German Officer Heins' Account of RAF Attack on General Rommel, July 17, 1994

collected by Tim Darling (click for email)

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A statement on file at the U.K. National Archives. Sent to me courtesy Brian Sims of Nottinghamshire who adds the following insight: "My first thoughts are what Heins has to gain from giving an inaccurate account of the incident. I couldn't find one. On the other hand, Rommel's Staff Offices who gave a different account could have. Heins describes the incident in which Rommel was injured in such a way that the injuries could be thought to have been inflicted by bad judgment on Rommel's part. Being a German Folk Hero, he could not be seen to make such mistakes. From Heins' statement, you could say that if Rommel had stayed with the car, he would have been unhurt."

There are conflicting accounts of the attack on Rommel. The other versions credit Squadron Leader Le Roux of 602 Squadron who was flying his Spitfire Mk 9 on a sweep through the French countryside or Charlie Fox, a Spitfire pilot of 412 Squadron; apparently, Rommel claimed it was a single Spitfire whereas Heins' account below supports the 193 Squadron Typhoons.

The son of Bremervörde Burgomaster Heins, who was eye witness of a accident with which Field Marshall Rommel met in France, volunteered the following statement.

The accident happened between the 10th and the 15th of July 1944 [actually July 17],when Heins was a 2nd Lieutenant in a Panzer Grenadier unit of the 21st Panzer Division. Heins cannot remember the exact date of the accident, but says it happened early in the afternoon of one of those days, at about 1600hrs.

Heins was travelling in a German Jeep (Kubelwagen)from Livarot to St.Pierre-Sur-D'Ile. In Livarot he was overtaken by two open Mercedes cars and he noticed that a General was sitting in the first one. He followed at about 550 yards distance. Their average speed was about 80 to 100 kms per hour. The General who was Field Marshall Rommel, as Heins learned later on, was sitting to the right of the driver. Another two high ranking officers were sitting in the back, whilst Rommel's Adjutants were following in the second car.

About 1 mile outside Livarot they came to a bend in the road, which was an open target for Typhoons. Heins notices six of them in the air.

When Heins saw one of the Typhoons diving onto the road from the right, he managed to get into a side track, whilst the other two cars were continuing on their way. The first car, in which Rommel was travelling, was machine-gunned, but no rockets were fired.

Rommel's driver was hit and lost control of the car which was swaying from one side of the road to the other. At this juncture Rommel jumped out of the car, which was still travelling at high speed, fell on his face and slid about ten yards along the surface of the road. His driver, who was badly wounded, managed to stop the car about 200yds further on.

When Rommel's Adjutants and Heins arrived at the place of the accident, they found that Rommel had bad injuries to the right side of the face and he probably had a skull fracture.

Rommel was taken straight back to Livaro to the French maire who was also the local chemist. He stayed there for one day and a Luftwaffe Ambulance then took him to the Luftwaffe Hospital at Bernay. Department Seine-Inferieure.

Heins, who had spoken to some patients and Doctors of this Hospital, afterwards learned from them, that Rommel stayed there about three weeks. A Specialist from Berlin arrived at Bernay to give him the best possible attention. The last details Heins knows of this story is that Rommel was brought back to Germany after 3 or 4 weeks in Bernay and does not know what happened further in this connection.

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