“Battle of the Bocage”

Normandy was the scene of furious fightings for several weeks after June 6, 1944. After the battle of the beaches came what historians now commonly call the “hedgerows war” in reference to the nature of the land. The hedgerows, also known as the “battle of the bocage”, began the day after D-Day and was over at the end of August 1944, when allied troops eventually released the biggest part of the current Basse-Normandie region.

The British failure to take Caen on D-Day and make progress further inland meant the Germans were able to get sufficient forces into the battle area to contain the Allied armies. 12th SS Hitlerjugend Division proved a particularly formidable opponent. By nightfall on D-Day its lead elements were in position on the left flank of 21st Panzer Division, facing the Canadian 3rd Division. Over the next few days the fanatical SS formation made repeated attempts to drive a wedge through to the sea. The Canadians held the SS at great cost but were prevented from continuing their own advance further south, and could only consolidate their positions. By 9 June the German Army’s elite Panzer Lehr Division had also arrived. It took up position west of Hitlerjugend, opposing British 50th Division around Tilly-sur-Seulles, south of Bayeux. These three formations formed the main defence for Caen, but plans for a major counterattack had to be abandoned as a result of Allied air attacks.

(Colour by Doug and Royston)

Four Nazi soldiers of the Panzer Lehr division gather around a map as they plan their offensive in the town of Tilly-sur-Seulles. The Panzer Lehr division was an elite German armoured division during World War Two. It was formed in 1943 onwards from training and demonstration troops stationed in Germany, to provide additional armoured strength for the anticipated Allied invasion of western Europe. It was the only Wehrmacht Panzer division to be fully equipped with tanks and with half-tracks to transport its mechanized infantry. On several occasions it fought almost to destruction and by the end of the war in Europe bore little resemblance to the unit that had originally been activated