British Armour in the Normandy Campaign, 1944

British Armour in the Normandy Campaign, 1944

British Armour in the Normandy Campaign, 1944

British Armour in the Normandy Campaign, 1944

Synopsis

Buckley challenges the prevailing view that British failure to break out of the Normandy bridgehead in 1944 was due largely to the inadequacies of their armour. Analysing the reality & level of the supposed failures the author throws new light on the puzzle of why the armoured formations proved ineffective.

Excerpt

Campaigns are the building blocks of war, and none of the campaigns fought during the Second World War surpasses the Normandy campaign in importance - or in controversy. Field Marshal Montgomery's personality and style provided ample grounds for dispute while the campaign was still under way, and the methods employed by him and by his commanders in Normandy during the months of June and July 1944 soon gave rise to criticisms which have provided the basis for decades of historical dispute. The critics, whose numbers include Chester Wilmot, Sir Basil Liddell Hart, Carlo d'Este, Sir Max Hastings and Sir John Keegan, are many and distinguished and the multiple grounds on which they have found fault with the campaign have included almost every aspect of its conduct. Among the plethora of issues which have been raised in this debate, none is more fundamental than that of the fighting power of the British Army, apparently condemned to a place in the military league table far below that of the German Army despite the fact that it was victorious in Normandy.

Condemned from start to finish - indeed from before its start - Normandy can all too easily become a litany of failures. Sent across the Channel to fight in inferior tanks as a result of a policy of tank procurement which had been going wrong ever since 1940, British tankers justifiably developed 'Tiger-phobia' as they came to grips with the enemy's Tiger and Panther tanks, greatly superior to their own Shermans, Churchills and Cromwells in both armour protection and gun power. Worn down by months of combat before they arrived in France, crack units such as 7th Armoured Division performed badly, while new formations lacked the 'do and die' attitude to combat displayed by their enemy because, as senior British commanders privately confided to one another, 'Tommy is no soldier'. Doctrinal confusions and battlefield flux were alike papered over by Montgomery's assertions that all was going according to plan. The result, exemplified in Operation GOODWOOD (18-20 July) when British armour was committed on a front only two thousands yards wide and some 400 tanks

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