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Rommel Under Attack - Charley Fox

            There have been others who claimed to have made the fateful attack on General Rommel on July 17, 1944. Their claims, for one reason or another, haven’t held up through the years. That leaves Charley Fox ,  D.F.C and Bar, of 412 (Canadian) squadron.

Charley was in exactly the right place at the right time. His logbook entry for the day says he was flying his usual aircraft (VZ-F) on armed recce duty. Time in the air was 1:15. Under the “results and remarks” column is the seemingly routine entry “1 staff car destroyed”. A question mark, added later, precedes the word “Rommel”, and then….the word “Yes”.

Charley's Logbook

Charley’s telling of the story contradicts many of the published versions, in some of the details. Many of these seem to be re-writes of the same account.

 Why did Charley not come forward before? Following, in his own words, are his thoughts on the matter…..

“Field Marshal Rommel was respected by both sides as “The Desert Fox”. According to some researchers, he had the promise of 11 of the 12 Generals under him, that, if it came to a choice, they would follow his orders, rather than Hitler's directives. He was convinced that if he did as Hitler wanted, many of his men would be killed, and his army wiped out. The Falaise Gap slaughter in August of that year proved him to be right. There were rumours that he was prepared to meet General Montgomery secretly, in person, to arrange for an "Honourable Cease Fire" to end the war.

          Many veterans in the three services, including myself, had feelings of guilt, and did not like to talk about their war experiences because of the big question: "Why not me?"

            "Why did my friends, my buddies in various services...why did my squadron or my wing members die? ...and not me?”

In recent years, doing colour commentaries at air shows, I have come to the conclusion that my mission is to make sure that all the stories I know get told... that the record gets set straight for posterity. To this end, I am currently working on a book: “Untold Stories – Unsung Heroes”.

Charlie Fox poses by the cannon of his Spitfire in 1944


Here are my recollections of the events of  July 17, 1944….

            In the late afternoon,  412 (Canadian) Spitfire Squadron took off on an armed "recce". We were part of 126 Wing, 2nd Tactical Air Force, based at Beny-Sur-Mur, just inland from Juno beach in Normandy.

             Three sections of four aircraft, led by our C/0, S/L leader Jack Shepherd, got airborne and then broke up into three separate flights. These were led by the C/0, F/L Rob Smith D.F.C. and myself.

 I spotted a large black car travelling at high speed along a road with trees on either side. It was coming towards us, on my left, at about 11 o'clock. I maintained steady, level flight until the vehicle passed us at 9 o'clock. I then began a curving, diving attack to my left, with my number two following to watch my tail. The other two aircraft maintained their height, keeping an eye out for enemy activity. I started firing at approximately 300 yards, and hit the staff car, causing it to crash. At the time, I had no idea who it was...just a large black open car...gleaming in the sun without any camouflage, which was unusual.

The Americans claimed that one of their P-47s had shot up Rommel.

OK... end of story, as far as I was concerned.

 However... .A day or so later, in reporting the attack on Rommel, the Germans specifically said, "No! It was a Spitfire that had done it!"

Meanwhile, things were happening rapidly on the war front. Our wing and others were flying constantly, two and three trips a day. As we were based close to the front lines with the Navy in the Channel, every night was filled with constant bombardment. We only dozed, and got very little real sleep. At the time, the question of "Who got Rommel?" was not a priority.

            As the war of liberation progressed, and with the sequence of events that followed Rommel's recovery, it became even less important.

Later, word got out about General Rommel being implicated in the assassination attempt on Hitler. He was given the choice to commit suicide or be executed. I never felt comfortable about the attack... because of the man, the soldier that Rommel was. And, because of the events of that day, there will always be the big question…

What if I hadn't made a successful attack? What if he hadn't been hurt? What if the Field Marshal had talked to Monty? What if?... ..What if?...... What if?


Charley Fox, © 2002

 CLICK HERE to read the full story

CLICK HERE to read Charley's Bio





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