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I am trying to document my grandfather's participation in World War II, and have come across a letter written by a German military official informing my grandfather's parents that their son is missing in action.
The letter refers to the location of his last known whereabouts as "Kessel von Trun und Chambios" on the 18th of August, 1944. I can only assume that this was in the vicinity of the western front at the time. My grandfather's next correspondence was from a POW camp in the UK, but I don't know whether he encountered US or British forces (or other, for that matter).
I would like to know, as precisely as possible, where this took place.
Kessel von Trun und Chambios translates to the Cauldron of Trun and Chambios, presumably in reference to an encirclement by allied forces at the time (although I don't know this for sure).
Here is the contents of the letter verbatim, with the names of my grandfather and his father replaced with XX and YY respectively, and with notations in parentheses. The letter is dated 2nd of December, 1944:
Sehr geehrter Herr YY! Bezugnehmend auf Ihr Schreiben v. 18.11.1944 teilt die Dienst- stelle mit, dass Ihr Sohn Oblt.XX am 18.8.1944 im Kessel vonTrum (sic) und Chamios vermißt ist. Er befand sich auf einer 2 cm Selbst- fahrlafette und versuchte mit dieser den feindlichen Einschließungsring zu durchbrechen. Dabei fuhr er ohne beschossen zu werden an die gegne- rischen Linien. Soldaten eines nachfolfenden (sic) LKW wurden dagegen beschossen und hierdurch gewarnt. Es gelang ihnen sich zur Batterie durchzuschlagen und haben vorstehende Meldung überbracht. Sonst ist bei der Batterie über das Schicksal Ihres Sohnes nichts bekannt. Heil Hitler! (name illegible) Oblt.u.Battr.-Führer
Here's my best attempt at a translation:
Regarding your correspondence on the 18th of November, 1944, the department informs you that your son, First Lieutenant XX was reported missing on the 18th of August, 1994 in the Cauldron of Trun and Chambios. He was located on a 2cm self-driving lafette (I don't know what this is… ) and attempted to use it to break through an enemy containment (flank?). In this attempt he drove without taking enemy fire into the enemy lines. Soldiers in a truck behind him took enemy fire and were herewith warned (?). They were able to break through to the battery and conveyed the current message. Other than this information there is no further information known to us about the fate of your son.
I can find a city by the name of Trun in France, but I can't find Chambios, let alone where this "Cauldron" took place. I was really hoping to narrow this down to a particular address or field, but I have no experience with this kind of thing and understand that this might be a bit optimistic.
What you are looking for is the Battle of the Falaise Pocket, which took place from 12-21 August 1944. Chambois seems to be the spot where the pocket was actually closed, or where the encircling Allied forces met up, which took place on 19 August.
According to Wikipedia,
the battle is also referred to as the Battle of the Falaise Gap, after the corridor which the Germans sought to maintain to allow their escape, and is sometimes referred to as the Chambois Pocket, the Falaise-Chambois Pocket, the Argentan-Falaise Pocket or the Trun-Chambois Gap.
The German Wikipedia calls this the "Kessel von Falaise".
Wikipedia further explains that disagreements between Patton and Montgomery, leaders of the American and British forces, allowed much of “the beaten but still coherently organized German army” to escape.
A “Selbstfahrlafette” is basically a tank (or some other type of vehicle with mounted gun). So it seems your grandfather was in a tank trying to break through the encirclement, and in the process he was separated from his unit.
A 2 cm Selbstfahrlafette seems most likely to be a Halftrack with a 20mm anti-aircraft gun - probably an SdKfz 7/1 or Sdkfz 10/4 though it could also have been a wheeled truck. (Fully tracked flakpanzer tanks were quite rare).
Either way it would be a very unsuitable vehicle for any kind of ground engagement in the circumstances of the Falaise Pocket and extremely vulnerable to return fire. It's likely that they encountered Allied forces, abandoned the vehicle and were then captured.