Herr General’s final ride

“[General} Stumme went missing and the Panzerarmee became a headless beast, able to snarl and lash out locally but without the guiding intelligence to co-ordinate its responses to the British. At first light on the 24th [of October, 1942], Stumme, having received precious few situation reports from his army, set out to find out what was happening. He was accompanied by his driver, Corporal Wolf, and Colonel Büchting, a signals officer who wanted to see how quickly he could restore the field-telephone system. Stumme decided against taking an escort and a wireless vehicle to keep in touch, saying that he intended to go only as far as the HQ of the 90th Light, just behind the front line on the coast. Finding divisional HQ no better informed than army headquarters, Stumme decided to get closer to the front. How could a man who had stepped into Rommel’s boots do otherwise? There are two versions of what happened next. One has it that Stumme’s car was hit by a strafing fighter, the other that, on a deserted stretch of road, he strayed too close to Morshead’s Australians and came under anti-tank and machine-gun fire. Whatever it was that hit them, Oberst Büchting received a mortal head wound and Wolf turned his vehicle so violently that he failed to notice that the valiant if corpulent Stumme had fallen out. It was some time before Wolf discovered that he had mislaid the boss. By then he was several kilometres from the scene of the attack. Initially, it was feared that the Australians might have sent out a patrol and captured Stumme, but his body, with no visible wounds, was eventually recovered the following day and the cause of his death established as a heart attack. Whether he suffered it before or after his car was hit was never established.” – John Bierman and Colin Smith, The Battle of Alamein

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