Query about infantry AT weapons

Discussion in 'Command Ops Series' started by Agema, May 25, 2020.

  1. Agema

    Agema Member

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    I've been playing some CO2 with the update and Bradley at Bay incoming...

    I do have an issue with infantry AT weapons: they seem very ineffective. I often have infantry companies defending woods and towns that are almost completely ineffective against armoured companies. I've tried giving them ambush orders, and that doesn't seem to improve anything.

    As an extreme example, I was playing Greyhound Dash. I secured Soy with a battalion of the 156th PzG regiment. This action occurred over ~12h late afternoon (snow, visibility ~300m) then throughout night-time. A 14-strong US tank company of Shermans and variants strolled up, shot up one of my companies at about 200m, forced it to retreat and rolled into the town after it. There it engaged a second-line company backed up by three 75mm AT guns. Eventually the first company recovered and returned to its position, thereby sandwiching the shermans front and rear. These two infanty companies fired all their panzerfausts and panzerschrek AP (~20-25 per company?) and a third inf company on the flank also loosed a few. I lost about 50 panzergrenadiers, and did no damage in return. (Just to add insult to injury, the AT platoon also achieved nothing, but lost 2 guns and ~15 men.) Eventually the armoured company just left. I'm aware that in this case visibility was very poor, but 40-50 shots from weapons with ~200mm penetration dealing no kills seems incredible.

    Close terrain such as towns should be perfect for infantry to make effective use of this sort of weaponry, but in practice it seems to me that armoured companies rarely take casualties, and even if they do, very few.

    Is this just me? Am I doing something wrong? Is this historical? Any ideas?
     
  2. jimcarravallah

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    If I understand the controls correctly, an "ambush" setting means the formation will will not engage an enemy unit until fired upon.

    The maximum effective range of a Panzerfaust was about 60-meters and the Panzershreck 150-meters.. If the tank company sited and fired upon the infantry formation at 200-meters, there was no way for the anti-tank company to reach them with their weapons.
     
  3. Agema

    Agema Member

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    Yes, I should have been clearer. They didn't fire AT weapons at 200m. The armoured company fired at ~200m outside the town at my inf in the town, killed about 20 and forced the company it was shooting at to retreat. As far as I can tell, my infantry fired no AT weapons at this point. Then the tanks drove into the town, the engagment range became about ~50-100m, and that's where my troops started using the AT weaponry.

    I had another engagement about the same time: similar situation, except a volksgrenadier company with 8 hetzers nearby. The VG company again fired off all its AT weaponry, although at shorter range than the above. Eventually the tank company withdrew with 1 loss, although I don't know whether that was from the VGs or the Hetzers (I'm not sure the Hetzers could see the shermans, due to the low visibility).
     
  4. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    Not generally, as the range depended on what Panzerfaust model was used/present:

    • The Panzerfaust 30 had a range of 30 meters, but this number indicated the optimum range, not the max. range !
    • The same goes for the Panzerfaust 60 (60 meters) and the ...
    • Panzerfaust 100. The Panzerfaust 100 had an optimum range of ..... *drum roll* .... 100 meters. The Panzerfaust 100 carried 2 propellant charges (2-stage propulsion) which gave its warhead a higher velocity/better range. IIRC, its sight included a 150 meters notch. While the Panzerfaust 60 was the most common Panzerfaust, the Panzerfaust 100 was still mass produced and widely used.

    I am not counting the Panzerfaust 150, as some sources insist that HASAG had only produced a small pre-production batch that was only produced for testing purposes, while other sources insist that mass production had started either in February or in early March 1945 but resulted in "low output numbers" (if compared to the very high outputs in October and November 1944 - the goal of the leadership was to produce 1.5 million Panzerfäuste per month to equip Volkssturm and Wehrmacht units)


    • A number of German sources stress that 100,000 Panzerfaust 150 units had been produced. If true, then quite a few batches were probably issued to the defenders on the Seelow Heights and on the Oder river bank (where Volkssturm and Wehrmacht units dug in) and the rest stocked in Berlin, for the final defense. The 150 had a frag casing that sent frags to all sides upon impact. The aim here was to injure inf riding on or walking next to the targeted tanks, so this weapon also had quite some AP (here: anti-personnel) effect.

    • A figure of 100,000 units sounds believable, as some authors mention either "limited", "regional" or "local availability" and as HASAG employed 5000 slave workers in the KZ Außenlager Schlieben (a satellite camp of the concentration camp Buchenwald) even until mid-April. The Red Army liberated the camp on April 21, 1945. HASAG's Leipzip plant also mass produced Panzerfäuste (plural :p), basically until US forces showed up, the city fights in Leipzig ended on April 20. Middle Germany was the only remaining reliable production location/region, vital areas were largely unscathed (few or no bombing raids in quite a few areas):
    • Hydrogen plants produced fuel, the Buna plant in Schkopau kept producing Buna for tyres etc., tank factories in Magdeburg and Plauen still completed tanks, Dresden built StuG tanks. Dessau produced planes, plants in Leipzig produced aircraft engines. Carl Zeiss in Jena produced optics and night-vision devices, the weapon factory in Suhl manufacturered carbines and MGs. Plants in Thale produced helmets. In 1944, the Germans concentrated 1,000 flak guns in a giant belt around that industrial area (Leipzig-Halle-Bitterfeld). Bomber pilots coined the region "Flak hell".
    Until March 1945 HASAG had produced around 6.7 million units (various models), including ~263,000 Panzerschrecks.
    Some Russian sources insist that 9.2 million Panzerfäuste had been produced. According to them, the remaining Army and Volkssturm units possessed ~3.02 million Panzerfäuste on March 1, 1945.

    Ranges:
    In practice very skilled (or very experienced) Panzerfaust 100 troops could score hits at larger distances (exceeding 100 meters) using a curved ("ballistic") trajectory, but the limiting factor was the velocity. Some veterans claimed to have scored hits at ranges between 100 and 200 meters, its sight supported aimed shots up to 150 meters, actually. While I wouldn't rule out that it was possible to go beyond 150 meters (especially when the gunner fired from an elevated position at an enemy tank below), the Panzerfaust warhead was not a rocket propelled grenade, the Warhead drop over distance was significant and could not be compensated endlessly just by raising the tube.
    The Panzerfaust 60 could still score at 70 or 80 meters, but was less effective above its optimal range, as its pretty low velocity made aimed shots at such higher ranges rather difficult.
     
    #4 GoodGuy, May 26, 2020
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
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  5. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    Yes and no.

    In general, The Raketen-Panzer-Büchse 54 (Panzerschreck with shield) had an effective range of 100 - 200 meters, under optimal temperature conditions, depending on the grenade version.
    Many websites/online sources just indicate a range of "100 - 200 meters" to be on the safe side, because ranges varied greatly, due to the different versions (3) of grenades produced/used during different seasons of the year (see below).

    Gordon L. Rottman insists on a general range of "200 yards" (182.88 meters) in "World War II Infantry Fire Support Tactics" (page 56, 2016, Osprey Publishing), but I suspect that he trusts German documents that (just) announced the production of the 4992 grenade and that he assumes that these grenades were actually produced, there.
    Since the 4322 was mass produced and available in high numbers, such generalizing statement appears to be pretty daring, tbh.

    German publications of the 70s + 80s indicated exactly that range (180 meters) as optimal/effective range for the 4992 (not for the 4322) which was (supposed to be) produced for the 54 and the shortened/improved version, the RPzB 54/1.

    These publications also stressed that the 4992 production turned out to be tricky, 13% of the first batches had to be be rejected by the Waffenamt and/or by the troops, supposedly. The R.Pz.B.Gr. 4992 was pretty heavy (11 kg) and contained more explosives, which explains the lowered range (see 4322 below). The 4322 weighed 3.25 kg only.

    Recently, collectors + private researchers tend to consider the mass production of the 4992 to be a myth, only one picture exists (field manual) + no collector or researcher ever came across 4992 crates or stickers (let alone 4992 grenades), so serial production may not have materialized or had only delivered very low output numbers.

    The 54/1 was an improved version: The tube was shortened (weight reduction: 2 kg) and the sight improved. Both, the improved sight on the 54/1 and the front sight on the 54 could be used as range finders.

    Some private researchers/collectors claim/suspect that the 54/1 tubes were in fact returned/or rejected 54 tubes which were then modded to the 54/1 standard. There are some indicators that seem to kind of support that claim (sloppy reprocessing/workmanship, parts being mounted in varying spots, other notable details) at first glance, but the differences + the varying quality of appliances could have been a result of the German attempt to compensate factory losses. Less experienced workers/slave workers, missing parts etc. could have caused the differences, means they could have been "local flavors" caused by local factory conditions and part situations, instead of modded leftovers/returns (54 tubes).

    HASAG started to lose its Polish slave worker factories in early 1945, which the company had "acquired" in 1939. After the Russians had crossed the Vistula river, HASAG had lost all of its 3 armament factories in Poland (late January, 1945). So it's also possible that the differing 54/1 layouts had been the result of hasty assembly during the plants' last days in Poland (if they ever assembled 54/1 tubes) or of the ever increasing lack of spare parts (which might have been produced locally).

    The mountable sight plates that came with the final version of the 4322 grenades had the numbers 100, 150 and 200 engraved (which indicated the effective ranges), and a "Wintermunition 44/45" engraving at the bottom:

    [​IMG]

    Despite the plans to introduce the 4992 grenade, the range of the last version of the 4322 grenade had been significantly improved (see below), already, + the range increase then forced the manufacturer to produce these new sight plates.

    In order to ease adoption/acceptance and decrease confusion, every 2nd crate holding the improved 4322 grenades came with a set of front/rear sight plates (picture above: front sight plate). The sight plates were also needed to adjust the aim for either winter or summer temperature conditions and - with the final version of the grenade - to adjust for the range increase, of course.

    The crates contained a leaflet that reminded the soldiers to put on the new sight plates and to adjust them according to the current (outdoor) temperature (means to one of 2 predefined sight positions - for winter + summer - which were marked by 2 dashes on the sight plate; the engraved "winter dash" can be spotted on the pic above, just below the number 150).
    If I am not mistaken, previous sight plates had 2 dashes (winter/summer aim) and 50, 100 and 150 increments, I can't verify the previous range engravings atm, tho).

    In general, Panzerschreck grenades came in 2 seasonal "flavors", a summer and a winter version (which contained differently mixed propellant charges optimized for each season). A Winter 44/45 sticker stated:

    "Gute Treffaussicht besteht
    bei +25° C bis 200 m,
    bei 0° C bis 150 m,
    bei -25°C bis 100 m."

    "A good chance to hit exists
    at +25° C up to a distance of 200 meters,
    at 0° C up to 150 meters,
    at -25°C up to 100 meters."

    Reminder: Each value indicated the end of the optimal range. Higher ranges (with reduced hit rates) could be achieved, ofc.
    The RPzB 54 could fire the improved 9322, too.

    The tube's predecessor (without shield + "54" designation) was only produced for evaluation on test ranges and for select units to test them under combat conditions.
    For instance, 2 Coys of Zerstörer ("destroyer") Bn 477 (an AT Bn) were equipped with Panzerschrecks in October 1943, while the Bn's 3rd Coy was still equipped with "heavy Pak" guns. A revised version of the grenade (4322) delivered to the units in December 1943 performed better in winter conditions eventually.
    The Bn's CO (v. d. Planitz) then described the hit ratio with that experimental ammunition to be "satisfactory" "... up to a range of 100 meters" (cold weather), in a report filed on March 14, 1944.

    The summer 44 production version allowed for ranges of up to 150 meters in warm/fair weather.

    According to a leaflet that was dated April 1, 1944, and which was issued to all supply depots and resupply handlers that received grenade deliveries, the rockets contained the following amounts of explovices:
    • hollow-charge explosives: 0.450 kg,
    • fuze explosives: 0.007 kg,
    • propellant charge: 0.175 kg,
    • total weight of explosives + propellant charge: 0.632 kg.
    This might have been the revised "Wintermunition 43/44", the first production version.

    The leaflet carried the official approval serial number (serially numbered by the Waffenamt, "Merkblatt geh. 28/1") + the rating "geheim" ("secret").

    Specified temperature ranges:
    • The first 15,000 grenades were restricted to use between -10 and +30° C + were not meant for combat,
    • the first production version "Wintermunition 43/44" was certified to be used at temperatures from -40° C to +30° C and its rocket motor labeled "Arkt 43/44".
    • The second version, the Sommermunition 1944 was meant for use between -5° C and +50° C.
    The last version of the 4322, the "Wintermunition 44/45" grenade (the rocket motor was labeled "Arkt 44/45" - Arkt for "arktisch" or "Arktik" = "arctic"), had received a redesigned rocket motor that sported a range of 200 meters in warm weather, officially (my guess: between 17 - 25°C).

    • This 3rd version could be used at temps between -25° C (some surviving stickers insist on -20° C, maybe misprints) and +25° Celsius, and could be fired with both tubes, the 54 + the 54/1.

    The major changes in its rocket motor:

    • use of a solid (one-piece) fuel rod (one modern picture of an original solid rod exists, a collector could verify this) instead of the 7 smaller separate fuel rod pieces like in the previous versions, which then allowed for an optimized combustion that upped the rocket's start velocity (thus higher range + improved accuracy),
    • the ignition charge at the top of the fuel tube had been enlarged which also helped to improve combustion.

    These somewhat picky temp ranges meant that a grenade that had heated up in the sun could become so unstable that it was dangerous to operate the weapon.
    Accordingly, the manual recommended to let it cool down in a shaded area before operating it. Low temps (below the spec. range) had to be avoided too, the manual recomm. to get the projectile to a warm place to bring its temp. back to the specif. range. The crates were usually stored in shaded/heated places. That said, the projectiles turned out to be pretty finicky. :D

    I am guessing that the explosives' total weight increased to around 0.66 kg (some German sources keep indicating this as general weight), which sounds reasonable for the last version, b/c the size of the fuze charge had been increased + because the solid rods were used. The improved 9322 became available in time for the winter season in 1944, afaik.

    There is a witness account of a Swiss Army officer - who conducted tests with a post-war (Swiss/French?) derivate of the last Panzerschreck version on a Swiss test range - floating around and which I read years ago. The officer had fired a number of grenades + established that a range of 400 m could be achieved by using a pretty high arch (the Panzerschreck's grenades had a curved flight path anyways, so an exper. soldier then had to use skill/estimation to score above 200 m (in warm weather + when using the 44/45 version).
     
    #5 GoodGuy, May 26, 2020
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
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  6. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    What kind of terrain/environment? "village" terrain?
    Were the Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck troops on that terrain or out in the open? In HTTR and COTA fights in towns/villages could turn out extremely frustrating, at times. The city terrain carries the largest modifiers for troop cover and effectiveness, if I am not mistaken, but village modifiers have lower values. Still, it never felt like the game would depict urban fighting correctly.
    Historically, the village Soy comprised of like 24 separated buildings in 1944, iirc, that's not much cover to ambush 14 tanks, even with poor visibility. That's 14 main guns spilling HE and 14 MGs (or even some .50 cal MGs, if some radio operators operated those, instead of the coax MGs) creating a "bullet rain".

    The pdf below was created by a relative of the XO of the 3rd Bn 290th Inf Regiment, Major John S. Baskin jr., who had to step in and command the 3rd Bn (defending Soy) on December 24, 1944, which was tasked to boot the Germans just south of Soy.
    The author was obviously interested in getting to know about his relative's deployment, so he did some research and asked other relatives (I guess) for details.

    http://johnsanpublications.com/genealogy/SourceDocs/UncleJackChristmas1944.pdf

    He added some publicly available pictures and provided screenshots of US and German footage, but he also drew the exact positions where 3 pictures were taken, on the Soy map (page 11). The right hand picture on that map shows the outskirts of Soy, the AT guns were deployed around that road.

    While the pdf just contains short notes, the personal details (provided by Major Baskin, family members) are quite interesting:
    • The Bn had gotten no sleep since the 21st of December.
    • Lack of food. Zero meals on December 24: The commander of the armored division that was tasked to send tank support to the area ordered the kitchen trucks (brought in at 11 pm to serve the 1st meal of the day for the Bn) to leave Soy, as his tanks and supply units needed an open road to muster an attack elsewhere. The CO was scared that the food distribution (the soldiers had already lined up to receive their meals) could delay his columns.
    • after taking the hill, lack of ammo resulted in getting thrown off the hill again (the Germans noticed that the US troops started to run out of ammo one by one and immediately started a counterattack, where then the US troops had to run downhill) so that the Bn had to attack uphill a 2nd time later on, after picking up ammo and getting more support.
    • no winter clothing
    • no combat experience
    • no winter boots, but summer or "rubber boots".
    EDIT: The map in the PDF is correct, the M10 platoon was part of the 629nd TD Bn.

    Some versions of that map indicate that these M10s were part of the 692nd which was actually attached to an Inf Division deployed 87 km up North in the Rhineland area, particularly in the Düren area and conducting indirect and direct fire missions in the vicinities of Gürzenich, a district of Düren, Inden-Frenz and Langerwehe, according to the Bn's AAR on December 23/24 (page 6):
    https://www.tankdestroyer.net/images/stories/ArticlePDFs2/692nd_AAR_Dec_44.pdf

    The unit was part of the troops advancing to Cologne. The Bn didn't have M10s, as it was a towed TD Bn. It received the first tanks (M36) in March 1945.

    Company C of the 629th TD Bn was in the area, indeed:

    On the evening of December 24, the 290th Regimental Combat Team, comprising of the 2nd + 3rd Bn, 898th Field Artillery, Coy C of the 629th TD Bn, Company B of the 750th Tank Battalion and Company B 275th Engineer Battalion pushed forward to reach Biron, where it was supposed to establish a defensive perimeter to prevent further German advance.

    For this task, the Combat Team was ordered to attack Wy, but 3rd Bn had to clear the hill south of Soy. After this had been achieved, 3rd Bn was dispatched and sent to help defending the Hotton area (where elements of 517th PIR held out, and where Melvin E. Biddle earned his Medal of Honor during his 20-hrs patrol on December 23, which enabled the Hotton defenders to remove the German grip around Hotton - which was surrounded at the time, iirc), with the strict order to hold Hotton at all costs.

    The 692nd has a quite interesting history, though:

    https://www.tankdestroyer.net/units/battalions600s/311-692nd-tank-destroyer-battalion

    The AARs reveal that in somewhat calm phases but also during local stalemates AT elements (towed AT guns and tank destroyers) of the US army were employed in an artillery role (and even for counterbattery missions), next to providing direct HE fire:

    The AAR section of the 629th TD Bn covering actions on December 18 contains these bits:

    "Two hundred and ninety (290) rounds of 3" HE, reduced charge were fired by 3rd Platoon of Company B on harassing fire missions for the 322nd FA Bn."

    The AAR of the towed 692nd TD Bn contains plenty of such INDIRECT fire missions, as well. Understandable, since they had towed AT guns, but the 629'th had tank destroyers.

    The 629's actions during December 1 and December 2:

    "During period 1 December 1944 to 2 December 1944 a total of 1259 rounds of 3" HE ammunition were expended on harassing fire in support of the 2nd Infantry Divisional Artillery, totaling 34 harassing missions and 2 counterbattery missions. No missions observed so damage inflicted on enemy was not known. During 3rd and 4th December 1944 unit was not in contact with enemy."

    The bit "no missions observed" indicates that either artillery grids or rough estimations/calculations were used to conduct those indirect fire missions.

    https://www.tankdestroyer.net/images/stories/ArticlePDFs/629th_TD_Dec_44_AAR_Opt.pdf

    Another detail in the PDF:
    The author mentions that the CO of an Arm.Div. showed up in Soy, a "1-star" general. 1st Bn 290th was lent out + directly attached to the 3rd Armor Division on December 23, until it was given back to the 290th on December 26.
    So if Major General Rose showed up in Soy, then he must have worn the wrong helmet/badges (unlikely) or the author of the PDF (or his relative, the Major) must have been mistaken, or it was a different AD's CO: Rose had 2 stars at the time. :D

    EDIT: A popular myth (or misconception/lie, if you like) that was even parroted by some respected book authors comes up in the PDF:
    Troops participating in the BFTB supposedly experienced the coldest winter in 40 years.
    Quite a few of the casualties in the 290th Rgt. Combat Team (and similar badly equipped units) occured because wounded soldiers froze to death ("wounds not ordinarily fatal"), because they had no winter clothing. The fact that this unit and other units had not received proper winter clothing is scandalous already, but it appears almost like the myth was created to excuse the number of deaths from freezing.

    Intent or not, this is so appaling because the winters 43/44 and 44/45 had been the 2 mildest winters in years.
    The weather data of December 24, 1944, 6 pm:

    [​IMG]

    Central Europe featured -3°Celsius for the most part, the local temps in the Ardennes region could not have dropped to say -20 or even -30 degrees Celsius. On the 26th of December the temp. had climbed to +3° Celsius + the fog had diseapp. in most areas. Clear skies, too, perfect flying weather for Allied aircraft.

    EDIT 2: Temps dropped in Jan. locally, but never dropped below -12°C until January 10 (-13°C to -14°C), and climbed to -10° and - 8° on January 12 and 13. Thaw kicked in on January 14 (+1° C).
    In contrast, Aachen recorded a negat. local record on Jan. 11, 1945: -20.4° Celsius, the lowest local temp since 1891, but the all-time record in Germany was -37.8° C at the time (Bavaria, on Febr. 2, 1929).
    The Aachen region resides 90 km north of Bastogne, and it was warmer in the Ardennes (6-7 degrees).
    https://www.wetterdienst.de/Klima/Wetterrekorde/Deutschland/Temperatur/Min

    On Jan. 8, 1945, Hitler allowed to withdraw from the area west of Houffalize, + with this move he basically admitted that the offensive had failed, already. The Battle for Bastogne ended on the 17th + only a further temp. drop (to around -12° C) + a blizzard (Jan. 19 to Jan. 20 or 21) delayed the Allied counterattack on St. Vith (23 January), according to Tolland. The data of the wetterzentrale "Reanalysis" archive supports Tolland's description.

    Conclusion: It was cold, but the temp. in the Ardennes region neither hit all-time lows, nor were they 40-years lows.
     
    #6 GoodGuy, May 26, 2020
    Last edited: May 28, 2020
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  7. Agema

    Agema Member

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    Soy is village terrain (although has a large footprint if only 24 buildings). My units were in the village.

    Just FYI, they weren't set to ambush in Soy - the idea was to take on incoming units normally, with StuGs and an AT platoon for armoured. The StuGs couldn't see the Shermans with the low visibility. Didn't want to advance them - I find TDs tend to do badly close to tanks.
     
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  8. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    Soy nowadays:

    Soy.jpg

    The Soy - Beffe road:

    Soy-Beffe-road.jpg

    Comparison, Beffe in 1944 and nowadays (looks like the church was built after the war?):

    http://75thdivisiondad.com/scanned/Beffe Belgium.pdf

    Check out that pdf, it shows that new houses were built in these villages (so they got a little bit more dense in some parts), but the size of their footprints has not changed much in all these years and the density along their main roads remained the same, for the most part.

    Can you provide a screenshot of Soy's footprint? I'm curious now. :)
     
    #8 GoodGuy, May 28, 2020
    Last edited: May 28, 2020
  9. Agema

    Agema Member

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    Uploading images is a bit of a faff, but it's a sort of "T" shape. In the CO2 map, the horizontal top runs along the E-W road (the N807 nowadays) for about a kilometre along the road, ~50m either side of the road. The vertical is about 500m x 200m running either side of the road south.

    From the B/W insert diagram you supplied, it seems to me the eastern arm of the horizontal on the CO2 map maybe didn't exist 1944. Otherwise it looks pretty accurate - it's just that there are much larger distances between a lot of the buildings in reality that I'd have got the impression from the CO2 map.
     

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