Wittmann moves into Villers-Bocage

When he approached the border of Villers-Bocage, Wittmann noticed three M3A3 Stuart tanks of the Reconnaissance Troop, 4th CLY. Within a short time these were also put out of action. Their 37mm gun was no match for the armour and the 8,8cm gun of the Tiger. The one in the middle completely burned out.

Above: the first destroyed Stuart by Wittmann, the Calamity Jane II,
is inspected by a German officer.
Below; once again the M3A3 Calamity Jane II, now with sheltering British military
(What is the story behind this picture?)

Below the second M3A3 Stuart

Rue Georges Clemenceau, Then (June, 1944) and now (2008)
(left stood the third M3A3 Stuart)

Wittmann sends the Tiger into the Rue Georges Clemenceau of Villers-Bocage. He must have realised that he was making a dangerous manoeuvre. From the side roads he could expect an anti-tank weapon. But the targets were to good too pass on them. His next victim was an M5 Half Track of the 4th CLY medical officer. A short distance from this target stood the vehicles of the Regimental Headquarters (RHQ) Troop of 4th CLY. The first was the Cromwell tank of Major A. Carr, (the Second-in-Command). The Cromwell tried, just as all the vehicles in the column to make a turn or to back up. But the Cromwell was very slow in its rear, and the Cromwell of Carr was hit and stopped in its tracks. Lt. Charles Pearce (the liaison officer) who was parked in a Scout car behind Carr used this moment to leave the column and head back through Villers-Bocage, to get help from B Squadron. He needed a Sherman Firefly.

The crippled Cromwell (T187692) from Lt. John Cloudsley-Thompson

Meanwhile Wittmann drove in a steady pace down the main road into Villers-Bocage and pounded every vehicle of RHQ Troop in his sight. Next victim was the Cromwell of Lt. John Cloudsley-Thompson. The crew was not hurt after the hit and could leave the tank despite heave machinegun fire. After hiding, they would later reach the British lines.

The knocked out Cromwell (T187608) from Sergeant-Major Gerald Holloway

Next in line was again a Cromwell, this time T187608 of 4th CLY's Regimental Sergeant-Major Holloway. He was put out of action at 64 Rue Georges Clemenceau. Holloway had given the order to back up around a corner, but the slow progress meant the demise of his tank.

Another Cromwell would be next, this one under command of Captain Pat Dyas, but he managed to back up into a garden. The Tiger from Wittmann rattled passed him without noticing the Cromwell in the garden. Unfortunately, Dyas could not have a shot to the side of the Tiger. His gunner had left the Cromwell to relief himself and did not return when the onslaught began. When Wittmann was passed, Dyas ordered the driver to follow him so he could have a go at the weak rear of the Tiger.

The knocked out Sherman OP from Major Dennis Wells
(notice the crater in front of the OP and the hole in the left of the turret)

But Wittmann had no intention to wait for Dyas and moved on to his next target. This was the Sherman OP (Observation Post) from K Battery, 5th Royal Horse Artillery. Wittmann fired two armoured piercing shells at the Sherman. The first one smashed just in front of the Sherman, the second hit the turret on the left. The only one in the Sherman at the time was driver Charles 'Jock' Rae, who was unhurt after this ordeal. When Rae managed to escape through the escape hatch in the floor of the Sherman, he was hit by shrapnel below the knee. But Rae managed to return to troops of CLY, were he was treated for his wounds. The hit in the turret was not necessary, the Sherman OP had no gun, and was of no danger to the Tiger. To create more space in the turret, the gun was removed and replaced with a wooden one. The picture above shows how the wooden ‘gun’ has been blown out of the turret and came to rest in front of the Sherman.

The crippeld OP Cromwell (T187749) from Captain Paddy Victory

Just behind the Sherman OP was the de 5th RHA Cromwell OP (T187749) from Captain Paddy manoeuvring in a small side street, the Rue Curie. He tried to make a neutral turn, but a rock from the road stuck between the drive sprocket wheel and the track. The Cromwell became a sitting duck and one shot was enough to knock out the Cromwell and start a fire which consumed the tank.

Wittmann his Tiger stopped near the Hotel
when he got under fire from the Firefly from Lockwood

After the destruction of the Cromwell OP, the high street Rue Pasteur was deserted all the way to the end Place Jean d’Arc. Because the street was descending the horizon was obscured and Wittmann was uncertain what to expect there. Unknown to Wittmann was that a Sherman Firefly, under command of Sergeant Stan Lockwood, from B Squadron, had positioned himself and was aiming at the Tiger. Lockwood observed through the dust and smoke how the Tiger spent his shells into the OP tanks. He tried a couple of shots on the flash produced by the 8,8cm gun of the Tiger. But he could not tell for certain if he made any hits, because of the dust and smoke his own shot had created. He thought he had one hit on the front near the drivers shield.

Wittmann noticed that he was under fire and decided to end his ‘morning walk’. He ordered two shot on the Firefly and the driver started to retrace it steps. Out of the smoke suddenly a Cromwell tank was approaching.

Captain Pat Dyas who tried to stop Wittmann

Captain Dyas thought he would see any moment the rearend of the Tiger penetrating through the smoke. But the first he saw was the 8,8cm gun of it. According to Dyas he managed to fire two shells which both ricocheted. The 8,8cm just once barked and the hit to the Cromwell did Dyas flying out of the turret as a cork from a champagne bottle. As a miracle he was slightly injured and reached B Squadron later, where he was treated to his wounds.

After the fighting, two panzergrenadiers have a smoke near the Cromwell of Dyas
(behind it, the Cromwell of RSM Holloway can be seen)

Wittmann, passing the burning and crippled British vehicles, approached the crossing to Tilly-sur-Seulles. In the short time Wittmann was at work in Villers-Bocage, Sergeant Bray of A Company, 1st Rifle Brigade with some other men had managed to bring a 6-pounder ready for action. When the Tiger emerged from the smoke and dust, the men fired 6-pounder. It hit the steel tracks and the Tiger came to a standstill. The anti-tank gun was to weak to penetrate the tank itself, but this shot meant the end of the road of destruction for Wittmann and his crew. Before the would leave the crippled Tiger, Wittmann lay a barrage of fire round his immobile bunker. This created a enormous chaos of dust and smoke and the while the British troops were taking cover, Wittmann and his men made a run for it, barring only their personal weapons. Unhurt they left Villers-Bocage.

After the battle, Wittmann (middle) with left Josef 'Sepp' Dietrich
and right Hermann Weiser near Villers-Bocage.

In the short time Wittmann and his Tiger were ‘strolling’ in and around Villers-Bocage the score was huge:
At ‘Point 213’ : 1 Cromwell IV and a Sherman Firefly (A Squadron, 4th CLY)
Route D 675 near Villers-Bocage: 8 Half Tracks, 4 Carriers and 2 6-pounder anti-tank guns (A Company, 1st Rifle Brigade)
Border Villers-Bocage: 3 M3A3 Stuart V, 1 Half Track, 4 Cromwell IV, 1 Scout Car and 1 Carrier (RHQ Troop en Reconnaissance Troop)
Centre Villers-Bocage: 1 Sherman OP and 1 Cromwell OP (5th RHA)

The entrance to Château d’Orbois, headquarters of the Panzer Lehr Division
(the castle is nearly invisible from the road)

Wittmann headed for the headquarters of Panzer Lehr Division, in Château d’Orbois, some six kilometres north of Villers-Bocage. After briefing Wittmann took a ride back to 'Point 213'.

For a short bio on Michael Wittmann

For the battle in the afternoon in Villers-Bocage click below.