For 17 days, Tilly-Sur-Seulles became the focal point of the allied plan to seize Caen. It changed hands 23 times during that period, became responsible for the infamous 'Tilly Front', cost around 200 dead allied soldiers every day and would ultimately destroy 70% of the village and nearly a tenth of the population.
In 1944 Tilly-Sur-Seulles was a rural occupied village south of Bayeux. Bayeux was of particular importance to the allied plans, being situated in a key geographical location, it's capture would connect both the American and British invasion forces.
With a population of 747, Tilly-Sur-Seulles was head of the county and a key tourist spot as every summer the hotels and inns would be full to the brim. It was surrounded by pleasant hills; dotted with bustling farms, large meadows and dense forests. The pastures extend towards Bayeux and are populated with apple trees and small quickset hedges. To the east, cereal fields stretch out over the fertile plain between Tilly-Sur-Seulles and Caen. Every Monday, local farmers would sell their wares at the market where they would be joined by several bars, butchers, hardware and shoe shops as well as traders of bicycles.
Resting on the river Seulles, Tilly-Sur-Seulles was thriving.
The river Seulles divided the village in two, with a small hamlet called Saint-Pierre on one side and Tilly-Sur-Seulles on the other. The only church of the village was in Saint-Pierre, overlooking an ancient bridge where the local fishermen would earn their pennies.
In 1944, Tilly-Sur-Seulles and the surrounding area was occupied by the German Panzer Lehr Division and the 12th SS-Panzer Division "Hitlerjugend" (The infamous hitler youth). These two incredibly well trained divisions were not only at full strength, fully mobilised and with an unusually high concentration of tanks but it is safe to say that the on D-Day, the Panzer Lehr was amongst the most powerful divisions in the German army.
The Tilly Front
Whilst the initial attack on Bayeux had been unsuccessful, a second attempt was made the next day and found that the Germans had largely vacated the area. Orders have been received by German high command that the Panzer Lehr and 12th SS were to retake Bayeux at all costs for fear of cutting off other German defenders to the rest of France. On 8th of June, the Panzer Lehr division began to regroup at night south of Bayeux and prepared a counter attack to be launched on the 9th. The division would break into two wings and travel up the Tilly to Bayeux road in an attempt to halt and overwhelm any allied forces. Protecting the area surrounding Tilly was Panzer Lehr Regiment 901 as it would only break contact with the enemy that afternoon.
Because the Panzer Divisions had made up a lot of ground, the 8th Durhams initially found themselves isolated.
Progress was initially swift, the allied soldiers were overwhelmed by the swiftness of the German retaliation and the sheer weight of tanks and soldiers thrown at them. However, just as the Germans had reached Ellon which was only a short distance from Bayeux - The order had come to stop and to bring the entire division back to Tilly-Sur-Seulles. Hauptmann Hauck, Commander of the Panzer Lehr regiment 130 informed each unit by radio that elements of the 8th Armoured Brigade group had reached the hamlet of Saint-Pierre. Due to Tilly-Sur-Seulles only being protected by the beleaguered troops of Panzer Regiment 901, the Germans were in real danger of losing Tilly-Sur-Seulles.
So who could be so plucky as to infiltrate the junction point between the 12th SS and the Panzer Lehr Division? It was during the moments where Hauptmann Hauck was informing his soldiers, that the 8th Durham Light Infantry and the tanks of 24 Lancers were battling for Saint-Pierre. The fight for Saint-Pierre was a costly victory for the allies, both sides had suffered massive casualties as hand to hand fighting across garden fences ensued throughout the village.
The heroic attack by the 8th Durham and 24 Lancers had ceased an incredibly effective and promising counter-attack and, in the evening of the 9th as the Germans regrouped and began placing their defensive lines, the Tilly Front began to appear. The Tilly Front represented 17km of pure German armour and manpower, an impenetrable wall of highly trained and well equipped soldiers and it would take 10 days of intense fighting before the British would make any major ground.
The mighty Durhams take centre stage
This is where Wargaming Holidays allows you, the player to intervene. Our Tilly-Sur-Seulles weekend has been designed from the ground up to allow both the German and British forces a chance at rewriting history. We start with the initial attack on Saint-Pierre. An already tired and wounded regiment of Panzergrenadiers lay in wait after an initial artillery barrage - Will they perhaps put up a stoic resistance to halt the initial advance or will the 8th Durhams push forth like they did in 1944?
The church in Saint Pierre stood as a key objective to the allies, providing some of the best views into Tilly-Sur-Seulles.
Utilising the award winning Chain of Command game rules, we will be allowing the players to take the role of C company and the defending Panzergrenadier regiment. C company was in charge of attacking and securing the village church, a position which would gain them unrivalled views of the surrounding area and Tilly-Sur-Seulles. We don't want to spoil too much, but needless to say fighting around this massive structure is going to be like nothing else!
Stay tuned for part two, where we discuss our next scenario and the continuation of the Tilly Front.