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Battle for Caen Area Today

A map of the area around the battle positions

Battle for Caen summary

The Battle for Caen from June–August 1944 was a battle between Allied (primarily British and Canadian troops) and German forces during the Battle of Normandy.

  1. Operation Neptune. The first operation intended to capture Caen was the initial landings on Sword Beach by the 3rd Infantry Division on 6 June. Despite being able to penetrate the Atlantic Wall and push south the division was unable to reach the city, their final objectives according to the plan, and in fact fell short by 3.7 mi (6.0 km). The 21st Panzer Division launched several counterattacks during the afternoon which effectively blocked the road to Caen.
  2. Operation Perch. On 9 June, Caen was still in German hands, so General Montgomery decided on a new plan for 2nd Army. Caen would be taken by a pincer movement. Over the next few days XXX Corps battled for control of the town of Tilly-sur-Seulles, defended by the Panzer-Lehr Division and elements of the 12th SS Panzer Division, the allied forces became bogged down in the bocage.
  3. On the right flank of XXX Corps, the Germans were unable to resist American attacks and began to withdraw south. This opened a 7.5 mi (12.1 km) gap in the German frontline. Conscious of the opportunity presented, Dempsey ordered the 7th Armoured Division to exploit the opening in the German lines, seize the town of Villers-Bocage and advance into the Panzer-Lehr-Division's flank.
  4. After two days of intense fighting that included the Battle of Villers-Bocage, on 14 June the division's position was judged untenable and it was withdrawn.
  5. Le Mesnil-Patry. The last major Canadian operation of the month of June was directed at gaining high ground to the southwest of Caen, but ended in mixed results.
  6. Operation Martlet was a preliminary attack to support Operation Epsom was launched on 25 June by the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division of XXX Corps. Their objective was to secure ground on the flank of the intended advance. The attack gained some ground, however, the weather and muddy ground hampered the attack thus some of the dominating terrain on the right flank of the intended attack by VIII Corps was still in German hands.
  7. Operation Epsom. Supported by the tanks of the 31st Tank Brigade, the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division made steady progress, and by the end of the first day had largely overrun the German outpost line, although there remained some difficulties in securing the flanks of the advance. In heavy fighting over the following two days, a foothold was secured across the River Odon, and efforts were made to expand this by capturing strategic points around the salient and moving up the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division.
  8. In response to powerful German counterattacks by the I and II SS Panzer Corps, some of the British positions across the river were withdrawn by 30 June.
  9. Operation Windsor. he Canadians took the village of Carpiquet on 5 July.
  10. Operation Charnwood. On July 8, after repulsing several German counterattacks, the Canadians captured the airfield at Carpiquet and adjacents towns during major assaults.
  11. Having failed to take Caen during the preceding operations, Montgomery decided the next attempt to capture the city would be conducted by a frontal assault. On the morning of 9 July, Anglo-Canadian patrols began to infiltrate into the city. By noon, the Allied infantry had reached the Orne's northern bank, virtually destroying the 16th Luftwaffe Field Division in the process. By late afternoon the northern half of Caen was firmly under Allied control. Some bridges were still intact, but these were either blocked by rubble or defended by German troops on the south side of the river.
  12. Operation Jupiter. Lieutenant-General Richard O'Connor tried again to develop the bridgehead with Caen. The operation failed because of strong resistance from the Germans which had dug themselves in and were well prepared for the attack.
  13. Operation Goodwood. The area that had been selected was strategically poor. There were many small villages, and in each one there was a small German garrison, each connected by tunnels as well as many observation posts that could be used to watch the progress of the Allies. The operation did not go as planned for the Allies. They only gained some ground with have losses. However, tied down four German corps, which included important armoured divisions, at the moment when the Americans were about to launch Operation Cobra.