The intense bombing of towns and cities in Normandy began in the night of 5-6 June. For Caen, it began at 1:30pm on D-Day. The fire thereby unleashed burnt for 12 days and much of the centre of town was gutted. The Allied purpose was to disrupt enemy communications and slow the advance of German reserves by road and by rail towards the front line. Nine towns were targeted, including Caen, Lisieux, Falaise, Coutances, Saint-Lô and Vire.

 
Five WEEKS OF SLAUGHTER: ‘THE KILLING MATCH’


It had been hoped to take Caen within 24 hours of landing, but this proved optimistic. The civilian population of Caen would pay a terrible price for being so important a strategic objective. Those who could fled, others took shelter in the quarries.  

Débarquement de Normandie : La Libération de Caen © WWII-Archive

CAEN BECAME A MAJOR STRATEGIC STICKING POINT. THE POPULATION WOULD PAY THE PRICE


Only in the morning of 9 July, British troops from the east and north, and Canadians from the west were able to make their way gingerly into what was left of the ruined city. It was 19 July when the last shots were fired, as the Germans were finally levered out of the suburb of Vaucelles, south of the river.