At a. The German tactical reply was resolute and troops on the Calvados coast fought with determination in many places. Hillman dominated the road south towards Caen and had been so cleverly fortified and camouflaged, that its size and layout was a surprise. Morris surrendered at p. I Corps was delayed moving into position because the state of the Channel slowed the arrival of follow-up divisions and its attack was delayed until 12 June. The 51st Highland Division attacked the 21st Panzer Division but its defence was determined and on 13 June, the offensive east of Caen was called off.
The next day, Tessel-Bretteville was captured by the British and lost to a subsequent counter-attack. Over the following two days, a foothold was secured across the River Odon and efforts were made to expand this, by capturing tactically valuable points around the salient and moving up the 43rd Wessex Infantry Division. VIII Corps suffered men killed, 2, wounded and men missing. During 1 July, a further men were killed and wounded and were reported missing.
A Canadian operation during Operation Epsom, had been postponed because of the delays in disembarking troops. The Canadians took Carpiquet village with the help of the French Resistance on 5 July and three days later, after repulsing several German counter-attacks, captured the airfield and adjacent villages during Operation Charnwood. Keller was severely criticised for not using two brigades for Operation Windsor and for delegating detailed planning to Brigadier Blackader of the 8th Brigade. Three infantry divisions and three armoured brigades of I Corps were to attack southwards through Caen to the Orne river and capture bridgeheads in the districts of Caen south of the river.
Cautious planning to avoid attacking their own troops meant the bombs landed more on the city than German defences. The remnants of the 12th SS Panzer Division fought a rearguard action and then retired over the Orne. They came running out of their houses with glasses and bottles of wine. A bombardment of mortars and over field guns was to precede the attack. Neither side could hold Hill , the top of which was left as a no-man's-land.
Several villages nearby were taken and the 9th SS Panzer Division was sent from reserve to contain the attack, which achieved the Allied operational objective. Blumenson wrote that the British force suffered over 4, casualties and almost tank losses, about 36 percent of the British tanks in France. The Germans had not been destroyed but the German commanders became fatalistic. Torrential rain immobilised tanks and infantry and grounded aircraft and the South Saskatchewans lost casualties.
The Essex Scottish lost c. The operation was to capture the ridge and villages on the south slope. Terry Copp wrote in , that the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade had got through traffic jams and had captured Villons les Buissons, when Dempsey ordered the invasion divisions to dig in on an intermediate objective as the 21st Panzer Division counter-attack against the 3rd Division.
The panzers were repulsed by the th Infantry Brigade and then penetrated between Sword and Juno; the attack cost the Germans 33 percent of their tanks. The German panzer force was still formidable when it was ordered to retire as another Allied aerial armada appeared overhead; both sides had been given orders which were cautious and events possibly made them premature.
Copp called the Allied achievement "extraordinary" but one which failed to impress writers like Chester Wilmot and Charles Stacey , the Canadian official historian. Copp wrote that the Anglo-Canadians had advanced inland by bounds from one secured objective to the next, according to their training, a cautious but sensible tactic. The stop order has been criticised on the assumption that the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade would not have been overrun on the final objectives, something which happened to some Canadian units the next day.
Had the Germans waited to prepare a proper co-ordinated counter-attack, instead of conducting piecemeal attacks on 6 June, it could have been a greater threat but it was impossible to know the effect of hypothetical decisions. In a academic study, Robert Citino criticised the British on D-Day, at Villers-Bocage, Epsom and Goodwood, for failing to use mobile warfare tactics and in , Antony Beevor wrote that the British had not been sufficiently ruthless.
Buckley wrote that these critics concentrated on British failings; only a few hours after the landings began on 6 June, the British army was "supposedly fluffing its lines"; in the historian Alexander McKee described the D-Day rush on Caen degenerating into a "plodding advance by a few hundred riflemen", a failure which condemned the British to costly battles of attrition. For the next few weeks, despite plentiful resources, the British attacks on Caen "seemingly made little headway", while the US First Army captured Cherbourg and the Cotentin Peninsula.
After the capture of the Cotentin, the Americans pushed south and were poised for Operation Cobra by 25 July. The British Operation Goodwood, which had taken place east of Caen the week before, was written off as a "humiliating failure", with tanks knocked out. When the Germans were finally driven from Normandy, the British "seemingly made a hash of the pursuit" by not trapping German forces west of Antwerp.
Buckley wrote that criticism of the performance of the British army came to a head in the s and was reflected in popular films, television programmes, board games and computer games. The view of the British army as "triumphant and successful" had been replaced by one of an "unimaginative force which only prevailed Artillery was the main infantry-killer of the war and it was Allied, especially British artillery, that was the most feared by the Germans after ; British guns dominated the battlefield and prevented concentration and manoeuvre.
The British also emphasised support for the infantry and tanks by all arms and provided plenty of equipment and ammunition, while the Germans had to improvise and lurch from crisis to crisis. Riflemen amounted to 15 percent of the army and bore 70 percent of the losses, yet the human cost of the Battle of Normandy, much of which was fought by the Anglo-Canadians against Panzergruppe West for possession of Caen, came within War Office expectations.
The Anglo-Canadians played a crucial role in Normandy but managed to avoid a bloodbath like those of the First World War and the Eastern Front from to In , Stephen Badsey wrote that the 6th Airborne Division achieved its objectives on 6 June but the scattering of the US airborne divisions on the western flank, led the Germans to believe that the Allied schwerpunkt point of main effort was close to the Cotentin Peninsula.
Only when confronted with the advance of the 50th Northumbrian Infantry Division inland from Gold, was Kampfgruppe Meyer re-directed towards Bayeux. Badsey wrote that had the kampfgruppe counter-attack succeeded along with those of the 21st Panzer Division, the arrival of the 12th SS Panzer Division on 7 June, might have led to the Second Army being surrounded. Badsey wrote that after D-Day, historians and writers concentrate on the defence of Caen by the 12th SS and the 21st Panzer divisions but that the Germans also conducted many pincer attacks against the invasion beaches which were devastated by Allied air and naval bombardment, which made it impossible to manoeuvre north of the Caen—Cherbourg road, just as Rommel had predicted.
The attacks of the 50th Northumbrian Infantry Division, combined with those of the 1st US Division on the western flank, destroyed five kampfgruppen of the nd Infantry Division, creating the Caumont Gap on 8 June, the remnants breaking out during the night. On 9 June, German forces from the Orne to the Vire were ordered onto the defensive, to send reinforcements to Cherbourg and the Panzer-Lehr Division was ordered to recapture Isigny-sur-Mer , until the British advances south of Bayeux forced Rommel to divert the division to the east.
Badsey wrote that contrary to the scepticism of US staff officers at Montgomery for calling Caen the "key to Cherbourg", Heeresgruppe B planned on 11 June to swap the panzer divisions in the east for infantry divisions and transfer the panzers to the Carentan—Montebourg area, to protect Cherbourg from the First Army. The plan was abandoned because of the risk of an Anglo-Canadian breakout and the directive from Hitler to roll up the beachheads from the east.
Badsey wrote that the invasion could only have been defeated by a fundamental change in the German defensive scheme, implemented several months before the invasion. By 14 June, the arrival of the 12th SS Panzer Division and the Panzer-Lehr Division opposite the Anglo-Canadians and the reinforcement of the defenders opposite the US troops in the west, created the impression of equality in the number of divisions. Reinforcements enabled the Germans to obstruct the Allied advance inland, prompting Tedder to remark that the situation had the "makings of a dangerous crisis".
Battle for Caen
Badsey described the stalemate as an illusion, because counting divisions was a false comparison, not representative of the massive Allied superiority over the Germans. On 14 June, a period of Anglo-Canadian set-piece attacks and wider-front US attacks began, after which Allied attacks were delayed or weakened only by the weather; Badsey wrote that the German commanders admitted defeat on 17 June but Hitler refused Rommel and Rundstedt permission to retreat. Hitler ordered the generals to hold Cherbourg instead, which condemned the Germans to a series of defeats in "hard-fought" battles that were never "close run"; Dollmann, the 7th Army commander, killed himself the next day.
The German commanders interpreted apparent Allied caution according to their military ethos, which took little notice of French civilian and German army casualties, in contrast to the Allied duty to protect French civilians and use tactics which conserved manpower.
Badsey wrote that accounts of the battle note the effect of terrain and weather but then go on make detailed judgements on Allied commanders, praising Eisenhower for the decision to go on 6 June in doubtful weather. Montgomery is blamed for failing to capture all of the D-Day objectives as if the weather was irrelevant, though it caused all of the airborne drops to be scattered and all of the landing forces to drift eastwards from their beaches. The narrowness of Sword forced the 3rd Infantry Division to land five brigades in series, when the 50th Northumbrian and 3rd Canadian divisions could land two brigades at a time on Gold and Juno.
The slow arrival of reinforcements did much to determine the nature of Allied advances into the hinterland after D-Day. The Allies had assumed that the invasion force would be detected 12—24 hours before it arrived but the surprise achieved by the Allies nullified the dispute between German commanders over the positioning of the panzer divisions and put criticism of Allied failures into perspective.
The Germans assumed that Cherbourg was the Allied Schwerpunkt point of main effort despite being able to see the Allied Mulberry harbours being built. The Luftwaffe was ordered to make a maximum effort against Allied shipping on 7 June, yet bombing and mining sorties by Luftflotte 3 were ineffectual.
None of the extant records of Heeresgruppe B and the 7th Army show any understanding that the Mulberries had freed the Allies from the need to capture Cherbourg quickly. In Fields of Fire: The Canadians in Normandy , Terry Copp wrote that the Canadian performance in Normandy had been underestimated and described the tactical and operational flair of the Canadian army. Copp also wrote that despite demonstrating great powers of resistance, the German armies had shown no skill in defence and that their tactic of immediate counter-attack was persisted with for far too long, after its futility in the face of Allied firepower had become obvious.
The Germans had singularly failed to rise to the Allied challenge and that much of this was due to the Allies denying them the opportunity, a considerable tactical, operational and strategic achievement. In a essay, Stephen Badsey wrote that "typical" histories of the invasion of Normandy contain material on the debates and planning of the Allies and the Germans, then they describe the experiences of soldiers on D-Day; the accounts then stop at the beach or become judgements on performance of the senior Allied commanders.
The unification of the five Allied beachheads is treated as inevitable and some authors then complain about how long it took to capture Caen. This narrative of the battle was established by senior Allied and German officers in memoirs and in writing and by loyal staff officers and sympathetic journalists. Badsey wrote that it was possible to write an alternative account and that on 7 July, Eisenhower, Montgomery and Bradley gave the same orders, that the priority was changed from an advance inland, to a merging of the beachheads.
Badsey wrote that these orders were the only ones that the Allied commanders could give and that for the next few days, the commanders on both sides were reduced to waiting on events. Until the Allies achieved a united front around 12 June, events were determined by the Allied plan, the structure and training of the attacking forces and on military and national "cultures", which included the modern definition of doctrine. Post-war debate on German defensive plans concentrated on the plans devised by Rommel which led to a compromise deployment of the panzer divisions and the surprise achieved by Operation Neptune, which made this meaningless.
Infantry held thinly the front line, supported by infantry and anti-tank positions several thousand yards in the rear, with a counter-attacking panzer force in reserve. Rommel and the other westerners held that the extravagant quantities of firepower available to the Allies made defence in depth unworkable. Field guns closer to the beaches were dug in to earth and wood emplacements and some were casemated in steel and concrete, particularly at Merville, south-east of Sword.
The defensive scheme lacked a line of panzer reserves along the Caen—Cherbourg road, after Rommel sent the nd Infantry Division forward in March , to take over some of the th Infantry Division frontage, sacrificing a reserve between Bayeux and the Vire estuary to the west. Buckley wrote that after the war there had been little appetite for an objective study of the British Army of — Some of the main personalities involved in the campaign like Churchill The Second World War , published six volumes from to , published accounts which were "hubristic" and "self-serving".
De Guingand went into print with Operation Victory in and Montgomery followed in , both describing a faultless campaign in which the performance of the army had been superb. Liddell Hart gave a dissenting view, which portrayed a German Army that had held out for so long because its leaders understood mobile warfare having absorbing his pre-war ideas. The Allies had used the attrition tactics of the First World War, rather than "speed and dynamism" like the Germans, who had been defeated because of a lack of resources and Hitler's madness.
Liddell Hart criticised Allied troops for failing to fight their way forward with their own weapons, instead using lavish artillery and air force firepower as a crutch. Chester Wilmot , an Australian war correspondent who had accompanied the Allies in Normandy, wrote an account in , that reflected the concern in the 21st Army Group HQ in late June and July, when British attacks had fallen short, despite the support devoted to them. Wilmot used translated German documents to depict British soldiers suffering from poor morale and lacking in aggression, which forced the British to use artillery and air support as a substitute for infantry fighting their way forward and wrote that German defeats were caused by Allied superiority in resources, rather than German failings.
Buckley wrote that the documents were not objective analyses but propaganda to bolster German morale and which reflected the emphasis on close combat in the German army. Anglo-Canadian firepower tactics were interpreted as weakness, rather than a method chosen to exploit plenty, to limit casualties and to exploit German frailties. The book was very popular and helped create the impression of quantity defeating quality, as did Men Against Fire by S.
Supposedly only 15 percent of US infantry had engaged their opponents but German "cooks and mechanics" joined in, showing the professionalism of the German Army. Marshall ignored the desperate situation of the Germans by and his data were later discredited. Analysts ignored German atrocities and concentrated on theory and training, claiming that the Germans used decentralised Auftragstaktik mission command.
Buckley wrote that this failed to take account of German " The tactical effectiveness of the German Army depended as much on these characteristics as good training and sound theory. The Anglo-Canadians were portrayed as dependent on Befehlstaktik top-down command , which explained why the German armies had been better led and more adaptable.
Montgomery denied discretion to subordinates to prevent mistakes by his inexperienced, hostilities-only conscript armies. Analysts criticised the command style of Montgomery, because he had denied initiative to subordinates and caused opportunities on the battlefield to be missed, a possibility that could lead to disaster against the Red Army.
Buckley wrote that much of the information on the supposedly better German methods came from the study of Eastern Front battles but was limited until the s to German witnesses, many of whom blamed lack of numbers and Hitler's interference. When the battles in the west from June were studied, former German commanders were again consulted, who emphasised the greater resources of the Allies, the defeat of the Luftwaffe and Hitler's failings. These studies soon called British methods into question; stereotypes of fast German manoeuvres and strategic breakthroughs blitzkrieg led to criticism of the British for not emulating the Germans.
In the s, British army tours of battlefields were intended to demonstrate the inferiority of British tactics and operational methods, even when army historians disagreed. Buckley wrote that the British and US armies had selectively picked some aspects of the war to justify their decisions about warfare against the USSR. Buckley wrote that in the early s, a watershed in interpretation occurred, in new publications during the fortieth anniversary of the battle.
Decision in Normandy by Carlo D'Este contained a chapter describing a British aversion to hand-to-hand fighting in favour of firepower, which caused operations to be clumsy and vulnerable to German defensive methods, which contained attacks despite inferior resources. Montgomery was accused of over-control, which constrained the initiative of subordinate commanders and was also condemned for trying to re-write the history of the campaign after the war to claim the glory. D'Este called the result a longer campaign which was more costly in casualties than a determined approach, which could have brought a speedier victory.
Criticism made prominent the undoubtedly disagreeable personality Montgomery had and his ability to antagonise people emerged again in the memoir literature of the s; his criticism of Eisenhower being taken badly in the US. Resentment led to more scrutiny of the methods used by Montgomery and the Anglo-Canadians, especially apparent contrasts with the techniques of the US forces. Max Hastings in Overlord: The Battle for Normandy , compared British generals against German commanders and found them wanting; Hastings blamed British soldiers too for lacking aggression, because of the "anti-militaristic nature" of British society.
The Germans in Normandy had demonstrated an "extraordinary fighting performance" and had been "glorious", despite the evil of the Nazi cause but the British had been slow and cautious, too reliant on attrition to exploit advantages. Buckley called this a "technocentric" explanation for battlefield performance, in which male historians tried to reduce complicated matters to easily measured technical performance.
Buckley wrote that D'Este and Hastings did much to propagate the stereotype of the British army as a slow juggernaut, devoid of the dynamism and flair of the Germans. Buckley wrote that the impression of German excellence rested on a narrow definition of effectiveness, in which "close-combat" prowess, derived from ideology, tactics and greater experience, was considered in isolation. Buckley used a wider definition of effectiveness, in which intelligence, supply, planning, firepower, medical services, liaison, communications and engineering were essential counterparts to battlefield tactics.
Buckley defined operations as the organisation of military units into larger groups as building blocks to campaign objectives, linking minor tactics and politico-strategic aims. Bewegungskrieg war of manoeuvre the German approach to war, concentrated on manoeuvre by tanks, mechanised infantry and mobile artillery as the means to victory, even against greater numbers had achieved great success early in the war but concealed many failings in supply and strategic reality.
The army failed to conserve its assets to achieve victory and proved unable to create the conditions for victory and a durable peace. Buckley wrote of much military history concentrating too much on battle and equipment and not enough on the context of political, social and economic circumstances. In , the British Army in France was affected by diminishing national and military power, yet had to play an important part in the defeat of the German army for Britain to retain its Great Power status. Much British manpower was dispersed in Bomber Command, the defence of the sea communications of the empire, the Italian Campaign, the war in the Far East and holding down colonial subjects.
The British had to defeat the Germans with the minimum of casualties to create the circumstances necessary for a lasting peace and since the s the methods used by Montgomery had been re-evaluated, with his obnoxious personality being given less prominence. Monographs on parts of the army have shown that they performed well and the Canadians have been rescued from historical oblivion, through the use of "contemporary documents, reports and operational analyses", rather than journalistic writing, apologetics and testimony.
In Normandy the army knew what it could do and how to defeat German forces which had more experience. In the same year, Stephen Hart published Montgomery and Colossal Cracks: 21st Army Group in Northwest Europe —5 and judged Montgomery's methods to have been right for the circumstances, that they were highly effective and that despite inadequacies, there were no better alternatives.
In , John Buckley argued that British tank forces had performed well in Normandy, by adapting better than German armoured units. Four Canadian prisoners were killed by a firing squad and the remaining men were shot in the head at close-range.
Juno Beach order of battle
He was released after serving eight years. In , Peter Gray wrote that few controversies have left such a long-standing scar of the psyche of a city as the Allied bombing of Caen — the city that considers itself to have been martyred. On 6 June, Allied aircraft dropped leaflets urging the population to leave but only a few hundred did so. Later in the day, British heavy bombers attacked the city to slow the flow of German reinforcements; civilians were killed in the first 48 hours of the invasion. Streets were blocked by rubble, so the injured were taken to an emergency hospital set up in the Bon Sauveur convent.
About 15, people took refuge for more than a month in medieval quarry tunnels south of the city. The German resistance was extremely fierce, and the Germans used the ruins to their advantage. Foraging parties were sent out into the countryside for food and old wells were re-opened.
On 9 June, the bell tower of Saint Pierre was destroyed by a shell from Rodney. The Germans ordered all remaining civilians to leave on 6 July and by the bombing during the evening of 7 July, only 15, inhabitants remained. A force of heavy bombers prepared the way for Operation Charnwood.
Although the delayed-action bombs were aimed at the northern edge of Caen, massive damage was again inflicted on the city centre. The Germans withdrew from Caen north of the Orne on 9 July and blew the last bridge. The southern suburbs liberated on 18 July by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. Gray wrote that the bombing created considerable quantities of rubble, which restricted the access for armour and actually impeded the advance into Caen. This prevented the rapid seizure of the Orne bridges, which were then destroyed by the defenders before they could be secured.
The military efficacy of the bombing of Caen appears to have been somewhere between negligible and counter-productive, but the effect on the residents was devastating. The bells pealed madly all over the city. Cherbourg had suffered comparatively little during the fighting, and its jubilant population gave their liberators an especially enthusiastic welcome. Until then, the GIs had only crossed towns and cities that had been reduced to ruins and were more or less deserted.
Here, the atmosphere was very different and there was much fraternization and popping of champagne corks. On 27th June, thousands of Cherbourgeois acclaimed the victorious generals, grouped on the steps of the town hall. The only problem was the state of the port, which was littered with mines and the wrecks of scuttled ships. On the booby-trapped quaysides, the rails had been torn up, the cranes toppled and the swing bridge sabotaged. The harbour station was in ruins. Teams of specialists worked non-stop. Even though it was to take several more months before the port of Cherbourg became totally operational, it was able to handle the first Liberty ships from the United States by the end of July.
The war of the Hedgerows. After the fall of Cherbourg, General Bradley led his troops back to a line between Carentan and Portbail, in order to thrust southwards. This new offensive, however, launched at the beginning of July in torrential rain, soon became bogged down.
The Germans had received considerable reinforcements and had had plenty of time to establish entrenched positions of formidable efficiency like the units defending them. The cumbersome Allied war machine was ill-suited to this maze of tiny enclosed fields and sunken lanes, which were far more favourable to guerrilla warfare. Lying in wait in the undergrowth, snipers armed with Panzerschrecks the equivalent of the American bazooka or Panzerfausts picked off the tanks as they lumbered over the hedges, exposing their vulnerable undersides.
The support from tactical artillery and aviation which was normally so decisive was less useful here, because of the impossibility of pinpointing enemy positions with any degree of accuracy. Plunged into a living hell, tens, if not hundreds, of GIs lost their lives in battles to capture a hedge that looked exactly the same as the last one they had taken and desperately similar to those they had yet to conquer.
Ten thousand more were put out of action while fighting to capture first La Haye-du-Puits 8th July , then Lessay take a whole week later, despite being just eight kilometres away. One man lost for each metre won! Some companies were reduced to just a few dozen men. July was undoubtedly the blackest and the most difficult month for the Allies.
In more than three weeks the front had only advanced by a few kilometres, and losses had been heavy. At this rate, it would be another month before the Americans reached Coutances. Montgomery and Dempsey agreed to supply the supporting attacks for the American advance in this operation up to Caen. As they proceeded, however, Montgomery and Dempsey planned an alternate breakout of their own forces before the Americans, Operation Goodwood.
Goodwood's failure on 18th July nonetheless diverted the majority of German armour east of the Americans' position. Bradley called the attack off at the last minute, but Bs did not receive the message and, hindered by poor visibility, dropped tons of bombs on the first day and 3, tons of high explosive on the next morning, some on American as well as German positions.
For nearly a month, the Americans had been bogged down in the hellish war of the hedgerows. Operation Cobra, launched at the end of July, would at long last open a decisive gap in the German lines. General Bradley, commanding the First Army, had worked out his strategy extremely carefully. Aerial saturation bombing over a limited area would briefly destroy all the defences there and create a breach through which his forces could pour.
An initial attempt, on 24th July, proved disastrous, as the bombers dropped some of their bombs on the American front lines, killing or wounding men. Despite this, a second attempt was made the very next day. For three hours, 1, B and B bombers pummeled the target, supported by medium bombers and fighter bombers attacking with napalm.
This time, the Germans did not escape so lightly. Infantrymen were buried alive in their shelters. The few, shell-shocked survivors either surrendered without a fight or fled. Even so, it was certainly no picnic for the American infantry. Fierce fighting continued throughout the 25 th , as efforts were made to open up a passage for the armoured vehicles. Now that they had been fitted with the famous hedge-cutting devices invented by Sergeant Cullins, the American tanks were able to rip their way through the thickets with the greatest of ease.
Cracks started to appear in the German front, reduced to a thin crust. It collapsed the next day. The American armoured divisions swept southwards and westwards. Entire German units were encircled in the Roncey Pocket, for instance while others simply fell apart. The suffering they had endured during the previous two months of hard fighting suddenly came home to these shaken and demoralized troops. Thousands of men were captured, disarmed and, more often than not, left where they were, as there was no time to take them to a camp.
Von Choltitz, the commander of the German 84th Corps, vainly attempted to rebuild new lines of defence, but these became obsolete before they had even been established. Nothing could stop the Americans now. On 1st August, the Americans reorganised their operations. At the head of his newly-formed Third Army, General Patton gave a phenomenal new impetus to the battle. In fewer than three days, seven divisions, the equivalent of , men and 10, vehicles, were moved through a narrow bottleneck that had been opened up south of Avranches, before fanning out in different directions.
One of these army corps swept southwards through Brittany, a second headed for the Loire while the third veered round towards Le Mans. The rugged relief of this area of the bocage, with its narrow, twisting lanes and impenetrable hedges, slowed the Allied advance to a crawl, the Germans reluctant to relinquish even one square inch without a struggle. For their part, the British captured Villers-Bocage and what was left of Aunay-sur-Odon, which had been devastated by aerial bombardments in June. Then came a bolt from the blue.
In the morning of 7th August, the Germans launched a major armoured counter-attack on Mortain from both sides. Its objective, imposed by Hitler in person, was to smash through American lines and reach the bay of Mont St Michel, some thirty kilometers distant, slicing through the Avranches bottleneck along the way. In order to achieve this, four panzer divisions were moved with the utmost secrecy, reinforced by infantry. Thanks to the element of surprise — as well as the thick morning mist, the panzers broke out and advanced as much as ten or twelve kilometers in some sectors.
Heavily bombed overnight by the Luftwaffe, Mortain was briefly recaptured. The 30th US Division bore the brunt of this frontal attack and had to fall back. This allowed them to start swinging around the southern flank of the German forces and move eastwards towards Argentan and close the Falaise Gap. Operation Bluecoat 1st - 9th August On the morning of 1st August, in thick mist, the Division saw action again as it advanced towards Aunay-sur-Audon, but became entangled with the traffic of 50th Division, who were also using the same roads.
As they were fighting through Rommel's fortified villages, two days later the Division were still 5 miles short of their original object of Aunay-sur-Audon, although 11th Armoured Division were making good progress towards Vire. During the afternoon of 3rd August the German th Division counter attacked and fierce fighting took place around Aunay-sur-Audon, where heavy casualties, were suffered by the British.
The main armoured thrust was then redirected to La Poste, a few miles west of Villers-Bocage. The plan was to move south and then outflank Aunay, which was now in ruins, which fell to 50th Division the next day. During the attack SS troops stripped to the waist came shouting and screaming at them, only to be stopped by the Vickers Machine Guns of the Northumberland Fusiliers. The battle for Mont Picon was hard as the Germans had over forty 88mm and 75mm guns on the top to defend it, of which three 88mm and a 75mm were captured, along with prisoners.
The Germans counter attacked at on the morning of 7th August, but this was driven of with the assistance of the artillery fire. By 7th August Mont Picon had been captured and General Horrocks, the commander of 30 Corps established his command post on the top. The slops of Mont Picon offered excellent views of the surrounding countryside and he wanted to launch an attack by two columns of infantry and tanks towards Conde, ten miles away.
Neither column got very far as they met stiff opposition, with the countryside being too thick for the tanks to work well. So the advance halted. By the evening of 9th August the ridge from Aunay, via Mont Picon, to La Vallee was in British hands During Operation Bluecoat, Montgomery had ordered to push on regardless of casualties and this had certainly been heeded, with heavy losses being suffered by many units.
Operation Luttich and Operations Totalize 6th - 10th August Operation Totalize was a ground attack on 7th August, by Canadian and Polish forces to breakout from the Normandy beachhead along the Caen-Falaise road. Although the attack failed in its objective, it did serve as a spoiling attack, disrupting German forces massing for the Luttich attack. Operation Totalize preceded Operation Tractable. Army to isolate it from the bridgehead. He was then told to delay and wait for reinforcements. Kluge replied that no Panzers should be withdrawn from the heavy fighting around Caen, and that the Americans were moving in from Le Mans.
He insisted that the attack go ahead. The Germans moved against Avranches, and achieved some success at Mortain; but, the divisional operations officer reported their advance as an uncoordinated attempt at escape while the infantry moved to higher ground on Hill , to bring artillery to bare. The US battalion defending Hill received a presidential unit citation for its determination. Shortly after noon on 7th August, the mists finally lifted and there was a dramatic change in fortunes. Waves of Allied fighter-bombers attacked the German armoured columns, firing guns and rockets.
The German divisions were pinned down and lost more than tanks in the space of just a few hours. By the evening, it was clear that their attack had failed. At Mortain, Hitler had had his final throw of the dice in Normandy. And he had lost! The Allies now commanded extensive French lands; their only real problem being one of provisioning the armies advancing along the roads to Paris.
They needed to widen the Avranches corridor to permit the flow of tons of supplies per day. Given the current situation of the German army, the neatest solution would be for the Canadians to go through the German defences that were still intact south and east of Caen and join hands with the Americans directly. This would have the additional and priceless side-effect of encircling the bulk of Army Group B between 21st and 12th Army Groups and crushing it out of existence.
Operation Totalize commenced as an unusual operation as it was night attack using "artificial moonlight" and tracer shells to indicate enemy positions and lines of advance Heavy bombers would be used in support of ground troops, with the first bombers doing so at night. Unfortunately, General Simonds was ill-informed by army intelligence of the enemy's strength. Their constant movement had created an impression of greater capacity than existed. This meant that he was led to believe that the German second defence line would be tough to crack, for the Germans habitually kept their better troops in the second line from which they emerged to counterattack and so for that phase of his attack General Simond's retained heavy bombers of the U.
Air Force to plaster the German line. Expecting the SS divisions had both moved into the second line from about Bretteville-sur-Laize to Saint-Sylvain, he decided to exploit the numbing effect of the strategic bombing of the German second line by combining the second and third phases of the attack, namely, the break into and the subsequent breakout and advance through and beyond the second line.
The weakness of the German first line led General Simonds to try to maintain the momentum of the attack by ordering the infantry divisions in the first phase to be more aggressive, since the resistance of the 89th German Infantry would be slight, and by launching the second phase on a broader front than at first intended. Therefore, it was decided to launch the attack by the 1st Polish Armoured Division and 4th Canadian Armoured simultaneously and to direct these two divisions straight to their final objectives at phase three.
Keyword:World War Two North West Europe
The attacked started at , on 8th August , when Canadian and British guns opened fire. The general idea was to concentrate the motorised infantry in the Kangaroos and armour in the centre and use darkness to confuse the enemy armour and guns. Behind these troops came marching infantry to mop up the villages bypassed by the armour and accompanying motorised infantry. The Canadian 2nd and 3rd Divisions, with heavy tank support, rolled over the obstacles that stopped them in July. But once going, the armoured divisions then made little progress.
He then drove up himself to consult the 89th Division, which was taking the brunt of the attack. Near Cintheaux he encountered the first German soldiers he had ever seen in flight, but at , the German tanks attacked the high ground south of Saint-Aignan de Cramesnil, even before phase two bombing could begin. The allied HQ staff had no idea where they had come from, and the coming bombing prevented anyone from gathering intelligence on the enemy for hours. The German attack added to the congestion in the start line, and constricted the 1st Polish division's advance for the rest of the day.
It also brought the Germans within the bomb safety line, leaving them untouched when the bombing started. Too often , they stopped to deal with strong points, rather than by-passing them. The Poles suffered heavy losses to the German tanks, through being too impetuous, while the Canadians were too deliberate. General Simonds ordered them to press on, but the tanks withdrew into 'safe harbours'. The Halpenny force on the right of the 4th Armoured Division lacked urgency. By nightfall, they were scarcely beyond Cintheaux, while the 10th Infantry Group was only in Hautemesnil.
In front of them lay Panzer Group Eberbach, formed just to oppose them, but overstretched across two large woods and country. The 2nd Canadian and 51st Highland divisions with the 2nd Armoured Brigade captured the high ground, but this was the limit of the advance by the end of the day. Quesnay and its wood remained in German hands. Things might have gone very differently if Montgomery had reinforced the Canadians with units from the 2nd Army. They were making their way through the bocage with relative ease.
He could easily have detached 7th Armoured Armoured, shifting it to support the Canadian assault, and it is not known why he did not. Operation Totalize ended on 10th August with a total gain of 9 miles, and the Canadians nowhere near their objective of Falaise. Despite the failure of Totalize, Montgomery resolved to try again and reassembled his army for another push on Falaise, seven miles away. The 4th Canadian Armoured Division and the 1st Polish Armoured Divisions had thrust forward into positions menacing the rear of the whole German Panzer concentration in Normandy.
The Panzers, themselves, were in sad state at half-strength: Panzer Lehr was a shadow of itself with almost no tanks left; the 1st, 2nd, 9th and 10th Divisions were heavily damaged; the 17th SS Panzergrenadier, already weak to begin with, was crippled, while the 2nd, 21st, and th Panzer had all suffered heavy losses. Only the 9th Panzer, newly arrived from the south of France was largely intact and even they were not up to full complement.
Moreover, the German divisions were bunched in three groups, each facing encirclement. It is to be repeated elsewhere with powerful forces so that Six Panzers divisions were to engage in a more south-westerly direction under the command of General Hans Eberbach. However, this would lead them straight into Eisenhower's trap. The situation remained fluid and on 10th August, the Americans reached Le Mans and drove to Argentan ready to move on towards Falaise. Montgomery believed that the Germans would move their armoured forces east toward supplies and the bocage and that they would hold off the Americans in that region to cover their withdrawal.
Therefore, expecting the Germans to concentrate at Alencon rather than Falaise, he ordered the Canadian and Poles to capture Falaise as soon as possible. His plan was to pin the Germans, then detach a minimum force to clean up the Brittany peninsula, and open the Brittany ports. After this, the Allies would move through the Falaise gap to Paris. He ordered Patton to detach two divisions of XV Corps for a long envelopment toward Dreux and Mantes Gassicourt to seize a bridgehead across the Seine. Meanwhile Montgomery was not so complacent with the plan. He favoured a long envelopment, and believed the gap should be closed between Trun and Chambois.
Though supporting Bradley's decision, and he ordered the capture of Trun as well as Falaise. Upto , German soldiers were trapped in the pocket and the surrounding divisions had virtually disintegrated with the 1st SS, 2nd, 9th, and th Panzer divisions were reduced to 30, 25, 15, and 12 tanks respectively. Their commander, Kluge, spent the day under fire, touring the pocket in which his army was confined, while Hitler spent the day musing on treason.
That evening, Hitler decided that Kluge was intending to "lead the whole of the Western Army into capitulation" and so he relieved Kluge of command, and replaced him with Walther Model. Hitler, aware now of possible entrapment, demanded a full attack on XV Corps; but, the Ultra project had provided the Allies with the complete text of General Eberbach's intentions to hit at the allies exposed left flank at Argentan. So under orders to close the Falaise Gap, General Simonds devised Operation Tractable and order part of 2nd Canadian Corps to swing southeast to take Trun as rapidly as possible.
The 4th Canadian and 1st Polish Armoured division thrust off to the southeast toward Trun to seal the gap through which the Germans were retreating. They were warned not to bomb before the elapsed time. As the bombers passed overhead, Canadian troops on the ground noticed that the bomb bays were open, and fired yellow flares to alert the friendly aircraft to their position. Unfortunately, no one had briefed the crews as to Army signals, nor had the army been told that the Pathfinders were dropping yellow T1s. Some bomber crews assumed the yellow flares marked their targets.
They became confused and dropped their bombs: and in total 65 Canadian soldiers were killed outright. When the attack began at , with smoke and dust followed by chaos. Communications broke down and after the death of their commander there was no controlling hand in the Fourth Armoured Brigade for a few vital hours. Bombing errors caused casualties, particularly in the gun areas, and contributed to delays in getting guns forward. A map-reading error led the Poles into the bottle-neck through which the retreating Germans were struggling to escape, and their own retreat was prevented by the Second Panzer Corps holding the bottleneck open.
British and Canadian artillery laid smoke along the flanks, while tanks swept down the Laison valley, followed by infantry carrying wasps flamethrowers mounted on carriers. The tank crews had been told the river was fordable at almost all points, but the tanks either bogged down or moved frantically along the river looking for a place to cross. This cost them over two hours, and cost the Second Corps a decisive battle.
On the German side, Von Kluge handed over command to Field Marshal Model and was recalled to Germany only to learn that he was accused of being co-conspirator in an attempted overthrow of Hitler, and took poison. By 16th August, the advance elements of the 2nd Canadian Division had got into heavy woods just north of Falaise, and during the night, infantry and tanks battled into the devastated town.
From dawn until dusk, the air forces bombed machine-gunned and shot up enemy transport, tanks, and guns. The roads were blocked with wrecked equipment. The dead horses and men lay everywhere. Most Germans surrendered, but some took to guerrilla warfare, surviving a day or two in the woods, and coming out with hands raised, only to throw a live grenade in the face of their captors. It was obvious to Montgomery that they could never close the gap between Falaise and Argentan in time.
Instead, he decided to close the trap farther east along the River Dives, between Trun and Chambois. He asked Bradley to send a force northeast to Chambois to link up with the Canadians and Poles already there. He then ordered once again that it was imperative the Canadians take Trun quickly and hold it. By 18th August , the town of Falaise, whose normal population was 7, people, was clear of Germans.
The 1st Polish Armoured Division along with other Canadian units were ordered the to attack and close the gap, with Allied Airforces flying upto 3, sorties a day. Their intent was to trap the thousands of Germans trapped in the Falaise pocket. Polish Armoured Division units reached the outskirts of Chambois by nightfall, but were spread over 10 miles of hilly countryside in numbers too few to close the gap.
Their key positions were the twins hill "Maczuga" or mace where the Germans mounted intense combat in support of retreating soldiers. Armoured divisions north of Trun established control of the highways to the northeast, while part of the 4th Armoured Division took Trun and advanced to St Lambert sur Dives. Several secondary roads ran through that village to converge on a small bridge, ending in a pair of rough tracks leading into the hills towards Vimoutiers. This was one of the few clear roads out of the pocket, and the remaining German forces could not afford to give it up.
The Falaise Gap was now six miles wide, and the Germans were fighting ferociously to escape the trap. Even surrounded, the German troops were still well equipped and battle hardened. The Polish tanks were being picked off one at a time by the far superior German tiger tanks and the rest of the Poles were taking heavy casualties from German artillery. Then, Canadian artillery weighed in, but the battle went on so long that the Poles were running out of ammunition. Their situation was becoming desperate! Bradley admitted that he was at fault in stopping Patton's advance, but he blamed Montgomery for failing to close the gap which was reinforced by the Germans.
Meanwhile Canadian battle group had been assigned to capture the town St Lambert which lay half-way between Chambois and Trun. After six hours of fighting they were only half way through the town and despite being reinforced that night, but still they could not get through. On 20th August, the Poles of the First Canadian Army and the Americans hand linked up at Chambois, but the Canadian command found his troops at St Lambert were being overrun by Germans attempting to breakout in a series of counter-attacks starting at In St.
He used his command tank to knock out a Tiger and then a rifle to deal with snipers who had infiltrated close to his headquarters. His fellow officers were dead or wounded, but Forty more reinforcements made it to his position, and together they held it until the gap finally closed on August 21st.
The Canadians had destroyed 7 tanks, 12 88 mm guns, and 40 vehicles, killing Germans, wounding another , and taken prisoners. Major Currie won the Victoria Cross for his actions.
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The gap finally closed on 21st August , when the Canadians connected with the Poles. They, did, however, have to leave most of their equipment behind them, together with 50, prisoners and 6,, dead. The Germans are believed to have lost over , men in Normandy, but up to another , escaped across the Seine during the nights of 19th to 29th August. To give an idea of the losses, the 12th SS Panzer Division had been a division of 20, men with tanks on D-Day, but by 25th August, it had less than men, no tanks or artillery.
Canadian casualties in taking Falaise and the Gap were 18, dead, wounded and missing. The 3rd Canadian Division had lost more than any other under Montgomery's command. The 2nd Canadian Division was next. Canadian formations did well, but would certainly have done better had they not been learning as they fought. The battles around Caen had indeed been the key to Normandy, as they tied down the Germans from dealing with the threat from the US forces further west, thus enabling them to breakout and head for the Seine, closing the Falaise Gap on the way.
Many British and Canadian units were virtually bled to death to allow the Americans to break out far easier than they would have been able to otherwise. T he next task was to move up the coast on the Allied flank and liberate the ports vital for Allied re-supply with only a fraction of their proper fighting strength and these were Le Havre, Dieppe, Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk.
Seven more months of war were to follow, with thousands more men to die on both sides, but the German army never recovered from the battles in Normandy, but enough men escaped to allow it to regroup and re-equipment behind the Seine, allowing it to carry out an effective fighting withdrawal towards Germany. However, the Allies had also suffered heavy losses, finding it easier to replace tanks, but not men, and in the months that followed the breakout from Normandy several British units were withdrawn from the frontline due to shortage of reinforcements, others were disbanded and the men used to strengthen other weakened units.
These included 50th Northumberland Division and 59th Staffordshire Division. The Canadians where also short of men and it was only the Americans that still had the manpower to replace the casualties. Links to D-Day and Normandy Websites. Supporting The British Normandy Memorial.
The Theme from 'The Longest Day'. On 21st October , Winston S. Churchill broadcast this speech to Occupied France. For more than 30 years in peace and war I have marched with you. I am marching still along the same road. Here at home in England, under the the fire of the Bosche we do not forget the ties and links that unite us to France. Here in London, which Herr Hitler says he will reduce to ashes, and which his aeroplanes are now bombarding, our people are bearing up unflinchingly. Our Air Force has more than held its own. We are waiting for the long promised invasion. So are the fishes.
Frenchmen - rearm your spirits before it is too late. Never will I believe that the soul of France is dead! Never will I believe that her place amongst the greatest nations of the world has been lost forever. We seek to beat the life and soul out of Hitler and Hitlerism. That alone - that all the time - that to the end. Those French who are in the French Empire, and those who are in the so-called unoccupied France, may see their way from time to time to useful action, I will not go into details. Good night then: Sleep to gather strength for the morning.
For the morning will come. Thus will shine the dawn. Long live also the forward march of the common people in all lands towards their just and true inheritance, and towards the broader and fuller age. Less than four long years later, on 6th June , 'Morning' arrived for the people of France. Main Site Map Archives Page. Visitors since 16th April Operation Luttich. The Desert Rats in Normandy. The Black Rats n Normandy. Normandy Invasion Maps. Haiku summary.
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