France 1940 - The Battle Of Dot Sur La Mappe

The scenario dealt with an attack by a French armoured formation - 1st DCR - on an advancing German mobile column that was trying to capture the French town of Dot Sur La Mappe.

Background to the battle

The battle took place in late May 1940.

The reasons why this town was so important for both the French and the Germans were:

  • The area's status as a minor communications hub, being bisected by major North-South and East-West roads as well as having a railway terminus on the South West side of the town (useful for bringing up reinforcements from the Capital);

  • The French belief (mistaken in the event) that the German forces in the area contained no tanks, the major unit having been identified as the SS-Totenkopf-Regiment, a motorised unit.

Map of the battlefield.

Map of the battlefield.

The Battle

The area was defended by the French 60th Infantry Division, advanced elements of which (in Petit Dot Sur La Mappe) had already been engaged in light skirmishing with the leading (and thoroughly exhausted) elements of Totenkopf.

The French counter-attack force was the 1st DCR, a regular unit that was well equipped with modern tanks, and was under the command of the egregious General de Brigade Coeur du Roi. 1st DCR had to undertake an overnight road march of some 50km to reach the area in question.

Unknown to the French, SS-Totenkopf-Regiment was only the advance guard of a German column, the main strength of which - the veteran 2. Panzer-Division - were due to arrive in the area at around the same time as 1st DCR. It will be recalled that 2. Panzer-Division was at this time commanded by the dynamic General der Panzertruppen 'Willy' Wilhelm, who was later to achieve fame both for his role as adviser to the Finnish Army and his Wehrmacht publication 'A Wine Looter's Guide To Occupied Europe'.

1st DCR prepares to advance towards Dot Sur La Mappe.

The defence of Petit Dot Sur La Mappe. The French 60th Infantry Division engage the leading elements of the Totenkopf Regiment.

Another view of the defence of Petit Dot Sur La Mappe. Leading elements of the Totenkopf Regiment can be seen advancing from the right whilst units of the French 60th Infantry Division await their attack.

Ju87 Stuka

A Stuka attacking a French antitank gun.

A German radio truck prepares to trasmit the news of the capture of Dot Sur La Mappe and the destruction of 1st DCR and 60th Infantry Division to OKH

Hotchkiss H39 Tank

A French Air Force Light Bomber attacking German reconnaisance troops. This was too late to prevent the destruction of the 1st DCR.

A French account of the battle

"When I was ordered to counter-attack the German panzer attack being made in the area of Dot Sur La Mappe, I was informed that the 60th Infantry Division was in extensive defences in and around that town and it smaller sister hamlet Petit Dot Sure La Mappe. I therefore ordered my division - 1st DCR - into a column of march and moved as rapidly as the situation allowed towards the town. My intention was then to use Dot Sur La Mappe as a base from which to launch my counter-attack.

During the march to Dot Sur La Mappe my forces became somewhat disorganised, and I ordered the leading units to set up camp outside the town when they arrived there so that my troops could reorganise before being committed to battle. What I was unaware of was the fact that the "extensive defences" at Dot Sur La Mappe were ill-manned and even worse prepared, and that as a result the leading elements of the German panzer forces were already on the main road towards the town. The 2nd Demi-Brigade, the Dragoons Portée, and the Divisional Staff were able to reach the area set aside for reorganisation without hindrance, but the artillery were caught in an attack by German tanks, and had to deploy to fight them off. As a result the column was cut into two parts, and the 1st Demi-Brigade and my own command cell were isolated from the rest of the DCR.

In the circumstances I felt that the best course of action was to attack the Germans as soon as possible, and at first light on the next day both "wings" of my division mounted an all-out attack on the main German force. By a fortunate chance both "wings" were able to attack in unison, and the resulting fighting destroyed many vehicles and killed many Germans. The attack was only broken off at the end of the day because I felt that we had done as much damage to the enemy as was possible, and because Stuka attacks - which were called down by the Germans to save them from annihilation - were beginning to inflict some casualties on my force.

I felt at the time - and have done since - that this battle had a most significant affect in that it slowed the German advance into France, and that it has not had the recognition it deserved. Those so-called "experts" who decry my efforts because my division was never able to be re-built have forgotten the dire circumstances the country was in at the time, and I can hardly be blamed for the failure of the French and Royal Air Forces in protecting my two demi-brigades from the Stuka attacks that destroyed them on the day after the battle."

(Unpublished manuscript entitled "Armoured General" by General de Brigade Coeur de Roi)

As can be seen from this extract, General Coeur de Roi's initial plan seemed to take little account of the fact that the Germans were advancing so rapidly and had control of the skies over the battlefield. His attack did halt one part of the German advance for at least two days, but he fails to mention the fact that he left the 60th Infantry Division - one of whose regiments had fought very hard to retain control of Dot Sur La Mappe during the battle - to its fate (it was effectively destroyed and not subsequently reformed) and he left the Germans in control of the battlefield. They were thus able to recover and repair much of the equipment they had lost during the battle, and within three days they were, again, in the forefront of the German advance.

This page was last updated on 11th October 2004

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