The Cannae Manoeuvre/
Anglo-American Version 1944
He either fears his fate too much
Or his deserts are small,
That puts it not unto the touch
To win or lose it all.
Marquis of Montrose
Exactly four days previously at one o'clock in the morning, von Kluge, faced by a crisis in the centre of his front in the Caumont sector where a British breakthrough appeared imminent and on his left flank where First Army was creating an ever-widening gap east of Avranches, had just decided to move II ss Panzer Corps from the Caen front to stabilise his centre between the Orne and the Vire when a bolt from the blue arrived from Hitler: he must concentrate all his armour on his left wing and regain contact with the coast at Avranches. Patton's army would thus be isolated and in due course destroyed: what would be done after that was less clear. According to Speidel, Chief of Staff of Army Group B, the arch-strategist then intended to roll up the whole of the Allied front from the west. Whatever von Kluge thought about this preposterous order he nonetheless immediately proceeded to implement it.
German headquarters staffs lived through many nightmare situations in World War Two: none can have been worse than the next four days. To move the 21st, 9th and 10th ss Panzer Divisions from the British Second Army Front would inevitably result in complete collapse: they must stay where they were. There was incessant tele