The '2nd Battle of the Odon River' was fought between the forces of Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey’s British 2nd Army and General Heinrich Eberbach’s German Panzergruppe 'West' within the 'Overlord' campaign that followed the 'Neptune' (iii) amphibious assault on the coast of Normandy in north-western France (15/17 July 1944).
The battle comprised a number of related operations, including 'Greenline' and 'Pomegranate' (ii), in the middle of July 1944, and was designed to draw German attentions and forces away from the 'Goodwood' (i) offensive from the Orne river bridgehead on 18 July. The British also wished to prevent the Germans from withdrawing any of the Panzer divisions opposite the 2nd Army to create an armoured reserve which could oppose Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley’s US 1st Army during the imminent 'Cobra' breakout from the Normandy lodgement farther to the west. The operations in the Odon river valley kept three German armoured divisions on the front to the west of Caen, and thus away from the 'Goodwood' (i) battlefield to the east of the Orne river.
The Normandy city of Caen was a D-Day objective for Major General G. T. Rennie’s British 3rd Division, which landed on 'Sword' Beach on 6 June 1944. While known to be ambitious, the capture of Caen was the most important D-Day objective assigned to Lieutenant General J. T. Crocker’s British I Corps. 'Overlord' called for the British 2nd Army to secure the city and then form a front between Caumont l’Eventé and an area to the south-east of Caen in order to protect the left flank of the US 1st Army at the western end of the beach-head and occupy ground suitable for the establishment of airfields for the tactical air forces. Caen and its surroundings would give the 2nd Army a jumping-off point for an advance to the south for the seizure of Falaise, and for a swing to the right to advance on Argentan and the Touques river.
The terrain between Caen and Vimont was regarded as especially promising for mobile operations as it was both open and dry. Since the Allied forces greatly outnumbered those of the Germans in tanks and mobile units, a battle of manoeuvre would be to their advantage. However, hampered by congestion in the beach-head that delayed the deployment of its armoured support and forced a diversion of effort to attacks on strongly held German positions along the 9.3-mile (15-km) route to the city, the 3rd Division was unable to assault Caen in force, and advanced no further than the Bois de Lebisey Wood. 'Perch', a pincer attack by the I Corps and Lieutenant General G. T. Bucknall’s XXX Corps, began on 7 June with the intention of encircling Caen from the east and west: the I Corps attacked to the south from the Orne river bridgehead but was halted by Generalleutnant Edgar Feuchtinger’s 21st Panzerdivision after advancing a short distance, and the attack by the XXX Corps bogged down in front of Tilly sur Seulles, to the west of Caen, against the defences of Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein’s Panzer-Lehrdivision.
Between 7 and 14 June, the XXX Corps attacked to manoeuvre behind the Panzer-Lehrdivision. Major General G. W. E. J. Erskine’s 7th Armoured Division pushed through a gap in the German front caused by the success of Major General Clarence R. Huebner’s US 1st Division and occupied Villers Bocage on the road to Caen from the west. The vanguard of the 7th Armoured Division was eventually withdrawn from the town, but by 17 June the Panzer-Lehrdivision had been forced back and the XXX Corps had taken Tilly sur Seulles. Another operation was intended until 19 June, when a severe three-day storm in the English Channel effectively destroyed one of the two 'Mulberry' artificial harbours on which the Allies were dependent, and delayed the Allied build-up: most of the convoys of landing craft and ships already at sea were driven back to ports in southern England, towed barges and other loads, including 2.5 miles (4 km) of floating roadways for the 'Mulberry' harbours were lost, and 800 craft were stranded on the Normandy beaches until July.
In 'Epsom', otherwise the '1st Battle of the Odon River' on 26/30 June, Lieutenant General Sir Richard O’Connor’s VIII Corps was to advance to the south on the XXX Corps' left flank, to the west of Caen and across the Odon and Orne rivers, to take the high ground near Bretteville sur Laize, to the south of Caen. The attack was preceded by 'Martlet', also known as 'Dauntless', by the XXX Corps in order to secure the western flank of the VIII Corps through the seizure of the high ground of the Rauray 'spur'. The German defenders managed to contain the offensive in the vicinity of Hill 112 by committing all their armoured units, including the two panzer divisions of SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Paul Hausser’s II SS Panzerkorps, newly arrived in Normandy and intended for a counter-offensive against British and US positions around Bayeux.
'Jupiter (ii) on 10/11 July was another attack by the VIII Corps to capture Baron sur Odon, Fontaine Etoupefour and Château de Fontaine and to take the rest of Hill 112. Following the capture of these objectives, the VIII Corps was to take Eterville, Maltot and the ground as far as the Orne river. Tanks from the 4th Armoured Brigade supported by infantry, would then advance through the captured ground and secure several villages to the west of the River Orne. It was hoped that all first phase objectives could be captured by 09.00 on the first day and then elements of Brigadier R. M. P. Carver’s 4th Armoured Brigade could start the second phase. The opening phase was successful, but the battle for Hill 112 went on all day and the village of Maltot changed hands several times.
On 14 July, General Sir Bernard Montgomery, commander-in-chief of the Allied 21st Army Group, despatched his military assistant to London to brief the Director of Military Operations that 'The real object is to muck up and write off enemy troops. On the eastern flank [Montgomery] is aiming to do the greatest damage to enemy armour. All the activities on the eastern flank are designed to help the [US] forces in the west while ensuring that a firm bastion is kept in the east. At the same time all is ready to take advantage of any situation which gives reason to think that the enemy is disintegrating.'
The US 1st Army had attacked down the western coast of the Cotentin peninsula but made little progress there or farther inland early in July. The discovery that infantry reinforcements and the Panzer-Lehrdivision had reached the US front made it important that British operations at the eastern end of the lodgement continued in order to prevent more transfers before the US 1st Army resumed its offensive on 19 July.
As preparations were made for 'Goodwood' (i), which was then postponed for one day from 17 July, particularly a regrouping on 12/13 July, the 2nd Army planned two preliminary operations to prevent Panzergruppe 'West' from using four infantry divisions, recently arrived in Normandy, to relieve Panzer divisions defending against the 2nd Army and re-create an armoured reserve. The three British armoured divisions and seven tank and armoured brigades faced six Panzer divisions and three heavy tank battalions. The British units were at full strength, but the German units had suffered considerable attritional losses and was finding it very difficult to replace these. The German defences had been prepared in depth on the basis of the terrain, minefields, a substantial number of long-range anti-tank guns and three Nebelwerfer artillery rocket-launcher brigades. In the 2nd Army opposite Panzergruppe 'West', the VIII Corps was in reserve with Major General A. H. S. Adair’s Guards Armoured Division, the 7th Armoured Division and Major General G. P. Roberts’s 11th Armoured Division. On the right flank, between Caumont and Rauray, the XXX Corps had Major General E. H. Barker’s 49th Division, Major General D. A. H. Graham’s 50th Division and Major General L. O. Lyne’s 59th Division, supported by Colonel A. D. R. Wingfield’s 8th Armoured Brigade and Brigadier H. B. Scott’s 33rd Armoured Brigade, which faced General Hans Freiherr von Funck’s XLVII Panzerkorps with Generalleutnant Kurt Badinski’s 276th Division and Generalleutnant Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz’s 2nd Panzerdivision, awaiting the arrival of Generalleutnant Viktor von Drabich-Wächter’s 326th Division from Generaloberst Hans von Salmuth’s 15th Army to allow the 2nd Panzerdivision to be withdrawn into reserve.
In the Odon river salient, the XII Corps with Major General G. H. A. MacMillan’s 15th Division, Major General G. I. Thomas’s 43rd Division and Major General R. K. Ross’s 53rd Division, supported by Brigadier R. M. P. Carver’s 4th Armoured Brigade, Brigadier G. S. Knight’s 31st Tank Brigade and Brigadier W. S. Clarke’s 34th Tank Brigade, were opposed by the II SS Panzerkorps comprising Generalleutnant Paul Danhauser’s 271st Division, Generalleutnant Albert Praun’s 277th Division, SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS Heinz Harmel’s 10th SS Panzerdivision 'Frundsberg' and SS-Sturmbannführer Hans Weiss’s 102nd SS schwere Panzerabteilung, with SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Sylvester Stadler’s 9th SS Panzerdivision 'Hohenstaufen' in reserve.
In the Caen sector, Lieutenant General G. G. Simonds’s Canadian II Corps with Major General C. Foulkes’s Canadian 2nd Division and Major General R. F. L. Keller’s Canadian 3rd Division, with Brigadier R. A. Wyman’s Canadian 2nd Armoured Brigade, was opposite SS-Oberstgruppenführer und Generaloberst der Waffen-SS Josef Dietrich’s I SS Panzerkorps with Generalleutnant Friedrich-August Schack’s 272nd Division, SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Theodor Wisch’s 1st SS Panzerdivision 'Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler' and SS-Obersturmbannführer Heinz von Westerhagen’s 101st SS schwere Panzerabteilung, with SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Kurt Meyer’s 12th SS Panzerdivision 'Hitlerjugend' in reserve. To the east of Caen the I Corps was opposed by General Bruno Bieler’s LXXXVI Corps. Behind the German defences General Wolfgang Pickert’s III Flakkorps, the 7th Werferbrigade, the 8th Werferbrigade most of the 9th Werferbrigade and the 654th Panzerjägerabteilung were in reserve.
The XII Corps and XXX Corps planned holding operations on the left flank in the Odon river valley between Tilly sur Seulles in the west to Caen in the east, to improve their positions and to deceive the German command that the expected British offensive would be launched in the area to the west of the Orne river, while 'Goodwood' (i) was being prepared in the area to the east of the river. On 15 July, the XII Corps was to attack from the Odon river salient to establish a secure jumping-off line, along the road running south-east from Bougy through Evrecy, for a later advance to the south-west in the direction of Aunay or south-east toward Thury Harcourt. On the following day, the XXX Corps was to start operations to take ground around Noyers, ready to reach the high ground to the north-east of Villers Bocage.
The XII Corps, comprising the 15th Division, reinforced by one brigade of the 53rd Division and the 34th Tank Brigade, the 43rd Division and the other two brigades of the 53rd Division, was to attack in 'Greenline' at 21.30 on 15 July, using 'Monty’s Moonlight', searchlight beams reflected from clouds to illuminate the ground. The two brigades of the 53rd Division were to secure a start line for the 43rd Division to attack towards Hill 112 and drive a corridor to the Orne river via Bougy, Evrecy and Maizet, ready to advance on Aunay sur Odon or Thury Harcourt should there be a German withdrawal. Farther to the west, the XXX Corps was to undertake 'Pomegranate' (ii) from 16 July: on the right, the 49th Division was to capture Vendes and the surrounding area, in the centre the 59th Division was to capture the villages of Noyers Bocage, Haut des Forges and Landelle, and on the left the 53rd Division was to attack, ready for the corps to advance toward the high ground to the north-east of Villers Bocage.
On 29 June, during the British 'Epsom' offensive, Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, the Oberbefehlshaber 'West', and Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, the commander of Heeresgruppe 'B', had met with Adolf Hitler and been told to maintain the defence of Normandy. The German commanders were also ordered to organise a counter-offensive against the British salient. On their return from Germany, they received reports from Hausser, commander of the 7th Army since the suicide of Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann on 28 June, and General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg, commander of the Panzergruppe 'West', urging a withdrawal from Caen to a new line beyond the range of Allied naval guns. The proposals were forwarded to Hitler, and on 2 July von Rundstedt was sacked and replaced by Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge, and two days later Geyr von Schweppenburg was dismissed and replaced by Eberbach.
On 8 July, Hitler issued a new directive requiring the front in Normandy to be maintained since the German forces lacked the tactical mobility for a battle of manoeuvre and an Allied invasion in the Pas de Calais region was believed to be imminent. von Kluge made a tour of inspection and ordered that the existing positions be maintained, that they be increased in depth by the use of every available man for labour, and that a new counter-offensive by the seven Panzer divisions be prepared against the Odon river salient for 1 August, by which date the infantry divisions arriving in Normandy must have completed the relief of the Panzer divisions. The offensive was to be conducted on a 3-mile (4.8-km) front from Grainville sur Odon to Juvigny sur Seulles, with the object of reaching Luc sur Mer behind Caen. (Rommel thought the plan unrealistic and on 16 July wrote to Hitler predicting that the Normandy front would soon collapse. Next day, his car was strafed by Allied aircraft and he himself was wounded, which ended his service in Normandy.)
On the left flank of the 15th Division, the crossroads at le Bon Repos and the higher ground overlooking Esquay Notre Dame were attacked by the 2/Glasgow Highlanders of Brigadier J. R. Mackintosh-Walker’s 227th Brigade, supported by Churchill infantry tanks of the 107th Royal Armoured Corps of the 34th Tank Brigade and the 141st Royal Armoured Corps of Major General Sir Percy Hobart’s 79th Armoured Division, equipped with the Churchill AVRE engineering tank and Churchill Crocodile flamethrower tank. The Scots advanced from the north-east, south-west over the northern slope of Hill 112, toward the defences of the 3/21st SS Panzergrenadierregiment. As the infantry emerged from dead ground they were met by concentrated mortar fire, which temporarily disorganised the battalion, as did a smoke screen placed on Hill 112, which had merged with fog and covered the area.
The Scottish battalion crossed its start line on time at 21.30 and captured the SS survivors of a flame attack by the Crocodiles on the road running from Croix des Filandriers to le Bon Repos. The advance continued downhill covered by fire from the 107th RAC’s Churchills on higher ground just to the south of Baron. Esquay had been captured by 23.00, but was not held as its position below a saucer of higher ground made it a shell-trap. The two leading tank squadrons and two troops of Crocodiles from the 141st RAC were engaged, while the third squadron waited in reserve behind the crest, under frequent mortar fire during the evening and night. Four tanks were lost but many of the crews returned after dark. The troops dug in on the surrounding rises at positions determined earlier from reconnaissance photographs. The attack was interpreted by the Germans as a move on Hill 112 and PzKpfw VI Tiger I tanks of the 102nd SS schwere Panzerabteilung were sent up the southern slope to repulse an attack that never came.
Farther to the west, the rest of the division had captured Point 113 but not Evrecy, which left the Glasgow Highlanders overlooked from both flanks, although German counterattacks by infantry of the 21st SS Panzergrenadierregiment and tanks of the 10th SS Panzerregiment initially concentrated on Esquay, which had already been evacuated. The Germans counterattack then fell on the positions around le Bon Repos, where two PzKpfw IV battle tanks were knocked out by 6-pdr anti-tank guns. The Scots were pushed back several times, only for the XII Corps' medium artillery to push the German back. On 18 July, the 107th RAC had a skirmish with dug‑in Tiger tanks and two 88-mm (3.465-in) self-propelled guns, and lost four tanks on the ridge. The Highlanders maintained their positions for two days, before being relieved by a battalion of the 53rd Division.
Brigadier H. D. K. Money’s 44th Brigade was to attack south-west from Tourmauville to take Point 113, Gavrus and Bougy in the Odon river valley, while the 227th Brigade, commanded from 16 July by Brigadier E. C. Colville since Mackintosh-Walker had been killed on the previous day, captured Esquay and then attacked Evrecy. The 44th Brigade’s main attack would then begin, with an attack by the 6/King’s Own Scottish Borderers on Point 113 and then an attack by the 2/Gordon Highlanders and 10/Highland Light Infantry of the 227th Brigade on the left flank at 22.30, followed by an attack by the 8/Royal Scots with the 153rd RAC of the 34th Tank Brigade on the flank of the hill at 05.30 on 16 July, to take Gavrus and Bougy; Monty’s Moonlight was to be deployed to assist the night advance. The 6/KOSB formed up on a start line behind the German outpost line and advanced directly into the German defences under the artificial moonlight. By morning the Scottish were dug in on the hill, one company finding itself 1,000 yards (915 m) forward of its objective, which disrupted German preparations for a counterattack, before retiring to its objective.
At 05.30 on 16 July, the 8/Royal Scots and 153rd RAC advanced toward Gavrus, the tanks attacking to the side of the hill on the left flank, protected from the Germans in Evrecy by the ridge, to get behind the village and menace the German line of retreat, while the infantry overran the village. By 07.45 the 8/Royal Scots had taken the village and 70 prisoners. A similar attack was made on Bougy and another 100 prisoners were taken as the village’s German garrison was routed. During the day several counterattacks were made on the Scottish positions, which were repulsed by artillery barrages, with many German casualties. In the afternoon, the Germans counterattacked twice with Tiger heavy and PzKpfw V Panther battle tanks accompanied by infantry. Mortar fire on forward positions was continuous throughout the afternoon and evening but no ground was lost and many casualties were inflicted on the Germans in a mutually costly defensive action. The tank crews fought or were at instant readiness for 30 hours without relief, from the zero hour until the German counterattacks ended.
The 6/Royal Scots Fusiliers were moved forward to Gavrus and the 8th Royal Scots formed at Bougy. On the left flank, the situation deteriorated after the 227th Brigade’s attack on Evrecy failed, and contact with the 6/King’s Own Scottish Borderers became tenuous. By dawn on 16 July the 15th Division had captured Bougy, Gavrus and dug in around Esquay and the western end of Point 113. On 17 July, the front line became quieter but the 44th Brigade was exposed by the success of the German defenders on the flanks and subjected to artillery bombardment. The 6/King’s Own Scottish Borderers repulsed two attacks and the Germans defeated British attacks toward Evrecy. Two officers of the 8/Royal Scots Fusiliers had led patrols toward Evrecy and found that the German positions were still occupied. By the morning of 18 July the German positions were found to have been partly evacuated and the 6/King’s Own Scottish Borderers pushed forward to the road linking Bougy and Evrecy. An attack by the 59th Division of the XXX Corps, from the western flank toward the positions of the 8/Royal Scots, made very slow progress. Four more German counterattacks against the 44th Brigade were defeated. During the night the brigade was relieved by Brigadier V. Blomfield’s 71st Brigade of the 53rd Division and returned to Le Haut du Bosq, suffering several casualties on the way. The 9th SS Panzerdivision was brought up from reserve and by the end of the day had restored the front, except at Hill 113.
Brigadier S. O. Jones’s 158th Brigade of the 53rd Division, under command of the 15th Division, and the 147th RAC were due to attack early on 16 July. The attack was postponed as minefields around Baron had not been cleared, and several Sherman Crab flail tanks and two Churchill tanks had been disabled by mine explosions. On the next night the attack was cancelled as a result of fog, and the operation began late on 17 July. An attack on Evrecy required a long advance down a forward slope to the village. The attack was poorly prepared and the infantry battalion had already been depleted by casualties, one composite company being formed from one officer and 50 men and a second company comprising only one composite platoon. The infantry were too tired to keep up with the tanks, which had to move quickly when brought under 88-mm (3.465-in) fire from the village. About 150 prisoners were taken, but mortar fire forced the infantry back to their start line. The 53rd Division captured Cahier and defeated several substantial counterattacks. More attacks by the XII Corps gained no ground, and during the evening of 17 July the British force on Point 113 withdrew, thus ending 'Greenline'.
On 16 July, the XXX Corps launched 'Pomegranate' (ii). On the right of the corps, the 50th Division had held ground to the north of Hottot since the last week of June and kept the front line disturbed by frequent patrols and raids, which provoked several German counterattacks supported by tanks. Brigadier M. S. Ekin’s 56th Brigade had attacked Hottot on 8 July had captured its objective on the main road to the west of Hottot but had then been driven back by a Panzer-Lehrdivision counterattack, by three infantry companies and about 30 tanks, which pushed the brigade back across the road. On 11 July, Stanier’s 231st Brigade attacked Hottot to capture the village and, supported by tanks and an elaborate artillery fire plan, two battalions were able to reach the northern fringe of the village.
During the attack on 18 July the 50th Division captured Hottot for the last time, assisted by a German retirement resulting from 'Goodwood' (i) and 'Cobra'. The occupation of Hottot left the 50th Division poised to capture Villers Bocage and advance toward the Noireau river. On the 50th Division’s right flank, the 56th Brigade faced the 2nd Panzerdivision, which maintained constant attacks with mortars, self-propelled guns and snipers. The brigade patrolled extensively, and by 20 July it had been realised that the Germans had withdrawn from the area of La Chapelle. A patrol went forward and dug in and then a company advanced through Bois de St Germain and dug in on the southern fringe.
In the centre of the XXX Corps, the 49th Division attacked with Brigadier J. F. Walker’s 146th Brigade at La Barbée farm with the 1/4th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, which advanced at 06.45 and reached the farm quickly from the east. At 05.00 the Germans counterattacked the farm and surrounded it on three sides. The Hallamshire Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment attacked Vendes frontally, despite representations that an attack by night or from the east would be less costly. The attack began at 06.45 and was stopped quickly by machine gun crossfire. An attempt at a flank attack was stopped at La Bijude farm, and an attack from the west through La Barbée farm after it had been captured also failed. A box barrage around the Hallamshires and King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was fired for 20 minutes, after which the battalions withdrew at 17.00. On the following day it was discovered from deserters that the Germans had withdrawn from Vendes and the farms.
In the sector of the 59th Division, the first phase of the attack began at 05.30 with Brigadier J. Lingham’s 197th Brigade on the right attacking with the 5/East Lancashires and Brigadier M. Elrington’s 177th Brigade on the left with 5/South Staffords and 1/6th South Staffords. The 5/East Lancashires fought their way to the first objective to the east of Vendes and had captured part of the village by 08.00, but at 14.30 were counterattacked by infantry and tanks, which overran one company and forced the rest of the battalion back to the start line. The 1/6th South Staffords had captured Brettevillette in a costly attack by 06.45 after many men had lost direction in the thick dawn mist and the British found that the area had been sown thickly with mines. The battalion pressed on and had reached Queudeville by 08.45, despite the fact that most of the tanks in support of the battalion had already been knocked out in a British minefield.
The 5/South Staffords took orchards to the west of Grainville sur Odon and had captured Les Nouillons by 12.00, which left the 177th Brigade on the first phase objectives. At 13.30, Crab flail tanks began to work through a German minefield at Queudeville. The second phase was delayed by the casualties incurred in the first phase, but at 17.30 the 2/6th South Staffords attacked Noyers and at 18.15 the 6/North Staffords attacked Haut des Forges. The 2/6th South Staffords captured part of Noyers but were forced back to Point 126, to the north of the railway station. The 6/North Staffords took Haut des Forges against less determined opposition. The 59th Division had taken 369 prisoners. On the 197th Brigade’s front, the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers attempt to attack the first-phase objective at 22.30, but massed German mortar fire prevented the battalion from leaving the start line.
At dawn on 17 July, the 2/6th South Staffords and part of the 5/South Staffords attacked Noyers and advanced close to the railway station, before being forced to halt and take cover, and at 13.30 they were withdrawn to reorganise. During the afternoon the 5/South Staffords attacked Noyers from the north-east but were held up on the edge of the village. The 1/6th South Staffords advanced from Brettevillette toward Bordel at the same time against determined resistance. When night fell the British fell back slightly from Noyers during another bombardment. In the 197th Brigade’s area, the 1/7th Royal Warwicks, tanks of the 1/Northamptonshire Yeomanry and Churchill Crocodile flamethrower tanks attacked the first-phase objective again at 12.30 and captured it. The 176th Brigade attacked Bordel but made little progress.
On the following day, the 177th Brigade attacked Noyers at 10.00 with the 1/6th and 5/South Staffords supported by conventional tanks, Churchill AVRE and Crocodile flamethrower tanks, which were not able to advance far against determined German resistance. Five more tanks were lost and another attack in the afternoon failed. The British retired after dark to enable another bombardment of the village. On the right flank, the 1/7th Royal Warwicks had reached the Guiberon farm by the fall of night and the 49th Division reported that there had been withdrawals on its front. In the centre, the 7/South Staffords of the 176th Brigade advanced on Bordel and took the village and the area to La Senevière against few German troops but in the face of considerable artillery and mortar fire.
During the night, the 197th Brigade was relieved by the 176th Brigade and the 7th Royal Norfolks took over from the 1/7th Royal Warwicks at the Guiberon farm, Point 124 and Landet, which had been taken after dark. The British infantry had captured the high ground to the south of Brettevillette and took 300 prisoners on the first day. On the following day the advance continued with much fighting on the outskirts of Noyers Bocage. The 9th SS Panzeraufklärungsabteilung, the armoured reconnaissance battalion of the 9th SS Panzerdivision, was committed to the defence of Noyers Bocage, which the Germans claimed to have recaptured, although the XXX Corps had in fact been held up on the outskirts having captured the high ground outside the village and the railway station. The 49th Division captured Vendes. The 59th Division took Haut des Forges and entered Noyers but was expelled from the village by Praun’s 277th Division. The 50th Division captured Hottot les Bagues, which had been the scene of fighting for more than a month, and took 300 prisoners.
'Greenline' and 'Pomegranate' (ii) had cost the 2nd Army some 3,500 casualties and secured no significant gains, but had been strategically successful inasmuch as the 2nd Panzerdivision, the 1st SS Panzerdivision and the 10th SS Panzerdivision had been kept in the front line and the 9th SS Panzerdivision had been brought up from reserve as the Germans were forced to react to each threat that developed in the Odon river valley. In the process, the Germans had suffered about 2,000 casualties, and on 16 July the 9th SS Panzerdivision recorded the loss of 23 tanks. In the 15th Division’s attack, the 44th Brigade had captured all its objectives and held them against 10 German counterattacks, which were costly defeats. The tactics of the 181st Field Regiment Royal Artillery in support of the brigade had become as routine as the German practice of frequent small counterattacks, in which the German infantry had wasted away under British firepower.
On 14 July, the 10th SS Panzerdivision's strength included 16 PzKpfw IV tanks and 12 StuG III assault guns, with another PzKpfw IV and one StuG III returning to service. On 16 July, nine PzKpfw IV tanks and an unknown number of StuG III assault guns remained operational. On 17 July, 10 PzKpfw IV tan ks and nine StuG III assault guns were operational. On 18 July, two more PzKpfw IV tanks returned from repair and the number of operational StuG III assault guns dropped to six. The 9th SS Panzerdivision had 19 PzKpfw IV, 38 Panther and 16 StuG III vehicles operational on 14 July, figures which on 17 July changed to 13, 25 and 15 respectively, and on 18 July had recovered to 20, 25 and 15. Tiger availability in the 102nd SS schwere Panzerabteilung was 19 on 14 July, still 19 on 15 July and by 20 July had fallen to 17 operational vehicles. Records for the 2nd Panzerdivision are sparser and show that on 1 July the formation had 85 PzKpfw IV, 21 Panther and 12 Jagdpanzer IV vehicles operational, but by 11 August its operational state had declined to nine PzKpfw IV, eight Panther and five Jagdpanzer IV machines; some losses may be assumed to have occurred during 'Pomegranate' (ii).
British casualties in the operations were in the order of 3,000 men and those of the German about 2,000 men. The 107th RAC lost 46 men. In the 147th RAC, A Squadron returned from a deep penetration of the German defences with the loss of six tanks, B Squadron with the loss of four tanks and C Squadron with the loss of one tank. Between 15 and 18 July, the 147th RAC had 47 casualties. When the 153rd RAC was withdrawn, 96 tank crew had become casualties, 12 tanks had been knocked out and several damaged, leaving 29 tanks operational. In three days the 34th Tank Brigade had lost 30 officers and 156 men, with 97 tanks still operational, although many damaged tanks had not yet been repaired. Another account avers that the British suffered casualties of about 3,500 men, 1,000 of them in the 15th Division. The 59th Division suffered 1,250 casualties and took 575 prisoners from the 276th Division and 277th Division, which had been supported by parts of the 2nd Panzerdivision and 9th SS Panzerdivision. Until 16 July the 276th Division suffered 1,000 casualties and by the end of the month has suffered 388 men killed, 1,851 men wounded and 461 men missing. The 277th Division lost 1,000 men between 13 and 16 July, and by the end of the month had suffered casualties of 312 men killed, 1,327 men wounded and 1,161 men missing.
After the 'Greenline' and 'Pomegranate' (ii) preliminary attacks, 'Goodwood' (i) took place on 18/20 July when the VIII Corps, with three armoured divisions, launched the attack aiming to seize the German-held Bourguébus Ridge, along with the area between Bretteville sur Laize and Vimont, while also destroying as many German tanks as possible. On 18 July, the I Corps conducted an advance to secure a series of villages and the eastern flank of the VIII Corps. On the VIII Corps' western flank, the Canadian II Corps launched 'Atlantic' to capture the remaining sections of the city of Caen to the south of the Orne river. When 'Goodwood' (i) ended, the armoured divisions had broken through the German forward defences and advanced 7 miles (11 km) to the lower slopes of the Bourguébus Ridge.
After 'Windsor', on 4/5 July, the capture of the western outskirts of Caen during 'Charnwood' on 8/9 July and 'Jupiter' (ii) on 10/11 July, the defence of the village of Maltot had been assumed by the 272nd Division on 22 July from the 10th SS Panzerdivision, which had moved into reserve around St Martin, ready to counterattack. The British planned to attack Maltot from the north-east with the Orne river on the left flank. During 'Jupiter' (ii), the attack had come over open ground, southward from Château Fontaine and Eterville, easily seen from Hill 112. 'Express' was to begin from Louvigny. The 5/Wiltshires and B Squadron of the 7th Royal Tank Regiment of the 31st Tank Brigade were to capture the village and orchards to the north of the road from Louvigny and the 4/Wiltshires with A Squadron 7th RTR was to attack the woods, orchards and a spur to the south-east of Maltot. The 4/Somerset Light Infantry were kept in reserve, ready to exploit any success.
The attack began at 17.30, and on the right side of the road the 5/Wiltshires advanced behind a smokescreen and an artillery barrage. The German defenders were taken by surprise and at first were stunned by the bombardment. As the British moved through the village, some of the defenders recovered and hand-to-hand fighting took place. Grenadiers of the 10th SS Panzerdivision and Tiger tanks of the 102nd SS schwere Panzerabteilung began a counterattack as Maltot was entered, and knocked out several Churchill tanks of B Squadron. A British forward air controller saw the German tanks and called in Hawker Typhoon single-engined fighter-bombers, which forced the Tiger tanks back to Hill 112, as the grenadiers reinforced the German infantry in the village. On the other side of the Louvigny road, the 4/Wiltshires and A Squadron advanced through woods and farms to the final objective south of the village. The infantry went first, two sections in front of each tank, with the squadron commander on foot accompanying the infantry commanders.
When it was seen that the 4/Wiltshires on the other side of the road had been delayed by the German defence of the Lieu de France farm at the eastern end of Maltot, Churchill and Churchill Crocodile tanks advanced, bombarded and flamed the defenders and then overran the position. As the advance moved into the woods, small parties of British and German infantry stalked each other through trees, small quarries and trenches. The German defenders were overrun in about two hours; the process of mopping up began, but some German troops held out as dark fell. Most of the surviving defenders retired to the Château Maltot on the far side of the road, were bypassed and cut off. As the 4/Wiltshires moved forward to the Rau de Maltot stream, they were stopped by fire from the château. Bombardment by the Churchills had no effect, except to prompt a German medic to emerge and request a truce, which was offered provided that all German troops in the château surrender. This was refused and at dusk the British attacked again, broke into the ground floor but unable to get upstairs against showers of hand grenades. During the night the outbuildings were captured and the château was kept under fire by the tanks.
From 21.30 to 22.00, both battalions reached the final objectives to the west of Maltot and the woods to the south. The tanks withdrew behind the start line, having lost eight vehicles. Just after dawn, the remaining Germans in the château surrendered after losing all hope of being rescued by a dawn counterattack.
By the end of 'Express', the fighting in Normandy had reduced the 10th SS Panzerdivision's strength from about 15,000 to 2,289 men, and only the most vital positions could be counterattacked. By dawn, the British were met by the sight of the dead from 'Jupiter' (ii) and long-range fire from German tanks and guns on the south-eastern ridge of Hill 112, having taken more than 400 prisoners. Commanders had studied maps, photographs and sand models, had been given time to establish infantry/tank co-operation with 7th RTR, and had undertaken reconnaissance. The 43rd Division was withdrawn and the ground won taken over by the 53rd Division. Hill 112 was occupied almost unopposed on 4 August, as the Germans struggled to repel 'Cobra' and 'Bluecoat' farther to the west.
In the upper part of the Odon river valley, the Glasgow Highlanders on the British left flank were relieved by the 1/5th Welch Regiment of the 53rd Division on 17 July. From 18 July, the 34th Tank Brigade operated in close support of the 53rd Division, which eventually extended its line from Bougy to the Orne river at Maltot. The 153rd RAC returned to the line after eight days of recuperation and on 21 July, at 16.00, came under attack by the 10th SS Panzerdivision at Le Bon Repos; by 21.30 one company had been overrun. The Germans rolled up the Welsh front, the survivors retired into the C Company area and the battalion withdrew at 06.00 under cover of a smoke screen, having suffered 140 casualties. Several Churchill tanks had also been lost as they were outranged and outgunned by six Tiger tanks from Hill 112. Two days later, the 4/Welch, with the 107th RAC in support, raided the captured positions, aided by Churchill Crocodiles, and inflicted many casualties on the German defenders before retiring.
The 107th RAC had no losses and recovered one tank lost in the previous attack. A smoke barrage enabled the raid to be made in daylight down the forward slope, which prevented many casualties. The 49th Division occupied Vendes on 19 July but patrols from the 177th Brigade, in the 59th Division’s sector, found Noyers still occupied. An attack was cancelled by the XII Corps' commander at 12.00 in favour of vigorous patrolling over the corps' front. On 2 August, the 107th RAC raided Esquay again as the area beyond Bougy was raided by infantry and the 147th RAC, and the area near Maltot was raided by the 153rd RAC. Until 5 August, 247 crew casualties were suffered and 47 tanks were knocked out, about half being written off and the rest repaired.
In the 49th Division’s sector, the 146th Brigade advanced again on 19 July; the German infantry and two Tiger tanks which had reoccupied La Barbée farm and La Bijude farm had been forced out by artillery and mortar fire. German deserters confirmed that the garrisons had withdrawn, and two battalions moved forward behind sappers, who lifted many mines on the road to Château Juvigny, which had been a German battalion headquarters; the bodies of three men missing since 9 July were found in the cellars. At the end of July, the 8th Armoured Brigade, less the 13th/18th Hussars, was moved to support the 43rd Division and the 13th/18th Hussars went in support of the 50th Division, whose objective was the dominating Butte du Mont à Vent ridge.
The 43rd Division’s attack began early on 30 July into the bocage, which was full of mines and booby traps. The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry supported the 130th Brigade of the 43rd Division in an attack on Cahagnes, and on the left flank the 13th/18th Hussars took St Germain d’Ectot and Orbois. The 12/King’s Royal Rifle Corps advanced and dug in to protect the flank of the 43rd Division, and the 50th Division with the 13th/18th Hussars captured Amayé sur Seulles. The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry advanced in moonlight with the 7/Hampshires on their tanks to capture Jurques and during the day La Bigne and Loisonniers were captured in the face of determined German resistance. The British advance then temporarily halted close to Mont Pinçon, which dominated the area from the Vire river to the Odon river.