German Position in Normandy Collapses after Fierce Fighting at Hill 262
Hill 262 or Mont Ormel ridge, nicknamed The Mace (elevation 262 metres (860 ft)), was the location of a pivotal engagement fought as part of the wider battle of the Falaise pocket during the Normandy Campaign of the Second World War.
The German Seventh Army had become surrounded by the Allies near the town of Falaise, and with its commanding view of the area the Mont Ormel ridge sat astride the Germans' only escape route. Polish forces seized the ridge's northern height on 19 August 1944, and despite being isolated and coming under sustained attack, held it until noon on 21 August, contributing greatly to the decisive Allied victory that followed.
The American success during Operation Cobra provided the Allies with an opportunity to cut off and destroy most of the German forces west of the River Seine. American, British and Canadian armies converged on the area around Falaise, trapping the German Seventh Army. Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model ordered a withdrawal, but by this time the Allies were already across his path. During the night of 19 August, two battlegroups of Stanisław Maczek's Polish 1st Armoured Division established themselves in the mouth of the Falaise pocket, on the northernmost of Mont Ormel ridge's two peaks.
His forces encircled, on 20 August Model organised attacks on the ridge from both within and outside the pocket, and the Germans managed to isolate the position and force open an escape route. Lacking the fighting power to close the corridor, the Poles nevertheless directed constant and accurate artillery fire on German units leaving the sector, causing heavy casualties. Exasperated, the Germans launched fierce attacks throughout 20 August, inflicting severe losses on Hill 262's entrenched defenders. Exhausted and dangerously low on ammunition, the Poles managed to retain their foothold on the ridge. The following day, less intense attacks continued until midday, when the last German effort to overrun the position was defeated at close quarters. The Poles were relieved by the Canadians shortly after noon; their dogged stand had ensured the Falaise pocket's closure and the collapse of the German position in Normandy.
The 1st Polish Armoured Division, which distinguished itself at Boisjos-en-Coudehard, reached the front in Normandy on August 1st, 1944, with thirteen thousand men, three hundred and eighty-one tanks and 4,431 vehicles.
On August 8th the division went into action south of Caen and, on August 19th, it closed the Falaise-Chambois 'pocket' at Hill 262, cutting off the retreat of the German Seventh Army. In this supreme test, which has been given the title of “The Stalingrad of Normandy", it had eighty-seven of its tanks engaged.