10 July, 2014

Capturing the Crossing

The main thrust of Operation Epsom began at 0700 hrs. on June 26th. Early British progress was good, with solid artillery support and even some naval gunfire. It looked like the way was clear. The forward German positions, however, were lightly manned and the British soon discovered the German defence in depth. The goal for the first day was to capture the bridge that spanned the Odon just south of Cheux. The crossing was critical to maintain the operation’s momentum. The 15th Scottish Division, supported by the 31st Tank Brigade, made its way toward Cheux where it soon was bogged down in hours of bitter hand-to-hand fighting.

The German 12th SS Hitlerjugend Panzer Division with elements from the 21st Panzer Division launched a counterattack to repel the British and deny the crossing. The Germans were beaten back with the aid of the British artillery but succeeded in temporarily halting the Allied advance. The British pressed the attack with the 11th Armoured Division, but it too stalled out. Without the support or armour, the British infantry soon ran into trouble and opted to dig in for the night well short of its desired crossing. The German commander, General Dollman viewed the containment as an outright defensive victory.

British armour supports infantry in the attack on the bridge
Their right flank advances with some artillery support - they'll need it as the Germans as well-ensconced in the hill beyond
Germans advancing to take control of the central hill overlooking the farmhouse and bocage are met with a brief armoured thrust
The British tanks are driven back, taking significant damage
In the centre, the struggle over the farm sees the elite German armour take a hammering
The Luftwaffe (twice in one day!) shows up to wreak havoc on the strong British left flank 
Staying around to knock out an armour troop and the artillery battery
The struggle over the farm intensifies, with a infantry assault pushing the German control there to the limit
A final armoured attack nearly cuts off the farm, but the counter-punch leaves the British reeling
A hard-fought German victory leaves the campaign for Caen in the balance...

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