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5 May 1940


5 May 1940

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29 May 1940 Five Swordfish from 825 NAS flying from RAF Thorney Island were lost in a single bombing raid over France whilst supporting Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the BEF at Dunkirk.

The Squadron CO Lt Cdr James Brian “Jimmy’ Buckley DSC RN and Lt R. G. Wood were captured and sent to POW Camps. Buckley arrived at the Dulag Luft transit camp (Durchgangslager der Luftwaffe) with Sqn Ldr Roger Bushell RAF. Buckley himself escaped from Dulag Luft in June 1941, through a tunnel, but was recaptured three days later, and sent to Stalag Luft I at Barth.

He was immediately appointed as ‘Head of the Escape Committee”. When Barth became over crowded, Buckley was moved to Stalag Luft II at Sagen. In October 1942 Buckley was moved again to Oflag XXI-B at Schubin, but before departing handed over the role of ‘Big X’ - head of the camp escape committee – to Bushell, who later masterminded the infamous ‘Great Escape’ from the camp in March 1944.

On the evening of 5 March 1943 Buckley, along with 34 other prisoners, ecaped through a 150ft long tunnel. All the escapees were recaptured within a few days, except Buckley and his Danish travelling companion Jorgen ‘Billy’ Thalbitzer… who went under the name FO Thompson RAF to hide his real identity from his captors.

The two men reached Copenhagen,but events at this stage are slightly muddled. however I am indebted to reader Bo Harmandsen who has offered the following detail.

Thalbitzer was able to contact his family, who put him in contact with the Danish resistance fighter, Jørgen Røjel. He smanaged to procure a small canoe and set the two men off on a course that should take them across the narrow strait to Sweden without any trouble but it was a foggy night, and very cold. 'Billy' Thalbitzer's body was found washed ashore on Sjælland. The police did an investigation, and all evidence pointed to them being run down by a German patrolboat. Buckleys body was never found. It appears both men may have survived the collision, as they had removed scarves, overcoat and gloves in the water, but probably succombed to exposure in the cold waters.


Verfügungsdivision May 1940

Post by Elyncho » 17 Dec 2008, 17:12

I'm hoping someone out there might be able to help point me in the direction of any accounts or information on the SS-VT during the battle for France in 1940 and in particular their role in crossing the La Bassee Canal around 22-28 May. They don't seem to be well represented in the literature. I'm researching the fighting around Robecq-St Venant-St Floris and I'd like to find any personal accounts, war diaries or unit histories. I have found reference to one by a guy called Hoffman (?) which apparently was published in Signal in 1941 but haven't found a copy yet.

Any suggestions very welcome

Re: Verfugungsdivision May 1940

Post by tigre » 20 Dec 2008, 15:05

Hello Tim here goes something, hoping may be useful for you.

The Battle of Aire
German Flank Guard Actions During the 1940 French Campaign.
by B. H. Friesen.

Cavalry units traditionally carry out reconnaissance and security missions. While all these types of missions are difficult, providing flank security for a moving force is arguably the most complex. Smaller units, such as battalions or brigades, perform such missions more easily. Habitual working relationships, compact force sizes, and tolerable distances facilitate this. Conducting such operations in support of corps- or army-size movements however, begins to border on impossible. The SS V [Verfügung - Readiness] Division carried out just such an operation in support of the German thrust through the Ardennes to the English Channel in May 1940.

On 18 May 1940, seven German panzer divisions began their westward thrust through the Ardennes Forest. This caught the French and British off guard. Both armies expected an attack through Belgium, as in the First World War. They defended the Ardennes lightly, believing them to be impenetrable to armored vehicles, and moved the bulk of their forces northeast into Belgium. Using every available road and trail, German tanks penetrated the exact area the Allies felt was most secure. Achieving complete surprise, the Germans punched a hole between Arras and Peronne, and rushed towards the English Channel. Upon reaching the coast, they would isolate all British, French and Belgian forces north of the Somme River (see Map I).

General Reinhardt's XLI Corps was the unit directly on the right flank of the penetration, with no friendly units at all to the west or north. The unit with the mission of providing flank security for the corps (and thus the entire German armored thrust) was the SS V Division. The division consisted of three motorized infantry regiments ("Der Führer," "Deutschland," and "Germania"), a towed artillery regiment, reconnaissance battalion (armored cars and motorcycles) and antitank battalion. It also had an engineer battalion, signal battalion, antiaircraft machine gun battalion, and division support elements.

The Division Commander, Gruppenführer [Major General] Paul Hausser, returned from the corps command post at 10:30 hours and issued the following order to his subordinate units: “Secure the corps’ right flank lf the enemy attacks, turn east, attack the enemy and push him back towards the east. ”

Source: Armor Magazine. Jan – Feb 1994.

Feliz Navidad - Feliz Natal - Frohe Weihnachten - Joyeux Noël - Merry Christmas.

Re: Verfugungsdivision May 1940

Post by Elyncho » 22 Dec 2008, 15:51

Re: Verfugungsdivision May 1940

Post by tigre » 24 Dec 2008, 12:28

Hello to all here goes a little more.

The Battle of Aire (2º part).
German Flank Guard Actions During the 1940 French Campaign.
by B. H. Friesen.

The division deployed in three march groups. The Regiment SS “Der Fuhrer,” the advance guard, began moving at 13:30 hours. Its lead element was Hauptsturmführer [Captain] Johannes Muhlenkamp’s 15th Motorcycle Infantry Company (kradschützen kp), equipped with motorcycles and machine guns on side cars.

Following the 15th Company were the 2d Battalion/ SS-DF, the 2d Battalion of the SS Artillery Regiment, the regimental staff, the 1st Battalion/SS-DF and the 3d Battalion/SS-DF. All subordinate units provided their own flank security. The artillery battalion’s location enabled it to provide protective fire for the entire march group with primary emphasis forward. Barring enemy contact, the march group’s final objective was the town of Aire.

The Regiment SS “Deutschland” followed immediately behind the Regiment SS “Der Fuhrer.” The Regiment SS “Germania” followed the 6th Panzer Division, to the left of the main body. The latter two regiments had an organization similar to SS “Der Fuhrer.”

Source: Armor Magazine. Jan – Feb 1994.

Feliz Navidad - Feliz Natal - Frohe Weihnachten - Joyeux Noël - Merry Christmas.

Re: Verfugungsdivision May 1940

Post by tigre » 27 Dec 2008, 12:59

Hello to all here goes something more.

The Battle of Aire (3º part).
German Flank Guard Actions During the 1940 French Campaign.
by B. H. Friesen.

At 1858 hours, the corps headquarters sent the following radio message to the division: “Main bodies of 6th and 8th Panzer Divisions halt in the Lys Sector. SS V Division provides flank security along the Divion- St. Hilaire line.”

General Hausser ordered the regiments to secure the entire length of the corps flank and organize for a defense towards the northeast. The Regiment SS “Der Führer” secured the Estrée Blanche-Rely-St. Hilaire area (see Map 2). The advance guard and 2d Bn/SS DF (reinforced by the 2d Company from the 1st Bn/SS DF) deployed in and around the town of Aire. The 3d Bn/SS DF(-) assumed positions along the Canal d’Aire, with some of its companies in reserve to the south. The 1st Bn/SS DF(-) and 2d Bn of the SS Artillery Regiment deployed in and around Blessy and Rely as the regimental reserve. The entire Regiment SS “Der Führer’’ organized for a defense in depth. It would bear the brunt of the impending attack.

Shortly after midnight on 23 May, isolated shots began to ring out along the Canal d’Aire. These shots became weak enemy probes against the regiment’s forward outposts by 0400 hours. The SS troopers were becoming edgy in the face of what they felt was an impending attack. Reports of enemy contact grew like a crescendo until the regimental command post heard the sounds of combat erupt from the direction of Aire. The night was pitch black, making observation completely impossible. This resulted in a lack of detailed reports by the forward outposts and even the units themselves. Something was happening out there, but the regiment’s leaders did not know its magnitude.

Source: Armor Magazine. Jan – Feb 1994.

Feliz Año Nuevo - Happy New Year - feliz Ano Novo - gluckliches Neues Jahr - Bonne Année - Felice Anno Nuovo.

Re: Verfügungsdivision May 1940

Post by tigre » 03 Jan 2009, 13:34

The Battle of Aire (4º part).
German Flank Guard Actions During the 1940 French Campaign.
by B. H. Friesen.

Untersturmführer [Second Lieutenant] Schulze cursed as he approached the outskirts of Aire at the head of his reinforced platoon. As part of the 7th Company, he was responsible for securing the Aire bridge with his platoon and attached antitank guns. The only problem was that this was surely one of the darkest nights in history. He could not even see his hand in front of his face! Making it through the congested streets of Aire without killing. or injuring one of his men would undoubtedly be one of the “leadership challenges” his commander was so fond of.

About halfway through the town, Schulze suddenly found his path blocked by a vehicle. He dismounted and discovered a serpentine armored column winding its way through the streets. Those damned tankers from the panzer division were obviously out of their assigned sector again. Schulze still had his mission to think of, so he joined the column to reach the northern edge of Aire as quickly as possible.

The advance was very sporadic. Schulze’s impatience increased each time his vehicle lurched to a stop as the column halted again. A tank blocked his way for several minutes, refusing to budge. Schulze’s patience reached its end. He jumped angrily out of his vehicle and climbed to the top of the tank. He tapped on the shut hatch with his tobacco pipe. It swung open with a loud, metallic click, and a torrent of French greeted Schulze! The hair on the back of his neck stood up, but he cleverly gave no answer. Instead, he ran back along the length of his platoon, silently ordering the men to unhitch the antitank guns. They then man-handled them into positions along the side streets. While they did so, Schulze quickly positioned his infantrymen in the houses and gardens along both sides of the road. Within the space of five minutes, his platoon was in position.

In spite of the situation, Untersturmfüihrer Schulze could not help smiling when he thought of the chaos that would erupt shortly. When he was sure all his guns had found their targets, he ordered the one he was standing beside to open fire. The others joined in a split second later. The surprise and confusion were absolute. Antitank rounds ripped through the French armor at point-blank range, causing violent, brilliant explosions along the length of the column. The French had absolutely no idea where the fire was coming from. Amidst the screams of the wounded and dying, the tankers sought refuge in the houses along both sides of the road. They rushed directly into the waiting German infantry. Once the initial confusion passed, the French defended themselves bravely and shot up all of the antitank gun prime movers. They withdrew from Aire, leaving 20 of their destroyed tanks behind. Schulze’s platoon did not suffer any casualties.

Source: Armor Magazine. Jan – Feb 1994.

Re: Verfügungsdivision May 1940

Post by tigre » 07 Jan 2009, 11:51

Hello to all a little more of it.

The Battle of Aire (5º part).
German Flank Guard Actions During the 1940 French Campaign.
by B. H. Friesen.

By dawn, the enemy probes had become a full-scale infantry attack with armor support. French forces had already penetrated the regiment’s security positions in the darkness and had bypassed Aire, leaving the 2d and 7th Companies isolated there. French tanks and infantry poured into Blessy, where command posts of the 2d Bn/DF and the artillery battalion were co-located, along with an artillery battery. This surprised the Germans, but they managed to defend the command posts with the help of direct fire from the artillery battery. The 2d Bn/DF command post had meanwhile alerted the rest of the battalion and issued orders for a counterattack. The counterattack occurred almost immediately, pushing the French out of Blessy.

The 3d Battalion was having a difficult time also. The entire unit stretched thinly along the Canal d’Aire, guarding three crossings in a very wide sector. The 9th Company, under Hauptsturmfuhrer [Captain] Heinz Harmel, guarded the most important crossing near Isbergues. A force of 50 French tanks and one battalion of infantry smashed through the 9th Company and pushed towards St. Hilaire in two separate columns. This heavy blow also isolated the 10th and 11th Companies in the 3d Battalion’s sector. Fortunately, Harmel’s company did not disintegrate, but established isolated pockets of resistance. More important, it sent accurate reports to the regimental command post
and apprised the commander of the situation. The l0th and 11th Companies were still combat effective. They began attacking the rear of the enemy units that had bypassed them.

The situation was now extremely critical. Two battalions of French tanks supportted by two battalions of infantry had crossed the Canal d’Aire, penetrating deep into the regimental sector. Unknown to the division, another French armor and infantry force approached Lillers from the northeast (see Map 3). The Regiment “Der Führer” was in danger of annihilation. More important, the vulnerable support elements of the XLI Corps were in danger of destruction should the French tanks penetrate the corps’ flank as well. This would temporarily halt the German advance to the English Channel and give the Allies a chance to evacuate or establish a stronger defensive line.

Source: Armor Magazine. Jan – Feb 1994.

Re: Verfügungsdivision May 1940

Post by tigre » 10 Jan 2009, 16:34

Hello to all a little more of it.

The Battle of Aire (6º part).
German Flank Guard Actions During the 1940 French Campaign.
by B. H. Friesen.

0berführer [Colonel] Georg Keppler, commander of the Regiment “Der Fuhrer,” formulated the following plan. The 1st Bn/DF(-) would deploy out of Rely and attack through Witternesse towards Aire. The elements of the 2d Bn/DF that had withdrawn would simultaneously attack out of Blessy towards Aire. Both battalions had the mission of pushing the enemy back across the Canal d’Aire in the Aire sector. The remainder of the 3d Bn/DF was to advance east through St. Hilaire, towards Lillers, to force the enemy back across the canal there (see Map 4).

The 1st Bn/DF(-) captured Witternesse by 1100 hours and pushed the enemy back to Aire. The unit also captured a sizable number of prisoners. The 2d Bn/DF(-) reached the western edge of Aire at 1200 hours. It immediately attacked the weak enemy defensive positions there. Barely one hour later, the 1st Bn/DF(-) entered Aire from the south almost unopposed. The French had shifted the bulk of their defenders to the west against the 2d Battalion. The 1st Battalion made contact with the isolated 2d and 7th Companies. These two units had begun fighting their way south when they heard the sounds of battle in western Aire. The 1st Bn/DF then secured the canal crossings at Aire, thereby sealing off one of the prongs of the French attack.

Gruppenführer [Major General] Hausser had meanwhile judged the main point of effort to be in the Regiment “Der Fuhrer’s” sector. He directed the Regiment “Germania” to send a company to St. Hilaire to assist the 3d Bn/DF halt the enemy advance. The remainder of “Germania” would remain south of the Regiment “Der Fuhrer” to provide depth to the guard operation. The Regiment “Germania” sent its most mobile unit, the 15th (Motorcycle Infantry) Company, north to St. Hilaire to link up with the 3d Bn/DF(-). The company had supporting antitank guns. At 0700 hours, the 15th Company’s lead elements entered St. Hilaire from the south, exactly the same time that a French tank unit entered the town from the east.

The two units became hopelessly intermingled and vicious fighting broke out in the town. The commander of the 15th Company reported his predicament to the Regiment “Germania’s” command post, requesting additional antitank support. The company assumed defensive positions in basements, barnyards, and side streets. It positioned antitank guns at critical avenues throughout the town. The antitank guns quickly knocked out three French tanks and several fuel trucks on the main road, creating a bottleneck for the French armored column. Observers from the 15th Company spotted a long column of tanks halted along the St. Hilaire-Lillers road and relayed this information to the regimental command post.

Source: Armor Magazine. Jan – Feb 1994.

Re: Verfügungsdivision May 1940

Post by tigre » 15 Jan 2009, 01:50

Hello to all a little more of it.

The Battle of Aire (7º part).
German Flank Guard Actions During the 1940 French Campaign.
by B. H. Friesen.

At 0800 hours, the 3d Bn/DF(-), under the command of Sturmbannführer [Major] Otto Kumm, entered St. Hilaire from the west and made contact with the 15th Company ”Germania.” The only units Kumm had at his disposal were elements of his 9th and 12th Companies and a platoon from the battalion’s antitank company. This was his unit’s first encounter with tanks and the soldiers were very apprehensive.

Kumm personally led attacks against individual tanks, destroying them by placing satchel charges under their turrets or throwing grenades into their hatches. His dynamic leadership dispelled the myth among his troops that tanks were invincible. In the next hour, 13 French tanks went up in flames to his infantrymen and antitank gunners. The 3d Bn/DF(-) turned the St. Hilaire bottleneck into a road block for the French armored column.

Gruppenführer [Major General] Hausser immediately dispatched the division’s antitank battalion to the area south of the St. Hilaire-Lillers road. By noon, the entire French armored column was nothing but buming hulks.

The Germans captured a total of 500 French prisoners in St. Hilaire. The 3d Bn/DF(-) then advanced to Lillers, capturing the town at 1130 hours. The 10th and 11th Companies joined it there, having fought their way south from the Canal d’Aire. The 15th Company “Germania” remained behind in St. Hilaire and reconnoitered north to maintain contact with the enemy forces there.

By the afternoon of 23 May, the Regiment “Der Fuhrer” had sealed the first French penetration at Aire and pushed the second one back to the high ground around Isbergues. Mopping up operations began in the recaptured territory, but the battle was not over yet.

Source: Armor Magazine. Jan – Feb 1994.

Re: Verfügungsdivision May 1940

Post by tigre » 17 Jan 2009, 14:46

Hello to all a little more of it.

The Battle of Aire (8º part).
German Flank Guard Actions During the 1940 French Campaign.
by B. H. Friesen.

The division reconnaissance battalion had recalled all its patrols north of the Canal d‘Aire that morning. Some had not been able to make it back Untersturmführer [Second Lieutenant] Fritz Vogt commanded just such a patrol of motorcycle infantry and armored cars. While moving south towards Mazinghem, he observed a French column crossing the main road in an easterly direction. Vogt frowned, his boyish face concealing combat experience and tactical ability far beyond his years. He estimated its strength to be that of a motorized infantry battalion. He was no longer aware of the overall situation facing his division. He knew, however, that an enemy movement this size threatened the flank of both his division and the corps it guarded. Thoroughly outmatched in terms of firepower and mass, Vogt knew he would have to rely exclusively on maneuverability and surprise.

He positioned his two antitank guns in a concealed position overlooking the column. He then assembled his motorcycle squad and two armored cars. Ordering his antitank guns to open fire on the rear of the column, he jumped onto a motorcycle and sped off. He led his small force around numerous hedges and through depressions until he had outflanked the French column. He waited less than a minute for the head of the column to appear and opened fire at point-blank range. His force adjusted its fire from the front of the column to the rear while the antitank guns he left behind did the opposite. The French column was in complete confusion. The soldiers believed that they were under attack along their entire flank.

Several minutes later, white handkerchiefs flapped in the breeze along the entire column. Vogt moved his small group in and quickly disarmed them. By the time the French realized that his force consisted of only 30 men, it was too late. The French commander shook with rage and embarrassment as it dawned upon him that Vogt had tricked him. Vogt grinned so hard he thought his jaw would break. Several weeks later, Untersturmführer Fritz Vogt received the Knight’s Cross for this daring ruse.

Source: Armor Magazine. Jan – Feb 1994.

Re: Verfügungsdivision May 1940

Post by tigre » 21 Jan 2009, 14:38

Hello to all the end of it.

The Battle of Aire (9º part).
German Flank Guard Actions During the 1940 French Campaign.
by B. H. Friesen.

Prisoner interrogations strongly indicated that another French armor force was moving west from Bethune. Reconnaissance patrols confirmed this. Hausser believed that this was the time to commit the entire Regiment “Germania.” He directed the regiment to deploy north and south of Auchy and prepare to conduct a movement to contact to the east (see Map 5).

The regiment began moving at 1400 hours and met the enemy tanks at the heights of St. Hilaire. This was the last of the French armor and the force was too small to overpower a motorized regiment supported by the division’s antitank battalion. The tanks quickly lost their momentum and began to withdraw. The Regiment “Germania” pursued them, pushing the enemy back along the entire front in a great sweeping action. The antitank units destroyed many French tanks. The regiment pushed all enemy forces it did not capture or destroy back to the canal by nightfall.

The enemy tried to force penetrations into the division and corps flank in three separate areas. The SS V Division halted and repulsed him on each occasion. The Germans destroyed over 60 armored vehicles and captured close to 4,000 enemy soldiers.

Source: Armor Magazine. Jan – Feb 1994.

Re: Verfügungsdivision May 1940

Post by tigre » 24 Jan 2009, 15:47

Hello to all as a complement here goes an account written by Win Brandt SS AA V-T CO during the Westfeldzug.

On 24 May, regiments of the division succeeded in crossing the La Bassee Canal. The regiment on the right flank captures St. Venant while the reconnaissance detachment advances towards Allouagne. New reconnaissance is sent forward. Two reconnaissance parties had to advance in the direction of Estaires: one through Bethune. The other through St. Venant. While attempting to cross the bridge to the north of Bethune, the first party is subjected to enemy fire. One armored vehicle falls into a ditch, and motorcyclists are forced to dismount and engage the enemy.

The second reconnaissance party, after Passing St. Venant at 2:00 PM in the direction of Merville, was already nearing the latter, when suddenly enemy tanks had cut off its retreat. Only one of the two armored vehicles succeeded in breaking through to the rear. At 5:30 PM this reconnaissance party reports that it is encircled by the enemy. The 2d Company, reinforced by antitank guns, is sent to its rescue.

At the same time the British, moving through Merville in the southwestern direction, executes tank attack against the German infantry. After a somewhat critical situation, the British attack was repulsed. Also the 2d Company, moving north of the Lys Canal, runs against British tanks. Due to the fact that the elements of the divisions retired at nightfall back across the canal, the 2d Company was also compelled to retreat. The encircled reconnaissance party reported by radio that during the night it will attempt to break through.

The next morning the reconnaissance detachment was moved to Ham. A report was received from the encircled party. to the effect that it was unable to break through, but up to 9:30 AM it nevertheless continued to communicate by radio on all enemy movements in the vicinity of Merville. Then the contact ceased. This party was captured by the British.

Source: Motorized Reconnaissance Detachment in Combat in Flanders. By Wim Brandt (SS AA VT CO). Militar Wochenblatt.

Re: Verfügungsdivision May 1940

Post by tigre » 29 Jan 2009, 01:52

Hello to all at least the end of it.

On May 27, the SS-VT started its attack with the SS Germania to the right and the SS Der Fuhrer to the left the SS AA pressed forward between the Der Fuhrer's I. and III. Battalions. The densely wooded terrain enabled the British to fight effectively against this attack also helped by the well-constructed field fortifications.

On the attack's right wing, sharpshooters from the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment wreaked havoc upon the SS Germania nevertheless the SS unit made subtantial progress and by the end of the day had advanced as far as the town of Haverskesque. Meanwhile the SS Der Fuhrer had pushed the enemy back through the Bois D'Amont reaching the Canal de Nieppe.

On May 28, due to the Nieppe Forest was now situated in a salient vulnerable to isolation and encirclement, the BEF evacuated all its force from the area.

While these SS units saw action in the Nieppe Forest, the SS Deutschland marched on Merville and on May 27, confronted a fresh line of British forces arrayed along the Lys Canal. After softening the enemy positions with artillery fire the III. Battalion launched its assault driving the British out of this area. Later in the day the two others battalions were on the other side of the waterway establishing bridgeheads for other german forces.

Source: SS Das Reich. The history of the of the Second SS Division 1939 -1945. Gregory L. Matson. Chapter 4 The West.


Allies Faced Muddy Political Structure

Politically, the structure was also muddied. Premier Paul Reynaud—who headed the civilian government from March 21 to June 16, 1940—had as a Minister of War a political rival, Edouard Daladier (1884-1970), whom he had succeeded as premier. It did not augur well for harmonious work once the German attack began.

The same was true of the British political situation in London’s War Cabinet. Arthur Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) had been British Prime Minister for three years beginning in May 1937, and left office on the day of the German offensive in the West, May 10, 1940. The monarch and head of state—King George VI—wanted to appoint as his successor Lord Halifax (the former Edward Wood, 1881-1959), with Chamberlain’s approval.

“But,” according to author M.R.D. Foot, “[Halifax] refused the post: he was no military strategist and probably calculated he could restrain the impulsive Winston Churchill better by serving under him [and] was a self-confessed anti-Semite.” Thus it came to pass that the man whom both Chamberlain and Halifax had opposed politically for a decade left his post as First Lord of the Admiralty in the War Cabinet to become Prime Minister.


Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum

1 RWF at St Venant, France, 1940
The battalion was ordered to capture four bridges. St Venant was taken on the 25th and because of the enemy strength this was where the battalion was forc ed to concentrate, without adequate anti-tank weapons. On the 27th it was attacked by German tanks and the bridge captured. Engineers had left it unattended. The Commanding Officer was killed as he crossed the bridge. Only five officers and 263 men returned to the UK.

The remarkable sequence of the attached photos show the SS Germania Regiment (Part of the infamous Totenkopf Division) attacked at St Floris and the following day at Robecq against the 3rd Panzer Division. The Germans advanced on the town with their armor, their transport crossing the canal close to the present RWF Memorial, a Panzer MkII in the town Square at the end of the battle, RWF and DCLI PoWs and Casualties most of them would spend the war in a PoW Camp. The final colour photo of the RWF Memorial.


The “Secret” Details in the 1940 Census You May Be Missing

The 1940 census of the United States is a particularly exciting one for genealogy research for a number of reasons — the most obvious being that is was only indexed and released for public consumption a few years ago. The new records gave many of us a special chance to add vital new details to the our ancestors’ stories.

But there is a critical element of this massive family history resource that often gets overlooked. Built into the 16th census of the USA was a brand new initiative — the collection of a statistical sample of information for the purpose of extrapolating demographic data for the entire US.

MyHeritage is offering 2 free weeks of access to their extensive collection of 12 billion historical records, as well as their matching technology that instantly connects you with new information about your ancestors. Sign up using the link below to find out what you can uncover about your family.

This means that 5% of individuals listed in the census, or approximately 2 on every page, were asked additional questions about their lives. Many researchers may already be aware of this–but for those who are new to census research, or who are simply not expecting the supplemental information, it can be easy to miss these ‘secret’ details. 5% may not seem like a lot, but given that most families have multiple members listed on a page your chances of having a relation included are pretty good.

How do you know if your ancestor was selected to provide additional details?

Take a look at this census image below and you’ll see that entry number 42 has some additional text next to the number,”Suppl. Quest.” This denotes that the individual was asked the important additional questions.

Where is this supplemental information found?

Scroll down to the bottom of the census page and you’ll see a section that says “Supplementary Questions.” Look for the correct slot for your ancestor, in this case 42, to find the additional information.

What additional details were collected?

Census.gov lists all of the questions that were asked on the 1940 census, including supplementary questions, on their website. The breakdown is below. To find information for other census years go here.

Supplementary Questions

  • Name
  • Person’s father’s birthplace
  • Person’s mother’s birthplace
  • Person’s mother or native tongue

To Veterans

Is this person a veteran of the United States military forces or the wife, widow, or under-18-year old child of a veteran?

  • If so enter “Yes”
  • If the person is a child of a veteran, is the veteran father dead?
  • War or military service
    Enumerators were to mark “W” for World War I “S” for the Spanish-American War, the Phillipine insurrection, or Boxer Rebellion “SW” for both the Spanish-American War and World War I “R” for peacetime service only or “Ot” for any other war or expedition

Social Security: For persons 14 years old and over

  • Does this person have a federal Social Security number?
  • Were deductions for federal Old-Age Insurance or railroad retirement made from this person’s wages in 1939?
  • If so, were deductions made from all, one-half or more, or less than one-half of the person’s wages or salary?
  • What is this person’s usual occupation?
  • What is this person’s usual industry?
  • What class of worker is this person?

For all women who are or have been married

  • Has this person been married more than once?
  • Age at first marriage
  • Number of children ever born

Where can I access the 1940 census records for free?

There are many places to find free census records online. We recommend FamilySearch. Find the search page for the 1940 census here.

The National Archives also hosts the 1940 census for free, but the records must be browsed though by location.

You can find more ideas for where to locate this resource and many other free genealogy records here.

Extra Census Tip: Always check the page directly before and after your ancestors’ entries on the census as you will often find relatives living nearby.

Image: US Department of Agriculture. “An enumerator visits a farmer for the 1940 Census. One of the fifty questions Americans were asked in 1940 was, ‘Does the person’s household live on a farm?'” Credit: Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-91199

23 thoughts on &ldquoThe “Secret” Details in the 1940 Census You May Be Missing&rdquo

Your example shows that supplemental questions were asked of a 5 month old (unless the indicator was not lined up with the correct person)…

I was born in 1932 and lived at my grandfathers house in 1940 with my mother and sister and a couple of uncles. We are not on that census altho I have searched many times. The house was behind a 3 decker at 108 River street in Mattapan, a section of Boston, Massachusetts. My grandfather was Daniel L. Cushing, Mother was Madeline Cushing, my sister was Marianne Barrie and I was Joan Barrie at that time. Not sure which uncles were with us in 1940… Know that uncle Joseph Cushing was but not sure if Edward Cushing was. Any way of entering us for anyone searching? Thanks. Address was 108 River Street, Rear.

I would love to know my great grandmother mom and dad’s name and her siblings. My great grandmother name: Martha Francis (Fannie -nickname) Russell (maiden) Young (married name) Martha was born in 1878 in Stgavsburg (spelling maybe wrong) Cass county, Missouri. She died at Marshall Hill, OK at home in November 27, 1943. She married a man by the name of James Henry Young and they married in 1894. If anyone knows about this family and any of their children’s children or any information it would be so much appreciated.

It’s kind of cool. I did notice it because my father was one of the two people. He was 7 years old.

Desearía saber de que lugar de Italia eran mis abuelos paternos, Antonio Abate y Antonia Santoiani. Se que mi abuelo era viudo y llegó aproximadamente alrededor del 1890. Se casó en Argentina con mi abuela y tuvo ocho hijos. Toda información, será maravilloso. Muy agradecida. Atte. María del Carmen Abate

Busco mis antepasados maternos: Costantini- Sbardelatti (italia) paterno: Pesle-Suarez

Whomever interviewed my aunt Louise Guaragna, residence Massachusetts (married abt 10 years with 3 daughters) MIXED UP her responses with the other person on the page–a 17 year old single girl!!

Hoping this can be corrected!

Depending on where you view the page, there might be a comment / correction section. Ancestry has that, I haven’t seen it elsewhere. I’d chose comment, then add this explanation so others will see it and know too.

How can we correct this info. My dad had a similar problem?

When trying to read the 1940s census for my parents, I could not make out the columns so I downloaded a PDF “How to Read the 1940s Census.” It was the instructions to the census takers. In the column for address, it states list the house numbers in numerical order. That was for column three. But on my parents page the letter “T” appears for all the names. Further instructions: use the letter “T” for those individuals in a camp, hotel, trailer park, etc. My parents were in Benson, Arizona in April 1940. I never heard them mention Arizona but I determine from what I do know of that year of their life they were on their way to San Diego, where I was born, from Missouri, where they met and married, for a job my dad had secured in the aircraft industry.

Be a diligent researcher. In 1940 my mother age 17 is listed 4 times. My fathers family in Hickman county Swan Creek is lusted twice!

Don’t forget the circle with an “x” in it next to a name. That indicates the person who provided the information. So, unlike previous census’, you can tell WHO provided the information. That can help you judge the reliability of the info.

Thank you! My grandmother had the circled X and didn’t know why!

Another important entry in the 1940 census is an individual’s place of residence on 1 April 1935. This is especially helpful in tracing newlyweds back to where they may have met and married. Children under the age of five should not have a location in this section, but occasionally an enumerator did fill in the blanks for the entire family whether they applied or not. Careless is not a new thing.

How does it happen that a census taker in 1940 would end a dead end street with at least two homes left to survey ? They were and are visible from the last he surveyed.

I’m no expert, but am wondering if maybe the people were not at home and the census taker didn’t bother to go back later. I haven’t been able to find my step-grandfather and his family in the 1940 census, and a friend of mine suggested that maybe they were not at home.

Maybe them weren’t built until after 1940.

Kelley, Graham, O’Nise, Coughenhour, McCaffery, 1880- 1970

What would “af” after a persons name stand for? The person in question was 18 years old and a first year college student. Does this mean he was away at school? Thank you.

Normally it has meant ‘alien’, which normally was a non-naturalized or non-USA born citizen. Normally. Anyone else with ideas?

Always looking for ancestors.

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The battle south of Amiens (June 5-9, 1940) ** Update **

Post by David Lehmann » 10 Jun 2008, 01:29

THE BATTLE SOUTH OF AMIENS JUNE 5-9, 1940
– The French artillery fighting the Panzers -

Note: I have also added several photos of German wrecks in this thread (just scroll down and from page to page):
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. . &start=165

On June 5, the German XIV.Panzerkorps (9.PzD, 10.PzD, 13.ID (mot), 9.ID and "Grossdeutschland" regiment) assaults the French positions south of Amiens on the Somme River. The 14-20 km front is hold by the 16e DI supported by 2 companies from 12e BCC (26 Renault R35 tanks) [whereas a complete infantry division is supposed to defend a front of 5-7 km]. This assault is part of the general offensive launched by the Germans for the second stage of the campaign of France and known as Fall Rot. If the German divisions are at full tank strength they could have launched 418 tanks against the French positions.

9.PzD
Panzer I: 30
Panzer II: 54
PzBef: 12
Panzer III: 41
Panzer IV: 16
--> Total = 153 tanks

10.PzD
Panzer I: 44
Panzer II: 113
PzBef: 18
Panzer III: 58
Panzer IV: 32
--> Total = 265 tanks

Nonetheless, the 9.PzD and 10.PzD are already reduced to 50% of operational tanks on June 5 and have only about 225 tanks. The 10.PzD is already reduced to 180 tanks before the battle and therefore the 9.PzD can probably rely only on 45 operational tanks. There are also the 6 Sturmgeschütze III (assault guns) from Sturmgeschütz-Batterie 640, which are attached to the "Grossdeutschland" infantry regiment. There are also theoretically about 140 armored cars in the Aufklärungs-Abteilungen (reconnaissance "battalions") of the different divisions involved. Therefore the German launch probably about 300 AFVs (not counting here all the armored personal carriers) and roughly about 60,000 men against about 15,000 French troops supported by only 26 tanks.

With General Weygand having replaced General Gamelin as the head of the French troops, the obsession of always trying to reconstitute a continuous front has been abandoned. According to their new tactics, the French troops are organized in strong points in the towns and woods and in a depth of about 10 km. These hedgehogs include infantry, AT mines, Hotchkiss Mle1914 MGs, 25mm and 47mm AT guns but also 75mm field guns used in an AT role. They are organized for a 360° defense. The advancing German tanks are rapidly cut from their supporting infantry and confronted on the rear by the French artillery batteries (75mm Mle1897 field guns, 105mm Mle1913 field guns, 155mm C Mle1917 and 155mm GPF field guns) engaging them in direct (75mm field guns but also the 105mm field guns) and indirect fire. On June 8 and 9, the 16e DI rears are reinforced by the 24e DI. After 5 days, the German operation failed in that area and the Germans sustained heavy losses. The XIV.Panzerkorps is then moved from this area and engaged behind the XVI.Panzerkorps near Péronne, where the German assault is more successful. The German troops lost about 135 tanks in that battle (destroyed or transiently damaged), including many definitely destroyed ones especially against French artillery batteries firing directly on the enemy tanks. The 2 French divisions have nonetheless lost 60-70% of their strength and manpower but they have blocked the advance of a Panzerkorps, which was finally directed against a neighbouring part of the front. The isolated hedgehogs fought generally until the end or until the exhaustion of all ammunition. These units were not even peace time units but only reserve units. Unlike in Gembloux (May 14-15, 1940) the French troops had no strong artillery support, first because artillery batteries were engaged in direct fire missions against the German tanks, and second because once the German tanks had bypassed the strong points they were pouring like swarms on the French rears, engaging the HQs, heavy artillery batteries and supply columns. The artillery batteries could then not provide indirect fire support anymore and had to fight in self-defense against the enemy tanks. The strong points were therefore often left with there own mortars to provide support to the infantry. As usual, the German tanks almost always avoided contact with well set up defenses (or in other case French heavy tanks) and went elsewhere to break through the lines, letting the infantry, artillery and aircraft deal with the strong points cut from their rears. After this battle the number of operational tanks of the XIV.Panzerkorps dropped dramatically (at least transiently): on June 8, the 10.PzD was left with 60 tanks only and the 9.PzD with 30 tanks only. The remnants of the 16e DI and 24e DI will continue to fight after this battle like for example on the "Chauvineau Line" near Paris.

The aim of this article is not to describe the whole battle, which would require writing a whole book. Based on the testimony of Jacques Riboud, a forward artillery observer in one of the main strong point we will simply see what happened in a particular area of the front. We will also try to describe what happened on the rears of the strong points, how the French artillery fought the Panzers and how the 19e GRDI and the French tanks launching counter-attacks along with the arrival of the 24e DI behind the 16e DI stopped definitely the German advance in this area. Jacques Riboud's "Souvenirs d'une bataille perdue" has already been published in 1994 but I discovered this book in its 2006 edition. Jacques Riboud was a Lieutenant and forward observer in a reserve horse-drawn heavy artillery regiment equipped with 155mm C Mle1917 Schneider howitzers (237e RALHD from the 16e DI). In civilian life he has been on the "Ecole des Mines" and was an engineer later specialized in petrol chemistry. After the campaign of France, Jacque Riboud left France and went to the USA in March 1941 since he was married to Nancy Riboud (originally Nancy Bowe). He was interrogated a long time by the US intelligence services about the battles and especially about the combat between the French artillery and the German tanks.

MAP 1
Map of the area South of Amiens (source: "Historique du 306e RAP" by colonel Brock)

Re: The battle south of Amiens (June 5-9, 1940) ** Update **

Post by David Lehmann » 10 Jun 2008, 01:32

He wrote several articles for the US "Field Artillery Journal" on the request of Colonel John Coleman. He used the name of Jean Dupont to write his articles when France was occupied and later there is an article from him in the magazine in 1946 with his real name. He told his story to his sister-in-law (Mary Bowe) who wrote it in English. Apparently William Bowe (son of Mary Bowe) wrote a book based on these notes but it seems not to have been published. The title would have been "The horse war - A story of the Fall of France".

So far we have a series of articles from him published in 1941 in the "Field Artillery Journal". The same journal shows in parallel the testimony of a German tanker taking part in the same battle (translation from a German source). His whole platoon was destroyed in a few minutes by the French AT guns before they could realize what was happening.
Other documents will be used here such as French war diaries:
• "Le 19e Groupe de Reconnaissance Divisionnaire (1939-1940)". The reconnaissance group of the 16e DI, which launched a counter-attack on Oresmaux on June 6.
• "Historique du 306e RACP – 1939-1940" (Colonel Brock). Data about an artillery regiment involved in the battle.
The best French study of this battle is probably from Pierre Vasselle in "La bataille au sud d'Amiens, 20 mai – 8 juin 1940". A German study and the number of the operational German tanks and losses can be found in Volkmar Regling's study (in German language) from MGFA Freiburg: "Amiens 1940: der deutsche Durchbruch südlich von Amiens 5. bis 8. Juni 1940". No one can then say that the losses are only based on French claims.
"Corps à corps avec les blindés" (Henri Lespès) is another source about this battle. This book illustrates the history of the 5th battery of the 37e RAD. It is a 75mm Mle1897 field battery from a reserve regiment, which fought against the German tanks in direct fire. One of the guns had an Arbel platform for a 360° traverse. They did not meet German tanks before this battle but fought very valiantly and knocked out many German tanks before being neutralized.

Jacques Riboud left France and wrote his testimony about the summer of 1940. When he wrote he did not use his real name and did not include names of others as France was under control of the Germans and he did not wish to place others in harms way. In the German testimony the names of locations are also not clearly indicated (e.g. Axxxxx which would be Amiens). The details of the combats which really took place indicate that it is based on information from someone who had seen combat during the fighting of 1940. It also completely correlates with the book written in French by Jacques Riboud, which is nonetheless more detailed than the shorter article and in which he clearly indicates units, names, locations etc.

The 237e RALHD is a heavy artillery regiment usually meant to be deployed on the rear lines. It has been mobilized on the 9th of September 1939. There are no AT guns in this unit. The unit is equipped with horses and most of the men are simply gunners or drivers and as such they have only 1 carbine for 5 men. The officers are armed with a pistol or a revolver and there are also 2 MGs for AA self-defense. Beside his pure artillery role, this unit is therefore not adapted for a direct fight. Later the group of Jacques Riboud will receive a MAC Mle1924/1929 LMG for self defense.

The regiment is organized in 2 groups of 3 batteries for a total of 24 howitzers plus the headquarters and the supply column. Such a regiment has a theoretical strength of:
• 47 officers, 146 NCOs, 1,527 men = 1,720 soldiers
• 1,320 horses and 197 wagons
• 14 liaison vehicles, 27 light trucks, 2 heavy trucks
• 3 motorcycles, 47 bicycles

The 237e RALHD is part of the 16e DI, a typical "North East" reserve infantry division mobilized on the 7th of September 1939 and organized as follows :
• A divisional HQ (General Mordant is the commander of the division)
• 3 infantry regiments (29e RI, 56e RI and 89e RI - each with a command company, a weapons company and 3 infantry battalions)
• A (13th) divisional pioneer company (attached to 56e RI)
• A (14th) divisional AT company (attached to 29e RI) (CDAC) with 12x 25mm SA34 AT guns
• A divisional training centre (CID)
• A divisional reconnaissance "battalion", the 19e GRDI of normal type (horse mounted cavalry, motorcycles/side-cars and light motor vehicles but no armored cars).
• A light artillery regiment, the 37e RAD
---o 3 artillery groups (36x 75mm Mle1897 field guns)
---o A 10th divisional AT battery (BDAC) (8x 47mm SA37 AT guns – mixed motorized/horse-drawn)
---o A divisional AA battery (BDAA) (703/409e battery, 6x 25mm AA guns)
• A heavy artillery regiment, the 237e RALHD (24x 155mm C Mle1917 howitzers)
• 16th divisional artillery park (PAD = parc d'artillerie divisionnaire)
• 16th engineer battalion (bataillon de sapeurs-mineurs)
• 16th telegraph company (16/81)
• 16th radio company (16/82)
• A horse-drawn HQ transport company (16/8)
• A motor HQ transport company (116/8)
• 16th divisional quartermaster service
• 16th divisional medical group

Re: The battle south of Amiens (June 5-9, 1940) ** Update **

Post by David Lehmann » 10 Jun 2008, 01:35

The theoretical number of AT guns available in a typical division like the 16e DI is about 52x 25mm AT guns and 8x 47mm AT guns for a total of 60 AT guns:
• 12x 25mm SA34 AT guns in each of the 3 infantry regiments:
---o 2 in each of the 3 infantry battalions
---o 6 in the regimental heavy company
• 12x 25mm SA34 AT guns in the divisional AT company (CDAC)
• 4x 25mm SA34 AT guns in the GRDI
• 8x 47mm SA37 AT guns in the BDAC
The fact that the CID of the 16e DI had AT guns is not sure but it is reported that the division was lacking 20x 25mm AT guns. It had therefore only around 30x 25mm AT guns.
A few days before the battle the BDAC commanded by Capitaine Dumougin was reinforced by the 651e BAC (independent AT battery, fully motorized unit equipped with 8x 47mm SA37 AT guns). One of these additional guns had been destroyed by the Luftwaffe. The 16e DI started therefore the battle with strength of about 30x 25mm AT guns and 15x 47mm AT guns. Nonetheless, the division had to defend a front of 14-20 km whereas a typical infantry division is theoretically in charge of defending a front of 5-7 km.

The division could also use AT mines. There would probably be theoretically about 1,500 AT mines for the infantry regiments. The GRDI has theoretically 580 AT mines, the anti-tank divisional company and the anti-tank batteries would also theoretically have AT mines. There might be several extra ones in the engineer battalion. We don't know if they were issued with the theoretical numbers or if perhaps they got extra AT mines. The most probable hypothesis is a high shortage in AT mines. We can try an estimation number of theoretically about 2,000 AT mines available in the whole division. Even that high estimation shows that minefields could only be laid as defensive measure in front of several emplacements.

Such a deployment with strong points to cut the infantry from the tanks and disorganize the German inter-arms cooperation can only be efficient if the intervals between the hedgehogs can be strongly shelled by the French artillery. The whole artillery available on the front held by the 16e DI consists in:
• 37e RAD (36x 75mm Mle1897 field guns)
• 237e RALHD (24x 155mm C Mle1917 howitzers)
Reinforced by guns from additional artillery regiments and by the army corps level:
• 315e RAP (12x 75mm Mle1897 field guns – motorized)
• 306e RAP (24x 75mm Mle1897 field guns – motorized)
• 351e RALP (12x 105mm L Mle1913 field guns – motorized)
• 183e RALT (24x 155mm GPF field guns – motorized)

The 306e RAP was assigned to 3rd Army on May 10. On the 1st of May, it had 55 officers, 189 NCOs and 1,266 brigadier and gunners. This regiment was to be re-equipped with 65 Studebaker 5t lorries, 35 by May 8 and 30 more on May 10. It is possible these vehicles were used to form the 7th and 8th groups in May 1940 as the campaign had already started. The regiment did have 75mm guns transported on the back of a lorry (artillerie portée) and were deployed in the field by a farm tractor also transported by lorry. The extra groupes were formed on May 21. The porté regiments were being converted to type tracté (towed) regiments but the Germans attacked whilst this process started. The Studebaker trucks could have been used for this.

That makes a total of 132 field guns and howitzers. Nonetheless 14 of the 75mm field guns are especially detached as AT guns in the strong points. We have therefore a density of 59 AT guns on a 14-20km front. Statistically that leads to 1 gun every 240-340 meters. This number is rather low to stop an assault led by about 300 AFVs and concentrated in swarms of 30-50 vehicles. Nonetheless, the Germans lost about 135 tanks in this battle.

Because of the overstretched front and the different strong points, almost all the troops have been deployed. The single reserves are provided by the 19e GRDI, a platoon of the CID and 2 Renault R35 tank companies from the 12e BCC. These elements will launch counter-attacks on June 5 and June 6. The divisional pioneer company is also kept on the rear.

MAP 2
Defensive deployment of the 16e DI (source: "La bataille au sud d'Amiens" by Pierre Vasselle)

MAP 3
Positions of the French artillery batteries and attack of the German tanks (source: "La bataille au sud d'Amiens" by Pierre Vasselle)

MAP 4
Map illustrating the combat of the 5th battery of the 37e RAD (source: "Corps à corps avec les blindés" by Henri Lespès)

Re: The battle south of Amiens (June 5-9, 1940) ** Update **

Post by David Lehmann » 10 Jun 2008, 01:41

Lieutenant Jacques Riboud was detached among the troops in the town of Saint-Fuscien, south of the Somme River. His testimony published in an article of the Field Artillery Journal (August 1941) is pretty pessimistic but describes how powerless he felt as a simple human being against the swarms of German tanks.
His observation post is shelled heavily for hours (one guy was KIA just next to him). Then his position is attacked by dozens of tanks and later assaulted by German infantry. German troops are only 20 meters from him and his view of the battlefield was quickly very limited by the smoke and the dust. He saw that two of the neighbouring infantry lieutenants were KIA etc. Experiencing these hard combats, one can probably not feel very optimistic. One can add that later he was forced to retreat with a horse drawn unit among armored German troops (and he managed to do that). There was also the shock of the quick Fall of France etc. This can explain why the man does not sound very optimistic.
In June 1940, as an artillery reserve officer he had a very limited view of the overall battle but his testimony is worth to read. Of course as a field artillery unit equipped with howitzers they could not alone stop all the German tanks but unlike what he thought at the moment, the Germans suffered heavy losses. This is proven by German testimonies and by more complete and overall studies of these battles.
Riboud's account and the German tanker after action report are e.g. quite different from each other. The German testimony indicates that things were much harder for Riboud's enemies than he thought at the moment. The German tanker AAR indicates that the French AT guns were hard to spot, deadly and smart enough to knock first out the last tanks of a platoon so that the other Panzers could not notice what was going on early enough to react. The tanker had then to lie and hide, observing later a French counter-attack before being able to move to the German rears.

In the French version of Riboud's book and in Vasselle's book it is described how at Saint-Fuscien a 25mm AT gun knocks out 3 tanks at 20m only. Another 25mm AT gun is dueling with a tank at 30 meters . they fire each several shells but the AT gun is neutralized. There is also a couple of 25mm / 47mm AT guns destroying together a German tank at 400 meters. Seing the effect of the AT mines is not obvious and Riboud says in his book that he could not even direct the fire of the 155mm howitzers anymore because of the smoke and the dust. Gembloux has proven that indirect fire on armored concentrations can be deadly . about 50 Panzers destroyed by that manner. According to Riboud's book it seems less efficient south of Amiens. Were the enemy tanks less concentrated? Was the artillery fire less dense? The 155mm C Mle1917 has indeed a smaller rate of fire than the 75mm Mle1897 mainly used in Gembloux. Again he had only a limited view of what happened and we are let with assumptions to understand. What is true is that the barrage fire could not be fired later against the infantry because the tanks were on the rear attacking the French batteries . and lost again many of them again the 75mm field guns.

However with 15 47mm Mle1937 AT guns in the French hedgehogs the German advance was probably not a Sunday walk. The 47mm Mle1937 AT guns from the BDAC of the 16e DI and from the 651e BAC were deployed as following:

4 guns in the outposts:
• 1x south-west of Dury
• 1x south-east of Dury
• 2x in the hedgehog of Saint-Fuscien

11 guns in the main line:
• 2x in Cambos farm
• 2x in Sains
• 1x between Rumigny and Sains
• 1x in Rumigny
• 2x in Hébécourt
• 2x in Plachy-Buyon
• 1x on the road between Plachy and Notre-Dame-des-Vertus

The guns in Hébécourt and Plachy-Buyon saw no enemy tanks and the gunners fought with the infantry. The 2 guns south of Dury (Lieutenant Borni and Maréchal-des-Logis Bouley) were very efficient. During the first German tank attack, the first gun destroyed 3 tanks and the second gun destroyed 5 tanks. A 6th tank was destroyed by an AT mine. The 2 guns at Cambos farm knocked out 11 German tanks before being overrun. The gun at Rumigny (Maréchal-des-Logis Marchand) destroyed also 2 tanks on June 5 etc. That makes a claim of at least 22 tanks for the BDAC but the fate of all the guns is not detailed.

Concerning the 651e BAC, Adjudant-Chef Lindeboom had 2 guns crushed under the tracks of German tanks but one gun had previously destroyed in flames 8 tanks at 500m and the second gun had destroyed 4 extra tanks. At Saint-Fuscien the gun from Delcambre knocked out 8 German tanks before being crushed. The 4th and last gun of the battery (Maréchal-des-Logis Blondel) moved during combat from a bad emplacement in Saint-Fuscien to Sains were Brigadier Varillon destroyed 5 German tanks. The AT gun is first damaged by bullets and shrapnels before being overrun and crushed. That makes a claim of 25 Germans tanks for the battery but it has been destroyed during this last stand.

The batteries from 306e RAP also engaged enemy tanks in direct fire. For example on June 5, the 5th battery was east of Sains and the 4th battery was deployed south of Sains. German tanks could come in very close before the guns could open fire. A significant number of tanks were destroyed but the batteries were literally crushed under the German tracks.

The book by Henri Lespès describes the fate of the 5th battery from 37e RAD deployed east of Sains. It fought about 40 enemy tanks in a last stand duel, destroying about 12 tanks in several minutes of engagement.
The 5th battery consists in 3 standard 75mm Mle1897 field guns and a 4th one is fitted with an Arbel platform. The latter has therefore a 360° traverse, but at the cost of mobility. Mle1917 Saint-Etienne MGs are used as low level AA protection. On June 4 their position is shelled by German artillery.
On June 5, at 5h45 the Germans launch their assaults. The commander and 2 officers are in a tower nicknamed "mirador" at the exit of Sains (marked by a star on the map taken from this book). By phone they warn the 5th battery that about 40 German tanks are approaching on the right flank and are only at 1,500 meters. It is the first time that this horse-drawn reserve battery will face tanks. The rolling terrain makes it impossible to engage the tanks at long range. The tactical plan is incredibly bad the battery is not deployed for anti-tank defense at all and is going to be an easy prey. The line of sight of the 1st gun is hampered by haystacks in this direction. The 2nd and 3rd gun would fire on the 1st one. Only the 4th gun on its Arbel platform is ready to engage targets coming from the right flank.
The Capitaine, commander of the battery, is climbed on a haystack in a shed to try to spot the incoming tanks. In a hurry, the camouflage nets are now being taken away. APHE shots are stored near the guns to engage tanks and shrapnel shells are also aligned in case of accompanying infantry.
The Capitane sees tanks but the gunners do not yet spot them. Finally a cupola can be seen rising from the ground by the gunners from the 1st gun. The German tank is advancing slowly. The gunner sitting behind the shield and looking in his telescopic sight cannot see the enemy tank yet
Suddenly, on the right numerous tracers and flashes erupt. The tanks are firing and the surrounding haystacks are put on fire.
The gunner from 1st gun can now see the cupola in his sight. Maréchal-des-Logis Troncher remains cold blooded and orders: "One tank in front of us. Fire at the tank. APHE shot. Telescopic sight. 500 meters. Fire when ready." The shot falls too short. 20 Panzers are now concentrating their fire on the 75mm Mle1897 field gun. Bullets are ricocheting against the armored shield, the French emplacement seems to attract all the tracers and the gun is shaked by enemy shells impacting nearby. The German tanks are described as 20-ton tanks armed with a gun and MGs. Three additional tanks appear now in column behind the first one, which moves faster. Troncher shouts "range 900 meters" and is corrected by Lespès "no, 600 meters". The team stays calm and fires. The 4th shot is a hit. Now that the range has been found it is easier to target the tanks. The second tank passes by the first wrecked one. Rapidly this second tank is burning. A German 75mm projectile penetrates the shield right through the armor plate under the arm of Henri Lespès. Fortunately, the Germans use AP shots instead of HE. The crew is hit by fragments. The gunner is wounded and unconscious, two loaders are down. Le Sueur, a replacement gunner targets calmly the tanks and fires only after careful adjustment. The smoke is heavy, and the team can barely target the enemy now. After two minutes, only 2 out of 8 crewmembers are fully operational. The sight of the 1st gun is destroyed and the shield has several holes.
Lieutenant Lespès runs under enemy fire to the 2nd gun, which is 30 meters away. He directs the fire from the 2nd gun and they are duelling with 20 enemy tanks. Every shot is a hit. The nearest Panzer is burning at 100 meters.
The 3rd gun of the battery is now firing above the heads of the crewmembers from 2nd gun and destroys 3 extra tanks. During this time the 2nd gun scores its 4th enemy tanks.
Suddenly the carriage of the 2nd gun is hit and the gun is now inoperable. The ammunition stock of the 3rd gun is on fire. Both crews are retreating. Everywhere the haystacks and the shed are burning, dead cows can only be seen. Ammunition is exploding, the spectacle is apocalyptic.
About 40 German tanks are now stopped in front of the last 75mm gun of the battery (this one has no Arbel platform). The French open fire and engage the duel wit the tanks in the middle of the smoke and dust. Several German tanks are knocked out. Suddenly a Panzer IV unspotted until now is driving at full speed towards the French gun, all guns blazing. It is coming at 45° from the current line of sight. It is impossible to turn the gun quickly enough. The gun is abandoned the 5th battery has ceased to exist. Only 4 men out of 32 are alive. Nonetheless they have destroyed about 12 enemy tanks.

German tanks were not only engaged in direct fire by 25mm AT guns, 47mm AT guns or 75mm field guns, but also by 105mm howitzers. For example, the 5th battery from 351e RA (a series B motorized unit equipped with 105mm L Mle1913 Schneider field guns) is deployed near the south-western exit of the town of Rumigny. Three guns are hidden in hedges along the trail to Hébecourt, the 4th gun is hidden in a haystack. The battery HQ (Capitaine Varille) is installed about 100 meters back in a building dominating the battery.
During the night from June 5 to June 6, all the batteries from the group fired at the entries and exits of Amiens, on the German rears.
Around 3h00, 4 tanks ("2 big and 2 smaller ones") are spotted. They move around the town and come closer to the battery. The tanks are only 30 meters away and open fire. In emergency, the 105mm guns are turned, axes are used to destroy the hedges and 3 minutes after the 2nd 105mm gun fire at a German tank. Too short, too long, target is hit at the 3rd shot. The 3 other tanks withdraw and only one French gunner is WIA by MG fire.
At 7h00, several German tanks are again closing in. The first tank is hit twice by 105mm projectiles and will burn until 12h00. A second tank moves back and a thirs tank is destroyed by a 75mm Mle1897 field gun deployed near Grattepanche (8th or 7th battery from 37e RAD). Other tanks will be moving and threaten the battery during the day but the battery is finally safe and able to move back later.

Several French tanks were also engaged in the area. The 12e BCC was split: 2/12e BCC with the 16e DI and 3/12e BCC with the 13e DI. On June 5, the 2/12e BCC is on the Esserteaux plateau with the mission of stopping German armored elements. One Renault R35 is destroyed by a Panzer IV during an ambush on the move to the deployment area. The first platoon (Lieutenant Provoost) faces a German tank attack. The 3 Renault R35 tanks are hit by numerous 3.7cm projectiles, which do not penetrate the armor. 2 R35 tanks are immobilized by the fire of Panzer IIIs and IVs. The crews continue to fire until ammunition is exhausted and then they evacuate their damaged tanks and join the French lines. The 3rd tank (Caporal Devies) is scattered with 3.7cm impacts and retreats in the French lines. On the evening the 2 abandoned R35 tanks are recovered and towed in the French lines too. For the 3/12e BCC the things are harder in the Esserteaux - Ailly-sur-Noye area and several R35 tanks are destroyed or damaged (5 tanks) by 75mm shells from Panzers IVs. During this day the 12e BCC took part in blocking the German advance. The battalion had lost 5 WIA/KIAs. 3 tanks are destroyed and damaged tanks are transferred to the repair company.

On June 5 at 18h30 the 19e GRDI counter-attacks towards Oresmaux. Its 250 men are reinforced by 12 Renault R35 tanks (Capitaine Gastine) from 12e BCC and an infantry platoon from CID/16. Artillery support is provided by the 155mm C Mle1917 howiters from 221e RALD (24e DI). If I am not wrong the tank company is the 2/12e BCC described in the previous paragraph.
Brief composition of the 19e GRDI:
• HQ (Chef d’Escadrons Doublet), command platoon (Capitaine Gatinet) and HQ support squadron (Capitaine Frebault)
• Horse cavalry (1st) squadron (Capitaine Hauser)
• Motorcycle (2nd) squadron (Capitaine Collin)
• Support (3rd) squadron (MGs and 25mm AT guns) (Capitaine Ebret)
The starting line is the Esserteaux / Ailly-sur-Noye road. The attack is led on a front of 300 meters with the 1st and 2nd squadrons on the first line. The support squadron and the platoon from CID/16 are on a second line. The distance to reach Oresmaux is 2,000 meters on a rather flat ground.
The 2nd squadron advance is easy but they cross an area, where abandoned powder charges from 183e RAL are burning. Platoon Rolland enters the first in the western part of Oresmaux. It joins several men from the divisional AT company (CDAC) located in the town.
On the right, the 1st squadron and the Renault R35 tanks battle with German tanks. 3 French tanks are hit but not destroyed. Maréchal-des-Lgis Lasnier from 19e GRDI is KIA. At 19h50, the advance is stopped and a withdrawal of 300 meters is ordered towards the slopes of Domont woods. Artillery fire is called in to fight the enemy tanks. The squadron will enter in Oresmaux at night fall.
Oresmaux is too huge to be defended by less than 300 men. The defense is organized in the center. The streets are blocked with hay and fuel, ready to be put on fire if German tanks arrive.
The French counter-attack made the German cautious. Their tanks are still completely cut from their supporting infantry because of the all the French strongpoints still fighting. The German tanks move back to the German lines. The night at Oresmaux is quiet.
On June 6 at 6h00, the Germans renew their attacks. The 19e GRDI is reinforced by four 75mm Mle1897 field guns and about 60 men from 56e RI (led by Commandant Mittler) coming from Esserteaux. The defense is organized as following:
• Northern edge of Oresmaux: 2nd squadron and two 75mm guns
• Eastern edge of Oresmaux: 1st squadron, elements from 56e RI and two 75mm guns
• Western edge of Oresmaux: 3rd squadron and CID/16
A motorcycle reconnaissance patrol (Sous-lieutenant Hériard-Dubreuil) is sent to Saint-Sauflieu and reports the occupation by a company from 56e RI.
Another motorcycle reconnaissance patrol (Maréchal-des-Logis Joudelat) is sent to Grattepanche, where German troops are localized.
At 10h00, enemy tanks appear north of Oresmaux, coming from Grattepanche. Several of them are destroyed by the fire of the 75mm guns and the others prefer retreating.
At 12h00, enemy artillery shells the town. At 15h00 German bombers add to the destruction and about 80% of the houses are destroyed.
At 18h00, the town is being encircled by German infantry.
At 19h30, the French troops are ordered to leave Oresmaux and move back to Esserteaux. Except the platoon from Sous-lieutenant Hériard-Dubreuil, which fights skirmishes to break through, the French movement are not perturbed.
The 19e GRDI will then fight delaying rear-guard combats on the Essertaux (Somme) – Domeliers – Puits-la-Vallée – Bresles – Hermes (Oise) axis.

The 24e DI will resist behind the 16e DI until June 9. The divisional anti-tank battery (BDAC from 21e RAD) will also engage enemy tanks. 2 guns are deployed north of Flers (Maréchal-des-Logis Fleuret). The 6th gun is embossed north-east of the Quennetot wwods (Maréchal-des-Logis Dauber) and destroys 5 German tanks on June 7. The 7th gun is first hammered by German 105mm shells and then crushed under the tracks of a German tank. This tank will run several times of Brigadier Hahn. The 8th gun is deployed along the Esserteaux-Jumel road. It will destroy 1 tank and 1 armored car.


Main sources:
• "La bataille au sud d'Amiens, 20 mai – 8 juin 1940" (Pierre Vasselle)
• "Amiens 1940: der deutsche Durchbruch südlich von Amiens 5. bis 8. Juni 1940" (Volkmar Regling, MGFA Freiburg).
• "Souvenirs d'une bataille perdue – 1939/1940" (Jacques Riboud) and articles from the same Lieutenant published in the Field Artillery Journal.
• The testimony of a German tanker also published in the Field Artillery Journal (translation from a German source).
• "Le 19e Groupe de Reconnaissance Divisionnaire (1939-1940)"
• "Corps à corps avec les blindés" (Henri Lespès).
• "Historique du 306e RACP – 1939-1940" (Colonel Brock)


Abbreviations:
• BDAA: Batterie de Défense Anti-Aérienne (divisional AA battery)
• BDAC: Batterie de Défense Anti-Char (divisional AT battery)
• CDAC: Compagnie Divisionnaire Anti-Char (divisional AT company)
• CID: Centre d'Instruction Divisionnaire (divisional training centre)
• DI: Division d'Infanterie (infantry division)
• GRDI: Groupe de Reconnaissance de Division d'Infanterie (divisional reconnaissance "battalion")
• PAD: parc d'artillerie divisionnaire (divisional artillery park)
• RAD: Régiment d'Artillerie Divisionnaire (light divisional artillery regiment)
• RALHD: Régiment d'Artillerie Lourde Horse-drawn Divisionnaire (heavy horse-drawn divisional artillery regiment)
• RALP: Régiment d'Artillerie Lourde Porté (motorized heavy artillery regiment – the guns are towed or transported on trucks)
• RALT: Régiment d'Artillerie Lourde Tracté (motorized/towed heavy artillery regiment)
• RAP: Régiment d'Artillerie Porté (motorized artillery regiment – the guns are towed or transported on trucks)


Watch the video: Dateline 5th and 6th May 2013 # Part - 2 (January 2022).