The Battles For Caen

The Battle of Caen was fought from 6th June – 20th July 1944.

  • Allies: Gen Montgomery, Lt Gen Dempsey. 14x Divs, 8x Armd/Tank Bdes
  • Germans: FM Rommel, FM Gunther von Kluge. 15x Divs, 3 Hy Tk Bns


Caen was identified early on as the MAIN Objective for the D Day invasion due to its strategic position along the River ORNE and Caen Canal as well as its role as a major regional road hub. Its capture would inhibit the ability of German Forces to respond quickly to allied operations once ashore. The open terrain would allow the establishment of airfields and provide an easier line of advance inland as opposed the more difficult Bocage (hedgerow) country to the West. The capture of Caen was assigned to the British 3rd Infantry Division assisted by the British 6th Airborne Division and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. This required an advance of approximately 7 1/2 miles from SWORD Beach.

Operations specific to the capture Caen included PERCH, EPSOM and CHARNWOOD. This latter had as its key objective to clear Caen south to the river ORNE and secure bridges over it. On the 8th July, an attack was mounted heavily supported by bombers and naval gunfire. Led by 1 Corps, three infantry divisions (3rd British, 59th British and 3rd Canadian) supported by armour pushed forward.

To the West, the Canadians renewed their efforts against Carpiquet airfield supported by naval gunfire and two squadrons of Hawker Typhoons (1). British forces reached the outskirts of Caen that evening. At dawn the following morning, British troops infiltrated into the city while other forces occupied Carpiquet airfield after 12 SS Pzr Division withdrew. Later that day, British and Canadian troops united and drove the enemy out of the northern suburbs of Caen. As CHARNWOOD concluded, Operation JUPITER followed by Operation GOODWOOD were conducted.


Though originally a D Day objective, it took allied forces around seven weeks to finally liberate the city on 20th July. Due to the ferocity of the fighting, much of Caen was destroyed and had to be rebuilt after the War.

Notes: The British Friends of Normandy donated

  1. A model of the Hawker Typhoon aircraft to Le Mémorial now seen in the Main Foyer
  2. An Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE) to the commune Lion-sur-mer