Caen: Anvil of Victory
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A brilliant reconstruction of the struggle that ravaged Normandy throughout the summer of 1944 in the wake of the D-Day landings, this work culls personal accounts of those who took part in the fighting, both Allied and German, and of the French civilians caught in one of the most terrible and heroic episodes of the Second World War. With fearful losses on both sides and unspeakable suffering for the French, who had to endure constant massive bombardments from the air, this acclaimed account re-creates a vivid portrait of the action and feelings felt by all involved. A major commemoration of the role played by the common soldiers—those who witnessed the landings and experienced the Battle for Caen—this edition includes revisions and new material and is further enhanced by archival photographs.
plus 12 and D plus 56, the British front had moved forward only about half-a-dozen miles, at enormous cost; and as it was not continuously held, it was in fact possible to drive straight through. Fifteen miles at 30 m.p.h. is only half-an-hour; by stepping on it, you could make the German lines in 20 minutes. Rarely can front and rear have been so near; rarely can so many men have been gathered for battle in so cramped a space. By the end of July, the Allied beachhead was still only a tiny
foot flowed the stream where Arlette, the tanner’s daughter, is said first to have caught the eye of Duke Robert the Bold, lord of Falaise. In 1027, in a room at the top of the castle, she gave birth to a male child whose name was William and whose destiny lay over the sea in England. Now, in 1944, after 900 years, the new nation he had forged had come back to the assault of his birthplace, not with a whistling storm of arrows, but under the thunderous scream of the diving Typhoons and the smoke
menacing drive of 29 Armoured Brigade towards Hill 112, which dominated the south-western approach to Caen. For 12th S.S., Gavrus was a minor crisis, but Hill 112 had all the makings of a major disaster. As the Shermans of 23 Hussars roared up onto part of Hill 112, Motorised Flak Unit I/53 was already in movement to deny them control of the summit. “It was our job to repel the attacking British tanks”, said Groetschel, “and also to relieve one Battalion of the 12th S.S. Panzer Division ‘Hitler
Division. Never had there been so many S.S. divisions in so small a space. Yet, although none of the new divisions had completed its assembly, what had arrived was, without fail, to attack on the morning of 29 June. Even this was delayed by Allied air action, and an officer of 9th S.S., out early reconnoitring routes leading towards Cheux, was captured by 15th Scottish, complete with the plans of the coming attack. This gathering of all the armoured power of the German Armies in the West around
those of the defender by three or more to one. Now was the time, not to advance, but to put the German strategic reserve through the ‘mincing machine’ and cripple it for further operations. All day on the 29th, in the drizzling rain, they awaited the massive blow, the Wessex lining the eastern side of the ‘corridor’, the Scottish facing west towards II S.S. Panzer Corps, those formidable divisions which had brought the Red Army spring advance to a stumbling halt. Up to now, most of the ‘Panthers’