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News from Carentan, Tilly & Caen: Snapshot from a war, 14 June 1944

Carentan Normandy
Match! The arcade in place de la Republique, Carentan.

During the Second World War, news, particularly good news was shared quickly across the Allied world.  While each battle has been studied in detail by historians over the years, at the time newspapers reported them hurriedly as steps towards freedom.

Reading those old papers today we are for a moment transported back to a world at war.

This report from London published on 14 June 1944 celebrates victory in Carentan, the first French town liberated by the Americans, and just briefly hints at the bloody struggle it took – more than enough for the folks back home with loved ones fighting far away. Written to instil pride as well as share news, in just a few lines we learn about the battle for Normandy, Churchill and a lack of shoes as well as much, much more.

LONDON, Tuesday.–Carentan has been taken by US troops after fierce hand-to-hand fighting. The town, which is at the base of the Cherbourg peninsula, is a vital railway and communications centre, and is a strategic victory for the Allies. Our troops are now within 10 miles of Cherbourg, and the fall of this important naval base is expected soon.

A report from Supreme Headquarters says that the enemy is resisting strongly in the Tilly sector, which is now the scene of bitter struggles. An American column is now fighting north to Cherbourg, and another towards St. Lo, the fall of which will force the Germans to evacuate the Cherbourg peninsula, or fight a desperate rear-guard action.

Carentan was taken after a long bombardment of the town by US guns. It is reported that the Nazi commander refused to surrender and hand to hand fighting took place before our troops overcame the opposition.

After the first week of fighting the Allies are holding a beachhead more than 50 miles wide and 18 miles deep.

During the same period 10,000 Germans have been taken prisoner.

Carentan has been the key objective of the Americans since their landing. The town is the centre of a large road and rail network leading up through the peninsula to Cherbourg.

The latest despatch from Allied Supreme Headquarters says that the link between the two major beachheads in Normandy has been strengthened by the capture of Carentan.

In the Tilly sector, there has been strong enemy resistance and no marked advance has been made.

Illustration of the Battle for Normandy key towns, from newspaper ‘The Age’, 16 June 1944

A correspondent reports that Tilly has changed hands two or three times, and that between Tilly and Caen the Nazis are believed to have three Panzer Divisions.

At St. Lo, the Allies are continuing to drive their spearhead.

The British 6th Airborne Division are holding their positions northeast of Caen.

On all beachheads Allied supplies are being landed without pause.

Visibility was not good last night and fewer E-boats are believed to have been operating.

The remains of a Universal Carrier blown up by a mine in Tilly-sur-Seulles, 19 June 1944. The town “was one of the first of the many towns and villages which were well-nigh obliterated in the process of liberation”

In the Caen area British and Canadian troops are fighting a fierce engagement with the German 24th Panzer Division.

British troops have made slight advances east of Caen, according to a report from that sector.

It is estimated that on the Normandy front the Germans have about 14 or 15 Divisions-roughly about 250,000 men.

The action of Allied planes in bombing bridges over the Seine has greatly assisted the land forces.

A report from a reliable source states that French patriots are operating behind the German lines, assisting the Allied effort. They have committed many acts of sabotage.

Four years ago today – June 13,1940 – Mr. Churchill was in France to endeavour to pull the leaders of the country together, but he failed.  Yesterday he was again on the shores of France inspecting Allied troops.

British Civil Affairs officers have visited several of the towns now under our control, and are conducting immediate investigations into existing conditions.  Already they have discovered big shortages in food supplies, including butter, tea and coffee. There is also a lack of footwear.

A report is circulating that the enemy is using women in some places as snipers.

12 June 1944, less than one week after D-Day, Winston Churchill lights a cigar in the back of a jeep while touring the Normandy beaches with General Montgomery.

An interesting review of the past week’s fighting was given today by a BBCI commentator. He said the Allies had every reason to be proud of the present situation.

“One of our most valuable and substantial gains has been the capture of Carentan, and for two reasons. Firstly, it is a key position on the Cherbourg peninsula, and secondly, it considerably strengthens and welds the line between our two main beachheads,” said the commentator.

“Between Caen and Bayeux there has been some hefty shoving by our forces. Tactics are different from the old desert days.

“ln Normandy the good old foot slogger is in the van with tanks coming up in the rear.

“We cannot have anything but admiration for our airborne troops and no one will begrudge pride of place to these glider soldiers.

“The Germans have yet to start a major counter-attack. The enemy must take into account the new thrusts from the west, but the stakes in France are so great that he must make an attempt at resistance.”


The French Tricolour floats over a street in Carentan, the first French town to be liberated by the Americans. French civilians wave their hands in welcome as men of the US 7th Corps pass through the streets after two days of bitter fighting.


And so the war went on.


American howitzers shell German forces retreating near Carentan, France. July 11, 1944. Franklin. (Army)

View the original newspaper on Trove.

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