Operation Perch was a British offensive of the Second World War which took place between 7 and 14 June 1944, during the Battle of Normandy. The operation was intended to encircle and seize the German occupied city of Caen, which was a major Allied objective in the early stages of the invasion of northwest Europe. A combination of fierce German resistance and failures at the British command level foiled the operation before its objectives were achieved.
Operation Perch was originally intended to take place immediately after the British beach landings, and was to be an advance to the southeast of Caen by XXX Corps. This depended on Caen's early liberation, but three days after the invasion the city was still in German hands so the operation was altered. Perch was expanded to include I Corps and became a pincer attack aimed at capturing Caen. Beginning the following day XXX Corps, forming the western arm of the encirclement, pushed south before becoming embroiled with strong German forces in a hotly contested battle for the town of Tilly-sur-Seulles, which would change hands several times before its liberation. I Corps's eastern thrust was launched two days later from the Orne bridgehead, secured on D-Day by British airborne forces during Operation Tonga, but made little progress in the face of determined resistance and constant counterattacks. With mounting casualties and no sign of an imminent German collapse, by 13 June the offensive east of Caen was abandoned.
Meanwhile, to the west, American pressure had opened up a gap in the German lines. In an attempt to keep operations mobile the 7th Armoured Division was diverted from the combat around Tilly-sur-Seulles and ordered to advance through the gap in a flanking manoeuvre intended to force the Germans to fall back. After two days of intense fighting that included the Battle of Villers-Bocage, on 14 June the division's position was judged untenable and it was withdrawn. Plans were made to resume the offensive once 7th Armoured had been reinforced, but these were dropped when a severe storm in the English Channel seriously disrupted allied supply operations.
Both the decision to exploit the gap and the handling of the subsequent battle have been subjects of controversy. Historians generally agree that, because of failures at the British divisional and corps command levels, an early opportunity to capture Caen was squandered. However, to contain the offensive the Germans had been forced to commit their most powerful armoured reserves in a defensive role, in which they incurred heavy losses and were incapable of counteroffensive operations.
... Operation Perch was the second attempt to capture Caen after the direct attack from Sword Beach on 6 June failed ... According to its pre-D-Day design, Operation Perch was intended to create the threat of a British breakout to the southeast of Caen ... The operation was assigned to XXX Corps the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division was tasked with capturing Bayeux and the road to Tilly-sur-Seulles ...
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