Questions about "Goodwood"

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Questions about "Goodwood"

Post by Reb » Thu Jan 29, 2004 1:13 pm

Are there any details available on what prompted Gen O'Connor to leave his motor rifle brigades pretty much out of the action? I realize that he wanted to mop up bypassed strongpoints. But if that was his reason, it failed miserably since Cagny was one of those strongpoints.

I'm perplexed by this and the info I've read has been mostly from the German point of view (excepting a few classics like Caen - Anvil of Victory). O'Connor was an outstanding officer in the desert but the best explanation I've heard was that he was "tired." What really happened?

When an operation is as much of a mess as Goodwood there must be more to it than what I've been able to find.

I'm also interested in the details of the Tiger II company of 503 sPz.

Any info would be very much appreciated
reb

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Re: Questions about "Goodwood"

Post by Rich » Thu Jan 29, 2004 2:19 pm

Reb wrote:Are there any details available on what prompted Gen O'Connor to leave his motor rifle brigades pretty much out of the action? I realize that he wanted to mop up bypassed strongpoints. But if that was his reason, it failed miserably since Cagny was one of those strongpoints.
Any info would be very much appreciated
reb
Three reasons - space, time and surprise.

To achieve the last VIII Corps had to move its three armoured divisions and supporting troops across two Orne River bridges into its assembly areas just prior to the start of the bombing program. Then to actually get at the Germans they had to pass through the extensive minefields laid earlier in June by 6 Airborne Divison to protect its enclave east of the Orne. These factors meant that as the head of 11 AD was actually going into action, the leading elements of 7 AD were just beginning to cross the Orne and Guards AD was just closing into the assembly areas and preparing to advance. And because at that time the lorried infantry briagde was not integrated into the armoured brigade, that meant they came in as "tail-end Charlie's" leaving the armoured brigades with just their motor battalions for infantry support.

Hope that answers your question.

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Post by michael kenny » Thu Jan 29, 2004 2:42 pm

Quote:

"I'm also interested in the details of the Tiger II company of 503 sPz2"

Curiously there is very little mention of these Tiger II's in Normandy. They seem to have made very little impact on the Western Allies. They did not do too well in combat or at least not well enough to stand out as especially successful.

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Post by Wolfkin » Thu Jan 29, 2004 4:21 pm

Hello all!

Operation Goodwood, it seems, was meant to be a breakthrough with armour. It seems as if little thought was given to the infantry as perhaps it was assumed the weight of the armour would carry the attack. I guess they thought that as soon as they broke through the first lines then it would be smooth sailing, so to speak.

I have a bit of a different opinion of Operation Goodwood than most. Goodwood was doing pretty well until the British armoured units reached the Bourguebus-Verrieres Ridge. They did break through and they did gain ground, albeit not too much, until they ran into elements of the 1st SS Panzer Division that had just assembled along the Bourguebus-Verrieres Ridge.

There are operations that happened simultaneously with the "Armoured Punch" that were subsidiary operations of Operation Goodwood, such as the Canadians taking of the Southern part of Caen, the part South of the River Orne. This part of the operation was very successful. But the big carpet bombing operations were not too successful and did not prevent German reserve units, such as 1st SS Panzer Division, from moving into the battle.

If there wasn't much German opposition along Bourguebus-Verrieres Ridge when the 11th Armoured Division reached it, and if they had taken the Ridge early in the battle, then things would have been different. The Ridge was a tactically important feature in the area and more thought should have been given to taking it. Look how long Canadian and British troops spent after Goodwood trying to take the Ridge! All the way until August!

Yes, Operation Goodwood, in my opinion, was not as much as a failure as is thought by most. They did break through, the problem was this Ridge that stood in the way. This Ridge with the Panther Abteilung of 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte sitting on it in nice hull down positions. Perhaps the attention of the bombers should have been spent on preventing these very Panthers from digging into this very Ridge?

Cheers,

Wolfkin
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goodwood

Post by Reb » Thu Jan 29, 2004 5:00 pm

Wolfkin

The allied air force had already refused to hit Bourgquebus ridge initially despite the fact that there somewhere around 60-70 88 mm pieces in place in that area. I believe the Germans could have stopped Goodwood even with out 1 SS Pz although it would have been less easy. 11 Armoured lost nearly a third of it's tanks to flanking fire before they even reached the ridge. (von Luck, 503 sPz, the 'funnies' of 21 pz div) Most of Gds Armd losses (60 I believe) where to the 88s.

Near as I can tell 7th Armd was stuck in traffic and some say, not particuarly motivated. As one Brit tankman is reported to have said, "I don't think we can survive too many more breakthroughs like this."

I will never understand how O'Connor of Beda Fomm tolerated such a poorly designed attack - and was apparently prepared to replace "Pip" Roberts of the 11th when he pointed out how badly arranged it was.

I wonder how the Germans would have done it? Not that they were notably successful either, at attacking in Normandy. But one can assume their approach would have at least included some attempt at infiltration rather than a straight out cavalry style bash.

reb

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Post by Wolfkin » Thu Jan 29, 2004 8:25 pm

Hello Reb and all!

Here is a very long-winded post to explain why I hold the opinion that I do regarding Operation Goodwood. I am sorry to disagree but I believe that the Leibstandarte’s presence on the Bourguebus Ridge to be underestimated and not given the attention that it deserves. The Bourguebus Ridge was 11th Armoured Division’s objective. The attacks on the flanks of the British armour by 21st Panzer Division and sPzAbt 503 slowed down the attack but did not stop it, in fact these attacks seemed to have had more of an impact on the following Guards Armoured Division and 7th Armoured Division and not the 11th Armoured Division.

Yes, the 88mm Flak guns slowed down the British armour but did not stop it. Flak guns are dangerous but not the same as a tank or an assault gun. One only needs to manoeuvre to bypass them. This is why I think the counter-attack by the Leibstandarte is not given the attention or credit that it deserves. It’s timely arrival on the Ridge was decisive. If the Panther Abteilung did not arrive when it did, and it was the first elements of the Leibstandarte to arrive, the Bourguebus Ridge or significant parts of it would have been captured by the 11th Armoured Division. Thus, events of the second and third days of Operation Goodwood would have been far different.

I think people forget about the events from July 19-20, and limit the look of Operation Goodwood to July 18. What was the majority of fighting for on July 19-20th? It was for the Bourguebus Ridge. So, the Ridge was decisive and the British armour reached the lower slopes of the Ridge by noon on the 18th despite being harassed on the flanks by the 21st Panzer Division and sPzAbt 503. Yes, these attacks were important and they did slow the momentum down but nevertheless 11th Armoured Division had reached the Ridge by noon and there was nothing but a few Flakgruppen there until the Panther Abteilung of the Leibstandarte arrived around noon.

The role of the Flak Guns has been exaggerated. According to the book “Normandy” the Flak Regiments of the III Flak Korps were located so far to the rear that they were not encountered during the Operation. Three Flakgruppen of the III Flak Korps with 8 of the 88mm Flak Guns were located up ahead and were involved in the Operation. So, 24 of the 88mm Flak Guns were involved. The 88mm Flak should not be confused with the 88mm Pak, of which there were 24 in the Panzerjager Abteilung of the 21st Panzer Division along with 8 of the 88mm Flak in the Flak Abteilung. So, the 21st Panzer Division actually had more 88mm guns in the area then the III Flak Korps.

The Surmgeschutze Abteilung 200 of the 21st Panzer Division seemed to have had a far greater impact on the Operation than any of the Flak units. There were a few counterattacks launched by elements of the 21st Panzer Division, including the Sturmgeschutze Abteilung, and the sPzAbt 503 against the flanks of the British “Armoured Wedge” and these slowed down the attack but did not stop it. The 11th Armoured Division was not stopped until it encountered the Leibstandarte’s Panther Abteilung employed along the Bourguebus Ridge.

Let’s look at some of the significant events and a few examples of the losses for a few engagements for a couple of Squadrons of 29th Armoured Brigade of 11th Armoured Division during July 18.

-The 3rd RTR lost 5 or 6 tanks on the morning of the 18th in the area of Les Mesnil-Fromentel probably to elements of 21st Panzer Division.

-2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry lost 12 tanks in the Le Porier-Les Mesnil-Fromentel area on the morning of the 18th probably to elements of 21st Panzer Division.

-By 1000 3 RTR had advanced to the area near Bras and Hubert Folie but around noon as they attempted to advance they were engaged by fire from Bourguebus Ridge. More than likely this fire came from the 88mm Flak Guns.

-At or around noon the Panther Abteilung of the Leibstandarte arrived along Bourguebus Ridge in time to spot the 2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry advancing past Four and Soliers, they immediately counter-attacked. The 2nd Fife and forfar lost 29 tanks in this encounter. The British tanks in the area considered the threat posed by the Panthers so grave that at 1258, the 23rd Hussars, at the time in Grentheville, were ordered to not attempt to advance past Soliers.

-At 1430 the 23rd Hussars were now ordered to attempt to advance South of Four and Soliers but were stopped by a combined effort of elements of the Panther Abteilung of the Leibstandarte, elements of 21st Panzer Division and the 88mm Flak Guns. It is hard to determine how many tanks were lost in this action but it is known that one Squadron lost all of its tanks to fire from the Panthers along Bourguebus Ridge as they advanced in almost exactly the same area as the 2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry did earlier.

-At 1700 the 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry attempted to take the Ridge from the north in the direction of Bras. They were stopped by elements of the StuG Abteilung of the Leibstandarte which was in this area. The 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry lost 16 tanks in this action.

-On July 19 elements of the 7th Armoured Division were ordered to take the village of Bourguebus, on the Bourguebus Ridge, and the 11th Armoured division was ordered to take the Bras-Hubert Folie area along the Northern part of the Ridge. Many elements of the Leibstandarte including the Panther Abteilung and StuG Abteilung played very significant roles in limiting the ground gained and then in halting the British attacks. Parts of the Bourguebus Ridge that were objectives for Operation Goodwood would not be taken until the Canadians took them during Operation Spring on July 25 and other parts of the Bourguebus Ridge would be held by the Leibstandarte until elements of this Division were withdrawn on August 5 to take part in Operation Luttich, the Mortain Counter-Offensive.

So, in my opinion, the actions of the Leibstandarte’s Panther Abteilung and later the StuG Abteilung on July 18 were decisive. Decisive in keeping the Bourguebus Ridge, which was a tactically significant feature in the area, in the hands of the Germans. While the Ridge was in their hands they would have the initiative. This is my opinion only and I welcome anyone else’s opinion on this matter. This post mainly serves to explain why I have this opinion.

Cheers,

Wolfkin
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Post by nigelfe » Fri Jan 30, 2004 11:23 pm

H'mmm, looks like problems that should have been reasonably easily solved by an effective fire plan. Do I detect the armoured corps in gung ho mode yet again? Or was there something preventing effective fire support, such as range and insufficient road space to move batteries forward?

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July 19

Post by Reb » Sat Jan 31, 2004 9:08 am

Wolfkin

You make your case well but I respectfully disagree. I believe that the British were so hammered prior to encountering LAH that their efforts were lackluster.

They lost 126 tanks on the 18th. On the next day they attacked again but remind me of the yankee officer at Fredricksburg who said " I attacked, lost the prescribed number of men and pulled back."

Though I must admist, attacking LAH in the favorable ground held by the SS its quite possible that zeal or lack thereof on the part of the British would have made scant difference.

And I still have no idea what possessed O'Connor to act like a tactical neophyte. I am hesitant usually, to criticize generals too lightly given that it all looks easy in retrospect. But I remain very curious about this because O'Connor was no bowler hat boy - he was the closest think GB produced to a real panzer general.

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Post by Wolfkin » Sat Jan 31, 2004 9:50 pm

Hello Reb!

I respect your opinion as well! I wonder, though, if you are aware of the numbers of lost tanks of 29th Armoured Brigade of the 11th Armoured Division. What I mean is, when and where they lost their tanks. If you read my post above you will see the following:

From the available numbers we can see that,

-29th Armoured Brigade lost 125 tanks on July 18.

-Broken down these are 33 from the 23rd Hussars, 47 from 2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry and 45 from 3 RTR.

-3 RTR lost 5 or 6 tanks before meeting the Leibstandarte, perhaps a few more.

-2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry lost 12 tanks before meeting the Leibstandarte.

-3 RTR lost an undetermined number when meeting the Leibstandarte.

-2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry lost at least 29 tanks after meeting the Leibstandarte.

-23rd Hussars lost at least 16 tanks after meeting the Leibstandarte.

-2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry lost at least 16 Cromwells after meeting the Leibstandarte.

Upon viewing these numbers one will see that at least 61 out of 125 tanks lost that day came AFTER 29th Armoured Brigade advanced to to the Bourguebus Ridge, that is at least 49%. In my opinion this does not support the view that they were battered heavily before they reached the Ridge.

Like I said before in my above post, the units that were hit hard before they got to the Ridge, and in fact did not even reach the Ridge, were the Guards Armoured Division and the 7th Armoured Division. This is why these two Divisions did not accomplish that much on July 18th and had to wait to July 19th to launch their main attacks.

This is not the same for the 11th Armoured Division which did reach the Bourguebus Ridge on July 18th. I hope this explains my point a little bit more. I know that my opinion is slightly different than the commonly held viewpoint but in my opnion the commonly held viewpoint for a lot of things merely repeats the same old story with little in depth research. How long have we heard the old Prokhorovka myth?

Cheers,

Wolfkin
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goodwood

Post by Reb » Sat Jan 31, 2004 10:43 pm

Wolfkin

I have been under the impression that it was 29th Armd Bde that took the pounding from 200 Assault Gun and von Luck's ad hoc KG; and that it was Gds Armd that lost 60 tanks in front of borquebus. I've relied on McKee a great deal (Caen Anvil of victory) and the oft quoted Brit officer (Major Close?) of 3 RTR who wrote of seeing a whole squadron going up from the flanking fire in a matter of seconds.

Hmmm. Most sources have 7th Armd tied up in traffic on the 18th with Gds arriving just in time to get slammed by the 88s.

So I accept the not so painful task of reviewing everything I can find on the battle (a favorite of mine). I suspect I may be confusing two phases of the battle - I had assumed the part I just described to include the losses incurred at Hubert Folie and Bras (spelling?) to be distinct from those suffered at Bourquebus which is probably incorrect - and at those villages LAH certainly had sp guns and subsequently panthers.

Have you read Correlli Barnett's Desert Generals? He is no lover of Monty but thought O'Connor invented sliced bread. Hence my interest - Beda Fomm certainly was that rare battle of annihilation that all generals wish for and few obtain. Goodwood strikes me as a fiasco including even a rare intelligence breakdown by the allies. No one ever has a good thing to say about O'Connor (other than Alex McKee praises his courage) but no one ever explains the details and constraints he had to deal with (except of course the minefields and the buggered up close air support).

Ever since I read Barnett's work years ago I've pondered what I consider the mystery of Goodwood so I do read all I can. It's not consistant - O'Connor made due with substandard gear and poor support from senior HQ in the Desert yet he had a gold mine of resources at Goodwood and fumbled the ball. Having no clear data I've always blamed higher HQ for putting him in a tight situation with scant options for initiative but don't really know what happened.

I've also looked at Chestor Wilmot, Paul Carrel's disappointing few pages on the topic, John Keegan, Max Hastings and Michael Reynold's Steel Inferno plus this and that over the years. Can you point to other sources?

Isn't it funny how WW2 seems to be unfolding like a mystery as time goes on yet one would have thought the early works on the topic would be closer to the truth.

Since you seem to be well versed on this battle what you can tell me about 7th Armd on the 18th? I'd thought they were hardly engaged!

cheers
reb

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Post by michael kenny » Sun Feb 01, 2004 5:12 am

Can we not use the method the Germans used to list their tank losses when we calculate the Allied losses?
A German tank was not listed as a loss just because it was hit and disabled. The tank was recovered (where possible) and then repaired or scrapped. The repaired tank was not a 'loss' so to be fair we should apply this method to Allied calculations. We would need to know how many of the Allied tanks were repaired before giving a true figure for Allied losses. It would be fair to assume a good number of these 'knocked out' Allied tanks were simply disabled and thus (in German terms at least) not a loss.
Patrick Delaforce in his book on 11th Armoured Division (The Black Bull)gives these figures:

tanks for 18/19th and KIA last


18th/19th KIA
2nd Fife 43 8 39
3 RTR 41 16 29
23rd Huss 26 4 26
2nd North 16 37 25
_______________
126 65 119

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Post by Wolfkin » Sun Feb 01, 2004 9:02 pm

Hello Reb!

When I do my research I try to consult as many sources as possible then I compare, contrast, cross-reference and then paint my own picture. You are correct, many books get many things mixed up in this battle and this can give people a different idea of what happened. You have it the other way around. Guards took the pounding, 29th was stopped at the Ridge. It was C Squadron of the 23rd Hussars that lost all their tanks and this was before Bourguebus Ridge.

It was the 29th Armoured Brigade of the 11th Armoured Division that reached the Bourguebus Ridge on July 18th and it was the Guards Armoured Division that was held up by elements of the 21st Panzer Division and sPzAbt 503, although parts of 11th Armoured were delayed slightly by these units as well. 7th Armoured did not do too much on July 18th. It was the villages of Bras, Hubert Folie, Bourguebus, La Hogue, Four and Soliers that elements of the Leibstandarte operated around on July 18th. Le Poirier, Frenouville, Cagny, Grentheville, Le Mesnil-Frementel,Emieville and perhaps Four and Soliers as well are where elements of 21st Panzer and sPzAbt 503 operated around.

You have Steel Inferno? Reynolds does a very good description of this battle in this book. Read pages 168-180, he describes July 18th pretty good. It says right in there that 29th Armoured Brigade of 11th Armoured Division reached the Bourguebus Ridge! Normandy by Zetterling is a good source for where certain German units were at on certain dates and their strengths, The Leibstandarte Volume IV/1 describes their part in the counter-attack, The Panzers And The Battle For Normandy has an ok description although in my opinion the times given for the Leibstandarte's counterattack and a few other times are incorrect, Six Armies In Normandy by John Keegan gives an ok description as well but there are a few inaccuracies. The Struggle For Europe by Chester Wilmot covers this as well and he also mentions that 29th Armoured Brigade was stopped at Bourguebus Ridge by fire from Panthers and Flak 88's.

I also have some quotes that were given to me by a kind fellow online a few years ago. They are from the British VIII Corps War Diary written by Lt.Col. G.S. Jackson, the Operations Officer for VIII Corps. These quotes give a good idea of what happened from the British perspective, including when certain units arrived at certain locations and their reaction when faced by a counter-attack by the Leibstandarte's Panther Abteilung.

Anyways, everything is just my opinion and y'all do not have to agree with me. It is just that I have researched this battle a good deal and from the picture I have painted for myself I view the battle in a different way than most.

Cheers,

Wolfkin
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Post by Wolfkin » Sun Feb 01, 2004 9:11 pm

Hello Michael!

I got my numbers for tank losses in the 29th Armoured Brigade from Steel Inferno. In it he has the following, not listed but deciphered from the text, for July 18th, which I stated in my above posts:

-33 lost from the 23rd Hussars
- 47 lost from 2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry
-45 from 3 RTR
-16 lost from 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry

Total-141, 125 if exclude 2nd Northamps, which I did above, because Reynolds was actually counting how many Shermans were lost when he gave the 125 figure.

Not too different from the numbers you have provided, but a few differences:

-26 lost from 23rd Hussars
-43 lost from 2nd Fife And Forfar
-41 lost from 3 RTR
-16 lost from 2nd Northampton Yeomanry

Total-126

Funny! I was using the number 125 in my example anyways, so my calculations worked out!

Thank you for this information. This is a great addition to the numbers and stats that I have. This is something more to compare. Thanks again Michael!

Cheers,

Wolfkin
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goodwood

Post by Reb » Sun Feb 01, 2004 9:44 pm

Michael - your figures bring out a nice symmetry with what Wolfkin was stating.

Wolfkin - I've reviewed Steel Inferno and Caen Anvil of Victory and I reckon you are correct. I also see how easy it is to get sequentially confused. Not to mention the fact that virtually every source I've read gives short shrift to the guys who were fighting in Columbelles where the real body count (allied) was racked up. Wish I still had my history of 7th Armd Div.

I've had the privilige of seeing many of the weapons used in this fight (including Major Becker's toys) at Aberdeen Proving Ground in the US (maryland) and must say I agree with the captured Brit officer who looked at the 88 which had knocked out his Matilda (I think it was) and claimed it plain wasn't fair to shoot at them with such big guns!

Which leads me to a point I've been pondering for quite a while...How frustrating it must have been to serve in an outfit like GD or LAH, knowing yourself to be among an elite, packing state of the art hardware, listening to guided missiles and jet planes roaring over head, and to know you were losing! That probably contributes to the strange, almost frantic tone you encounter in German memoirs of the last year or so of the War.

Thanks for all the info gentlemen. I'm always interested in any tidbits on Normandy in general and Goodwood in particular.

Reb

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Post by Tom Houlihan » Sun Feb 01, 2004 11:03 pm

Fellas, check this out! I haven't seen the final edit, but from what I read in the MS, it ought to answer some of your questions!

http://www.feldgrau.net/phpBB2/viewtopi ... highlight=
TLH3
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Feldgrau für alle und alle für Feldgrau!

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