Being there . . . . with the Allies during their pulverizing break out from the D-Day beachheads
only to be impeded inland by crisscrossing, nightmarish “bocages”. “Bocages”? Any remaining
invading veteran who survived them will explain they were sunken narrow lanes boarded by
high banked, often impenetrable, hedgerows. Upon disentangling from the ancient arbuscles,
treelets, and hindering rows of dense woody shrubbery, believing all highways aiming toward
Paris were open, the brave infantry stood face to face with Hill 112 . . . . .
FREEING FRANCE MEANT DISLODGING HITLER’S BEST SS GROUND TROOPS AND THEIR PANZER
BATTALIONS – COULD OUR BOYS TAKE THAT ROUNDED HILLY ELEVATION?
The major international contributors and consulting editors of the Reader’s Digest Association
cogently summed up an answer for us, “A massive artillery bombardment followed by
squadrons of rocket-firing Typhoon fighter-bombers failed to dislodge the German defenders as
lead battalions of the 43 rd Wessex Infantry Division neared Hill 112, south-west of Caen on July
10, 1944. The crest of the hill gave a panoramic view of the whole Caen battlefield, and. the
attack on it, code named “Operation Jupiter”, was no easy matter. The spearhead advance by
men of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry ran into an SS heavy panzer battalion equipped
with new Tigers. The infantry was virtually wiped out. One survivor, Lance Corporal Gordon
Mucklow, recalled, ’All hell let loose, red-hot bullets were sizzling into the earth inches from our
helmets’. Other battalions followed, but within six hours over 2,000 men had been lost for no
appreciable gain. As artillery shells roared onto the hill, the Tigers held on – and did so for more
than two weeks, blocking a natural route towards more open country around Falaise. Hill 112, a
bloody quagmire, fell on July 31, when Typhoons caught the Tigers in the open.” Such was one
trooper’s reminiscence. For more, read Tim Saunder’s captivating . . .
“HILL 112 – The Key to Defeating Hitler In Normandy”, by Tim Saunders. Pen & Sword MILITARY,
distributed by Casemate Publishing: 2022, 315 pages, hc ; $42.95. Visit, www.pen-and-
sword.co.uk, or www.casematepublishing.com.
None other than Field Marshal Erwin Rommel summed it up best, “He who holds Hill 112 holds
Normandy.” If asked, Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight David Eisenhower and Field
Marshal, Sir Bernard Montgomery, would have concurred. From a distance, Allied forces would
have chuckled over such an unlikely maxim had they heard it. But the fierce SS soldiers and
tankers atop 112 knew better. Reaching its plateau, the vistas unfold in every direction across a
huge swarth of that western part of France. A perfect fortress, if there ever was one on the
Continent. For the British, it had to be taken, or Normandy was in peril of being recaptured.
Thus, it was that Hill 112 was, and remains, known as the “Cornerstone of Victory”. Author Tim
Saunders writes, “To walk around the broad plateau is to understand. To the north there is a
fine view over the Allies’ approach across the ridge to the N13 Caen-Bayeux Road, Carpiquet
Airfield, and Odon Valley, known as ‘Death Valley’. To the east, one looks down into the bowl
where the city of Caen lies. Hence, the more astute referred to the ‘bowl’ as the “Crucible of
Victory”, for either the British and their Allies or the fanatic SS who worshipped the Fuhrer.
Tim has provided us, general buffs or serious scholars, earnest research enthusiasts or casual
page-a-week armchair perusers, with an enthralling almost day by day account. He thanks Pen
& Sword staff for not only having accepted and published “an unknown army officer’s debut
book about Hill 112 in the P&S Company’s ‘Battleground Series’ more than 20 years before, but
also allowing him to revisit the Hill with, he writes, “. . . dare I say it, with more skill and more
information”. Hence, our gratitude since he allows us to join him in opening the archives in
Eastern Europe of I and II SS Panzer Corps for a rare, more lateral, view of the bitter battle.
For six weeks from the end of June into August 1944 when the Allies advance gained
momentum, Hill 112 was far too important to allow the opposition to hold and exploit it.
Consequently, it was shelled and mortared almost daily, shrouding it in dust and smoke while
soldiers of both sides clung to their respective rim positions of the plateau.
“By the end, Hill 112 had developed a reputation of death as that of any spot on the First World
War’s horrific Western Front,” writes Saunders. “The suffering was so great soldiers on both
sides has their nicknames for it, ‘The Crown of Thorns’, ‘Calvary Hill’, ‘Wood of the Half Trees’,
‘Cornwall Wood’, etc. On both sides there was a constant flow of casualties into medical chains
and burials in the burgeoning number of wayside cemeteries.”