The British defence at

Commander of B Squadron 4th CLY, Major Aird, was anxious to see if it was possible to reach A Squadron at ‘Point 213’ and he ordered 4th Troop under commando van Lt. Bill Cotton to look for a southern route to the hill. When they reached the train station it became obvious to Cotton that it was impossible to make a breakthrough. Instead he headed into the centre with his unit.

Left stands Capt. Bill Cotton MC with his crew,
promoted after the battle for Villers-Bocage
(notice the Iron Cross on his Luftwaffe jacket)

Lt. Bill Cotton and his 4th Troop installed an ambush position at the square in front of city hall. Central became the Sherman Firefly with as support two Cromwell tanks (there was a third Cromwell, a close-support 95mm howitzer that was not suited for tank-versus-tank). A 6-pounder anti-tank gun, of the 1st/7th Queens, was also brought into position at the square. Beside the anti-tank gun there were PIAT’s among the infantry.

An example of the PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank)

Meanwhile, a part of Panzer Lehr Division under command of Gen.-Lt. Bayerlein was heading for Villers-Bocage. Major Helmut Ritgen had collected 15 PzKpfw IV. When this unit approached Villers-Bocage from the north, it was fired upon and stopped by anti-tank guns. Panzer Lehr and the 1./s.SS-Pz.Abt. 101 headed from the north and north east with support of panzergrenadiers and Waffen-SS. From the south some vehicles from 2. Panzer Division were rolling into Villers-Bocage.

The Tiger tanks of 1./s.SS-Pz.Abt. 101 moved into the streets of Villers-Bocage. 4th Troop had the engines of their tanks shut down and they were listening how the low growl, cracking and wining of German tanks headed their way. Lt. Cotton had the close support Cromwell moved out of sight and was on foot to look into the Rue Pasteur to see how the situation was developing. The first tanks that were approaching were two PzKpfw IV of Panzer Lehr Division. They were both put out of action by the anti-tank gun of 1st/7th Queens.

The PzKpfw IV of Panzer Lehr Division that moved furthest
into Rue Pasteur before it was stopped

The first Tiger, ‘121’, moved with caution into the square where Sergeant Bramall had his Firefly positioned. The first shot flew over the top of the turret of the Tiger because the gunner could not use his sight on the short distance. A direct hit of a 6-pounder eventually stopped the Tiger.

De Tiger '121' knocked out in the Rue Pasteur

To prevent that all of the Tigers would be stuck in one street, some were moving through gardens to the south in trying to encircle the British troops. South of the main street, Rue Pasteur, were three streets parallel to it, the Rue Saint-Germain, the Rue Emile Samson and the Boulevard Joffre. Through these streets the Tigers moved to the west. Wittmann, in his drive into down a couple of hours before, was smart enough not to seek a fight in the narrow streets, Möbius sent his heavy tanks through the small streets. He must have known that in every corner the danger lurked of anti-tank weapons, nevertheless he went for the confrontation. The Tiger which was moving through Boulevard Joffre was stopped by a shot of a 6-pounder anti-tank gun. The next Tiger, that was rumbling along through Rue Emile Samson, was stopped by a PIAT. Also the Tiger coming down Rue Saint-Germain was knocked out by a PIAT.

The knocked out Tiger I on the crossing
Rue Jeanne Bacon and Rue Emile Samson, Then and Now

In the Rue Pasteur a second Tiger moved with caution. The crew knew that somewhere to their left was an ambush position with anti-tank guns. Just as it reached the square the Tiger stopped. Sergeant Bramall in the Firefly could see the German steel monster through windows connecting the side wall and the front of the building. To bring out a shot, he had to reverse the Firefly a couple of meters. He traversed the turret so the barrel could fire through the two windows. The gunner was unable to line the weapon with its visor and had to look through the barrel to aim it. He fired two shells but they both bounced of the mask of the Tiger. First thing that was observed was, that the Tiger moved back.

The Tiger was finally put out of action
notice that the turret has moved to the ambush position.

Probably because another Tiger ('212'?) was behind him, the commander decided to drive pass the ambush position. The heavy turret with the deadly 8,8cm gun turned towards the square, during the drive, to look for a British target. But the shot that was given was a British one, when a shell hit the weak rear of the Tiger. It rolled on for a couple of meters and came to a standstill next to the earlier knocked out PzKpfw IV.

The ‘torched’ '121', set afire by Bramall and Cotton

During a lull in the fighting, Sergeant Bramall and Lt. Cotton took some blankets and a jerrican with gasoline. With this they drenched three knocked out German tanks and set them alight. Preventing that the Germans would recover them later. Cotton was to become the Military Cross and Bramall the Military Medal for courage and the defence of Villers-Bocage.

This is the knocked out '212' in Rue Pasteur
(notice that the nose of this Tiger points eastwards)

A short distance from the square and the ambush position of Cotton the Tiger '212' was put out of action. When it was knocked out it was facing to the east, towards ‘Point 213. Was it driving reverse to give protection to the other Tigers and their weak rear or had it just made a neutral turn in Rue Pasteur? Some sources give this as the Tiger of Wittmann, but the location where it stands makes that option impossible. Wittmann was stopped much more to the east near the crossing heading towards Tilly-sur-Seulles.

Left in the smog the '212' is visible, so it is not possible that this is the Tiger
of Wittmann, he turned back when he reached approximately the Hotel

The street fighting in Villers-Bocage was fruitful for the British, six Tigers and (probably) three PzKpfw IV. Around 16.00 hours the British troops still held out in Villers-Bocage. But German mortar and artillery fire was descending in a heavy quantity and drove the British slowly out of town and to the west. At the train station A Company was over run and a complete platoon was taken prisoner. Also the headquarters of 1st/7th Queen’s was almost surrounded.

The train station of Villers-Bocage at the Boulevard du 13 Juin 1944,
now a restaurant of a factory, still bears the scars of battle

Brigadier Hinde ordered the 22nd Armoured Brigade to retreat out of Villers-Bocage and move to a better position than in the narrow streets of the town. Under a smokescreen and a barrage of artillery from K Battery, 5th Royal Horse Artillery, the British troops retreated a couple of kilometres west of Villers-Bocage, into the so called ‘Island Position’.

For a map with the points of battle
in the afternoon in Villers-Bocage

The losses were high for the 7th Armoured Division. It lost 378 men, killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Beside the human losses, a lot of material was lost. The 22nd Armoured Brigade lost 20 Cromwell tanks, 4 Sherman Fireflies and 3 M3A3 Stuart tanks. Further more, 28 other vehicles were lost, like Half Tracks, Universal Carriers, Scout Cars etc. of the reconnaissance units.

The destruction is enormous on the road towards 'Point 213'

The area where the British consolidated (the ‘Island Position’) was created west of Le Mesnil and north-east of Tracy-Bocage, left and right of the D71. All men were tensed and tired after a day of fierce fighting in Villers-Bocage. But, beside some artillery fire and German sniper action, the night from 13 and 14 June was reasonably quiet. The next day it was noticed the Germans had almost encircled the ‘Island’, like a horseshoe. The road the British had once took was, from Amayé-sur-Seulles was still open and was fast taken by a British patrol. But the noose got tighter. The whole day and the next night the Germans were probing in the defence, but this held under the pressure. This was also due to the assistance of artillery from the American 155mm guns of the 1st US Infantry Division, who gave support to the artillery of the 5th RHA units of the 22nd Armoured Brigade. Furthermore, the 3rd RHA, 5th Army Group Royal Artillery and a battery of the 64th Medium Regiment and two 52nd Heavy Regiment artillery batteries gave support to the stricken troops. Also RAF Typhoon fighterbombers were looking for German targets.

On 15 June the Germans attacked a couple of times which made some casualties to the 22nd Armoured Brigade. At some points the attackers got threw the first line of defence, but the second line held every time. Around 19.00 hours the most serious attack came from the south and from the north-east. 5th RHA G, C and K Battery shot 1400 grenades in three hours. Three company’s infantry with support of three Tiger tanks put up a fierce attack, but the artillery of the 5th RHA laid a bloody barrage of fire and stopped the German attack. Between the 700 and 800 casualties for the Germans were the result and some eight tanks were destroyed. After 22.00 hours the fighting died. Two and a half hours later the retreat from the ‘Island’ could commence. To support the retreat, the RAF bombed Aunay-sur-Odon which gave it a perfect diversion. The Germans were slow to respond and the remaining troops, which were part of Operation Perch, pulled back behind the Allied lines near Livry.

What went on after Operation Perch at
click below.