France / Museum
The last major battle of the Normandy campaign was fought in August 1944 in the so called Falaise-Argentan pocket, where the Allies encircled and destroyed a substantial part of the German forces. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of German soldiers managed to escape. A memorial on the spot traces the various stages of this bloody confrontation.
After their breakthrough west of Saint-Lô at the end of July, the American forces moved far behind the German lines before heading North towards Le Mans, Alençon and Argentan. In the meantime, the British and Canadian armies pushed back the German forces from the North towards the town of Falaise. The failure of a German counterattack on 7 August, and Hitler’s foolish demand that his forces should hold their positions, led to the complete encirclement of the German 7th Army.
Hesitation by the Allied command delayed the final closure of the pocket till 19 August, when elements of the 1st Polish Armoured Division joined the 90th U.S. Infantry Division from the north in Chambois. Surrounded and shelled by Allied artillery, the Germans tried to make their way out by force, launching desperate attacks on the slopes of Mont-Ormel where they encountered Polish detachments.
Both sides suffered heavy losses, but the few hundred Polish soldiers on the Mont-Ormel were able to hold their positions. German soldiers managed to escape, but the German losses were huge: about 10000 men were killed and 40000 to 50000 were captured. In some places, including the bridges across the river Dives and the roads bordering the Mont-Ormel, the sight of dead men and horses was daunting. A Memorial on top of Mont-Ormel offers a panoramic view of the valley of the Dives. Here the various stages of the battle can be retraced with an animated map.