Battle for Caen

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Battle for Caen
Part of Operation Overlord
Battle for Caen
Date 6 June – 6 August 1944
Location Normandy, France
49°11′10″N 0°21′45″W / 49.18611°N 0.36250°W / 49.18611; -0.36250Coordinates: 49°11′10″N 0°21′45″W / 49.18611°N 0.36250°W / 49.18611; -0.36250
Result Allied victory
 United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
3 armoured divisions
11 infantry divisions
5 Armoured Brigades
3 Tank Brigades
7 infantry divisions
8 Panzer divisions
3 heavy tank battalions
Casualties and losses
c. 50,539 casualties Unknown[a]
550 tanks

The Battle for Caen from June–August 1944 took place during the Second World War between Allied forces of the mainly Anglo-Canadian Second Army and German forces of Panzergruppe West during the Battle of Normandy which began on 6 June 1944 (D-Day). Caen in Normandy lay astride the Orne River and Caen Canal and was the junction for several roads and railways, which made it an important tactical objective for both sides. Caen and the area to the south was flatter and more open than the bocage country in western Normandy and was valuable land for airfields.

The British 3rd Infantry Division was to seize Caen on D-Day or to dig in short of the city if the Germans prevented its capture, masking Caen to maintain the Allied threat against it and thwart the possibility of a German counter-attack from the city. Caen, Bayeux and Carentan were not captured by the Allies on D-Day and for the first week of the invasion, the Allies concentrated on linking the beachheads. The Anglo-Canadians continued their attacks in the vicinity of Caen and the suburbs and city centre north of the Orne were captured during Operation Charnwood (8–9 July). The Caen suburbs south of the river were captured by the II Canadian Corps during Operation Atlantic (18–20 July). The Germans had committed most of their panzer divisions in a determined defence of Caen, which made the fighting mutually costly and deprived them of the means greatly to reinforce the west end of the invasion front.

At the west end of the battlefront, the US First Army cut off the Cotentin Peninsula, captured Cherbourg and then attacked southwards towards Saint-Lô, about 37 mi (60 km) west of Caen, capturing the town on 19 July. On 25 July after a weather delay, the First Army began Operation Cobra on the Saint-Lô–Périers road, coordinated with the Canadian Operation Spring at Verrières (Bourguébus) ridge to the south of Caen. Cobra was a great success and began a collapse of the German position in Normandy; the Allied break-out led to the Battle of the Falaise Pocket (12–21 August), which trapped most of the remnants of the 7th Army and 5th Panzer Army (formerly Panzergruppe West), which opened the way to the Seine and Paris.

The old city of Caen, with many buildings dating back to the Middle Ages, had been destroyed by Allied bombing and the ground fighting, during which, French civilians suffered considerable casualties. After the battle, little of the pre-war city remained and the reconstruction of Caen lasted until 1962.


Overlord plan

Relief map of Normandy showing main towns and the Overlord invasion front

On 6 December 1943, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Allied Commander Allied Expeditionary Force. The invasion was to be conducted by the 21st Army Group (General Bernard Montgomery), which would command all Allied troops in France until the US 12th Army Group became operational. Montgomery studied the COSSAC plan and at a conference on 21 January 1944, advocated a landing on a wider front between Quinéville in the west and Cabourg les Bains on the east side of the Orne river.[1][2][b] Three divisions of the British Second Army (Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey) were to come ashore on beachheads code-named Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach from west to east by and two divisions of the US First Army (General Omar Bradley) were to land on Omaha Beach and Utah Beach in the west; three airborne divisions were to land further inland on the flanks of the invasion area.[1][2][4] The US forces in the west were to capture the port of Cherbourg and then in a second phase, the lodgement was to be expanded in the west to the Loire river and the Brittany ports. The Anglo-Canadian forces on the eastern flank of the lodgement would confront the main German force confronting the invasion and reinforcements arriving from the east and south-east.[5] The tactical plan would be for the invaders quickly to gain control of the main roads in Normandy by the rapid advance of armoured forces past Caen and Bayeux, to capture the high ground to the south-east of Caen, which dominated the hinterland, the main roads which converged on Caen and the crossings of the Odon and Orne rivers.[2]

Second Army

From 7–8 April, Montgomery held Operation Thunderclap, a planning exercise, in which the intention of the operation was given as simultaneous attacks north of the Carentan Estuary and between the estuary and the Orne, to capture a bridgehead that included airfield sites and the port of Cherbourg. Montgomery forecast a rapid German reinforcement of the Normandy front by D+4, from a Westheer (Western army) total of 60 divisions (10 of those being panzer or panzergrenadier) to conduct a counter-offensive against the landing beaches. Montgomery predicted that the German offensive would be defeated and the Germans would have to change to the defensive by D+8, to contain the Allied lodgement. The Second Army was to land west of the Orne, protected by a parachute division which was to land east of the river and capture the Orne bridges at Benouville and Ranville. The Anglo-Canadians to were advance south and south-east, to capture ground for airfields and guard the eastern flank of the First Army as it attacked Cherbourg. Montgomery used a map to show phase lines, a planning device inherited from the COSSAC plan, to show a first phase complete by D+20, with the battlefront along a line running from the Channel coast east of Caen, south-west of the city, south of Vire and south of Avranches to the coast.[6][7]

On 15 May, Montgomery gave a final presentation of the Overlord plan to the Allied commanders and from his notes, gave the intention of the operation, to assault simultaneously,

(a) Immediately north of the Carentan estuary.
(b) Between the Carentan estuary and the R. Orne with the object of securing, as a a base for further operations, a lodgement area which will include airfield sites and the port of Cherbourg....
— Montgomery, 15 May 1944[8]

Montgomery predicted that the Germans would try to defeat the invasion on the beaches and hold Caen, Bayeux and Carentan, with Bayeux at the centre of a German counter-offensive, intended to divide the Allied lodgement. As the German counter-offensive faltered a "roping-off" policy would be substituted to hold the ground dominating the road axes around the Dives river, the high ground from the Orne at Falaise to the Vire river at Saint-Lô and along the high ground west of the Vire.[9]


Intelligence gained from reading Enigma messages was codenamed Ultra and by mid-1943, German messages were being regularly decoded and the results passed on to senior Allied commanders.[10][c] German measures to repel an invasion and the success of Allied deception measures could be gauged by reference to Ultra and other sources of intelligence.[11] In March 1944, decrypts showed that invasions were expected anywhere from Norway to Spain. On 5 March, the German navy thought that up to six divisions would invade Norway and Fremde Heere West (FHW, Foreign Armies West) the German army high command intelligence department that studied the Allied order of battle put the danger zone between the Pas de Calais and the Loire valley. Rundstedt forecast a 20-division invasion in early May, probably between Boulogne and Normandy but identified accurately the concentration area between Southampton and Portsmouth. Anti-invasion practices were conducted from Bruges to the Loire and one scheme assumed an invasion 50 km (31 mi) wide from Ouistreham to Isigny; on 1 June, FHW predicted an invasion on 12 June either on the Mediterranean coast or in the Balkans.[12][d]

German strategy

In the belief that Allied landings were unstoppable, Rundstedt intended properly to garrison only the most vulnerable sections of the coast at the Pas de Calais, the mouths of the Somme and Seine rivers, the ports of Cherbourg and Brest. Other ports were to be fortified to withstand sieges and to have the means to demolish the port facilities if they were captured. Rundstedt intended to impede an Allied build up and then drive the Allies into the sea by a counter-offensive.[14] All of the German commanders expected the panzer divisions to defeat an invasion but disagreed on how they would achieve this. Rommel and other generals who had experienced Allied airpower, believed that an invasion force could only be defeated as it landed. Rundstedt and Geyr took the view that only big co-ordinated counter-attacks would succeed, even though there would be a delay as the counter-offensive force converged on the invasion front. Rommel thought that the generals who had gained their experience on the Eastern Front underestimated the western Allies, who used their plentiful resources with great intelligence. Allied air supremacy had made manoeuvre warfare obsolete and only an army equipped for defence, particularly in anti-tank guns, could hope to succeed. The coastline must therefore be strewn with underwater obstacles, covered in minefields, barbed wire, fortifications, anti-tank gun and machine-gun nests, with the infantry and panzer divisions deployed on the coast for a linear defence.[15]

Rundstedt, Geyr and Colonel-General Heinz Guderian, the Inspector General of Armoured Troops, disagreed with the rigid defence of the coast because of the difficulty in predicting the site of the Allied invasion. The dispersal of panzer divisions along a potential 3,000 mi (4,800 km) front, would make it impossible to react quickly to the invasion and concentrate at the most important point. This school accepted the fact of Allied air supremacy but believed that manoeuvre warfare was still possible and wanted to concentrate the panzer divisions north and south of Paris, ready to converge on the main Allied landing area. These generals did not believe that the Allies could reinforce a landing force so quickly that after two days it would be unbeatable; the panzer divisions would attack the flanks of the landing force and destroy it. In March 1942, Hitler had issued Directive 40, that an invasion force be defeated at sea or on the coast and in 1944, Hitler refused to allow parts of the coast to be stripped of troops to create a strategic reserve or to augment the defenders elsewhere. In May, Hitler imposed an awkward compromise on the Westheer by creating a reserve of three panzer divisions and one panzergrenadier division under his command, from the eleven panzer and panzergrenadier divisions in the west. In the spring of 1944, Hitler included Normandy as a second Allied objective.[16] On 6 June, OB West had about 850,000 troops and 1,552 tanks in 48 infantry, a panzergrenadier and ten panzer divisions. Two Waffen-SS panzer divisions had been sent to Poland and were recalled on 12 June. Half of the infantry divisions were smaller coastal defence or training formations and only about a quarter of the infantry divisions had the manpower and equipment of a full division.[17]


Atlantic Wall

Command of the German defences of the Western Front was conducted by Hitler through Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW, High Command of the Armed Forces). Since 1940, work had been done on the fortification of ports and the defeat of the Dieppe Raid (19 August 1942) for the loss of only 600 casualties demonstrated the defensive value of the fortifications. Hitler had ordered the fortification of the west European coast but much of the labour provided by Organisation Todt was diverted to the Ruhr in the spring of 1943, the strengthening of U-boat pens in the French Atlantic ports and then to keep V-1 flying bomb sites operational in the Pas de Calais. By the end of 1943, the Atlantic Wall was near complete only from Antwerp to Le Havre. Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt held the appointment of Oberbefehlshaber West (OB West, Supreme Commander, West) over the Westheer judged the Westwall defences to be inadequate to defeat an invasion and likely to divert divisions from the field armies.[14] OB West had Panzergruppe West (General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg), the armoured reserve of the Westheer, under its direct command and Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel) with the 15th Army (General Hans von Salmuth) deployed from Antwerp to the Orne and the 7th Army (General Friedrich Dollmann) from the Orne to the Loire. Further south Heeresgruppe G (Army Group G, Colonel-General Johannes Blaskowitz) commanded the 1st Army and the 19th Army on the French Atlantic and the Mediterranean coasts.[17]

Normandy coast

The Normandy (Calvados) coast has wide beaches small harbours and is close to the port of Cherbourg. There is an 18 mi (29 km) stretch between the mouth of the Orne north of Caen and Arromanches on which landings can easily be made, except for reefs, which prevent large ships from approaching the shore.[18] In 1944, the 150 mi (240 km) from the Seine to Cherbourg was garrisoned by six divisions, four being lower establishment coast defence divisions, supported by the 21st Panzer Division (Generalleutnant Edgar Feuchtinger).[16] The Germans built strongpoints at Franceville and Riva Bella at the mouth of the Orne, an artillery battery at Merville with four 75 mm guns in steel and concrete emplacements, with a battery of 155 mm guns south of Ouistreham. On 8 mi (13 km) of the shore from Riva Bella to a stroungpoint at Corseulles, nine resistance nests (Widerstandsneste) were built along the seawall and in the dunes. Most of the Widerstandsneste had a concrete emplacement proof against bombing and heavy artillery bombardment for a gun sited to fire in enfilade along the beachfront. The nests also had machine-gun posts, mortar positions and big concrete bunkers to protect the garrisons. There was no continuous second position but field guns and anti-tank guns were dug in 2–4 mi (3.2–6.4 km) along with infantry reserves billeted in villages to contain a breakthrough of the beach defences until mobile reserves arrived.[18] The 716th Infantry Division (Generalleutnant Wilhelm Richter), a two-regiment division with about 8,000 men, garrisoned the German defences from Le Hamel to Merville-Franceville-Plage. The 21st Panzer Division was transferred to Caen in May, with its 146 tanks and 50 assault guns south of the city, the infantry battalions on either side of the Orne north of the city and its artillery on the coast, giving defensive depth to the 716th Infantry Division on its 8 mi (13 km) front.[19][20]

I Corps plan

Diagram of the Wild Oats contingency plan

Before dawn on D Day, the 6th Airborne Division with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion were to land in Operation Tonga, capture the bridges over the lower Orne in a coup de main and establish a bridgehead on the east side of the river, to block a possible German counter-attack.[21] I Corps (Lieutenant-General John Crocker) was to land on Juno and Sword beaches, to capture Caen and the high ground to the south on the Falaise road or if thwarted by the German defenders, consolidate a defensive front around the city. Operation Smock was prepared in case Caen was not captured on D Day, to commence after 3 to 4 days, once the 51st (Highland) Division and the 4th Armoured Brigade were ashore to reinforce the attackers. Operation Wild Oats was a plan to cut off a German retirement westwards from Caen, with XXX Corps and the 1st Airborne Division.[22][23] The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division (Major-General Rod Keller) would land to the west on Juno with the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade and advance south, to cut the Caen–Bayeux road as far as Carpiquet, north-west of Caen.[24] The 3rd Infantry Division (Major-General Tom Rennie) and the 27th Armoured Brigade were to land on Sword Beach and advance directly on Caen.[25] The landings were to be supported by the bombardment of the beach defences by Allied strategic bombers, naval bombardment ships and by "beach drenching fire" from rockets and field guns in landing craft.[26]


D-Day landing beaches and German counter-attacks, 6 June 1944

D Day, 6 June

I Corps landings at Juno and Sword beaches, German defences and 21st Panzer Division counter-attack, 6 June 1944

The naval bombardment and bombing by the Allied air forces failed to have the destructive effect on German beach defences hoped for and in many places Allied infantry, engineers and tanks had to fight their way forward. The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division landed on Juno Beach with the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade, which had to capture Corseulles, which took until the afternoon. The 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade attack on Bernières and St Aubin sur Mer met determined German resistance and the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade followed on as the tide rose higher and faster than usual, because of the unsettled weather in the Channel adding to huge traffic jams built at the beach exits. On the left of the Canadians, the 8th Infantry Brigade came ashore on Sword beach, with the 1st Special Service Brigade on its left (northern) flank, to join the 6th Airborne Division at the Orne crossings.[27]

The incoming tide reduced the width of Sword Beach to 15 yd (14 m) instead of 150 yd (140 m) and fire from German machine-gun nests swept the beach as the British advanced to capture the beachfront resorts and villas. A German strongpoint at La Brèche held out until about 10:00 a.m. but by 10:30 a.m. the British and Canadian divisions had landed fifteen infantry battalions, five Commando units, seven armoured regiments, two Royal Marine armoured support regiments nine field artillery regiments and two engineer regiments, on a beachhead only 5 mi (8.0 km) wide. By noon the follow-up brigades were ashore and inched through traffic jams at the beach exits under severe bombardment from German artillery and begun the advance inland.[28]

The German reply was slower than the Allies expected, because the decision to land on 6 June caught the German commanders unprepared. By morning, reports received by the 15th Army HQ led to an alert being ordered but not at the 7th Army HQ, except for possible terrorist attacks. Many senior officers were absent and only when it was discovered that parachutists were landing was an alert called; German troops went off on goose-chases and found dummy paratroops. At 6:00 a.m., Rundstedt asked for control of the I SS Panzer Corps to counter an invasion but it took ten hours to be granted. The German tactical reply was resolute and troops on the Calvados front fought with determination in many places.[29] The 3rd Infantry Division had made swift progress against the 716th Division at Hermanville, Ouistreham and Colleville but was delayed further inland at strongpoints Daimler, Hillman, Morris and Rover. 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 1:00 p.m. but Hillman held out until the next morning and absorbed some of the forces intended for the dash to Caen, while other troops and tanks were still stuck in traffic at the beach exits. The unsettled weather that had lulled the German commanders also pushed the tide in quicker and further than expected, which covered obstacles and reduced the beaches to a strip about 11 yd (10 m), delaying the landing of follow-on forces.[30] The fight for Hillman delayed the advance of the 8th and 185th Infantry Brigades and gave time for the infantry of the 21st Panzer Division to stop its counter-attacks against the 6th Airborne Division on either side of the Orne and concentrate on the west side against the 3rd Infantry Division, despite being spotted and attacked from the air.[31]

Operation Perch

Operation Perch was intended to create the threat of a British break-out to the south-east of Caen by XXX Corps, the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division to capture the road to Tilly-sur-Seulles.[32] The 7th Armoured Division would then spearhead the advance to Mont Pinçon.[33][34] On 9 June, Montgomery ordered that Caen be taken by a pincer movement.[35] The eastern arm of the attack would consist of I Corps with the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division. The Highlanders would cross into the Orne bridgehead and attack southwards to Cagny, 6 mi (9.7 km) to the south-east of Caen. XXX Corps would form the western arm of the pincer; the 7th Armoured Division would advance east, cross the Odon River to capture Évrecy and the high ground near the town (Hill 112).[36][37] XXX Corps attacked Tilly-sur-Seulles, which was defended by the Panzer Lehr Division and part of the 12th SS Panzer Division; the Germans managed to avoid the loss of Tilly in mutually-costly fighting in the bocage.[38][39][40]

Allied and Axis dispositions on 12 June 1944

I Corps was delayed moving into position and its attack was postponed until 12 June. The 51st Highland Division attacked against the determined defence of the 21st Panzer Division and on 13 June the offensive east of Caen was called off.[41] On the right flank of XXX Corps, the right flank of the 352nd Infantry Division had been defeated by the 50th Northumbrian Division and the left flank by the 1st US Division and its remnants forced southwards, leaving a 7.5 mi (12.1 km) gap in the German front.[34][42] Dempsey ordered the 7th Armoured Division to exploit the opening, seize the town of Villers-Bocage and advance into the western flank of the Panzer Lehr Division.[43][44][45] After the Battle of Villers-Bocage, the position was judged untenable and 7th Armoured Division withdrew on 14 June.[46][47] The division was reinforced by the 33rd Armoured Brigade, which had landed, ready to resume the attack but on 19 June, a severe storm descended upon the English Channel damaging the Mulberry harbours and caused a delay in the unloading of reinforcements and supplies.[48][49][50]

Operation Epsom

Operation Martlet was a preliminary attack the day before Operation Epsom began on 26 June, by the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division and the 8th Armoured Brigade of XXX Corps.[51] Operation Epsom an VIII Corps attack was to be assisted by taking Rauray village and spur, Fontenay-le-Pesnel, Tessel-Bretteville, and Juvigny. Opposing the British were the 3rd Battalion, 26th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment and part the 12th SS Panzer Regiment of the 12th SS Panzer Division on and around the spur; both had been depleted by the fighting in the preceding weeks but were well dug-in.[52] By the end of 25 June, the British had reached the woods near Vendes and a line roughly south of Fontenay-le-Pesnel but the Germans had held Rauray and about half the spur; next day Tessel-Bretteville was captured and lost to a counter-attack.[53] During the night, reinforcements reached the Panzer Lehr Division on the right flank near Vendes.[54][55] Tessel-Bretteville wood and Rauray were captured on 27 June. The fighting on the Rauray Spur continued during Operation Epsom.[56][e]

An ammunition carrier of the 11th Armoured Division explodes after being hit by a mortar round during Operation Epsom on 26 June 1944.

Operation Epsom began on 26 June, to capture the high ground south of Caen, near Bretteville-sur-Laize with the newly arrived VIII Corps.[61][62] The operation was supported by 736 guns, the Royal Navy, close air support and a preliminary bombardment by 250 RAF heavy bombers.[63][64] (The bombing for the start of the operation was called off due to poor weather over Britain.)[65] I and XXX Corps were also to support Epsom but delays in landing equipment and reinforcements led to their role being reduced.[51][66]

The 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division and the 31st Tank Brigade made steady progress and by the end of the first day, had overrun much of the German outpost line, except in places on the flanks. Over the following two days, a foothold was secured across the Odon and efforts were made to expand this, by capturing tactically valuable points around the salient and moving up the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division but German counter-attacks by the I SS Panzer Corps and II SS Panzer Corps, led to a withdrawal from some of the British positions across the river by 30 June; VIII Corps had advanced nearly 6 mi (9.7 km).[67] With their last reserves, the Germans achieve a costly defensive success by containing the British offensive.[68] Tactically, the fighting was indecisive and after the initial gains made, neither side was able to make much progress; German counter-attacks were repulsed and further advances by British forces halted.[69]

A German counter-offensive by fresh forces against the Allied beachhead had been forestalled before it began, no German armoured forces could be redeployed against the US First Army or moved into reserve.[70][71][72] The operation cost the Second Army up to 4,078 casualties, from 26–30 June. VIII Corps suffered 470 men killed, 2,187 wounded and 706 men missing. During 1 July, a further 488 men were killed and wounded and 227 were reported missing. These figures exclude formations conducting preliminary operations and attacks in support of Epsom.[73] The German Army lost over 3,000 men and 126 tanks.[74][75]

The airfield at Carpiquet near Caen had been a D-Day for the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division but the 12th SS Panzer Division arrived first and occupied the concrete shelters, machine gun towers, underground tunnels, 75 mm (2.95 in) anti-tank guns and 20 mm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft around the airfield, behind mine fields and barbed wire entanglements. A Canadian operation during Operation Epsom had been postponed because of the delays in disembarking troops and for Operation Windsor, the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade was reinforced by a battalion from the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade, The Fort Garry Horse (10th Armoured Regiment) and three squadrons of specialist tanks from the 79th Armoured Division, including a flamethrower squadron. The battleship HMS Rodney, 21 artillery regiments and two squadrons of RAF Hawker Typhoon fighter-bombers were made available.[76] 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.[77][f]

Operation Charnwood

A file of soldiers walking through a blasted cityscape; only a few buildings are standing
Royal Engineers move through the ruins of Caen, looking for mines and booby-traps, 10 July 1944.

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.[79][80] An armoured column was prepared to advance through the city to rush the bridges to exploit the victory and sweep on through southern Caen toward the Verrières and Bourguébus ridges, opening the way for the Second Army to advance toward Falaise.[81] New tactics were tried, including a preparatory bombardment by Allied strategic bombers to assist the Anglo-Canadian advance and to prevent German reinforcements from reaching the battle or retreating.[82][83][84] Suppression of the German defences was a secondary consideration; close support aircraft and 656 guns supported the attack.[85]

On the evening of 7 July, bombers dropped over 2,000 short tons (1,800 t) of bombs on the city.[86] The attack began at 4:30 a.m. on 8 July and several hours later the final wave of bombers arrived over the target.[87] By evening, the I Corps had reached the outskirts of Caen and the Germans began to withdraw their heavy weapons and the remnants of the 16th Luftwaffe Field Division to the southern side of Caen. The remnants of the 12th SS Panzer Division fought a rearguard action and then retired over the Orne.[88][89]

Mountains of rubble, [approximately] 20 or 30 feet [≈ 6 or 9 metres] high [...] the dead lay everywhere.

— Arthur Wilkes describing the situation following the operation.[90]

Early on 9 July, British and Canadian patrols entered the city and Carpiquet airfield was occupied, after the 12th SS Panzer Division withdrawal during the night.[91] By noon, the Allied infantry had reached the north bank of the Orne.[92] Some bridges were left intact but were blocked by rubble and covered by German troops on the south bank, ready for a German counter-attack.[93][94] Following the battle "In the houses that were still standing there slowly came life, as the French civilians realized that we had taken the city. They came running out of their houses with glasses and bottles of wine.".[90]

Soldiers of the 43rd Wessex Division seek shelter from German mortar attacks, 10 July.

Operation Jupiter, a VIII Corps attack by the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division and the 4th Armoured Brigade began on 10 July, to follow up a possible German retreat after Charnwood. The Germans had five infantry battalions, two Tiger detachments, two Sturmgeschütz companies and Nebelwerfer mostly from the 10th SS-Panzer Division Frundsberg, with elements of the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen and the 12th SS-Panzer Division Hitlerjugend in reserve. The attack was intended to capture the villages of Baron-sur-Odon, Fontaine-Étoupefour, Château de Fontaine and recapture the top of Hill 112 by 9:00 a.m. After the first phase, positions on Hill 112 were to cover an advance on Éterville, Maltot and the ground up to the River Orne. A bombardment of mortars and over 100 field guns was to precede the attack.[95] The attack began after a naval bombardment, air attack and artillery fire but the Tiger tanks of the schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 102 (Heavy SS Tank Detachment 102) out-ranged British Churchill and Sherman tanks. Neither side could hold Hill 112, the top of which was 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.[96]{{In August the Germans withdrew from Hill 112 and the 53rd (Welsh) Division occupied the feature almost unopposed. British casualties during the period were c. 25,000 troops and c. 500 tanks. The 43rd Infantry Division had 7,000 casualties from 10–22 July.)[96]}}

Operation Goodwood

Map showing territory gained in Operations Atlantic and Goodwood

On 18 July, VIII Corps began Operation Goodwood, an attack by three armoured divisions towards the German-held Bourguébus Ridge, along with the area between Bretteville-sur-Laize and Vimont, to force the Germans to commit their armoured reserves in costly counter-attacks. Goodwood was preceded further west by the Second Battle of the Odon, attacks by XXX Corps and XII Corps, to inflict casualties and concentrate the attention of Panzergruppe West on the east end of the bridgehead. On 18 July, I Corps conducted an advance to secure villages and the eastern flank of VIII Corps and on the western flank, the II Canadian Corps conducted Operation Atlantic to capture the remaining German positions in Caen south of the Orne.

The Germans were able to stop the British advance short of Bourguébus Ridge but had been shocked by the weight of the attack and preliminary aerial bombardment.[97] The Germans had only the resources to hold ground in great depth south of Caen.[98] The south bank suburbs had been captured by the Canadians in Operation Atlantic and the British had advanced 7 mi (11 km) east of Caen and took about 12,000 yd (11,000 m) of ground to the south of the city.[99][100] The attack reinforced the German view that the Allied threat on the eastern flank was the most dangerous and more units were transferred eastwards, including the remaining mobile elements of the 2nd Panzer Division near Caumont. Blumenson wrote that the British force suffered over 4,000 casualties and almost 500 tank losses, about 36 percent of the British tanks in France.[101][102] Buckley wrote in 2014, that in Goodwood and Atlantic the Anglo-Canadians had 5,500 casualties and about 400 tanks knocked out but that the German armoured units remained pinned down around Caen as planned. By 25 July, there were 600 panzers, including all the Tiger units opposite the Second Army and 150 facing the US First Army. The Germans had not been destroyed but the morale of the German commanders declined into fatalism.[103]

Operation Atlantic

During the Battle of Caen, the I SS Panzer Corps had turned the 90-foot (27 m) high ridge into their primary fortification, defending it with hundreds of guns, tanks, Nebelwerfers, mortars, and infantry from up to three divisions.[104] On 18 July, Operation Atlantic began 45 minutes after Goodwood and the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division with tank support, captured Giberville and the Caen industrial suburbs of Colombelles and Vaucelles south the Orne. By mid-afternoon, two companies of the Black Watch had crossed the river and the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade managed to push southward to Saint-André-sur-Orne. With the south bank secured, the 4th and 6th Canadian Infantry Brigades moved into position for the second phase, an assault on Verrières Ridge (Bourguébus Ridge to the British). On 19 July, Cormelles was captured with the 7th Armoured Division and the 5th Canadian Brigade took the east slope of Point 67 (the village of Ifs). The 1st SS Panzer Division and the 272nd Infantry Division counter-attacked but were repulsed.[105] On 20 July, The South Saskatchewan Regiment, The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada and the 27th Armoured Regiment (The Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment), supported by Hawker Typhoons, assaulted the ridge.[106] The Cameron Highlanders attacked Saint-André-sur-Orne but were repulsed. Torrential rain immobilised tanks and infantry and grounded aircraft and the South Saskatchewans lost 282 casualties.[107] Battlegroups from four panzer divisions counter-attacked and forced the Canadians back beyond their start lines. The Essex Scottish lost c. 300 casualties.[108] On 21 July, Simonds ordered The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada and The Calgary Highlanders to stabilise the front along Verrières Ridge.[109] The two battalions and the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division defeated more counter-attacks by the two SS Panzer divisions in costly defensive fighting.[110]



In 1964, the historian Alexander McKee had described the D Day rush on Caen degenerating into a "plodding advance by a few hundred riflemen" and that the failure condemned the British to costly battles of attrition.[111] Terry Copp wrote in 2004, 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 at an intermediate objective as the 21st Panzer Division counter-attack against the 3rd Division. The panzers were repulsed by the 185th Infantry Brigade and then penetrated between Sword and Juno beaches; the attack cost the Germans 33 percent of their tanks but the force was still formidable, when ordered to retire as reinforcements for the 6th Airborne Division flew overhead. Both sides had been given orders which were cautious and events possibly made the orders to both sides 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 had been criticised assuming that the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade would not have been overrun on the final objectives as occurred to some units next day. Had the Germans waited to prepare a proper co-ordinated counter-attack, instead of the piecemeal attacks on 6 June, it could have been a greater threat but it was impossible to know the effect of hypothetical decisions.[112]

In a 2004 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 2009, Anthony Beevor wrote that the British had not been sufficiently ruthless. A week after D Day, the British failed again at Villers Bocage, when the 7th Armoured Division was supposedly defeated by one Tiger tank and for the next few weeks, despite plentiful resources, the British attacks on Caen were been repulsed, while the US First Army captured Cherbourg and the Cotentin Peninsula. After the capture of the Cotentin, the Americans had pushed south and were poised for Operation Cobra by 25 July. A week earlier, the British Operation Goodwood was written of as a calamitous failure, with 400 tanks knocked out; when the Germans were finally driven from Normandy, the British failed yet again by not trapping German forces west of Antwerp.[111]

Buckley wrote that artillery had been the main infantry-killer in the Second World War as in the First World War and that it was Allied, especially the British artillery, that was the most feared in the second half of the war. Germans complained that concentration and manoeuvre were prevented by the domination of the battlefield by British guns. The British also emphasised support for the infantry and tanks by all arms and provided plenty of equipment and ammunition to use while the Germans had perforce to improvise and lurch from crisis to crisis.[113] In Normandy, the Anglo-Canadians had experienced casualty rates similar to those of the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917 and by the end of August, each of the seven British infantry divisions in France had suffered about 75 percent casualties. 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 in the Second World War.[114]

Histories of the Battle of Caen

Buckley wrote that after the war there had been little appetite for an objective study of the British Army of 1944–1945. Some of the main personalities involved in the campaign like Churchill (The Second World War, published six volumes from 1948–1953), published accounts which were "hubristic" and "self-serving". De Guingand went into print with Operation Victory in 1947 and Montgomery followed in 1958, both describing a faultless campaign in which the performance of the army had been superb. When the first British official history volume of the campaign, Victory in the West: The Battle of Normandy was published by Major Lionel Ellis et al in 1962, it was criticised in 1963 by Hubert Essame, who had commanded the 214th Infantry Brigade in Normandy, because the truth had been "polished out of existence in deference to Monty's subordinate commanders".[115] Buckley called the volume "anodyne and factual" but wrote that such unrealistic accounts were not universal; in The Other Side of the Hill. Germany's Generals. Their Rise and Fall, with their own Account of Military Events 1939–1945 (1948), 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.[116][g]

Chester Wilmot, an Australian war correspondent who had accompanied the Allies in Normandy, wrote an account in 1952, 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 Allied 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 (1947) by S.L.A. Marshall. 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 1944 and his data were later discredited.[119][h]

During the Cold War and the possibility of hostilities against the USSR by NATO, military analysts reviewed theory, operations and tactics and the NATO armies took the view that German methods used against the Allies from 1943 might be more effective against the Red Army than British offensive methods from late 1942. 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 "...brutality, the fear, the overtly poisonous racist ideology....the criminalisation of young soldiers, the extreme coercion and...the desperation of the last year of the war". 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.[121]

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 1990s to German witnesses, many of whom blamed lack of numbers and Hitler's interference. When the battles in the west from June 1944 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 1980s, 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.[122] By the 1980s, a stereotype of the British as slow, predictable and dependent on the Americans, had become an orthodoxy, contrasted unfavourably with the "übersoldiers" of the German Army and its blitzkrieg tactics.[114]

Buckley wrote that in the early 1980s, a watershed in interpretation occurred, in new publications during the fortieth anniversary of the battle. Decision in Normandy (1983) 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 blamed and 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 glorify himself. 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. D'Este based some of his conclusions on the views of Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder, Deputy Supreme Commander to Eisenhower and Lieutenant-General Frederick Morgan, who had grudges against Montgomery. Criticism made prominent the undoubtedly disagreeable personality Montgomery had and his ability to antagonise people emerged again in the memoir literature of the 1950s; 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.[123][i]

Max Hastings in Overlord: The Battle for Normandy (1984), 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.[114] Hastings also criticised British equipment; Cromwell and Sherman tanks were judged inadequate against Panther and Tiger tanks. 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.[135]

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. Before mid-1941, these methods had worked well but in Operation Barbarossa against the USSR, the German armies were exhausted before they could defeat the Red Army. The army failed to conserve its assets to achieve victory and proved unable to created 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 1944, 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.[136]

The British had to defeat the Germans with the minimum of casualties to create the circumstances necessary for a lasting peace and since the 1990s, 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.[137] In a publication of 2000, David French showed that the British Army had overcome its early defeats and had become an effective fighting force in the second half of the war. 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 1944–5 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 2004, John Buckley argued that British tank forces had performed well in Normandy, by adapting better than German armoured units.[138]

In Fields of Fire: The Canadians in Normandy (2003), Terry Copp wrote that the Canadian performance in Normandy had been underestimated and described their tactical and operational flair. 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.[139] Copp also wrote that the Anglo-Canadian armies had been criticised for a lack of a formal tank-infantry "battlegroup doctrine" similar to that used in the German armies and that he was correct; everything was allowed and armoured unit commanders chose the methods to be used, which turned out to be an advantage, when they discovered in the first few days of the invasion, that swift reorganisation and improvisation.[140]


A memorial to the murdered Canadian soldiers in the garden of the Abbey.

Members of the 12th SS Panzer Division shot 156 Canadian prisoners-of-war near Caen during the Battle of Normandy.[141] After the Battle of Le Mesnil-Patry, troops of the 12th SS-Panzer Division captured seven Canadians who had been wandering around no-man's land since the battle, all being tired and hungry. The men were interrogated by an officer of the 12th SS-Pioniere Battalion at an ad-hoc headquarters in the village of Mouen, about 5 mi (8.0 km) south-east of Le Mesnil-Patry.[142] On 14 June, two crew members of the 1st Hussars reached Canadian lines and reported that they had seen several Canadian prisoners shot in the back, after surrendering.[143] At about 10:00 p.m., the men had been led to the outskirts of the village under armed guard. Four Canadian prisoners were killed by a firing squad and the remaining men were shot in the head at close-range.[142] Twenty Canadians were killed near Villons-les-Buissons, north-west of Caen in Ardenne Abbey.[144] The abbey was captured at midnight on 8 July by the Regina Rifles and the soldiers were exhumed and buried in the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.[citation needed] After the war, Kurt Meyer was convicted and sentenced to death on charges of inappropriate behaviour towards civilians and the execution of prisoners, a sentence later commuted to life imprisonment. He was released after serving eight years.[145]

Allied bombing of Caen

The ruins of Caen.

In 2006, peter Gray wrote that few controversies have left such a long-standing scar of the psyche of a city than the Allied bombing of Caen – the city that considers itself to have been martyred.[146] Before the invasion, Caen had a population of 60,000 people. 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; 800 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. The Palais des Ducs, the church of Saint-Étienne and the railway station were all destroyed or severely damaged. About 15,000 people took refuge for more than a month in medieval quarry tunnels south of the city.[147][according to whom?] Allied bombing turned much of the French countryside and the city of Caen into a wasteland. The German resistance was extremely fierce, and the Germans used the ruins to their advantage.[148][according to whom?]

The Défense Passive and other civil defence groups coordinated medical relief. Six surgical teams were alerted on the morning of the invasion and police brought medical supplies to Bon Sauveur and hospitals at Lycée Malherbe and Hospice des Petites Sœurs des Pauvres.[149][according to whom?] Many buildings caught fire and molten lead dripped from their roofs. About 3,000 people took refuge in Bon Sauveur, Abbaye aux Hommes and Saint Etienne church. 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 Vichy government in Paris managed to send 250 short tons (230 t) supplies to Caen under the auspices of Secours Nationale.[150][according to whom?]

The Germans ordered all remaining civilians to leave on 6 July and by the bombing during the evening of 7 July, only 15,000 inhabitants remained. A force of 467 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.[attribution needed] At least two civilian shelters were hit and the University of Caen was destroyed, 350 people being killed by the raid and the fighting in Caen on 8 July, bringing the civilian death toll to 1,150 since D-Day. 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.[151][according to whom?]

Grey 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.Montgomery claimed that the bombing of Caen had played a vital part in its subsequent capture but Grey wrote that later assessments of this analysis range "from fantasy to guilty conscience".[152]

Following the capture of Caen, British war correspondents for the Daily Mail reported on 28 July that,

One must drive through Caen every time one goes to or from the Orne front and it's still a horrible and rather shaming thing. The people of Caen will never quite understand why we had to do anything so awful to them. Still, day by day, the bodies of their fellow-citizens are being dug out of the ruins.

— Baldoli and Knapp[153]

By the end of the Battle for Caen, the civilian population of Caen had fallen from 60,000 to 17,000. Caen and many of the surrounding towns and villages were mostly destroyed; the University of Caen (founded in 1432) was razed. The buildings were eventually rebuilt after the war and the university adopted the phoenix as its symbol. About 35,000 residents were made homeless after the Allied bombing and the destruction of the city caused much resentment.[154]

Subsequent operations

On 25 July, the II Canadian Corps conducted Operation Spring on Verrières (Bourguébus) Ridge simultaneously with the American Operation Cobra in the west. The operation was to capture the ridge and villages on the south slope.[155] The German defences on the ridge and armoured counter-attacks forced most of the Canadian infantry back to its start lines.[citation needed]


Provisional wood shop in the destroyed city during the rebuilding, 1945.

There are many monuments to the Battle for Caen and Operation Overlord. For example, on the road to Odon-bridge at Tourmauville, there is a memorial for the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division; or the monument on hill 112 for the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division, as well as one for the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division. Near Hill 112, a forest was planted in memory of those that fought there.

The landings at Normandy, the Battle for Caen and the Second World War are remembered today with many memorials; Caen hosts the Mémorial with a "peace museum" (Musée de la paix). The museum was built by the city of Caen on top of where the bunker of General Wilhelm Richter, the commander of the 716th Infantry Division, was located. On 6 June 1988 French President François Mitterrand and twelve ambassadors from countries that took part in the fighting in Normandy joined to open the museum. The museum is dedicated to pacifism and borders the Parc international pour la Libération de l'Europe, a garden in remembrance of the Allied participants in the invasion.

The fallen are buried in the Brouay War Cemetery (377 graves), the Banneville-la-Campagne War Cemetery (2,170 graves), the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery (2,049 graves), the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery (2,957 graves), La Cambe German war cemetery (21,222 graves) as well as many more.

Orders of battle

See also


  1. ^ German casualties at Caen are unknown due to the loss of records. By 24 July German losses over the whole of Normandy were 113,059 (Tamelander, M, Zetterling, N (2004), Avgörandes Ögonblick: Invasionen i Normandie. Norstedts Förlag, p. 295)</ref>
  2. ^ By late July 1943, Lieutenant-General Frederick Morgan, the British chief of staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC) and an Allied planning staff, had produced the outline of a plan for a cross-Channel invasion of France. Three divisions were to land on the Normandy coast on a 30 mi (48 km) front between Vierville-sur-Mer in the west and Lion-sur-Mer at the mouth of the Orne river in the east, with a paratroop descent on Caen to capture the city. The invaders would then advance south and south-east, to gain room for airfields and sufficient depth for a flanking attack on the Cotentin Peninsula. The port of Cherbourg, on the north coast of the Cotentin, was to be captured by D+14.[3]
  3. ^ The Germans disguised wireless signals with Enigma ciphering machines but before the war, the Polish cipher bureau had developed a method to read Enigma signals and after June 1940, the Polish and French teams joined those in England at Bletchley Park.[10]
  4. ^ In early February, the lack of reference to Exercise Tiger, a US invasion rehearsal off Slapton Sands which was intercepted by E-boats, was thought to mean that the exercise did not imply an imminent invasion to the Germans.[13]
  5. ^ Early on 28 June, the 70th Brigade attacked towards Brettevillette, but counter-attacks by part of Kampfgruppe Weidinger delayed the British advance until the II SS Panzer Corps arrived, retook Brettevillete and formed a new defensive line around Rauray.[57][58] From 29–30 June, the 49th Division consolidated the area around Rauray, as the main counter-attack by II SS Panzer Corps against Operation Epsom took place further south.[59] On 1 July, Kampfgruppe Weidinger attacked Rauray frontally at 6:00 a.m. The 11th Durham Light Infantry and the 1st Tyneside Scottish eventually repulsed the attack and at 10:00 a.m. the Germans withdrew. At 11:00 a.m., Kampfgruppe Weidinger attacked again, but failed to breach the British line. An attack around noon by the 9th SS Panzer Division to the south made little progress and by 6:00 p.m. the Germans withdrew, leaving about thirty knocked-out armoured vehicles behind.[60]
  6. ^ The apparent poor performance of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was seen by Crocker as more evidence that Keller was unfit for his command. After the performance of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division in Operation Atlantic, Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds the II Canadian Corps commander, decided that Keller should retain his command.[78]
  7. ^ Liddell Hart was later criticized for trying to add to his reputation by proving that the Germans had been students of his pre-war thinking and that Allied generals had ignored his lessons.[117][118]
  8. ^ Marshall was posthumously exposed by Professor Roger Spiller, the Deputy Director of the Combat Studies Institute of the US Army Command and General Staff College as a fraud, who had fabricated his evidence.[120]
  9. ^ Controversy lingers over Montgomery’s intentions for the city of Caen.[124][125][126][127][128][129][130][131][132][133][134]


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  4. ^ Ellis 2004, pp. 24, 31, 33.
  5. ^ Ellis 2004, pp. 63–65.
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  8. ^ Brooks 2008, p. 99.
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  10. ^ a b Bennett 2009, pp. 21–22.
  11. ^ Bennett 2009, pp. 30, 48.
  12. ^ Bennett 2009, pp. 49–51.
  13. ^ Bennett 2009, p. 50.
  14. ^ a b Wilmot 1997, pp. 186–187.
  15. ^ Cooper 1978, pp. 496–497, 499.
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  18. ^ a b Copp 2004, pp. 36–37.
  19. ^ Copp 2004, p. 37.
  20. ^ D'Este 1994, p. 117.
  21. ^ McKee 1972, pp. 37–45.
  22. ^ Doherty 2004, p. 150.
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  30. ^ Buckley 2014, p. 59.
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  36. ^ Trew & Badsey 2004, p. 22.
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  48. ^ Fortin 2004, p. 69.
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  55. ^ Clark 2004, pp. 42, 65.
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  60. ^ Baverstock 2002, pp. 65–149.
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  65. ^ Ellis 2004, p. 277.
  66. ^ Clark 2004, p. 21.
  67. ^ Jackson 2006, p. 57.
  68. ^ Hart 2004, p. 108.
  69. ^ Clark 2004, p. 100.
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  71. ^ Copp 2004, p. 18.
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  73. ^ Jackson 2006, pp. 37, 40, 44, 53, 55, 59.
  74. ^ Clark 2004, pp. 107–109.
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  76. ^ Reynolds 2001, p. 146.
  77. ^ Copp 2004, pp. 98, 111–112.
  78. ^ Copp 2004, pp. 98, 113–115.
  79. ^ Trew & Badsey 2004, p. 38.
  80. ^ Stacey 1960, p. 157.
  81. ^ Wilmot 1997, p. 351.
  82. ^ Buckley 2006, p. 31.
  83. ^ Ellis 2004, p. 313.
  84. ^ Trew & Badsey 2004, pp. 34, 36–37.
  85. ^ Scarfe 2006, p. 70.
  86. ^ D'Este 2004, p. 313.
  87. ^ Trew & Badsey 2004, p. 37.
  88. ^ Copp 2004, pp. 103–105.
  89. ^ Wood 2007, p. 92.
  90. ^ a b British Ministry of Defence
  91. ^ Van der Vat 2003, p. 150.
  92. ^ D'Este 2004, p. 318.
  93. ^ Ellis 2004, p. 316.
  94. ^ Cawthorne 2005, p. 120.
  95. ^ Jackson 2006, pp. 61–62.
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  97. ^ Ellis 2004, p. 352.
  98. ^ Wilmot 1997, p. 264.
  99. ^ Williams 2004, p. 131.
  100. ^ Trew & Badsey 2004, p. 94.
  101. ^ Blumenson 1961, pp. 188–195.
  102. ^ Pogue 1954, p. 193.
  103. ^ Buckley 2014, pp. 109–110.
  104. ^ Bercuson 2004, p. 222.
  105. ^ Copp 2004, pp. 138–146.
  106. ^ Bercuson 2004, p. 223.
  107. ^ Stacey 1960, pp. 175–176.
  108. ^ Bercuson 2004, pp. 223–224.
  109. ^ Jarymowycz 2001, p. 132.
  110. ^ Stacey 1960, p. 176.
  111. ^ a b Buckley 2014, pp. 5−7.
  112. ^ Copp 2004, pp. 55–58.
  113. ^ Buckley 2014, p. 15.
  114. ^ a b c Buckley 2014, pp. 4−6.
  115. ^ French 2001, p. 2.
  116. ^ Buckley 2014, pp. 7−9.
  117. ^ Luvaas 1986, pp. 197–212.
  118. ^ Buckley 2006, p. 3.
  119. ^ Buckley 2014, pp. 9−10.
  120. ^ Copp 2004, p. 12.
  121. ^ Buckley 2014, pp. 10−11.
  122. ^ Buckley 2014, pp. 11−12.
  123. ^ Buckley 2014, pp. 12–13.
  124. ^ Powers 1992, pp. 455–471.
  125. ^ Eisenhower 1997, p. 266.
  126. ^ Baxter 1999, pp. 68–69.
  127. ^ Hixon 2003, pp. 149–162.
  128. ^ Keegan 2004, pp. 191–192.
  129. ^ Ellis 2004, pp. 355–356.
  130. ^ Williams 2004, p. 174.
  131. ^ Copp 2004, p. 84.
  132. ^ Hart 2007, pp. 71–72.
  133. ^ Carafano 2008, pp. 22–23.
  134. ^ D’Este 2015, pp. 579.
  135. ^ Buckley 2014, pp. 11−15.
  136. ^ Buckley 2014, pp. 15−17.
  137. ^ Buckley 2014, p. 17.
  138. ^ Buckley 2006, pp. 3–4.
  139. ^ Buckley 2006, p. 4.
  140. ^ Copp 2004, pp. 29–30.
  141. ^ Margolian 1998, p. x.
  142. ^ a b Margolian 1998, p. 120.
  143. ^ McKee 1972, p. 102.
  144. ^ Copp 2004, p. 67.
  145. ^ Meyer 2005, pp. 357, 372, 379.
  146. ^ Gray 2006, p. 158.
  147. ^ Beevor 2009, pp. 144–147.
  148. ^ Badsey 1990, pp. 53–54.
  149. ^ Beevor 2009, p. 146.
  150. ^ Beevor 2009, pp. 200–202.
  151. ^ Beevor 2009, pp. 266–269, 272, 315.
  152. ^ Gray 2006, pp. 166.
  153. ^ Baldoli & Knapp 2012, pp. 240.
  154. ^ Beevor 2009, p. 147.
  155. ^ Jarymowycz 2001, pp. 75–87.



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  • Cooper, Matthew (1978). The German Army 1939–1945: Its Political and Military Failure. New York: Stein and Day. ISBN 978-0-8128-2468-1. 
  • Copp, Terry (2004) [2003]. Fields of Fire: The Canadians in Normandy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-3780-0. 
  • Copp, T. (2007). The Brigade: The Fifth Canadian Infantry Brigade in World War II. Stackpole Military History. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole. ISBN 978-0-8117-3422-6. 
  • Daglish, I. (2007). Operation Epsom. Over the Battlefield. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military. ISBN 978-1-84415-562-0. 
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  • D’Este, Carlo (2015). Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-1-62779-961-4. 
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  • Luvaas, Jay (1986). "Clausewitz, Fuller and Liddell Hart". Journal of Strategic Studies. 9 (2–3): 197–212. ISSN 0140-2390. 
  • Powers, Stephen (July 1992). "The Battle of Normandy: The Lingering Controversy". 56. The Journal of Military History. ISSN 0899-3718. 

Further reading

  • Ambrose, Stephen (1994) [1993]. D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-67334-5. 
  • Anderson, Richard C. (2009). Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall: The 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day. Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-811-74271-9. 
  • Bernage, G. (2000). The Panzers & the Battle of Normandy: June 5th – July 20th, 1944. Bayeux: Editions Heidmal. ISBN 978-2-84048-135-5. 
  • Churchill, Winston (1951) [1948]. The Second World War: Closing the Ring. V. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. OCLC 396150. 
  • Copp, Terry; Vogel, Robert (1983). Maple Leaf Route: Caen. Alma. ISBN 978-0-919907-01-0. 
  • Daglish, Ian (2005). Operation Goodwood. Over the Battlefield. Barnsley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 978-1-84415-153-0. 
  • de Guingand, F. W. (1947). Operation Victory. London: Hodder and Stoughton. OCLC 869412591. 
  • Ford, Ken; Howard, Gerrard (2004). Caen 1944: Montgomery's Breakout Attempt. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84176-625-6. 
  • Ford, Ken; Zaloga, Steven J. (2009). Overlord: The D-Day Landings. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84603-424-4. 
  • Hastings, Max (2006) [1985]. Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy (repr. ed.). New York: Vintage Books USA. ISBN 978-0-307-27571-4. 
  • Martin, C. C.; Whitsed, R. (2008). Battle Diary: From D-Day and Normandy to the Zuider Zee and VE. Toronto: Dundurn Press. ISBN 978-1-55488-092-8. 
  • Montgomery, B. L. (1958). The Memoirs of Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, K. G. (Second impression ed.). London: Collins. OCLC 949243773. 
  • Neillands, R. (2003). The Battle of Normandy 1944: 1944 The Final Verdict. London: Cassell Military Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0-304-36563-0. 
  • Overy, Richard (1996). Why the Allies Won: Explaining Victory in World War II. London: Pimlico. ISBN 978-0-7126-7453-9. 
  • Pogue, F. C. (1950). "D-Day to the Breakout". The Supreme Command. United States Army in World War II The European Theater of Operations. Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army. OCLC 252766501. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  • Reid, Brian (2005). No Holding Back. Robin Brass Studio. ISBN 978-1-896941-40-0. 
  • Reid, Brian Holden (2014) [1997]. Military Power: Land Warfare in Theory and Practice. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-21966-6. 
  • Steiger, A. G. (1952). Invasion and Battle of Normandy, 6 June – 22 August 1944 (PDF). The Campaign in North-West Europe: Information from German Sources. II. Ottawa: Canadian Army, Army Historical Section. OCLC 32228446. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  • "The Drive on Caen: Northern France, 7 June – 9 July 1944" (PDF). Commemorative Booklets. London: Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  • "The Final Battle for Normandy: Northern France, 9 July – 30 August 1944" (PDF). Commemorative Booklets. London: Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 

External links

  • The Battle of Caen, 1944
  • Overview of the Battle for Caen
  • Caen: Stalingrad of the Hitler Youth
  • Caen Memorial
  • Abbaye d'Ardenne
  • Prison massacre 6 June 1944, Caen
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