The Bruneval raid
(Cap d'Antifer - 27/28 February 1942)


On 1 March 1942 the LXVII Armeekorps released a detailed report on the British commando raid on the Abhörstelle at Cap d'Antifer, Bruneval and the essons learned from that event. Our text will follow the general sructure of the report.

A. GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

In this section the corps first describes the general organisation of its coastal defence operations. Thus, the latter are said to be conducted in such a way that:
- the most important ports are defended schwerpunktmässig against sea and land attack by strongpints
- strong mobile reserves in each regimental sector are ready to counter a landed enemy
- less vulnerable streches of coastline are only guarded by weak posts, in order to be able to repel an enemy landing. These posts are usually positioned close to each exits
- the remainder of the coast is only kept under observation by sentries.

The document then proceeds to basically formulating excuses for the raid having taken place, arguing that with the weak forces present an enemy landing or parachuting in could not be prevented from forcefully attacking immediately after having been landed.

Then follows extensive criticism on the other services as well as on the Heeresküstenartillerie. Thun, in 1940/41 these had (secretly) established units and facilities at locations along the coast without having first informed the Heer, which only learnt of their presence post factum. As a result, it was now difficult to integrate these locations into the defensive organizations of the divisions defending the coastline. Moreover, the size and nature of some of these strongpoints meant they could no longer be relocated elsewhere. Finally, it was argued that the other services, as well as the Heeresküstenartillery, were responsible for the defence of their own installations.

B. GERMAN ARMY FORCES PRESENT

The sector in which the attack occurred was defended by the I Bataillon/Infanterieregiment 685/336 Infanteriedivision. It was supposed to control the 18km-long sector between Criqueboeuf and Saint-Jouin (excluded).
This batallion was organised as follows:
- one company in Yport (with sentries in the nearby crevices leading towards the sea)
- one company and the machine gun company in Etretat
- the 1 Kompanie with only 67 men (!, including cooks (!)) in the sector Corps de Garde -Schlucht to Saint-Jouin (excluded)
The 1 Kompanie was organised as follows:

Stützpunkt La Place 10 men (0/1/9)  
Stützpunkt Leuchtturm 5 men (0/1/4)  
Bruneval 31 men (0/4/27) Of these 0/1/9 men at the strongpoint of the Bruneval crevice.
Kompaniereserve 21 men (2/4/15) La Poterie

Troops of the Luftwaffe were also present. These were organised as follows:

At the 2 F-Geräten 11 men (0/1/10) South of the lighthouse
At the W-Gerät 9 men (0/1/8) Am Luftwaffenhaus
La Presbytère 11 men (1/0/10) This is a village

In addition, the following troops were present in the lighthouse building:
Kriegsmatine 4 men (0/0/4)  
Heereshorchstelle 11 men (0/1/10)  
Luftwaffe 3 men (0/0/3) The unit was the Rechenstelle (calculating post)

Thus, the total number of troops at the radar positions was 54 men (1/4/49). The Luftwaffe sites were not well protected. Thus the strongpoint at the W-Gerät was only surrounded by a weak obstacle. One solder standing by the W-Gerät was killed. The other strongpoint troops slept in a building some 30 metres away from the W-Gerät. Also, the Luftwaffenhaus was not occupied and not suurounded by wire.

C. PROBABLE MISSION OF THE RAIDING FORCE

Important notice:

The text in the German report was based on the interrogation of 4 captured British soldiers. It should be clear from the text below that the Germans were provided false information, wittingly or unwittingly. What interest us below is not the actual facts, but rather how the Germans saw these facts.

The Germans thus leart that 70 troops from B company of the 2nd Parachute Batallion had been landed by 7 Whitley aircraft at 1.30am, with the mission to disrupt the Sondergerät of the Luftwaffe, dismantle it and take home valuable parts of the apparatus.
Further, the Germans learnt from the interrogations that the raiding force had been divided up into 3 groups. While the first group was tasked with the above mission, the other two groups had to protect the former from being attacked. After the rad, the troops were to escape in 6 landing boats. More specifically, the second group (having landed close to the first group) was tasked with protecting the first (technical) group from German attacks from the north and the east. The third group had landed to the south of the Bruneval crevice neir height 102. It was tasked with defending towards the south and assuming controle of the boat anding and re-embarkation site.

D. CHRONOLOGY OF THE FIGHT (from a German perespective)

At 1.20am the British parachute troops jumped over the desigtnated drop locations. The technical group stormed the W-Gerät, killed the sentry by means of handgrenades and took apart the apparatus.
The second group seemingly occupied the Luftwaffenhaus and used machinegun fire to stop the German reinforcements coming from La Presbytère. At the same time it attacked the F-Wache in Bruneval from the north.
The third group had jumped above height 102 to the southwest of Bruneval. With machinegun fire it kept the two German Gruppen coming coming from Bruneval in check and immediately attacked the F-Wache at the coast in Bruneval from the south.

The company commander of 1 Kompanie/IR 685, who had noticed the paratroops landing, used the telephone to alert the F-Wache in Bruneval, ordered the platoon in Bruneval to attack the height 102 and immediately (around 1.30am) counterattacked the Luftwaffenhaus. He reached the southwestern boundary of La Presbytère and attacked in close cooperation with the communications group of the Luftwaffe in La Presbytère, thus preventing the British from moving further north against the two F-Geräte.

The strongpoint commander at the coast sent 2 men each to the heights at the north and south, thus weakening his defensive strength. After the loss of 2 men (one killed and one badly injured) and after his light machine gun had jammed, he was pushed to the south with his two remaining men.

When the British had destroyed the W-Gerät they arrived from all sides in the Bruneval crevice, from where they were evacuated by boats.

The Germans suffered one killed, one badly injured and 2 missing (one of which also badly injured) The British were claimed to have suffered 2 killed, at least 1 badly injured (but evacuated) and 4 prisoners.

LESSONS TO BE DRAWN FROM THE ACTION

The Germans drew 9 lessons from the Bruneval raid:

1) The defences were not strong enough to repel an attack by parachute troops. Also, the defences of the radar sites was too weak. The Luftwaffe had refused several times to add wire obstacles, arguing that it would hinder operations. A minefield could have been laid around the W-Gerät. Further, the officer an 10 men billeted in La Presbytère should have been billeted at the W-Gerät and in the Luftwaffenhaus, respectively.
2) Use of troops
2a) The use of troops from the IR685 was good in relation to the troops available. The available reserves were used as planned.
2b) The regimental reserve was unable to reach the location in time, despite being alarmed and having departed quickly, due to icy roads the bicycles had to be pushed.
3) Combat operations
3a) Combat operations were only possible in the way in which they were executed. All commanders rushed forward immediately.
3b) The commander of the coastal strongpoint in the Bruneval crevice should have kept his 9 men together, rather than sending 2x2 men off.thus reducing his defensive strength by nearly 50%.
3c) The suggestion that the company reserve from La Poterie, rather than being used to attack the British at the W-Gerät, could have been used more effectively to block the British escape route at the Bruneval crevice was to be rejected.
4) The locations of the radars and the Heeresküstenartillerie.
The location of a radar site close to a crevice, offering the enemy landing and evacuation possibilities is not effective.
5) Cooperation between the services was well-prepared, well trained and well executed. Telephone lines were in working order until the end. Aircraft could not be directed against the boats at night.
6) Billeting
The billeting of troops is always to occur close to the object to be defended, inside the strongpoint protected by wire. If not, there is no guarantee that the defending forces will be able to reach the strongpoint (in time).
7) In the event of a parachute drop, the possibility is always to be taken into account that ships weill also be used, either to evacuate the troops or to reinforce them. Thus, the use of own aircraft and naval forces is necessary.
8) It is necessary to equip even the smallest strongpoints with heavy weapons.
9) On clear and moonlit nights the possibility of an attack by parachute troops is to be taken into account.