A starting point I would recommend is ‘British Armour in Normandy’ by John Buckley. John has since authored another book on the topic, but this one is an excellent start at what some called a ‘revisionist’ view of the British campaign when it was published. I helped with the German sources and remember the work he put into the book. For me it remains the academic ‘bible’ on British armour in the campaign, and his follow up work only helps to reinforce his views. Its also a very good read, and although academic in content, it is still readable and entertaining. I am slightly biased, as I knew John and we spent many a fun hour around Normandy every year. That said anyone who I have recommended it too has always come back to me to comment on what an enjoyable and worthwhile book it is. I hope you can find a copy to explore it, I think you’d enjoy it based on your comments above…
I think all German crews (and other nations) inflated their claims both mistakenly and on purpose. There is a group of historians who while questioning Allied sources on the accuracy of the numbers of German vehicles destroyed, have no critical eye when viewing German claims. The Germans are seen as ‘accurate’ and ‘exact’ as they are… well… German.
Of course this is utter fiction. Apart from Otto Carius mentioning the kill claims and their exaggeration, the whole tally system was flawed with various dual counting and shared victories. Then you have the need for these grand scoring aces to feed the German propaganda machine. Yet we know how manipulating they were and yet we still blindly rely on them. I can think of one book on German tank aces that reprints almost verbatim the German Propaganda Ministry version of Villers-Bocage, while wholly ignoring Wittmann’s own after-action report. So I think all claims need to be treated with a pinch of salt. Add to this in the later years of the war, the Germans rarely retook ground and did not often have the opportunity to check kill claims. Plus many abandoned tanks, claimed as kills, were recrewed or repaired.
An anecdote included in M. Doubler’s book ‘Closing with the Enemy’ (and if you want to read the only well researched appraisal of US Army combat effectiveness in the ETO buy it. It is a superb book, written by a US Army colonel and it pulls no punches and blasts away any shred of flag waving, chest thumping Americana and gives a warts and all view of the US Army from 1944 to 1945 showing how unprepared and poor they could be at times, but also showing how they overcame and out-fought the enemy by the end. It blasts away plenty of myths…) describes an event related by a US armoured officer in Normandy.
He recounts leading an advance down a road, and rounding a bend to be confronted by a Panther on the road. His gunner quickly fires off a round, that hits, he halts the rest of the column out of view behind the bend, and darts his own tank, straight ahead and off the road. When he stops, he observes the Panther and can see that it is a burnt out wreck, knocked out previously. As its no threat, he calls the rest of the coloumn to advance round the corner and to pull off into the field he is now in. As tanks rumble in, every now and then the retort of a tank gun can be heard, as jittery crews fire into the Panther wreck. Later that evening he notes that according to his men, they have knocked out 8 Panthers during the day… His point is that its exceedingly hard to judge such things in moments of stress.
Im not sure German tank crews were encouraged to inflate claims, but given the emphasis on it in the German forces, and the celebrity nature of those who achieved lofty heights, not to mention those units whose kill tallies became sources of pride too… Would you check to hard to see if the numbers are accurate? The Nazi regime was a cult of personality, and these new age ‘Knights’, along with Fighter Pilots and Sub commanders, became celebrities for the home front. I think we have to treat any numbers in relation to that with a grain of salt… or maybe a good handful at times. Given tankers were the defacto ‘land aces’ and so much more glamourous than infantry, its not hard to imagine claims being jazzed up… I can only think of one ‘Anti-Tank Gun’ ace that gets any real attention, and thats Schrijnen, the Belgian SS Knights Cross Winner who took out 11 Russian tanks in one engagement.
Given the award was in March 1944, one does have to wonder if it was partly to reaffirm how hard these foreign nationals were fighting with an allied invasion of europe getting closer. But thats not too take away from Schrijen, his actions of that day were truly remarkable,
- This reply was modified 5 years, 4 months ago by piers brand.