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The Canadian Role in Operation “Charnwood,” 8 July 1944: A Case Study in Tank/Infantry Doctrine and Practice
On the morning of 8 July 1944, soldiers of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade (9 CIB) left their startlines near the Norman village of Vieux Cairon heading for Buron and Gruchy; two villages nearly 2,000 yards across open ground to the south. Their advance was part of Operation “Charnwood,” British I Corps’ final assault on Caen. By the end of the day most objectives were secured, and on 9 July Caen north of the Orne River and Canal was captured. General Dempsey, General Officer Commanding (GOC) British 2nd Army expressed his satisfaction, saying that the operations of 8 and 9 July were “well and cleanly carried out.” Troops of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division (3 CID) and the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade (2 CAB) shared in the victory no less than the British divisions that took part.
“Charnwood” stands apart from other Canadian operations in Normandy because it was the only operation of its type undertaken by 3 CID and 2 CAB as complete formations. After “Charnwood” II Canadian Corps became operational, and the scale, tempo and expectations of operations altered considerably. The capture of Caen, therefore, affords insights into tactical doctrine that are obscured by later large-scale operations with more ambitious objectives. In particular, in this operation the Canadian armour and infantry defeated the Germans by employing tanks as direct-fire closesupport weapons. In fact, such intimate support had not been a part of Canadian tank/infantry doctrine since the introduction of the Sherman tank in 1943. Instead, since the fall of 1943 armoured units were told specifically to work to the enemy’s flanks and support by fire, not by participating in the close infantry battle. The fighting on 8 July indicates that in this instance at least, Canadian troops won in spite of the prevailing doctrine and not because of it.
Wilson, David A. "The Canadian Role in Operation “Charnwood,” 8 July 1944: A Case Study in Tank/Infantry Doctrine and Practice." Canadian Military History 8, 3 (1999)