Pages: 272 Publisher: Pen & Sword Military ISBN: 1 84415 153 0
This is an interesting book on the Operation Goodwood, especially on the actions of the armoured elements of the 11th Armoured Division, the 29th Armoured Brigade and the 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry (the armoured reconnaissance regiment of the 11th which was in fact its fourth tank battalion), during it. The most unique feature of the book is the generous use of aerial photographs taken during the first day of the battle by a RAF PR Spitfire.
Daglish had carried out a great deal of original research, and has attempted to find the best authentic British sources for each part of the battle. From notes one sees that he had used at least some British war diaries and from text that he has utilized especially signal logs, and has been aware the problems with their use. But he seems not to have used German war diaries. The text is supported by a large number of aerial photographs taken during the battle, and a good selection of related pictures, which often help to explain some of the more obscure elements of the battle. The aerial pictures and pictures on the ground show well the awesome destruction produced by the pre-attack aerial bombardment and by the artillery barrage. And the actions of Becker’s 200. StuG Abteilung is well described with help of few Becker’s drawings on its tactical deployment. It is awful to see the tracks lines made by the Tiger IIs/King Tigers of the 1./sPzAbt. 503 attacking towards Lirose, one pair of track marks ending into a massive bomb crater, the destiny of the company commander’s tank. Or track marks of the failed assault on Bras by the 3rd RTR on 18 July, mostly straight approaching followed wavering retreat by those still capable to move.
There are also a fair amount of extracts from personal accounts, but overwhelmingly those of British, more balance in this would have been helpful. The lack of a bibliography is a minus. At least a bit more should have been given the goals of the offensive, at least the minimum geographical objectives laid down by Montgomery and the more restricted geographical objectives given by Dempsey, the GOC of the British 2nd Army, on the eve of the battle. IMHO a note that more detailed information can be found in author’s earlier book on the subject isn’t enough. Also no clear figures of the total losses suffered by the British and German forces during the battle are not given, only on the page 194 is given the tank losses of the “sabre” squadrons of the 29th Armoured Brigade suffered on 18th July 1944 but that is all. After all the given main objectives of the operation were, alongside the pinning down the main part of the German armour against British sector, ‘write down the German armour to such an extent that it is of no further value to the Germans as a basis of the battle. To gain a good bridgehead over the Orne through Caen…’ so the information of the losses is significant in order to understand the success or failure of the operation. I understand that the object of this book is to describe how the battle was fought but a half page on objects and a page on the losses and on the significance of the ground gained should have been possible plus a map showing the line reached at the end of the operation. And no information of the strength and armament of the remains of the 16. LW-Feld- Division, which was the first unit to took the impact of the British attack. The book heavily concentrated on the events on 18 July, they took 144 pages of the book. The day was clearly the most important day of the operation and the aerial photos used were taken on that day but 19 July got only 10 and half pages and the last combat day, 20 July, got less than a half page. IMHO a little more balanced handling would have been better. 19th got reasonable description and it was an important day, because on that day British at last took some tactically important places, Bras, Hubert-Folie and Bourguebus on Bourguebus ridge. But at least a page more would be nice for the 20th.
In fact this is more a detailed, meticulously researched and lavishly illustrated account of the 3½ days battle than a history of the operation. This observation also made the amount of the space given to the different days more understandable. It was the armoured part of the 11th Armoured Division which did the majority of the fighting on the British side on the first day of the operation.
1 - July 1944: The Opponents
2 - Mid-July: The Approach to Battle
3 - 18 July, Dawn: The Bombing
4 - 18 July, Morning: The British Tank Run
5 - 18 July, Morning: The German Response
6 - 18 July, Mid-Morning: Things Fall Apart
7 - 18 July, Midday: The Ridge & The Cauldron
8 - 18 July, Afternoon and Evening: Twilight of Ambition
9 - 19 & 20 July: The End and the Reckoning
The appendices are very good and informative:
I - The Goodwood Battleground. This contains a very good verbal description on the terrain.
II - Army Maps and Map References. A short but good description on the military maps in use in 1944 in the
ETO and on British gird system
III - Telling the Time. Explains the times used by the warring parties
IV - Armour in Combat during Goodwood. A very good on Sherman survivability and reasons why it brew-up
fairly easily. Also very good on the survivability of Panther and Tiger but IMHO it would have been better
to say that the clearly most numerous German tank type in Normandy, PzKpfw IV seems to have
brewed-up as easily as Sherman.
V - Lessons Learned from Goodwood. Some interesting observations but IMHO anyway a bit light on conclus-
ions. IMHO the most interesting piece of information in this appendix is the way Goodwood was used to
bolster NATO’s morale.
VI - 11th Armoured Division, Goodwood Order of Battle. This appendix has good information, firstly the TOE
of British armoured division is not as well-known as of those of comparable German and US divisions and
British subunits were not so neatly named as in most of armies, not like as II./PzR 2 etc.
VII - 21.Panzerdivision, Goodwood Order of Battle This is also interesting and important, because the TOE of
the 21. Panzerdivision was unique. The part of the 22. Panzer Regiment gives the right number of Panzer
IVs, which formed its striking power, it had on 1 June 1944 but missed 6 Panzer IIIs and the 40 French
tanks (38 SOMUA S35s and 2 Hotchkisses) it also had, not that the French ones were very important on
D-Day and they had no effect during the Goodwood. Daglish also gives the number of Pz IV L/48s
available on 1 July, 17 July (50) and 1 August but not that of on 22 July (22), which would have been
useful because it clearly shows that also the Germans suffered heavy AFV losses during the Goodwood.
Also exceptionally both of the division’s two PzGrRgts had an armoured infantry battalion riding on
armoured half-tracks and extra self-powered firepower. But he failed to mention the Panzer Artillery
Regiment 155, with two (instead of usual one) of its three artillery battalions equipped with self-propelled
guns. It also had one extra self-propelled rocket projector battery. The main weakness of its equipment
was that its medium SP artillery was equipped with 15 cm sFH 13 field howitzers instead of the newer
15 cm sFH 18, the main difference being the clearly shorter maximum range of the older field howitzer.
Short mention is made on 200. Panzer-Jäger Abt. which was equipped with very heavy but exceptionally
powerful 8.8cm Pak 43/41 anti-tank guns. The essential info on the gun is given but not the quantity (24)
of the guns the battalion had. And of course the 200. StuG-Abtailungen commanded by Major Alfred
Becker, the innovator of its all SP guns based on captured French chasses used extensively by the
21. Panzer Division.
VIII - Bombing the Goodwood Battlefield. A good overview, goes through each target area telling approx.
number of bombers participating, amount of bombs dropped on that target area, how accurate the
bombing was at that area and its effects on Germans.
IX - The Question of the Cagny '88s'. Good, but from German side based mostly on the memoirs of
von Luck, the unpublished late 40s memoirs (based on his diary) of Becker, the CO of the 200. StuG-Abt
and Pickert’s (the GOC of the III. Flak Korps) ‘Die III. Flak Korps in der Normandie Schlacht’. A consultation
of German war diaries would have made this appendix more convincing.
LATER ADDITION (on 31 Dec 2015): And even General Pickett in US Army Historical Division foreign
military studies MS B-597 said that some LW 88s engaged British tanks during Operation Goodwood but
without giving places, so it is impossible to say if some of these were present at Cagny.
While reading Dunkirk to the Rhineland. Diaries and sketches of Sergeant C S Murrell, Welsh Guards
Edited by Nick Murrell I came across a piece of information on Cagny 88s. Murrell served with the
Intelligence Section of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. In the book on the page 91 "...Here we are dug in
on the outskirts of Cagny. 50 yards away, along a row of tall trees, lies a battery of four abandoned
88mm guns, and strewn about each gun, a pile of yard-long shells that are so deadly to our tanks."
WNW of Cagny a dirt/gravelled road lined by tall trees on its NW side turned from the main road to NE.
This treeline seems to have been an excellent position to ambush the C Squadron/2nd Fife & Forfar
Yeomanry. And the road would explain the lack of track marks, which the artillery tractors/half-tracks
should have left on the ground. And in fact there is a suspious trackmark on the field SE of the road soon
after the crosroads NW of Cagny. But of course this sort of line-abreast placement amongst tall trees
wasn't suitable to AA work but clearly a deployment for A/T action. The other possibility is the orchard NE
of Cagny but guns deployed there would have had to fire through the broken hedge line west of them in
order to hit the Shermans of the C Squadron/2nd Fife & Forfar Yeomanry. But the key is the exact location
of the HQ of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards in the evening of 19 July 1944 which I don't know, the war
diary text doesn't give other information than "Rear Battalion H.Q. moved forward to just outside Cagny"
but anyway the 88s clearly were there. And according to Ludovic Fortin's British Tanks in Normandy p. 35
when the infantry of the Guards Armoured Division seized Cagny it captured three 88 guns abandoned by
305. Heeres-Flak-Artillerie-Abteilung attached to the 21. Panzer Division had two four gun 88 mm
batteries. Maybe von Luck had some problems with one of the battery commanders and because he didn't
want to accuse him publicly on a cowardly behavior after the war he invented an unnamed Luftwaffe unit
whose commander was unwilling to obey his orders. That is of course purely my speculation.
Dunkirk to the Rhineland. Diaries and sketches of Sergeant C S Murrell, Welsh Guards Edited by Nick
Murrell (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books Limited, 2011).
Fortin, Ludovic, British Tanks in Normandy (Paris: Histoire & Collections, 2012)
X - Mike Wetz. The story of the reconnaissance flight which produced the aerial photos used in the book with
good info on RAF’s photo recon procedures.
Four main complains:
The lack of biography.
The lack of a good colour topographic map, there is a fairly good b/w topographic map but during printing process its height contours has become rather badly faded, so while it gives well out the positions of villages and bigger farms, roads, railway embankments and orchards the elevations are hard to gauge and topography is essential in understanding tactical moves in military history.
Much too limited information on the goals of the operation and on the losses suffered.
Too little information on the 20th July actions.