The Normandy Campaign was the beginning of the Allied
liberation of Western Europe. Before the end of July, the Allies would land more than 1.5 million troops and
300,000 vehicles on the beaches of Normandy. The 3rd Division and the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade were joined by the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division, organized as II Canadian Corps. Tens of thousands of Canadians saw action in Normandy.
That month, the headquarters of First Canadian Army became operational; this powerful field formation included British and Polish forces in addition to the Canadians.
the first month following the D-Day landings, a stalemate developed in Normandy
during which the Germans skillfully sealed off the invasion area while the
Allies built up their forces in a narrow but slowly growing bridgehead, the
Americans to the west fighting at the neck of the Cotentin Peninsula and the
British and Canadians amassing before Caen.
The Germans occupied excellent defensive positions throughout the campaign and the fighting was fierce. It became a battle of attrition with Canadian positions subjected to constant artillery and mortar
fire. This took its toll in June and July as hundreds of Canadian infantrymen suffering from “battle exhaustion” were pulled from the line, often returning to combat following a period of recovery. In
the first week of fighting in Normandy, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division alone suffered nearly 3,000 casualties.
9-10 July, British and Canadian troops finally captured the city of Caen, an
important transportation hub that was severely damaged by Allied bombers. The Canadians then took part in a series of difficult and costly offensives towards the town of Falaise, a scant 40 kilometres to the south-east. At this time, the bulk of German armoured forces were arrayed against the British and Canadian front which made progress agonizingly slow. The Germans defeated early assaults against Verrières Ridge, which was an important terrain feature south of Caen. On 25
July American forces broke out of their bridgehead and raced to the south and west. That same day Operation SPRING, a Canadian attempt to seize Verrières Ridge, ended in disaster, with Montreal’s Black Watch (The Royal Highland Regiment) being
decimated, suffering 307 casualties.