So, I had posted what I felt were the most famous photos of the unit in the initial post. These photos were used in the German 'Signal' Magazine for propaganda and moral. THese became the most famous photos on the internet associated with the 12th SS Hitlerjugend and were initially what caught my eye back in 2007.
I was researching photo locations to visit on an upcoming backpacking trip through Europe with my buddies and knew I'd be visiting Normandy. The photos intrigued me and I was struck by how similar the 17-23yr olds in the photos looked like my friends who were of the same age range. I thought the photos were taken in Norrey-en-Bessin since that's what Dragon's kit name and incredible box art by Ron Volstad lead me to believe. The photos, however, were actually taken in Rots, not Norrey. A whole series existed showing the platoon receiving awards the day before, to the aftermath of the battle on the 9th.
Here's a colorized photo of Sepp Bund, Klaus Schuh, Otto Funk and Gunther Hamel. They have just received their rewards on June 8th for their action the previous day.
Dragon Models Limited (DML) 1:35 scale model box art (by Ron Volstad) of SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 25. The kit is #6110 Grenadiers, Panzergrenadier Regiment 25, HJ Division. (Norrey-en-Bessin 1944)
The incredible artwork is by Ron Volstad and I partially credit he and his inspiring artworks with
getting me into the hobby. This painting is inspired by the men of II Zug (2nd platoon) of the 15th Kompanie of Panzergrenadier Regiment 25. The figures are inspired by (left to right) Unknown grenadier with K98k rifle with grenade launcher and ammunition bags, Willy Boigk, Otto Funk, and Gunter Hamel.
Taken a day or 2 earlier when men of the Zug were awarded. Left to Right: Joseph "Sepp" Bund, Paul koslowski, Klaus Schuh and Gunter Hamel
Gunter Hamel (Left) and Peter Koslowski (Middle). Klaus Schuh (Barely Visible Far Right).
This is a photo of Max Wunsche (Middle with head bandaged and Walther PPK holster), speaking with Wilhelm Boigk and the men of III Zug 15th recon Kompanie SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 25 after the failed attack on Norrey-en-Bessin with the Panther tanks of 3rd Kompanie, 1st battalion, SS Panzer Regiment 12, 12th SS Panzer Division. The names are as follows from Left to Right: Peter Koslowski, I believe Wick, Max Wunsche, maybe Otto Funk, Wilhelm Boigk and barely visible is Rudolph Von Ribbentrop. Wunsche is no doubt receiving Boigk's report of the action and determining what the next course of action will be.
This is Ron Volstad's incredible box art for Dragon's kit #6168 Pz.kpfw.V Ausf A. Late Production in Normandy 1944. The boxart is inspired by Panther 326 of the 1st Battalion of SS Panzer Regiment 12. This particular tank's commander was killed when a 6lb AT shell cut him in half while he was perched in his commander cupola. His Gunner can be seen mopping up the blood in the photograph along the street in the collection below. The men next to the VW are Rudolph Von Ribbentrop commander of 3. Kompanie, I./SS-PzRgt 12, whose wearing the black panzer uniform, and Max Wunsche, the commander of the entire SS Panzer Regiment 12. Rudolph Von Ribbentrop is the son of Ambassador ( Reich Foreign Minister to England) Joachim Von Ribbentrop. Ambassador Von Ribbentrop was a controversial figure on his own, with such rumors as his alleged affair with Wallis SImpson, mistress then Duchess of Windsor and American socialite whose intended marriage to the British king Edward VIII caused tremendous uproar in England.
Men of the 12th SS Panzer Division. I'm not sure of the unit, perhaps self propelled gun or panzer.
The reason I've added this photo is, 1.) I love it. 2.) It highlights the way this unit used camouflage garments. This unit is unique in that it's one of the few that I've seen that "stack" camouflage garments on top of each other.
These men are wearing full sized Italian and SS camo coveralls WITH M38 cut SS camo smocks in both Plane Tree and Oak Laaf patterns. That's pretty unique in that most would wear the coveralls and not care or even attempt to wear a camo smock over them. This photo shows how with the 12th SS, nearly every type and combination of camouflage clothing were present and used in the campaign. I'm going to really go to town when it comes to painting the figures in this project.
Map showing the Western outskirts of Caen and the area of operations (AO).
An example of a common French "half timbered" cottage. These were very common in the Caen/Calvados Region at the time and is what I will base my house corner and debris off of. This will be the lineman’s cottage that’s mentioned multiple times in the battle reports and memoirs along the Caen-Bayeux railroad embankment.
EDIT: Luckily, one of our forum members is far more familiar with French houses than I, and informed me that these half/timbered houses and cottages aren’t common in this sector. He suggested that limestone “Caen Stone” or “Pierre de Caen” is far more suitable and I’ll be going with that for sure.
The following entry information found in the unit's diaries and memoirs is where I decided to focus my build.
From Alois Morawetz who was an untersharfuhrer and the leader of half a platoon of 3 Panzerkompanie.
"We crossed the rail line Caen-Bayeaux through an underpass, turned right and took up positions on a back slope.
The twelve Panthers were lined up next to each other at a right angle to the rail line. My vehicle sat at the right flank, close to the rail embankment. I. Zug (1st platoon) under Untercharfuhrer Borgensberger was on the left. II.Zug(2nd platoon) under Unterscharfuhrer Alban was in the center. III.Zug (3rd platoon) led by Unterscharfuhrer Stagge, was deployed on the right. Hauptmann Luddemann (Captain of 3rd Panzer Kompanie), sat somewhere in the middle. The time was approximately 12:30 hours.
In front of us it was relatively queit. There were almost no fighter-bombers in the air, as was usual for noon-time. A short time later we sat out through the slowly rising terrain. After approximately 500 meters we reached completely open and level terrain, meadows and fields. Half left ahead of us lay Norrey. II was driving approximately twenty to fifty meters to the left of the rail-line. It ran through a gully, beginning at a line-man's cottage. On the left edge of the gully was probably a hedge which provided us with some cover against being spotted. The whole Kompanie drove as a body, at high speed and without any stops, in a broad front. When the left flank was just outside the village, the order came in: "Wartesaal (Waiting Room), swing to the left!" I ordered my driver to go at full speed and pull slightly to the left. Until then we had not experienced any resistance. Approximately 1,000 meters ahead was a railroad station where some movement could be spotted. I was driving already approximately thirty meters ahead of the Kompanie in a slow left turn, in order not to fall behind. At that moment, after a muffeld bang and swaying as if the track had been ripped off, the vehicle came to a stop.
It was quiet inside the vehicle. I thought we had driven onto a mine. When I looked to the left to check the situation, I happened to see the turret being ripped off the Panther driving on the left flank. At the same moment, after another minor explosion, my vehicle began to burn. The machine gun ammunition caught on fire and there was a crackling noiselike dry wood burning. Since we were to push into the town. I had closed the turret hatch moments before. I tried with out success, to open the turret hatch. I could oinly lift it with the spindle but could not swing it out. Paul Veith, the gunner sitting in front of me, had apparently been seriously wounded by fragments fform the hit. Veith did not move. IU tried for a long time with all my energy to out the hatch. I was inly successful when I tried different height settings on the lift crank. It had probably been damaged by the hit. I jumped out, fell on the rear and was unconcsious for a short time. Then I saw flames coming out of the open hatch as if from a blowtorch. I got up and tried to jump off. However, I could not keep my balance, and landed head first, on the ground. I do not know how logn I lay there. Then I got on my feet and saw to my left,along the same lineas my vehicle, other burnign Panthers. Among them was Stagge's. Approximately 300 to 400 meters behind the Panther, I spotted a sidecar motorcycle of our medic, Unterscharfuhrer Gose. I walked towards it. Members of the crews from the other knocked-out Panther also arrived there. They were burned, without exception on their faces and hands. In the meantime we had realized that the entire area was under infantry fire. The medic's driver (unterscharfuhrer Harting, whose the Author of the unit book), was trying to start the motor again. It had stalled after taking a hit to the left cylinder head. After a few tries, the motor started again. Gose glanced at the men standing around, and since I was apparently the worse burned, he put me in the sidecar. We turned around and drove back. After a few meters, Gose, who sat on the rear seat, dropped backwards off the moving motorcycle. I drew the drivers attention to this since he not noticed it. We drove on another 200 meters or so back to the line-man's cottage. There we stopped. I kept the motor running, using bothy my hands on the twist-grip while the driver made his way forward to the medic. After approximately ten minutest he driver came back again and told me that Gose did not have a chance,. He had been critically hit in the stomach. The remaining five Panthers were withdrawing, firing rapidly. When I left with the motorcycle driver from the line-man's cottage in the direction of Villeneuve and Rots, the Panthers were approximately at the same line as the cottage. Seven of the 12 attacking Panthers were left at the front. We made it back to Villeneuve....As I learned in the late-afternoon at the main dressing station, 15 of the 35 crew members form the 7 knocked out Panthers had been killed. The rest, with few exceptions, were wounded almost all with burn wounds."
The history of 3rd Kompanie supplements this report in the specific points:
"After bailing out, the wounded, mostly more or less seriously burned, tried first to reach the cover of the railway embankment. Initially they were prevented from getting there by an enemy machine gun which had taken up position in "line-man's cottage" on the road Norrey-Bretteville. Only after Unterscharfuhrer Hermani had removed this obstacle with a few hand grenades did the situation become more bearable. While the whole sector was under concentrated enemy fire, some of it from ships' guns, the wounded dragged themselves along the rail line embankment back to the starting point of the attack at he underpass."
These were critical reports for my build and getting a better understanding of what happened.
A 12th SS veteran's memoirs add to this. The following was taken from an interview with a veteran but has been translated from French to English. I'm sorry if it reads like nonsense but they did their best.
"At the end of the morning of June 9th,an attack was planned to seize the Norrey village (tu dois surement connaitre, camarade normand !),as a starting point for a future offensive of the HJ division up North....The attack was made by the 3rd panzerkompanie of the HJ (strenght 12 Panthers) ,commanded by an army officer, Hauptmann Lüdemann (who replaced SS-Ostuf. von Ribbentrop,son of the Foreign Affairs Minister,who was wounded and in a hospital) The Otto Funk platoon was going to provide the accompanying infantry.They all fell in an ambush by 6 Sherman Tanks and 2 or 4 well-camouflaged 6 pounds Canadian's antitank guns, and infantry with PIATs....
7 Panthers were destroyed on the spot...3rd panzerkompanie lost 16 dead,17 severely wounded and one prisonner (SS tankist Werner Uhr who lost a leg). The infantry platoon fell ounder artillery fire.Tanks and infantry replied to the village of La Villeneuve where the wounded were regrouped in a bar... The wounded tankists were always burning alive,their skins hanging down from flesh and bones,some enclosed in a strange silence,others screaming histerically .... In the bar,some mechanics of the panzerregiment rubbed them with motor oil... it's a wonderful balsam for burns,the older ones learned this front recipe in the Eastern Front.
It seems that most of the Panthers,despite their heavy armour,exploded easily (ounder the relatively ''small'' calibers of Sherman and antitank guns- wich normally bounced on the Panther armour) because their gas-tank was half full,wich accumulated gas steam....
Leopold Heindl ,an austrian,was the radio of Panther 315... they get hit in the tracks and comebacked their tank on half wheels.
Not far from there,Max Wuensche and ostuf Rudolf von Ribbentrop (always wounded with a broken arm who had just escaped from the hospital to comeback to his company ) had observed the situation,both were nearly in tears...
After visiting the woundeds in the bar, Wünsche and von Ribbentrop ,on a side-car byke,visited the survivors of 3rd platoon 15/25,resting in a small street... this is where the picture of MG gunner Klaus Schuh was token,during a reportage of SS war correspondents Zschaekel and W.Woscidlo.
Nota: After this failed attack,hauptmann Luedemann suffered a nervious break down.He was killed in action 5 days later and von Ribbentrop regained command of the 3rd Panzerkompanie...
Another map showing the location of the Panthers along the Caen-Bayeaux railway running east to west and a single Panther on the northern road out of Norrey. Very curious. Aerial photograph 1947.
Another of the same. Taken June 26, 1944
An aerial photo showing the destroyed Panthers along the railway embankment. As you can quickly tell, although this is in the heart of Normandy, it is very open with little cover and almost non eof the hedgerows we've come to associate with the area. The terrain and fields here remind me a lot of Southwest Missouri.
The Panther nearest the embankment that was flipped over. It's suspected that the Panther was closer to the embankment and an Allied engineer vehicle or bulldozer pushed it off the road. Such practices were very common and many photos of knocked German tanks show them upside down along roads. The other culprit in toppled German tanks is heavy Allied aerial bombardment such as 500lb and 1000lb bombs form B-17s and B-24s. Although many photos of these results exist, this is not one of them. This Panther was definitely knocked out by either a 6lb pounder from Norrey or one of the Shermans or Fireflies moving south.
Close up of the flipped over Panther.
*[Quotes from the unit diary.]*
A photo of the knocked out Panthers of 3 Kompanie taken in the WInter of the late 40's.
A photo of French civilians next to one of the knocked out 3 kompanie Panthers. The hit marks visible may not all be form the action of June 9th 1944. Often times, Allied units would use knocked out imobile tanks in the rear for target practice.
Another photo of the Panther flipped over. Note that these Panthers do not have schurzen skirt armor and don't appear to even have all the brackets for mounting them.
The Following are the Canadian battle accounts as told by the CO's in the logs.
Logbook Reports form 1st Regina Rifles (1 of 4).
1st Regina Rifles 2 (2 of 4).
1st Regina Rifles 3 (3 of 4).
1st Regina Rifles (4 of 4).
Logbook Reports from 1st Hussars 6 CAR. (1 of 2).
1st Hussars 6 CAR. (2 of 2).
Logbook Report from Sherbrook Fusiliers 27 CAR (1 of 2).
Sherbrook Fusiliers 27 CAR (2 of 2).
Max Wunsche in his command Panther tank.
This is Obergrenadier Karl-Heinz Marckert. Mackert was the sharpshooter (sniper) of 3rd platoon 15/25. That's some poor trigger discipline there, Karl.
Seated in the Motorcycle sidecar is Rudolph Von Ribbentrop, Son of Ambassador Joachim Von Ribbentrop and Rudolph was the commander of 3rd Kompanie. Max Wunsche is driving and the 2 are leaving after checking on men of 3rd platoon 15th Kompanie after the failed Norrey-en-Bessin assault.
Another haunting photograph of 326 and the men of 15/25.
Much more on the context of this photo below.
This photo is taken just after the previous of Panther 326 although I don't know that the Panther tank here is 326. It's likely one of the survivors of 3rd Kompanie though. The letters on the building in the background "STREMY" are barely visible in the previous and next photo confirming the location. We also see a grenadier parked in one of the many VW schwimmwagens that belonged to 15th recon Kompanie of Panzergrenadier regiment 25. Also visible, is one of the Division's BMW R75 motorcycle and sidecar.
The location of the famous Panther 326 picture. This photo is taken on the North to South road that leads south to the Caen-Bayeux Railroad and underpass tunnel. The famous photos on the III platoon, 15th Company were taken just a few houses down on down a driveway and wall that branch off this road.
This photograph shows from left to right: The left-most man with binoculars is Unterscharführer Wick, Klaus Schuh with his mg-42 and ammo, Willie Boigk with grenade in belt, and I believe Otto Funk to the furthest right.
This photo was taken just after the infantry had taken a rest in the alley where most the photos were taken and as the surviving Panthers of 3 Kompanie 1/12 are returning. These photos are particular fascinating because they show a combined tank and infantry group resting after a horrendous attack that failed miserably. These photos, however, were used as positive propoganda in magazines back in Germany proving that context is everything. In foreground tankist Gerd Krieger on Panther ''326'' is cleaning with his shirt,the blood of his tank commander Unterscharfuhrer Eismann. Eismann was perched in his cupola when he was cut in half by a shell from wither a 6 pounder or sherman. His torso went cartwheeling over the tank and his lower half and bowels spilled out into the interior of the turret. This had a debilitating effect on both the gunner and loader inside and the panzergrenadiers of 15/25 who were riding on the back of the tank and moving along side and behind it. In this photo, Panther crew member Gerd Krieger is mopping up the remains when he asks for another shirt. Hauptscharfuhrer Post,''spiess'' of 3rd panzerkompanie was said to have replied, "Wash it".