Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

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Michael Kenny
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Michael Kenny » 05 Jun 2021 15:34

Panzerspitze wrote:
05 Jun 2021 13:38


Most sources specifying the cause of death for Witt claim naval gunfire. Others simply don't specify. I haven't seen a single source mention land-based fire as the culprit. Have you any conjecture as to what ground unit(s) could put in a plausible claim, similar to the case of SS-Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann?
I checked and most accounts are people recounting what they were told happened. There is nothing to confirm what type of gunfire it was.
Also the suggestion that this is various Allied units all trying to claim the credit is bunk. Just like it is bunk that there is a clamour of Allied units claiming Wittmann as a victim. I am afraid all those types of tales are deliberate disinformation created and spread by those with an interest in sowing doubt/confusion as to the actual mundane way Wittmann was despatched.

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Richard Anderson » 05 Jun 2021 16:15

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
05 Jun 2021 08:48
Is there any particular reason why we should believe that it was a naval round in the first place and not a round from Allied medium or heavy artillery?

Regards

Tom
I suspect the difference between a 155mm or 7.2" round and a 15" or 16" round would be noticeable.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Richard Anderson » 05 Jun 2021 16:26

Panzerspitze wrote:
05 Jun 2021 10:19
Interesting. So the wikipedia list in my first post missed Nelson, which was present off Normandy until getting mined on 6/18, per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Nelson_(28). Therefore, it had the chance to fire the salvo that killed Witt if it ever fired on Caen during the relevant timeframe (June 10th, 14th or 16th).
Nelson was mined when returning to England to re-ammunition, having fired off nearly all main armament rounds 11-18 June. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any readily accessible account of her fire missions.
If it was Ramillies, and its AP round(s), could the British AP shell used burst and produce shrapnel hitting tree tops like described in some of the accounts, or even upon hitting the ground or building structure? Could it be semi-AP rounds (if any)? One would think regular AP shells would simply pass through most structures on land without fragmenting.
Sorry, I wasn't clear, I was just noting the remark that the battleships (and cruisers BTW) interspersed firing their HE rounds with AP rounds to eke out their limited supply of main battery rounds. There is no evidence that it would have been an AP round. The key was the fuse action and sensitivity. I do not know the details of the BDF used by the RN, but it would be remarkable for any such heavy AP projectile to explode as a "tree burst". OTOH an HE shell with nose fuse set for super quick or minimal delay probably would.
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 05 Jun 2021 16:31

Richard Anderson wrote:
05 Jun 2021 16:15
I suspect the difference between a 155mm or 7.2" round and a 15" or 16" round would be noticeable.
Not if it landed on you... 8O :lol: :lol: :lol:

Regards

Tom

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Michael Kenny » 05 Jun 2021 16:32

Earlier views show the craters to the South are not connected as they are there from June 6 at least.

US34 0572 5034 June 6 venoix n.jpg
US34 0572 5034 June 6 venoix k.jpg
106G 0741 3046 June 7 Venoix.jpg
106G 0741 3046 June 7 Venoix g.jpg
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Richard Anderson » 05 Jun 2021 16:58

Michael Kenny wrote:
05 Jun 2021 16:32
Earlier views show the craters to the South are not connected as they are there from June 6 at least.
I agree and if in fact it was Ramillies 14 June mission, I would expect to find 14 craters, all within 100 yards of Venoix. There is also the problem that Venoix is southwest of the city rather than northwest as in the report of Ramillies fire mission. :D Since we are not finding those, I suspect the story is apocryphal and Witt was killed by a single, very errant, large caliber round of unknown origin.
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Michael Kenny » 05 Jun 2021 17:40

I cant see any sign of hits between the two dates.

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3068. Saint-Germain; jk.jpg
Screenshot_1449rr.jpg
June 7th oblique.

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S-0097 Venoix US7-1773 June 7th h.jpg
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Richard Anderson » 05 Jun 2021 20:14

A tree burst would not necessarily leave a crater.
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Sheldrake » 05 Jun 2021 22:18

I will stake a claim for the Gunners of 4 AGRA.

Battleships did not just poop off rounds on harassment programmes. They were directed in support of Army operations. Each ship only had a limited number of rounds. Hubert Meyer's history gives the date of Witt's death as 14 June 1944. He was in a position to know his own account mentions the artillery fire on a 10 cm battery. .

4 AGRA was the HQ controlling medium and heavy artillery in the Caen area. Their war diary for has the following entry for 14 June. "CB programme to commence at 11.00." This is consistent with the account in Meyer's Divisional history.

The WD for 79th (Scottish Horse) Medium Regiment has an entry for 14th June 10:00- 23.-00 Engaged MG Nest, enemy batteries, Infantry...

WD for 51 heavy Regiment & 65 Medium regiments do not give any targets. However, the 155mm long toms of 51 Heavy were the long range CB asset.

Warship may have been part of that CB programme, but we might need to find the relevant piece of paper. .

I suspect the HQ of 12 SS was purely a happy accident. Do not deploy Div HQ in the same grid square as a battery of guns
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Sheldrake » 05 Jun 2021 22:32

Richard Anderson wrote:
05 Jun 2021 07:46
On 10 June, a British seaman on Ramillies, Ben Platt said, "We have been bombarding rail installations all the day, & have put in some very good shooting." And then on 14 June, "We have just fired 25 15inch progies, at some German camp." Unfortunately, he gives no time. Another, Edward Francis Wightman, gave more details for 10 June, "Afternoon: Bombardment of railway marshalling [sic] yards near Caen. Also troop and transport concentrations. Apparently our salvos are doing a great deal of damage. Very, very few projectiles being outside the target area." And 14 June, "Forenoon - enemy tried shelling Nelson. Presumably mobile batteries. Nelson replied. No further fire. Carried out bombardment of enemy strongpoint north west of Caen. Forward Observation Officer reported six direct hits out of 14. The other eight all within 100 yards. Range 11 miles."

The Force S AAR is pretty laconic too, but does mention that the warships were often firing AP instantaneous fuzed to conserve HE and that Ramillies was firing a large number of her AP rounds as "blinds", which were essentially harassing missions "ordered by the Bombardment Control Ship, in order to bring down heavy fire at short notice on an area of enemy activity, which was causing the Divisional Commander some anxiety." One-third of all battleship fire missions were those and another third were counter-battery, mostly fired on D-Day and then on 15 and 17 June. The rest were area harassing - 20%, observed missions on infantry, tanks, or transport - 13.3%, while the remaining 0.7% were miscellaneous or not recorded.

However, despite that it seems likely that Witt was killed in an observed shoot, albeit accidentally. Since the marshaling yards that were targeted on 10 June were across the Orne well east of the city, it seems unlikely it was the fire that killed Witt. More likely I suspect it was one of the 8 errant rounds fired on 14 June, which probably explain why there is no evidence of multiple strikes there in the aerial photography.
This sounds as if the ships were firing as part of the CB and HB progammes planned by I corps CB staff and 4 AGRA. HB programmes were typically shoots through the night to hinder German movement and resupply.

The 1 Corps Arty WD entry for 14 June has "little activity on the 1 Corps front" but the entry for `15 June mentions the navy taking part in a CB programme against the Houlgate Battery which had been shelling Queen Beach. I suspect that was the target for HMS Ramillies on 15th June.

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Danny l » 05 Jun 2021 22:54

Hi,
Ramillies Ships Log for the 14th June 1944 only has the following.

Time
10.30 Commenced 15” bombardment.
11.05 Completed 15” bombardment.
17.10 Commenced 15” bombardment.
17.45 Completed 15” bombardment.


It may have been Mauritius that was bombarding the Houlgate battery. They had been targeting this area on the 14th and carried on bombarding the Variville area on the 15th.

Ramillies only has one entry for the 15th June.
17.10 Commenced bombardment.
18.00 Bombardment completed


Regards

Danny

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Sheldrake » 07 Jun 2021 22:46

So HMS Ramillies is a candidate. However, we would need a copy of the 14 June 1st Corps CB plan to identify the targets.

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Simon Trew 1 » 08 Jun 2021 05:55

Just one to throw into the mix (entry from my source guide):

Dussutour, Vincent and Michel, Bernard: “Le parcours exceptionnel d’un jeune Normand”, in Normandie 1944 Magazine, Number 25, 2018, pp.118-28. This article presents the reminiscences of a French civilian witness of the Normandy campaign, Bernard Michel. In 1944, Michel was a 17-year-old youth living in Caen. Among other things, the article recounts how after fleeing Caen on 7 June, Michel spent time at Field Marshal Rommel’s command post in Tourmauville before returning to Caen. The article also explains how information provided by a French resistance group in Caen led to the deliberate targeting and killing of SS-Brigadeführer Fritz Witt, 12th SS Panzer Division’s commanding officer, on 14 June. French text.

It's a long time since I looked at this article but I will check it when I'm next in the office. Instinctively, I'm inclined to say "Really??!" And I don't recall coming across the claim elsewhere (though my memory is not the best). Still, you never know.

On a related matter, is there a bombardment log for Force D (supporting Force S)? I know the Gold Beach records much better and there is a lot of information about post-D-Day NGS (including an incomplete but still pretty detailed bombardment log) in those. I did photocopy parts of the Sword Beach naval records some years ago, but I'm in the usual situation of being somewhere where that file is not.

Interesting thread - one of those stories that is taken as part of the standard Normandy narrative, but which (as so often happens) begins to fray around the edge when investigated. I especially like the air photos.

Simon

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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Richard Anderson » 08 Jun 2021 06:49

Simon Trew 1 wrote:
08 Jun 2021 05:55
On a related matter, is there a bombardment log for Force D (supporting Force S)? I know the Gold Beach records much better and there is a lot of information about post-D-Day NGS (including an incomplete but still pretty detailed bombardment log) in those. I did photocopy parts of the Sword Beach naval records some years ago, but I'm in the usual situation of being somewhere where that file is not.

Interesting thread - one of those stories that is taken as part of the standard Normandy narrative, but which (as so often happens) begins to fray around the edge when investigated. I especially like the air photos.

Simon
Hi Simon,

The Force D annex in the Force S "Report of Proceedings" (Enclosure "C" to Report of Naval Commander Eastern Task Force, ADM 179/504) is pretty sketchy on details. I provided the gist of them above. They are essentially a repeat of the text found under "Bombardment" in the Report of Naval Commander Eastern Task Force, ADM 179/516.
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Re: Which Allied warship's barrage killed Fritz Witt--the commander of 12 SS Hitler Jugend?

Post by Michael Kenny » 11 Jun 2021 19:34

Two more air views dated June 15. No sign of any large calibre craters or misses.
400 0240 (3433),,.jpg
400 0240 (3402) Venoix start.jpg
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