Villers-Bocage - the legend
On 13th June 1944 the 4th County of London Yeomanry Sharpshooters (4CLY) took part in their best known action of the Second World War.
The story, as handed down, tells of a German Tiger tank commander – Michael Wittmann – taking on and decimating a British advance single handed. Some of the more colourful accounts credit him with knocking out a regiment of tanks and a battalion of infantry, returning after losing his first tank in order to continue the destruction. Even more measured accounts credit him personally with the destruction of over twenty tanks and two dozen other armoured vehicles.
Wittmann became a folk hero, and was honoured with a promotion and the award of ‘Oak Leaves’ to compliment his Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest award.
However the story was not quite as it seemed. A number of German war photographers visited the site of the battle in the following days and recorded a uniquely detailed record of the battle. This, when compared to first-hand accounts given by British and German combatants (including Wittmann himself), demonstrate a much fuller sequence of events.