June 29, 1944 – Operation Epsom With the weather improving over the United Kingdom and Normandy, Hausser’s preparations for his counter stroke came under continual harassment from Allied aircraft and artillery fire, delaying the start of the attack to the afternoon. From the number of German reinforcements arriving in VIII Corps’ sector, and aerial reconnaissance, VIII Corps commander Lieutenant-General Richard O’Connor suspected that the Germans were organising a major offensive. XXX Corps was still some way to the north, leaving VIII Corps’ right flank vulnerable so O’Connor postponed the attacks by I Corps and ordered VIII Corps onto the defensive. Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey, commanding the Second Army and privy to ULTRA decrypts of intercepted German signal traffic, knew the counterattack was coming and approved O’Connor’s precautions. VIII Corps began to reorganise in order to meet the attack. Supply echelons for Hausser’s divisions were located in the Évrecy–Noyers-Bocage–Villers-Bocage area and were the focus of RAF fighter-bomber attention throughout the morning and early afternoon; the RAF claimed the destruction of over 200 vehicles. VIII Corps also launched spoiling moves. At 0800 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, from the 43rd Division, assaulted Mouen. Without armour but with an artillery barrage, by 1100 the battalion had evicted the 1st SS Panzer Division’s panzergrenadiers, following which 7th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry moved up and dug in on the Caen–Villers-Bocage road. The 43rd Division’s 129th Brigade swept the woods and orchards around Tourville-sur-Odon before crossing the river north of Baron-sur-Odon and clearing the south bank. Other initiatives were less successful. An attempt by the 15th Division’s 44th Brigade to advance towards the Odon and link up with the force holding the Gavrus bridges failed, leaving this position isolated and in the salient the 44th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment failed to capture Hill 113 (49°6′14″N 0°30′45″W), north of Évrecy after clashing with 10th SS Panzer and losing 6 tanks. Trying to strengthen their position, elements of the 11th Armoured Division launched a failed attack to take Esquay-Notre-Dame west of Hill 112 but a combined infantry and tank attack by elements of the 8th Battalion The Rifle Brigade and the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Tank Regiment on the southern slope of the hill succeeded in driving the Germans from the position. Hausser intended II SS Panzer Corps’s 9th SS Panzer Division—with Kampfgruppe Weidinger protecting its left flank—to cut across the British salient north of the Odon, while the 10th SS Panzer Division was to retake Gavrus and Hill 112 south of the river. 9th SS Panzer’s attack began at 1400, heavily supported by artillery. The 19th and 20th SS Panzergrenadier Regiments supported by Panthers, Panzer IV’s and assault guns attacked Grainville, le Haut du Bosq and le Valtru, aiming for Cheux. A British company was overrun and tanks and infantry penetrated le Valtru where anti-tank guns knocked out four German tanks within the village and artillery fire forced their supporting infantry to withdraw. Heavy and confused fighting, at times hand-to-hand, took place outside Grainville. Panzergrenadiers captured a tactically important wood but were forced back by a British counterattack. The panzergrenadiers claimed they also captured Grainville but no British sources support this and by nightfall British infantry were in firm control of the village. At around 1600 the British captured an officer of the 9th SS Panzer Division who was conducting a reconnaissance. He was found to be carrying a map and notebook containing details of new attacks. Nonetheless at around 1830 the Germans attacked the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division’s right flank. One unit was being relieved and in the confusion German tanks and infantry slipped through the British defences, with some units advancing 2 miles (3.2 km) before running into heavy resistance. By 2300, 9th SS Panzer had been stopped. Additional supporting attacks against the British eastern flank had been planned but the German tank concentrations assembling in the Carpiquet area had been so severely disrupted by RAF fighter-bombers during the afternoon that the attacks never materialised. The 10th SS Panzer Division launched its attack behind schedule at 1430. Following clashes earlier in the day the British were waiting but after five hours of intense combat the Scottish infantry defending Gavrus had been pushed back into a pocket around the bridge north of the village. An artillery bombardment caused the Germans to withdraw but the British did not reoccupy the village. Moving towards Hill 113, elements of 10th SS Panzer (2nd Grenadier Battalion, Panzergrenadier Regiment 21 and 2nd Battalion, Panzer Regiment 10) ran into British tanks and infantry (44th Battalion The Royal Tank Regiment and 2nd Battalion The King’s Royal Rifle Corps) in Évrecy, thwarting their attempt to occupy the hill. Dealing with this obstacle took the remainder of the day so the division’s attack on Hill 112 was postponed. The Germans claimed the destruction of 28 tanks while the British record the loss of 12. Believing the German attacks on 29 June indicated more counterattacks for the following day, Dempsey reinforced the Odon bridgehead with a brigade of the 43rd division and pulled in its perimeter. The 159th Infantry Brigade of the 11th Armoured Division was placed under the command of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, and acceding to O’Connor’s wishes for additional infantry, Dempsey attached the newly arrived 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division to VIII Corps; the lead brigade arrived near the Epsom start line during the night. In order to retain possession of Hill 112, Dempsey recognised that he would also need to hold Évrecy and Hill 113, which for the moment he did not have the resources. He ordered the 29th Armoured Brigade to abandon the hill. Convinced that the most important position to retain was between Rauray and the Odon, after dark Dempsey withdrew the 29th Armoured Brigade north across the river to be in a position to meet the expected German offensive.