Caen, Cobra and Confusion
: Has Montgomery’s Normandy Campaign Been Understood and its Legacy Fairly Assessed?

  • Andrew Harrison

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This thesis examines key points within the Normandy campaign of 1944 as a way of assessing the part played by General Montgomery in his leadership of Allied forces. By focusing on critical aspects of the battle, this work shows how fundamental misunderstandings of his plan and its execution have fed into the revisionist view that Montgomery’s plan was flawed and its conduct poorly handled. By an analysis of critical sub-questions (such as the effectiveness of Allied operations around Caen in attracting German reinforcements away from the American sector) it has been possible to establish the need for an empirical re-evaluation of Montgomery’s campaign.

The research for this work is doctrinal in nature, with a series of primary and secondary sources being placed within the context of the wider Normandy campaign. In doing so it shows the level of air cover provided by the Allied Air Forces was not affected by the fewer than anticipated numbers of airstrips available in the initial stages of Overlord. It also shows how Montgomery’s campaign plan was misunderstood from the start and how Caen still served the Allied cause despite not being captured on D-Day. Operations Epsom and Goodwood are also analysed as part of Montgomery’s overall intention to attract German reinforcements away from the Americans, aiding their breakout. Finally, the connection between the use of language and a dislike of Montgomery’s character and how it has affected the historic narrative is demonstrated.

The conclusion recaps issues concerning Caen as they are fundamental to the understanding of Montgomery’s intentions. Suggestions are also made for further areas of research. The thesis is completed with quotes from Eisenhower and his Chief of Staff which support this works conclusion that Montgomery proved to be the best choice to lead the Normandy campaign.
Date of Award20 Jul 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAlexander Von Lunen (Main Supervisor)

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