Operation Goodwood: Wikis


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Operation Goodwood
Part of Battle for Caen
Sherman tanks carrying infantry wait for the order to advance at the start of Operation 'Goodwood', 18 July 1944
Date 18–20 July 1944
Location Normandy, France
Result Strategic Allied victory
Tactical German victory [nb 1]
United Kingdom United Kingdom Germany Germany
United Kingdom Bernard Montgomery
United Kingdom Miles Dempsey
United Kingdom John Crocker
United Kingdom Richard O'Connor
Germany Günther von Kluge
Germany Heinrich Eberbach
Germany Sepp Dietrich
Germany Hans von Obstfelder
3 armoured divisions[4]
2 infantry divisions[4]

~1,100[nb 2] – ~1,300 tanks[nb 3]

3 armoured divisions[7]
2 heavy tank battalions[7]
4 Infantry Divisions[7]

377 tanks[8]

Casualties and losses
4,000 casualties[9]

253[nb 4] – ≈400 tanks knocked out[nb 5][nb 6]

Unknown total casualties
2,000+[13] – 2,500+ captured[14]

75 [nb 7] – 100 tanks destroyed[nb 8]

Operation Goodwood
Operational scope Strategic Offensive
Planned by British Second Army
Executed by VIII Corps, Second Army. Supporting attacks made by elements of I Corps, Second Army.

Operation Goodwood was an attack launched on 18 July 1944, during the Second World War, by the British army to the east of the city of Caen. British VIII Corps led the attack with three armoured divisions, supported by British I Corps on the eastern flank and the Canadian II Corps on the western flank, who were launching their own attack codenamed Operation Atlantic, to capture the remainder of Caen.

When Operation Goodwood ended on 20 July, the armoured divisions had broken through the initial German defences and had advanced 7 miles before coming to a halt in front of the Bourguébus Ridge, although armoured cars had penetrated further south and over the ridge.

There has been controversy since July 1944 over the objective of the operation: whether it was a limited attack to secure Caen and pin German formations in the eastern region of the Normandy beachhead, preventing them from disengaging to join the counterattack against the US Operation Cobra, or a failed attempted breakout from the Normandy bridgehead.

At least one historian has called the operation the largest tank battle that the British Army has ever fought.



The historic Normandy town of Caen was a D-Day objective for the British 3rd Infantry Division that landed on Sword Beach on 6 June 1944.[17] The capture of Caen, while "ambitious", has been described by historian L F Ellis as the most important D-Day objective assigned to Lieutenant-General Crocker's I Corps.[nb 9] Operation Overlord called for Second Army to secure the city and then form a front line from Caumont-l'Éventé to the south-east of Caen, in order to acquire airfields and protect the left flank of the United States First Army while it moved on Cherbourg.[21] Possession of Caen and its surroundings would give Second Army a suitable staging area for a push south to capture Falaise, which could itself be used as the pivot for a swing right to advance on Argentan and then towards the Touques River.[22] The terrain between Caen and Vimont was especially promising, being open, dry and conducive to swift offensive operations. Since the Allied forces greatly outnumbered the Germans in tanks and mobile units, transforming the battle into a more fluid fast-moving battle was to their advantage.[23]

Hampered by congestion in the beachhead that delayed the deployment of its armoured support and forced to divert effort to attacking strongly held German positions along the 9.3-mile (15.0 km) route to the town, the 3rd Division was unable to assault Caen in force and was stopped short of the outskirts.[24] Follow-up attacks were unsuccessful as German resistance solidified; abandoning the direct approach, Operation Perch—a pincer attack by I and XXX Corps[25]—was launched on 7 June, with the intention of encircling Caen from the east and west.[26] I Corps, striking south out of the Orne bridgehead, was halted by the 21st Panzer Division,[27] and the attack by XXX Corps bogged down in front of Tilly-sur-Seulles, west of Caen, in the face of stiff opposition from the Panzer-Lehr- Division.[26] In an effort to force Panzer Lehr to withdraw or surrender,[28] and to keep operations fluid, the 7th Armoured Division pushed through a recently created gap in the German front line and tried to capture the town of Villers-Bocage.[29] The resulting day long battle saw the vanguard of the 7th Armoured Division withdraw from the town,[30] but by 17 June Panzer Lehr had themselves been forced back and XXX Corps had taken Tilly-sur-Seulles.[31] A repeated attack from the 7th Armoured Division never materialised[32] and further offensive operations were abandoned when, on 19 June, a severe storm descended upon the English Channel. The storm, which would last for three days, significantly delayed the Allied build-up.[33] Most of the convoys of landing craft and ships already at sea were driven back to ports in Britain; towed barges and other loads (including 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of floating roadways for the Mulberry harbours) were lost; and 800 craft were left stranded on the Normandy beaches until the next spring tides in July.[34]

Following the storm the next big attack was launched. Codenamed Operation Epsom, it was intended that VIII Corps would advance and capture the high ground near Bretteville-sur-Laize, to encircle Caen.[35] VIII Corps would strike, to the west of Caen, south across the River Odon and the Orne.[36] The attack was preceded by Operation Martlet[37] which, was to secure VIII Corp's flank by capturing the high ground on the right of their axis of advance.[37] Although the Germans managed to contain the offensive, to do so they had been obliged to commit all their available strength,[38] including two panzer divisions newly arrived in Normandy[39] and earmarked for a planned offensive against British and American positions around Bayeux.[40] Several days later Second Army launched a new offensive, codenamed Operation Charnwood, to gain possession of Caen.[41] As a prelude to Charnwood a postponed attack on Carpiquet codenamed Operation Windsor was launched.[42] In a frontal assault the northern half of the city was captured.[41] However German forces still held possession of the city on the southern side of the Orne river including the Colombelles steel works,[43] which gave a unique observation post for artillery observers.[44]

Planning and preparation


Allied planning and preparation

On 10 July General Bernard Montgomery, commander of all Allied ground forces in Normandy, held a meeting with Lieutenant-Generals Miles Dempsey and Omar Bradley, respectively the commanders of British Second Army and the United States First Army, at his headquarters to discuss the next attacks to be launched by 21st Army Group[45] following the conclusion of Operation Charnwood and the failure of the First Army's initial breakout offensive.[46] Montgomery approved Operation Cobra,[47] a major break out attempt to be launched by the First Army on 18 July, and ordered Dempsey to "go on hitting: drawing the German strength, especially the armour, onto yourself - so as to ease the way for Brad[ley]".[45]

In early July Adjutant-General Ronald Adam informed Montgomery that there was an infantry manpower shortage and sufficient replacements could not be dispatched to France.[48] This shortage led Dempsey[nb 10] to persuade Montgomery to launch an attack comprised solely of armoured divisions, an operation that would violate Montgomery's personal policy of never employing such a force;[50] as Dempsey could afford to lose armour but not infantry.[51] By mid-July the Second Army had 2,250 medium tanks and 400 light tanks in the bridgehead,[52] of which 500 were in reserve to replace losses,[53] in three armoured divisions[nb 11] and seven independent armoured and tank brigades.[nb 12]

At 1000 hours on 13 July Dempsey met with three of his five Corps commanders[nb 13] to discuss the forthcoming attack. Later that day the first order for Operation Goodwood[nb 14] was issued.[63] However this document only contained preliminary instructions and covered the operation in general. It was issued to facilitate necessary detailed planning and alterations were to be expected.[64] It was also presented in the United Kingdom to request the desired level of air support for the operation.[65] The outline plan was for VIII Corps, with three armoured divisions, to strike south out of the Orne Bridgehead.[64] The 11th Armoured Division was to advance south-west over the Bourguébus Ridge and the Caen-Falaise road aiming for Bretteville-sur-Laize, the Guards Armoured Division was to advance south-east to capture Vimont and Argences, and 7th Armoured Division, advancing last, was to aim south for Falaise itself. The 3rd Infantry Division, supported by elements of the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division, was to secure VIII Corps eastern flank by capturing the area around Émiéville, Touffréville and Troarn.[66] II Canadian Corps would launch an attack, codenamed Operation Atlantic, on the western flank of VIII Corps to liberate Caen south of the Orne river.[67] The two operations were planned to commence on 18 July, two days before the planned start of Operation Cobra.[68]

An attack out of the Orne bridgehead had been proposed during mid-June to be launched by the newly arrived VIII Corps to outflank Caen from the east. The operation was codenamed Operation Dreadnought but was cancelled when Dempsey and O'Connor gave pessimistic reports to Montgomery regarding the difficulties involved in such an operation.[nb 15]

Postwar map shows the planned attack for Operations Atlantic and Goodwood. It also shows where Second Army knew the locations of several German divisions as well as where they believed others were.

Detailed planning stated on Friday 14 July[70] However on 15 July Montgomery issued a written order to Dempsey to make the operation less ambitious. These orders changed the operation from a "deep break-out to a limited attack".[71] It was anticipated that rather than risking a breakthrough by massed tanks, the Germans would be forced to commit their armoured reserves to meet the attack.[72] Thus the intention of the operation was now "to engage the German armour in battle and "write it down" to such an extent that it is of no further value to the Germans" and improve the Second Army's position.[73] The orders stated that "a victory on the eastern flank will help us to gain what we want on the western flank" but warned that operations must not endanger Second Army's position as it was a "firm bastion" that was needed for the success of American operations.[74] The objectives of the three armoured divisions was also limited. They were only to "dominate the area Bourguébus-Vimont-Bretteville" although "armoured cars should push far to the south towards Falaise, spread[ing] alarm and despondency". VIII Corps objective had changed from a wide punch south towards Falaise, to a limited thrust to the southwest of Caen. It was stressed that II Canadian Corps objectives were now vital and only following their completion would VIII Corps ""crack about" as the situation demands".[74]

VIII Corps stood at a strength of 61,808 men[75] and 759 tanks.[6] The 11th Armoured Division was assigned to lead the advance[76] and was tasked with screening Cagny[77] and capturing Bras, Hubert-Folie, Verrières and Fontenay-le-Marmion.[76] The armoured brigade would have to by-pass the majority of German held villages and leave them to be captured by follow-up waves.[78] The division's infantry brigade, the 159th Infantry Brigade, was initially to act independently of the rest of the division and capture Cuverville and Démouville.[79] The Guards Armoured Division, advancing behind the 11th Armoured Division,[76] was to capture Cagny[77] and Vimont. The 7th Armoured Division, advancing last, was to advance south beyond the ridge of Garcelles-Secqueville. Further advances by the armoured divisions were to be conducted only on Dempsey's order.[71] II Canadian Corps orders were issued the following day. The Corps was ordered to liberate Colombelles and the remaining portion of Caen. Following the capture of these areas the Corps was to be prepared to capture the Verrières Ridge.[80] In the event that the German front collapsed during these attacks, a deeper advance would be ordered.[71]

Second Army intelligence had gained a good picture of the opposition Operation Goodwood was to expect, although positions beyond the first line of villages had to be inferred mainly by inconclusive air reconnaissance,[44] the German defensive line was believed to be made of two belts up to four miles deep.[81] They were aware that the German Army was expecting a large British attack out of the Orne bridgehead[82] and expected to initially meet resistance from the 16th Luftwaffe Field Division bolstered by SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 25 of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend.[83] Signals intelligence had identified that the 12th SS Panzer Division had moved into reserve but had failed initially to identify that SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 25 had also been moved back into reserve, an error that was rectified before 18 July.[83] Battle groups of the 21st Panzer Division, with around 50 Panzer IVs and 34 assault guns, were expected to be met near Route nationale 13.[83] 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was identified as being in reserve with 40 Panthers and 60 Panzer IV's.[nb 16] Two heavy tank battalions with Tiger tanks were expected to be met but both battalions had been erroneously placed with I SS Panzer Corps; the move of one these battalions which had been attached to the 21st Panzer Division, had not been identified.[83] The German tank strength was estimated at 230 tanks.[84] German artillery was assessed as 300 field and anti-tank guns.[nb 17] Second Army believed 90 of these guns were in the centre of the battle zone, 40 pieces on the flanks and 20 pieces defending the Caen-Vimont railway line.[83] The gun line on the Bourguébus Ridge had been identified but the strength and gun locations had not been established.[83]

Second Army initiated a deception plan to attempt to cover the intention of the operation[85] that included attacks launched by XII and XXX Corps.[86] The movement of the three armoured divisions to their staging positions west of the Orne was conducted at night under radio silence[85] and covered by artillery fire.[87] During daylight all effort was made to camouflage the armoured divisions' positions.[85]

Extensively camouflaged Churchill tanks of the 31st Tank Brigade, who did not take part in Goodwood, highlighting the efforts taken in Normandy to camouflaged vehicles.

The offensive was to be supported by 760 guns,[nb 18] firing 297,600 rounds.[nb 19] Prior to the assault, the artillery was to suppress German anti-tank[90], anti-aircraft[91] and field artillery positions. During the initial assault, it was to provide the 11th Armoured Division with a rolling barrage and artillery support to the attacks being launched by 3rd Infantry and the 2nd Canadian Infantry Divisions. More artillery units were to be prepared to fire on targets as requested.[90]

The preliminary bombardment by artillery was augmented by a total of 2,077 heavy and medium bombers of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and United States Army Air Force (USAAF), flying in three waves.[nb 20] The air raid would be the largest launched in direct support of a ground attack.[93] A planned second strike by the heavy bombers during the afternoon of the first day to support the advance towards the Bourguébus Ridge[88] was rejected by Dempsey who believed that if the operation was to succeed his armour could not wait around for a second strike and would have to be on the ridge by the afternoon.[94] Speed was an essential part of the Goodwood battleplan; it was hoped the aerial bombardment would give the 11th Armoured Division enough time to secure the Bourguébus Ridge.[78] Close air support would be provided by No. 83 Group RAF. The air force was tasked with the neutralisation of German positions on the flanks of VIII Corps planned advance, strong points such as the village of Cagny and German gun and reserve positions, and interdiction of troop movements.[92] Each brigade headquarters in VIII Corps was allocated a Forward Air Control Post to help co-ordinate air support throughout the operation.[95] Additional support was provided by three ships of the Royal Navy,[nb 21]which were tasked with engaging gun batteries located near the coast in the region of Cabourg and Franceville.[88]

Cromwell tanks moving across York bridge, one of the Bailey bridge over the Caen canal and the Orne river.

The engineering resources of Second Army, I and VIII Corps as well as divisional engineers were put to work between 13 July and the evening of 16 July building six new roads from west of the Orne river to the start lines east of the river and canal.[96] Engineers from I Corps were also ordered to build two new sets of bridges across the Orne River and Caen Canal and strengthen the existing bridges prior to the attack.[97] An additional two sets of bridges were ordered to be built by I Corps engineers between the start of the battle and the end of the first day.[98][nb 22] II Canadian Corps planned to construct up to three bridges across the Orne as soon as the situation presented itself, so that I and VIII Corps would have exclusive access to the bridges across the river and canal north of the city.[97] Engineers from 51st (Highland) Infantry Divisions, with a small detachment from the 3rd Infantry Division, were ordered to gap the minefield in front of the Highland Division's position. They were able to create 14 gaps in the minefield and mark them during the night of 16–17 July[100] and 19 40-foot (12 m) wide gaps had been completed by the morning of 18 July.[101] These gaps would allow one armoured regiment to pass though at a time.[nb 23]

The 11th Armoured Division's infantry brigade with the division and 29th Armoured Brigade's headquarters, crossed over into the Orne bridgehead during the night 16–17 July; the rest of the division followed the next night.[102] The Guards and 7th Armoured Divisions were held west of the river until the operation commenced.[87] As the final elements of the 11th Armoured Division moved into position, additional gaps in the minefields were blown while the forward areas were signposted and routes to be taken marked with white tape and VIII Corps headquarters moved to Bény-sur-Mer.[103]

German planning and preparation

On 15 July German military intelligence warned Panzer Group West that a British attack out of the Orne bridgehead was likely from 17 July onwards, with the objective of striking south-east towards Paris.[82]

The Caen area was considered by the Germans, as the hinge in their defences in Normandy and were determined to hold an arc of defensive terrain from the English Channel to the western banks of the Orne.[104] The basic layout of the German defences was decided upon, not by Rommel[94], but by General Heinrich Eberbach,[105] the commanding officer of Panzer Group West, with the details being worked upon by his two Corps commanders and the six divisional commanders.[105] The defence was organised into four defensive lines[106] structured in considerable depth[84] of at least 10 miles (16 km).[107] As part of the defence, villages were fortified and anti-tank guns sited along the southern and eastern edges of the open country Second Army was about to attack.[84] A feature of this defence was that no anti-tank minefields were established behind the front line or between each line of defence, so to allow the freedom of movement for German tanks.[94]

On 16 July several reconnaissance planes flew over the British positions but were driven off by anti-aircraft fire[108] however during the evening of 16–17 July reconnaissance aircraft, dropping flares, took photographs revealing the one way flow of traffic over the Orne.[85] Late on 16 July a British reconnaissance Supermarine Spitfire, photographing the German positions, was shot down over German lines; in response artillery and fighters attempted to destroy the crashed plane without success.[108]

King Tigers belonging to the 503rd heavy tank battalion hide from Allied aerial reconnaissance.

LXXXVI Corps, heavily reinforced by artillery,[109] held the front line facing the British forces. Its 346th Infantry Division was dug in from the coast to the north of Touffreville, from here to Colombelles the mauled 16th Luftwaffe Infantry Division held the frontline. Kampfgruppe (battle group) von Luck, a battle group formed from the 21st Panzer Division's Panzergrenadier Regiment 125, was in position behind these front line forces with around 30 assault guns. The remainder of the division, reinforced with the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion that including ten King Tigers,[110] was positioned northeast of Cagny to be able to support Hans von Luck's force and also act as a reserve.[111] The division's Panzergrenadiers, with towed anti tank guns and assault guns, were to dig themselves into the villages of the Caen plain.[112] The 21st Panzer Division’s Reconnaissance and Pioneer battalions were positioned on the Bourguébus Ridge to protect the Corps artillery,[94] which consisted of around 48 field and medium artillery pieces with an equal number of Nebelwerfers. The LXXXVI Corps had 194 artillery pieces and 272 Nebelwerfer available to them.[94] The Corps also had 78 88 mm guns. One battery of four 88 mm flak guns, from Flak-Sturm Regiment 2, was positioned in Cagny [94] while in the villages along the Bourguébus Ridge there was a screen of 44 88mm anti tank guns, from the 200th Tank Destroyer Battalion.[110] The majority of the guns were beyond the ridge protecting the Caen-Falaise road.[94][113] The number of guns in the German rear position is disputed by Simon Trew who claims that there was only around 36 anti-tank guns in the rear positions, including no more than 8–16 pieces on the ridge itself.[63]

West of the Caen-Falaise road, facing Caen, was the I SS Panzer Corps. On 14 July elements of the 272nd Infantry Division took over the defence of Vaucelles relieving the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, who moved into local reserve between the village of Ifs and the east bank of the Orne river. The following day the 12th SS Panzer Division was moved into OKW reserve to rest, refit[114] and to be a position to meet a feared second Allied landing between the Orne and Seine on Hitler’s orders;[115] Kampfgruppe Waldmüller was moved near Falaise while Kampfgruppe Wünsche was moved to Lisieux, 40 kilometres (25 mi) east of Caen. The division's artillery regiment and anti-aircraft battalion was left to support the 272nd Infantry Division.[114] On 17 July Eberbach halted the move of Kampfgruppe Waldmüller, which was en route to join the rest of the 12th SS Panzer Division at Lisieux.[82]

Preliminary operations

At 01:00 hours on 11 July, in the aftermath of Operation Charnwood, elements of the 153rd (Highland) Infantry Brigade supported by tanks,[nb 24] launched a raid against the Colombelles Steel works.[45] Their objective was to secure the area so Royal Engineers could destroy the chimneys, used by the Germans as observation positions, and then the force would withdraw.[116] The force was ambushed by Tiger tanks at 05:00 hours and the raid was abandoned after the loss of nine tanks.[45]

A German patrol moves towards the Colombelles factory area. Some of the tall chimneys used by German observers are visible in the distance.

As planning and preparation for Goodwood was under way, Second Army launched two preliminary operations. The purpose of these operations, Montgomery stated, was to "engage the enemy in battle unceasingly; we must "write off" his troops; and generally we must kill Germans". Historian Terry Copp has described this being the point were the Normandy campaign changed into a battle of attrition, one that Montgomery was doing his best to ensure that it was the Germans who collapsed first.[117]

Operation Greenline was launched during the evening of 15 July by XII Corps.[nb 25][119] Greenline's objective was to convince the German command that the expected assault would be launched west of the Orne River though the positions held by XII Corps.[86] This attack would pin the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Division facing XII Corps, so that they could not be used to oppose Goodwood or Operation Cobra.[118] The British attack, supported by 450 guns, along with tanks and artificial moonlight,[nb 26] started well but German artillery fire disrupted the advance. By daylight, XII Corps had captured several of its objectives but had failed to capture Hill 112. The 9th SS Panzer Division was committed to battle and by the end of the day had mostly restored the front line, however a counterattack against Hill 113 was unsuccessful.[120] Renewed attacks by XII Corps gained no ground and during the evening of 17 July the operation was stopped and the British force on Hill 113 was withdrawn.[121]

British Infantry occupy slit trenches between Hill 112 and Hill 113 on 16 July 1944.

On 16 July XXX Corps launched Operation Pomegranate,[86] the objective of which was to capture several important villages and their surroundings.[122] On the first day British infantry captured a key objective and took 300 prisoners. The advance continued the following day and heavy fighting took place on the outskirts of Noyers-Bocage.[123] Elements of the 9th SS Panzer Division were committed to the defence of the village; the German troops were able to keep control of it but the high ground outside of the village and the village’s railway station were in British possession.[122]

These two operations cost the Second Army 3,500 casualties[6] and no significant gains had been made; but the operations were strategically successful in that the 2nd Panzer and 10th SS Panzer Divisions had been kept on the front line and the 9th SS Panzer Division had been recalled from Corps reserve,[86][122][124] having been forced to react to each threat that developed in the Odon Valley.[6] These operations cost the Germans around 2,000 casualties.[117] Terry Copp has stated that these battles rank as "one of the bloodiest encounters of the campaign".[117]

During the afternoon of 17 July a German staff car near the village of Sainte-Foy-de-Montgommery was strafed by a British fighter. One of the occupants was Erwin Rommel who was seriously wounded.[125] This left Army Group B with no commanding officer on 18 July.[76]

Main attack

18 July

"For forty-five minutes the procession of bombers came on unbroken, and when they'd gone, the thunder of the guns swelled up and filled the air, as the artillery carried on the bombardment"

Chester Wilmot, describing the opening of Operation Goodwood[126]
Despite its weight, this Tiger I,of Ofw. Sachs, was flipped over by the aerial bombing. Three men survived.[127]

Shortly before dawn the Highland infantry in the southern sector of the Orne bridgehead quietly withdrew 1-kilometre (0.62 mi) north.[128] At 05:45 hours the preliminary aerial bombardment began; 1,056 Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster heavy bombers,[108] flying at 3,000 feet (910 m), dropped 4,800 tons of high explosive bombs on Colombelles, the steelworks, positions of the 21st Panzer Division and the town of Cagny, leaving half the town destroyed.[129] At 06:40 hours the artillery fire plan began, 20 minutes later American B-26 Marauders released 563 tons of fragmentation bombs, from 10,000 feet (3,000 m) –13,000 feet (4,000 m), on the 16th Luftwaffe Division[130] while fighter-bombers attacked strong points and gun positions.[131] During this 45 minute bombardment by the second wave bombers, the 11th Armoured Division moved out of their concentration areas towards the start line.[126] H Hour was confirmed to take place at 07:45 hours[108] and on schedule the artillery started firing the rolling barrage for the armoured division. As the advance started additional artillery regiments opened fire on Cuverville, Demouville, Giberville,[132] Liberville, Cagny and Émiéville. The heavy guns also carried out harassing fire on targets as far south as Garcelles-Secqueville and Secqueville la Campagne. 15 minutes later the final bombing raid began,[133] American heavy bombers dropped 1,340 tons of fragmentation bombs in the Troarn area and onto the main gun line at Bourguébus Ridge.[130] Only 25 bombers from these three waves were lost, all to German anti aircraft fire.[133] Now the operation would be supported from the 800 fighter-bombers of No. 83 and No. 84 Group RAF. The bombing put both the 22nd Panzer Regiment and the III/.503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion temporarily out of action, various degrees of damage and destruction was caused to the tanks, some were overturned[130] while others were destroyed[134] and 20 tanks were abandoned in bomb craters.[130] Most of the German frontline positions had been destroyed[131] and the surviving defenders were left "dazed and incoherent".[130]

"It was Hell and I am still astonished that I ever survived it. I was unconscious for a while after a bomb had exploded just front of my tank, almost burying me alive."

Freiherr von Rosen describing the bombing, which he survived by taking cover under his tank.[135]

While many positions were devastated some targets were missed due to dust, smoke and the inability of the bomber crews to identify them.[130] Other German strongholds that lay across the British line of advance containing panzergrenadiers and assault guns, lay outside the bomb zones and were spared.[136] Cagny and Émiéville suffered heavily under the bombardment but the defenders were largely unscathed and had time to recover and prepare themselves to meet the attack; both places having clear lines of fire on the route the British advance was to take.[137] Formations such as the 503rd Heavy Tank Battalion also recovered and got to work digging out their half buried tanks to be ready for action that same morning.[138] While bombs did fall on the Bourguébus Ridge destroying some guns[130] most of the German artillery and anti tank guns were left intact.[139]

The rolling barrage signalling the start of Operation Atlantic started at 08:15 hours. The Canadian infantry and tanks crossed their start line at 08:35 hours,[140] five minutes later British infantry of the 159th Infantry Brigade entered Cuverville; they were able to secure the village and the surrounding area by 10:30 hours however patrols found Demouville to be firmly held by the Germans and further attempts to capture this second objective were delayed while the infantry reorganised.[141] The leading squadrons of 11th Armoured Division's 29th Armoured Brigade successfully navigated through the minefields and had reached the Caen-Troarn railway line by 08:05 hours.[142][143] The first phase of the rolling barrage ended 08:30 hours.[142] The brigade had already started to round up large numbers of prisoners from the 16th Luftwaffe Division who were still dazed from the bombardment.[133]

The Caen-Troarn railway line caused some delay to the armoured regiments; when the artillery resumed firing at 08:50 hours only the leading armoured regiment and a portion of a second had crossed. While opposition was still minimal and more prisoners were rounded up, the two armoured regiments were having trouble keeping up with the barrage as they started to move out of supporting distance of the reserve squadrons.[133]

The barrage ceased at 09:00 hours as planned and 35 minutes later the leading tanks had reached the Caen-Vimont railway line.[144] The brigade's third regiment, the 23rd Hussars in reserve, had only cleared the first railway line when they became embroiled in a hour and a half engagement with a battery of self propelled guns of the 200th Assault Gun Battalion that had been misidentified as Tiger tanks.[145]

The village of Cagny on 18 July following the aerial attacks.

As the tanks advanced past Cagny they came under anti tank fire from the east, including shots from 88mm flak guns in Cagny;[146] within a few minutes at least 12 tanks of the 2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry were disabled.[145][146]

What had been planned as an attack by three armoured divisions towards the Bourguébus Ridge had now became an unsupported advance by two tank battalions, out of sight of each other, against heavy German fire. The 2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry continued their advance south and was engaged by the main German gun line, while the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment had shifted westwards exchanging fire with the German garrison in Grentheville before bypassing the village and advancing along the outskirts of Caen before turning south for Bras and Hubert-Folie.[146]

By 11:15 hours British tanks had reached the ridge and the villages of Bras and Bourguébus. Attempts to advance further were met by fierce resistance, including fire from behind the British advance from pockets of resistance that had been bypassed.[147] While the British were fighting on the ridge General Eberbach ordered a full armoured counterattack to take place, described by historian Simon Trew as "not a defensive move but a full armoured charge". The 1st SS Panzer Division was to attack across the ridge while the 21st Panzer Division counterattacked in the Cagny area to recover all lost ground.[148] German tanks started to arrive on the ridge around noon and the British tankers were soon reporting German tanks and guns everywhere. In response Typhoon rocket strikes were directed onto the ridge all through the afternoon delaying and breaking up the 1st SS Panzer Division's counterattack.[147]

The remaining two armoured divisions were still negotiating the river crossings and minefield. The Guards Armoured Division having passed the German forward positions was held up by flanking fire from Cagny and Emieville. They took all day to clear the defenders from Cagny. When they had, they attacked in a divergent direction towards Vimont to the south east (as originally planned, but very much later than envisioned in the original operation orders). Unscathed defenders with well-entrenched anti-tank guns halted them and knocked out 60 tanks.[149] By dusk only an armoured regiment of the 7th Armoured Division was in action; most of the Division did not finish crossing the Orne until 22:00 and could not add its weight to the attack.

19-20 July

The German armour counter-attacked late in the afternoon and fighting continued along the high ground and around Hubert-Folie on 19 July and 20 July, bringing the attack to a halt. On 21 July, Dempsey started to secure his gains by substituting infantry for armour.


Goodwood gained some terrain as the bridgehead over the Orne was expanded; in a few areas the depth of penetration was 12,000 yards, but much of the gain was lateral, southward across the British front rather than eastwards into the depth of the German position; however, Caen was finally secured.[41]

Goodwood was launched at a time of high frustration in the higher command of the Allies, and this contributed to the controversy surrounding the operation. The Allied bridgehead in Normandy was not expanding at the pace they wanted; the lodgement was about 20% of the planned size, which led to congestion,[150] and there was some fear of a stalemate[151]. Allied commanders were not able to exploit their potentially decisive advantages in mobility during June and early July 1944. They were looking for a decisive breakthrough of the German defensive front.

Map showing territory gained in Operations Atlantic and Goodwood

Much of the controversy surrounding the objectives of the battle originates from the conflicting messages given by Montgomery. He talked up the objectives of Goodwood to the press on the first day, later saying that this was deliberate to encourage the Germans to commit their forces away from the western part of the battlefield. Montgomery was notoriously vain, and did not feel he had a responsibility to talk to superiors who were not on the battlefield. Therefore, in the planning stage of Goodwood, he seemed to promise that the attack would be the breakthrough the Allies were looking for, so that when the British VIII Corps failed to achieve a penetration, by some accounts U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower felt he had been misled. While his irregular communications to his commanders appeared to promise a breakthrough, Montgomery was writing orders to his subordinates that played down the chances of a breakthrough. For example, copies of orders forwarded to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) called for an armoured division to take Falaise, a town far in the German rear. Three days prior to the attack Montgomery revised these orders, eliminating Falaise as an objective but neglecting to send copies of the revision up to SHAEF. This left Eisenhower in the dark about the more conservative revised orders and later furious at the result. This was to haunt Montgomery afterwards, as it allowed his many enemies (especially Air Marshal Tedder) to imply that the operation was a failure.[152]

Tactically, the Germans contained the offensive, holding many of their main positions (though losing Bourguébus Ridge) and preventing an Allied breakthrough. Nonetheless, they had been startled by the weight of the attack and preliminary aerial bombardment. It was clear that any defensive system less than five miles deep could be overwhelmed at a stroke by another such attack, and the Germans could afford to man their defenses in such depth only in the sector south of Caen.[153]

The British extended their control over an extra seven miles to the east of Caen.[154] In the process they knocked out up to 100 German tanks and took just over 2000 prisoners.[155] The number of German soldiers killed or wounded during this battle is unknown.

The British army lost a total of 4,837 men killed, wounded or taken prisoner. I Corps had 3,817 casualties, and VIII Corps 1,020 casualties.[156] The armoured divisions lost 140 tanks knocked out and a further 174 tanks damaged in various degrees.[157] 11th Armoured Division was the worst hit, losing 191 tanks.[158] The number of British tank losses has been a subject of debate, and some historians put the number of destroyed British tanks at 300. [159] A large part of the tanks knocked out of battle could be repaired but the Guards Division, the 11th Armoured Division and the Desert Rats had lost 469 tanks (VIII Corps lost 131 tanks on the 19th and another 68 on the 20th), and to these numbers should be added the losses of the British I and Canadian II Corps (due to lack of statistics, these numbers will remain unknown.) [159]

Probably the biggest post-Goodwood claim of success was that the attack reinforced the German view that the British and Canadian forces on the Allied eastern flank were the most dangerous enemy. This resulted in the Axis committing their reserves to the eastern half of the battle, so the United States forces only faced one and a half Panzer divisions compared with the six and a half now facing the British and Canadian armies. Once Operation Cobra breached the thin German defensive 'crust' in the west, few German mechanized units were available to counterattack.[160] The American official campaign historian wrote post war that had Goodwood succeeded in creating a breakthrough, "...COBRA would probably have been unnecessary."[161]


  1. ^ Hart states that Goodwood "still constituted strategic success despite being [an] immediate tactical failure".[1] Dempsey is quoted stating the battle was not tactically very good but strategically was a "great success". Dempsey also notes that Montgomery would agree with him since the operation captured "strategically important new ground" and had "firmly tied down four Corps of panzers and infantry during the moment when Bradley was about to launch Cobra".[2] Wilmot also notes the strategic success of the operation.[3]
  2. ^ Ellis states the 3 armoured divisions of VIII Corps had a total strength of 750 tanks and a further 350 tanks were supporting the flanking Corps.[5]
  3. ^ Trew states that around 1,300 tanks would take part during the attack, including 759 medium tanks within VIII Corps and 275 with the flanking Corps.[6]
  4. ^ Reynold claims that a careful study of the relevant documents indicates a maximum tank loss of 253 tanks during Operation Goodwood, most of which were repairable.[10]
  5. ^ Buckley claims 21st Army Group had around 400 tanks knocked out during the Goodwood period. He also notes that most were eventually recovered.[11]
  6. ^ Trew provides an intermediate figure of around 334 tanks lost. He claims that after new investigation VIII Corps tank losses for Goodwood are 314 tanks knocked out, of which only 140 were completely destroyed. I Corps and the II Canadian Corps lost around 20 tanks during the same period.[12]
  7. ^ Reynolds suggests that figures of around 100 tanks destroyed are an over-exaggeration. He states that the figure of 75 tanks and assault guns destroyed during Goodwood, as claimed by Major-General Roberts of the 11th Armoured Division during an interview for the British Army Training film on Goodwood, can be accepted as accurate.[15] Tamelander claims that Panzer Group West only records the loss of 75 tanks during the period of 16–21 July.[16]
  8. ^ Trew claims the German tanks lost from all causes during the operation suggest a total German loss of perhaps 100 tanks.[9] Jackson also supports this position, claiming up towards 100 German tanks had been destroyed.[14]
  9. ^ "The quick capture of that key city [Caen] and the neighbourhood of Carpiquet was the most ambitious, the most difficult and the most important task of Lieutenant-General J.T. Crocker's I Corps".[18] Wilmot states "The objectives given to Crocker's seaborne divisions were decidedly ambitious, since his troops were to land last, on the most exposed beaches, with the farthest to go, against what was potentially the greatest opposition."[19] However Miles Dempsey always considered the possibility that the immediate seizure of Caen might fail.[20]
  10. ^ In 'Fields of Fire' by Terry Copp; Copp suggests that it was, in fact, Brigadier Charles Richardson, chief planning officer of 21st Army Group, who provided the starting point and inspiration for Operation Goodwood.[49]
  11. ^ Not including the 79th Armoured Division, which never acted as a single formation,[54] Guards Armoured Division, 7th Armoured Division and the 11th Armoured Division.[55]
  12. ^ The 4th, 8th, 27th and 33rd Armoured Brigade; the 31st and 34th Tank Brigades[56] and the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.[57] The 6th Guards Tank Brigade landed following the conclusion of the Atlantic/Goodwood battles and is not counted in the list.[58] One should also note no Medium tanks were issued to Tank Brigades, they were equipped with Churchill Infantry tanks and a small number of light tanks.[59][60]
  13. ^ Lieutenant-General Crocker of I Corps, Lieutenant-General Simmons of II Canadian Corps and Lieutenant-General O'Connor of VIII Corps.[61]
  14. ^ Goodwood was named after the Glorious Goodwood race meeting.[62]
  15. ^ There is some disagreement whether Montgomery or Dempsey cancelled the operation. Montgomery states he cancelled the operation after receiving negative feedback on the plan from O'Connor and decided to launch an attack west of Caen, which would later become Operation Epsom; while Dempsey, after the war told Chester Wilmot that he informed Montgomery that he was going to cancel the proposed operation on 18 June.[69]
  16. ^ 1st SS Panzer Division actually had 46 Panthers and 61 Panzer IV's.[83]
  17. ^ Rommel stated that the German defence east of the Orne comprised 194 field guns and 90 anti tank guns.[83]
  18. ^ 456 field pieces from 19 field regiments, 208 medium pieces from 13 medium regiments, 48 heavy pieces from 3 heavy regiments and 48 heavy anti-aircraft guns from 2 heavy anti-aircraft regiments.[88] The artillery was provided by I, VIII, XII Corps and II Canadian Corps as well as the 2nd Canadian Army Group Royal Artillery and the 4th Army Group Royal Artillery.[89]
  19. ^ Each field piece was allocated 500 rounds, each medium piece 300 rounds and each heavy piece 150 rounds.[88]
  20. ^ 1,056 heavy bombers of RAF Bomber Command, 539 heavy bombers of the USAAF Eighth Air Force and 482 medium bombers of the USAAF Ninth Air Force.[92]
  21. ^ The monitor H.M.S. Roberts; armed with two 15-inch guns, the light cruisers H.M.S. Mauritius; armed with twelve 6-inch guns and H.M.S. Enterprise armed with seven 6-inch guns.[88]
  22. ^ These were the first of 1,500 bailey bridges to be built by the British army during the campaign in northwest Europe.[99]
  23. ^ Following Operation Goodwood it took Royal Engineers five days, during daylight hours, to lift all the mines placed in front of the positions previously held by 51st (Highland) Infantry Division.[100]
  24. ^ Sherman tanks of the 148th Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps.[45]
  25. ^ XII Corps was comprised of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, reinforced by a brigade of 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division and the 34th Tank Brigade, the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division and 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division, minus one brigade.[118]
  26. ^ Bouncing searchlight beams off clouds to illuminate the ground below to aid the infantry[119]
  1. ^ Hart p. 89
  2. ^ D'este, p. 387
  3. ^ Wilmot, pp. 362–365
  4. ^ a b Trew, pp. 54–55
  5. ^ Ellis p. 336
  6. ^ a b c d Trew, p. 52
  7. ^ a b c Trew, pp. 60–61
  8. ^ Reynolds, p. 172
  9. ^ a b Trew, p. 97
  10. ^ Reynolds, p. 186
  11. ^ Buckley, p. 36
  12. ^ Trew, p. 98
  13. ^ Trew, p. 96
  14. ^ a b Jackson, p. 113
  15. ^ Reynolds, p. 187
  16. ^ Tamelander, p. 289
  17. ^ Williams, p. 24
  18. ^ Ellis, p. 171
  19. ^ Wilmot, p. 273
  20. ^ Buckley, p. 23
  21. ^ Ellis, p. 78
  22. ^ Ellis, p. 81
  23. ^ Van-Der-Vat, p. 146
  24. ^ Wilmot, pp. 284–286
  25. ^ Ellis, p. 247
  26. ^ a b Forty, p. 36
  27. ^ Ellis, p. 250
  28. ^ Ellis, p. 254
  29. ^ Taylor, p. 10
  30. ^ Taylor, p. 76
  31. ^ Forty, p. 97
  32. ^ Ellis, p. 255
  33. ^ Williams, p. 114
  34. ^ Wilmot, p. 322
  35. ^ Clark, pp. 31–32
  36. ^ Clark, pp. 32–33
  37. ^ a b Clark, p. 21
  38. ^ Hart, p. 108
  39. ^ Reynolds (2002), p. 13
  40. ^ Wilmot, p. 334
  41. ^ a b c Williams, p. 131
  42. ^ Jackson, p. 60
  43. ^ Bercuson, p. 222
  44. ^ a b Trew, p. 53
  45. ^ a b c d e Trew, p. 49
  46. ^ Wilmot, p. 351
  47. ^ Williams, p. 175
  48. ^ Hart, p. 64
  49. ^ Copp, p. 134
  50. ^ Hart, pp. 64–65
  51. ^ Hart, p. 65
  52. ^ Van-Der-Vat, p. 158
  53. ^ Dunphie, p. 30
  54. ^ Buckley, p. 13
  55. ^ Trew, p. 55
  56. ^ Fortin, pp. 44, 52, 58, 64, 69, 74
  57. ^ Buckley, p. 19
  58. ^ Fortin, p. 47
  59. ^ Clark, p. 36
  60. ^ Fortin, p. 47, 64, 74, 100
  61. ^ Jackson, p. 70
  62. ^ Ellis, p. 330
  63. ^ a b Trew, p. 64
  64. ^ a b Jackson, p. 72
  65. ^ Wilmot, p. 353
  66. ^ Trew, pp. 64–65
  67. ^ Stacey, p. 169
  68. ^ Williams, p. 161
  69. ^ Hart, pp. 131–132
  70. ^ Jackson, p. 79
  71. ^ a b c Trew, p. 66
  72. ^ Reynolds (2002), p. 44
  73. ^ Ellis, pp. 330–331
  74. ^ a b Ellis, p. 331
  75. ^ Jackson, p. 84
  76. ^ a b c d Trew, p. 70
  77. ^ a b Buckley, p. 35
  78. ^ a b Dunphie, p. 42
  79. ^ Ellis, p. 352
  80. ^ Stacey, pp. 170–171
  81. ^ Dunphie, p. 43
  82. ^ a b c Trew, p. 58
  83. ^ a b c d e f g h Trew, p. 53–56
  84. ^ a b c Ellis, p. 336
  85. ^ a b c d Daglish, p. 37
  86. ^ a b c d Daglish, p. 38
  87. ^ a b D'Este, p. 360
  88. ^ a b c d e Jackson, p. 86
  89. ^ Trew, pp. 68–69
  90. ^ a b Jackson, pp. 85–86
  91. ^ Ellis, p. 339
  92. ^ a b Jackson, p. 89
  93. ^ Dunphie, p. 35
  94. ^ a b c d e f g Reynolds (2001), p. 171
  95. ^ Trew, p. 65
  96. ^ Daglish, pp. 26–29
  97. ^ a b Jackson, p. 87
  98. ^ Daglish, p. 29
  99. ^ Daglish, p. 26
  100. ^ a b Jackson, p. 88
  101. ^ Trew, p. 68
  102. ^ Jackson, p. 91
  103. ^ Jackson, pp. 91–92
  104. ^ Daglish, p. 36
  105. ^ a b Reynolds (2001), p. 172
  106. ^ Jackson, p. 76
  107. ^ Jackson, p. 77
  108. ^ a b c d Jackson, p. 92
  109. ^ Trew, p. 59
  110. ^ a b Dunphie, p. 45
  111. ^ Reynolds (2001), pp. 170–171
  112. ^ Trew, p. 62
  113. ^ Trew, pp. 63–64
  114. ^ a b Trew, p. 57
  115. ^ Reynolds (2001), pp. 166, 171
  116. ^ Daglish, p. 35
  117. ^ a b c Copp, p. 135
  118. ^ a b Reynolds (2002), p. 46
  119. ^ a b Reynolds (2002), p. 47
  120. ^ Reynolds (2002), pp. 46–48
  121. ^ Reynolds (2002), pp. 49–50
  122. ^ a b c Ellis, p. 334
  123. ^ Randel, p. 17
  124. ^ Reynolds (2002), p. 50
  125. ^ Wilmot, pp. 357–358
  126. ^ a b Jackson, p. 93
  127. ^ Trew, p. 71
  128. ^ Dunphie, p. 56
  129. ^ Trew, pp. 71–72
  130. ^ a b c d e f g Trew, p. 72
  131. ^ a b Reynolds (2001), p. 174
  132. ^ Trew, p. 73
  133. ^ a b c d Jackson, p. 94
  134. ^ Saunders, pp. 61, 64
  135. ^ Saunders, p. 63
  136. ^ Saunders, p. 65
  137. ^ Williams, p. 167
  138. ^ Reynolds (2001), p. 175
  139. ^ Williams, p. 165
  140. ^ Trew, p. 76
  141. ^ Jackson, pp. 94–95
  142. ^ a b Dunphie, p. 62
  143. ^ Trew, p. 77
  144. ^ Jackson, p. 95
  145. ^ a b Dunphie, p. 74
  146. ^ a b c Trew, p. 80
  147. ^ a b Trew, p. 82
  148. ^ Trew, pp. 80-82
  149. ^ Wilmot, pp. 359–360
  150. ^ Blumenson, p. 4-6, 119
  151. ^ Blumenson, p. 4, 186
  152. ^ Williams, p. 174
  153. ^ Wilmot, p. 264
  154. ^ Trew, p. 94
  155. ^ Trew, p. 96–97
  156. ^ Wilmot, p. 362
  157. ^ Trew, pp. 97–98
  158. ^ Fortin, p. 19
  159. ^ a b Tamelander, Zetterling, p. 288
  160. ^ Williams, p. 185
  161. ^ Blumenson, p. 188


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