RAF raid on La Caine (1944)
The RAF raid on the Panzergruppe West headquarters at La Caine in Normandy was an attack by the Second Tactical Air Force of the Royal Air Force (RAF) on 10 June 1944. The attack was made on the château at La Caine, north of Thury-Harcourt which was the base of 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 The headquarters was withdrawn to Paris, a counter-offensive being prepared against the Allied beachhead was postponed and the headquarters command functions were taken over by the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.[a] On 10 June, aircraft of the Second Tactical Air Force (2nd TAF) bombed the village. The raid was carried out by 40 rocket-armed Typhoons of 124 Wing, consisting of Nos. 181, 182 and 247 Squadrons and No. 245 Squadron of 121 Wing, that attacked in three waves from low altitude and by 61 B-25 Mitchells of 137 Wing (No. 226 Sqn) and 139 Wing, comprising Nos. 98, 180 and 320 (Dutch) Squadrons, dropping 500 lb (230 kg) bombs from 12,000 feet (3,700 m).
No. 180 Squadron, headed by Wing Commander Lynn (wing leader of No. 139 Wing), led the formation, escorted by 33 Spitfires. 42 Typhoons took part in the operation, eight were fighters armed with four 20 mm cannon and the other 34 also carried RP-3 rockets (sources vary slightly on the number of aircraft on the operation). The Typhoons attacked in two waves thirty minutes apart. The first wave of 17 aircraft from Nos. 181 and 247 Squadrons, fired 136 rockets from 2,000 feet (610 m) on the parked vehicles and the château as the Mitchells accurately dropped 536 500 lb (230 kg) bombs on the target.
The attack destroyed the only German army organisation in the western theatre capable of handling a large number of mobile divisions; the survivors were withdrawn to Paris and not ready to resume operations until 28 June.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 Heinrich Eberbach, delayed the plans for the German armoured counter-offensive by three weeks and the counter-attack never materialised, as it was overtaken by events. 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 (who is interred in La Cambe German war cemetery). Schweppenburg was wounded. The château was not badly damaged but the nearby orchard, in which the HQ vehicles were parked, was thoroughly bombed and communications equipment was destroyed.
- 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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