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|01-29-2009, 06:09 PM||#1|
Memoirs of a Tiger commander
Found this thread from the WWIIOL forums today and though you might be interested to read the cool info it has.
To cut it short, a guy working in a model shop in the US had a customer one day who was looking for an Tiger model. That customer was no one else but Major Gerd Lindemann. So, with the permission from the original poster (Tzulscha), I'll start pumping out any bits I find from the OP's conversation with the Major.
Okie, here we go.
I run a hobby shop here in Michigan and an older gentleman wandered in today looking for a model of a Tiger I. He didn't want to build a kit but was very interested in the 1/16th Tiger I by Tamiya (until I showed him the price tag). After chatting with him a bit I asked what he knew about Tigers and he announced that he had been in command of the 2 companies of Tigers that had fought at Kasserine pass! His name is (Maj) Gerd Lindemann, which sounded very familiar. I asked and he said "Oh you've probably heard of my uncle, Kapitan zur Zee Lindemann, Captain of the Bismarck." Long story short, he told a couple of stories and answered some questions and commissioned me to build a model of his Tiger I ausf E for his mantel. He said he would bring in some photos for reference and told me that if I wanted to talk history I should drop by.
He is currently associated with a Military museum project we have going out at our Airport and lives locally. He seems very freindly and more than willing to talk about the war. (Possibly because he was captured with Schwere Panzerabteilung 501 on May 12 1943, so he missed Russia and all the associated horrors of the Ostfront.)
Interestingly, he said that their Tigers came from the factory not in panzer grey (which is what I expected), and not in Afrika Mustard , but rather in a slightly darker brown (I have the RAL number somewhere...) over which he had his crews spray a dark grey blotch pattern.
The man under the small arrow is Maj Lindemann. The Officer in the back with the Binocs is Dr. Franz, Rommels interpreter, and I'm sure you will all recognize the figure in the forground.
Cabbage: Maj Lindemann said that the steering in the tiger worked 2 ways: the steering wheel was normally used and if the tank was shifted into neutral withe the motor running it could be turned in a complete circle within it's own lenght by running one track forward and the other reversed. He said that while this worked just fine in sand, on hard ground it had a tendency to break tracks and orders were not to do it. Also the steering was not so sensitive that by just bumping it you wouldnt move the tank. The second method of steering the tank was by 2 levers controlling differential braking, but it was a pain in the *** and not normally used. Acceleration vs the Pz 3 and 4 was awful, the Tiger was really pushing the limits of its drive component and unless care was taken it was pretty easy to tear up the final drive. I understand Tiger crews got pretty good at pulling 'em apart for repair.
Imsneaky: I chatted with him again at work for about an hour and he said that Rommel seemed to be a nice enough fellow, he said he thought at the time that Rommel knew what he was doing and would take care of them.
THe biggest problem was supplies, Maj Lindemann mentioned spending a week with all his vehicles out in the middle of nowhere for a week simply because they had no fuel to move. They spent the time fixing the tanks.
I asked him what he thought of the Tiger and he said "It was my iinsurance policy." He talked about a battle he came through against the Americans, he said that the shermans and Grant/Lees had weak running gear, so if they could, they would shoot the suspension out and the crew would bail and run like hell. He said that after the fight that the crew was shaking when they climbed out. He counted 30 hits on his tank from 75mm on down. No major damage.......... Insurance policy indeed.....
I also asked about the Opel Blitz and the Bedford, because he had said that wherever they went they had to have trucks for fuel, supplies etc. etc. In the desert, you bring everything with you...
Anyway he said he liked the Beddy better because it was more reliable and didn't get stuck as much. I said yeah but the Opels were faster yes? and he laughed and said how fast do you need to drive to follow a tank?
Drat, I forgot to ask about the RPMs, sorry. Next time.
He did say that the Afrikan Tigers had fewer breakdowns than the Russian Tigers. I would guess it was due to the cold weather.
The Tiger transmission was designed for a vehicle that was 20 tons lighter, but with a good driver they didn't have too many problems. The biggest difficulty was if the driver was a bit rough with the clutch it could tear up teeth in the final drive. It could also loosen the track tensioner which could cause the thing to throw a track.
An outer roadwheel under ideal circumstance took about 15-20 minutes to remove. An inner road wheel required breaking the track and removing 2 outer wheels to get to it, so again under ideal conditions, it took about an hour or so to get off. Usually more like 2 to 3 hours or even longer in the field. Then you gotta put it all back together after you have fixed whatever was wrong.......
When I asked him about the tracks he told me another story. He said that since there were no bearings or bushings between the tracks and the track pins that they constantly squeeked and sand got in and worn them out in fairly short order. He said the squeeking drove them crazy. Somewhere or other they got (found or stole) 5 gallons of egyptian butter, too rancid to eat, so they actually used it to lubricate their tracks!
He said it picked up sand like crazy but it stopped the squeek for a while. I get a mental picture of a crewman pouring butter all over the tracks. Imagine the smell....
He originally wanted to be a fighter pilot and took his original flight training in gliders at the Wasserkuppe. As I understand it he got into fighter training shortly after. I believe he said Hans Joachim Marsielle was a classmate. (not sure about that exactly although he said he was friends with Marsielle and went to visit while they were both in Afrika.)
Anyway, near the end of his flight schooling, his company was called for a parade. While they were all standing at attention an SS officer walked in and told them he wanted volunteers for Armour training. Not one man stepped forward. Who wants to be a tanker when you can fly? This greatly annoyed the SS man who said; (I quote Herr Lindemann), "Alright you bastards, I'll get you for this!" Two weeks later his entire class was drafted into armour training. Lindemann said "We all hated those goosestepping SS azzholes, the best thing you could do was stay the hell out of their way."
SA(Situational Awareness) was always a problem. When I asked whether they went into combat open or buttoned up, he said they alway had the hatches closed if they thought there would be any shooting. The commander could use binoculars in the (early drum type) cupola while closed down. The vision blocks were replaceable and there were spares located in the turret. They spent a fair amount of time and effort to make sure these were as clean and clear as they could be.
To prepare for combat the next day Maj. Lindemann would go out with his sergeant as close to the front as they could get. The German artillery would spend some time firing in the direction of the enemy and they would take careful note of the locations and sizes of any return fire and mark them on their maps. Each unit had specific movement instructions and with the enemy positions marked on their maps they knew where to keep their eyes. Each tank would scan in a different direction so that they stayed aware of their surroundings.
To be continued...
|01-29-2009, 06:21 PM||#2|
Major Lindemann himself. I told him to smile and say 'Matilda'!
Oh, whoever asked me if they worried about sappers, yes they did, at least the designers did, which is why they had pistol ports on the back of the turret as well as the 'S-Mine' launchers. Not the smoke candles, but an anti-personnel device which threw a fragmentation round out about 25 feet for an airburst. Lindemann sasid they had little use for those or the smoke candles and mostly dismounted them or never reloaded them.
Tex0 asked about overheating at 2600 rpm and over, Lindemann said they NEVER had overheating problems, even in the desert. The only overheating problems they had was when the would heat their food containers on the engine, something would come up and they would forget about them until it exploded. He says there is nothing like cleaning beans out of a Tigers engine compartment to make you remember next time..
Silencez, I asked about the periscope mounting in the drum cupola and he said that while the mounting was there, they never used them and he did not even carry the gadget.
Turret rotation in the high speed setting at max engine RPMs was about 60 seconds for a 360 degree turn. Turret motor noise was not something he paid a lot of attention to but it wasn't too loud, at least compared with all the other noise going on while the tank was in operation. While traveling the gun was locked to the turret roof, and the turret was locked with a pin so that it wouldn't rotate. This was done so that the optics wouldn't be jarred out of alignment whil traveling. It could occaisonally lead to some problems if the gunner forgot to unlock the turret before action. Later tanks had an external travel lock in addition. Some locks were mounted on the front of the tank and sometimes they were mounted on the back deck of the tank. Crews prefered the front lock since they could unlock the gun without climbing out of tank..
When I asked about how it felt to get hit, he said go find a two inch steel plate and stick your head up against it while your friend beats on it from the other side with a sledge hammer as hard as he can. That is not quite the same but close... He also said they NEVER went into combat with anything open. They tried to keep the tank closed whenever they were moving just to keep the dust out if nothing else.
He told a story about capturing a Sherman and putting some of his guys in it while they hit it with a 20mm flak vierling. (Tankers are crazy in any era) He said the hulls rang like a church bell when they were hit. When I asked about main guns being knocked out by enemy fire he looked me like I was nuts and said that he had never heard of it happening although he said he supposed it must have been possible... just an incredibly lucky hit.
He ended his time in the Afrika Korps at Cape Bon. When he was ordered to surrender the crew disabled the tank by pouing sand in the fuel tanks and running the engine until it locked up. Then they hammered some rocks in the end of the barrel, loaded up an HE round and fired the gun remotely. He said it looked like a cigar that someone had chewed the end off of. While they were destrying their Tiger, the British artillery was firing into the olive grove where they were and gave him a serious wound in the leg from shrapnel (He walks with a cane these days), The crew was picked up by some 8th Army Brits with a universal carrier and taken to the closest aid station where the were told that the station was full and he would have to be taken elsewhere. When he woke up, he was in the civilian hospital in Constantine (?) The Brits were good guys he said, the Eighth Army were real profesionals and no one harboured grudges.
Since Tigers were a very new machine noone had developed specific tactics to use them at first and they tended to be thrown in piecemeal as they became available in support of other units, especially in Russia. Since they had been kept very secret, their arrival in combat came as a nasty shock but their small numbers and poor deployment caused them to be considerably less of a threat than they might have been.
The first units to recieve Tiger (sPzAbt 501, 502 and 503)were largely left to develope their own tactics based on experience with earlier, lighter panzers. This was naturally a high priority and regular combat reports were required of all commanders.
Four different formations were used in a Tiger platoon.
Linie: (Line abreast), with the Zugfuhrer (platoon leader) at the far right and the Section Leader two vehicles away to his left, was used primarily for assembly of the platoon.
Riehe: (Row), with the Platoon leader at the head of the line and the Section Leader in the third vehicle was used for both assembly and march. For assembly a spacing of 10m was mandated and for march 25m spacing was used.
Doppelriehe: (Double row), which for a platoon was actually a box formation, was used for approaches, when going cross country and in the attack, with the Platoon Leader at the head of the right hand row and the Section Leader at the head of the left hand row. In combat the rows were to be 150m apart and the lines 100m.
Keil: (Wedge), was the most often used attack formationwith the Platoon and Section leaders abreast and 100m apart. The second tank in each section was 100m back and to the outside of their respective leaders the same distance. Leaders turrets faced forward while the seconds would turn to 45deg outward in order to scan the largest area possible. Each vehicle in a four unit wedge was responsible for covering their quarter of the horizon. When the unit actually engaged an enemy the Platoon leader would move to the middle of the wedge and the Section Leader would take lead. This allowed the Platoon Leader to control his platoon most efficiently and use the terrain to his best advantage. I imagine it would also give the Platoon Leader a higher survivability as well, which would allow him to continue to command his unit.
Obviously the Double row and Wedge formations would be very difficult to maintain for long while actually in combat. Something Maj. Lindemann mentioned that I hadn't thought of. Tigers were forbidden to use paved roads. The weight of the tank and the steel cleats on the track would tear the hell out of any road they might drive down. Softskins used the road. Panzers used the shoulder.
If you look at the early Sherman track you will notice that the track is rubber shod just so they COULD use the roads without destroying them. A side note, I was asking about kill markings on the tank, and he said that they were all armour kills, tanks and armoured cars that is. Softskin trucks and things like that didn't count because they couldn't shoot back and you could just run over them anyway.
Hassel asked about bailing;
Maj Lindemann said that he personally had never had to bail from any of the tanks that he was in although they constantly practiced getting out of the panzer.
He did mention a Pz4 that a friend of his had command of, getting hit by a Sherman. The hit was on the side of the turret and penetrated through the turret side hatch, clipped off the commanders hand, killed the loader and exited through the other side hatch without exploding. (dud?) The crew started to bail, but with the tank still pretty much operational, the commander ordered them to stay with the tank and it was back in service 2 days later. I would have thought that it would have hit the gun breech but it evidently missed everything inside except the crew.
Saerdna asked about air attacks;
According to the Major, when vehicles were traveling in convoy you were required to maintain 100 meter intervals. Softskins travelled on the road while the panzers rode the shoulder. If they were attacked by A/C, the panzers would button up and keep moving and the trucks and other vehicles would stop, everyone would jump out and hit the ditches or whatever other cover they could find alongside the road.
A bomb near your tank could ruin your whole day even if it didn't crack the armour. Concussion effects could kill almost as easily as a large hunk of metal flying through the air. He said that the closest he personally got to a bomb was when someone dropped what he thought was a thousand pounder about 25 meters from his Tiger. It didn't do much to the tank but the crew were all bleeding from the ears and more than a little stunned. He said much closer and he probably wouldn't be here.
He mentioned one Tiger losing a track to a 40mm round from a Hurricane fighter-bomber. The driver gunned the tank, which spun it in a circle and just kept it spinning until the Hurri went away, he said it was funny as hell to see. They asked the driver later if he was trying to make his own smoke screen!
TO BE CONTINUED...
|01-29-2009, 11:38 PM||#3|
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: At your mom's house...
Outstanding... More, please...
Active member of the 'Church of SH4'
|01-30-2009, 08:23 AM||#6|
The Major stopped in today for an update on his Tiger and after showing him the latest pics, I showed him a couple of books that had some photos that I thought he might be interested in. While thumbing through the Concord Panzers in North Africa, he stopped me and said turn the page back, that's me!
Oh Strukt, he said the Stuart had a wrecked motor from a Pak hit. While it didn't burn, the crew bailed and got back to their unit. They drained the fuel out of it, took whatever goodies they could find and left it.
He did say that they were very fond of the British Desert boots because they had crepe soles and kept the heat away from your feet much better than those hi top canvas boots the DAK got issued. He also said that you were better off in sandals than to wear the normal jackboots because they had iron hobs in the soles for traction and the metal conducted heat into the boot to bake your feet.
Whenever possible, they wore shorts, or even stripped down to skivvies in the heat. It did (does) get pretty cold in the desert at night too, which made for quite a mish-mash of uniforms. I guess a lot of guys wore Italian gear too because they had the most comfortable tropical uniforms.
Stankyus asked about ammo load outs;
Lindemann says that they carried 90 rounds of 88mm ammo, usually 30 AP. 30HE, and 30 dual purpose rounds, unfortunately he couldn't remember the actual designations for the round. He also said that since they had ammo trucks following them around that they would trade rounds to get the load out that they thought they would need for any prospective engagement, so, theoretically they could have all AP or HE or whatever mix they wanted. They also carried 40,000 rounds of MG ammo and 4 mp-38 or mp-40 with 8 clips per smg. He personally carried a Walther P-08 with 4 clips and the other crew were allowed to carry handguns if they wanted to.
Schuster and Rdiggety asked what he thought about Allied armour;
Stuarts and armoured cars were used as scouts and the Tiger guys didn't worry much about them except as they might call in support. The 75mm tanks (Grants Shermans etc.) were not anything to worry about either per se. You just had to be careful around them and never let them get position on you. Usually this was not a problem because you always had infantry nearby and artillery to back you up, so as long as you didn't get too far out on your own you were pretty safe. He had a healty respect for the Brit ATGs but not so much for their armour. He said their tankers had a lot of guts and pretty good tactics (mostly) but you could punch a hole in anything they had pretty easily. This meant that they would never engage you frontally if they could possibly avoid it, but would try to distract you while they slipped around on your flanks.
The LRDG were the guys that annoyed them most because they were always sneaking around trying to destroy the Afrika Korps supply dumps, and they NEVER had enough of anything to spare as it was. If a panzer was going to be shipped back for repairs, crews would strip it of any spare parts they thought would be useful.
His last crew (member changed from time to time) were all oberfeldwebels, they tended to get the more experienced crews to serve on the Tigers.
He said that every one of them had Iron Cross first or second class. They all wore the A.K. sleeve ribbons (3 months service in theatre) as well as Panzer badges.
Since I have been working on the figures lately, I spent some time asking about uniforms and what crews might be expected to wear. I had read something to the effect that crews were forbidden to wear shorts or remove their shirts for too long. Obviously the idea was to prevent troops from getting too sunburned to be useful. In fact it quickly became a courts martial offense since you were actually damaging wehrmacht property....
It turns out that this rule only applied to infantry. Panzer crews were allowed to wear shorts and shirtsleeves since the inside of a steel box with a twelve cylinder engine running in the back and a desert sun blazing down at you, is not exactly the coolest of environments...
Ever see that photo series on the guy frying an egg on the hull of his tank?
Something else he mentioned while we were talking about 'damaging Reich property'. The desert was (is) a hard place to live without proper equipment and guys got sicknesses that were untreatable with the early medical set ups that the Germans used in the early parts of the Afrikan campaign. The normal routine would be to fly patients back to German hospitals, sometimes all the way back to Germany.
Jaundice was one of these conditions, and some bright lad found out that if you left a tin of sardines out in the sun all day, you could punch holes in the tin and suck out the hot olive oil which would give all the signs of a jaundice attack. You would then be sent back to Germany for a nice refreshing leave until your 'Jaundice' cured itself. Naturally, the higher ups figured this little game pretty quickly and if you got caught it was considered a courts martial offense. Pretty slick trick for the first couple of guys though....
German prisoners held in Michigan had a fair amount of freedom and were often assigned to work details on farms surrounding the camp. The soldiers who were meant to guard them were usually pretty green and pretty young. When they left camp they were given their lunch in a paper bag, sandwiches and what not usually, and the farms were supposed to supply them with water.
Guard duty was dull and with not a lot else to do and one day both their guards fell asleep over the lunch break. POWs being what they are Lindemann and his comrades decided that here was an opportunity that couldn't be missed and they immediatley stole the guards rifles, disassembled them and hid the various parts in their pockets and nearby trees. Then they all sat back down and one of them bounced pebbles off one of the guards helmet until he woke up. The poor guy immediately noticed he was missing his rifle and woke up his buddy now also weaponless. The two guards knew they were in deep trouble and pleaded with the POWs for their weapons back. Lindemann said "Well, we can probably make a deal here, there is a little store about a mile down the road, go get us a case of beer and four cartons of ciggarettes....." Not having much choice the kid trudged off down the road. When he finally got back, the prisoners handed back the weapons in exchange for the beer and smokes. Except, they didn't give back the ammunition. When the guards objected, Lindemann and the rest of the prisoners grinned at them, Lindemann pointed at the guard who had stayed behind the first time and said "OK your turn to go to the store..."
That's enough for now, just woke up so, need to get me a cup of coffee and something to eat. The next bit will be a big one, the OP went into one of Lindemann's lectures and quite a few stories came out of it.
|01-30-2009, 08:30 PM||#8|
Dont know how much I can continue this.. kinda fighting over my right to use the signature that Torplexed made for me (the one with me as a ferret flying an brewster buffalo and throwing bombs). Anywho, the moderator is saying the signature has an swastika in it and there's nothing that get's me more ticked that some twut getting the Von Rosen cross & swastika mixed.
I replied to the moderator and explaing what the "swastika" in my signature means, if he doesnt get it, then.... well.. dont think I can say it here what I'm gonna do next.
EDIT: THis is the signature in question:
|01-30-2009, 08:49 PM||#10|
Ok, this next one is notes the OP wrote furing the time he was listening to the lecture of Lindemann.
To set the scene a bit, the British had just failed to pull off 'Operation Battleaxe' (an attempt to relieve Tobruk) losing almost 80% of their tanks. The Germans lost 62 tanks but managed to recover 50 of those to fight again.
On arrival in Libya, Lindemann spent his first two months assembling and training a panzer company for the planned November attack to crush the besieged town of Tobruk which had been cut off by the Germans and now lay 70 miles behind the front lines. (Lindemann said that one of the punishments for screwing up in training was being made to jog along behind your tank carrying one of the spare road wheels!)
The biggest difficulty was lack of supplies. Fuel, ammunition and vehicles were having a very tough time crossing the Mediterranean sea due to British submarine and air attacks. The Germans were recieving about 72,000 tons of supplies per month (including only 35 Flak 36 guns all summer), which was not enough to get by on. By November 18th (according to my sources) DAK only had 35 PzII, 58 PzIII, 17 PzIV, 12 Flak 36 and 96 Pak 38 AT guns. The Italians could only field about 140 tanks, mostly M-13s. Other vehicles including captured British equipment helped bulk out the force.
In November a combination of bad weather along the coast and the fact that NO supplies had made it across the Med that month forced Rommel to postpone the attack on Tobruk until Dec3. About the only action was a recce mission to investigate a large supply dump that suggested that the Brits were building up for an assault. While the recon team was almost destroyed during this probe, they did discover that the supply dump was a dummy and captured a South African command tuck which contained orders concerning British withdrawals and made no mention of any planned attack. (these orders were fake, meant to fool the Germans.)
The British had other ideas however and launched 'Operation Crusader' with 724 tanks, 201 of them infantry tanks and the rest cruisers, on November 18th. Designed to do what 'Operation Battleaxe' had failed to do, only on a larger scale, the operation was meant to both relieve Tobruk and drive the DAK out of Cyreniaca. The Germans had no warning of the impending attack until some units of 15th panzer on patrol near Sidi Omar ran into lead elements and reported them as a "Reconaissance in Force". (it was still being called that after two days of heavy fighting). One of Rommels few mistakes. The Brits and Commonwealth forces advanced quickly until they ran into the effects of the weather on the coastal areas.
General Cruwell decided that this was the line of the British attack and ordered von Ravenstein to form a special force- 5th Panzer Regiment with 12 10.5cm howitzers and 4 Flak 36- to move south from Gambut (where the main German supply and repair area was), to Gabr Saleh to attack the British 4th Armoured Brigade there. This unit was called 'Kampfgruppe Stephan' after its commander.
Chasing 3rd Recces armoured cars and doing recce sweeps themselves had broken up 4th Armoureds units. Kampfgruppe Stephan first encountered the 8th Hussars late in the afternoon on the 19th, northeast of Gabr Saleh. In the vicious firefight that followed, 20 Stuart tanks were knocked out mostly by the 88s which were using a new tactic of firing from their trailers.
This was the first time this had been done although 88s had been used at Arras in France as a despiration measure against Matildas and again at Halfaya pass. This was the first time they had been fired from trailers however. It worked very well, the guns could fire, move quickly to another position and fire again. (Lindemann said that this bent the early trailers and later trailers were made much heavier to allow for this.)
5th RTR was called up to assist the 8th Hussars and promptly lost another 3 Stuarts although 12 of the knocked out tanks would later be recovered. Kampfgruppe Stephan lost only 3 tanks with 4 more damaged but recoverable. The two sides withdrew from each other as darkness came on but Kampfgruppe Stephan who had planned to move to Sidi Omar was stuck awaiting fuel from its supply columns.
The rest of 15th and 21st panzer were moved south in the night to support Kampfgruppe Stephan. At dawn on the 20th of November, elements of the 4th Armoured Brigade re-engaged Kampfgruppe Stephan in what would turn into a running battle with Stephan doing a fighting withdrawal to the northwest. Knocking out 8 more stuarts and losing 4 tanks themselves (2 of which were PzIIs) The unit retreated to its rendezvous point with 15th and 21st panzer. The British, thinking they had beaten them, followed only to be engaged by the 15th panzer. 21st having had to stop to refuel.
15th and 21st panzer were ordered to disengage and move west to strike at the 7th Armoured Brigade and other units drawn up at Sidi Rezegh just south east of Tobruk. Moving out in the dark just before dawn on 21 Nov they were so quiet that 4th Armoured brigade (and the 22nd who had by now arrived in support), didn't even realize they had left until dawn light showed the last unit disappearing westward.
The 21st of November had started for the 7th armoured brigade at Sidi Rezegh being ordered north to meet the Tobruk breakout force at El Duda. The British assumed the the retreat earlier meant the end of the German threat in the area. However, just before the attack was supposed to begin, two large German armoured formations appeared on their right flank. This was 15th and 21st panzer in full attack. 7th Armoured Brigade was forced to split its formation with the 7th Hussars and the 2nd RTR moved east to meet them leaving the 6th RTR alone to lead the charge for Tobruk. This move cost the 6thRTR 39 tanks to the field guns and 88s that formed the outer ring of the besiegers forces. 7th Hussar and 2ndRTR fared no better with the 7th nearly being wiped out by 21st panzer in a running fight that made good use of pak and flak guns moving and shooting. By the end of the day only 12 7th Hussar tanks, some damaged, were left running.
This was Lindemanns first combat action and he and his unit did well, knocking out nearly 30 British and Commonwealth vehicles with very few losses to themselves. Another 16 tanks from the 21st panzer attacked the 7th Hussars support group near the Sidi Rezegh airfield. This unit met with less success as they met 25lber guns manned by 60th Field Regiment and were beaten back. A Stuka attack on the guns was unsuccessful due to inaccurate bombing. A British counter attack by 5 Support and HQ company Crusaders was also unsuccessful as all were hit. Fire from the 25lbers continued to hold off 21st panzer but both sides were running low on ammunition and with the arrival of the 22nd Armoured Brigade from Gabr Saleh made the Germans decide to withdraw.
2nd RTR was engaged by 15th panzer and suffered much the same fate as the 7th Hussars.
Rommel in the meantime, had got together a scratch force from the Gambut repair facility and used them to repulse the British breakout attempt from Tobruk at El Duda.
At this point British XXX corps had suffered badly but incomplete intelligence from the front convinced the 8th Army Commnader that things were going well except for the failure to link up with Tobruk and he suggested that the 1st South African Division be brought up from Bir Gubi to aid in the next mornings attack.
DAK commanders decided to disengage and reposition themselves overnight with the 15th panzer being sent to a position east of the British and south of Gambut and the 21st being set up on a line facing south along the escarpement from Sid Rezegh to Belhamed and between the British and Tobruk. The British, including the 22nd Armoured division, seeing these movements interpreted them as a withdrawal from the fight and stayed near the Sidi Rezegh Airfield.
Rommel deciding the chance was too good to miss, told Von Ravenstein to attack the airport in the afternoon of the 21st.
With fire support fron Artillery Gruppe Bottcher (a company Rommel had assembled to bombard Tobruk), the 21st panzers 155th rifle regiment attacked from the north engaging the British infantry protecting the airport while one battalion of 15th panzer swept around and attacked from the west. iIn the dust, smoke and confusion the British even fired on approaching tanks of the 4th Armoured Brigade br mistake as they came in to counter attack. It was all too much for the British and they had no choice but to withdraw from the airport to the south over a protecting ridge. As dusk fell however, 15th panzer came roaring in from the Northeast causing extra chaos. By the end of the action 22nd Armoured Brigade was down to 34 running tanks an 7th Armoured had only 15. German losses were very light. As a bonus, 15th panzer also captured the HQ and Staff of the 4th Armoured Brigade during the night attack, but this was more than offset by the capture of the DAKs entire communication center and staff and codebooks from their base near Gambut by the 6th New Zealand Division.
|01-30-2009, 08:50 PM||#11|
The 23rd of November was a Sunday Totensonntag (Rememberance Sunday)in the German calender. Rommel ordered the destruction of the remaining 7th Armoured by encircling them. 15th panzer plus 21st panzers 5th Panzer Regiment came down ffrom the North, sweeping west and joining up with the Italian Ariete division coming up from the south west.
The British were decimated, but at a severe cost due to poor management of the northern attackers, the Germans losing 72 out of the 162 tanks that attacked. Lindemann said he remembered the day as incredibly hectic, they fired as fast as they could pick targets, the tommies were running everywhere.
Rommel decided to capitalize on the destruction and dissarray of the British by making a spectacular dash towards the Egyptian border in his command car leading the 15th and 21st panzer in a diversionary sweep along the coast. At one point his column was 40 miles long.
Back in the border area, things were quiet Cunningham and his corps commanders were having a conference near the border and staff cars and trucks were parked everywhere.
Suddenly, out of the blue came Rommel and his tanks bearing down on them. In a mad dash (later jokingly called the Matruh Stakes), everyone including the Generals, scattered and ran east for the border.
Unfortunatley for the Germans the DAK was too depleted for Rommels sweep to do much more than psychological damage, although they did finally figure out how to tackle the 25lbers that had been troubling them. By giving the batteries a plastering from the 75mm guns of the PzIV firing HE they could kill or drive off gun crews then the tanks would roll over the guntrails crushing them.
'Operation Crusader' had been badly handled by Cunningham and Auchinleck used it as an excuse to relieve him. Both sides were badly battered afterwards and Rommel decided to cut his losses and withdraw to El Agheila where he had started back in February. So in spite of the loss of most of the battles, Operation Crusader actually achieved it's goals of liberating Tobruk and kicking th DAK out of Cyrenaica.
|01-30-2009, 08:53 PM||#12|
Anlashok; I think what he said he hated most was artillery, You never know they are coming in until they start exploding all around you and you can't shoot back. All you can do is try to find cover and hope it doesn't last very long. I imagine his worst moment was when they recieved the order to surrender at Cape Bon. Von Arnhem was in charge of the DAK at that time and I remember him saying that Von Arhem had surrendered before they did....
Best moment? Well he told a few stories about partying with Hans Marseille (109 Ace) (<-That'll be be Hans Joachim Marseille, the best scoring LW ace in the western front. -Dowly) who had a reputation for being quite the ladies man....
Wolf 326 asked about tracks; Yes there were two types of track for the Tiger. Due to the fact that they needed to be shippable by rail the Tiger had a 40cm track (verladen kette) that was used to move them around and on and off load them from railcars. (They had to be narrow enough that they could pass through tunnels and under bridges.) A 60 cm set (marsche kette) was what was normally used in combat. Lindemann said that once they had arrived in Afrika however all the Tiger were driven everywhere which was VERY rough on the track and running gear.
I haven't heard any wierd war stories from Lindemann, I'll ask the next time I see him!
Htmd asked about beer? Hmm well it's not something I'd thought to ask before but in telling the POW story about stealing the rifles I think he said the guard brought them back a case of Blatz (tastes as great as its name!) He said they thought it was frankly piss but they hadn't had ANY beer for a while so it was good enough! Oh yeah, his English is a LOT better than my German!
Wolf 326 asked about field conversions and paint.
I asked Lindemann about that one earlier while I was trying to track down his particular Tiger. Every freakin' Tiger was different, especially the early ones, it's been driving me nuts! He said, right off the freighter they were all different, they ran differently, transmissions and brakes worked differently, there were good ones and cursed ones. and as soon as the crews got their hands on them they started customising them. Most of the field changes had to do with stowage or correcting factory flaws and omissions. The most obvious external mods were usually to carry extra track, water and fuel. Lindemann described rigs to carry fuel drums strapped on the engine deck (tho I've never seen photos) and I have seen a huge variety of racks and frames made of welded angle iron for tools and spares. Like Lindemann said, "In the desert there is nothing that you don't bring there."
Colours are a thread by themselves...
According to Herr Lindemann, and I asked him quite pointedly a couple of times, All the early PzIII's and PzIVs, and all the softskins were delivered in the standard Panzer Grey (I don't have the RAL #s handy so I won't make a fool of myself and guess at 'em). The crews initially painted them with mud since that was all they had, but found that the dust that vehicles picked up worked pretty well too. By late '42, early '43, Panzers started arriving in Dunkle Gelb (Dark Yellow) painted by the factories. His Tiger which was manufactured in November of 1942 was painted a light Brown (RAL 7028 I think but don't quote me), and crews were authorized to spray them with panzer grey splotches (although I have only seen one Tiger painted that way and it was a model), in any event he said his Tiger was never camouflaged. After the battle of Kasserine Pass the Germans captured great stocks of supplies including paint. As the DAK was being pushed back to Tunisia which was a bit greener country, these paints were used to recolour and camouflage whatever vehicles were in the repair dumps and needed paint. Thus the occaissional olive drab Tiger...
Lyceum6 asked about AT Guns, Lindemann doesn't really differentiate much between them, They were either "Those big bastards" or "the little Pop guns". I have to assume the "Big Bastards" were mostly 6 and 25lbers and the "Popguns" were 2lbers. He said Tigers didn't really have to worry about the popguns because they couldn't penetrate and they knew it, so they would not bother shooting the Tigers but concentrate on the smaller tanks where they had some chance of effect, he did say that they would try to break tracks if they could (sometimes it worked, more often it didn't).
The bigger guns were dealt with by going out and scouting a defensive position the night before an attack. The artillery would lob in a few rounds and they would see if anyone shot back, defenses were marked on a map and anything that might be an ATG position was in for a severing pasting with HE when the unit moved up for the attack. As the attack progressed, artillery and air attacks would try to destroy guns or at least keep guncrews heads down until ground forces had advanced enough to take them out. That's the theory at least. The Germans were always critically short of ammunition (and everything else) in Africa and a lot of times they simply didn't have enough.
Imsneaky, I asked him about the 3.7" AA guns and I had to explain to him what they were so I don't think he ever saw one shooting (or if he did, he didn't remember). The stuff I have read says that while the 3.7" AA gun WAS used against tanks (quite effectively I understand, the 21st Panzer book suggests it might even have been more effective than the 88), British command was a bit rigid on what things were to be used for. These things are AA guns, that's what they are for, that's the way we'll use them. I suspect that the times they were used were desparate attempts to defend themselves against attacking tanks. Blame High Command I guess
TO BE CONTINUED
|01-31-2009, 06:42 AM||#13|
More coming either on Sunday or Monday. Depending in which shape the hangover gonna hit me tomorrow.
|01-31-2009, 04:55 PM||#15|
The Old Man
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Deep in the Wild Canadian suburbs.
Maybe Dowly can use Major Lindemann as an example in the U-864 thread. He fought for Germany, and whaddayaknow, he's a decent fellow.
The entire German garrison of Vanviken, right here in your thread!