Operation Goodwood

Frustrated by weeks of failed attempts to break the deadlock around the British invasion beaches and move inland after D-Day, Field Marshal Montgomery seized upon the idea of launching a massive armored attack that would capture Caen and end the stalemate in Normandy

The Plan

On July 18th, Canadian forces of the 2nd Division would try to conquer Verrières and some other villages in the neighborhood by advancing via the north side of the river Orne. British troops would take on the fight with the Germans via the east side of the river.

The basis of the Goodwood plan was for the British to use their armored divisions to attack Caen and the open land behind Caen from the bridgehead of the Orne River. From here they would attack Bourguébus. Once on the ridge of Bourguébus, the British army would be ready to break out on the site of the ‘Falaise Pocket’. The Germans would be forced to respond to this threat with great manpower or would otherwise be overrun.

Because at the same time,the US Operation Cobra was about to start, the Germans had to spread their troops. They choose to send most of their troops to the east of Caen: Operation Goodwood.

The Operation

On 17 July, the Second British Army, assisted by the 1st and 8th British Corps, advanced to their positions under complete radio silence.

After a violent aerial bombardment of the German positions, the British headed east of Caen on 18 July, led by General Miles Dempsey and Bernard Montgomery. However, the aerial bombardment had not caused as much damage as hoped for. The first bombing had created so much dust and debris that the next wave of bombers could not accurately determine their targets. The result of the bombing was that the radio silence was broken and the Germans noted the attack.

After about 9 kilometres, the advance of the Allies was seriously delayed by broken vehicles.The 8th British Army Corps lost 220 tanks that day due to German anti-tank guns. Nevertheless, the British eventually managed to conquer about 11 kilometres on the Germans.

When the British tanks wanted to advance further on the ridge of Bourguébus on July 19, they faced the tanks of the Waffen-SS. Due to the opposition of the SS-Panzer-Division Leibstandarte, the SS-Panzer-Division Hohenstauffen and SS-Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend, Montgomery was forced to call off a further advance. Moreover, the bad weather played a role in the Germans.

In total, more than 400 Sherman tanks were damaged on the British side, of which more than 130 tanks were completely destroyed.

Aftermath

At the end of Operation Goodwood, the British managed to achieve their main goal: to conquer (the eastern part of) Caen. A further advance to Bourguébus was prevented by the Germans. It is worth noting that the French city suffered much more damage after the Allied invasion than during the German occupation.

In addition, the operation achieved an additional goal: German troops in and around the city were surrounded, so that they could not withdraw and move to fight the American troops in the west (Operation Cobra). The Germans had deployed only one and a half armored division in the west and a whopping six and a half armored division in the northeast to stop the British and Canadian troops. Operation Cobra was launched by the US Army on July 25, which ultimately resulted in a major Allied victory.

I was fortunate enough to attend a re-enactment session which shows soldiers of the 12. SS Panzer Division ‘Hitlerjugend’ and soldiers of the Welsh Guards as they would have conducted operations during 'Operation Goodwood', Normandy July 1944

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