Operation Jupiter (1944)
- This article is about the 1944 Operation Jupiter in France. For other uses, see Operation Jupiter (disambiguation).
|Part of Battle for Caen|
Memorial on Hill 112
|Commanders and leaders|
|Richard O'Connor||Wilhelm Bittrich|
|Casualties and losses|
Operation Jupiter was an attack launched by the British Second Army's VIII Corps on 10 July 1944. The objective of the attack was to capture the villages of Baron-sur-Odon, Fontaine-Étoupefour, Chateau de Fontaine and recapture Hill 112. Following the capture of these objectives the Corps would then capture Éterville and the village of 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 0900 hours on the first day following which, elements of the 4th Armoured Brigade, could start their attacks. The operation was initially very successful however heavy fighting for Hill 112 went on all day and the village of 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 Marshall Montgomery ordered them to withdraw and the hill 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.
The main attack on Hill 112 was strategically designed to fix the German panzers and tactically to gain 'elbow room' in what was still a tight beachhead. The 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division were to attack positions held by 10th SS Panzer Division 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 the 102 SS Heavy Panzer Battalion. These heavy tanks armed with the 88 mm gun had both greater protection and firepower and outclassed the opposing British Churchill and Sherman tanks.
Even though the hill was not captured and was left as a no-man's-land between the two armies, important surrounding villages had been taken. Above all, however, 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 British. Therefore, on the strategic level Operation Jupiter was a significant success.
It was not until American troops eventually started to break out from the Normandy lodgement, as Operation Cobra developed momentum, in August 1944, that the Germans withdrew from Hill 112 and the 53rd (Welsh) Division occupied the feature with barely a fight. Casualties during that period amounted to approximately 25,000 British troops and 500 British tanks. The 43rd Wessex sustained 7,000 casualties in the 12 days from 10 to 22 July.
Hill 112 was without a doubt the 'key to Normandy' and featured large in both sides' strategic-level plans. 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.
- Ellis, p. 318
- Jackson, pp. 61–62
- Jackson, p. 62
- Jackson, pp. 62–63
- "Recommendation for Award for Willcocks, David Valentine Willcocks" (Fee may be required). Documents Online. The National Archives. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
- The London Gazette: . 19 December 1944. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
- Ellis, Major L.F.; with Allen R.N., Captain G.R.G. Allen; Warhurst, Lieutenant-Colonel A.E. & Robb, Air Chief-Marshal Sir James (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1962]. Butler, J.R.M, ed. Victory in the West, Volume I: The Battle of Normandy. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. Naval & Military Press Ltd. ISBN 1-84574-058-0.
- Jackson, Lt-Colonel G.S.; Staff, 8 Corps (2006) . 8 Corps: Normandy to the Baltic. MLRS Books. ISBN 978-1-905696-25-3.
- Saunders, Tim (2006) . Normandy: Hill 112 - The battle of the Odon. Battleground Europe. Pen & Sword/Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-737-6.