Friday, September 4, 2015

Wolfheze Junction – It weren’t no OK Corral; Arnhem 1944

With Tombstone, Arizona just a few hours away to the south, the author could not resist the comparison to the earlier days of the “Wild West”.

On 17 September 1944 elements of LtCol. J.A.C. Fitch’s 3rd Parachute Bn advanced eastward towards their objective the Arnhem bridges from their Drop Zone DZ X.  Along the middle of three columns designated “TIGER”, they approached the junction of Wolfhezerweg and Utrechtseweg. It was there that they encountered the staff car of Generalmajor Friedrich Kussin (Feldkommandantur 642 –Arnhem area) speeding back towards Arnhem. Unlike the lead elements of the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron, ambushed (by Kampf Group Krafft's sperrlinie), as they attempted a "coup de main" from the Wolfheze area (along Johannahoeveweg) into the main road bridge at Arnhem, this was a totally chance engagement. It was neither an ambush nor an assassination of the general, as has been inferred by some. The general just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Having made a limited personal reconnaissance at a distance from the airborne landings, and after a brief meeting with SS-Strumbannführer Sepp Krafft, he was attempting to return to his Headquarters in Arnhem to issue orders for defense of the city and its bridges. Krafft had specifically warned him not to take the Utrecht – Arnhem road. The car in which he was driving was a 1940's vintage Citroen Traction Avant 11CV. Shown in the following photographs are two fully restored examples of the vehicle in the standard Wehrmacht camouflage pattern of the period; a drab dark yellow base (Dunkelgelb RAL 7028) with drab olive green (Olivgrün RAL 6003) and red-brown (Rotbraun RAL 8017) flecks /streaks. For further detailed information on WWII German AFV and other vehicle camouflage the reader is invited to visit;

Sharp eyes will observe subtle differences in the photographs. In the first photograph tactical markings are absent from both front fenders. While the second photograph shows tactical markings (An Assault Gun Bn HQ) on the right front fender and an apparent divisional insignia on the left front fender (so-called "lovers banner SS"), which is not understood by the author? The license tags change from Wehrmacht to Waffen-SS, even though the number remains the same. The field post stamp is also missing from the Waffen-SS plates.

The first car is also lacking the blackout shields on its headlights. It's only educated conjecture, but because it is not present on any civilian model Citroens, the device on the front left fender of most military models (common on other German staff cars) may be a form of snorkel, affording a limited fording capability, or possibly a siren. An editorial note: author has been enlightened, this is a German "Notek" blackout light. As can be seen in the following photographs the device was not present on General Kussin's car. The differences seen in color chroma (hue) and shade are probably caused by camera exposure settings, and/or time of day.

Generalmajor Friedrich Kussin

SS-Strumbannführer Sepp Krafft

Note the following contemporary photographs showing how small the automobile actually was. This can also be seen in the previous photograph showing the Citroen parked between two Jeeps.That size is accurately replicated in the scale model.

Private Frederick Bennett of 5 Plt, B Co. 3 Para Bn, commanded by Lieut. James A. S. "Jimmy" Cleminson MC, MiD, was the first to engage the vehicle with his Sten Mk V machine carbine. Lead members of the platoon then engaged with Stens and rifles, riddling the car, killing all occupants. (WARNING: The following are extremely graphic images, taken by combat photographers during active combat, and may prove offensive to some people. With apologies.) The photographs are being used with full acknowledgement and gratitude to AFTER THE BATTLE Publications, however are in the public domain. Their sole intent is to establish the detailed  accuracy captured in the following scale model vehicle and figures.

A trio of photographs are of the identical intersection of Wolfhezerweg and Utrechtseweg as it exists today, as well as a photograph generated from Google Earth showing the precise location.

King & Country Military Miniatures has announced the scheduled release in late October of the automobile, its occupants, as well as a set of figures including Lieut. Cleminson and two of the members of his platoon. By using other figures available in the Market Garden series, collectors and historians can recreate a vignette of the intense fighting in 1:30 scale, that will forever be known as the Battle of Arnhem. Again sharp eyes will discern that the third color in the "nominally standard" camouflage scheme, red-brown, is not present in this variant.

It is extremely interesting to note that following WWII Lieut. Cleminson MC, MiD went on to become a highly respected business executive and philanthropist. He was awarded the honor of being knighted in 1982 and being raised to Knight of the British Empire in 1990.

Lieut. James "Jimmy" Cleminson MC, MiD

Sir James A. S. Cleminson KBE, MC, MiD

In the film "A Bridge Too Far" (1977), he was portrayed by Michael Graham Cox, who is seen here behind Sean Connery as MGen. Urquhart.


Jimmy E said...

The device on the front left fender is called notek light.It is actually a blackout lamp.It spreads the light on the left front side of the car. Vehicles not with such a device needed special blackout covers for the normal headlights.

Arnhemjim said...

Hello Jimmy E,
Sincere thanks for your knowledge about the notek light. I certainly learned something.
Best Regards,
Arnhem Jim

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