|European Campaign - Part I: Operation Spring|
|by Paul Rohrbaugh|
Operation Spring: The Fight for Hill 122
Now I’ve seen General Simonds and I know what you are being asked to do. It is a difficult job and will require very careful thinking out…Go cautiously with your armour, making sure that any areas from which you could be shot up by Panthers and 88s are guarded. Remember what you are doing is not a rush-job to Paris…
--General Richard O’Connor, commander of the Allied 8th Corps, in a letter to the commander of the 7th Armoured Division on the eve of the battle.
Whoever crosses this ridge is a dead man!
--SS Major Kurt Meyer, reporting back to the 9th SS Divisional HQ during the battle.
Following the disaster that was Operation Goodwood a week earlier in July, General Bernard Montgomery turned to the Canadian Corps south of Caen in an attempt to break out of the Normandy beach head, as well as to steal a march on the Americans before their offensive, Operation Cobra, was launched. Unlike the British armored charge a few days earlier, the Canadian’s offensive, dubbed Operation Spring, would be a combined-arms attack. The Canadians were told the Germans were badly weakened from the earlier British offensive, and that lavish air and artillery support would back them up. To provide an element of surprise, the Canadian attack would commence in the early morning, before daybreak. Over 100 searchlights were brought forward from the beachhead to illuminate the battleground and to blind the stunned defenders.
General Montgomery’s offensive to take Verrieres Ridge was modeled after the one he used successfully at El Alamein. The Canadian’s 2nd and 3rd Infantry Divisions, backed by their 2nd Armoured Brigade, the Canadian Corps along with the 8th Army artillery, planned to pry an opening in the German lines through which the British 7th and Guards Armoured Divisions would exploit. Monty was convinced the defenders had suffered as badly as his forces did in the battles to take Caen and the earlier Operation Goodwood offensive. This assumption was to cost the Canadians dearly. Indeed, following the battle the Germans redeployed their surviving armoured units to the west, confident the Commonwealth forces were sufficiently defeated. That the Canadians came close to driving the Germans to their breaking point is a testament to the ferocity and courage both sides brought to this battlefield.