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Panthers Demise at Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse


On the night of 08-09 June 1944, The Regina Rifle Regiment found themselves in the small Norman village of Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse. This village had been the Regina's D-Day final objective and while not securing it on D-Day, they did take it on 07 June 1944, advancing into it virtually unscathed in the mid-morning hours. The Reginas, and all of 7th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, were ordered to hold their positions in the expectation of German counter-attacks to reclaim the village. Bretteville was tactically important to the Germans as it sat astride the main road from Caen to Bayeux which the Germans needed to retain for defensive maneouvering.
On the morning of 08 June 1944, Standartenfuhrer Kurt Meyer attacked 7th Infantry Brigade positions with elements of SS-Panzergrenadierregiment 26 of 12. SS-Panzerdivision "Hitlerjugend". By that evening, armour and infantry elements had penetrated to the outskirts of Bretteville. During the ensuing hours of darkness, at least two Panthers of 4. Panzerkompanie of SS Panzerregiment 12 managed to break into the village from the south. There they were met by determined resistance from the Reginas.
One Panther advanced to the Regina's headquarters where it was fired upon at fifteen yards range by a PIAT which was secreted behind a stone wall. The Panther stopped momentarily and then continued for approximately thirty more yards where it was hit by a second PIAT round. At that point it stopped and began to reverse in an apparent effort to retreat from the village. It was struck by a third PIAT shot which caused it to slew out of contol and run over a necklace of grenades that blew off a track. The crew were killed while attempting to dismount the crippled tank.
A second Panther which had remained further up the road, to probably "shoot" the first one into town, upon seeing the fate of the first, began firing wildly and reversed out of town into a grain field and shortly thereafter it was knocked out while attempting to regain the roadway. The confused melee continued throughout the night of 08-09 June1944, but in the end, the Reginas ultimately held the village.
The first photo below illustrates the Panther G that was knocked out in front of the Regina's Battalion Headquarters. German accounts state that it was commanded by Untersturmfuhrer Teichert of II. Zug. This is a well known photograph that has appeared in many accounts of the Normandy campaign.

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Panther Ausf. G Knocked out in Bretteville
by the Regina Rifles

The following letter is an account of the fate of the second Panther that originally reversed into the grain field upon the demise of the first. This letter was apparently written to Squadron Publications on 09 September 1989 after its author chanced upon the Panther photo below. That photo appeared in Squadron/Signals Panther in Action, first published in 1975. The letter is reproduced in its entirety from Canadians; A Battalion at War.


Dear Sirs,

Your publication featuring the German Panther tank is very interesting. Page 28 shows a Panther "ausf A" reportedly destroyed by a Typhoon fighter of the Royal Air Force.

The Typhoons knocked out many Panther and Tiger tanks but not this one.

The tank in your picture was just outside the town on the road leading to Norrey-en-Bessin. The tank in my picture enclosed was in Bretteville and the picture came from the Canada Weekly, an army publication of official war pictures.
The two Panther tanks were knocked out by Piat(sic) guns which fired a shaped charge much as did the American bazooka. The story as I heard it was that two Riflemen were positioned behind a stone wall (or columns outside of the building housing the headquarters) when two Panthers got past our anti-tank guns and arrived in front of the Battalion H.Q. The two Riflemen were trying to knock out both tanks at the same time. As the first tank came opposite the wall, the soldier fired his Piat(sic). The tank stopped, a German crewman climbed out of the turret and the second Canadian fired at him - a direct hit.

The second tank (the one in your picture) went into reverse and out into a field of grain. The two Canadians decided they might as well try for two, so they stalked it and knocked it out as it came back up onto the road.

When we arrived our first job was to remove this forty-five ton tank from what was a very important road. I had an armoured D-7 Cat with a heavy rear winch. We wrapped the cable over the top of the tank and rolled it over on its back.
First we had used explosives to blow off the turret.

Perhaps the Typhoons used this upturned tank for target practise. But it was the two riflemen who killed it.

Yours Truly
J. L. Yeats


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Panther Ausf A, I Abteilung, SS-Panzer Regiment 12
12.SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend",
Outside of Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse

Rifleman Joseph Edwin Lapointe #L27065 of The Regina Rifles Regiment is credited with the destruction of the first Panther in Bretteville and he received the Military Medal for his exploit. According to the letter printed above, it would take no stretch of imagination to believe that he is also responsible for the destruction of this second Panther outside of town. It was "all in a days work" for the poor bloody infantry.

 

Sources:

Bradford, G.R. "The Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse Panthers" AFV NEWS, Jan-Apr 1996, Volume 31, No.1, 12-14.
Culver, B. Panther in Action, Carrollton, Squadron/Signal, 1975
Meyer, H. The History of the 12. SS-Panzerdivision Hitlerjugend, Winnipeg, Fedorowicz, 1994
Stacey, C.P. The Victory Campaign, Ottawa, Queen's Printer, 1966
Whitsed, R.J. Canadians; A Battalion at War, Mississauga, Burlington Books, 1997


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Chris Johnson, 1997