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Operation Spring

 
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» Saint André-sur-Orne: Germans and Canadians in the heart of Hell
 
Objectives
The Canadian objective was the high ground on either side of the Caen-Falaise road along the crossroads west of Cramesnil, securing villages on and behind Verrières Ridge and Tilly-la-Campagne beyond Bourguebus.

The plan for attack defined 4 phases:

  • Black Watch to secure May-sur-Orne at bottom of western slope of Verrières Ridge. Then:
  • Royal Hamilton Light Infantry to storm up Verrières Ridge and take Verrières village on the crest, and
  • Tilly-la-Campagne 1.5 k east of Verrières village, to be taken.
  • Once secured 7th Armoured, Guards Armoured, and 3rd Canadian Infantry Division were to leapfrog towards Falaise if possible.
Background
Virtually all unit troops of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division spent the 2nd half of June in reserve. But, the end of the month saw intense action on various fronts. This was a crucial time for the Canadian army in Normandy. Cherbourg was captured on June 26 and Caen fell on July 9, after many days of fighting in the industrial villages in and around the old city.

A new battle of attrition began as the Americans bogged down in the bocage, and the British and Canadian forces faced a German strong point on the low ridges of Falaise. Montgomery's fear was that the Germans might concentrate their forces on the American front before they could breakout. A massive armoured thrust was proposed, Operation Goodwood, to keep the Germans main strength located on the Anglo-Canadian front.

The Canadians around Caen were assigned to push the entrenched German army off the Verrières ridge, key to the defences south of Caen... and clear the main road through Falaise to Paris.

Elements from three German divisions were located on high ground above the west bank of the Orne in a triangle of villages: May-sur-Orne, Saint-Andre-sur-Orne, and Saint-Martin-de-Fontenay, which overlooked the road.

They had access to mine shafts that allowed them to infiltrate behind the British-Canadian forward lines.

One attempt had already been made during Operation Goodwood, when the Maj. Gen Foulke's Second Division was unable to overcome the German line at May-sur-Orne, and a British armoured thrust at Verrières Ridge failed. On July 19, Simonds then sent the Essex Scottish to attempt Verrières village but they were beaten back by fire from the "German Triangle" and from Fontenay-le-Marmion and Roquancourt to the south.

Under pressure from Bradley who is ready to launch Cobra, Montgomery pressures the Canadians to finally take the ridge. The Seventh Armoured and Guards Armoured Divisions are given to Simonds to be used as breakthrough corps in Operation Spring. The Second Corps takes over from the Eighth Corps, the villages of Bras, Hubert-Folie and Bourguebus, facing Tilly, Verrières and Saint-MartinSaint-Andre.

 Photo Gallery
 
Canadian soldier taking part in night attack near Fleury-sur-Orne, France, 25 July 1944.
Soldier silhoutted against gun fire, Fleury sur Orne, France, early morning, 25 July 1944.
 
Sources: CBC Archives, Veterans Affairs Canada, Canadian War Museum, ValourandHorror.com, Library and Archives Canada

Last updated on Sep 11, 2006 22:00. Page viewed 13061 times.