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The German Coastal Gunner

Discussion in 'German WWII Uniforms and Equipment' started by Jim, Jun 10, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Known as the Kriegsmarine during WWII ..

    The Germans established more than twenty large coastal batteries between Cherbourg and Le Havre and these were manned by Army and Navy personnel. In the course of the invasion these men were subjected to an onslaught from the air and from the sea. Although the batteries, most of which were equipped with guns between 100 and 150mm calibre, would have to tackle an entire invasion fleet, not all were placed in protective casemates. But the batteries in Le Havre, and those at Bleville, had a range of 20 miles and those at La Heve 15 miles.

    Most German batteries put up relatively feeble resistance on D-day and were soon silenced although the artillery position at Saint-Marcouf (Crisbecq) was something of an exception. This battery, on the eastern coast of the Cotentin peninsula, was served by a Kriegsmarine crew and they held out despite being bombarded by thousands of tons of bombs.

    Manning the Guns, as this Kreigsmarine Coastal Gun Crew prepare to fire one of their guns.

    [​IMG]

    Indeed, ably directed by their commander, Ensign 1st Class Walter Ohmsen, the gunners hit back and damaged a number of American ships. Shell-shocked and wounded, the Germans did not give up even when infantrymen belonging to the US 4th Infantry Division arrived on the scene and laid siege to the emplacements. Ohmsen even directed the Azeville batteries to open up on his own battery to drive the American infantrymen away. The garrison was finally pulled out on June 11 and Ohmsen was decorated with a Knights Cross for his achievements.

    The Merville battery, of particular strategic importance due to its position, was captured by British paratroopers after a particularly merciless struggle. The Mont Canisy battery was one of the most important German positions between Le Havre and Cherbourg, and managed to sink one ship, badly damage 12 others and hit 22 more. The Longues-sur-Mer guns also fought valiantly. The battery had not yet been prepared for combat and was not completed by June 6. As no optical range-finders had been installed the German gunners had to engage targets with open-sights. The gunners pounded HMS Bulolo, the flagship of Commodore Douglas-Pennant, Naval Commander for "Force G", the Gold Beach sector of the invasion fleet. Only when the French cruisers Montcalm and Georges Leygues, and the British HMS Ajax, appeared on the scene in the afternoon of June 6 did the situation alter.

    German coastal guns often suffered from limited range and insufficient firepower. They were also beset by their isolation and this made it difficult for them to replenish their ammunition especially when the situation in the surrounding area was chaotic. Communication was also a problem and orders directing the batteries to open fire were sometimes never received because telephone lines had been cut.
     
  2. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    Another less than enviable job then eh ? :wtf:I had always thought of them as hard to hit/damage, and as effectively armed, but I see only Crisbeq really caused any problems! Useful overview JIm [​IMG]
     
  3. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Aye, and if you (when) ever nip over to Normandy again Dave if you never visited Crisbeq the last time, i highly recommend you to now that quite a bit of work has been done (still on going may i add) to try and restore it back to what it was like in 1944. :thumb:
     
  4. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    Point taken mate, 'looks like I could have chosen better stop-offs in the two days I got running around the Normandy battle sites like a headless chicken. Still, I enjoyed Longues ,very impressive. I remember over -hearing a guide say that the guns there were excellent for the time. Yet despite this they only managed to bloody the nose of one ship, which quickly retaliated and sent the defending gunners running like hell !
    An eye-opener.
    I'm starting to think that the Atlantic Wall could never live up to the hype, and the invasion planners knew this. Sadly they also must have known that high casualties would be the cost. All the history for me atm is pointing at Omaha....

    (Apart from next Monday at 9 on BBC2 when Jon Snow and his lad are covering Stalingrad...a fine job they did on Midway last night:happy:)
     
  5. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Longues was as you say for the time a well placed site to do harm on any planned invasion, it was strategically placed to fire up on the invasion fleet and not for use of the beaches, but as you say it hardly lived up to its reputation and i believe this was mainly due to the air bombing leading up to the invasion, thou the guns were not destroyed thru the aerial bombing i believe the it knocked the will to fight out of the soldiers that were there at the time, as it didn't take much for them to surrender. We read so much about the invasion regarding the landings and the paratroopers we tend to forget the part that the R.A.F and the Armada did to soften up the Germans before the Allies stepped foot into Normandy. I am not taking away anything from the Soldiers and their bravery, far from it. The Germans manning these guns were not the battle hardened or fanatical soldiers that the Allies were to meet in later campaigns.
     

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