The Battle The battle for Caen from June-August 1944 was a battle between Allied (primarily British and Canadian troops) andGerman forces during the Battle of Normandy.
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In 1346 King Edward III of England led his army against the city hoping to loot it. On 26 July 1346 his troops stormed the city and sacked it, killing 3,000 of its citizens and burning much of the merchants' quarter. During the attack English officials searched its archives and found a copy of the 1339 Franco-Norman plot to invade England, devised byPhilip VI of France and Normandy.The Ordinance of Normandy is the name given to a paper authored by Philip VI of France on 23 March 1338. It called for a second Norman conquest of England, with an invading army led by the Duke of Normandy, and England was to be divided between the Duke of Normandy and his nobles as a fief for the King of France. It was discovered by the English army at Caen in 1346. After it was carried back to England by the Earl of Huntingdon when he was invalided home it was read out in St. Paul's in London by the Archbishop of Canterbury, John de Stratford.
King Philip vowed to "destruire & anientier tote la Nation & la Lange Engleys" [destroy and eliminate the entire English nation and language].This was subsequently used as propaganda to justify the supplying and financing of the conflict and its continuation. Only the castle of Caen held out, despite attempts to besiege it. A few days later the English left, marching to the east and on to their victory at the Battle of Crécy. It was later captured by Henry V in 1417 and treated harshly for being the first town to put up any resistance to his invasion.
During the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War, Caen was liberated in early July, a month after the Normandy landings, particularly those by British I Corps on 6 June 1944. British and Canadian troops had intended to capture the town on D-Day. However they were held up north of the city until 9 July, when an intense bombing campaign duringOperation Charnwood destroyed much of the city but allowed the Allies to seize its western quarters, a month later than Montgomery's original plan. During the battle, many of the town's inhabitants sought refuge in the Abbaye aux Hommes ("Men's Abbey"), built by William the Conqueror some 800 years before.
Post-Second World War work included the reconstruction of complete districts of the city and the university campus. It took 14 years (1948–1962) and led to the current urbanization of Caen. Having lost many of its historic quarters and its university campus in the war, the city does not possess what some might call the 'feel' of a traditional Normandy town such as Honfleur, Rouen, Cabourg, Deauville and Bayeux.The Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit filmed the D-Day offensive and Orne breakout several weeks later, then returned several months later to document the town's recovery efforts. The resulting film You Can't Kill a City is preserved in the National Archives of Canada. Caen was a vital objective for several reasons. Firstly, it lay astride the Orne River
and Caen Canal
; these two water obstacles could strengthen a German defensive position if not crossed. Secondly, Caen was a road hub; in German hands it would enable the enemy to shift forces rapidly. Thirdly, the area around Caen was relatively open, especially compared to the bocage
On D-Day, Caen was an objective for the British 3rd Infantry Division and remained the focal point for a series of battles throughout June, July and into August.
The old city of Caen—with many buildings dating back to the Middle Ages—was largely destroyed by Allied bombing and the fighting. The reconstruction of Caen lasted until 1962. Today, little of the pre-war city remains.