It was not until midday of the 8th that 5th Battalion first received orders to move into an area that would support the efforts of the 2/6th whereby 'C' Company were positioned to oppose any enemy counter-attacks whilst 'D' Company, under the command of Major McIntyre was, alongside the 2/6th, to attack and capture the SS stronghold of St Contest Chateau.
By 1pm signalers were able to get the message back that the remnants of the leading companies of the 2/6th and 5th Battalions had gained the upper hand in St Contest and were fairly well established, except for an area within the orchard to the south of the village in which small numbers of Germans were still offering resistance.
Over to the left, the 1/6th Battalion were being harried by snipers in the environs of Cambes Wood. Within the wood, the resistance was overcome by members of the Battalion's own sniper section that accounted for 6 German snipers for no loss of their own. With this resistance overcome, the rest of the day was spent in consolidating the current positions and digging in.
In the evening, at approximately 8.30pm, in the half light, 'D' Company of 5th Battalion attacked the Chateau, but their attempt to take the building faltered as a result of the fierce resistance put up by the defenders. 'D' company reassembled with the intention of resuming the attack at dawn on the morning of 9th.
In the meantime, at 9pm, 7th Battalion passed through its beleaguered sister battalions to assault the Chateau. Advancing across the railway line to the east of the building 'B' Company and 'D' Company encountered heavy machine gun and mortar fire. In an attempt to outflank the defenders, one platoon of 'B' Company veered round to the right flank but in doing so became caught in an enemy minefield and suffered heavy losses as a consequence. Support of the attack from Sherman tanks across open land was of little use as they encountered accurate fire laid down by German 88 mm anti-tank guns and thus withdrew from the fray.
'B' Company eventually crossed the railway line, but any further advance was halted as the British reached a system of extensive trench works and dug-outs. Vicious hand to hand fighting ensued resulting in the award of the Military Medal to Private Rutter of the 7th Battalion.
As night fell, the two attacking companies were withdrawn with 'C' Company stepping up to defend against a possible counter attack.
By the morning of 9th July, the objective of La Bijude had fallen to the 1/6th Battalion, only the fortified position of Malon held out. The position, directly in front of the 1/6th and about 600 yards from Cambes Wood was stormed at dawn by soldiers of the 6th North Staffs, who after a hard fight gained control of Cambes by noon.
For the 59th, this action marched the end of the Battle of Caen. Elsewhere, the combined efforts of the men of I Corps had secured the the territory of the city up to the north banks of the Orne, but at a heavy cost. The official casualty figures (killed and wounded) for the 2/6th South Staffordshire Regiment up to 0600 hours of 11th July are as follows:
- 16 Officers
- 199 Other Ranks
At 4.20am in the predawn of 8th July the men of 59th (Staffordshire) Division stood apprehensively on the start line ahead of their first action, alone with their thoughts and prayers. In the following 36 hours all the toil and training of the previous four years was put to the test in the field. By the close of the 9th July they emerged from 'Operation Charnwood' as battle tested soldiers of the British Army.
This for many, including my Grandfather, was the start of a long campaign that would take them through France, Belgium, The Netherlands and into the Reich itself before the tyranny of Nazism was overcome ten months later.