German Panzers destroyed by Canadians, 1943-1945

Panzerkampfwagens destroyed

(DND Photo)

Canadians sheltering behind a destroyed Panzer IV tank, hinterland of Salerno. Operation Avalanche. September 1943.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3718111)

German Panzer IV tank in the ruins of a house near Rimini, Italy, 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3191557)

Two thousand vehicles of the German 7th Army destroyed by aircraft of the 2nd Tactical Air Force, 31 December 1944.

(Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-721-0398-21A)

Panzer VI (Tiger II, Königstiger), Normandy, France, June 1944.

The German Tiger II was a heavy tank with the official designation of Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B, often shortened to Tiger B.  The ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz. 182. (Sd.Kfz. 267 and 268 for command vehicles).  It was also known informally as the Königstiger (Bengal tiger/King Tiger). Allied soldiers usually called it the King Tiger or Royal Tiger.  The Tiger II was the successor to the Tiger I, combining the latter's thick armour with the armour sloping used on the Panther medium tank. The tank weighed almost 70 tonnes, and was protected by 100 to 185 mm (3.9 to 7.3 in) of armour to the front. It was armed with the long barrelled 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71 anti-tank cannon.

The chassis was also the basis for the Jagdtiger turretless Jagdpanzer anti-tank vehicle.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3520261)

Member of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals looking over destroyed German Jagdpanther Sd.Kfz. 173 tank destroyer, 15 March 1945.

The Tiger II was issued to heavy tank battalions of the Army and the Waffen-SS. It was first used in combat by the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion during the Allied invasion of Normandy on 11 July 1944.  On the Eastern Front, the first unit to be outfitted with the Tiger II was the 501st Heavy Panzer Battalion, which by 1 September 1944 listed 25 Tiger IIs operational.  (Wikipedia)

(Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-721-0397-34)

Panzer VI (Tiger II, Königstiger), on the move in Normandy, France, June 1944. The heavy armour and powerful long-range gun gave the Tiger II an advantage against all opposing Western Allied and Soviet tanks attempting to engage it from head on. In combat, the Tiger II was never penetrated frontally by the QF 17-Pounder anti-tank gun. As a result of its thick frontal armour, flanking manoeuvres were most often used against the Tiger II to attempt a shot at the thinner side and rear armour, giving a tactical advantage to the Tiger II in most engagements. Moreover, the main armament of the Tiger II was capable of knocking out any Allied tank frontally at ranges exceeding 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi), well beyond the effective range of Allied tank guns.

The first combat use of the Tiger II was by the 1st Company of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion (s.H.Pz.Abt. 503) during the Battle of Normandy, opposing Operation Atlantic between Troarn and Demouville on 18 July 1944. Two were lost in combat, while the company commander's tank became irrecoverably trapped after falling into a bomb crater created during Operation Goodwood. The Tiger II was also used in significant numbers, distributed into four heavy panzer battalions, during the Ardennes Offensive (also known as the 'Battle of the Bulge') of December 1944.  At least 150 Tiger IIs were present, nearly a third of total production; most were lost over the course of the offensive. (Wikipedia)

Tiger II (1.Kompanie, Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503)

By the close of July 1944, Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503 (s PzAbt 503; Heavy Tank Battalion 503) consisted of the remnants of 1./s PzAbt 503 and 2./s PzAbt 503 (1st. and 2nd. Company, s PzAbt 503). 3./s PzAbt 503 had been so heavily reduced in the strength that it turned over its surviving tanks to 2./s PzAbt 503 and was withdrawn for refitting. On August 1, 1944, s PzAbt 503 was attached to the 21st. Panzer Division with 13 operational tanks and early in the month, the unit was engaged around Mont Pinçon near the village of Plessis-Grimoult which was 20 miles south-west of the city of Caen, a major area of conflict during the Battle of Normandy. By August 10, the unit had shifted to covering positions near Saint-Pierre-Canivet when on August 11, some 30 Allied tanks were taken under fire by two of the battalion’s Tiger tanks positioned to the east of Saint-Pierre-Canivet. The crews claimed 3 Allied tanks knocked out but at the cost of both Tigers. This was the final time that the battalion would be used in combat during the Normandy campaign. During the withdrawals that commenced following the Saint-Pierre-Canivet skirmish, the battalion was forced to abandon, and in some cases, blow up the remainder of their Tiger II tanks. The Tiger II in the photograph belonged to 1./s PzAbt 503 and was abandoned along National Route 179 between Vimoutiers and Canapville. The tank shows fire damage but whether that was due to the crew scuttling the tank or due to an Allied tank shooting it after being abandoned, is unknown. In front of the Tiger II, partially hidden by tree branches and the Bren Carrier, is a Bergepanther which was an armored recovery vehicle based on the PzKpfw V “Panther” medium tank chassis. It was attempting to recover the tank as tow cables had been deployed (visible in other photographs) but it also appears to have been abandoned. (K. Studio)

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3209158)

6 Brigade, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, the T17E1 Staghound is with the 12th Manitoba Dragoons, 18th Armoured Car Regiment, on the road to Vimoutiers, France. The crew and motorcycle rider are passing a destroyed German Tiger II [Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B], 22 August 1944. The Tiger II is number 132 1./s.Pz.Abt 503, destroyed by its own crew. A Bergepanther stands in front of the Tiger II, located in la Fauvetiere before Vimoutiers.

(German military photo, film captured by U.S. Army)

When this King Tiger, No.105, commanded by SS-Obersturmführer Jürgen Wessel, was struck by bazooka fire, the driver reversed into a the debris of a house and got stuck. The crew abandoned the tank on Rue St. Emilion in Stavelot, Belgium. Wessell jumped on the next tank and continued west towards Trois Ponts, 18 December 1944.

(baku13 Photo)

Panzerkampfwagen VI "Tiger II" Ausf.B (Sd.Kfz. 182) with production (Henschel design) turret on display at the Deutsches Panzermuseum Munster, Germany.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, PA-115487)

Captured PzKpfw Mk. V, Wyler, Germany, 9 Feb 1945.

The PzKpfw Panther medium tank, officially Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (abbreviated PzKpfw V) with ordnance inventory designation: Sd.Kfz. 171, was used on the Eastern and Western Fronts from mid-1943 to the end of the war in May 1945.The Panther was intended to counter the Soviet T-34 medium tank and to replace the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Nevertheless, it served alongside the Panzer IV and the heavier Tiger I until the end of the war. It had excellent firepower, protection and mobility, although its reliability was less impressive.The Panther had the same Maybach V12 petrol (690 hp) engine as the Tiger I.  It had better gun penetration, was lighter and faster, and could traverse rough terrain better than the Tiger I. The trade-off was weaker side armour, which made it vulnerable to flanking fire and a weaker high explosive shell. The Panther proved to be effective in open country and long-range engagements.The Panther was far cheaper to produce than the Tiger I. Key elements of the Panther design, such as its armour, transmission, and final drive, were simplifications made to improve production rates and address raw material shortages.  The Panther was rushed into combat at the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943 despite numerous unresolved technical problems, leading to high losses due to mechanical failure. Most design flaws were rectified by late 1943 and early 1944, though the bombing of production plants, increasing shortages of high-quality alloys for critical components, shortage of fuel and training space, and the declining quality of crews all impacted the tank's effectiveness. Though officially classified as a medium tank, at 44.8 metric tons the Panther was closer in weight to contemporary foreign heavy tanks. The Panther's weight caused logistical problems, such as an inability to cross certain bridges, otherwise the tank had a very high power-to-weight ratio which made it highly mobile. The naming of Panther production variants did not, unlike most German tanks, follow alphabetical order: the initial variant, Panther "D" (Ausf. D), was followed by "A" and "G" variants. (Wikipedia)

(Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-722-0406-06A)

Panter V in the Normandy bocage, France, 21 June 1944.

At the time of the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, there were initially only two Panther-equipped Panzer regiments in the Western Front, with a total of 156 Panthers between them. From June through August 1944, an additional seven Panther regiments were sent into France, reaching a maximum strength of 432 in a status report dated 30 July 1944.The majority of the German tank forces in Normandy – six and a half divisions – were drawn into fighting the Anglo-Canadian forces of the 21st Army Group around the town of Caen. The numerous operations undertaken to secure the town became collectively known as the Battle of Caen. While there were areas of heavy wooded bocage around Caen, most of the terrain was open fields which allowed the Panther to engage the attacking enemy armour at long range — its combination of superior armour and firepower allowed it to engage at distances from which the Shermans could not respond.  Conversely, by the time of the Normandy Campaign, British divisional Anti-tank Regiments were well equipped with the excellent 17-pounder gun, and some US-supplied M10 tank destroyers had their 3-inch gun replaced with the 17-pdr (including the 17-pdr SP Achilles), making it equally as perilous for Panthers to attack across these same fields.  The British had begun converting regular M4 Shermans to carry the 17-pounder gun (nicknamed Firefly) prior to the D-Day landings.  While limited numbers meant that during Normandy usually not more than one Sherman in each troop of four tanks was a Firefly variant, the lethality of the gun against German armour made them priority targets for German gunners.  (Wikipedia)

(Allan Finney Photo)

Caption from the book "Panther vs. Sherman" for this photo states: "This Panther Ausf. G of the 1st SS-Panzer Division was knocked out in the fighting near the Baugnez Crossroads (Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944), and has suffered a catastrophic ammunition fire, evident from the blown-out sponson floor sitting on the tracks (NARA)" The blown-out floor of the side sponson marks the boundaries of the two magazines in the sponson. Note the hole in the side sponson just below the front of the turret, where the Panther tank was struck. Directly behind this hole was the forward-most of two magazines in the side sponson holding ammunition for the Panther's 75mm main gun; the penetrating round would have exploded right into the propellant casings of the 75mm rounds stored there as the rounds were stored with the shell tips facing towards the middle of the turret. The 50mm armor of the side superstructure on the Ausf. G Panther could be penetrated by all Allied tank and anti-tank guns at normal combat ranges. The 75mm M4 cannon could penetrate this part of the Panther at 400m, and the 76mm M4 cannon at 2800m. Panthers could "brew up" and burn just as fiercely as the M4 Shermans when struck in their ammunition stores." (Wikipedia)

Officer examining German Panzerkampfwagen Panther tank from 3./12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend", which was knocked out by Canadians at Norrey-en-Bessin, Normandy, 8 July 1944. The shell holes are impacts from direct fire, so the shots came from tank and anti-tank guns.

On the morning of 9 June 1944 Lieutenant Gordon Henry and the crew of “Comtesse de Feu” a Sherman Firefly of the 1st Hussars knocked out 5 Panthers of No. 3 company 12. SS in the space of a couple of minutes. The regimental war diary indicates that these vehicles were used later to allow replacements to zero their guns and get some practice as many of them had yet to fire the 75-mm mounted on the Sherman Firefly. (Steve Hearn)

This was not a surveyed, lane marked, canned battle run kind of range. It would appear to be more of an impromptu pre-arranged field shoot. The unit would have liaised with higher HQ so they don't panic at the sound of shooting, then take replacement crews in their new tanks out where there were wrecks, and start giving shooting orders. (Terry Warner)

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3226737)

Officers examining German Panzerkampfwagen Panther tank from 3./12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend", which was knocked out by Canadians at Norrey-en-Bessin, Normandy, 8 July 1944.

D-Day and Normandy

The DD tanks of the 1st Hussars were amongst the allied forces to come ashore in Normandy.  The Hussars were to support the infantry landing on the western half of Juno Beach.  At 07:15, 19 tanks of 'B' Squadron launched their Sherman V DDs from their landing craft into the English Channel some 4000 metres from shore of Nan Green Beach.  Of 'B' Squadron's 19 tanks, 15 made it to shore ahead of the Regina Rifles, whom they were tasked to support.

'A' Squadron launched some of their DDs some ten minutes later than 'B' Squadron, from approximately 1500 meters out and headed towards Mike Beach.  Only two of the four LTCs carrying 'A' Squadron were able to launch all their tanks off shore.  Of 'A' Squadron's 19 tanks, 10 were launched into the channel with seven of those making it to shore.  Five tanks were landed directly onto the beach, and four were stranded on a landing craft which struck a mine.  The tanks of 'A' Squadron were to support the Winnipeg Rifles, who were already fighting on the beach when they came ashore.

At the beach, many of tanks of the 1st Hussars stayed partially submerged just off shore in a hull down position.  After dropping their screens, they began engaging the German anti-tank guns, machine-gun nests and other strong points, allowing the infantry to break the beach defences and make its way inland.  'A' Squadron made its way inland to the village of Graye-sur-Merr where the Winnipeg Rifles were attempting to capture bridges over the Suelles River.  'B' Squadron helped clear Courseulles-sur-Mer before breaking out into the countryside.

At 08:20, 'C' Squadron's Sherman Vc Fireflies and Sherman IIIs were landed directly onto Mike Red beach, along with the regimental Headquarters Squadron.  By this time, resistance at the beach had been cleared.

After clearing Courseulles-sur-Mer,  The regiment made its way inland.  South of Reviers, 'B' Squadron encountered a German 88-mm anti-tank gun which knocked out six tanks before being put out of action.  Seven Hussar crewmen were killed in the engagement.  Due to these losses,'B' squadron was pulled back to the beach after the encounter.  As mentioned above, 'A' Squadron moved on to Graye-sur-Mer where the Winnipeg Rifles were fighting to secure the village.  'A' Squadron joined the fight in support of the Winnipegs, along with elements of 'C' squadron who were catching up.  After the village was captured, 'C' Squadron pressed on, with 2nd Troop reaching the regiment's objective of the Caen-Bayeux Highway, becoming the only Allied unit to reach its D-Day objective.  One survivor of D-Day said that "A German soldier actually saluted us on our way to the objective.  I guess he was surprised to see us this far inland".  However, 2nd troop had to pull back, as they were too far ahead of the rest of the force and too few to hold the objective.  At dusk, the regiment pulled back to the channel to rest.  The 1st Hussars suffered 21 killed, 17 wounded during the actions of D-Day.  'A' Squadron was left with 9 tanks at the end of the day and 'B' Squadron was reduced to 4 tanks.

After D-Day, the 1st Hussars continued to support infantry as it advanced and faced German counter-attacks.  On 9 June, the 1st Hussars supported the Canadian Scottish as they re-took Putot-en-Bessin and engaged German Panther tanks of the 1st Battalion, SS-Panzer Regiment 12 (of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend), destroying 6.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3405774)

PIAT anti-tank gunners of The Regina Rifle Regiment who knocked out a German PzKpfW V Panther tank thirty yards from Battalion Headquarters, Bretteville-l'Orgeuilleuse, France, 8 June 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3203401)

Private W.G. Lourie examining a German Jagdpanther 8.8cm. self-propelled gun which was put out of action by the first shot from a 17-pounder gun of the 6th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA), in the Reichswald, Germany, 16 March 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3226005)

Soldiers of the 7 Canadian Infantry Battalion repairing the turret of a German PzKpfW V Panther tank in Normandy, 9 July 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3226004)

Soldiers of the 7 Canadian Infantry Battalion repairing the turret of a German PzKpfW V Panther tank in Normandy, 9 July 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3401773)

An infantryman of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal examining a disabled German PzKpfW V Panther tank, St. André-sur-Orne, France, 9 August 1944.

(IWM Photo, B13243)

A soldier inspects two knocked-out German PzKpfw V Panther tanks near Foy-Notre-Dame, Belgium, 29 December 1944.

(Author Photo)

Panther Ausf. A on display at CFB Borden, Ontario, which acquired it following V-E celebrations in May 1945. In 2006 it was moved to the Canadian War Museum for restoration.

(Author Photo)

In January 2008, the parrtially restored Panther Ausf. A was put on display in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3401784)

Trooper M.E. Lucy of The South Alberta Regiment examining a German 75-mm Panzerkampfwagen IV tank near Xanten, Germany, 7 March 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3405800)

Lance-Bombardier T. Hallam and Signalman A.H. Wharf, both of Headquarters, Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA), 5th Canadian Armoured Division, examining a knocked out German PzKpfW IV tank, near Pontecorvo, Italy, 26 May 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3226723)

German PzKpfW IV tank, knocked out by Canadians, Guchy, France, 9 July 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3231053)

Lance-Corporal J.A. Thrasher of The Westminster Regiment (Motor), who holds the PIAT anti-tank weapon with which he disabled the German self-propelled 88mm. gun on which he is sitting, near Pontecorvo, Italy, 26 May 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3401811)

Front view of Brummbär (Grouch) (s Sturmpanzer 43 or Sd.Kfz. 166) armoured infantry support gun based on the Panzer Mk. IV chassis of the Wehrmacht, France, 1944. German soldiers nicknamed it the "Stupa". Just over 300 vehicles were built and they were assigned to four independent battalions.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3224055)

4th Canadian Armoured Division soldier examining a German 20-mm FlaK 30/38 anti-aircraft gun position on the northeast side of the Dortmund-Ems Canal, 8 April 1945. 20-mm anti-aircraft guns were common in the German army and were an effective weapon in the fight against low-flying air targets. Before the Second World War began, the main forces of flak were part of the Luftwaffe. Each division of the Wehrmacht, however, was equipped with the Flak.30/38.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. )

Corporal C. Robichaud of Le Régiment de Maisonneuve examining a disabled German Sturmhaubitz 42 105-mm self-propelled gun, Woensdrecht, Netherlands, 27 October 1944.

Brigadier-General S.D. Radley-Walters

Legion article by Mark Zuelke, 8 August 2017

On 8 Aug 1944, Sydney Radley-Walters was a newly minted 24-year-old major who had seen his first tank only two years earlier, when the Sherbrooke Fusiliers converted from infantry to armour. “Not one of us knew anything about armour or even what a tank looked like,” he said later. “We hadn’t a clue.”

Radley-Walters learned fast. On June 6, he came ashore commanding A Squadron and the next day he knocked out a Panzer IV—the first of 18 armoured vehicle kills that made him one of Canada’s top tank aces. Two months later, on Aug. 8, the Sherbrookes were in the thick of the action supporting 2nd Canadian Infantry Division during Operation Totalize—the attempt to break out from Caen to Falaise. At noon, the 12th SS Hitlerjügend (Hitler Youth)Panzer Division counterattacked the Canadians with a mixed armour and infantry force. At its head were five Tiger tanks. Weighing as much as 70 tonnes, with armour up to 10 centimetres thick and an 88-millimetre gun, the Tiger was Germany’s deadliest tank.

The German advance passed a château alongside the road next to a village called Gaumesnil. A Squadron was hiding behind the château’s high walls, through which its tankers had cut holes to create firing ports for their main guns. Radley-Walters had eight tanks. Two were the Sherman Firefly, whose new tank-penetrating 17-pounder(76.2-millimetre) guns were more powerful than the standard 75-millimetreSherman guns.

Seeing the Tigers at the head of a column of Panzer IVs, half-tracks and self-propelled guns (SPGs), Radley-Walters yelled over the wireless, “Hold off! Hold off!” Finally, at just 500 metres, he gave the order to fire. The lead tank, closest to the château, took an instant hit and ceased moving. Radley-Walters targeted and destroyed an SPG just behind the Tigers. In mere minutes, the Sherbrookes also knocked out the Tiger at the rear of the leading five, two of the Panzer IVs and another SPG. The other three Tigers fell victim to fire from British tankers on the Canadian left flank and the counterattack collapsed.

A few minutes later, the Tiger closest to the château exploded and the turret bearing the identifying number 007 was blown off. Radley-Walters had no idea this was German tank ace Michael Wittmann’s Tiger. The action had started at 12:30 p.m. and lasted just 25 minutes.

Before war’s end, Radley-Walters had three tanks shot out from under him and was wounded twice. He ended the war a lieutenant-colonel decorated with a Military Cross and Distinguished Service Order. He retired from the army in 1974 with the rank of brigadier-general. Radley-Walters died on 21 April 2015, at age 95.

(Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-494-3376-14A)

Panzer VI (Tiger I), Heavy SS Battalion 101, destroyed in Villers-Bocage, Normandy, June 1944.

Hauptsturmführer (captain) Michael Wittmann was reportedly nervous and uncharacteristically indecisive on the morning of 8 Aug. When Standartenführer (regiment leader) Kurt Meyer of the 12th SS Hitlerjügend Panzer Division ordered a counterattack, Wittmann need not have participated. But the designated tank commander was inexperienced and Wittmann said, “I must go with them, for [he] can scarcely cope.”

As Wittmann’s counterattacking force rolled toward battle, Meyer knew he was sending it into a “steely inferno.” Wittmann’s force consisted of seven Tigers, a company of Panzer IVs, a company of SPGs, and supporting infantry in half-tracks. Their goal was to strike the seam between the Canadians and the British 51st (Highland) Division to the left and drive deep in between.

By this time, the 30-year-old Wittmann had earned the nickname the “Black Baron” and held an Iron Cross along with numerous other medals. His status as Germany’s top Panzer ace had made him a minor celebrity at home. Since the invasion of Poland in 1939, Wittmann had amassed a stunning record of143 Allied armoured vehicle kills in fighting on both the eastern and western fronts. On 13 June 1944, he had shocked the 7th British Armoured Division at Villers-Bocage, France, by destroying more than two dozen tanks and transports.

No radio log records exist regarding Wittmann’s advance on Aug. 8. But as his Tiger 007 ground past the château at Gaumesnil, evidence suggests that an armour-piercing round fired by one of the Sherbrooke’s Firefly tanks punched into the air inlet on the left side directly behind the turret. The tank immediately halted, and no crew emerged. Some minutes later, the Tiger was rocked by a massive explosion that hurled its turret pin through the air to land right side up some distance fromthe main tank body.

Wittmann and his crew of four were presumed killed, but their fate remained unconfirmed until 1983, when a road construction crew found their bodies. They were reinterred together at the La Cambe German war cemetery. In the aftermath of his death, there was much controversy about who really killed Wittmann. The British tankers of Northamptonshire Yeomanry’s A Squadron generally got the credit. It was also suggested that a RAF rocket-firing Typhoon made the kill, or even possibly some nearby Polish tankers. But none of these claims bore up against the fact that analysis of Tiger 007 showed the only penetrating wound in its massive armour was the hole in the left side air inlet. The only tanks having an angle of fire capable of delivering that fatal shot were those of A Squadron of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers.

The remains of Wittman's Tiger tank after the battle.

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