Attack on Panzer Group West's headquarters at La Caine
|Attack on Panzer Group West's HQ|
|Part of Battle of Normandy|
Modern photograph of the Chateau where Panzer Group West's headquarters was located.
|40 Hawker Typhoon ground attack aircraft
61 Mitchells bombers
|Casualties and losses|
|None recorded||Killed: Sigismund-Helmut von Dawans and 17 other staff officers
Wounded: Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg
The Attack on Panzer Group West's headquarters at La Caine in Normandy was a successful airstrike by the RAF's Second Tactical Air Force. The raid took place on 10 June 1944 and knocked out German control of its armour. The attack resulted in the wounding of the Panzer group commander General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg, the breakdown of German communications and the withdrawal of the HQ to Paris.
During the Battle of Normandy, the headquarters of Panzer Group West was established in the Chateau at La Caine. On 9 June 1944, three days after the Normandy landings, the headquarters' location was revealed to British Intelligence by deciphering of German signals traffic. On 10 June 1944, 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) which attacked in three waves from low altitude and by 61 Mitchells of No. 137 and 139 Wings (comprising Nos 226, 98, 180 and 320 Squadrons) which dropped 500 lb bombs from 12,000 ft.
No. 180 Squadron, headed by Wing Commander Lynn, (139 Wing Commander Flying), led the formation. Some 33 Spitfires acted as escort. 42 Typhoons took part in the operation, eight were 'fighters' armed with just 20mm cannon, while the remaining 34 were also armed with RP-3 rockets. The Typhoons attacked in two waves with 30 minutes between waves. The first wave attack (Seventeen aircraft from 181 and 247 Squadrons) fired 136 rockets from 2,000 feet on the parked vehicles and the chateau and coincided with the assault by the Mitchells, who dropped 536 500 lb bombs accurately across the target area. The second wave's task was "to clear up". The raid suffered no losses.
Casualties and damage
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 most senior officer to be killed in the raid. The group's commander, General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg was wounded. Although the chateau was not badly damaged, the nearby orchard in which the HQ's vehicles were parked was thoroughly bombed and communications equipment was destroyed.
The HQ was rendered non-operational and withdrawn to Paris. German command of the sector was temporarily given to SS-Obergruppenführer Sepp Dietrich and the I SS Panzer Corps. The attack destroyed the only western German Army organization capable of handling a large number of mobile divisions. The appointment of new staff under General Eberbach and the preparation of plans for the German armoured counter-offensive were delayed by a vital three weeks. The counter-attack never materialised as events overtook the situation, as the British Armoured spearhead headed towards Caen.
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