Monday 16 March 2015

Operation Goodwood staff ride

We recently had one of our periodic short holidays in Normandy. Whenever we go, we like to do a staff ride and examine some aspect of the Normandy 1944 campaign in some detail. This time we chose Operation Goodwood: the "cavalry charge" by three British armoured divisions into the teeth of a German defence in depth southeast of Caen.

Our text for the tour was the Goodwood volume of the excellent BAOR Battlefield Tour books from MLRS Books Ltd (Military Library Research Service).

A lot of the country between Caen and Bourgebus is now much more built-up than it was in July 1944. However, we found quite a good spot just by the side of the road halfway between Bourgebus and La Hogue. From there, you can see Soliers and Four and points beyond, and we were able to sit there, read through the account of the action, and picture the British tank regiments repeatedly bashing their heads against the brick wall of Tigers, Panthers, SP and AT guns.

One thing I found particularly interesting was to read the commander's conclusions from the operation at the end of the book: Heavy air bombardment is a one-shot weapon, best used on the second line of defence. This means having to find other means to get through the first line swiftly. Two keys to that are (a) night attack and (b) providing armoured personnel carriers for the infantry to keep up with the tanks.

And lo and behold, for the next push towards Falaise, Operation Totalize, that's exactly what they did. And that will be our next tour.

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