Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Able Comet

By 1945 armour Vs armour combat was rare, but as the Allies pushed into Germany it did happen. Today we look at one such engagement. It happened on April 12-13th 1945.

At the Panzertruppenschule Bergen there were six Tigers. These were under command of a Lieutenant Franzen. These Tigers were all hybrid machines cobbled together from spare parts, including early production components. However they were still tigers, and so as the Allies approached they where formed into a Kampfgruppe with several Panthers and launched at the allies, in an attempt to break through to the Ruhr pocket. Over the next few days the Kampfgruppe conducted several attacks on the British and US positions. One attack resulted in a fairly epic story of gallivanting about behind enemy lines worthy of Hollywood, however that is a tale for another day. During one of these attacks Lt Franzens Tiger was attacking British paratroopers, and was hit by a PIAT round. The HEAT shell slammed into the Tiger and damaged the gun traverse, forcing Lt Franzen to withdraw.
Lt Franzens Tiger
On the allied side 3rd Royal Tank Regiment moved down to Schwarmstedt. As the lead elements approached the River Aller, two Comet's where knocked out by a Anti-tank gun. Although a third Comet destroyed the gun, 3rd RTR leaguered in the area overnight. During the night 1 Commando Brigade forced a crossing of the river in the face of heavy German opposition. By morning they had caved out a bridgehead 800 yards deep, and about twice as wide. In a hurry to get tanks across and support the infantry Able Squadron of 3rd RTR was ferried across using rafts. Although once across the squadron was ordered to avoid pushing too hard until the bridge had been finished.
3RTR In Belgium
3RTR unknown location
As the gun mantle needed replacing on his tank Lt Franzen missed the next few days action, and the destruction of the Kampfgruppe. On April 12th, Lt Franzens Tiger, F01 (F for "Fahrschule", or Driving School), was formed into a new Kampfgruppe, with some infantry and two other Tigers and ordered to attack the British bridgehead.

At 1400, 1st Trp, A Squadron led by Major Langdon, was supporting the King's Shropshire Light Infantry as the pushed through a forested area. The KSLI had brought up a Wasp carrier and the undergrowth was in flames. Through the smoke and heat the Comets drove slowly down the road shelling any suspicious bush or ditch with HE, while the infantry continued to advance. The fumes from the gun firing and the smoke and heat made the conditions extremely exhausting inside the tanks. So during a lull the Troop pulled back down a trail leading off to the side of the main road. Where they stopped for a break with the KSLI Commander's scout car. After half an hour the stillness was shattered by the roar of an 88mm. Looking up the Maj Langdon saw Lt Franzens Tiger 300 yards away as it advanced round a bend. The 88mm Shell had hit the scout car brewing it up.

Maj Langdons gun had a HE round loaded, and his loader quickly unloaded and then loaded the gun with an AP shell. His Comet fired a hasty shot towards the hulking box shape and all three Comets in the troop tried to reverse for cover.  Maj Langdons Comet slammed into a 40ft tall tree, in reverse. If the tree didn't give way Maj Langdon would be dead. Luckily it did, and his Comet crashed out of sight. The second Comet belonged to Corporal Brindle. F01 fired on Cpl Brindles Comet, the round hit but ricocheted off the thick armour. By freak chance the ricocheting shell smashed the Comets track. Quickly realising his plight Cpl Brindle ordered his crew to bail out. Not a second too soon, as Lt Franzen put two more shells into the Comet, wrecking it.

The ricochet on Cpl Brindles tank
The KSLI sent out a couple of patrols armed with PIATS to hunt for F01, When they found it they fired. Two of the PIAT shots hit, and F01's crew bailed out. Due to the presence of enemy infantry the British couldn't close with and destroy the Tiger, so later that night Lt Franzen led his crew back to the Tiger, and finding it undamaged recovered her back to safety to fight again.

Overnight the Germans shelled the British. At 0500 Lt Franzen was in his Tiger, Reports were that the British were moving again, so he pulled his tank forward, and spotted several vehicles. He quickly fired a salvo of rounds at the enemy vehicles, and set one (a Kangaroo) on fire. The British went to ground. After a while Lt Franzen heard the swoosh of artillery followed by the shells exploding. So F01 retired a short distance to get out from under the bombardment. As the Artillery stopped with reports of British armour skirmishing forward along the road, Lt Franzen started to advance slowly. In the early morning, and confusion of battle Lt Franzen lost sight of his friendly infantry in the undergrowth. Little did he know that he had advanced past their line and so was pushing into no-man's land alone.
Suddenly Lt Franzen saw a Comet to his left. At about 100 yards range. Yelling "Enemy tank! 10 o'clock!" to warn his crew. F01's Gunner reacted first starting to traverse the turret. But the Comet (commanded by Lieutenant Harding) had sneaked into no-man's land and laid the perfect trap. Lt Harding fired once. The round hit the Tiger just behind one of its ammo bins. Although it failed to blow the ammo rack, the shell did hit the fuel tank and cause F01 to catch fire. Lt Franzen bailed out of his stricken tank, on the ground he found the rest of his crew all safely out of the tank. Although all suffered minor burns. With nothing else to do they retreated from the front.
For this action Lt Harding was awarded the military medal. Lt Franzen and Maj Langdon survived the war.


  1. A very interesting story. I wonder how well the F01 drove considering it was for driver training. Likely advanced driver training but still.. The driver training vehicles tended to be heavily abused and not always in the best of conditions.

  2. No i don't think the tank was for driver training, they usually had much smaller tanks than that. His tank was named "driving school" like as a joke.

  3. I hope to see one day a Tiger H to be that tough to disable.

    Great battle by the way.

  4. Good choice with the selection/use of the photos, they really do bring the encounter to life.

    One thing I will mention though; have you thought of applying national conventions when it comes to ranks and abbreviations? I appreciate that might sound like pedantry, but it can get a little confusing to the uninitiated at times when you have 'Majors' shooting at 'Lieutenants'. Plus, it's an added historical tidbit for people to pick up and remember and your international readers might appreciate that.

  5. I think the picture of Comets was Sudrstapel, my Dad was there