On the night of the 7th/8th of June 1944 a Battalion of the Royal Winnepeg Rifles and a platoon of the Green Howards were located along the Bayeux-Caen railway line at Putot-en-Besson, 3000 yards from Chateau D’Audrieu.
Opposing them was the 3rd Battalion, 26th Panzer Grenadiere, 2nd Company of the 12 SS Recce Battalion and part of the 25th Panzer Grenadiere Regiment.
On the morning of the 8th of June forces of the 12 SS supported by tanks launched a counter-attack, overrunning the British positions resulting in the capture of 26 troops. Of the 26 POWs taken, 24 belong to the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and 2 belonged to the Green Howards. They were captured by the third and fourth companies of the 12 SS Recce Battalion and taken to the headquarters of the 12 SS Recce Bn
The 12 SS Recce Bn headquarters had been set up on the morning of the 8th June 1944 at about 1200 hrs under a large sycamore tree in the grounds of Chateau D’Audrieu.
The first three prisoners arrived at the command post at 1400 hrs, escorted by three German soldiers. After 10 to 15 minutes at the command post the prisoners were seen to be lead into the woods by the chateau’s gardeners, Rene Lanoue and his son Raymond who were located in the chateau’s drying room. A few minutes later several regularly spaced shots were heard coming from the direction the prisoners had been taken (marked as “A”,”B” and “C” on the map of the chateau below). The German escorts then returned to the command post without the prisoners from the direction in which the shots had been fired. These events had also been witnessed by Monique Level who had been standing to the rear of the chateau (at the point marked “M” on the map).
Shortly afterwards another group of 4 or 5 prisoners were brought to the command post and seen to be escorted in single file into the woods (area marked as “D” on the map) by Monique Level who was now in her room on the first floor. Again regularly spaced shots were heard coming from the woods and the German escorts returned alone. This second incident was also witnessed from the attic by Beatrice Delafon
At 1430 hrs a final group of 13 prisoners were taken to the command post, they were held at the command post for around 15 minutes before being lead 100 yards to the south-east of the command post (marked as “K” on the map). Herbert Glueck a regular drive for Unterfuehrer Schenk was an eyewitness to the final incident standing 5 - 8 meters from the last man in the firing squad. He described how the prisoners were lined up with their hands above their heads facing north with the firing squad standing in front of them, nearly all armed with automatic pistols. The firing squad under the direction of an officer then shot the prisoners
About an hour later Monique Level was in the kitchen of the Chateau when a German officer smoking a British cigarette entered. The German officer turned towards them and said: “English cigarette, good cigarettes, Tommies Kif-Kif, with my revolver, that’s who killed them.”
There was an Allied artillery barrage at around 1730 which lasted until around 2100 hrs. Following the barrage, Monique spoke to Herntz Ublaender a wounded German soldier in the Chateau’s park, who told them the Canadian prisoners had been killed to give a better moral to the German troops and prevent them from surrendering.
There are two memorials in the town of Audrieu a short distance from the chateau. One is to the members of the Royal Winnepeg Rifles who were murdered while prisoners of war at Le Chateau D'Audrieu and at Le Haut Du Bosq and another to the men of the Durham Light Infantry who were murdered in the grounds of Chateau D'Audrieu.
A memorial to the members of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and supporting arms who were murdered while prisoners of war at Le Chateau D'Audrieu and at Le Haut Du Bosq.Read more
A memorial to the men of the Durham Light Infantry who were murdered by the 12th SS Reconnaissance Battalion in the grounds of Chateau D'Audrieu.Read more