Operation Maori

'Maori' was British pair of relatively small-scale operations against the Germans in the Normandy lodgement (8/11 July 1944).

'Maori I' of 8 July took the German positions in and around the village of Crauville St Germain d’Ectot, and 'Maori II' of 11 July took the German positions in and round the village of Hottot les Bagues.

Since the capture of Caen, Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey’s British 2nd Army had been regrouped and General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg’s opposing Panzergruppe 'West' had been engaged in the long-deferred replacement of armour by infantry in its forward defences. At first glance it seemed that only in infantry did the British possess any considerable advantage, for in armour their three armoured divisions and seven armoured brigades were matched by the Germans' six armoured divisions and three heavy tank battalions; but in fact British formations were fully up to strength, while all but the latest German arrivals (SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Theodor Wisch’s 1st SS Panzerdivision 'Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler' and four new infantry divisions) had been significantly reduced by losses that had not been made good.

Yet although the Germans had far fewer tanks, their forces were disposed in depth, with well-prepared and advantageous positions, fortified by minefields and covered by the numerous long-range 88-mm (3.465-in) anti-aircraft/anti-tank guns of General Wolfgang Pickert’s III Flakkorps and multi-barrelled artillery rocket launchers of three Werfer brigades, and in this circumstance it is hardly surprising that General Sir Bernard Montgomery, commanding the British and Canadian 21st Army Group, sought the full weight of the air force in his planned attacks on a defence that was clearly very formidable a defence. Moreover, as was learned later, the German intelligence report of 15 July from Fremde Heer West (Foreign Armies West) stated that 'According to information derived from photographic reconnaissance of the lodgement area, the [British] command is planning to start a major operation across the Orne river toward the south-east from about 17 July onward. It is worthy of note that this date coincides with the period most favourable for new landing operations.'

On the same date the weekly report of Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel’s Heeresgruppe 'B' stated that the British 2nd Army’s intention was 'to push forward across the Orne river in the direction of Paris'. The Germans were therefore prepared for the coming attack, though they were mistaken as to its direction and final object.

British preliminary operations for 'Goodwood' (i) began on the night of 15 July with attacks extending across the whole front between the area to the west of Caen and Tilly sur Seulles. Starting from the Odon river bridgehead, Lieutenant General N. M. Ritchie’s XII Corps was first to secure a firm base on the road running to the south-east from Bougy through Evrecy, with a view to a subsequent advance toward Aunay sur Odon or Thury-Harcourt 'as the situation may indicate'; Lieutenant General G. C. Bucknall’s XXX Corps was meanwhile to secure the Noyers area and ready itself to exploit toward the high ground to the north-east of Villers Bocage 'if a favourable opportunity presents itself'.

From the night of 15 July to the start of 'Goodwood' (i) on 18 July, both corps fought hard and continuously against a determined opposition characterised by repeated counterattacks by tanks and infantry. In the XII Corps' area on the left, Bougy and Gavrus were taken by Major General G. H. A. MacMillan’s the 15th Division; Esquay was entered but could not be held, and after repeated attacks and counterattacks remained in German hands. Farther to the right, Major General R. K. Ross’s 53rd Division captured Cahier but was heavily counterattacked and only with difficulty maintained its gain. Tp the west, the XXX Corps extended the battle front with Major General L. O. Lyne’s 59th Division attacking Haut des Forges, Noyers and Landelle, and Major General E. H. Barker’s 49th Division fighting for Vendes and the area round it. Though the British positions were everywhere improved, the associated territorial gains were slight. Haut des Forges was captured and held; Noyers was attacked again and again, but the German garrison of Generalleutnant Albert Praun’s 277th Division was reinforced and only the railway station and nearby Point 126 were finally held. Despite of taking heavy casualties, the 49th Division took Vendes in two days of fighting against Generalleutnant Kurt Badinski’s recently-arrived 276th Division supported by the tanks of Generalleutnant Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz’s 2nd Panzerdivision. While these German forces were strongly engaged by the 49th Division, Major General D. A. H. Graham’s 50th Division captured Hottot which, in bitter fighting, had held the division for more than a month.

The most satisfactory result of the two days' fighting, which had gained but little ground at the cost of more than 3,500 casualties, was the fact that SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Wilhelm Mohnke’s 1st SS Panzerdivision 'Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler', SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Heinz Harmel’s 10th SS Panzerdivision 'Frundsberg' and von Lüttwitz’s 2nd Panzerdivision had been kept in the battle, and SS-Brigadeführer under Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Sylvester Stadler’s 9th SS Panzerdivision 'Hohenstaufen' from corps reserve had been called in to help with counterattacks. The fighting had served 'to make the Germans think we are going to break out across the Orne river between Caen and Amaye' and thus disguise the real British intention, namely to attack on the eastern side of this river river.