Sunken Tigers in the Seine

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Larso
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Sunken Tigers in the Seine

Post by Larso » 06 Apr 2007 01:31

I've done a search but didn't find anything on this topic.

In Sledgehammers there is an outline of the fates of the Tigers deployed to Normandy. It says that two sunk attempting to cross the Seine by ferry. Does anyone know any more about this? I imagine they were both recovered, to remove obstacles to passage on the river, but I'm curious - could they still be there?

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Post by C.GILLONO » 06 Apr 2007 18:23


Larso
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Post by Larso » 06 Apr 2007 23:53

Thanks for that. In summary no one actually knew but the most relevant post was as follows -

"The Seine near Orival is quiet deep and wide, since it is right near Rouen which is a semi-maritime harbor. The Seine has been dredged extensively during the 50's-60's. If there is no mention of it, it might be because the tank has sunk into the bed of the river, which is credible, since we're not far from the estuary".

So it seems they might still be there but possibly wrecked by the dredging process.

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Post by Larso » 11 Apr 2007 01:11

The source for Wilbeck's comments (if I've understood that 'ibid' think properly) is Schneider's 'Tigers in Combat II' pages 332-33 & maybe 365.

A post on 'Bradford's AFV News' on this same topic (sorry I've been 'unfaithful') says -


"Actually, the best reference is on page 333 of Tigers in Combat II.
In reference to sSS-PzAbt.102(502) at the Seine. Reads...

28.08.44 "While crossing the Seine on a ferry, tank 001 falls into Rouen Harbour and cannot be recovered."

George Bradford
AFV NEWS


So I'm wondering now what the original source was? Was it the battalion war diary, a memoir or something from an interview? It also seems like there were two ferry 'mishaps' and if so what the details of the other one might have been. So if anyone on this forum has Schneider's book (his name is right out of a Commando Comic isn't it), perhaps they might have a look and see what else there is and where the accounts originated from.

Thanks

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Post by NagaSadow » 11 Apr 2007 11:08

From TiCII:

25 August 1944:
"The company commander's tank of the 1./schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 102 is lost during an attempt to cross the Seine River by means of the deep-wading equipment."

28 August 1944:
"When crossing the Seine River, Tiger 001 comes off the ferry and sinks into the crossing point at Rouen."

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Post by cbo » 11 Apr 2007 11:22

As Larso states in his post on AFV-NEWS, there seems to be to incidents mentioned by Wilbeck. I wonder if Larso could enlighten us a bit more on what Wilbeck actually writes, perhaps with a quote?

As for Schneider, in his book "Tigers in Combat II" on page 365 there is a list of tank losses for s.SS-PzAbt 102 (502) where the relevant parts show that on August 25th 1944 the battalion lost three tanks, leaving 12 remaining. 2 tanks were destroyed by the crews, on was "drowned". On August 28th 1944, they lost another one, leaving 11. This was also "drowned. So going by Schneiders list, the battalion lost two Tiger tanks to "drowning" on two separate occasions.
Moving to the narrative about the battalion in Schneiders book, on page 332, continuing on page 333, it is said:

"1 Tiger (Streng) gets to Elbeuf and has to be blown up there. The company commanders tank of the 1st company (without crew) is lost during an attemtp to cross the Seine by means of the deep-wading equipment. Some tanks gather in Fleury and succed in reaching the assembly area of the battalion west of Amiens. Tiger "223" is abandoned in Tostes."

Where exactly this accident with the deep-wading Tiger happened is impossible to establish, as the actual location is not given. However, there are three Elbeufs in the general area of Rouen. One is on a bend in the Seine just south of Rouen. Another, Elbeuf-sur-Andelle, is north of the Seine, east of Rouen and the last one, Elbeuf-en-Bray is also north of the Seine, even further east of Rouen. Both are near the N31 road, which is the main road going east from Rouen to Gournay-en-Bray, so all the Elbeufs could percievably be on the road that the battalions tanks would follow from south of Rouen to Amiens.
Fleury is not much help either, as it is quite a common name for localities in France, my Michelin atlas counting about 20. One is a small village north of the Seine, south east of Rouen. If this is the one, it would suggest a crossing of the Seine west of Paris at Mantes la Jolie. Another candidate is a small village south of Amiens, north-east of Rouen and north of the Seine. Fleury-la-Foret is another small village north of the Seine, east of Rouen, just south of the N31 and not that far from Elbeuf-en-Bray. And finally, there are Fleury-sur-Andelle, which, as the name suggests, is on the same stream as Elbeuf-sur-Andelle, north of the Seine, east of Rouen but rather closer to the Seine and on the N14 main road between Rouen and Paris.
Tostes is fortunately easy to find, it is south of the Seine, and south of Rouen between Elbeuf and Louviers.

A guess would be, though, that if they tried to cross the Seine using deep-wading equipment, the depth would've been no more than 5 meters, as the equipment allowed only a depth of 4.5 meters. It also indicates that the tank in questions was built in September 1943 or earlier as only the first 495 Tiger I had the necessary features for deep-wading.

About the other incident on the 28th, Schneider writes (as per George Bradfords post):

"While crossing the Seine on a ferry, tank 001 falls into Rouen Harbour and cannot be recovered."

It seems to me, judging from the homepage of the Port de Rouen, that the "harbour" is various facilities along the Seine river stretching from the bottom of the river bend at la Bouille up to the next bend of the river in the center of Rouen. So the "harbour of Rouen" is not exactly a precise location either.

Now to the reference in Palluds book as referred to by Indy_Shark on the TankersNet:
I just finished the excellent book, "Ruckmarsch!" by Jean Paul Pallud. What a great book! On page 214, he mentions that a Tiger I of schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 102 capsized a ferry and sank in the Seine at Orival. Does anyone know what happened to the Tiger? Is it still there or was it scrapped after the war?

and the follow-comment by GdG: The Seine near Orival is quiet deep and wide, since it is right near Rouen which is a semi-maritime harbor. The Seine has been dredged extensively during the 50's-60's. If there is no mention of it, it might be because the tank has sunk into the bed of the river, which is credible, since we're not far from the estuary.

There is an Orival on the Seine near Rouen. But that Orival is further up the river from Rouen center, not far from Elbeuf but is not anywhere near the harbour. There is another Orival further north, south of Abbeville, but you cannot fall into the Seine from there, so we can leave that out of story.

So we have one "Tiger falling off ferry" story which appears to be in two different locations and one "Tiger fails submerged Seine crossing" story with no usefull location attached. And since these tank and tank unit history writers rarely bother with proper references and footnotes, you are left hanging again!

Have you tried raising the question on the missing-lynx forum? Thats the hangout for some people with really detailed knowledge on individual Tigers and I'm sure this have been discussed at some point.

Claus B

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Post by Larso » 11 Apr 2007 12:19

Thanks guys. Wilbeck's quote is -

"After 20 August 1944 during the retreat, the SS heavy tank battalions destroyed or abandoned 22 of their Tigers. (144) An additional two Tigers sank attempting to cross the Seine River by ferry." (145)

As 503rd Heavy Tank Bn was mentioned earlier in the paragraph it wasn't clear whether the 'drowned' Tigers were army or SS but the above extracts clear that up.

I take it all the Elbeufs are very small villages? CBO your summary is very good and clears things up a fair bit. It would seem most likely that a Tiger in a water passge only a few metres deep would have indeed been a navigational hazard so it's probably long gone. At least we can rule out air action and I won't have to try and arrange someone to look at squadron logs.

I'll chase up that site you provided. I'm also trying to source a contact email for Wilbeck himself. He was with the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq very recently (he was in Time magazine too), hopefully he's back.

Did we find out what Schneiders sources were?

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Post by Michael Kenny » 11 Apr 2007 20:19

Willbeck's work is based on Schneider. His figures and loss dates/rates are exactly as in Schneider's. TIC I/II. Both Wilbeck and Schneider believe the majority of Tigers were not destroyed in combat and that kill claims for Tiger crews are 100% accurate.
There is nothing in print or photos about any Tiger wreck being recovered from French rivers.
Wilbeck will not provide you with any information that can not be found in Schneiders books.
By far the most detailed account of individual SS 102 Tigers can be found in Tieke's book 'In The Firestorm Of The Last Year Of The War'
Schneiders book 'Das Reich Tigers' says 1 Tiger sank with a ferry (minus crew) at Elbeuf and '001' sank in the harbour at Rouen' during a crossing attempt on 28/8/44'

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Post by Larso » 12 Apr 2007 02:23

Thanks Michael, your point about Wilbeck is taken, there's no future there. Interesting to hear there are no pictures about Tigers being recovered from the Seine. That says something I think, as it would've most likely been newsworthy whenever it was done.

I've done a big search on the Lynx site but there is nothing there with any additional information.

Is Tieke still alive? It's been a long time but it seems likely that there would still be a witness or two to the event of a command tank slipping of a ferry. The sort of thing you'd remember too I think.

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Post by cbo » 12 Apr 2007 09:53

Larso wrote:Thanks Michael, your point about Wilbeck is taken, there's no future there. Interesting to hear there are no pictures about Tigers being recovered from the Seine. That says something I think, as it would've most likely been newsworthy whenever it was done.
I think what Michael means is that no one has so far, in recent years, published a photo of Tigers being dragged from the Seine. That does not rule out that it happened or that it is documented in a photo album in someones loft. And unless someone has done serious research into the post-war cleaning up of Rouen and the Seine in that area, it does not rule out that it was in fact mentioned in the local press or in the archives of whatever agencies and companies that were responsible for the clean up.
If systematic research into the problem has been done and come up empty, then it might suggest that there is still a Tiger or two on the bottom of the Seine somewhere. If not, then it is anybodys guess what happened to it.

As for Schneiders sources, his book (TIC II) has a simple and incomplete bibliography but no direct references from the text to the sources, so it is impossible to see where he got what information from. It doesn't help, of course, when he appears to write somehting in one book and something else in another. If I understand Michaels reference to Schneiders "Das Reich Tigers" correctly, it deals with two incidents of s-SS-PzAbt 102 Tigers sinking while crossing the Seine, both on the 28th, one sinking at Elbeuf on a ferry while the other toppled into Rouen Harbour. That is different from what he writes in TIC II, where one topples into the harbour on the 28th while the other is lost using deep-wading gear at an unknown location, possibly Elbeuf, on the 25th.

We now have, in principle, four different s.SS-PzAbt 102 Tigers dropping into the Seine:

1. 001 sinking with or from a ferry in Rouen harbour on the 28th (Schneider: TIC II and Das Reich Tigers)
2. A Tiger drowning while tryin to cross the Seine using deep-wading equipment on the 25th, possibly at Elbeuf (Schneider: TIC II)
3. A Tiger sinking with a ferry at Elbeuf on the 28th (Schneider: Das Reich Tigers)
4. A Tiger capsizing with a ferry at Orival at an unknown date (Pallud: Rückmarsch)

As Orival is not very far from Elbeuf, it is not impossible that the incidents placed at Elbeuf and Orival are in fact the same. And I guess you cannot exclude either that the deep-wading attempt may in some way have involved a ferry (remember the tests of Panzer IIIs and IVs with deep-wading equipment as pictured in the "Encyclopedia..." by Chamberlain). That leaves the issue of dates, but they could also be confused. So possibly, we are looking at two incidents:

1. A Tiger sinking in "Rouen Harbour". IIRC pictures exist of a Tiger (with a Marder and a Panther), possibly Waffen-SS, parked on the Quai Jean de Béthencourt in Rouen, on the southern bank of the Seine in the center of Rouen, which suggests that this was definately an area used for crossing. The area has cranes etc. and would clearly qualify as being within the harbour. Perhaps Michael can tell us which Tiger it actually is?

2. An incident at Orival, near Elbeuf, involving a Tiger and possibly a ferry and some deep wading equipment.

My guess is that the answer to what happened to the Tigers is to be found in local archives (city, press, library) in Rouen or by interviewing locals.

Claus B

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Post by Michael Kenny » 12 Apr 2007 19:49

The Tiger in the photo at Rouen docks is '304' from SS 101. This Tiger made it across and was eventualy left by the roadside in The Somme.
Of course I meant there are no photos of a recovered Tiger 'known to me' but there are people actively searching for just such evidence and I would know if it was available.
As you say though new photos appear all the time (one just last week) and anything is possible.
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sunken Tiger at Orival

Post by uli » 13 Apr 2007 15:58

I can add from the book "Combat History of sPzJgAbt 654" by Karlheinz Münch (p. 283):

24 August 1944:

" ... While carrying a Tiger from a SS battalion, the Orival ferry sank in the Seine, taking the tank with it."

Orival north of Elbeuf, the book does not mention which SS battalion it was.

Regards Uli

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Post by Larso » 14 Apr 2007 05:44

Thanks uli

Surely, tied down or not the Tiger would've slid off the ferry as it sank. If it was capable of carrying a Tiger it must've been a reasonable sort of ferry in size and capacity and probably therefore worth raising and reparing it for post war use. There is good reason though to think the Tiger was just left where it landed, sinking into the river bed.

I see that unit history is off the 654th. Was there one written for the 102nd SS? I looked but couldn't find anything.

After considering all that's been posted it seems we have gone as far as we can. It does seem though that there is a good chance that the ferry Tiger at least is still there, possibly damaged. Given that it was a command Tiger I think there must've been a number of battalion HQ staff amongst others, who witnessed the event. Quite likely a few are still alive.

My thoughts on this are as follows. I don't think the PanzerMuseum has it's own Tiger 1. I am wondering then, would there be staff members at the Museum who have contacts with the veteran's panzer associations - ideally 102nd SS Heavy Tank men? If so, it seems to be worthwhile for them to do some research and see if a site can be identified with a review to a recovery being attempted.

This said, it is unlikely that I or anyone else here were the first to have this idea. So I wonder if it's been explored before and dismissed for whatever reason? Is there anyone on this Forum who has a contact at the Panzer Museum who could inquire?

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Post by Michael Kenny » 14 Apr 2007 11:36

I think any Tiger would have been removed fairly quickly.


http://www.army.mil/cmh/reference/Norma ... /COE16.htm


"Rouen, the third major port American forces reconstructed in Europe, was not as badly damaged as Le Havre. Although the Germans had demolished cargo-handling facilities and blocked the river channel by sinking a number of ships, the quays were in good condition-some 14,000 feet were usable. On the land side, the marshaling yards adjacent to the port had suffered heavy bomb damage. This presented no particular problem because other marshaling yards twelve miles away were easily accessible over a four-lane highway.

In peacetime, two-thirds of the traffic between Rouen and Paris moved by inland waterways along an eight-foot-deep channel in the Seine that could handle barges up to twenty-one feet wide.33 The largest task of rehabilitation at Rouen-the removal of mines, sunken cranes, ships, barges, and tugs from this river channel-fell mainly to the US Navy, aided by French authorities. The engineers removed debris and filled in bomb craters. Elements of the engineer task force in Le Havre, consisting of the 1061st Engineer Port Construction and Repair Group, a Royal Navy party, and a platoon of the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion, undertook these tasks."


There are a number of photos of wrecked Tigers at the docks and who knows if one was taken from the water.

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Post by 22B » 14 Apr 2007 16:42

My Dad took the middle picture of 304 and I sent it along. Amazed to see it online and with other pics of the sme tank. My Dad told me about looking through it when they found it, I will be watching for any further info on this tank and the circumstances surrounding it.

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