In the weeks after D-Day the Germans concentrated the great bulk of their armoured reserves on the defense of Caen, at one point rising to 8 panzer divisions and three battalions of formidable Tiger tanks. These were some of the best formations in the German army. It was up to the British and Canadians to grind down these forces, buying the Americans time to develop their front and destroy the much weaker German forces in front of their own positions.
The fighting lasted for weeks, and a succession of Anglo-Canadian offensives only made the most gradual gains against the experienced German defenders. In desperation the Allies bombed the medieval city of Caen into rubble before it finally fell on July 21.
Then and Now Photos
Eglise St. Pierre
British troops walk past Eglise Saint Pierre in Caen, which has been damaged by shellfire and bombing.
Directing British Officers
A French civilian gives directions to British officers in the Vaugeaux district, now an area of swanky restaurants and brasseries.
Photographing the Devastation
A British photographer flouts a German sign forbidding photography at Caen's small port.
A truck pulling a 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun moves along the Quai de Julliet in Caen. The Abbaye des Hommes can be seen in the background.
A photographer takes another photo of the ruins of the Hotel Moderne. Today the hotel has been rebuilt into a Best Western franchise.
Rubble Filled Street
British troops pick their way through the rubble of Caen along Rue Saint Pierre. In the background can be seen the partially ruined spire of Eglise Saint Pierre.
Destroyed Church at Rots
A Sherman from the Fort Garry Horse has been knocked out in front of the church at the village of Rots, just west of Caen. Rots was the scene of ferocious fighting on June 11th between the fanatical 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) and the Regiment de la Chaudiere supported by tanks from the Fort Garry Horse.
British Shermans in front of the Eglise Saint Pierre in Caen. The entire area has been redeveloped and this photo was only possible from the alley behind a main shopping thoroughfare.
Tanks Entering Caen
The Canadian Army at War - Canada's Battle in Normandy
Tanks of the Sherbrook Fusiliers kick up clouds of dust as they drive into Caen when the city was captured during Operation Charnwood. The original caption claims the Germans were resisting only a couple blocks away at the time this photo was taken.
View of the Caen Ruins
Imperial War Museum
The ruined skyline of Caen after it fell to the Allies. The city was subjected to heavy Allied bombing and street fighting before it fell in July.