File No.:

Title: Location where German tank ace Michael Wittmann was Killed in Action
Investigation made at
:  Le Pré Marie (Highway D183A), 14680 Cintheaux, Département Calvados, Republic of France
(49°03'59.4"N 0°17'32.8"W)
Period Covered
:  8AUG1944
Case Classification: Location of Historic Events
Status of Case: Case Closed


(click to enlarge)

A frequent visitor to the Battle Detective Agency’s
Facebook page from Massachusetts created this
Ghost Now&Then photo of the location.

The highest scoring German Panzer Ace, Michael Wittmann (DOB 22APR1914 born at Vogelthal, Dietfurt an der Altmühl, Germany) was killed during a counter-attack against British and Canadian tanks in Normandy, 8AUG1944.
Wittmann’s death went unexamined until his remains were found in 1983.
It has not been a mystery where Wittmann met his death but which Allied unit could claim the kill has been open to debate until today. This agency examined the evidence to determine who killed the “Black Baron” and visited the location of the battle.


The British story is that trooper Joe Ekins who was a gunner in "A" Squadron, 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry Regiment on a Sherman Mk. VC killed Wittmann with a hit from 1100m from the north-western flank. The evidence for this theory being that this unit listed in its War Diary the kills of five German tanks after firing at them from the hamlet of Cramesnil in the direction of Gaumesnil during the time when Wittmann was killed.

(click to enlarge)

For the complete entry for 8AUG1944 in the  1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry RegimentWar Diary click here & here.

The Canadians on the other hand claim that a random tank from "A" Squadron, Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment (27th Canadian Tank Regiment) killed Wittmann with a shot from the rear left flank and only a few hundred meters away from their target.
To substantiate this claim, Canadian historian Norm Christie in the first episode of the documentary series Battlefield Mysteries titled "Panzer Ace Michael Wittmann" showed how he spent months investigating the "crime scene" of Wittmann's death In the mid 2000’s. He also did a forensic investigation of remnants of Wittmann’s tank which are stored in a farmers barn close to where the action took place. He used surveyors, overhead aircraft, placed men and mocked up machines in every reported position of the action. But his simple conclusion comes down to: "The Canadian tanks where closer to Wittmann's tank, so they must have killed him".

(click to enlarge)

The battlefield seen from the D183 overpass on 7JUN2019

The most plausible theory however is provided by Brian A. Reid in Appendix E "Who killed Michael Wittmann?" of his book "No holding back. Operation Totalize, Normandy, August 1944", 2004 Stockpole Military History Series, ISBN 978-0-8117-0584:

"Study of the available photographs of the scene indicate that Wittmann’s tank was facing more or less parallel to the Caen-Falaise Road, perhaps inclined a bit towards Cramesnil. As the only damage to the tank that could have caused the explosion was on the left rear of the hull, this rules out both of the British armoured regiments, even if they could have observed or even hit that tank from their positions."

Diagram of damage on T
iger "007"of the "SS Schwere Panzer Abteilung 101"
rom "No holding back.
Operation Totalize, Normandy, August 1944", by Brian A. Reid

Not only were the Sherbrooke Fuseliers in closer proximity to the target, but their position was also in line with the ballistic trajectory of the kill shot which came from Wittmann's left rear flank.

By elimination, that leaves the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment as the only unit to have been in a position to have been actively engaging Wittmann's Tiger.
After an examination of the available evidence, the most likely conclusion is that a Sherman Firefly of the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment destroyed Tiger commanded by SS-Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann at some time between 1230 and 1255 hours
8 August 1944.”

Reid goes on to describe how futile this discussion actually is:"It should be emphasized that the truly important thing is that British and Canadian soldiers destroyed Five Tigers as well as a number of other AFV’s, this defeating the left wing of SS-Oberführer Kurt Meyer’s counterattack. The death of Wittmann was no more than an incidental result of the battle. It may be more than coincidence that this was the only area where the Phase 2 forces were able to make any substantial gains later this afternoon.
One last point – and an important one – the accident of fate that saw Wittmann fell prey to a Sherbrooke Fusilier tank does not mean that 1 Northamptonshire Yeomanry and 144 Regiment RAC were in any way inferior to the Canadian unit in skill or training. It was a case of pure blind chance that the path Michael Wittmann chose led into the sights of a Canadian Sherman. Given the slightest of changes in circumstances, he could just as easily have fallen prey to British tank"

Field Grave
After World War Two, the bodies of Michael Wittmann and his Tiger tank crew were buried in an unmarked field grave. In 1983 their mortal remains were found in a pasture next to the D183A highway which runs parallel to the Route National N158 Expressway. From a German army "Erkennungsmarke" identification disk from another crew member and the pistol that Wittmann always carried in his uniform pocket the men were positively identified and subsequently reburied in the nearby German military cemetery in La Cambe.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

Pistol and identificationsdisk found in the unmarked field grave identifying Wittmann and his crew

Disinterring the crew of Tiger "007"of the "SS Schwere Panzer Abteilung 101"

On 7JUN2019 we went to the location where, from photographic evidence, the destroyed Panzerkampfwagen VI tank of Micheal Wittmann stood after it was shot and subsequently exploded in a field next to the Caen-Falaise highway in the summer of 1944.

The location
We found the location in a pasture full of tall wheat, wet from recent rain showers.

(click to enlarge)

Looking towards the hamlets of Cramesnil and Saint Aignan where the British in "A" Squadron, 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry Regiment was positioned.
Looking towards to the hamlet of Gaumesnil where the Canadian "A" Squadron, Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment (27th Canadian Tank Regiment) was positioned.

We drove passed the wall around the chateau of Gaumesnil on the N158 Expressway because there is no public access to it; not even from the rural roads off the highway. The walls show scars of the Canadian tank troops who made loop holes in them to fire through.

(click to enlarge)

The gravesite
We also visited SS-Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittman’s grave (plot 47, row 3, grave 120) on the La Cambe German military cemetery and found it surrounded by wreaths and covered in tokens of - questionable - admiration.

(click to enlarge)

Back to Battle Studies

(c) 2007-Present Day Email: all rights reserved.