On June 7, 1944 (D+1), elements of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade overran Norrey-en-Bessin, a small commune about 7.8 miles (12.5 km) west of Caen. In the vicinity of both Norrey and Caen were elements of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, namely the division’s 12th and 25th SS Panzer-Grenadier Regiments. The Germans first made moves on the commune on the night of June 8/9th, when the 3rd Company, 1st Battalion, 12th SS Panzer-Grenadier Regiment launched a counterattack supported by 23 Panther tanks. The Canadians, likely men from The Royal Regina Rifles, 7th Infantry Brigade, were able to repel this attack, but the Germans would be back later that day.
It was sometime between 12:00 and 12:30 on June 9, 1944 that this second German counterattack against Norrey-en-Bessin came. The initial plan was to have the 3rd Company, 1st Battalion, 12th SS Panzer-Grenadier Regiment attack Norrey, followed by a converging attack by the 1st Battalion, 25th SS Panzer-Grenadiers towards the commune.
When the armored column was about half a mile away from Norrey, their route forced the tanks to swing south, thus exposing their flanks to the enemy. As the Panthers made their way towards the commune, they came under disciplined fire by the Canadians. Nine Sherman tanks (which included a few 17-pounder Fireflys), apparently belonging to the Elgin Regiment, 2nd Armoured Brigade, had been moved into the vicinity of the town at nearby Bretteville earlier that day to support the Regina Rifles, who had been told to expect armor support as soon as it was available, and engaged the exposed Panthers as they crept down the road.
The Canadian tanks had been positioned more or less in a line. One of the Sherman Fireflys, commanded by a Lt. Henry, fired the first shot, which disabled the Panther column’s lead tank commanded by Adolf Morawetz (who initially believed he had struck a mine), bringing the tank to a halt. A second shot followed, apparently igniting MG-42 ammo, setting the tank alight. Morewetz was the only survivor of his tank, and as he began to make his escape, a second Panther was hit and destroyed. [Continued ↓]