Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A Battle Lost? Part 3 - Rommel rides again!

My thanks to Peter Antill for sending me this previously unpublished chapter from Rommel's memoirs.  We will probably never know how it ended up in a wheelie bin in the Swindon area.

 7PD marches west.  
The Panzer Gruppe HQ can be seen close behind while stragglers from 2PD are still present.
photo by Peter Antill
An aerial view of 7PD - possible photographed from the Korps commander's Storch.
photo by Peter Antill

7th Panzer Division (The 'Ghost' Division)

After coming on in line of march along with the rest of the corps as part of the second echelon, the division slowly made its way around the only major town on that map (Hirson?) to the south which by that time was in the process of being reduced by one  of Tom's infantry divisions. The presence of the division in its rear area encouraged the enemy division that was holding the town to surrender.  Progress was slower than hoped for due to having to go across country but this enabled the division to steer clear of centres of enemy resistance, despite the temptation to assault an enemy infantry division to capture a crossing on the Somme River (Origny-Sainte-Benoite?) in conjunction with Rob's 2nd Panzer Division. We continued to follow the orders given by the corps commander, while keeping our recon elements very active - indeed they captured the airfield just off Route 29 early on. After crossing the Somme (at Etreux?), the division then moved west and then northwest, joining the road to Arras just behind Cambrai completely undetected by the enemy. It then moved swiftly towards Arras under orders to pass through one of XXXI Corps' lead divisions that was holding the town and head for the Channel. The road leading out of Arras was unfortunately blocked by a French armoured division and so the 7th Panzer diverted southwest and then west towards Rue and the coast. The recon elements once again showed their courage when they captured a large French airfield, which was quickly secured by the corps HQ.

(signed) Generalmajor Erwin Rommel
7PD poised at the western edge of the table.  Assuming the division reached Abbeville 
by the end of the 18 May, this represented an advance of over 200km in three days!
photo by Peter Antill


Chris Kemp said...

The 'large French airfield' would have been SUZANNE SW. Interesting that there is no mention in Rommel's memoirs of nearly capturing a French army commander, or of divisional recce being bombed on the airfield by the Luftwaffe!

Regards, Chris.

Tim Gow said...

Chris Kemp
I'm sure he's just being modest!