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Date: Friday, 15 September 1944
Place: Hechtel, Limburg, Belgium
Major Erich Sattler's knocked-out Panzerjager (tank destroyer) V Jagdpanther Sd.Kfz.173, 3rd Regiment, schwere Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 559, near the Hechtel, Belgium as it is inspected by Allied authorities. Note 88m (3.46 inch) anti-tank rounds next to the Jagdpanther. This vehicle is equipped as a Panzerbefehlswagen (command tank) with an extra radio. Dutch researcher Marcel Zwarts’ managed to interview the former commander of s.H.Pz.Jg.Abt 559, who told him the commander of this Jagdpanther, Major Sattler, was apparently injured not by enemy fire, but from a fall as he exited this vehicle! As the German 15th Army retreated into Belgium and Holland from the Allied advance in August 1944, Hechtel became a key defensive position, as it was at the intersection of two key main roads. The 1.Bataillon/Hermann Göring Regiment and Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 10 (Gramsel) were sent from Cologne to Roermond, Netherlands and then marched 50 kilometers (31 miles) to take up positions in Hechtel. The Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) executed 22 Belgians (11 men and 11 women and children) as partisans, but it is likely they were simply hiding in their basements. In addition, the 3rd Regiment of the schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 559, commanded by Major Erich Sattler, with seven panzerjägers including at least three Jagdpanthers, were sent to prevent the Allies from gaining Hechtel. On September 8, 1944, the Welsh Guards, including Lieutenant W. Hugh Griffiths commanding a Cromwell tank, was engaged by Sattler's forces. Griffiths allowed Sattler to pass and Griffith's gunner Sergeant Ivor Wilcox fired four rounds into the Jagdpanther's rear-mounted engine. Griffith's tank was missed twice by the other Jagdpanthers, but three of the German tank destroyers were destroyed by the Welsh Guards. Sattler was rendered unconscious while evacuating the Jagdpanther and after recovering his senses, evaded capture and returned to German lines. The Guards Armoured Division, including the Welsh Guards, attacked Hechtel and encircled the town on September 10. On September 12, Allied heavy artillery complled the Germans to surrender. 150 Germans were killed, 220 wounded, and 500 captured. 92 British troops were killed. Fourteen Belgian civilians were killed during the fighting. A week later, the area was used as a springboard for Operation Market-Garden. Sattler's Jagdpanther was taken to England for evaluation and testing. Today it is part of the collection at the Imperial War Museum; you can still see the four hits from the Cromwell in the rear. The Jagdpanther has been cut open on left side to reveal the crew compartment.