RAF raid on La Caine HQ
|Attack on the Panzer Group West HQ|
|Part of Battle of Normandy|
Modern photograph of the Chateau (Panzergruppe West HQ, 1944)
|United Kingdom||Nazi Germany|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Arthur Coningham||Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg|
|RAF Second Tactical Air Force:||HQ of Panzergruppe West|
|40 Hawker Typhoon fighter-bombers
61 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers
|Casualties and losses|
|None recorded||Killed: Sigismund-Helmut von Dawans and 17 staff officers
Wounded: Geyr von Schweppenburg (Panzergruppe West commander)
The RAF raid on the Panzergruppe West headquarters at La Caine in Normandy was an attack by the Royal Air Force Second Tactical Air Force on 10 June 1944 at the Château at La Caine, north of Thury-Harcourt against the headquarters of Panzergruppe West, the command organisation for German armoured forces in France. Several staff officers were killed in the attack and the Panzergruppe commander, General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg was wounded. The headquarters was withdrawn to Paris, a counter-offensive being prepared against the Allied beachhead was postponed and the headquarters command functions were taken over by the headquarters of the I SS Panzer Corps. Panzergruppe West remained non-operational until 28 June.
During the Battle of Normandy, the headquarters of Panzergruppe West was established in the Château at La Caine. On 8 June, the location of the headquarters was revealed to British Intelligence by Ultra.[Note 1] On 10 June, aircraft of the Second Tactical Air Force bombed the village. The raid was carried out by 40 rocket-armed Typhoons of No. 124 Wing, consisting of Nos. 181, 182 and 247 squadrons and No. 245 Squadron of No. 121 Wing, which attacked in three waves from low altitude and by 61 B-25 Mitchells of No. 137 and 139 Wings, comprising Nos 226, 98, 180 and 320 (Dutch) squadrons, dropped 500-pound (230 kg) bombs from 12,000 feet (3,700 m).
No. 180 Squadron, headed by Wing Commander Lynn, (139 Wing Commander Flying), led the formation, escorted by 33 Spitfires. 42 Typhoons took part in the operation, eight were fighters armed with four 20mm cannon, while the remaining 34 were also armed with RP-3 rockets. The Typhoons attacked in two waves 30 minutes apart. The first wave of 17 aircraft from 181 and 247 Squadrons, fired 136 rockets from 2,000 feet (610 m) on the parked vehicles and the Château as the Mitchells dropped 536 500-pound (230 kg) bombs accurately across the target. The second wave was "to clear up". The raid suffered no losses. German staff officers watched the aircraft through binoculars as they attacked and eighteen were killed.
The attack destroyed the only western German Army organization capable of handling a large number of mobile divisions. The survivors were withdrawn to Paris and not ready to resume operations until 28 June. German command of the sector was temporarily given to SS-Obergruppenführer Sepp Dietrich and the I SS Panzer Corps. An armoured counter-attack against the Allied beachhead planned for 10 June was postponed for 24 hours and then cancelled. The appointment of new staff under General Eberbach and the preparation of plans for the German armoured counter-offensive were delayed by three weeks. The counter-attack never materialised as events overtook the situation. No German suspicions were aroused about Allied code breaking, because a reconnaissance aircraft had been seen before the raid.
Eighteen members of the HQ staff were known to have died in the raid, including the chief of staff Generalmajor Sigismund-Helmut von Dawans. The group commander, General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg was wounded. Although the château was not badly damaged, the nearby orchard in which the HQ vehicles were parked, was thoroughly bombed and communications equipment was destroyed.
After the war, von Dawans was buried at La Cambe German war cemetery.
- The decrypts also revealed the headquarters of the I SS-Panzer Corps near Tourville, which was attacked twice with no effect.
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