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Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now

Article about: OK, let me first start with a disclaimer. I have discovered the following information in many online documents, and where I have used words ‘verbatim’ I will indicate the source. The rem

  1. #1

    Default Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now

    OK, let me first start with a disclaimer. I have discovered the following information in many online documents, and where I have used words ‘verbatim’ I will indicate the source. The remainder of the text are MY OWN words.

    The same goes for the images – they have been reproduced in so many articles, a search for original copyright would be fruitless. If any copyright holder can prove ownership, I will gladly attribute or remove them. Wikipedia say their content can be copied, modified, and redistributed if acknowledgment is included - so where it is sourced from there, I will.

    That said, off we go!


    The breakout from Normandy in the months of June / July / August 1944 has been documented in hundreds ( maybe thousands ) of publications over the last 7 decades and the subsequent allied operations of ‘Atlantic’, ‘ Spring’, ‘Goodwood’ ‘Cobra’ and ‘Bluecoat’ all culminated in a massive encirclement of fleeing German forces in what was to be known as the "Falaise Pocket".

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now ( image from Wikipedia )

    With the US 1st & 3rd Army pushing from the south and southwest and the British 2nd and the Canadian 1st Armies from the north and northwest, a pocket was formed which channeled ALL the German forces into a "killing zone" which narrowed to at some points only five kilometers wide. When it was finally sealed on the 21st of August, there remained 50,000 German soldiers of Army Group B trapped inside, a HUGE amount of vehicles abandoned as they simply ran out of fuel, and death and destruction as far as the eye could see.

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now ( image from Wikipedia )

    The Falaise, St Lambert, Trun and Chambois areas were literally littered with destroyed German vehicles, 10,000 corpses and 1,000's of dead horses.

    The British No2 Operational Research Section found 187 tanks and self-propelled guns, 157 lightly armoured vehicles,1778 lorries, 669 cars and 252 artillery pieces ( After the Battle, issue 8, pg 34 )

    These "fields of destruction" and what they look like today are what this thread focuses on ..... I hope you enjoy it?

    Regards, Dan
    Last edited by Danmark; 03-30-2021 at 10:06 AM.
    " I used to be indecisive but now I'm not quite sure "

  2. #2

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    As the Germans fled eastward, they had several natural obstacles to negotiate and many man made ones... man's were tiny rural roads winding through the quaint French countryside and funneling vehicles into single file columns, vulnerable to attack.

    The French farmer's other contribution were the hedgerows - mounded up soil set along the boundaries of fields, on which were planted hedges - rows of them.... thus hedgerows! These forced the vehicles from taking a cross-country route and forced them onto the roads.

    Nature contributed the rivers - not wide ones, but sheer-sided and impassable other than by the few road bridges there were scattered around for what was a rural, agricultural land with little traffic.

    Here is our first comparison - the road from Trun to Vimoutiers in August taken by the RAF showing the rows of abandoned vehicles.

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now

    And how it looks today ...

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now

    I can just imagine what trinkets may still be left in the roadside hedgerows? ......

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now
    Last edited by Danmark; 03-14-2021 at 09:29 AM.
    " I used to be indecisive but now I'm not quite sure "

  3. #3

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    The biggest obstacle for the tens of thousands of troops and their equipment was the River Dives - this waterway was often only as wide as it was deep in many spots as it wound its way through the towns and hamlets of Chambois, Moissy, St Lambert & Trun - but with sheer banks that cut deep into the soil, it effectively became the stopping point for everything mechanized!

    This is the fate most vehicles met with if they tried methods other than the few available bridges!!

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and nowScrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now
    " I used to be indecisive but now I'm not quite sure "

  4. #4

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    As the Germans got pushed into more narrow areas as they tried to negotiate the Dives, they came to the hamlets of St Lambert and Moissy.

    There were TWO bridges at St Lambeth and ONE light one at Moissy - and a ford where the banks had been smoothed down to allow crossing of the river....

    The RAF took these photos at Moissy - look at the panic in the tyre marks in the fields - they go round in circles, trying to find a way across!

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now

    And the same photo ( as best I could from Google ) today

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now
    Last edited by Danmark; 03-14-2021 at 07:32 AM.
    " I used to be indecisive but now I'm not quite sure "

  5. #5

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    Same photo from the opposite direction .....

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now

    And again, the same view today. Believe me when I tell you I spent a LOT of time on google maps finding this one!!!

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now

    These wrecks would have all been collected and scrapped fairly quickly - in fact, most of the residue of war was cleaned up in 18 months to 2 years!!
    " I used to be indecisive but now I'm not quite sure "

  6. #6

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    Why was the area around the Dives river such a mess .... as it appears the Germans were coming at it from all directions?

    Well, that was because they WERE on both sides of the river as it ran centrally through the corridor, some on the north trying to find a way across pursued by the British & Canadians - and some fleeing from the Americans near Tournai on the south side and also trying to escape - that's why the bottleneck was so intense - confusion reigned and in the 'fog of war' and the constant bombing and strafing, it must have been pure HELL!!

    The previous photos were Germans trying to cross the river from the south, but the only lane out was this one below - on the North side at the hamlet of Moissy, 2km from St Lambert - a 2,000 metre gridlock of death and destruction - no wonder there was so much scrap left to dispose of!

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now


    In fact Eisenhower in his book 'Crusade in Europe' says "it was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh" ( ATB No8, pg 34 )

    The whole area was declared an "unhealthy zone" and Allied troops were ordered to bypass it for two months and it took until December to clear away and bury the rotting corpses of man and beast!
    " I used to be indecisive but now I'm not quite sure "

  7. #7

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    So now the battle was over, what to do with all the armour?

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now

    Well one of the "holding areas" was the high ground west of the village of St Lambert.

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now

    This area was one of the largest - with most of the BIG tanks and assorted hard skin vehicles

    the view today - hard to get a good comparison because of the limited references, but there isn't much flat ground around St Lambert.
    This dump was the biggest - but also the first to get cleared out ( which it was by the late 1940's )

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now

    Scrapyards of the Falaise Gap - then and now
    " I used to be indecisive but now I'm not quite sure "

  8. #8

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    Excellent work. Thank you for your effort Dan!

    Regards
    Santi

  9. #9

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    Thank you, for taking your time to share this with the forum.


    Mart

  10. #10

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    No probs fellas, I know I'll never get over there, but with some good old fashioned research you can learn a lot.

    Cheers, Dan
    " I used to be indecisive but now I'm not quite sure "

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