For "Charnwood," Montgomery deployed the three divisions of the 1 British Corps, supported by artillery and naval guns offshore. A front of some eight miles would be struck on the morning of July 8. The Canadians were tasked with clearing the surrounding towns and villages that had been so bitterly contested less than a month before.
The plan called for the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders to take Cruchy and the Chateau de St. Louet, while the Highland Light Infantry assaulted Buron and the North Novas, Authie and Franqueville. From this base, they would move on to Cussy, Meyer's headquarters at the Abbaye d'Ardennes - where 27 Canadian prisoners had been executed a few days after D-Day - and, if all went well, Caen.
The men of the Highland Light Infantry would always remember their objective as "Bloody Buron." They made it to the outskirts of the village with few casualties. Unfortunately, the village itself was strongly held by a ring of defensive positions and the battle lasted all day. The Germans fell back, then counterattacked with tanks which were beaten off by a battery of British 17-pounders attached to the regiment. By day's end, the Highlanders had lost 262 men and their commanding officer.
On the right flank, the Glens captured Gruchy with much less difficulty, then, led by an unconventional charge by the Bren gun carriers of the 7th Reconnasiance Regiment, moved on to the Chateau de St. Louet. The North Novas pushed through Buron and siezed Authie, having sustained "very heavy casualties by mortars and 88 fire."
At the Abbaye d'Ardenne, the Regina Rifles reported that every move forward was checked by tank, mortar, and machine gun fire. "B" Company suffered 61 casualties and "C" Company was pinned down by a pillbox in one corner of the building and snipers in the bell tower. "D" Company was able to make it to the Abbaye garden under the cover of 2-inch mortar and tank smoke, then dug in and waited for morning, protected by the walls of the fortress they were assaulting.
The Canadian Scottish found the approach to Cussy contested by snipers and shellfire. Both flanks were still held by the SS and a confused battle raged until nightfall when two companies of the Winnipegs were brought up to reinforce the position before the anticipated counterattacks.
But there would be no counterattack. During the night, Rommel ordered the withdrawal of all heavy weapons south of the Orne River and rearguards in the battered city could put up only token resistance. The next day, the Canadians cautiously pushed into Caen, snipers, mines and booby traps slowing their progress. Reconnaissance units, ordered forward to seize crossings over the Orne were unable to move through the rubble-choked streets. Yet, to their astonishement, the Canadians were greeted as liberators. David Halton of the CBC reported:
"Amid their thousands of dead and wounded men, women and children, most of them the victims of our bombing and shelling, amid worse wreckage than I've ever seen in any war or campaign, amid fire and smoke and bursting shells and diving enemy aircraft, several thousand people of Caen came out of the ancient abbey church where they'd been taking shelter, to watch the flag of France broken from a masthead and to sing the "Marseillaise" with strained and broken voices and with tears running down their cheeks."
It had taken more than a month to reach Caen - a city that had been a D-Day objective.
Last updated on Sep 11, 2006 22:00. Page viewed 10138 times.