked out by the four Jagdpanzer IVs of the 2./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12, and one was destroyed by the German infantry with a Panzerfaust. In this engagement the Firefly tank named “8 Balaclava” fighting in 2nd Troop/A Squadron of the British unit destroyed two German Jagdpanzers. See also S.A. Hart, pp.58 and 72.
20 Meyer, p.302.
21 Kampfgruppe “Prinz” remained subordinated to Kampfgruppe “Waldmüller”.
22 See Reynolds, p.278. A Firefly tank from 3rd Troop/A Squadron of this British unit had knocked out three Tigers of schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 101 not long before.
23 Reynolds, p.278.
24 The Polish 1st Armoured Division lost 40 tanks in just 15 minutes. See also Krzysztof Barbarski, Polish Amour, 1939–1945, London: Osprey, 1982, p.17 and S.A. Hart, p.75. Seven of the 40 Polish tanks knocked out were destroyed by the three Tigers of schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 101 east of St. Aignan-de-Cramesnil. See Schneider, Tiger im Kampf, Band II, p.273.
25 In Roy’s Jagdpanzer IV the gunner was Rottenführer Fritz Eckstein, who was awarded the Knight’s Cross 1st Class for knocking out these eight tanks.
26 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), Anlagen zum KTB der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12 “Hitlerjugend”, Gefechtsbericht für 8. 8. 1944/1. (schw.)/SS-Pz.Jäg.Abt. 12 “HJ”.
27 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 8. 8. 1944, and Anlagen zum KTB der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12 “Hitlerjugend”, Gefechtsberichte von Teilen der 3./SS-Pz.Jäg.Abt. 12 “HJ”.
28 Battalion-sized tank unit.
29 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), Anlagen zum KTB der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12 “Hitlerjugend”, Gefechtsbericht für 9. 8. 1944/1. (schw.)/SS-Pz.Jäg.Abt. 12 “HJ”. The war diary of the Polish 1st Armoured Division affirms the loss of the 22 tanks. See Reynolds, p.284 and note 38 on p.291. See also Appendix XVIII.
30 Meyer, pp.315–316. Meyer cites Sturmführer Walter Gömann in his work, who stated in 1974 that the victories at Ortlep took place on 10 August. According to the After-Action Report of the 1.Kompanie it was already fighting elsewhere on 10 August. Zeiner later became Kompanie Chef of the 1./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12.
31 Meyer, p.312.
32 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), Anlagen zum KTB der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12 “Hitlerjugend”, Gefechtsberichte von Teilen der 3./SS-Pz.Jäg.Abt. 12 “HJ”.
33 See Reynolds, p.286.
34 Presumably the 4.Kompanie/(remote-controlled) Panzer-Abteilung 301 was subordinated to the 1./SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12.
35 Reynolds, p.287, discusses Goliath remote-controlled „tanks” though this is inaccurate. The Type B IV was much larger than the Goliath. The 370 kg Goliath could carry 60 kg of explosives, while the 3.6 ton B IV could carry as much as 500 kg of explosives.
36 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), Anlagen zum KTB der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12 “Hitlerjugend”, Gefechtsbericht für 10. 8. 1944/1. (schw.)/SS-Pz.Jäg.Abt. 12 “HJ”. The Canadian and Polish units lost 142 of their armoured fighting vehicles in the area on 10 August 1944. See also Russell A. Hart, Clash of Arms: How the Allies won in Normandy, Boulder CO: Lynne Riener, 2001 (hereafter cited as R.A. Hart).
37 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 10. 8. 1944.
38 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 13. 8. 1944.
39 Meyer, p.324.
40 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 14. 8. 1944.
41 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague) KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 15. 8. 1944.
42 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague) KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 16. 8. 1944.
43 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague) KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 17. 8. 1944.
44 Meyer, p. 337.
45 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 18. 8. 1944.
46 According to the British “many times the flagrant arrogance and annoying personal remarks of Hanreich almost led to his instant death”, but in the end he was transported to a POW camp without any harm done to him. See Meyer, p.342.
47 Cited in Meyer, p.348.
48 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 20. 8. 1944.
49 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), KTB Nr. 1 der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12, 21. 8. 1944.
50 Gornik’s group had ten Jagdpanzers at the beginning, but they most probably lost two Jagdpanzer IVs on the way.
51 In Normandy, the Sturmgeschütz-Brigade 341 and 342 of the Army and the Sturmgeschütz-Brigade 12 of the Luftwaffe had been deployed. For now we do not know which units were fighting in the area mentioned.
52 According to the KTB of SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 12 the Jagdpanzers of Kampfgruppe “Wöst” nevertheless knocked out a Sherman tank on this day, 2 km north of Manfourt.
53 Vojenský Historický Archiv, Praha (Military History Archives, Prague), Anlagen zum KTB der SS-Panzer-Jäger-Abteilung 12 “Hitlerjugend”, Gefechtsberichte von Teilen der 3./SS-Pz.Jäg.Abt. 12 “HJ”.