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The Crisbecq Battery

Discussion in 'Crisbecq - St Marcouf battery' started by Jim, Sep 23, 2006.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    “Crisbecq” was one of the first batteries to open fire the morning of June 6 on Utah.

    With the exception of the Cherbourg Fortress and the fortifications in Le Havre, the naval battery at Crisbecq was the most powerful one in the entire Seine Bay and represented the cornerstone of German defences in this sector.

    Built in the winter of 1943-44, it was armed with four 210-mm SKODA guns, of which only two had been installed in casemates by D-Day. Until it was silenced on June 8th, Crisbecq Battery posed a very real threat to troops landing on Utah Beach.

    Rapidly encircled by the Americans, the garrison of 400 soldiers, commanded by Sub-Lieutenant Ohmsen, resisted vigorously for several days. The survivors managed to escape to the German lines in the night of June 11th-12th.

    The two huge casemates, which can still be seen today, near the impressive range-finding post, were damaged not by the frequent aerial bombardments to which the battery was subjected from spring 1944 onwards, but by experiments conducted by American engineers after the battery had been captured to test their resistance to explosives.

    When the battery was captured on June 12th the casemates were practically intact.

    [​IMG]

    After the capture of the batteries, units Of the U.S. engineer corps undertook attempts to destroy the two large casemates by experimenting with explosives, they placed explosives in the two munitions rooms behind the casemate. The explosion caused the almost total destruction of the rear of the classmate and the whole of the roof completely caved in. The front part was hardly affected by this explosion.

    The rear of the same casement after the experiments done by the U.S. engineer corps.

    [​IMG]

    The interior of the Firing Command Post was also destroyed by the U.S engineer corps thru experimenting with explosives, the anti-aircraft defence post on top of the C.P was partly destroyed by the explosion of munitions stored in one of the munitions armories, a powerful charge in the basement caused a hole in the floor of the upper room and smashed the stairway and the partitions The basement is now constantly filled with water, and entry to the C.P is closed to the public for safety reasons.

    On my last visit i was informed by a guide that while doing their testing it actually caused the death of a dozen of Americans. Thou i am unable to find confirmation about this!
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    The battery at Crisbecq was one of the most important of the whole coastal sector of Utah-Beach.
    The construction work began in 1941. It was undertaken by the Todt Organisation, especially by conscripted workmen (STO) as well as Russian and Polish-prisoners.
    When first built this area was designed for just a battery of 155 mm field guns that was positioned in circular emplacements at the battery.

    155 mm Field Gun.
    [​IMG]

    When the work was more advanced, the 155 mm field guns were transferred to Fontenay and replaced by the SKODA 210 mm guns.
    Then as the work on the casemates was completed they were placed under cover.
    One June 6th two 210 mm guns were in place in the finished casemates. A third 210 mm gun was in the battery in the open air as only the main foundations of its casemate were laid.

    The unfinished Casemate.
    [​IMG]

    The position was surrounded by a defence system of barbed wire and the approach roads defended by fortifications of three rows of barbed wire.
    A mine field 558 metres long and 300 metres wide encircled the position.
     
  3. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Although the battery at Crisbecq was not fully finished on the 6th June 1944 it was by no means lacking the fire power on D-Day. Within Crisbecq were:

    3, Skoda 210-mm guns, that was all ready and capable of firing.
    6, 75-mm French Anti-Aircraft guns.
    3, 20-mm Anti-Aircraft guns equally able to be used against land targets also.
    17, gun posts of either concrete (Tobruk) or with earth or wooden protection
    The battery also had several trench mortars.
    To manage all this equipment the battery had 300 personnel.

    Looking out of a Casemate at Crisbecq with the Skoda 21 cm K 52 gun ready for action.

    [​IMG]


    The Skoda 21 cm K 52

    This gun was manufactured in Czechoslovakia at the Skoda factories for the Wehrmacht with a reference of K-39
    In 1941 and 1942 the model of which the K-52 comes was mainly used on the Russian front.
    The requirements of the heavy artillery caused the Wehrmacht to make a new version, the K39/40 of which around 20 were made.
    In 1944 a second series was ordered and was given the definitive name of the K-52, in spite of the different models, power of fire was almost entirely similar.
    The speed of firing was relatively slow, for each shot it was necessary to lower the gun to 8 degrees to be able to reload it. It therefore had to be re-aimed on each occasion.

    Characteristics of the K-52:

    Calibre: 210-mm
    Length: 9.53 metres
    Weight: 33.8 tons
    Angle of fire: Vertical -4º + 45º Horizontal 360º
    Muzzle velocity: 800 metres per second
    Maximum range: 18.5 miles
    Weight of the Shell: 135 kg
     
  4. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    The Crisbecq battery was under the German Navy, commanded by First Class Ensign Walter Ohmsen. The battery was made up of 3 Officers, 7 NCO's and 287 men.

    Commander Walter Ohmsen.

    [​IMG]

    The general plan for the landing required a rapid advance on Quineville. It was therefore necessary to capture both Crisbecq and Azeville batteries speedily as they impeded the advance by holding Utah Beach under fire.

    Actually Crisbecq held out for 6 days in spite of repeated attacks. On the night of the 5th/6th June, 598 tons of bombs landed on the battery and fighting took place with the parachutists of the 501st and 502nd infantry regiment who landed outside the anticipated drop zones and 20 parachutists including a Captain were captured and taken to the Crisbecq battery.

    During the day of the 6th June, having sounded the alert at dawn the Crisbecq commander began firing at the ships at sea with his three 210-mm guns. The Allied battleships quickly returned fire, 2 of the 3 guns was put out of action, but the Allied fleet also suffered losses:
    A Cruiser Hit
    A Destroyer Sunk
    A Torpedo-Boat Hit
    With numerous other ships damaged.

    The 12th American infantry regiment advances North wards, while the 2nd battalion attacks Azeville, only to be driven back. The 3rd battalion advances along the length of the coast and captures in turn the various German defence positions. The 1st battalion attacks Crisbecq, at 06:00 hrs it also falls back.
    8th of June: New fruitless attacks, in order to extricate himself the Crisbecq commander radios the Azeville battery to fire on his position.

    Aerial view over Crisbecq

    [​IMG]

    The 9th/10th/11th June: Crisbecq remained an island of resistance in the coastal zone of Utah Beach, which in turn remained under sporadic fire from the only Skoda 210-mm gun that is working at the battery. The commander of the battery received his orders to evacuate the position. During the night 78 men leave the battery and 21 wounded who are unable to be moved remain in position in the care of a medical orderly.

    12th June: Having landed the previous day, the 39th infantry regiment advances the length of the coast towards the North-West. At 08:20 hrs the 2nd battalion enter the silenced battery. The 1st battalion enters the small town of St-Marcouf towards midday. All the Officers and NCO's had been killed or wounded, out of 24 corporals only 2 came out without injury.

    Throughout the duration of the Normandy campaign numerous events of great military importance solely depended upon the determination of some dozens of Soldiers on one side or the other.
     
  5. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Gun platform

    Gun platform that was originally built for the French 155mm Gun, it was later altered in order to put on a 210 mm SKODA Gun.

    [[​IMG]

    The various names written in red in the cartridges (names of German towns, regions, gods and rivers) were used as landmarks Of azimuths.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    This shelter was used as an ammunition store and where the main fresh water tank was kept. The interior is damaged due to the Americans carrying out more explosive tests.

    [​IMG]

    On June 8th the commander of Crisbecq radioed for the Azeville battery to fire on his position to help drive back American infantry penetrations, this shelter was hit directly from that salvo, a 105-mm shell hitting the front door.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    This Shelter was typical of all the shelters at Crisbecq, this picture shows the side of the shelter with steps leading off to the left, but in 1944 all these shelters were attached by trench work, as you enter this shelter there are two doorways to the right leading to the the inner rooms, this shelter was actually used as a ammunition store, and food and equipment reserve store.

    [​IMG]

    This picture gives an idea of the layout at Crisbecq, all the shelters were below ground level accessed by a maze of trenches. Each shelter had its own built inTobruk where they were manned by Machine Guns.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    This Tobruk was placed strategically in this position as an observation post, as can be seen in the picture the roads leading up to the batteries position.

    [​IMG]

    The Tobruk was manned 24 hrs and had its own shelter for the sentinels.

    [​IMG]

    This picture shows the path between the two structures. The trenches would have been much deeper in 1944.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    This is a gun platform for a French 155 mm altered cannon; there is also a shelter for the captain of the gun and there are two ammunition stores at the back.

    1 Captain's Shelter
    2 and 3 Ammunition Stores

    [​IMG]

    This view shows you the doorway down to the Shelter where the Captain of this Gun would stay.

    [​IMG]
     

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