Fact File : Operation Bluecoat
29 July to 6 August 1944
Theatre: North West Europe
Location: North West France
Allies: General Miles Dempsey's 2nd Army of General Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group. Axis: General Heinrich Eberbach's Panzer Group West (5th Panzer Army from 5 August); SS General Paul Hausser's 7th Army.
Outcome: Successful British diversion of forces away from the US offensive in Brittany.
By July 1944, any prospect of the Germans repelling the invasion of North West France had vanished. Ever increasing numbers of Allied soldiers continued to arrive; as of 1 August the joint Anglo-American 21st Army Group was split into a British 21st Army Group and a new US 12th Army Group.
Paradoxically, this was also a period of immobility, with the US confined to the Cotentin Peninsula and British and Canadian forces bottled up around Caen. Operations Cobra and Bluecoat ended this period of stasis.
Cobra, the US drive southwards into Brittany, began on 25 July, preceded by a massive aerial bombardment which killed over 100 American servicemen as well as virtually destroying the Panzer Lehr division. Within five days, Patton's forces had advanced 50km (30 miles).
In support of the long-awaited breakout, Montgomery ordered Operation Bluecoat, eschewing the heavily-defended area around Caen in favour of a drive southward to the west of Caen. The British pushed the front line back by 13km (eight miles), seized the German dominated high ground south of Caen and drove a wedge between Eberbach's and Hausser's armies.
The operation was not strategically vital in itself, but it facilitated the US advance by concentrating the increasingly depleted German forces on the Caen area.
The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.