REVIEW: Operation Totalize by Tim Saunders

Operation Totalize by Tim Saunders. Published by Pen & Sword Books, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK, 2019, 276 pages. The author, Tim Saunders, has written OPERATION TOTALIZE as part of the Battleground Normandy battle guides for Pen & Sword books.

Operation Totalize took place on 8-9 August 1944. The objective of the operation was to capture the high ground south of the French city of Caen on the German east flank near the town of Falaise. The plan envisioned collapsing the German defenses and sealing off the Falaise Pocket to cut off the route of The German retreat of the German formations fighting the Americans in western Normandy.

Operation Totalize Review

The allied formations taking part in Operation Totalize were the newly formed, and largely inexperienced, Anglo-Canadian Army commanded by Canadian General, Guy Simonds. Simonds commanded a force of roughly 85,000 men in three infantry divisions, two armored divisions and two armored brigades. He also had at his disposal considerable air assets as well as fire support from a large contingent of artillery. His German opponent was Kurt Meyer who commanded three infantry divisions, one SS Panzer division and one heavy tank battalion. What Meyer lacked in numbers, he more than compensated in the experienced formations which he commanded, as well as the size and quality of his armored formations.

Operation Totalize began with a pre-planned night attack that kicked off on the night of August 7-8, 1944. Now, a night attack is a difficult task to pull off even with highly trained and capable divisions. The fact that the newly-formed and inexperienced Anglo-Canadian Army was given this mission was a tall order to execute indeed! What resulted was a rather disjointed and disconnected effort in many sectors of the advance with some units losing contact with their supporting elements. The stiff German resistance also slowed the advances to a brutal crawl along many areas of the advance and attack. In the end, Simond’s Anglo-Canadian Army met with very limited success and was stopped on August 8th, seven miles short of its objectives of closing the Falaise Pocket. Allied losses of armor were considerable with a 3 to 1 loss of tanks versus the Germans with their superior technological advantages. The Allied advance in Normandy could replenish and resupply its armored battle losses relatively easily—the German Panzers, could not. In spite of the failures of Operation Totalize, the allied attack would use the ground gained towards Falaise to stage Operation Tractable from the 14th to the 21st of August to push forward and finally seal the routes of retreat for the German Army in Normandy—however, by then, large battle formations of infantry and armor had managed to escape encirclement by the Allied armies in Normandy.

The author, Tim Saunders, uses his experience as an infantry officer having served in the British Army for 30 years to full effect, to create a compelling campaign study of Operation Totalize. His excellent use of photographs, extremely detailed maps and battle illustrations denote a careful attention to detail as he undertakes a thorough study of the campaign.  As a field guide and campaign study of the operation, the author excels. Just do not expect to pick up the book and experience flourishing prose and storytelling. This volume is a set-piece and detailed battle study. As such, it sufferers from the shortcomings of the minutiae of details that come with the art that is military history. A serious scholar would be right at home reading this volume—a casual reader, not so much.

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