Operation Martlet

This was a British preliminary undertaking by Major General E. H. Barker’s 49th Division and Major General D. A. H. Graham’s 50th Division of Lieutenant General G. C. Bucknall’s XXX Corps of Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey’s 2nd Army to take Juvigny sur Seulles, Vendes and Rauray in order to prevent German counterattacks against the VIII Corps from the area of the Rauray spur as the latter corps launched ‘Epsom’, and then extend the attack toward Noyers and Aunay sur Odon in the Normandy lodgement area gained in ‘Overlord’ (25 June/1 July 1944).

Otherwise known as ‘Dauntless’, the two divisions’ attack was faced by the right flank of Generalmajor Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche und Camminetz’s Panzer-Lehr-Division and the left flank of SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Kurt Meyer’s 12th SS Panzerdivision ‘Hitlerjugend’ of General Hans Freiherr von Funck’s XLVII Panzerkorps within General Leo Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg’s Panzergruppe ‘West’ supported by between 60 and 80 88-mm (3.465-in) guns of General Wolfgang Pickert’s III Flakkorps. The attack failed to achieve its objectives by the end of 25 June, and the 49th Division therefore continued the operation until 1 July, when it defeated a counterattack by the Kampfgruppe ‘Weidinger’ of SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS Heinz Lammerding’s 2nd SS Panzerdivision ‘Das Reich’ and SS-Gruppenführer Wilhelm Bittrich’s (from 29 June Oberführer Thomas Müller’s) 9th SS Panzerdivision ‘Hohenstaufen’, which lost about  35 tanks and other armoured vehicles. SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Paul Hausser’s II SS Panzerkorps, which was to have undertaken a counter-offensive to the west of Caen towards Bayeux, was reduced to the static defence of the Odon river valley by the losses incurred during ‘Martlet’ and ‘Epsom’ as well as the threat of another British offensive near Caen.

The Norman capital city of Caen had been the most important D-Day objective of Lieutenant General J. T. Crocker’s I Corps of the 2nd Army, which was to take Caen and form a front between Caumont l’Eventé in the west and the area to the south-east of Caen to protect the eastern flank of Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley’s US 1st Army and form a start point for an advance to the south designed to take Falaise and then wheel toward Argentan and the line of the Touques river. Major General T. G. Rennie’s 3rd Division landed successfully on Sword Beach on 6 June but was stopped short of Caen by Generalleutnant Edgar Feuchtinger’s 21st Panzerdivision. ‘Perch’, which was a pincer attack by the I Corps and XXX Corps, began on 7 June in an effort to encircle Caen. The I Corps attacked to the south out of the bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Orne river, but was checked by the 21st Panzerdivision after advancing only a short distance, and the XXX Corps’ attack was halted to the west of Caen in the area lying to the north of Tilly sur Seulles by the Panzer-Lehr-Division. Major General G. W. E. J. Erskine’s 7th Armoured Division was shifted to the west and attacked through a gap on the right flank opened by the 50th Division and Major General Clarence R. Huebner’s US 1st Division, to force the Panzer-Lehr-Division to withdraw, and captured Villers Bocage. The battle for Villers Bocage was costly to each side and led to the vanguard of the 7th Armoured Division withdrawing from the town. By 17 June the Panzer-Lehr-Division had also been forced back, and the XXX Corps had taken Tilly sur Seulles.

Allied offensive operations were postponed after a major storm hit the English Channel on 19 June and delayed the development of the Allied forces in the Normandy lodgement for three days, leaving the Allies short of three divisions which should have landed in this period. ‘Dreadnought’ was to have been an attack by the VIII Corps attacked from the Orne river bridgehead to outflank Caen from the east and attack toward Evrecy, but was cancelled. Moreover, the adverse weather of 19/22 June grounded Allied aircraft, but the Germans were able to move the equivalent of two divisions as well as artillery and mortar units into Normandy, and this made it possible for them to improve their defences by strengthening infantry positions with minefields and posting some 70 pieces of 88-mm (3.465-in) anti-tank artillery in hedgerows and woods to cover the approaches to Caen.

Before dawn on 23 June, Major General D. C. Bullen-Smith’s 51st Division attacked Ste Honorine la Chardonnerette, captured the village and then repulsed a counterattack, in the process destroying 13 German tanks. Farther to the west, the VIII Corps, recently arrived from England, moved into the British line between the XXX Corps and I Corps. Planning for the ‘Epsom’ offensive by the VIII Corps in the area to the west of Caen on 26 June had begun, and a preliminary attack by the XXX Corps, designed to take high ground in the area to the west of the VIII Corps, was arranged for 25 June.

‘Epsom’ was vulnerable to German counterattack from the Rauray spur, which is the high ground to the west and overlooked Major General G. H. A. MacMillan’s 15th Division’s axis of advance around the village of Cheux so, on 25 June, the XXX Corps was to undertake ‘Martlet’ to take the Noyers area, and to deprive the Germans of the higher ground from which they could look out to the east and possibly counterattack the VIII Corps. When the flank of the VIII Corps had been secured, the XXX Corps was to attack to the south in the direction of Noyers and Aunay sur Odon.

The 49th Division was to reach its ‘Barracuda’ initial objective, on the road linking Juvigny and Fontenay, with a three-battalion attack and then push forward another 1,000 yards (915 m) to the south to its ‘Walrus’ second objective at Tessel Bretteville wood and the farm at St Nicholas with two fresh battalions. The division was then to advance to its ‘Albacore’ final objective at the village of Rauray and the Rauray spur, then establish a line from Rauray to Vendes and Juvigny sur Seulles, thereby securing the 15th Division’s right flank. The 49th Division planned to advance on a two-brigade front, with Brigadier J. F. Walker’s 146th Brigade on the right and Brigadier E. R. Mahony’s 147th Brigade on the left, to its first-phase objective at Fontenay and then to Rauray. Brigadier E. C. Cooke-Collis’s 70th Brigade was to be held back in reserve, and Brigadier H. F. S. Cracroft’s 8th Armoured Brigade was to provide support. An additional regiment of field artillery and a regiment of M10 tank destroyers were added to the divisional artillery, and for the first day five of the VIII Corps’ field artillery regiments and parts of two anti-aircraft brigades operating as ground artillery were made available to respond as an when required. The 50th Division was to maintain a firm front and be ready to follow up any German withdrawal.

Opposite the XXX Corps, the German front was held by the Panzer-Lehr-Division and the left flank of SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Kurt Meyer’s 12th SS Panzerdivision ‘Hitlerjugend’, which held a 7.5-mile (12-km) sector of the front from Epron, to the north of Caen, westward to Fontenay, with the support of between 60 and 80 88-mm (3.465-in) guns of the III Flakkorps, from St André sur Orne to Aunay sur Odon, with orders to engage Allied tanks at ranges greater than 2,185 yards (2000 m). To the south of the 49th Division, the German defences were held by the 3/26th SS Panzergrenadierregiment, commanded by SS-Obersturmbannführer Wilhelm Mohnke, and armoured elements of the 12th SS Panzerregiment of the 12th SS Panzerdivision. Both battalions were dug in behind large minefields and had camouflaged their positions well, but had been in action since the ‘Overlord’ invasion and were tired. The division had suffered about 2,550 casualties, about half of its infantry, by 24 June, and on this date the division had about 58 PzKpfw IV and 44 PzKpfw V Panther battle tanks as well as an unknown number of the 10 Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyers which had been on strength on 6 June. The Panzer-Lehr-Division had about 33 PzKpfw IV and 30 Panther tanks as well as an unspecified number of the 40 Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyers and Sturmgeschütz III self-propelled assault guns which had been on strength on 1 June. Since the start of ‘Overlord’, the division had lost some 2,300, most from its infantry, and was scheduled for relief, as soon as Generalleutnant Kurt Badinski’s 276th Division arrived from Belgium, so that it could be refitted.

‘Martlet’ began at 04.15 on 25 June with a massed artillery bombardment which fell just ahead of the 49th Division’s start line. At 05.00 the bombardment began to creep forward and the infantry advanced. There was a thick ground mist, which reduced visibility to about 15 ft (4.6 m) in some places. In the 146th Brigade’s area, on the right flank, the 4/Lincolns and tanks of the 24th Lancers advanced, and after one hour these units’ field radios became ineffective and the infantry struggled to keep direction, shouting to identify themselves as they advanced through the mist, smoke and exploding mortar bombs. A group of German half-track vehicles was met and destroyed with hand grenades as the battalion reached the ‘Barracuda’ line. As the sun rose, visibility increased to 180 ft (55 m), and the day began to become sunny and hot. On the left of 146th Brigade, the Hallamshire Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment took compass bearings every few yards of their advance and reached the ‘Barracuda’ line on the road linking Fontenay and Tessel-Bretteville, from which it came under fire from tanks of the 8th Kompanie of the 2/12th SS Panzerregiment and two companies of the 3/26th SS Panzergrenadierregiment.

The Hallamshire Battalion destroyed a pair of German tanks with its 6-pdr anti-tank guns, and then advanced laterally in both directions along the road, westward to Le Pont de Juvigny and eastward to Fontenay, through shell and mortar fire. At noon 1/Tyneside Scottish moved up to Le Haut d’Audrieu to consolidated the area, and the 1/4th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry advanced with the 24th Lancers through the 4/Lincolns, from the hamlet of Bas de Fontenay, to the west of the village of Fontenay, along the Juvigny road to the ‘Walrus’ objective at Tessel-Bretteville wood on the spur to the north of Vendes. The infantry advanced uphill and covered 100 yards (90 m) in four minutes behind a dense creeping bombardment, when a bombardment by German Nebelwerfer artillery rockets began, slowing the advance and causing many casualties. The battalion eventually advanced 1 mile (1.6 km) to the edge of the wood, where a counterattack was driven back and the 24th Lancers knocked out two German tanks.

On the left flank, in the area of the 147th Brigade, the 11/Royal Scots Fusiliers advanced toward the ‘Barracuda’ objective on the northern edge of Fontenay, disappeared into the mist and immediately suffered many casualties. The men held on to each other to maintain direction, and when the sun rose and cleared the mist, snipers and machine gunners began to inflict more losses. The survivors reached Fontenay and began a hand-to-hand fight through the village before coming under fire from Parc de Boislonde to the north-east and finding it impossible to advance beyond the road to Tilly. At 20.20 the 7/Duke of Wellington’s Regiment advanced through the remnants of the 11/RSF and continued the attack on the village as the 3/26th SS Panzergrenadierregiment, which had been reinforced by units despatched from Caen by the 21st Panzerdivision and from Vendes by the Panzer-Lehr-Division, maintained their hold on the woods and the eastern end of the village. Hand-to-hand fighting continued in the village right through the night.

By the fall of night on 25 June, the 49th Division had established itself along a line extending approximately to the south-west from Fontenay, about 1 mile (1.6 km) short of Rauray and the high ground which provided the Germans with observation positions over the VIII Corps area. Cloud cover began to increase as plans were made for the 1/Tyneside Scottish to attack Rauray at dawn.

On the western flank of the XXX Corps, the 50th Division had managed to advance only a short distance to the south of Tilly sur Seulles. German reserves behind the front opposite the VIII Corps had been moved to the west to reinforce the defenders attacked by the XXX Corps, which was believed by the Germans to be advancing along the main axis of the British offensive, and to counterattack on 26 June. The weekly situation report by Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel’s Heeresgruppe ‘B’ for 19/26 June recorded that a gap 3.1 miles (5 km) wide and 1.2 miles (2 km) deep had been driven into the junction of the defences of the Panzer-Lehr-Division and the 12th SS Panzerdivision.

On 26 June, Cooke-Collis’s 70th Brigade and Cracroft’s 8th Armoured Brigade prepared to advance to the south of Fontenay at 06.50, and ‘Epsom’ was scheduled to start farther to the west at 07.30. On the left flank of the 49th Division, the 7/Duke of Wellingtons and the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry attacked toward the ‘Walrus’ position with the St Nicholas farm, about 0.5 mile (0.8 km) away, as their first objective. The German garrison and hidden tanks repulsed the attack until 15.50, when a second attempt followed a 20-minute artillery barrage and succeeded in taking the farm and ground beyond it, from which the tanks of the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry advanced to the crossroads lying to the north of Rauray. The 11/Durham Light Infantry arrived at 21.00 and consolidated the position. A patrol operated forward toward the edge of the village, in anticipation of a German night counterattack, but found that despite a fighter-bomber attack with rockets during the day, the village was full of German infantry and that the woods nearby were held by German tanks.

In the centre, the 1/Tyneside Scottish and 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards prepared to attack La Grande Ferme, with their right flank protected by the 24th Lancers and the 12/King’s Royal Rifle Corps (Motor) of the 8th Armoured Brigade making an advance towards Tessel-Bretteville. The attack began with less artillery support, because much of the extra artillery made available on 25 June had reverted to support of the VIII Corps. German return fire from tanks and concealed machine guns forced the infantry to take cover under banked hedge lines, but these had been pre-ranged by Nebelwerfer units and were immediately bombarded. The rockets hit trees and hedges nearby and sent lethal wood splinters everywhere. Beyond Le Bordel Rau stream, the Germans had dug in four tanks, which checked the attack, A company of infantry garrisoned La Grande Ferme, and infantry reinforcements from the 21st Panzerdivision dug in around the Bois de Tessel. The British managed to cross the stream at about 12.00, but were then pinned down and six tanks of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guard tanks knocked out as they attacked the farm. At 16.00 the infantry was withdrawn 3 miles (4.8 km) to Le Haut d’Audrieu, leaving a small party which reached the farm.

The 12/KRRC (Motor), mounted mainly in M3 half-track and Universal Carrier vehicles, attacked toward Tessel-Bretteville as the Sherman medium tanks of the 24th Lancers, moved past the eastern side of the Bois de Tessel. The British were engaged by the German armour at La Grande Ferme and others near Tessel-Bretteville. Two Panther tanks met the leading squadron of the 24th Lancers, one tank of each side being hit and set on fire. The advance was limited by the bocage combination of high-set hedges and sunken lanes, but reached Le Bordel Rau stream and then the western end of the village before conceding to the number of tanks and other vehicles it had lost and therefore retiring to the Bois de Tessel under a smoke screen. In the course of the night, two companies of the 2/192nd Panzergrenadierregiment of the 21st Panzerdivision arrived to strengthen the defences of the Panzer-Lehr-Division near Vendes, which remained in German hands for the duration of the operation. This division had been engaged briefly with elements of the 146th Brigade, but in general was still concentrated against the 50th Division on the 49th Division’s right flank.

At 07.00 on 27 June, a patrol of the 11/DLI and tanks of the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry began to probe into Rauray against the infantry of the 3/26th SS Panzergrenadierregiment and flanking fire from tanks and 88-mm (3.465-in) guns, which knocked out several tanks and forced the rest to withdraw. A platoon of the 11/DLI fought its way into the centre of the village, but the rest of the battalion was bombarded by mortar fire, directed by an observer concealed up a tree. After an artillery bombardment at 11.00, the men of the 11/DLI fixed bayonets and advanced in line abreast against machine gun and sniper fire, which caused many casualties and led at 12.00 to the arrangement of a truce so that each sides could recover its wounded. The British attack was renewed at 14.00, and by 16.00 the village had been captured. To the west of Tessel-Bretteville, the Hallamshire Battalion attacked toward Vendes from the Bois de Tessel but made little progress, and preparations were therefore made to attack Brettevillette on the following day.

At 06.50 on 28 June, a barrage by four field artillery regiments and the guns of the five Army Groups Royal Artillery began, and on the left flank the attack by the 10/DLI and the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards resumed through the positions of the 11/DLI in Rauray in the direction of the high ground to the south of the village, and here the fighting continued right through the day. At 07.00, in the centre, the 1/Tyneside Scottish advanced through the bocage close behind the creeping barrage toward the objective of Brettevillette to the south-west of Rauray. The battalion reached the ‘Jock’ first objective at Tessel-Bretteville after a 40-minute advance, and here two companies consolidated and two pushed on toward the ‘Jones’ final objective at Brettevillette behind another creeping barrage. There was intense German machine gun fire, and the rear of the battalion was bombarded by artillery and mortars, but the advance continued and by 14.30 the battalion had entered the village. After 30 minutes the British were counterattacked by SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Weidinger’s Kampfgruppe ‘Weidinger’ (two Panzergrenadier battalions and three Panzergrenadier support companies) of the 2nd SS Panzerdivision ‘Das Reich’, which had arrived on the previous day from the area to the south of St Lô and relieved the 12th SS Panzerdivision in the area to the west of Rauray. Supported by a Panther company of Generalleutnant Heinrich Freiherr von Luttwitz’s 2nd Panzerdivision, the Kampfgruppe ‘Weidinger’ made mutually costly counterattacks for several hours as the 1/Tyneside Scottish tried to consolidate its hold on the village. Eventually the battalion had been withdrawn to Tessel-Bretteville by 21.00, leaving one advanced company dug in some 400 yards (365 m) to the north of Brettevillette. By recovering the village and holding Queudeville to its south, the Kampfgruppe ‘Weidinger’ had kept open an avenue from Noyers-Bocage for a forthcoming counter-offensive by the II SS Panzerkorps against the VIII Corps’ salient to the east.

The weather on the morning of 29 June was bright and clear, which allowed Allied aircraft to fly a large number of ground-attack and reconnaissance flights: the latter indicated that many German reinforcements were heading for the Odon river area. The counter-offensive by the II SS Panzerkorps took place to the south of the 49th Division’s positions on each side of the Odon river, between Queudeville and Evrecy, against the VIII Corps’ salient. The XXX Corps provided artillery support to the VIII Corps and prepared to defend the area round Rauray. The 1/Tyneside Scottish found that any movement attracted the massed mortar fire of the Kampfgruppe ‘Weidinger’, and a tank periodically harassed the company dug in to the north of the village. This company was withdrawn to avoid an artillery barrage before an attack on the village by the 11/DLI. As soon as they spotted the move, the Germans fired a Nebelwerfer bombardment which caused many casualties. The battalion was relieved at 06.00 on 30 June by the 4/Lincolns. Nebelwerfer and artillery fire descended on the 10/DLI and 4th/7th Dragoon Guards in the area to the south of Rauray during the day, and several tanks were lost while reconnoitring the forward slope. On 30 June, the two DLI battalions were relieved at Rauray by the 1/Tyneside Scottish, which in the evening sent out patrols.

A survey of the area round Rauray led the 1/Tyneside Scottish to select a location to the east and south-east of ‘ring contour 110’ in front of its A and B Companies, as this offered the only good field of observation over a tank-killing ground covered by four 6-pdr anti-tank guns by the evening. Patrols were sent out, but these discovered little because of the poor fields of vision in the bocage country. The 11/RSF held the right flank near Juvigny, in touch with the 50th Division to the west and the 1/4th KOYLI to the east, who were at the western edge of the Bois de Tessel. The Hallamshire Battalion held the south-western corner of the wood, a little to the north of Vendes and linked with the 4/Lincolns at Tessel-Bretteville. The 11/DLI was dug in near Rauray and linked with the 1/Tyneside Scottish on the high ground at ‘ring contour 110’.

To the east, across the divisional and corps boundary along the road to Le Haut du Bosq, the 6/King’s Own Scottish Borderers of the 15th Division was dug in on the southern side of the road, which was an obvious axis of attack against the VIII Corps. Only the units near ‘ring contour 110’ had a relatively unhampered fields of vision, those of the other battalions being severely restricted by banks, hedgerows and trees. The three artillery regiments of the 49th Division, the tanks of the 24th Lancers, the anti-tank guns of the 217th Anti-Tank Regiment, two dummy 6-pdr anti-tank guns and the machine guns of the 2/Princess Louise’s Kensington Regiment were made readied to support infantry. Radio intelligence gleaned from the II SS Panzerkorps led to an attack by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris’s RAF Bomber Command in which the bombers dropped 1,300 tons of bombs during the evening on suspected German tank concentrations at Villers Bocage, obliterating the little town in 12 minutes in a process reinforced by a naval and artillery bombardment.

During the night of 30 June/1 July there was much activity and the sound of tracked vehicles behind the German front. The 50th Division had continued its attacks to the south-west of Tilly la Campagne and captured Hottot les Bagues twice before losing to counterattacks. Some 4 miles (6.4 km) to the west, Longraye had been captured. In the morning Brigadier E. C. Pepper’s 56th Brigade of the 21st Army Group, on the right flank of the 50th Division, assumed responsibility for the line to the north of Bois de St Germain and Crauville, and began a programme of strong patrols against the infantry of Generalleutnant Albert Praun’s 277th Division and the tanks of von Luttwitz’s 2nd Panzerdivision in preparation for an attack on the wood on 8 July. The Germans had planned a major attack against the VIII Corps’ salient to start at 03.00 on 1 July, using the Kampfgruppe ‘Weidinger’ and Müller’s 9th SS Panzerdivision, but Müller was wounded by artillery fire and failed to pass on the attack order in time. It was also found that the tanks of the 9th SS Panzerregiment had pulled back after the fall of night and the attack had to be postponed until 06.00.

At 24.00 a bombardment of the British positions by mortars and artillery began, and British patrols reported that tanks could be heard to the south of Brettevillette. Soon after this, the 1/Tyneside Scottish was ordered to ready itself for action after the sun had risen at 05.01. At 06.00 the Kampfgruppe ‘Weidinger’, with the 9th SS Panzerregiment, 19th SS Panzergrenadierregiment and 20th SS Panzergrenadierregiment of the 9th SS Panzerdivision began to advance through a smoke screen towards Ferme des Cigognes, to the south of Le Haut du Bosq on the road to Cheux. Groups of five tanks, accompanied by Panzergrenadier troopers, advanced and fired on the British infantry as the troops deployed and then moved forward. Other groups advanced on an arc from the east to the north-east into the defences of the 6/KOSB and the 4/Lincolns from Rauray to Tessel-Bretteville. The 24th Lancers and the divisional artillery opened fire, as German tank-infantry groups emerged from the smoke screen at about 06.45.

The terrain around Noyers was of the typical bocage type with small fields, orchards, tall banked hedges and sunken roads, but the approaches to Cheux were open, and a gentle slope up to the Rauray spur culminated in ‘ring contour 110’, where the 1/Tyneside Scottish had its outpost line. The cart track from Noyers to Cheux was the centreline of the attack, in which the German tactics reflected the vulnerability of tanks and infantry once they emerged from the bocage, against which the British responded with anti-tank fire from camouflaged positions, although to gain adequate fields of fire the guns were emplaced close to hedgerows, which disclosed the approximate position of the guns. German fire on the anti-tank positions increased in accuracy during the engagement and the guns were steadily destroyed. The German artillery alternated high explosive and smoke bombardments so that the tanks could emerge from the smoke screen, engage suspected British positions and then move forward with infantry support. The British field artillery then forced the German tanks and infantry pull back and seek cover, while the German artillery resumed the high explosive bombardment. However, each German thrust inflicted casualties on the British and advanced farther forward. German snipers and parties of machine gunners also infiltrated the British outpost line around Rauray and the 1/Tyneside Scottish.

By 11.00 the British outpost line had been overrun on both sides of the track. The line of 17-pdr heavy anti-tank guns of the 344th Anti-Tank Battery RA near Le Haut du Bosq became the front line despite the restricted view available to the gunners. When A Company of the 1/Tyneside Scottish was forced back into the 6/KOSB area, German tanks and Panzergrenadier elements swung to the north, 300 yards (275 m) behind B Company, where they were engaged by tanks of the 21st Lancers. Six German tanks were knocked out and the advance was stopped.

British artillery fire was called down in the area round Brettevillette, much of this fire in response to calls by artillery observers falling into the area ahead of the 1/Tyneside Scottish and 7/KOSB. During the afternoon, an artillery observer in the Belleval Château saw German tanks forming up in a triangular wood and called for artillery fire that was increased incrementally to that of all 72 guns of the three divisional field artillery regiments and finally to all of the medium and heavy guns of the VIII Corps (240 field, 16 medium and 16 heavy guns). A similar call was made on the artillery of the XXX Corps (96 field, 64 medium and 16 heavy guns), and thus a huge bombardment fell on the Germans as they were forming up. Later in the day, British troops reoccupied the outpost line, supported by Churchill Crocodile flamethrowing tanks, which torched hedgerows and forced into the open the German infantry, many of whom ran back rather than attempt to surrender, and were shot down. On the front of the 10/DLI, 11/DLI and 4/Lincolns, German infiltrators were able to encroach on defensive positions but were pushed out by counterattacks, which were costly for both sides. C Squadron of the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry lost two tanks in support of the 10/DLI, and the 55th Anti-Tank Regiment RA, which was deployed behind the two DLI battalions, knocked out six Panther tanks.

In overall terms, ‘Martlet’ had achieved its purpose in distracting and inflicting damage on the German forces by which it was opposed, and German armour in the area had been sent to the west in order to counterattack in an effort to close the gap forced by the 49th Division, leaving this armour out of position when the main attack by VIII Corps began.

In June, the assembly of the 2nd SS Panzerdivision in Normandy was incomplete, and on 1 July the division had 17,283 men, of whom only 11,195 were at the front. The Kampfgruppe ‘Weidinger’ and the 9th SS Panzerdivision defended the Rauray spur and participated in the counter-offensive against ‘Epsom’: by 1 July the Kampfgruppe ‘Weidinger’ had lost 108 men killed, 408 wounded and 126 missing, while the 9th SS Panzerdivision suffered 1,145 casualties. The number of PzKpfw IV tanks declined from 41 to nine in June and rose to 10 on 2 July, the number Panther tanks fell from 27 to 19 between 30 June and 2 July, and the number of StuG III self-propelled assault guns fell from 38 to 22 in June and to 19 on 2 July. The left flank units and reinforcements from the 12th SS Panzerdivision were engaged in the defence of the ground attacked by the XXX Corps and from 24 June to 11 July the division lost something in the order of  2,935 men, 1,240 of them in the three days to 1 July inclusive. From 24 June to 2 July the number of operational tanks fell from 58 to 32 PzKpfw IV and 44 to 24 Panther tanks, an unknown number of Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyers was also lost.

The Panzer-Lehr-Division was slowly relieved by the 276th Division between 26 June and 5 July, and suffered 2,972 casualties in June. From 24 to 26 June the number of its operational tanks fell from 33 to 27 PzKpfw Iv and from 30 to 26 Panther machines; the number of Jagdpanzer IV and StuG III losses is unknown. By 1 July, availability had recovered to 36 PzKpfw IV, 32 Panther and 28 Jagdpanzer IV and StuG III machines. The 21st Panzerdivision lost 254 infantrymen between 24 and 30 June, and another 557 men by 6 July. From 21 June to 1 July the division’s number of operational PzKpfw IV tanks fell from 76 to 61, although it is not known which of these were losses resulting from action against the XXX Corps in ‘Martlet’.

The 49th Division’s casualties were 400 men of the 1/Tyneside Scottish, about 200 men of the 11/DLI, 150 men of the 10/DLI and 22 dead in the 4/Lincolns.

The 49th Division held the line around Rauray defensively for almost a month, except for a diversionary attack around Juvigny during the 2nd Battle of the Odon (‘Greenline’ and ‘Pomegranate’). On 30 July, the division was transferred from the XXX Corps to the I Corps and occupied part of the bridgehead to the east of the Orne river, and advanced to the Seine river from this. The 12th SS Panzerdivision, severely battered in ‘Epsom’, continued fighting against further British offensives at Carpiquet airfield (‘Windsor’), Caen (‘Charnwood’) and in ‘Goodwood’. The division settled in a position to the south-east of Caen in the middle of July, and from here it was gradually forced back by the later Anglo-Canadian offensives. The 9th SS Panzerdivision remained in the Odon river valley, holding Hill 112 against the 43rd Division during ‘Jupiter’, and was later pushed back into the Falaise pocket.