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Operation Goodwood

Operation Goodwood was an Allied military operation of World War II from July 18 to 20, 1944.

After the early successes of the Battle of Normandy the Allied advance had come to a halt. The key town of Caen was not taken on the first day as planned and over a month later it was still in German hands. The bocage landscape of Normandy was a serious impediment to attacking operations but the clearer land to the east, between Caen and Vimont[?], looked more promising. The largest armoured assault yet seen in western Europe was planned as Operation Goodwood for July 18. Allied armour from the 2nd Army was chosen to lead the attack, and though it was expected to be costly, certain commanders had high hopes of a breakthrough. The main force would be the armoured divisions of the VIII Corps: the 11th, the 7th and the Guards. The 11th's targets were Bras[?], Hubert-Folie[?], Verrieres[?], and Fontenay[?]; the 7th's Garcelles-Secqueville[?]; and the Guards would push through around Cagny[?] and Vimont[?]. The target was to push the Germans from the higher ground of the Bourguebus Ridge[?]. A Canadian force would cover the east flank and British infantry the west flank. The plan was developed by Miles Dempsey[?] and was approved by the commander-in-chief Bernard Montgomery on July 10.

The Allied attack had certain problems from the onset: the armour had to cross the Orne River[?] and the Caen Canal to reach the battle ground but to move too early would alert the Germans to the attack. In hindsight we can see that the armour moved too late: the thousands of tanks were horribly slowed by the bottle-neck of the three Orne bridges and when they reached the battle area they ran into another problem. The entire area had been heavily mined, not just by the Germans but by the Allies too -- in the weeks after the June landings great areas had been mined and not marked, leading to the leading Allied force, the 11th Division, running into Allied anti-tank mines. A more serious problem was that the terrain was not as advantageous as hoped and the area was filled with small villages, each of which had a small German garrison of infantry, armour and artillery. The area was thus divided into a series of strongpoints overlooking the intended Allied line of advance.

The pre-attack bombardment was undertaken by almost 1,000 heavy and medium bombers dropping over 15,000 bombs. The German positions to the east of Caen were carpet-bombed[?] and many of the villages were reduced to rubble, severely disrupting the German defenses and initially reducing the German soldiers to stunned, unresisting groups.

Early advances by the Allied armour were taken under a creeping barrage but were slow, despite encountering little resistance. By the time the Caen-Vimont railway was reached the Germans had regrouped. The Fife and Forfar Yeomanry lost twelve tanks at Cagny when 88mm AA guns were turned on them: a single hit on a Sherman was usually sufficient to reduce it to a burning wreck. The Allies slowly pushed through and crossed the railway line to approach the German-held ridge at Bourgebus, where they encountered the 21st Panzer Division and the 1st SS Panzer Division. Over seventy Shermans were destroyed before the Allies withdrew. The German armour counter-attacked around evening and fighting continued along the high ground and around Hubert-Folie until the 19th, by which time any chance of a breakthrough was lost.

In all the Allies had extended their control over an extra seven miles to the east of Caen and destroyed over 100 German tanks, for the loss of 413 tanks and over 5,500 men. The action did however give the US operation codenamed Cobra[?] a greater chance of success.

Operation Goodwood was also used as the codename for the series of attacks by the British Fleet Air Arm on the German battleship Tirpitz in late August 1944.

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