Saint Lambert

In the morning of August 19th, in spite of growing losses, Currie task force resumed its advance towards the bridge of Saint-Lambert. However, It had to stop its progression less than 1.000 m from the Dives because of the German crowd which emerged continuously from the bridge and infiltrated everywhere in the village, in direction of the slopes of hill 262 which was also the goal of polish armoured regiments.

The fighting become desperate for Canadians, numerically dominated by Germans, and Currie had to order his divisional artillery pounding his own positions to remove German infantry that was climbing on his tanks. Later that day, violence of German attacks culminated so that Currie’s tanks had to cover each other with MG fire to prevent german infantrymen from climbing on the hulls to attach explosive devices. Finally, Currie had to move back towards his starting point at the entry of village, ordering artillery to fire on german positions around the bridge. With his group, he will hold western entrance of Saint Lambert during the three days of the battle, calling in artillery strikes, and being a constant threat to german retreating units.

In Saint-Lambert, a tank of the 4th Canadian armoured division tries to progress towards the bridges; it passes along another tank,
destroyed shorty before.

Poles approach from north

On the northern flank of the forming pocket, 1st Polish armoured division resumed its advance. Koszutski and his task force, still delayed by navigation problems, with limited supplies, had moreover to cope with continuous infiltration of German tanks, and the high quantity of prisoners who were surrendering to it.

Aware of the uncomfortable situation of Koszutski’s group, Maczek decided to use his remaining regiments to operate the move on Chambois and Maczuga. He split his division between a force Zgorzelski (24th lancers and 10th dragoons) in charge of reaching Chambois, and a force Stefanowicz (1st armoured regiment, 8th, 9th, and Podhale rifle battalions) aimed at securing hill 262. 10th PSK was ordered to return to Chambois by the road it had scouted the day before.

While polish troops occupied hill 262, 80th US ID was running a bloody battle to take control of Argentan, against well trained 116th PzD. This picture taken shortly after the fall of the town shows the extreme violence ot the fighting.

Polish attack started in the morning and at noon, 10th PSK captured hill 137, then headed for hill 113 nothwest of Chambois, where it established defensive positions in the afternoon. Capture of hill 137 opened to Stefanowicz the road to Coudehard. Afer a short exchange of fire, it occupied Boisjos, then the whole hill 262. On its southern extremity, the Podhale anihilated a german company which was trying to keep control of this ground at all costs. Maczuga, planned to secure allied nothern flank, was now captured.

As Maczek had envisaged it, from the top of their hill, Poles profited a unique sight on the Dives valley. The spectacle was nonetheless appaling: between Saint Lambert on fire and Chambois, a German anthill-like crowd seemed moving towards them. Through orchards, open fields, on every path, heteroclite convoys assembled and, under the merciless fire of allied artillery, advanced in direction of Polish positions.

During the evening, 1st armoured regiment, its guns aiming on the Chambois – Vimoutiers road, destroyed an important German column which was trying to exit the pocket in direction of Vimoutiers. This appeared shortly after as being a short-term success, as the smoke, fire, and destroyed vehicles obstructed the road to the point it was impossible to reach the southern slopes of hill 262, neither to reach Chambois. Later on, some other similar columns were destroyed on the western slope of the hill, but the fact they ware rolling on the same roads Poles used to get on Maczuga meant with no doubt polish position was progressively isolated. At dusk, the loss of a supply convoy, destroyed in a German ambush, made it clear for the 2.000 Poles they were now surrounded by some 100.000 Germans…

German plans

Despite a worsening, nearly chaotic situation, German high command was receiving regular reports from its units. Model, commanding Army Group B, knew that a worst-case scenario was being played, with his two armies threatened by encirclement. He decided to keep 2nd SS-PzKorps, which had already evacuated the pocket the day before, as a reserve. This seriously depleted but still organized and combat-ready force would be available to intervene against allied forces closing the Falaise pocket.

August 19th, as Poles crossed German escape roads and were soon to reach Americans in Chambois, Model plan took its final shape :

  • 2nd SS-PzKorps, would have to counter-attack the ring forming around German forces to open a breach.
  • Simultaneously, 2nd Parachute Corps (composed of elite 3rd airborne division and 353rd infantry division), still trapped in the pocket, would attack to reach the SS and open the way for remaining, weaker units.
German convoy destroyed on Maczuga by 1st armored regiment. In the foreground, one can see a Panther tank, but the essence of the column is made up of horse-drawn vehicles.

Originally scheduled for August 19th, this operation was postponed to the next day, the SS needing additional time to refuel. On its side, during the night from August 19th to 20th, 2nd parachute Corps took profit of the darkness and slipped silently through Saint Lambert sur Dives. In the last hours of the night, it was in Coudehard, below hill 262, waiting for the SS offensive and ready to attack…

Meeting in Chambois

August 19th, 1944 – the junction of the Poles and the Americans in Chambois, by locking up the 7th German Army, one marked decisive stage in the battle of Normandy.

While polish units were appoaching from the north, the gap between Chambois and Le Bourg St. Leonard was still open. American 90th Infantry Division was to advance from Le Bourg Saint Leonard, but due to a misunderstanding in the directives issued by the U.S. Army, it was not until August 19th that 359th IR get orders to take Chambois. Leading the advance, 2nd battalion reached Fel in the afternoon, then continued on Chambois.

Meanwhile, 2nd Free French armored division also advanced and took position between Exmes and Oméel, on the eastern side of the pocket. However, wishing to remain free to disengage from the fighting and take the road to Paris, where an uprising started the day before, Leclerc dispatched for this mission the sole tactical group Massu. This tactical group will limit its involvment to a few patrols, thus leaving this side of the pocket widely opened…

Afternoon of August 19th, Allies progressed towards Chambois from all directions. However, this planned but unceasingly delayed mission was primarily carried out by Zgorzelski battle group; 24th lancers and 10th dragoons narrowed on hill 262 then, circumventing positions of the 10th PSK on hill 113, entered in Chambois on sunset. At 7:30 PM, Poles, progressing towards the south of the city, made their junction with the GI’s of 359th IR which was arriving from Fel. The Falaise pocket was finally closed!