Wittmann versus Ekins

Posted on Wednesday 17th May 2017


Wittmann versus Ekins

With the opening of the Tiger exhibition at the Tank Museum in Dorset it was inevitable that the discredited TV theory that tanks of the 27th Sherbrooke Fusiliers knocked out the German panzer ace Michael Wittmann would resurface somewhere. This is a shame as it distracts from the achievements of British and Canadian divisions during Operation Totalize under the command of Canadian general Guy Simmons on 8 August 1944. They finally broke through the line south of Caen, which the Germans had held for nearly three weeks and had advanced by late morning some four miles through the layered enemy defences. Not only that they saw off a powerful German armoured counter-attack, knocking out five Tigers in the process.

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Tiger 007 commanded by Hauptsturmfurher Michael Wittmann during the counter attack on 8 August 1944. Model made by Glyn Spurr.

Having extensively interviewed Trooper Joe Ekins and walked the ground from both German and Allied perspectives for BHTV’s full length documentaries Wittmann v Ekins and 12th Hitlerjugend SS Panzer Division the Canadian case is at best circumstantial. On the other hand, we have the detailed testimony of Joe Ekins in full on film and in addition, first hand German accounts point firmly towards Ekins firing the fatal shot that knocked out Tiger 007.

The Hitlerjugend’s counter-attack was launched with the support of the remaining eight operational Tigers of Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101 commanded by Knights Cross holder Hauptsturmfuhrer Michael Whittmann. The attack was launched in a poorly coordinated rush, with a master bomber circling overhead, the portent of another devastating rain of high explosive from USAAF Flying Fortresses. Wittmann advanced north astride the Falaise road, the safest place being close to the enemy beyond the bomb line. Kampfgruppe Waldmuller consisting of Panzer IVs, Jagdpanzer IV and the infantry of the Corps and Divisional Begleit (Escort) companies to the right and rear of the Tigers. Little did they know that they were advancing towards the guns of three British and Canadian armoured regiments, twenty five percent of whose tanks were the Sherman Firefly armed with the devastatingly fearsome 17-pounder gun.

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Velikye Lukie the Sherman Firefly in which Joe Ekins was gunner during Operation Totalize. Glyn Spurr presented this model and that of Tiger 007 to Joe Ekins at the Tank Museum.

It would seem that most of the Tigers, advancing astride the N158 towards A Squadron of the Sherbrookes who were all armed with the low velocity 75mm gun, were deflected to the east of Gaumsenil into a killing area formed by the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, 141 RAC Regiment and the remainder of the Sherbrookes. In the ensuing battle five tigers were knocked out three claimed by Joe Ekins, one by 141 Regiment RAC and two by the Sherbrookes; a total of six tanks. One has been double counted!

This is a short extract from the film in which Joe describes in detail to Tom Dormer the shot that destroyed Wittmann’s Tiger.

The air photo montage shows the location the location of the knocked-out Tigers. Joe Ekins claimed in the order that he targeted them 314, 007 and either 312 or 009 one of which was almost certainly knocked out by 141 RAC and the Tiger south of Gaumsenil was taken on by the Sherbrookes. 007 is the only other tank that could be knocked out by the Sherbrookes with their 75 mm guns but the wall on this flank was backed by outbuilding at the time and shows no sign of rebuilding that the southerly wall plainly shows as a result of the Sherbrookes lowering it to barrel height.

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Annotated air photograph

The only way to reconcile the two claims is that the Sherbrookes could have damaged Wittmann’s tank and he was turning to the right i.e. towards Joe, in order to go out of action. While he was still turning, Joe hit him with the resulting devastating explosion.

The full story of the converging lives of Wittmann a knight of the Nazi empire and Ekins a shoemaker from Northamptonshire, along with the full case behind Joe’s claim is available on DVD from Pen and Sword or as a View on Demand on mobiles, tables, computers and smart TVs from BHTV.

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Joe Ekins
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Wittmann

Taking it Further


Wittmann Vs Ekins DVD
(DVD)
ISBN: 9781848843424

by Tom Dormer
Only £12.99 RRP £19.99

The story of two men destined to face each other on the battlefields of Normandy is told in this programme. Michael Wittmann was a knight of the Nazi empire, a natural and accomplished soldier and highly decorated. Like Wittmann, Trooper Joe Ekins, a shoemaker from Northamptonshire, was a volunteer for military service but there the similarities ended. Joe was a reluctant soldier in a county yeomanry armoured regiment, while Wittmann served in the Waffen SS's elite Tiger Battalion.

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