Fields of Battle

Volume 64 of the series The GeoJournal Library pp 345-363

Terrain as a Factor in the Battle of Normandy, 1944

  • Stephen BadseyAffiliated withDepartment of War Studies, Royal Military Academy Sandhust

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The battle of Normandy lasted from 6th June to 25th August 1944, and is one of the best documented battles of the Second World War, with an extensive primary and secondary literature. It resulted in an overwhelming victory for the Allied forces over the defending Germans. Despite this, the historiography of the battle has been dominated by two controversies. The first of these concerns the failure of the Allied forces to achieve important designated objectives in their amphibious and airborne landing on D-Day, 6th June. The second concerns the time and human cost taken to defeat the defending German forces. Historiography attributes these failings principally to disagreements and poor performances on the part of senior Allied commanders, and/or to superior military skills possessed by German commanders and their forces. This paper addresses these two controversies, and argues that in both cases a principal reason for the battle developing as it did was the nature of the terrain of the battlefield, a factor to which insufficient attention has been paid in the making of historical judgements.