When the First Canadian Army took Falaise against fierce resistance on 17-18 August, some 100,000 German troops faced encirclement by massive Allied forces. Determined to break out, the bulk of these troops struck east and attempted to cross the Dives River in and around the town of Chambois, south-east of Falaise. This was the Falaise Gap between the Canadian, British and Polish forces coming from the north, and the US armies coming from the south. To assist the German troops trying to break out, the 2nd SS Panzer Corps, which had already escaped from Normandy, struck back to the west into the gap. This German attack effectively surrounded the Polish armoured division that was occupying high ground between Falaise and Chambois. C.P. Stacey, the official historian of the Canadian Army, described the fighting on 18-21 August, as the Germans struggled to keep the gap south-east of Falaise open, and the Allies pushed relentlessly to close it, as the most desperate of the Normandy campaign.

In the end, it was only through sheer weight of numbers that the Allies were able to seal the Gap and capture nearly 40,000 German troops along with thousands of tanks and guns. On August 22, after the fighting had ceased, one observer recalled seeing "hundreds of dead, so close together that they were practically touching" and remembered "a stench so strong as to offend people flying in aircraft far above".

The town of Vimoutiers, some eight kilometers to the east of Chambois, was the strategic objective for elements of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division on the morning of August 20. As the morning wore on, however, the situation facing the Allies at Chambois had become so critical that the Division was ordered to abandon its move upon Vimoutiers and rush to the help of the beleaguered Poles atop Hill 252.

In Armoured Warrior, however, the attack on Vimoutiers is carried through. To heighten the story's action, most of the tanks assigned to capture the town are diverted to Chambois, leaving only a few to press home the attack. This places the reader in the uneasy predicament of having to capture a vital objective with increasingly dwindling resources. If the decisions facing the reader seem somewhat daunting, one can readily imagine the prospects of Canadian tankmen who faced these hardships in actual combat. It is to their memory that this adventure is dedicated.

Canadian War Museum

© 2001, Canadian War Museum

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