Tigers at Fontenay and Rauray

Tank actions near Ruaray, France between 25 June through 29 June 1944
This was part of Operation Epsom the expansion of the Normandy beachhead.  This part included the 8th Armoured Brigade in support of the 49th Divison (British). The task of the Sherwood Rangers was to support 147 Infantry Brigade in taking Fontenay and then seizing Rauray.
In a misty rain infantry along with three Squadrons (16@) of Sherman tanks plus at least one HQ section advanced behind an artillery barrage early the first morning but could not take Fontenay until midnight.  The rain and mist was falling again the next day and the visibility was about 100 yards.  C Squadron had setup along a tree line facing south at the edge of Fontenay. A Squadron then passed through C squadron advancing south.  A Tiger appeared on the road 60 to 120 yards in front of the lead tank.  A fusillade of 75mm gun fire rained down on the Tiger.  Numerous hits ricocheted off the front hull and turret.  One hit struck the driver's visor such that white-hot fragments entered the tank and wounded the driver.  The tank commander ordered every one to bail out and the crew ran away.   

John Semken was Squadron A Leader and as he had already heard from C Squadron that where tanks about, so his gun loader put an AP shell up the spout, just in case. As they cleared Fontenay, they were suddenly confronted by an enormous tank coming around a bend in front. It was hard to know who was more surprised, but John shrieked, 'Fire, it's a Hun', and they loosed off about ten rounds into the smoke."

"Although the range had been only sixty yards, not one Sherman shell had penetrated that armour. The fire in the Tiger, we discovered, had instead been caused by a shot hitting the side of the driver's observation visor and showering white-hot splinters into the tank."
By Tank Into Normandy, by Stuart Hills.

SS-Unterscharführer Warmbrunn of the 2nd Company (Tiger #114) described the events of that day: "On 27 June I drove through the enemy lines to assess the situation, which was uncertain. I had volunteered for this mission with the concurrence of my crew. When I drove over a hill I found myself facing a group of thirty Shermans. They showered me with a hail of shells and all
systems went out. We owe our lives to the self-control of my driver, who did what we had always practiced, namely placed the Tiger at an acute angle to our armored foe. The crew and I then made our way back through the enemy to our departure point.
Whittmann by Agte

Sergeant Dring [of A Squadron] started out south from Fontenoy le Pesnel with his 75mm and fell in with a MK IV which he shot through the driver's visor. It brewed up and the crew bailed out.  Next he fell in with a Tiger at 1000 yards. The Tiger fired whilst Dring was traversing but missed. Dring then pumped 5 shots in without further retaliation. The last one hit the driver's periscope and the crew bailed out.
An Englishman at War: The Wartime Diaries of Stanley Christopherson

The last story seems to differ somewhat from the Squadron Leader and the German's though the encounter is described as starting south from Fontenay.  Hills' story doesn't mention a Mark IV being within range of any tank near Fontenay.Ttwo Shermans are brewed up just as they left Fontenay so some could be within range. That the Tiger was engaged at 60 yards from one tank in the Squadron and from 1000 yards from another seems odd. Also, in another book there is mentioned that the first Tiger was lost to hits by a 6-pounder (units of the 55th Anti-Tank Regiment of Royal Artillery was also present).  Warmbrunn mentioned his driver but doesn't mention him being wounded. It might be another Tiger at another village but since Warmbrunn is part of Möbius' command in and around Rauray that seems unlikely.  The

The first photo below is Tiger 114 on the road from Rauray to Fontenay. (It is not in its original spot.)  In the second photo it is blocking the road as the carrier in the second picture has to go off the road to get around it.  A Sherman looks to be pushing it aside to clear the road. In the last picture it looks like it has been moved somewhere clear of the road.  It doesn't look like it is in the original spot.

The first map below is from Hills' map and does not show the whereabouts of any Tiger tanks.  The second image is an aerial photo of Fontaney and area south on June 24, 1944 two days before the battle.   The third image is taken from Google Earth and has the second photo superimposed over it.  The numbers 1, 2 and 3 denote three possible locations where Tiger #114 might have been knocked out.  These correspond to three different street views as the road appears now.  I could not find any hill for the Tiger to roll over but the modern road has been leveled and paved so any hill on the old dirt road has disappeared.  (Dring may have engaged a Mark IV tank to the west.)

second and third Tiger encountered may have been supporting each other. Tiger 334 has been photographed on the road in Ruaray.  Both Tiger #114 and #334 were collected by the British and at least 334 made it's way to England to

Next he [Sergeant Dring] took on a Tiger at 1400 yards just outside Rauray. He fired 6 shots of which 4 hit and the last one brewed it up. Troop Commander thought he had missed it and only hit the wall behind. Dring's next shot brought the sparks and the remark "You don't see a brick wall spark like that". This tank has been seen and is much shot up. It now has one scoop in front vertical plate, five penetrations in rear, four strikes with no penetrations in rear, plus a scoop and one plate of engine hatch smashed.

SS-Hauptsturmführer Möbius of the 1st Company of the Tiger Battalion recalled those days of constant action: I lost one tank after another to enemy action and had three left, one of which had its barrel shot away. I myself stopped an advance by the English through a defile by destroying six tanks. I then attacked an armored column with another tank (Ustuf. Amselgruber) and knocked out three tanks; my gun jammed and I was shot up by ten tanks. I bailed out; Amselgrüber had already done so."

The location of this Tiger looks to be along the road in Ruaray.  It is facing away from the battle so it may be running away or may have been turned around if it was pushed to the side to clear the road.  The tank to the right below is the third Tiger.  It has a dent in the center of the driver's plate. There is no track visible on the right front and the turret may have burnt.

be tested.  Tiger #334 has several hits along the side and at least one in the rear.  The location of the third Tiger is not well recorded. The photos to the right below may show that it could of been along the road

outside Rauray to the front of Mobius' Tiger.  The Tiger that has a hit on the center of the driver's plate (right most photo) appears to have darkened turret indicating burning but none show hits on the lower edge of the mantlet.  The German report was that the gunner was wounded.  Which would be a result

Lt. [of A Squadron. Neville] Fearn engaged a Panther side on with his 75mm with APC.  It was moving about 12 mph at 80 yards range and he brewed it up with one hit through the vertical plate above the back bogie.
He saw his [A] Squadron Commander [Major John Semken] engage a Tiger ( previously examined by us) on the road. At 120 yds the Tiger was head on. The 75mm put 3 shots on it and the crew bailed out without firing. He put in 3 more. The tank brewed up. Four shots had scooped on front plates. One had taken a piece out of the lower edge of the mantlet and gone into the tank through the [driver's] roof, and one had ricocheted off the track and up into the sponson.
Appendix 'E' to 21st Army Group RAC Liaison Letter No. 2 1944

28 June 1944. Amselgruber of the 3rd Company remained in his old location during the night and the entire day, repelled probing English infantry, and was attacked by a superior number of English tanks. Amselgruber was able to knock out two Shermans before his tank was disabled by several hits.  Amselgruber's left leg was badly injured as he abandoned the tank; however this failed to prevent him from pulling his gunner, who had been seriously wounded in the belly by shell fragments, from the tank and taking him with him."
Whittmann by Agte

when one of the shells penetrated the Tiger. That the brewed up Tiger was the second Tiger engaged might also confirm its location.  Möbius' report is that his was the last tank to be abandoned so this would further confirm that Amselgruber was closer to the British than he.   

Next he [Dring] came on a Panther at the cross roads, This he got with one shot with APC in front of sprocket and the crew bailed out. Hit at normal and at about 500 yards range. It brewed up. Finally to the east of Rauray he took on a MK IV at 1200 yds, fired two HE ranging round and then one AP through the tracks, which went in and finished it.

The German tank force around Rauray didn't just involve the three Tigers, it also consisted of several Panthers and at least 13 Mark IV panzers.  Dring in his tank 'AKILLA' was said to have scored 4 or 5 tanks this battle.  Though it looks like two tanks claim they knocked out the same Panther from the side. Hills' book does say that an intact Panther was captured in the St. Nicolas farm.