History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

MARKET-GARDEN Sep 44

(Arnhem)

BERLIN Nov 1944

(Nijmegen)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Bazentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

Flers-Courcelette

.15-22 Sep 16

Thiepval

.26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Ypres, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
►Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
►Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Trasimene Line
►Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

►Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

►Gabbiano

1 Jul 44

►Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

►Tuori

5 Jul 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
►Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

 

Caen

Caen was a Battle Honour granted to units participating in the final battles to take the city of Caen during the Battle of Normandy, the first phase of the North-West Europe campaign of the Second World War.

Background

The city of Caen was the object of Allied attention from the moment the first soldier landed on D-Day.

To (General Bernard) Montgomery (commander of 21st Army Group, or all Allied land forces in Normandy) the capture of the city was a prerequisite for his advance onto the open plain to the south where he could deploy his armoured divisions to force a breakthrough towards Paris and the south-east. This was his original plan, outlined before the invasion, which he modified as his forces struggled unsuccessfully, week after week, to seize the city. He subsequently adapted his strategy, suggesting that he continue to batter at Caen, threatening a breakthrough and all the while drawing more of the German armour onto his front, ultimately allowing the Americans to effect a breakthrough further to the west against less formidable forces.1

 

The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division had already participated in the first attempts to take the city, that being the initial rush from the beaches in the first days of Operation OVERLORD. The Canadian battles are described in the Normandy Landing, Authie, Putot-en-Bessin and Bretteville articles. When these initial movements to take the city failed, more elaborate operations became necessary.

Operation WILD OATS was planned as a pincer attack on Caen, with I Corps attacking on the east towards Cagny, and XXX Corps on the west towards Evrecy, with the 1st Airborne Division assigned to make an airborne assault in the gap between the two pincers once Cagny and the high ground above Evrecy had been reached, some time after the operations started on 10 June. The plan was opposed by Air Marshal Leigh-Mallory, out of concern for the the airborne forces.2

Operation PERCH went forward as a modified version of WILD OATS, with XXX Corps launching a wide flanking attack to the west of Caen with the 7th Armoured Division. The attack famously met disaster at Villers-Bocage, but much of the operation had not gone well; the eastern flank of the attack on the other side of the Seulles had been counter-attacked by Panzer Lehr who got the jump on the 8th Armoured Brigade.

On this flank a bitter head-on contest developed in the narrow lanes and deeply hedged orchards with neither side giving way. On the other flank too, the tanks of 7th Armoured Division soon found themselves involved in close fighting in thick bocage in conditions quite outside their previous experience in the Western Desert. Here small infantry detachments, each with a tank or anti-tank gun or two and a couple of 88s lurking in the background, could and did cause interminable delays...The 10th was a bad day for XXX Corps, the going was undeniably slow - it was no better on the 11th: Tilly was indeed entered but the tanks failed to make progress round the flank. East of the Seulles there was equally severe and confused fighting. By dawn on the 12th June the commander of XXX Corps, Bucknall, had realised that no more was to be gained from direct head-on contests in dense bocage with Panzer Lehr.3

The 7th Armoured Division fought into Livry on 12 June and advanced slowly the next day towards Villers-Bocage. The lead units of their advance column were ambushed by heavy tanks of the 2nd Company, SS Heavy Tank Battalion 101 under command of SS-Obersturmbannführer Michael Wittmann; attacking alone at first, he single-handedly shot up the British column, destroying several Stuart and Cromwell reconnaissance tanks, as well as two 17-pounder Shermans and a number of carriers and halftracks. The arrival of a handful more German tanks made for a long day and the 7th Armoured Division eventually withdrew at the end of the day having exchanged over two dozen tanks for at most 15 German AFVs.4


The British 7th Armoured Division Action at Villers-Bocage on 13 June 1944.
CLY=County of London Yeomanry; RB-Rifle Brigade; QRR=Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey)
SS s.Pz.Abt 101=SS schwere Panzer Abteilung 101 (SS Heavy Tank Battalion 101)

It became clear to Montgomery that the difficult Normandy bocage, which was characterized by networks of small fields surrounded by extremely substantial hedgerows with sunken lanes running between, was practically ideal ground for any force to defend...Montgomery decided...the next offensive would be a big one. He would would launch completely fresh units untried in battle, consisting of two infantry divisions, one armoured division and two independent armoured brigades, against a narrow front and bludgeon his way through the German line. The main effort was again to be to the west of Caen and it would unleash 60,000 men, 600 tanks and 300 guns on the enemy. Before the commander of 21st Army Group could assemble this force, however, the weather turned against him.5

The worst summer storm to break in the channel in 40 years blew in on 19 June and caused disruptions in supply unloading for three and a half days, bringing to a halt major operations on the Continent. Aside from also ceasing air support missions, one of the two artificial harbours erected in Normandy was put out of commission and the second, in the British sector, was considerably damaged.6

Operation EPSOM kicked off what is referred to in the Canadian official histories as the Battle of the Odon in the wake of the summer storm. The plan was to encircle Caen by seizing high ground between Fontenay and Rauray with XXX Corps and seizing a firm base between the rivers Odon and Orne for the 11th Armoured Division to exploit. The second phase of the operation would see the 3rd Canadian Division and 51st Highland Division, under I British Corps, taking Carpiquet and encircling Caen from the east. In the event, only the first phase of the operation was executed; Cheux was taken and XXX Corps reached the Odon and crossed it. They did not however reach Evrecy, nor establish a strong position between the Odon and Orne, though the salient the new positions created did manage to draw even more German armour to the British front. While the second phase of Epsom was cancelled, the plan to take Carpiquet with the 3rd Canadian Division was only postponed, and on 4 July, went off as Operation WINDSOR.7

The Canadians in Normandy in Early July

By early July 1944, then, Caen still remained in German hands. The last major Canadian offensive action had been at Le Mesnil-Patry in the middle of June. while the tactical headquarters of 1st Canadian Army had arrived on the Continent in the third week of June, there had been no room in the bridgehead to activate it. The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division was also beginning its move to France, and the first combat units would disembark on 7 July along with the headquarters of 2nd Canadian Corps.

Operation CHARNWOOD

Planning for Operation CHARNWOOD had begun before WINDSOR (the attack on Carpiquet which occurred on 4 July), and the first conference had taken place on the 2nd of July. The order by I British Corps outlining the plan for the attack was issued on the 5th of July, describing the objective as clearing Caen south to the Caen-Bayeux rail crossings over the Orne, then along the river to the intersection with the Canal de Caen and along the canal. Three divisions were to advance on the city - 3rd Canadian, 59th (Staffordshire), newly arrived in Normandy, and the 3rd British. Artillery support in addition to the divisional artilleries included 3rd and 4th Army Groups, Royal Artillery as well as naval gunfire from HMS Rodney, Roberts, Belfast and Emerald. The first use of tactical bombers on the British front in Normandy had comeon 30 June 1944 when 1100 tons of bombs were dropped on Villers-Bocage to interdict German tanks assembling to take part in the Odon fighting. Controversially, heavy bombers were secured for the assault on Caen as well.

Field-Marshal Montgomery has written, "The plan involved an assault against well organized and mutually supporting positions based on a number of small villages which lay in an arc north and north-west of the city, and, in view of the strength of these defences, I decided to seek the assistance of Bomber Command RAF in a close support role on the battlefield.... The Supreme Commander supported my request for the assistance of Bomber Command, and the task was readily accepted by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris."

This part of the operation has proved to be controversial, both as to timing and targets. It was considered that the "bombline" for the heavy bombers should be at least 6000 yards from our leading troops. This probably largely dictated the decision as to the target to be assigned to Bomber Command, which was definedas four map squares on the northern outskirts of Caen, amounting in fact to a rectangle some 4000 yards long by 1500 wide. This area did not include the fortified villages in the front line which our troops had to capture in the early stages of the operation; these were to be dealt with by the artillery. It appears that there were not actually a great many enemy defences in the area attacked by the heavy bombers; but in Lord Montgomery's words, "In addition to the material damage, much was hoped for from the effects of the percussion on the enemy defenders generally, and from the tremendous moral effect on our own troops." It would obviously have been desirable that the Bomber Command attack should take place immediately before the troops on the ground advanced; however, Lord Montgomery states that "owing to the weather forecast" it was necessary to carry out the bombing the previous evening. This point has been disputed. The forecast issued in Normandy on the morning of the 7th was not unfavourable, and in fact large forces of Bomber Command operated over France during the following night. Be this as it may, the heavy bombers attacked between 9:50 and 10:30 p.m. on 7 July, while the ground operation began only at 4:20 the following morning.

In the fading light of evening the air attack came in. Like all such operations, it was tremendously impressive. Bomber Command "employed 467 bombers to drop 2,562 tons of bombs". In reply to an urgent inquiry from the 1st British Corps as to the results, the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade replied, "Smoke and flame wonderful for morale", and a little later, "Everything to our front seems to be in flame. Cannot get anything more accurate." No bombs had fallen short.

There was no doubt at all of the bombing's results among our own troops. A message from The Highland Light Infantry of Canada said, "The stuff going over now has really had an effect on the lads on the ground. It has improved their morale 500 per cent." The effect on the enemy is more doubtful. The available contemporary German records (which do not include the diaries of the divisions and corps concerned) throw little direct light on the matter. The senior staff officer of the 12th S.S. Panzer Division states that his formation "suffered only negligible casualties despite the fact that numerous bombs fell in the assembly areas of the 2nd Panzer Battalion and the 3rd Battalion 26th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. Some tanks and armoured personnel carriers were toppled over or buried under debris from houses, but after a short while nearly all of them were again ready for action." A 21st Army Group intelligence summary of 11 July, undoubtedly based upon the interrogation of prisoners, asserts, "The heavy bombing of Caen was decisive. 31 GAF [German Air Force] Regiment lost its headquarters and 16 GAF and 12 SS Panzer Divisions were deprived of rations and ammunition for the crucial morning which followed." The moral effect upon the German troops, and particularly upon the Luftwaffe division, was probably very considerable. But the matter had a tragic aspect—the lamentable damage done to the city of Caen, and the inevitable casualties among French civilians. The havoc was great, the city's university being among the buildings lost. Fortunately, the inhabitants had been partly evacuated from the areas most heavily struck. The number of French casualties was apparently between 300 and 400.8

Histories of the 12th SS note that "(t)he Allied aerial strike, meant to cut off the German troops defending Caen from reinforcements and supplies, did not disturb the main battle line of the 12th SS. And although numerous bombs fell in the assembly areas of the 2nd Panzer Battalion, the 3rd Battalion 26th Regiment and the divisional escort company, these formations incurred only minor losses in equipment and/or personnel." By now, in the wake of the loss of Carpiquet, this battle line was stretched thin in front of Caen. The division's last infantry reserves, the 3rd Battalion of Panzer Grenadier Regiment 26 and the divisional escort battalion, were tucked in behind the line of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. The right flank of the division proper had remained for the most part static since 7 June and held a line from the Caen-Lue-sur-Mur rail line, extending in an arc to the west to Franqueville. After Operation EPSOM the division was forced to extend the left flank south to Eterville. One regiment of the 1st SS Panzer Division had to be loaned to the division to make up infantry losses, and one battalion was placed at Bretteville-sur-Odon at the start of Charnwood.9


Hitler Youth positions in front of Caen. Divisional headquarters had moved to the Abbaye aux Dames in Caen.

The Battle for Caen

After the aerial bombardment of Caen on the night of 7 July, artillery of the British 8th Corps on the western part of the front began to engage in long-range harrassment missions to interdict movement into the city from the south and southwest. At 2300hrs, 656 guns supporting the 1st Corps started firing on villages behind the front line, including St. Contest, St. Germain-la-Blanche-Herbe, Lebisey, and Authie. Known German artillery batteries were also targeted.

At 0420hrs, 93 minutes before sunrise on 8 July, the artillery shifted to pre-assault barrage and concentration missions in preparation of the attack of the 59th and 3rd British Infantry Divisions. The day's attack was planned as follows:

  • Phase I - British 3rd and 59th Divisions to capture Galmanche, La Bijude and Lebisey Wood.

  • Phase II - 3rd Canadian Division, not involved in Phase I, to capture Chateau de St. Louet, Authie, and high ground immediately south of Buron. British divisions to advance in line.

  • Phase III - 3rd Canadian Division to advance to line Franqueville-Ardenne. British divisions to advance in line.

  • Phase IV - all three divisions to secure Caen to the line of the Orne/Canal de Caen; 3rd Canadian Division to advance in west to clear remained of Carpiquet airfield

  • Phase V - 3rd Canadian Division to complete Phase IV, British divisions to secure bridgeheads across the Orne at their discretion.10

Affairs on the extreme left, about Lebisey, went well but in the centre the 12th SS Panzer Division fought back hard and parties held out against the 59th in la Bijude and Galmanche. Similar struggles were soon developing in Epron and St. Contest, while no progress was being made between them where the way was barred by a trench system just west of la Bijude. Seeing this, General Crocker told the 3rd British Division to push some armour forward on to the high ground (Point 64) just north of Caen and later in the morning he put his reserve (the 33rd Armoured Brigade) under the division's command.11

The earliest reports had been encouraging enough at 0630hrs to persuade General Crocker, the commander of I Corps, to order Phase II to begin at 0730hrs. The 59th Division moved on St. Contest, Malon and Epron while the 3rd Canadian Division launched its attack on Gruchy and Buron, sending the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade forward over the same ground on which it had been defeated on 7 June.

"Unbelievable" artillery concentrations on the enemy positions in the villages and in front of them prepared the way for the brigade's advance. On the right, The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders had the mission of taking Gruchy. The place was reported in Canadian hands at 9:38. Taking it had not been easy, but it was easier than the task in the adjoining sector on the left.

The forward companies of The Highland Light Infantry of Canada, advancing towards Buron, came under heavy artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire. They cleared the enemy's positions in front of the village, losing heavily in the process, and then fought their way across the built-up area, assisted by tanks of the 27th Armoured Regiment whose arrival had been delayed by mines. Although it was reported at 8:30 a.m. that the H.L.I.'s forward troops were in Buron, some of the enemy fought on all day among the rubble, and in fact the last survivors were not rooted out until the following morning. In this area the 3rd Battalion, of the 25th S.S. Panzer Grenadier Regiment was fighting with the bitterness expected of the 12th S.S. Panzer Division; and the Canadians got the impression that the garrison of Gruchy when evicted had retired into Buron to strengthen the defence there. The Highland Light Infantry were fighting their first real battle at Buron, and it proved to be, like the North Shore's at Carpiquet, their bloodiest of the campaign. The battalion's casualties on 8 July amounted to 262, of which 62 were fatal; its commander, Lt.-Col. F. M. Griffiths, was among the wounded, but the day also brought him the D.S.O. Not only was Buron taken, but a very formidable armoured counter-attack late in the morning was beaten off with the efficient assistance of two troops of the 245th Anti-Tank Battery Royal Artillery and the supporting squadron of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment. Fourteen German tanks were reported destroyed.12

At 0955hrs the Canadian divisional commander ordered the 9th Canadian Brigade to proceed to the next stage of Phase II, and despite the fact that resistance was still being offered from Buron, the attack on Authie and the Chateau de St. Louet went ahead. The Chateau fell to The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders in the early afternoon, and The North Nova Scotia Highlanders took Authie, where they had suffered so heavily on D+1. The Canadians at Carpiquet now saw enemy troops withdrawing in disorder and the 7th Brigade was free to initiate Phase III, stepping off at 1830.13

The Canadian Scottish, like the previous units that day, were caught by heavy fire as they moved up to the Start Line. As they began their attack they came under severe flanking fire from the village of Bitot which the 59th Division had not yet captured. With insouciant elan the Can Scots charged the last 100 yards as the barrage lifted and plunged into the enemy position. Then, to add to their problems, the Victorians came under fire from the Abbaye Adrenne which the Reginas had not yet silenced. The street fighting was bitter and grim. The 1st Hussars' tanks and Can Scots' PIAT teams operated to great effect, knocking out half a dozen enemy tanks and capturing another. By nightfall, at heavy cost, Cussy was theirs.14

As at Buron, after the infantry had been defeated at Cussy, German tanks had counter-attacked, per their standard defensive doctrine. The 12th SS were showing a proclivity not to surrender; the official history noted that at Cussy, the Canadian Scottish "buried more than one German officer who had fought among his troops "to the bitter end"."15

The Abbaye d'Ardenne, while no longer the divisional headquarters (which had moved to the city of Caen since the murders of Canadian prisoners in June), was still the command post of the 25th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, and was defended by a company of Panther tanks and the remnants of the 3rd Battalion, 1st SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment (of the 1st SS Panzer Division ("Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"). Under the personal direction of divisional commander Kurt Meyer, the attack by The Regina Rifle Regiment on the Abbey was brought to a standstill, and remained in enemy hands until after dark, when the survivors withdrew.16

The 16th Luftwaffe Field Division was being as roughly handled as the 12th SS had been. The 16th was the first German Air Force division to meet the enemy in North-West Europe (although several of the German Air Force parachute units had seen action against the Americans). The 16th Field Division had moved from the Netherlands via Paris by rail in mid-June without incident or even delay, replacing part of the 21st Panzer Division in the line north of Caen. Point 64, mentioned above, was high ground dominating the sector of the 16th Division and was bombarded by naval vessels 25,000 yards distant on the afternoon of 7 July as part of the opening preparation for CHARNWOOD. The troops of the division were "badly mauled" in the words of the Canadian official history and in the wake of the 3rd British Division the 16th Division was "virtually destroyed" in the words of another history, which noted that "...the division has a whole lost 75 per cent of its strength in the few days of fighting (around Caen). The remnants of the division retreated across the Orne River and encamped with 21. P(anzer) D(ivision)."17

Another historian further analyzed the losses of the 16th Luftwaffe Field Division:

Those elements of the division that were involved in Operation Charnwood were badly hit. It was reported that those infantry units commited west of the Orne River suffered 75% casualties. This is a high percentage, but the division probably only deployed one regiment west of the Orne, or eight companies (of its two component regiments). If (as the source discusses) the companies only had a rifle strength of 60-70 men each, there were only about 500 infantry involved from the division. The infantry strength was probably somewhat higher, since reinforcements may have been brought forward during the operation. On 9 July eight Sturmgeschütz IIIs were (also) sent to the division.18

In hopes of reaching the Orne River bridges before the Germans could destroy them, Major-General Rod Keller, commanding the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, ordered armoured cars from the British Inns of Court Regiment and his own 7th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment (17th Duke of York's Royal Canadian Hussars) to push down the Caen-Bayeux highway through St. Germain-la-Blanche-Herbe, which it did before being stopped by mines and snipers at nightfall.19

Night was falling: the two wings of the attack were now a bare two miles apart and approaching each other. The situation of the Germans in Caen was desperate and made nonsense of the Führer's policy of never in any circumstance permitting any withdrawal. Rommel (commander of Army Group B) had come forward to Eberbach's (commander of Panzer Group West) headquarters that very afternoon. By nightfall it had become clear that the 16th Luftwaffe Division had 'suffered seventy-five percent casualties': in actual fact all its battalion commanders had been either killed or wounded and it had lost twenty tanks. 12th SS Panzer Division had lost sixty-five out of its 150 tanks, all its anti-tank guns and all its infantry except the equivalent of a battalion. Kluge (Oberbefehlshaber West - German Army Command in the West) refused Eberbach permission to commit the 1st SS Panzer Division in Caen to stabilise the situation there. Rommel therefore ordered what remained of the heavy weapons in Caen to pull back to the far bank of the Orne that very night and to save everybody's face, forbade what remained of the two divisions to withdraw except 'in the event of an enemy attack with superior forces.'20

On the morning of 9 July, the 59th Division settled into the villages north of Caen, "pinched out" by the 3rd British Division and 3rd Canadian Division, which was meeting little opposition as it worked into the city. One squadron of the 7th Canadian Recce Regiment working under the Inns of Court reached the Orne bridges by 1700hrs, finding one intact, but blocked by rubble and covered by enemy fire, denying I British Corps their bridgehead over the river. The infantry were not far behind, and The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders had been first to enter the city with tanks of The Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment in support. The occupation of Carpiquet airfield - Operation TROUSERS - had finally gone off during the morning, with troops reported on their objectives at 1115hrs, with little opposition having been faced.

Thirty-three days after intended (it had been a D-Day objective), Caen was in Allied hands. Much of central Caen had been bombed on D-Day and D+1 to prevent German road and rail movement, and on 7 July additional damage had levelled parts of northern Caen.

Happily, however, one portion of the city had been little damaged. This was the "island of refuge" about the great church of St. Etienne (Abbaye-aux-Hommes) and the Hopital du Bon Sauveur. As early as 12 June, it appears, the Resistance forces and the French authorities in Caen contrived to send messengers through the lines to the British command, informing it that thousands of refugees were gathered in this area and begging that it should be protected. The French record that assurances were duly given, and in fact this part of the city went almost untouched during the struggle, and great numbers of lives were saved in consequence.

In spite of their dreadful experience, the people of Caen greeted their liberators in a manner which our troops found very moving. And the Caennais were apparently particularly delighted to find their city freed in part by men from Canada. The historians of Caen during the siege thus describe the events of 9 July:

At 2:30 p.m., at last, the first Canadians reached the Place Fontette, advancing as skirmishers, hugging the walls, rifles and tommy guns at the ready.

All Caen was in the streets to greet them. These are Canadians, of all the Allies the closest to us; many of them speak French. The joy is great and yet restrained. People—the sort of people who considered the battle of Normandy nothing but a military promenade—have reproached us for not having fallen on the necks of our liberators. Those people forget the Calvary that we had been undergoing since the 6th of June.

No Canadian unit recorded any complaint of the warmth of the welcome; and the 1st Corps situation report for the day remarked, "Inhabitants enthusiastic at Allied entry,” The people of Caen had suffered; the liberators had suffered too. The final phase of the battle for the city had been as bloody as its predecessors. The losses of The Highland Light Infantry of Canada on 8 July have already been noticed (above, page 161); no other unit lost so heavily, but the three battalions of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade together had 547 battle casualties on 8 July and 69 more on the 9th. Total Canadian casualties for the theatre on the two days were 1194, of which 330 were fatal. This was heavier than the loss on D Day. Although the greater part of Caen had been liberated, the enemy was still in the southern quarters of the city, across the Orne. The only foothold the Allies possessed beyond the river was that seized by the airborne troops on 6 June. The task of breaking out into the open country to the south-east, so long desired by the air forces for airfields, was still ahead.21

Aftermath

The American July Offensive had started on 3 July, prompting German forces to shift westward as they realized that a major offensive was underway. Nonetheless, still wary of a direct assault from Caen to Paris, the Germans prepared for their next phase of operations in the Caen area on 8 July while still anticipating a second amphibious landing in the Pas de Calais. Reserves remained in place in the Calais area, while the Germans struggled to relieve their armoured forces of the burden of manning the front line in order that they might be concentrated to the rear and assembled for a major counter-offensive. On 7 July, Panzer Lehr was sent west to deal with the American offensive on the Vire, joining the 2nd SS Panzer Division. These movements ran counter to General Montgomery's policy of drawing armour to the east and Caen, and the tempo of operations was therefore not slackened.

The bridgehead across the Odon, established in EPSOM, was ordered expanded and on 10 July Operation JUPITER went forward towards Hill 112. The Germans defended it fiercely and prevented the British 43rd Division from fully taking either it, or the village of Maltôt to the east. The 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade had come under command for the operation, but played a minor role only.

On 11 July, the 2nd Canadian Corps became operational, taking over 8,000 yards of front, with the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions, 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, and 2nd Canadian Army Group Royal Artillery under command.22

The 8th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars), the reconnaissance unit of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, landed in France on 6 July, moved to Carpiquet on 11 July, and took up positions at Le Mesnil, as dismounted infantry. For a week, the regiment fought as infantry, suffering heavy casualties before moving to Le Villoneuve, then to Ifs - still fighting as infantry. They also received a battle honour for "Caen."

Battle Honour

The following Canadian units were awarded the Battle Honour "Caen" for participation in these actions:

Image:2gif.gif 2nd Canadian Division

  • 8th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars)

Image:3gif.gif 3rd Canadian Division

  • 7th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment (17th Duke of York's Royal Canadian Hussars)

  • The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (MG)

Image:3gif7bde.gif 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Royal Winnipeg Rifles

  • The Regina Rifle Regiment

  • The Canadian Scottish Regiment

Image:3gif8bde.gif 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada

  • Le Régiment de la Chaudière

  • The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment

Image:3gif9bde.gif 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Highland Light Infantry of Canada

  • The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders

  • The North Nova Scotia Highlanders

Notes

  1. Ford, Ken Caen 1944: Montgomery's Breakout Attempt (Osprey Publishing Ltd., Botley, Oxford, UK, 2004) ISBN 1-84176-625-9 p.8

  2. Ellis, L.F. Victory in the West: Volume I The Battle of Normandy (Queen's Printer, 1962 - reprint by The Naval and Military Press Ltd, Uckfield, East Sussesx, UK, 2004) ISBN 1-845740-58-0 p.247

  3. Essame, H. Normandy Bridgehead (Ballantine Books Inc., New York, NY, 1970) ISBN 345-02071-5-100 p.62

  4. Sources vary on losses, the figure of 15 German losses is the highest and comes from Fortin, Ludovic British Tanks in Normandy (Histoire & Collections, Paris, France, 2005) ISBN 2-915239-33-9 p.6

  5. Ford, Ibid, p.34

  6. Stacey, C.P. Canada's Battle in Normandy: The Canadian Army's Share in the Operations, 6 June - 1 September 1944 (King's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1946) p.82

  7. McKay, A. Donald Gaudeamus Igitur "Therefore Rejoice" (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 2005) ISBN 1894255534 pp.143-144

  8. Stacey, C.P. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War: Volume III: The Victory Campaign: The Operations in North-west Europe 1944-45 (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1960) pp.159-160

  9. Luther, Craig W.H. Blood and Honor: The History of the 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitler Youth", 1943-1945 (R. James Bender Publishing, San Jose, CA, 1987) ISBN 0-912138-38-6 pp.221-223; Luther cites Meyer, H. Kriegsgeschichte, p.253; Fragebogen, Willy Kretzchmar.

  10. Stacey, Ibid, p.160

  11. Ellis, Ibid, p.314

  12. Stacey, Ibid, pp.160-161

  13. Ibid, p.161

  14. McKay, Ibid, p.148

  15. Stacey, Ibid, p.161

  16. Ibid

  17. Ruffner, Kevin Courtney Luftwaffe Field Divisions 1941-45 (Osprey Publishing Ltd., London, UK, 1990) ISBN 1-85532-100-9 p.21

  18. Zetterling, Niklas Normandy 1944: German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness (J.J. Fedorowicz Publishing Inc., Winnipeg, MB, 2000) ISBN 0-921991-56-8 p.227

  19. Stacey, Ibid, p.162

  20. Essame, Ibid, p.110

  21. Stacey, Ibid, p.163

  22. Ibid, pp.163-166


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