Operation Jupiter (1944)
- This article is about the 1944 Operation Jupiter in France. For other uses, see Operation Jupiter (disambiguation).
Operation Jupiter was an attack by VIII Corps of the British Second Army, on 10 July 1944. The objective was to capture the villages of Baron-sur-Odon, Fontaine-Étoupefour, Chateau de Fontaine and recapture Hill 112. Following the capture of these objectives, VIII Corps would take Éterville, Maltot and the ground up to the River Orne. Tanks from the 4th Armoured Brigade, supported by infantry, would then advance through the captured ground and secure several further villages to the west of the River Orne. It was hoped that all objectives could be captured by 9:00 a.m., after which the 4th Armoured Brigade would begin the second phase. The operation was initially very successful but heavy fighting for Hill 112 went on all day and Maltot changed hands several times.
The first battle for Hill 112 was fought at the end of Operation Epsom, when the tanks of 11th Armoured Division broke out from a bridgehead established by the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Tourmauville. Hill 112 was an intermediate objective on the way to the River Orne crossings but such was the German reaction that the 23rd Hussars were only able to capture and hold the hill with difficulty.
Hill 112, at the end of a narrow salient, was held by the infantry of The Rifle Brigade. Here they remained under heavy shell and mortar fire until, warned by Ultra decryptions of German radio traffic that II SS Panzer Corps was arriving and about to attack, Field Marshal Montgomery ordered them to withdraw and the hilltop to be abandoned to the Germans.
The British commanders, led by Montgomery, intended to hold the approximately seven German Panzer Divisions, on their front. While the British held the panzers, the Americans captured Cherbourg and broke out from the beachhead. The American objective was feasible because the Americans had only the equivalent of one-and-a-half Panzer divisions facing them throughout most of the campaign.
Plan of attack
The 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division and the attached 31st Tank Brigade, 141st Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (141st RAC) Crocodiles from the 79th Armoured Division and 4th Armoured Brigade, supported by the 3rd and 8th Army Group Royal Artillery (AGRA), were to attack in three stages. In phase I, the 130th Brigade and 9th Royal Tank Regiment (9th RTR) were to occupy a German salient around les Duanes and capture the Château de Fontaine, as the 129th Brigade with the 7th Royal Tank Regiment (7th RTR) attacked Hill 112. In phase II, the 129th Brigade would form a defensive flank along the northern slope of Hill 112, facing Évrecy to the south-west as the 130th Brigade, 9th RTR and Churchill Crocodiles attacked Éterville and Maltot, which if successful was to be followed by an advance south-east of Hill 112 towards St. Martin. In phase III the 129th Brigade was to stay on Hill 112, while the 130th Brigade dug in from Eterville to Maltot facing east. The 4th Armoured Brigade and the 214th Brigade of the 43rd Division would then advance between the 129th and 130th brigades, south to the Orne and form a bridgehead. The 46th Brigade of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division and a squadron of the 7th RTR would clear the ground between the Odon, Orne and the western suburbs of Caen.
The main attack on Hill 112 was intended to fix the German Panzer divisions and tactically to gain 'elbow room' in what was still a tight beachhead. The 43rd Division was to attack positions held by 10th SS-Panzer Division Frundsberg in what was an extremely fierce battle. The German defenders survived naval bombardment, air attack and artillery fire but held their ground, crucially supported by Tiger tanks from schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 102. These heavy tanks armed with the 88 mm gun had greater protection and fire power and outclassed the opposing British Churchill and Sherman tanks.
Exploitation of a German retirement from Caen in the wake of Operation Charnwood, had not been possible since the Germans only withdrew to the south bank of the Orne. The British had attacked down open slopes commanded by dug in German units. Narrow front attacks had been tactically unwise but lack of troops and the strategic circumstances had made them indispensable. O'Connor the VIII Corps commander, recommended that greater account be taken of topography in the selection of objectives and occupation of high ground be favoured over attacks on villages. The British and Canadians had used their increasing experience and kept the initiative but the Germans had not withdrawn despite the cost of such defensive operations. The commanding views from Hill 112 were of great tactical importance but the hill was not captured by the British and was left as a no-man's-land, with the two sides dug in on opposite sides.
Several surrounding villages had been taken, although the British were pushed back from Éterville. The 9th SS Panzer Division, which had been in the process of moving out of the line to form an operational reserve, was brought back to contain the attack and the German troops involved in counter-attacks were exposed to such fire power as to inflict casualties which debilitated them, which deprived the German defence of the ability to contemplate a counter-offensive. In July, Operations Greenline, Pomegranate and Express took more ground in the Odon valley, kept German panzer units pinned down and inflicted more attrition on the German units. In August 1944, that the Germans withdrew from Hill 112 during Operation Cobra and the 53rd (Welsh) Division occupied the feature with barely a fight.
Casualties during the operation were 2,000 British troops and the 31st Tank Brigade had 25% tank casualties. The 43rd Wessex Division had 7,000 casualties from 10–22 July.
The importance of the battles for Hill 112 is remembered by the erection of the 43rd Wessex Division's memorial by the residents of Normandy, to the combatants and civilians who lost their lives.
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- Ellis, Major L. F.; with Allen R.N., Captain G. R. G. Allen; Warhurst, Lieutenant-Colonel A. E. & Robb, Air Chief-Marshal Sir James (1962). Butler, J. R. M., ed. Victory in the West: The Battle of Normandy. History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series I (N & M Press 2004 ed.). HMSO. ISBN 1-84574-058-0.
- How, J. J. (1984). Hill 112: Cornerstone of the Normandy Campaign. London: William Kimber. ISBN 0-7183-0540-X.
- Jackson, G. S.; Staff, 8 Corps (1945). Operations of Eighth Corps: Account of Operations from Normandy to the River Rhine (MLRS 2006 ed.). London: St. Clements Press. ISBN 978-1-905696-25-3.
- Saunders, T. (2001). Hill 112: Battles of the Odon 1944. Battleground Europe: Normandy (Pen & Sword 2006 ed.). Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-737-6.
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