Air photos can be very useful to show change over time – before and after. The air photos for this instalment of the air photo blog show an area of the Operation Tractable battlefield. Operation Tractable (14-16 August 1944) was the second major Canadian operation in Normandy designed to break through the German defensive perimeter to reach Falaise. Like its predecessor, Operation Totalize, Tractable was to employ heavy bombers to augment the firepower available to the troops. The use of heavy bombers in a tactical role was a relatively new tasking for the strategic force and required precise targeting to destroy and disrupt the enemy positions. For Operation Tractable, the medium bombers of No.2 Group, 2nd Tactical Air Force were to bomb German gun, mortar and tank positions along the startline immediately prior to H-Hour. This was to be followed by a large attack by Bomber Command against German positions on the right flank of the Canadian attack, timed to commence two hours after the start of the advance. This bombing was intended “to destroy or neutralize enemy guns, harbours, and defended localities on the right flank and to prevent any enemy movement from this area to the area of the attack.” (First Canadian Army Op Instruction No.14, August 1944).
Quesnay village and wood, alongside the Caen-Falaise highway, were a main target for the bombing attack. Two individual aiming points were selected at Quesnay:
Aiming Point 21“A” – 118 aircraft with 552.8 tons high explosives and 8.1 tons incendiaries;
Aiming Point 21“B” – 102 aircraft with 552.4 tons high explosives and 6.3 tons incendiaries.
These air photos show Quesnay Wood before and after the bombing. The first image, taken on 24 July 1944, shows the wood in a pristine condition, while the second air photo shows the wood immediately after the attack on 14 August. It can be seen that the nearly 1,120 tons of bombs have effectively destroyed Quesnay village and the adjoining wood.