While Hoth's 15th Panzer Corps crossed the Meuse near Dinant, Kleist's Panzer Army was advancing to the south.  Kleist's Army was made up of Reinhardt's 41st Panzer Corps which was approaching Montherme and Guderian's Panzer Corps which was further south approached Sedan.  Guderian's men were pushing back the few Belgian troops they encountered as well as the French cavalry that had been sent forward into Belgium.  Bouillon near the French border was in difficult terrain and with the Semois River it was easily defensible.  On the night of May 11-12, however, a group of German motorcyclists crossed the Semois several miles to the west of Bouillon, and on the morning of the 12th, Lt Col Balck's 1st Rifle Regiment forded the river at Bouillon, followed by panzers.  Guderian and his men continued to the objective, Sedan.  


The castle at Bouillon gives commanding views of the town and of the terrain.  The river bends around the hilltop castle.  Both bridges across the Semois were blown as the German panzers entered town on May 11th.  The Germans forded the river on the bend, which cannot be seen in its entirety in these images.  Guderian had a close call from an Allied air attack at the Panorama Hotel, the large pinkish color building above and to the right of the bridge on the left of the panorama.


The Germans started arriving at Sedan on May 12th.  The attack would be on the 13th.

Donchery was an important crossing during the 1870 battle of Sedan, and Napoleon III had been taken prisoner at the weaver's cottage on the right side of the panorama.  In 1940, Germans of the 2nd Panzer Division were approaching from Belgium along the road at right-center but were unable to cross due to fire from their left, or east, from Bunker 103.  With the capture of Bunker 103, the Germans were able to cross here.

From Near Bunker 103

Near here, west of Sedan, was Chateau Bellevue.  Bunker 103 covered crossings of the Meuse further west, toward Donchery, and it also covered the road from Donchery to Sedan on the left side of the panorma.  Men from this bunker and a nearby artillery bunker prevented a German crossing at Donchery.

After forcing a crossing elsewhere, the Germans of the 1st Rifle Regiment, approaching from Glaire along the axis of the road at right, captured this bunker and the men inside in hand to hand fighting, then took the nearby artillery position.  This opened up the Donchery river crossing to the 2nd Panzer Division.

Bunker 305

This is a 360 degree view from above the Canal d'Est, which cuts off a meander of the Meuse to the west of Sedan.  The canal in the center of the panorama heads to Glaire in the east where it connects with the Meuse upstream.  On the right side of the panorama, the canal heads west toward Villette where it connects with the Meuse downstream.  The crossing here was protected by Bunker 305.  The "German' side of the canal was at the far left.

Between here and Bunker 211 directly across from Sedan was the weak point in the French line, defended by about 300 men from two positions.  The Germans decided that this sector was where they would break through the French defenses.


1st Rifle Regiment Crossing

A tremendous aerial bombardment, primarily from Stukas, left the French defenders in shock.  Kleist ordered a short, intense aerial bombardment.  Guderian objected, prefering a constant aerial attack with less intensity, and he offered his resignation if he didn't get his way.  In the end he did get his way, and the bombardment was a constant one.  The Luftwaffe calimed that there was a mixup with communications, but it was likely intentional.

Under command of Herman Balck, the 1st Rifle Regiment of the 1st Panzer Division crossed here in rubber boats.  In the second wave was none other than Heinz Guderian himself, who was greeted by Balck with "Joy riding in canoes on the Meuse is forbidden."  The 1st Rifle Regiment continued to Bunker 103, and construction of a pontoon bridge here was soon started.  Until it was completed, however, the Germans could only have infantry across the river, and they were vulnerable to a French counterattack.  The panzer troops rested and repaired their vehicles in the Ardennes, only crossing the next morning.  Fortunately for the Germans, a French army counterattack was too late developing.  Allied air power also attacked the bridge but failed to destroy it due to strong opposition from flak batteries and Luftwaffe fighters.  All the German bridging material was used with this one bridge, so its destruction would have put the Germans in a difficult situation.  At one point during the Allied air attacks, with 170 Allied planes attacking, Guderian conferred with Rundsedt on the bridge, with Rundstedt asking if the Allied air attacks were always that way and Guderian tersely responding in the affirmative.

Bunker 211

Here, at Sedan itself, the Grossdeutchland Regiment tried to force a crossing but was repulsed by fire from Bunker 211 and a machine gun position.  Bringing up 88mm anti-tank guns, the bunkers were silenced and a crossing was made at 4pm on May 13th.  By 8pm, the regiment was attacking the hills southwest of Sedan.

Bunker 307

After moving through the city of Sedan, the 86th Rifle Regiment of the 10th Panzer Division crossed the Meuse in this general vicinity.  Bunker 307 is visible on the right of the panorama, and Sedan is across the river on the left.

Bunker 220

The 86th Rifle Regiment of the 10th Panzer Division having crossed the Meuse at Sedan, moved east and attacked this Bunker, number 220 from the rear by surprise.  The bunker held 10 men, a 25mm anti-tank gun, and heavy machine guns.  After capturing the bunker and the men inside, the Germans killed some of their prisoners when a brawl erupted.

From the look of the damage on one side, the bunker appears to have been the target of an 88mm gun.

Pont Maugis Bunker

The German 69th Regiment of the 10th Panzer Division tried to cross the Meuse in the valley on the left of the picture.  Covered by fire from concrete positions like this one across open marshy terrain with artillery support, the Germans were repulsed here.


Looking South From Marfee Heights

The Germans advanced beyond Marfee Heights into the old Meuse Argonne battlefield of 1918.  The French armored counterattack failed at the town of Stonne, just as the one had at Flavion against Hoth's Panzer Corps.  With the French armor repulsed and having suffered serious losses, there was little to stop the German thrust.  Gamelin had committed the reserve to northern Belgium and the Netherlands before the German attack had even developed.

Looking North From Marfee Heights

Here, at the French cemetery, you can look over Sedan and the surrounding area.  Sedan is at left.  Pont Maugis is a right-center.


German Military Cemetery

The German cemetery has remains of soldiers killed in both World Wars.

French Military Cemetery

Copyright 2010-11 by John Hamill

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