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British Battles

British Battles
 
   

D-Day, 1944

The Battle for Normandy, June - August 1944

Next moves

Having gained a foothold in Normandy, the Allies set about joining up and expanding their separate beach heads. They also had to open a port (Cherbourg) for reinforcements and supplies. Artificial harbours were used until normal ports could be opened.

 

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British Mulberry harbour at Arromanches

 

Watch film of the Allied advance after D-Day

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Both sides faced difficulties after the landings. The Germans hoped to contain the Allied beach head with infantry forces, while saving their mobile reserves for a major counter-attack. The numerous hedgerows, sunken lanes and small villages of the Normandy countryside offered them good cover and restricted Allied mobility.

Because they still feared another Allied landing in the Pas de Calais, however, the Germans held some troops back and reinforcements were slow to arrive. The movement of German forces was also slowed by bomb damage to railways and bridges, by the constant menace of air attack and by the activities of the French resistance. In addition, Hitler's insistence on holding ground meant high mortality among German troops.

Breakthrough

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The Allied conduct of the battle developed in two ways. The British and Canadians engaged the German mobile reserves in a series of attritional battles around Caen, while the Americans, facing less resistance, were able to gain more ground to the west. Although Montgomery (commander of the Allied land forces) faced some criticism because progress seemed slow, in the end his strategy of wearing down the German forces and keeping them off balance paid off.

The long-awaited, decisive breakthrough came during late July and early August. Another British attack pinned down the German mobile forces south of Caen, while the Americans broke through against depleted opposition. Forced to commit their reserves against the British, the Germans were too weak to oppose the American breakthrough after 25 July. As the Americans poured out into the open countryside, a counter-attack ordered by Hitler failed and by mid-August the Germans were facing encirclement. They retreated in chaos and the Allies had taken Paris by 25 August.

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