46 CDO RM - The Attack on Le Hamel and Rots - 12 SS Pz Div
Unit/ Formation: 46 Cdo RM Location: France Period/ Conflict: World War II Year: 1944 Date/s: 11 June 1944
The attempted counterattack by 12. SS-Panzer-Division ‘Hitlerjügend’ on 8th June against the Allied bridgehead was halted just northwest of Carpiquet Airfield by the efforts of Keller’s 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and Wyman’s 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.
Repeated attempts by Hitler’s ‘Black Hussars’ to break through the Canadian lines at Norrey-en-Bessin and Bretteville l’Orgueilleuse have all been beaten off and the Allies have now regained the initiative.
The Canadians are launching a major effort to relieve their isolated outpost at Norrey-enBessin, and drive through German lines to seize Carpiquet Airfield and the Cheux Heights, thus outflanking the western flank of Caen.
On the eastern flank of this operation is the village of Rots, which is occupied by elements of the SS-PanzerGrenadier-Regiment 26 and a company of Panthers from SS-Panzer-Regiment 12.
This position sticks like a thorn in the side of 3rd Canadian Division and must be seized if the planned operation is to be successful. The task is to be given to Blackader’s 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade, spearheaded by the British 46 Royal Marine Commando and the tanks of the Fort Garry Horse.
‘They fought like lions on both sides, so that the dead lay corpse by corpse. We searched every house, every courtyard to avoid ambush. And here is the confirmation of how ferocious last night's battle must have been. The Commandos lie dead in rows beside the dead SS. Grenades are scattered all over the road and in the porches of houses. Here we see a Commando and an SS man, literally dead in each other's arms, having slaughtered each other. There, a German and a Canadian tank have engaged each other to destruction, and are still smouldering, and from each blackened turret hangs the charred corpse of a machine gunner. Over here are a group who ran towards a wall for shelter and were shot down before they got there. And then near the church, as the advance guard of C Company and the carriers turn the corner, there are three Germans. Only three. But one of them instantly draws his pistol and hits one of our men. A Bren gunner kills two of the three SS men, but the survivor gets away. Now we understand with what kind of fanatic we have to deal.’ – Regimental History, Régiment de la Chaudière.
'Suddenly a Panther appeared to support us. It was a terrible sight as we saw the tank churning through the dead and wounded… we launched a counter-attack with its support. A little later someone shouted “Tank behind you!” Our tank was in a difficult position as it was impossible to turn round in that narrow street. I reversed as far as a place where I could at least traverse the turret through 180° and then I drove slowly as far as the exit from the village. Suddenly a Sherman appeared in front. Our crew then realised what was happening, as with roaring engine, I tried to reach the edge of the village to be able to traverse the turret. But I never got there and our Panther was destroyed… I found out later that Hauptsturmführer Pfeiffer had been killed in the tank.’ – SSOberscharführer Erwin Wohlgemuth, 4. Kompanie, SS-Panzer-Regiment 12
SS-Hstuf. HansPFEIFFER had been Hitler's Personal Adjutant in 1943 and was actually killed when a shell decapitated him in his cupola, his body bleeding out in the combat compartment the tank then drove into action.
46 CDO war Diary
10th June 1944
All day - Day spent in patrolling and improving defensive position.
2100 - Orders received from 8 Cdn Inf Bde to move at 0615 11 Jun and clear the valley of LA MUC RIVIERE from incl BARBIERE 9777 to ROTS 9571 with in support 'A' Tp, 10 Armd Regt, one Tp RMAS Gp, one sec RCE and FOO with call on one Fd Regt.
11th June 1944
0615 - Cdo left the position and married up with supporting arms area rd junc 979778. CO gave orders for the operation to be carried out in four phases:-
Phase I - clear woods from BARBIERE 9777 to small wood 975754.
Phase II - clear CAIRON 9675.
Phase III - attack on ROSEL 9673.
Phase IV - attack on LE HAMEL 9472 and ROTS 9571.
Phase I was completed by 1100 hrs. 8 prisoners from 716 Coastal Div Arty were captured in the woods.
Phase II - CAIRON was found to be already occupied by our own troops and was entered at 1120 hrs. The unit was heavily shelled in the area between 1130 and 1245 hrs.
Phase III - Attack commenced at 1320 hrs, supported by Arty and a Cdn MMG Pl, firing from area pt 60 9573. The town and woods of ROSEL were cleared by 1500 hrs.
Phase IV - Attack commenced at 1730 hrs. The assault on LE HAMEL was put in at 1800 hrs by 'Y' and 'S' Troops, who encountered heavy opposition. The assault on the positions surrounding the village was successful and two hrs of bitter street fighting followed in LE HAMEL against a resolute enemy subsequently identified as 1 Coy 26 PGR of 12 SS Pz Div.
Meantime, 'A' and 'B' Tps had passed through into ROTS and encountered two PANTHER tanks which were destroyed by the Cdn Shermans after a hard fight.
Street fighting in ROTS followed and by dusk both towns were in our hands. Enemy casualties were 122 killed (counted and buried subsequently by Reg de CHAUDIERE) and eight prisoners. Our own casualties were 17 killed, 9 wounded and 35 missing (majority believed wounded and evacuated by enemy).
The Cdo was then ordered to withdraw from the towns by 8 Cdn Inf Bde but CO stated towns could be held and the Cdo was then ordered to hold the towns and infm that assistance would be sent fwd as soon as possible.
The remainder of the Cdo moved into the town; two of the Shermans remained overnight to give assistance if required. All ranks stood to continuously throughout the night but no counterattack was put in by the enemy.
National Archives catalogue number ADM 202/105