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Villiers Bocage Epic battle scene

Villiers Bocage Epic battle scene Image
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D-Day +7.
The British are advancing toward Caen and are coming to a grinding halt by the elite German Panzer-Lehr Division at a town called Tilly-sur-Seulles. The British 7th Armored Division is ordered to flank southeast around the Germans through the town of Villers-Bocage and capture the high ground beyond, called Point 213. The British advancing through the area are being opposed by Michael Wittmann, commander of the 2nd Company in the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion. Wittmanns orders are to position his unit behind the Panzer-Lehr-Division to cover their open left flank. At approximately 0900 hours, Wittmann's Tiger emerges from cover to the surprise of the entire advancing British column thus opening the battle for Villers-Bocage.

The Battle of Villers-Bocage took place during the Second World War on 13 June 1944, one week after the Allies landed in Normandy to begin the liberation of German-occupied France. The battle was the result of a British attempt to improve their position by exploiting a temporary vulnerability in the German defences to the west of the city of Caen. After one day of fighting in and around the small town of Villers-Bocage and a second day defending a position outside the town, the British force retired.

Both British and Germans regarded control of Caen as vital to the Normandy battle. In the days following the Allied D-Day landings of 6 June, the Germans rapidly established strong defences in front of the city. On 9 June a two-pronged British attempt to surround and capture Caen was defeated, but on the British forces' right flank, neighbouring American units had forced open a wide gap in the German front line. Seizing the opportunity to bypass Caen's defences, a mixed mobile force of tanks, infantry and artillery, formed around the 7th Armoured Division's 22nd Armoured Brigade, advanced through the gap in a flanking manoeuvre towards Villers-Bocage. British commanders hoped that the appearance of a strong force in their rear would force the German defenders of Caen's western approaches—principally the Panzer Lehr armoured division—to surrender or withdraw.

Under the command of Brigadier William "Loony" Hinde,the 22nd Armoured Brigade group reached Villers-Bocage without serious incident, but as its lead elements moved beyond the town on the morning of 13 June they were ambushed by Tiger I tanks of the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion. In fewer than 15 minutes numerous tanks, anti-tank guns and transport vehicles fell victim to the German force, the vast majority being destroyed by SS-Obersturmführer Michael Wittmann's tank. With reinforcements arriving the Germans then launched an assault on the town. Although this was repelled, after six hours Hinde decided to withdraw his force to a more defensible position outside Villers-Bocage. The following day fighting resumed in the Battle of the island. The British defended their position until a controversial decision was taken to pull the Brigade group back from its salient. Villers-Bocage played no further role in the Second Army's Battle for Caen; the town was eventually liberated on 4 August, although by then it had been bombed twice by the Royal Air Force and was largely in ruins.

The Battle of Villers-Bocage has proved a contentious subject among students of the campaign because the British withdrawal marked the end of the post D-Day "scramble for ground" and the start of a grinding attritional battle for Caen. Most historians conclude that its failure was due to a lack of conviction among some senior commanders rather than a military defeat, although a few also maintain that the force committed was inadequate for the task. In particular Michael Wittmann's single-handed action during the battle's early stages has excited imaginations, to the extent that recent historians argue that it has disproportionately dominated the historical record and that, while "remarkable", Wittmann's role in deciding the battle's outcome has been exaggerated.

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