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Post Info TOPIC: German eyewitness account of tank warfare?


Private

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German eyewitness account of tank warfare?
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Can anyone help me find any German eyewitness accounts of the WWI tanks warfare?

I'm interested in any account by German soldiers facing British tanks OR accounts by German tank crews.

Are there any accounts available online?


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Legend

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H, Toom. Sorry to raise your hopes, but this message will be no help whatsoever. I've been trying to find something similar for years, but haven't come up with anything, apart from a small reference by Ernst Junger.

I've always wanted to get to the bottom of how the Germans reacted. I suspect that the tales of Germans being terrified were exaggerated for Allied consumption, yet there does seem to be evidence that they sometimes surrendered in large numbers to single, even inoperable, Tanks. On the other hand, they began to introduce a variety of anti-Tank measures very soon after the first deployment, and these were men who had seen huge advances in military technology since 1914. They must have realised that these were just armoured cars on tracks and therefore not invincible. There are, of course, British stories of Germans clambering onto Tanks and trying to shoot through the pistol-ports and vision slits, so they can't have been paralysed with fear. As I've said elsewhere, I believe that large-scale surrenders were a result of crumbling morale late in the War.

But as for first-hand accounts of Panzerschreck, I'm as keen to see some as you are.

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Legend

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The Boiler Plate War contains the results of interviews with some German survivors of Flers made in the 1960s. It seems that the reaction was mixed, some stood their ground whilst others did a fair imitation of Corporal Jones. Interestingly one German officer states that they had been warned to expect attacks from armoured tracked vehicles " being manufactured in French factories". However he hadn't expected what turned up. It seems that French security wasn't as good as the British in this respect (so much for French claims that the British had blown the secret by attacking in 1916).
The Fighting Tanks contains a very good account written by Lt Spremberg 5th co Infantry Regiment 52 defending Fontaine ourside Cambrai. This includes the fate of C47. His men were any thing but cowed.
The German High Command in a report to the Reichstadt just before the end of the war refers to German troops panicking when surprised by tank attacks so I guess one could say that reactions remained mixed right up to the end of the war.

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Field Marshal

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Feldwebel Wilhelm Speck, 84th Res. Regt., facing a MkII tank of 8 Co., C Bn. west of Monchy-le-Preux on 11/4/17:
"The advancing Tommies were 600-800 metres away, the 17th Bavarians had run back and left our right flank open. Orders were issued to fill the gap to prevent a breakthrough. The hedges of the Route Nationale gave us good cover. Suddenly we heard a shout from 3rd Company: ' A tank is on the right of the road'. We stared aghast as slowly a tank crept toward us. At fifty metres range we opened fire with rifles and machine guns but as it got within thirty metres of us it suddenly turned off to the right towards the Bavarians. We clapped and cheered! And standing up we shot from the hip at the tank - but our celebrations were a a bit premature!...suddenly the tank turned back towards us and advanced. We hoped the wide ditch at the side of the road would stop it. Little did we know of the capabilities of a tank! It entered the ditch and tippped acutely to the left and remained there for one or two minutes, but he straightened himself out and crossed the road toward us, repeating the ditch crossing manoeuver on the other side. Then the tank moved to within five metres of the right section of 1st Company and stopped without firing. Now a concentrated fire from 1st and 3rd Companies was directed at the tank, hand grenades were thrown and some brave men got up and advanced from their positions. At this moment the tank tracks began to move and the tank crew opened up with a murderous machine-gun fire which was slowly directed along 1st Company trench. Those that were not killed instantly, screamed as they lay there wounded. Leutnant Hardow gave orders to clear the trench to the left towards 3rd Company, but the tank was already on them too. Then the panic started, everyone from 1st and 3rd Companies jumped out of the trench and ran the fastest race of his life, pursued by the merciless tank machine-gun fire which cut down many men as if it were a rabbit-shoot. The troops that ran wildly from the enemy were experienced soldiers and they only stopped running when they reached the lane from Boiry to Guemappe about one kilometre away." 

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Legend

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Thanks, Rhomboid. That's the first time I've come across such an account. It sounds as if the Germans were in a relatively exposed position rather than well entrenched (hedges, etc), which might have influenced matters. They seem to have been (justifiably) wary but not overawed. There must have been a learning curve, and I suppose it depends where troops were on it.

A source that I can't remember said that Allied troops were similarly panicky when confronted by Beutepanzers or A7Vs.

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Field Marshal

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The C Bn. operational narrative describes the above fighting as follows: "LIEUT: G.C.T. SALTER (Tank C.21) reached the crossroads at LA BERGERE at 5.20 a.m. He worked his tank close to a trench on the south side of the road, and cleared out the enemy with Lewis gun fire afterwards informing the infantry that the trench was clear. He then started to work northwards towards the village. Soon after this the Tank came under very heavy shell fire, and shell splinters came through the back door and radiator killing the signaller and wounding the driver and four others of the crew. After dressing the wounded Lt. SALTER with the remaining two of his crew went up to MONCHY to try and get information, but became cut off by artillery barrage. He returned to the rallying point 2 1/2 hours later. There is no doubt this tank was hit by our own artillery barrage."
The approximate position of the 84th Res. Regt. is shown in red on the map below.
Another account of tank fighting at Monchy on 11/4/17 is given by Unteroffizier Alfons Bernardini (Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd Class), 23rd Bav. Regt. "We had arrived in Monchy during the night. The village was very badly damaged and we were ordered to occupy the western part of it, so we hurriedly set about fortifiying the houses. Early in the morning we came under heavy artillery fire and the English attacked the village. As dawn broke a tank came rattling across the cobbles of the main street closely followed by the English infantry who obviously felt quite safe. Hidden in this house, I ordered my men to hold their fire until I gave the word. I waited until the tank had got past and then we opened up with everything we had. The English were totally caught by surprise and many were shot down in our hail of fire. The rest scattered. Then we found out that the English had broken through at both ends of the village. Afraid that we would be cut off, we fought our way back to the east side and made good our escape."
The C Bn. narrative also describes this episode: "Lieut: H.W. JOHNSTON (Tank C.26) started from the enclosure at N6.a at 5.00 a.m. and moved to the North for Monchy. He encountered severe Machine Gun fire from enemy in pits and put out several Machine Guns with 6pdr. and Lewis Gun fire. He proceeded across West of village and then North and East. There was no artillery support and no infantry appeared until the village had been practically abandoned by the enemy. On arriving at the East of village he ran in to our own barrage. Engine then seized and he abandoned tank, and assisted infantry to consolidate, supplying them with four Lewis Guns and several magazines of S.A.A. ammunition. He left the infantry at 2.30 p.m. and returned to the rallying point.

-- Edited by Rhomboid at 06:22, 2008-08-24

-- Edited by Rhomboid at 06:25, 2008-08-24

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Private

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Thanks everyone for your help. That's a wonderful account Rhomboid really brings it to life!

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Colonel

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Dear Tom,

please go to a British Barrak of a ROYAL ARMY TANK CORP .

Beg for the possibillity to be present at a "Driving trainig " and will get your "own fear"

This also to the other members of this discussion .

A Mark IV a T34 or a Leopard II - they all are wartecnical monsters -fear for footsoldiers

included

Cheers

Gerd

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Corporal

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Just came across this message and there is now a very good answer - Jack Sheldon's book The German Army at Cambrai contains multiple eyewitness accounts from soldiers and officers facing British tanks. Very much recommended: http://www.amazon.co.uk/German-Army-at-Cambrai/dp/1844159442/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267113126&sr=8-1

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Commander in Chief

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James H wrote:



A source that I can't remember said that Allied troops were similarly panicky when confronted by Beutepanzers or A7Vs.



It is mentioned in a Profile's, vol 1 AFV's of World War one

Kieffer

 



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Corporal

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Canadian Documentary interested in German eyewitness account of tank warfare
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Hello, 

My name is Victor Kushmaniuk and I'm a documentary filmmaker in Toronto, Canada.
I noticed your posting of a very good German account of tank fighting in the Great War. I'm searching for such memoirs and would greatly appreciate your help in better identifying this and hopefully other such accounts.

Thank you very much,
Victor




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Anonymous

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RE: German eyewitness account of tank warfare?
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your name is shit and so is your sex lifefurious



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Anonymous

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Where did you get this source from? Is it accessible online?



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